“ Car hire in Cyprus „
My father-in-law was born and raised in Nicosia before emigrating to the UK as a young man and has always maintained a connection with the island. Every year, he took his burgeoning family back to Cyprus for extended summer holidays (my wife is blessed with a sister and twin brothers) and has always used Petsas Rent-a-Car for his transport needs.
Ever since the first time I was invited to Cyprus as my wife's then-boyfriend, he has arranged a Petsas car for me, never failing a discreet "tut-tut" at my requirements for an automatic transmission (they are always more expensive to rent). However, he has a flair for haggling, and invariably managed to secure a "special" deal that appeared nowhere on the company's price lists.
Sadly, his influence seems to have diminished a bit since Cyprus joined the EU, as even the normally non-plussed Cypriots have become sensitive to discriminatory pricing. In times past, a few words of Greek would instantly drop asking prices by 25% when compared to rates for "xeno" (foreigners), but not anymore.
Petsas is a an excellent and viable local alternative to the ever-present and often impersonal multi-national car hire companies like Avis and Hertz. This review is specific to the Larnaka airport branch and our recent hire for our two week holiday this summer. Please also note that Larnaka Airport is opening a brand new terminal, scheduled for November 2009, so the details mentioned here will relate to the current airport set-up.
Apart from their two airport locations (Larnaka and Pafos), Petsas also have hire offices in Nicosia, Limassol, Ayia Napa, Protaras and downtown Pafos. They offer a large range of vehicles, biased toward manual drivers. They do stock a fair few automatics, but they tend to be high-end cars, and even in the cheaper groups, they are noticeably more expensive (yes, that's my father-in-law balefully shaking his head in the background).
Typical cars across the range include the Toyota Yaris and Landcruiser, Opel/Vauxhall Astra and Zafira, Suzuki 4X4's, VW Polo, Golf, Touran, Beetle and Passat, and high end BMW's and Mercedes Benz. As with most hire companies, you can request a type, but are not guaranteed an exact marque.
RATES & CHARGES
All car rates include full insurance (collision damage waiver, theft, accidental damage and third party), unlimited mileage, free delivery and collection from any town in Cyprus, VAT and all local taxes. The customer is responsible for petrol, personal accident insurance (usually covered by your travel policy), and the ludicrous airport charge (currently 15 Euro imposed by Larnaka Airport on hire car companies for collecting the car at the airport).
You will be charged between a 40 Euro and 60 Euro fuel deposit, which is returned to you in full if you return the car fully fuelled. There are a number of petrol stations fairly close to the airport (Esso and Petrolina amongst others) and it is always cheaper to refuel it yourself before dropping it off.
They have two rate periods. The summer high season (April to October) is more expensive than winter rates (November to March) by about 30% across the range of available cars. The rates get cheaper the longer you have the car, and are split into three periods (3 to 6 days; 7 to 14 days; 15 to 28 days and beyond). The minimum hire period is two days.
I have found their rates to be highly competitive, however, unhelpfully, their latest booklet of "rack" rates is a bit of a nonsense, as you will rarely pay the advertised rates. They will always do you a deal to beat the big boys, so it pays to call armed with a few other quotes, provided you are prepared to haggle. As an example, we were offered a 25 Euro per day rate for a 16 day hire of a 1400cc Honda Jazz with air conditioning, CD player and automatic transmission. The advertised rate is 43 Euro!
You can also book on-line on their own web site (details below) where you are given a 15% discount off the standard advertised rates all year round. However, I have never done this myself, so can't really comment, except to say that I am pretty sure you'll get the best rate by actually talking to someone instead. All major credit cards (MasterCard, Visa, and Amex) are accepted.
Drivers under 25 or with a licence for less than 3 years must be notified to Petsas in advance so that additional insurance arrangements can be made. This is likely to be at an additional cost. However, additional qualified drivers over 25 can be added to the rental agreement for no charge.
The rental agreement only covers Cyprus - it does not cover the part of the island under Turkish occupation and you will not be allowed to drive it over the border without notifying Petsas and arranging for additional insurance (at additional cost).
We asked for a booster seat for our daughter and, although it was advertised at "extra cost", (15 Euro for the period of the rental) this was provided for free. We have previously requested and been provided with an infant car seat, also free. However, don't expect to receive the latest from Maxi Cosi or Chicco - what they supply is sturdy and safe, if a little long in the tooth.
Incidentally, for those more moneyed than me, Petsas also rent out fully crewed and catered 100 foot motor yachts, so if you have a spare 5,100 Euro a day for a three day hire within Cyprus coastal waters (5700 Euro out of them) I would be happy to carry your suitcases.
We arrived at the small desk immediately to the right of the arrivals area and were courteously greeted by local Cypriot, English speaking staff. It turned out the fellow we were attended to by was visiting his family for the summer and was ordinarily resident in Stoke Newington! After completing the paperwork, we were provided with a fairly detailed map of Cyprus, escorted to our car in the collection lot, and did the usual walk-around to check for existing damage.
The car, a Honda Jazz, had a remote locking key fob, but this did not work properly. I was bemused when told that it would not be replaced, and confronted with a demonstrative and typically Cypriot shoulder shrug (they give the French a run for their money) I decided I could make do. After being shown the basic controls, I was given the keys and left to settle the luggage and my family into the car.
The interior was clean and well kept, with new floor mats provided. The car was searingly hot after having sat in the hot sun for who knows how long, but still smelled fresh. I put the key in the ignition and the digital odometer flashed up around 98,000 miles, so not the newest pony in the corral, but not atypical of Cyprus either.
The only other things I made a point of checking were the spare tyre, which was in good order, and the fluids - specifically the windscreen washing solution, as on most occasions, I have found the reservoir to be bone dry (it can get very dusty in Cyprus and you need to be able to wash the windscreen). This time was no exception, though, unlike the key, I did manage to get the Petsas boys - reluctantly - to fill it up before I pulled away. Incidentally, most petrol stations in Cyprus provide "full" service when manned - i.e. a bloke comes and fills up your tank, cleans your windscreen, and will check your oil if you ask him to.
Everything in the car was in full working order and we used it without incident for the full 16 days. For information, we travelled up and down the steep gradients of the Troodos mountains with it, on the excellent motorway system, as well as on local dirt roads and it handled all of them with ease.
My only real complaints were that: (a) the air-con needed a recharge, as it wasn't cooling very effectively, even allowing for the seasonal heat; and (b) the brakes were a little soft, with a fair bit of pressure needed to get them to bite properly.
On return you park the car in the chaotic "Car Rental Return" lot (it seems visitors to Cyprus are afflicted with the same blasé and casual attitude to parking adopted by the Cypriots - i.e. park anywhere!) and hand the keys back in at the Petsas desk. You will need the card you paid your fuel deposit with, as well as your rental agreement, so that the deposit can be refunded.
If you don't mind the slightly laid back service and are comfortable driving a less than brand new vehicle in exchange for a good deal, then Petsas are pretty good value. My father-in-law has only had to contact them once during one of his many rentals, when the air conditioning failed completely, but a replacement car was delivered to his door within a couple of hours.
I have used them five times in the last eight years and have never had a mechanical problem. The cars are not brand-spanking new, but they are very well maintained.
PETSAS Rent A Car - Reservations
Tel: +357 77771515
© Hishyeness 2009