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Cyprus travel logistics: north to south and back again

To make a long story short, my husband and I are making a visit to the in-laws, who live in a village outside Limassol, and combining it with a few days' vacation by ourselves in the North, probably Girne/Kyrenia. When we did this the last time, we spent the whole trip with the in-laws, and they picked us up at Ercan (and drove us down to Limassol after a good night's sleep to pick up a rental car). This time, part of the reason for the visit is that my father-in-law just had some major surgery, so there is no way I would even want them to come pick us up.

So our preliminary plan is to find our way from Ercan to Nicosia, spend the night somewhere cheap and basic, cross on foot at Ledra Street, and rent a car the rest of the way. So, questions:

- Transportation from Ercan into Nicosia: taxi is an option, of course, but how expensive is it? I see that there are buses, but they are not very frequent, and the schedule is likely to leave us sitting at Ercan for 3 hours, so that doesn't seem like a good option. Are there dolmuses? Cost? Frequency?

- We'd much rather spend the night in Nicosia somewhere cheap and basic than try to drive 2 hours after 15 hours of flying/layover, after a full day's work. Any recommendations? Somewhere close to the crossing would be nice, but not essential. Quiet, clean, and cheap are the priorities.

- We would then return the rental car in Nicosia and head north. Is it really essential to have a car in the north? Or can we just hop a dolmus to get from Nicosia to Girne/Kyrenia and from town to town? We could rent a car, but would rather not unless we need to go somewhere remote. But we'd consider it if it really does make life easier.

- In the south, I didn't need an international driver's license the last time we went (2011). Would I in the north with an American (Illinois) license?

- Anything else we should keep in mind?

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