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Turks and Caicos Budget Vacations

The spectacular Grace Bay Beach.

Much of this article covers a budget vacation on the country’s main island of Providenciales.

On our smaller and less-populated islands, there isn’t as wide a selection of accommodation and transport, and consequently less room for deals.

The Low and High Seasons

It’s no secret that the Turks and Caicos experiences natural fluctuations in tourist arrivals throughout the year, as is the case with most destinations. Accommodation and activity rates can be significantly lower during the end of summer and autumn “low season” than they are in the winter and spring “high season” months.

In fact, many businesses and accommodations take the opportunity in September and October to close down and renovate and refit. The country’s low season coincides with the height of the Atlantic hurricane season. Generally the weather during this period is excellent (albeit hot!), yet the chance of a hurricane or tropical cyclone strike, however slight, does exist.

There’s typically ample warning of an approaching storm, so in our opinion, the determination of whether to visit or not during the hurricane season hinges on if your personal schedule would allow for vacation date change with little warning.

Flights and Airfare

The approach to Providenciales International Airport over Chalk Sound.

Aside from watching for special offers from the major booking sites and airlines, often a good way to save is to fly from a smaller US airport such as Fort Lauderdale.

It may not always be possible, but a flexible holiday schedule will also allow for snapping up specials when they come up.

Airline tickets to the Turks and Caicos have generally been decreasing a bit in price over the last few years, it’s not uncommon to find round trips from the east coast United States in the $200-300 range (before taxes).

It’s best to be aware of airfare ticket policies before purchasing, as some resellers, which are often businesses that bulk purchase airline flights with the intention of reselling, may have ticket change policies that are more-onerous than those purchased through the airline. In cases, it may be quite expensive or not possible to make a ticket date change, and cancelation terms may not be amicable.

If a hurricane threatens the country during your trip dates, airlines and local lodgings will usually work with you to accommodate date changes.

Accommodation

Resorts on Grace Bay Beach.

To get the best lodging rates, we advise contacting your chosen resort or vacation rental’s manager directly. Do your research so you’ll have an idea of rates, but call them and see what they’ll offer. If you cut out the middle-man or online listing fees, the accommodation will likely pass on some of the savings to you.

As would be expected, beachfront accommodations generally command a price premium. Inland Grace Bay hotels (often only a block from the ocean) and non-beachfront villas are offered at much lower rates.

The least-expensive lodging option is typically homestay and vacation rentals in multi-unit complexes. There isn’t a wide selection of such rentals, and specific dates may not be available due to this fact.

It’s very important to understand the location of your accommodation. Many of the less expensive options are not within easy walking distance of beaches, dining or shopping.

If you have a rental vehicle (highly recommended and discussed below), lodging location, with the exception of a few sites on the west half of Providenciales, will not have a tremendous impact on a budget holiday.

Several accommodations, often featuring enticing rates, are found at the Northwest Point and the western Blue Hills region (commonly known as Wheeland). These areas can be a 15-20 minute drive from the better beaches, dining and shopping of central Providenciales. We don’t necessarily recommend against such lodgings, yet it is important to be aware of travel times.

Transportation and Rental Cars

A typical economy class rental car at Blue Hills, Providenciales.

Transportation is a key area to save money. Simply, renting a car is the way to go. We advise picking up and dropping off the car at the airport to save on taxis fees (In some cases there may be a short shuttle ride to a nearby rental location).

Unlike many other destinations, the Turks and Caicos consists of small islands, and selecting an accommodation based on its location really won’t save much time on transport. There are a few outlying lodgings, yet on Providenciales, driving time from the majority of accommodations to most beaches, restaurants and shops will be under 10 minutes, regardless of accommodation location.

On Providenciales, the two largest car rental companies, Avis and Grace Bay Car Rentals, offer “character” car classes. Starting at under $40 per day (before taxes), these cars can be up to a decade old, yet they drive fine and have working air conditioning (essential!). Regardless of vehicle class, the better car rental agencies on Providenciales generally have reliable and decent cars.

Contrary to what may be expected, scooters, along with being more-dangerous to use on the highways, have rental rates equal to or greater than the rates for economy class compact cars.

Resorts often do offer complimentary bicycle use, however the majority of roads on Providenciales simply are not suitable to cycling due to careless drivers and the lack of safe road shoulders and bike paths. Many visitors also underestimate the intensity of the sun here.If you do decide to cycle, it’s essential that you understand how roundabouts work.

If you’re staying in central Grace Bay (typically expensive), you could probably do without a vehicle for a few days, however a car is necessary when staying at other regions on Providenciales.

The brilliant waters of the Caicos Banks.

Taxis and Jitneys

Differing from most countries, taxis on Providenciales typically charge by destination and per passenger. Although typically covering a distance of less than eight miles (13 km), the fare for two persons travelling from the Providenciales International Airport to Grace Bay will be anywhere from $30-60.

