For most visitors to the Turks and Caicos Islands, we recommend you rent a car for the duration of your stay. There is no public transport anywhere in the country and without a rental vehicle, your only option is to walk, cycle, or take a taxi.
Most cars in the country are left-hand drive cars imported from the United States. However, traffic drives on the left as in the United Kingdom. In addition, school buses and other shuttle buses are also typically imported from the United States, which results in passengers being unloaded directly into traffic lanes.
You will need a valid driving licence (driver's license) to rent a car or drive in the Turks and Caicos. An International Driver's Permit (IDP) is not required, unless your licence is in a language other than English.
There are many roundabouts on Providenciales and navigating these can be a point of confusion for some tourists. When using roundabouts, the general rules apply:
Examples of common roundabout usage (usage shown in diagram below displaying actual roundabouts on Providenciales):
Until 2011, there were few direction signs on Providenciales. Due to a failure of emergency services to find locations (many times because streets and roads didn't have any names), the government implemented a programme to name and put up signs for all roads in the country.
Roundabouts frequently have signs posted from all directions. In other countries, the top line of text usually says the name or area of the roundabout, but the Turks and Caicos instead uses names of prominent people from the country.
We drive on the left. There are no stoplights in the country, and traffic is regulated through the use of roundabouts. When entering a roundabout, give way to traffic on your RIGHT. Once you are inside a roundabout, you have the right of way until you exit the roundabout. HOWEVER, many drivers in the Turks and Caicos have their own interpretation of how to use roundabouts so be prepared to stop and give way to other drivers.
Here are three British style road signs in use in the Turks and Caicos which might confuse North American visitors:
|Low-flying aircraft or|
sudden aircraft noise
(give way to the right)
The Turks and Caicos follows the UK Highway Code protocol. However, don't expect drivers to give you the same courtesy as in the UK and always be prepared to stop or slow down for other drivers.
One note is that brown road signs in the UK denote an attraction, such as a zoo or castle. Green signs are reserved for primary routes. For some unknown reason, the Turks and Caicos has several brown road signs to denote local and primary routes, in addition to using the correct green (primary) and white (local) routes.
None of the few tourist attractions on Providenciales use the brown sign.
|Correct usage of green for primary routes in the United Kingdom.||Incorrect usage of brown for some primary and local routes in the Turks and Caicos Islands.|
We don't recommend you rent a scooter in Providenciales and other non-car vehicles. This because of a combination of poor drivers and sometimes poorly maintained roads. If you do decide to rent a scooter, it's highly recommended you stay within the Grace Bay area as speed limits are lower and there is less traffic.
See Choosing a Rental Car or Vehicle for more information.
It's no problem parking in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Nearly all businesses and hotels have (free) on-site parking.
Parking at the Providenciales International Airport (PLS) isn't free. All other parking, such as in the Downtown and Grace Bay areas on Providenciales, and throughout the other islands, is free and readily available.
Driving in some parts of the country, such as Providenciales, can be dangerous. There are many poor drivers who routinely exceed the speed limits and drive recklessly and without due care and attention. This is especially common with Haitian immigrants, many of whom operate illegal, unlicensed taxi services. Along with more official looking (usually) illegal 'bus' services, these drivers will stop directly in traffic lanes to pick up additional passengers, and in addition will cut directly in front of you to re-enter traffic or for turning.
Your best course is to keep a safe distance to drivers in front of you (much more than US or UK recommended lengths), and be ready for cars to stop suddenly or cut in front. In addition, ensure that you stay within the speed limit as several roads have hidden hazards, such as difficult to see speed humps (speed bumps) and pot-holes due to poor maintenance.
Traffic laws, such as speed limits and laws governing the use of round-abouts, are not generally enforced to any significant degree. There are no official statistics, but our estimates are a road fatality rate per 100,000 of 12.7, roughly equal to the United States at 12.3 and significantly higher than the United Kingdom at 2.7. Unfortunately, road deaths are on the rise. You are advised to be extremely vigilant when driving and give other drivers plenty of space. Always be prepared to stop suddenly for illegal taxi-drivers, people cutting in-front, and improper use of round-abouts.
If you're planning to drive off the beaten path, you may be interested in reading our section on safety and crime.