Essentials

Before you travel

Documents

Canadian citizens need only a birth certificate and photo ID such as a driving licence to enter the Turks and Caicos, but Americans need a passport to return to the USA. Other nationalities need a valid passport; a visa is not necessary except for nationals of former eastern bloc. An onward ticket is officially required. Visitors are allowed to stay for 30 days, renewable once only for a fee of US$50.

Tourist offices overseas

Canada
, rwilson.tcitourism@allstream.net.

UK
, shankland@tcilondon.org.uk.

USA
, New York, ehiggs@tcigny.com; Chicago, tc_islands@yahoo.com; Miami, TCItourismMiami@cs.com.

Money

The official
currency
is the US dollar. Most banks will advance cash on
credit cards
. Most hotels, restaurants and taxi drivers will accept travellers' cheques, but personal cheques are not widely accepted. There are
banks
on Grand Turk and Providenciales (and South Caicos on Wed) but not on the other islands. Take lots of cash and small denomination US dollars when visiting an island without a bank, as it is often difficult to get change from big notes. As well as domestic banking there is a growing offshore banking industry, regulated by the UK.

Getting there

Air

Ports of entry for aircraft are Providenciales, South Caicos and Grand Turk, but the major international airport is on Providenciales (PLS). There are also airstrips on North Caicos, Middle Caicos, West Caicos, Pine Cay and Salt Cay. Flights from Miami, New York, Boston (
American Airlines
), Philadelphia and Charlotte (
US Airways
), Fort Lauderdale (
Spirit Airlines
), Atlanta (
Delta
), Toronto (
Air Canada
), Montréal (
West Jet
), Kingston/Montego Bay, Puerto Plata/Santiago and Cap Haitiën/Port-au-Prince (
Air Turks and Caicos, Sky King
), Bahamas (
Bahamas Air, Sky King
), and the UK (
British Airways
) come in to Providenciales and then, if you are not staying on Provo, you get a connecting flight to your destination on a small plane.

Boat

There is no scheduled passenger service (cargo comes in regularly from Florida). A pier and Cruise Center have been built on Grand Turk to receive cruise ships, www.grandturkcc.com. No port on Providenciales is deep enough to take cruise ships although some occasionally stop outside the reef and shuttle in passengers for half a day.

Ports of entry

(British flag) Providenciales: Turtle Cove Marina, Caicos Marina & Boatyard, Leeward Marina, South Dock/Sapodilla Bay; Grand Turk; South Caicos; Salt Cay. Clear in and out with customs and immigration, VHF 16. On arrival, customs will grant seven days immigration clearance. Go to town to the Immigration Office to obtain a 30-day extension. Fuel and alcoholic drink may be purchased duty free with clearance to leave the country. The Customs Office is at Airport Rd, Provo, and there are Customs Officers at the airport all day too.

Marinas


On Provo,
Leeward Marina
at Leeward Going Through, www.leeward.com, gas/diesel sales only, restaurant;
Turtle Cove Marina
, www.tcmarina.com, full service, all-weather anchorage, 7.5-ft draft, 100 new slips, RO, water and ice, premium prices, Wi-Fi internet access, diving, hyperbaric chamber;
South Side Marina
, hamilton&pratt@tciway.tc, diesel, gas, oil, water, 4½ ft controlling depth, call for reservations;
Caicos Marina & Boatyard
, www.caicosmarina.com, (fuel, ice, dry storage, machinist/diesel mechanic). South Caicos also has a marina.

Touching downAirport information

Scheduled service airlines are
American Airlines
; US Airways
, Provo office hours;
British Airways
;
Sky King
;
Air Turks and Caicos
, www.airturksandcaicos.com and
Bahamas Air
. Charter airlines are
Global Airways
, run by the Gardiner family, www.globalairways.tc);
Provo Air Charter
.

