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Turks and Caicos Islands

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 in recent years. 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 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 technically located in the Atlantic Ocean and not the Caribbean Sea. The nearest other islands are the southern parts of the Bahamas, 100-odd km east and northwest. Haiti is a similar distance due south. At considerably longer distances, Cuba is southwest and Florida northwest.

Islands

  • Caicos Islands (main islands between the 28s)
    • Providenciales
    • Pine Cay
    • North Caicos
    • Middle Caicos
    • East Caicos
    • South Caicos
    • West Caicos
  • Turks Islands
    • Grand Turk
    • Salt Cay

Understand

History

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 Taino 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 Tanio 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 rest of 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 are presently a British Overseas Territory (BOT).

Around the early 1980s, Turks and Caicos started to become a tourist destination and is quickly becoming one the world's foremost beach destinations. It is also becoming one of the leading international investment centres for offshore investors. Turks and Caicos is today a "zero tax" jurisdiction and doesn't have any taxes on income, capital gains, corporate profits, inheritance or estates.

Climate

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 80's and low 90's to the high 70's. Also in the summer, there is barely any humidity and the temperatures barely go above the mid-90's due to the continually circulating winds. The water is also averages at about 84°F.

In the winter (December to May) the weather is generally in the high 70's - mid 80's range. The water temperature during these months is around 75°F to 80°F.

The island gets less than 50 inches 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.

Get in

Visas

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: +44 207 901 7542, with a single visitor's visa costing $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.

By plane

Currently, Turks and Caicos has one international airport, Providenciales International Airport (IATA: PLS), on the island of Providenciales. There are also several smaller domestic airports, Grand Turk JAGS McCartney International Airport (IATA: GDT), on the island of Grand Turk (which occasionally has international flights), Salt Cay Airport (IATA: SLX), South Caicos Airport (IATA: XSC), North Caicos Airport (IATA: NCA) and Middle Caicos Airport (IATA: MDS). 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 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. WestJet Airlines also offers flights to Toronto. Providenciales also serves as a hub for InterCaribbean Airways, which has flights to Havana, Antigua, Kingston, Port-au-Prince and Nassau.

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.

By ship

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 advanced, while South Caicos and Grand Turk have government buildings on location.

Get around

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 well as, Grand Turk. If interested Bicycles are almost always available at all locations. Remember, in Turks and Caicos, you are to drive on the LEFT side of the road.

See

  • Beaches; you're in the Caribbean.
  • Grand Turk lighthouse

Do

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 their own activities as well.

Buy

Money

Turks and Caicos uses the U.S. dollar, denoted by the symbol "$" (ISO currency code: USD). It is divided into 100 cents.

Shopping

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 Provenciales (or Provo as it is often called).

Eat

There are a total of 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.

Drink

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 located 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.

Sleep

Throughout the islands there are a total of 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

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.

Certain 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.

Stay safe

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. Also, be aware that Islanders can be very aggressive drivers, so it is best to use caution when crossing or driving on the roads.

Stay healthy

Recently, a modern hospital system was built on the islands that is managed by InterHealth Canada. The facilities are located 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. Currently the islands are working on getting in-home hospice care.

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 GP's 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.

Respect

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.

In recent years, there has been 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.

Go next

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.


Exercise normal security precautions

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

Petty crime occurs, including rental car theft. Muggings and armed assaults are also reported, mostly in areas popular with tourists. Victims of robbery may suffer injuries if they resist. Do not bring valuables, including travel documents and purses, to the beach. Avoid deserted beaches or other poorly lit, isolated areas after dark. Exercise normal precautions and ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times.

If you plan to explore remote areas of the islands for bird watching, diving or snorkelling, inform friends, relatives or hotel management of the time of your expected return.

Spiked food and drinks

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum, or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

Road travel

Main roads are generally in good condition. Be careful when driving after dark or on secondary roads, since unpaved surfaces, potholes and roaming animals may pose risks.

Taxis are readily available; fares should be determined in advance.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

Emergency services

Dial 911 or 999 to reach police, fire fighters or an ambulance.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in the Caribbean, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in the Caribbean. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!


Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in the Caribbean, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, dengue fever, malaria and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in the Caribbean, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.

HIV

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and impairs the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness known as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). 

Practise safe sex while travelling, and don’t share needles, razors, or other objects which could transmit infection.

Remember that HIV can also be spread through the use of unsterile medical equipment during medical and dental procedures, tattooing, body piercing or acupuncture. Diseases can also be spread though blood transfusions and organ transplantation if the blood or organs are not screened for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Medical facilities are limited. Grand Turk has a small public hospital, and Providenciales has a public hospital as well as a few private clinics. Severe cases are often referred to Nassau or Miami.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Canada and United Kingdom are signatories to the European Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. This enables a Canadian imprisoned in United Kingdom to request a transfer to a Canadian prison to complete a sentence. The transfer requires the agreement of both Canadian and British authorities.

Driving laws

Traffic drives on the left.

A valid Canadian driver’s licence is required to rent a vehicle. Liability insurance is mandatory. An International Driving Permit is recommended. It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol.

Illegal drugs

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Imports

Prior permission by the Commissioner of Police is required to import firearms. Consult the Turks and Caicos Customs Department website for specific information.

Marriages

If planning to marry in the Turks and Caicos Islands, ensure that you meet all requirements and have all necessary documents before leaving Canada. Most countries require a certificate stating that there are no Canadian impediments to your marriage.

Investments

If you are interested in purchasing property or making other investments in the Turks and Caicos Islands, seek legal advice from appropriate professionals in Canada and in the Turks and Caicos Islands before making commitments. Disputes arising from such activities could be prolonged and costly to resolve.

Money

The currency is the U.S. dollar (USD). Major hotels and shops accept credit cards.

Climate

The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.

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