If you are planning to visit Turks and Caicos here are 5 things you need to know! I visited the largest city of Providenciales on Caicos Island last fall and wish I knew these things beforehand.
1) Climate and Seasons:
Turks and Caicos has a dry and sunny tropical climate with temperatures averaging in the 80's for the high and 70's for the low. The islands usually receive 350 sunny days per year. I chuckled reading that after the fact since I was there during Hurricane Joaquin! Although locals told us they rarely get hurricanes, during my research I found out that hurricanes on the islands are quite common. Keep this in mind if you plan to travel there during the hurricane season of June through November. The busiest tourist season for Turks and Caicos is during the winter months from the end of November through March. Most of the island's activities and tours are based on this season. This was unusual for me since I am used to vacationing on larger islands like Jamaica that have festivities and activities year round. During the summer they do have a music and cultural festival that draws big name artists.
It is expensive. Period. Having traveled through the Caribbean I must say this was the most expensive island I have been to. Not only are the hotels pricey but the food, drinks, tours, and transportation are as well. A rum punch at my hotel was $18! A 3 hour island tour was over $100. Hotels range in price but the more luxurious properties like the Gansevoort and Grace Bay Club may cost you in the high 300s to 400s for an oceanfront room. However, you are paying for immaculate service, fine dining, luxury accommodations and an intimate experience. There are a few all-inclusive resorts such as Beaches and ClubMed but most hotels are European style. At our hotel-The Gansevoort Turks & Caicos- we had a daily breakfast buffet and free Wi-Fi which was helpful with costs. While shopping for snacks in the hotel gift shop, we paid $3 for a granola bar. Yikes! I did enjoy the peace and tranquility of the hotel beach vs. hagglers trying to sell you goods or tour directors approaching you which happens on other island beaches.
While planning your visit to Turks and Caicos add "Deep Woods OFF" or any other strong insect repellant to your shopping list. Buy a large size for your hotel room and a travel size for your travel bag. On our first night at dinner we were eaten alive by mosquitos at the outdoor beach restaurant. If you do forget to pack this, be prepared to pay $20 for a bottle that usually costs $5. In terms of attire, plan for casual chic swim wear for the daytime and dressy casual summer wear for the evenings. I was not made aware of any nightclubs on the island so you can save your club gear for another trip :-). I was happy and relieved to find out that Turks and Caicos accepts US currency! You can also use your American debit and credit cards there. Remember to call your bank and inform them of your travel plans.
There are taxi drivers readily available at the airport. There are even private car services. Taxi rides are expensive. They charge per person not just on time or distance. A ride to a hotel less than 10 minutes away for two people was $20 one way. If you prefer to rent a car, be aware that they drive on the left side of the street. Based on the flat terrain it is also a great place to go bike riding and bikes are offered at many of the hotel properties.
The beaches! Thanks to the third largest coral system in the world, Turks and Caicos has beautiful, clean beaches. The water is a magnificent turquoise with soft white sand. Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales is the most well-known beach and home to many of the most luxurious hotels. Snorkeling and scuba diving are common past times on the island and attract many visitors. Visit Chalk Sound for snorkeling, amazing water views and sunsets. Smith's Reef and Bight Reef are also popular snorkeling locations. There are many other attractions including Humpback whales that can be seen on Grand Turk Island from January through April. Turks and Caicos is also the home to the world's only conch farm! Conch is a sea snail with noticeable shells. The meat is edible and cooked in various forms on the islands. If you are a bird watcher this is also the place for you. The salt ponds and marshes are home to over 170 species of birds on Turks and Caicos. Make a stop at Cheshire Hall located in Providenciales. It is home to 200 year old ruins of a former cotton plantation. Go to the Thursday fish fry located in Providenciales. This is a local event consisting of food vendors, live music and local artists. Take a "glow worm cruise." These cruises are planned 3-6 nights after the full moon when the marine worm "Odontosyllis" performs a mating ritual in which the female worm releases eggs then swims to the surface emitting a pale, green luminescence. Keep in mind that Turks and Caicos has a relatively flat terrain so you will not find mountains, cliffs, jungles or waterfalls. This is important for the land adventure traveler vs. the water soaked beach traveler.
I hope these 5 things are helpful in planning your visit to Turks and Caicos!