Tourist information

Local tourist office
: Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board, Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands, www.turksandcaicostourism.com. On Provo the tourist office is at Stubbs Diamond Plaza, on the low road leading to
Sibonné
. Various maps and guidebooks have been published including
Where, When, How, Providenciales; Your Monthly Entertainment Guide
, distributed in hotels and selected shops, free of charge;
Times of the Islands; International Magazine of the Turks and Caicos
, quarterly. Useful websites with lots of information on lodgings, particularly on the smaller islands are
www.tcimall.tc
and
www.wherewhenhow.com
.

Local tour operators
:


Marco Travel Services
, www.marcotravel.com, for reconfirmation of tickets, emergency cheque cashing, travel services, TC sales, Amex representative.
Provo Travel Ltd
 are helpful. On Grand Turk:
T & C Travel Ltd
.

Getting aroundAir

Several airlines provide flying bus services between the islands. The main ones are
Air Turks and Caicos
, www.airturksandcaicos.com,
SkyKing
, www.skyking.tc, and
Global Airways
, www.globalairways.tc. Private charters are readily available within the island group and can easily be arranged by asking around at Grand Turk or Provo airport, as charter pilots meet incoming international flights and wait to see if they can fill a plane in the mornings. They often hold up boards showing which island they are flying to. If you pre-book you may sit for two or three hours waiting for a particular plane; similarly if travelling to the outer islands, do not buy a return ticket, whatever the airlines tell you, as you may have to pay twice if you come back with someone else. Your hotel or guesthouse can help you arrange your return flight when you are ready to leave (this does not include package tours).

Bus

Numerous cramped mini-vans serve as buses on Provo. There are also shuttle services between the hotels and restaurants.

Car

Rental cars are available on Grand Turk, North and South Caicos and Provo, although demand often exceeds supply on Provo. Most roads are fairly basic, although those on Provo have been upgraded and paved, and all parts are easily accessible. Leeward Highway, the main road on Provo is now 4 lanes. Maximum speed in urban areas is 20 mph and outside villages 40 mph, but on Provo driving is erratic and no one (except visitors) pays heed to speed limits, not even the Traffic Department. Local drivers do not dim their headlights at night. Pedestrians and cyclists should be careful on the roads because of the speeding drivers and heavy construction vehicles.

Cycle

Bicycles and motor scooters can be rented from some hotels but can be relatively expensive compared with cars. Helmets are not mandatory but should be worn. Tourists invite trouble riding in bathing suits and bare feet and at night.

Taxi

Taxis can be found at the airport or at the cruise ship terminal on Grand Turk, otherwise call for one. Taxis can be hired for island tours, agree the price beforehand.

Sleeping

Hotels
on Provo are aiming for North American standards and so they are expensive. Rack rates will not include tax and service, so be sure to check what you are quoted. Most hotels on Provo are all-inclusive or condominium-style. Grand Turk, Salt Cay, South Caicos and North Caicos are better bets for inexpensive, charming, more 'islandy' lodgings.
Camping
is possible on beaches on most islands but not encouraged (no water or sewage facilities). Contact the District Commissioner's office on each island for permission. If planning to stay on a deserted island take everything with you and leave nothing behind.

Eating

Expensive to mid-range meals in restaurants and bars will usually be of good quality. Watch out for specials with no posted prices. With over 50 restaurants and delis on Provo alone, prices are mainly expensive but local restaurants with native cuisine are reasonable. Many restaurants feature vegetarian meals and low-fat cooking. All food is imported (except seafood) from Miami, occasionally from the Dominican Republic, and therefore not cheap. Many restaurants charge a 10% gratuity in addition to the 10% government tax. Restaurants owned and operated by the islanders, or 'Belongers', do not have to charge tax because they serve the local market. Some do not charge for service. Check your bill carefully and tip, or not, accordingly.

Entertainment

There are a few night spots on Providenciales, but on the other islands you will find only occasional live music after dinner at a restaurant. Local bands play mostly calypso, reggae and the traditional island music with its Haitian and African influences. Bands from the USA and UK are sometimes invited in high season. On Provo, ask hoteliers and residents when and where live bands are playing. Latin influence in discos, featuring soca, reggae and latino, loudly! Check cover charges before you go. Nightlife does not start until 2200-2300.



