The Turks and Caicos Islands generally doesn't have the extensive shopping options that some other destinations offer. Both Providenciales and Grand Turk have quite a few small gift and souvenir shops, but most of the stuff stocked tends to be the usual imported items found everywhere, such as t-shirts, generic trinkets and jewelry. The islands do not have any large malls or dedicated shopping centers. It can be difficult to find something that's actually made in the Turks and Caicos, as even most of the obviously handmade souvenirs are made elsewhere. Sea shells are another thing to be aware of; other than Queen Conch shells, the shells, starfish and coral that you see in shops are usually of Asian origin.
Crafts and shells for sale at Alverna's Craft Market.
Souvenirs made in the Turks and Caicos
Probably the most authentic souvenirs available here are the handmade baskets, hats, model sailboats and dolls that are distributed by the Middle Caicos Co-op. The Co-op is an organization that represents over sixty artisans from across the whole country. These woven works are usually made by some of the older members of society here, who have been making baskets and hats the same way for decades. The materials used are natural and gathered from local beaches and wetlands.
Several different stores on Providenciales, and one on Grand Turk and Middle Caicos carry Middle Caicos Co-op items. Conch shell crafts are another option and generally fall into two categories. Most of the items tend to be cut shell pieces that are glued together to form cups, paper weights and spoons. Although this stuff can be interesting, it's often clunky. A relatively new process is to combine broken conch shells with a synthetic laminate mix to form a hard and long lasting dense material. The surface of this material is usually finished to a high polish and it's often used to make table tops, dishes and decorative flower pots. Paintings and sculptures by local artists are also available. Keep in mind that much of the art offered is not actually produced here.
If you're looking to take home a taste of the islands, you have a few choices. Two local companies here produce specialty alcohol. Turks Head Beer on Providenciales brews an amber ale and a lager. Bambarra Rum makes quite a few different flavors of sugar cane rum and rum products. Also, Island Roasted Coffee offer several blends of gourmet premium coffee. Another unique souvenir option is Turks and Caicos postage stamps. Both Providenciales and Grand Turk have branches of the Turks and Caicos Philatelic Bureau, where stamps featuring local subjects and commemorating international events are sold. The Turks and Caicos Treasury at times offers some beautiful specialty coins. These coins are minted as collector's items and are not circulated. Some gift shops do sell Turks and Caicos coins, but be aware of the price. The coins are denominated in Turks and Caicos Crowns, and it's generally accepted that one Turks and Caicos Crown is equal to one US Dollar. Other than for precious metal coins and a few rare items, be prepared to only receive face value if you ever try to sell.
Conchs, Shells and Corals
Conch shells, whether collected or purchased from a shop, require a permit from the Department for Economic and Maritime Affairs to export. This permit can only be obtained during the open-season for conch. Other shells, depending on the species and quantity, also require a permit. Corals of any sort cannot be exported legally.
We recommend that you do not purchase conch shells, conch jewellery or other conch souvenirs because you must either obtain a permit (which can be a time-consuming process) or will likely have your shells confiscated. We have received several complaints from tourists who have purchased shells from local shops only to have them seized at the
Providenciales International Airport (PLS).
Zebra painting by a Haitian artisan. Much of the locally sold souvenirs and artwork is not actually produced in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Where to Shop
Providenciales has the most to offer in shopping. There isn't any local 'high-street' or central shopping district in Providenciales. Most of the shops are organized into plazas, which have between 4 and 20 shops, and most of the plazas are located in the Grace Bay area. See
Shopping on Providenciales. On Grand Turk, The Cruise Center is the main area for tourist related stores. For more authentic items, the gift shop at the Turks and Caicos National Museum, The Salt House, or some of the small stores in Cockburn Town are your best bet. See
Shopping on Grand Turk.. The options on North and Middle Caicos are very limited, with one souvenir type shop on each island. See
Shopping on North and Middle Caicos.
Many tourist-related stores across the country sell duty free luxury items such as jewelry, perfume, alcohol and tobacco products. These items are imported into the Turks and Caicos customs-tax free and are offered to non-Turks and Caicos residents only. In theory, this allows visitors to purchase certain goods and take them home for considerably less than buying them at home, but be aware that some countries have restrictive customs allowances for returning residents. See
Customs Allowances for Visitors for information on how much stuff you can bring back duty free to your home country.