The Turks and Caicos Islands are only about 60 km (37 miles) long, and consist of over 40 islands and cays. They form a British Overseas Territory and have rapidly gained popularity as a beach destination. There are roughly 30,000 inhabitants on the islands and they welcome about 450,000 arrivals by air and 650,000 cruise ship passengers each year.
The archipelago consists of two island groups, the Turks islands and the Caicos islands, of which Grand Turk and Providenciales are the two main islands. Daylight savings time is observed and they are in the Eastern Time Zone. These islands are in the Atlantic Ocean and not the Caribbean Sea, although they are included in the Caribbean region. The nearest other islands are the southern parts of the Bahamas, about 100 km east and northwest. Haiti is a similar distance due south. At considerably longer distances, Cuba is southwest and Florida northwest.
- Caicos Islands (main islands between the 28s)
- Turks Islands
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Before Christopher Columbus set foot on the island of Grand Turk during the journey to the new world in 1492, the island was inhibited by Taíno and Lucayan tribes. These earlier settlers left behind a rich heritage and new words (canoe, Caribbean, Caicos) and the names of the island. The indigenous Turk's head cactus named Turks island, while the Lucayan term “caya hico”, meaning string of islands, was mangled to become "Caicos".
For about 700 years, the Taíno and Lucayan tribes were the sole residents on the islands (particularly settling on Grand Turk and the Middle Caicos). People here were skilled gardeners, farmers and fishermen. However, upon the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, the Lucayan tribes were wiped out, causing the islands to be sparsely populated for about 30 years. During this time, the salt industry was booming. This salt was used for cooking and preserving food. Many Bermudians would rake the beaches of Turks and Caicos and take their booty back to Bermuda.
The French and Spanish captured the island for a brief time during 1706. Four years following this capture, it was reclaimed by the British (along with the Bermuda islands). However, during these years it primarily became a haven for pirates and British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. In 1766, Turks and Caicos became a part of the Bahamas colony and was placed under the Bahamian Government. The governor of the Bahamas oversaw affairs from 1965 to 1973.
With Bahamian independence, the islands received a separate governor in 1973. Although independence was agreed upon for 1982, the policy was reversed and the islands became a British Overseas Territory (BOT).
Around the early 1980s, Turks and Caicos started to become a tourist destination and quickly became one the world's foremost beach destinations. They are also becoming one of the leading international investment centres for offshore investors. Turks and Caicos are a "zero tax" jurisdiction with no taxes on income, capital gains, corporate profits, inheritance or estates.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are arid compared with many other islands in the Caribbean.
During the summer months (June to November) the temperatures range from the high 80s (F) and low 90s to the high 70s. Also in the summer, there is barely any humidity and the temperatures barely go above the mid-90s due to the continually circulating winds. The water is also averages at about 84 °F (29 °C).
In the winter (December to May) the weather is generally in the high 70s - mid 80s range. The water temperature during these months is 75 °F (24 °C) to 80 °F (27 °C).
The island gets less than 50 in (1,300 mm) of rainfall a year. Most rainfall occurs during the hurricane months of summer. Sunshine and breezy cooling winds are the norm in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
All visitors need a passport that is valid for six months after your visit. Visitors from countries not mentioned in the list below will also need a visa. These can be obtained from the UK Passport Agency in London, phone: +44 20 7901-7542, with a single visitor's visa costing US$150.
Nationals from Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina; Australia; Austria; Bahamas; Barbados; Belgium; Belize; Bermuda; Brazil; British Virgin Islands; Bulgaria; Canada; Cayman Islands; Chile; China; Costa Rica; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Dominica; Ecuador; Estonia; Falkland Islands; Finland; France; Germany; Gibraltar; Greece; Grenada; Guyana; Hong Kong; Hungary; Iceland; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malta; Mexico; Monaco; Montserrat; Netherlands; Netherlands Antilles; New Zealand; Norway; Oman; Panama; Pitcairn Islands; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; Russia; Saint Kitts & Nevis; Saudi Arabia; Seychelles; Singapore; Slovakia; Slovenia; Solomon Islands; South Africa; South Korea; Spain; St Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha; St Lucia; St. Vincent & the Grenadines; Suriname; Sweden; Switzerland; Taiwan; Trinidad & Tobago; UAE; USA; United Kingdom; Vatican City or Venezuela do not require a visa, only a valid passport.