Festivals and events

Jan

New Year's Day 

Mar

Commonwealth Day

Mar/Apr

Good Fri and Easter Mon 

End-May

National Heroes Day

2nd week in Jun

Queen's birthday

Early Aug

Emancipation Day

End Sep

National Youth Day

Oct

Columbus' Day and International Human Rights' Day

Dec

Christmas Day and Boxing Day
 

Sport and activitiesDiving and marine life

The islands have become one of the most highly regarded diving locations in the region, with excellent visibility, unspoilt reefs, unpolluted waters and uncrowded dive spots. The best months for diving are April to November. Some of the best diving is off the wall at Northwest Point, West Caicos and French Cay. Great care has been taken in the past to conserve the reefs and the coral is in very good condition. However, the new cruise ship dock in Grand Turk is predicted to damage much of the famous wall on the west side of that island. Marine life is varied and beautiful and can be enjoyed by snorkellers and sailors as well as scuba divers. Colourful fish and grouper can be seen on the coral, and close to the shore there are green and loggerhead turtles and manta and spotted eagle rays. Beyond the reef are the game fish such as tuna, blue marlin, wahoo, snapper, bill fish and barracuda. Dolphins are commonly seen playing in the wake of dive boats and there is a friendly bottlenose dolphin named
Jo Jo
, which has been declared a National Treasure. He visits the Princess Alexandra Marine Park often coming in very close to shore. For more information contact Jo Jo's warden, Dean Bernal, at VHF 'Sea Base' channel 68 or 73, or T/F9415617, www.marinewildlife.org. From January to March, humpback whales migrate through the deep Turks Island Passage on their way south to the Silver and Mouchoir Banks breeding grounds north of the Dominican Republic . Whale watching is co-ordinated by the Department of Environmental Heritage and Parks, which has drawn up rules to protect the whales, and several dive operators offer whale-watching tours in the season, January to March.

Fishing

is popular, both for bonefishing and deep sea fishing. November-April is the season for wahoo and May-September is the season for blue marlin while you can also catch white marlin, sailfish, dorado and yellowfin tuna at any time. Provo and Pine Cay have the best bonefishing though it is also possible at South Caicos, Middle Caicos, North Caicos and Salt Cay. A sport fishing licence is required from the
Fisheries Department
. Ask your guide whether the fishing licence is included in his package. Spear fishing is not allowed.

Health

There are no endemic tropical diseases and no malaria, no special vaccinations are required prior to arrival.

Keeping in touchInternet

There are two internet cafés on Provo:
TCI Online
, and
The Computer Guy's Internet Café
. Most hotels offer their guests internet access and Wi-Fi is widely available.

Post

On Grand Turk the post office is on Front Street near
FirstCaribbean International Bank
,
 services include Federal Express
,
DHL
,
and UPS
agent
.

Telephone

The IDD code is T649. Grand Turk, Provo and South Caicos have a modern local and international telephone service, with
Cable & Wireless
offices in Grand Turk and Provo. Telephone services on the North and Middle Caicos and Salt City are improving. There are five exchanges, 946 and 941 for land lines, 231 for post pay cell phones and 241 and 242 for prepaid cell phones. Local directory assistance T118, international operator T115; credit card calls T111, 1-800-8778000, 3 mins minimum. The small volume of international calls means that costs are higher than in the USA. The local phone book has a list of
charges to anywhere in the world. Pay phones take phone cards, which are available from Cable & Wireless and from many outlets including Provo Airport in US$5, US$10 and US$20 denominations plus 10%. The Cable & Wireless Public Sales Office in Grand Turk and Provo has a public fax service, F9462497/4210. Paging service is popular among businesses and cell phones are widely used. Many visitors bring their own cell phones, or you can rent one while on the islands. There is a telephone directory published by
Olympia Publishing
, saunders@tciway.tc, with lots of useful information about the TCI, more useful than the Cable & Wireless directory.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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