Jitneys, almost always illegal and unlicensed, are the main form of transport for a significant segment of society on Providenciales. The common jitney fares are much lower than taxis, however, drivers do occasionally demand higher fares from tourists, and it doesn’t take many such charges to cover an economy class rental car.

Transport on Our Smaller Islands

Salt Cay and Grand Turk offer a different transport situation due to their smaller island sizes. For those staying overnight, cycling and walking may be a viable option.

On North and Middle Caicos, South Caicos, and Grand Turk, the limited car rental fleets command a premium. Rates for usually start at $75 per day. Taxis, when available, are expensive as well.

Activities and Attractions

The cannon and grounds at Cheshire Hall Plantation. Many sights on Providenciales have low entry fees or are free-to-access.

Research is key to saving on activities and attractions. On Providenciales and throughout the Turks and Caicos, entry to many scenic sites and quite a few historical attractions is free. Such sites are usually undeveloped and may not be extensive or significant, yet are nevertheless interesting.

All beaches in the Turks and Caicos up to the hide tide point are public and free-to-access as well. The law in most cases does not allow for access across private property to get to the beach, however, almost every beach in the country has an unrestricted path or road for entry.

Visiting the dozens of spectacular beaches on the island is an attraction in itself, and will only cost fuel usage if you have a rental car.

Diving

Diving enthusiasts can cut costs significantly by arranging a package deal, which can either solely cover multiple dives, or both diving and accommodation.

There is no feasible shore diving on Providenciales for visitors.

Snorkelling

Two central and excellent snorkelling reefs, free to visit, are found close off the beaches of Providenciales. The larger coral formations at these sites are not quite as impressive as what can be seen on the barrier reef, however the quantity and variety of colourful reef fish and small marine creatures compares well to any site in the country.

The shallow lagoon at Half Moon Bay.

Boat Cruises

A boat cruise is an activity we recommend for all visitors. The lower cost trips may be a little crowded, yet they visit the same spectacular sites and cays that the more expensive excursions stop at.

Once you land at Little Water Cay, Half Moon Bay or Pine Cay, you’ll always have plenty of beach to yourself.

A combination snorkelling and beach cruising excursion starts at about $90 per person for a half-day trip.

Day Trips

Taking a day trip to North Caicos and Middle Caicos for two can be done for under $300. This covers ferry return tickets ($100 for two persons), car rental ($75), gas ($25), lunch, refreshments, and entry fees to the Conch Bar Caves and Wade's Green Plantation. There is no entry fee to many sights, including Mudjin Harbour, Bambarra Beach, the Crossing Place Trail, Indian Cave and Cottage Pond.

Day trips to Grand Turk and Salt Cay are highly recommended as well, however, they will typically cost $100-200 more due to the higher cost of airfare and transport.

Potcake Puppies!

Interested in seeing incredibly cute little dogs? Visit Potcake Place, the island’s non-profit dog rescue charity. The Potcake is the unique Turks and Caicos dog, named after their traditional feed source in times past: the “cake” left in the bottom of cooking pots after making peas and grits.

Potcake Place is found in Saltmills Plaza in Grace Bay. Donate, take a puppy out for a walk on the beach, or learn more about adopting a unique and friendly island dog.

Day Pass at an All-Inclusive

If you’re staying at a small vacation rental yet would like to have the resort experience, consider purchasing a day pass at one of the island’s all-inclusive resorts.

The adult-only Club Med Turkoise is the least-expensive option. Depending on the season, a day pass can be had for $60-80. There’s an impressive range of amenities offered, including dining, non-powered water sports equipment usage, snorkelling boat cruises to the barrier reef, and some shows.

Beaches Turks and Caicos, a family-oriented all-inclusive resort, offers a wonderful array of attractions and features for children. Similar to the day pass offered by Club Med, dining, water sports equipment usage, and access to the pools, water park and facilities are included. Cost is $200 per adult and $130 per child.

Packages and Deals

Boat cruise off of Grace Bay Beach.

If you’d prefer to stay at one of the Grace Bay resorts, a package flight and accommodation deal may be a great way to save.

Outside of the high season, airfare and a week’s accommodation at a non-beachfront resort start at about $1000 per person. During the high season, a similar package will cost at least 50% more.

However, if you are willing to do the research, in most cases separately booking your flight and accommodation will be the least expensive option.

Food, Dining and Restaurants

Although they serve excellent dishes, many Grace Bay restaurants tend to be quite expensive, with entrees in the $25-50 range. The prices at establishments serving bar fare and burgers is typically lower at $15-20 for a main course, yet are still not inexpensive when the total with gratuity and drinks is added.

The best way to cut down on food costs is to prepare some of your own meals. Some resort suites and most vacation rentals feature fully-equipped kitchens or kitchenettes.

Consider bringing some food items with you to the Turks and Caicos, as food prices are quite high in local supermarkets. Grocery stores in the Downtown area of Providenciales generally have the lowest food prices on the island.

Restaurants outside of the tourist areas are often less expensive, however opening times and locations are often inconvenient.