However, if you are a national of a country not in the above list, but you hold a valid visa for travel to the UK, US or Canada, you may enter the Islands without obtaining a visa for the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Turks and Caicos Islands' website has a full list of entry requirements.
Turks and Caicos has one international airport, Providenciales International Airport (PLS IATA), on the island of Providenciales. There are also several smaller domestic airports, Grand Turk JAGS McCartney International Airport (GDT IATA), on the island of Grand Turk (which occasionally has international flights), South Caicos Airport (XSC IATA), North Caicos Airport (NCA IATA) and Middle Caicos Airport (MDS IATA). In North and South Caicos there are limited entry facilities, while all of the other islands have domestic airports. However, East and West Caicos are uninhabited and they do not have an airport.
American Airlines[dead link] is a popular carrier which schedules flights from many US cities to Providenciales Airport. During the winter months, American Airlines offers direct flights from Charlotte, Miami, Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Philadelphia. Delta offers 6 flights a week from Atlanta (excluding Tuesday and offering 2 on Saturdays). Air Canada offers direct flights from Toronto on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, from Montreal on Thursdays and Ottawa on Mondays. British Airways offers flights to London. Providenciales serves as a hub for InterCaribbean Airways, which has flights to Havana, Antigua, Kingston, Port-au-Prince and Nassau. WestJet Airlines flies from Toronto 1-3 times a week.
You must clear immigrations at Providenciales in order to go to another island of Turks and Caicos.
There is no public transport to or from the airport. A taxi from the airport to Grace Bay should be $33 but some drivers will try to scam you for more.
Many of the visitors who visit the island arrive by boat. This is because many cruise lines are now adding the island to their route. All cruise lines arrive at the terminal in Grand Turk.
If you choose to take a personal or smaller vessel, a number of facilities are available in Providenciales. However, you must call ahead before docking. There are also marinas in Provo, where you can dock. On the South Side, Sappodilla Bay, is the anchorage location for sail boats.It is easy to sail to the Turks and Caicos from the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas or Cuba; so long as you have an ocean-going vessel. A small boat will do well simply cruising around the island chain, but to cross the open ocean, something about 36 feet or larger is best.
If you are using a private vessel or yacht, customs and immigrations must be cleared. Customs have to be arranged in advance, while South Caicos and Grand Turk have government buildings on location.
Taxis are widely available at all airports and seaports as well as throughout the island. Many of the taxis drivers can also act as a personal tour guide and show you undiscovered island attractions.
Rental cars, motor scooters and jeeps are available in Providenciales and Grand Turk. There is a government tax for all hired cars ($15) and motor scooters ($5). Major rental companies include, Avis, Budget, Hertz, Rent a Buggy, National, and Tropical Auto Rental.
When in Salt Cay, you can rent a golf cart! North and Middle Caicos have their own rental companies you can use, as does Grand Turk. If interested Bicycles are almost always available at all locations. In Turks and Caicos, you are to drive on the left side of the road.
- Beaches; you're in the Caribbean.
- Grand Turk lighthouse
These islands have fabulous beaches throughout; in particular, the award winning Grace Bay. There also are a variety of fun, non-beach things that there are to do. You can scuba dive, snorkel, sail, boat, parasail, fish, go on tours, go to spas and salons, golf, shop, ride ponies and gamble. Each island has its own activities as well.
Exchange rates for U.S. dollars
As of January 2024:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
Turks and Caicos uses the U.S. dollar, denoted by the symbol "$" (ISO currency code: USD). It is divided into 100 cents.
You can shop at boutiques and visit museums and show rooms. There are also a few "touristy" shops, food stores, liquor shops, banks and pharmacies. Throughout all the islands there are a variety of local stores that have a collection of varying unique jewellery and hand-made gifts.
The Saltmills Plaza and Regent Village in Grace Bay are generally considered to be the premier shopping plazas on the island of Providenciales (or Provo as it is often called).
There are 81 restaurants on the islands. However, many of the restaurants are on the island of Providenciales. Not that many years ago, local island tables did not know what was going to be on the menu for dinner until the fishing boats brought in their catch of the day. Today the Turks and Caicos Islands feature fine and imaginative cuisine and world-class chefs.
There is a small brewery on Grand Turk that produces an alcohol-based Ginger Beer. It is called 'Islander Ginger Beer' and is considered to be the only product manufactured on the island. It has a rich ginger base with citrus and spice finish. It's made in a small brewery in the heart of the capital city, Cockburn Town, and can be bought in local bars and restaurants. It's a live yeast-fermented, fresh beverage that must always be kept refrigerated. It's unique to the island and, because of its perishable nature, is not exported.
Throughout the islands there are 143 different places to stay. You can choose to be at an all-inclusive, a resort suite condo, or a private villa or inn. These hotels also offer wonderful dining experiences. Many of these hotels offer are corporate-business rates as well including internet access and fax services. At almost all hotels you can ask if there are any "packages" available such as, hotel and dive packages.
For accommodation listings see the articles on each island.
Work permits are easily obtained for foreigners. However, many jobs are designed for "Belongers" only. Belongers are people that have a special connection to TCI. Work permits are applied for via agencies on the island and require proof of citizenship, proof of employment, proof of residence on the island, and are then ratified by a medical exam, blood tests and a chest X-ray. As an employee you will need to register with the National Insurance Board and the National Health Insurance Board. Contributions are payable monthly by the employee and employer to both.
In 2012 work permit costs were increased across all categories and interested parties should contact the immigration board for clarification on the exact cost. It can take up to 6 months to actually have the work permit in hand.
Some jobs on the island are deemed unfit for non-Belongers to apply for: banking, civil servants, and boat operators are specific jobs that fall under this rule.
As of January 2018, the U.S. State Department elevated their travel advisory for Turks and Caicos to Level 2: "Exercise Increased Caution" due to a rise in violent crime. Per the State Department, "Violent crime, such as armed robbery, shootings, and home invasions, is common. Police presence and emergency response are extremely limited." They advise not walking alone at night, not opening doors for any unfamiliar individual, and not resisting any robbery attempt. In the fall of 2018, the murder of a U.S. tourist near a Club Med resort has increased concern about the safety of tourists on the island. Details of the murder remain undisclosed by local authorities.
Turks and Caicos have one of the lowest crime rates and highest crime-solved rates in the Caribbean. Any problems that occur should be reported to the Royal Turks and Caicos Police immediately. In an emergency, call 911, and in a non-emergency, call 338 5901. While the islands are extremely safe, make sure to exercise common sense. Don't leave valuables in plain view, and always lock your car when leaving it, and lock your dwelling (hotel) when you are not in it. By taking simple precautions it will prevent the loss of cash, jewellery and identification. Thieves target mopeds and motorcycles, so be sure that you lock yours up properly. Islanders can be very aggressive drivers, so it is best to use caution when crossing or driving on the roads.
A modern hospital system was built on the islands that is managed by InterHealth Canada. The facilities are on Providenciales (Cheshire Hall Medical Centre) and Grand Turk (Cockburn Town Medical Centre). These health centres include emergency centres, dental care, dialysis, internal medicine, surgical, orthopaedic, obstetric and endoscopic procedures, physiotherapy and diagnostic imaging.
There are also a good number of private medical providers on Providenciales catering to the local population and visitors. The standard of care is very high for such a small island. Dental Services on Providenciales has a resident dentist, two hygienists and specialist periodontists and an orthodontist - www.dentist.tc. Associated Medical Practices have several highly experienced GPs a chiropractor, a surgeon, and a full service pharmacy www.doctor.tc can provide more information.
The Turks and Caicos have a few fresh water reserves at ground level. Therefore, most water comes from either wells or cisterns that have collected rainwater. Cistern water is almost always safe to drink, but unless well water is purified, it could be contaminated or have unpleasant taste. It is generally a good idea to use bottled water when possible, but tap water can be used if necessary. The beaches are very soft and warm and welcoming.
Islanders are very kind people and believe in practising good manners and exercising respect. Greet people with a friendly saying such as "Hello" and "Good Afternoon."
Shorts are to be worn in town and on the beach during the day. Because it is so sunny, it is advised to wear sunglasses and sunhats. In the evening, specifically winter, you are advised to wear a light sweater or jacket. When eating, it is not formal but you are expected to dress nicely (men- polos and dress shorts, women- dresses or dress slacks).
Also, public nudity is illegal all throughout the island.
There has been occasional talk about a union with Canada. Many islanders are bitterly divided on the subject, and awkward situations can arise when the subject is brought up. It is best to avoid this subject unless you're with friends and family whom you know.
From here, you could explore the Caribbean: head south to the island of Hispaniola for Dominican Republic and Haiti; or north to the Bahamas; or even west to Cuba. Further afield, fly to nearby Florida in the USA, or to central American countries like Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica.