Be sure to check out Practical Information (Know Before You Go) and Interesting Facts about the Turks and Caicos Islands.
The Turks and Caicos is found about 80 miles (130 km) north of the Dominican Republic and 30 miles (49 km) east of the Bahamas. Florida is about 560 miles (900 km) northwest.
Turks and Caicos basically translates to “Pirate Islands”.
In past centuries, Islamic corsairs plagued the coasts of Africa, the Mediterranean and Western Europe. These raiders and slavers were often referred to as “Turks”, and the term was often used at the time as a synonym for pirates.
Caicos was derived from a Taino word, the meaning of which was roughly “archipelago” or “chain of islands”.
An early map maker combined the names as a warning to ships travelling in the area, and the title has stuck ever since.
The name is almost certainly not derived from the Turks head cacti, a unique plant native to the country, as is commonly stated.
The Tainos (also referred to as Lucayans) were the first peoples that there is any evidence or record of. Due to Spanish enslavement and introduced diseases, all of these aborigine people disappeared by the 1600s.
Taino, (it is thought that it translates to “peaceful” or “peaceful people”) is now accepted in place of Lucayan as the better name for these peoples, as it is the term they chose to call themselves.
Cruise ships only visit Grand Turk. Due to time constraints, it’s not possible to visit any other of the main islands in the country during the cruise ship stopover in Grand Turk.
No. There are no passenger or vehicle ferries connecting the Turks and Caicos to any other country.
The simple answer is that if you don’t mind the high temperatures of summer, anytime of the year is typically beautiful. Accommodation and activities rates are lowest during the late summer and autumn Atlantic hurricane season.
Yes. Taxis are quite expensive and rates are not metered. We recommend that visitors consider renting a vehicle for their stay. If you use a taxi, we recommend confirming the rate (and clarify that the stated rate is for your whole party and not per-person) before travelling.
Other than accommodation and vehicle rental, we estimate that around half of expenses on Providenciales can be paid by card. This percentage drops significantly on the less-populated islands.
The law states that it’s illegal to do so without an import license. However, many do so regardless of this fact. See Importing Animal and Plant Products into the Turks and Caicos Islands.
No. Entry for tourism into the Turks and Caicos for up to 90 days is allowed if you have a valid USA, UK or Canada resident or tourist visa.
See Passports and Visas.
In most cases, yes, it’s perfectly safe, yet bottled water is the common choice due to the poor taste of piped water .
Drinking water in the Turks and Caicos almost always originates from one of two sources: reverse osmosis desalination, and rainfall collection.
On Providenciales, most resorts, hotels and rental villas are connected to “city water”. This is a piped utility water service, with water produced by reverse osmosis. This water is safe to drink, but the taste is usually comparatively poor.
Some accommodations, largely older houses and outlying vacation rentals on Providenciales, use cisterns which are filled by rainwater collection from roofs or by truck from a desalination plant. In theory, a cistern could be contaminated by chemicals, pollutants or pathogens, however such an occurrence is almost unheard of.
On our other islands, cistern use for smaller lodgings is almost universal, and hotels and resorts typically have their own reverse osmosis systems.
Portable water filters can be a great way to improve the palatability of the country’s reverse osmosis water.
As a British Overseas Territory, the Union Jack occupies the upper left corner of the Turks and Caicos flag, and the shield on the right includes the queen conch, the spiny lobster, and the Turk’s head cacti. The three natural items represented are important to the cultural history of the country. The lobster and conch are valued and staple sources of food, and the Turk’s head cacti is an indigenous plant. The current version of the flag was approved in 1968.
The Turks and Caicos has had multiple flags over the years, including a variant with igloos!
If you weigh every factor (clear water for swimming, clean sand, lack of unsightly development, snorkelling, secluded tranquillity, and yes, even casual paddle board surfing) North Bay on Salt Cay wins.
By island, the top beaches are as follows:
Grand Turk: Governor's Beach.
North Caicos: Hollywood Beach.
Salt Cay: North Bay.
South Caicos: Long Beach (Sailrock Beach).
See our article on the subject.
If you’re simply here for the beach, definitely consider it.
If you’re on a typical budget and want to experience water sports, and the many sights and cays throughout the country, your money is probably better spent on excursions and activities.
If your intentions are to simply spend your time on one great beach, and convenient meals are a major perk, an all-inclusive may be the best choice for you.
If you’d rather get out and explore the many beautiful beaches, cays and sights, a hotel or villa will be more cost-effective.
Amazing diving is offered from Providenciales, Grand Turk and Salt Cay. In our opinion, the sites off French Cay and West Caicos are the finest, but these locations are normally accessed by an hour long (each way) boat trip from Providenciales.
The excellent reefs of Grand Turk and Salt Cay however are only a short boat ride off the coast.
If you’re visiting Grand Turk from a cruise ship, then yes, it probably is due to the relatively inexperienced crowds.
It’s not quite so definitive an answer when diving from Providenciales. The boats may be a little hectic directly before and after a dive, but the underwater experience doesn't really suffer.
Unfortunately, there are no regularly accessed wreck dive sites in the country. Throughout the country there are broken up old wrecks from the age of sail, and modern freighters that are a little too deep for recreational diving.
The Convair CV-440 aircraft wreck off South Caicos is the most interesting wreck at a reasonable depth.
Near Providenciales, the collapsed Thunderdome from Le trésor de Pago Pago is the only “wreck” site normally visited.
Other than relaxing on the beach, our top recommend activity would be an island hopping and snorkelling boat cruise. The best experience is usually had with one of the smaller groups or on a private cruise, and not a crowded party boat.
For a site that’s not a coastline, Conch Bar Caves on Middle Caicos.
On a regional or global scale, the remote Middle Caicos Ocean Hole may be the widest blue hole in the world.
Wade's Green Plantation on North Caicos. The Grand Turk Lighthouse and surrounding area is scenic, but the commercialization as a cruise ship shore excursion site and the adjacent zip line complex detracts.
Of the inhabited islands, Providenciales has the finest shore snorkelling sites.
Cost aside, a good snorkelling cruise will usually offer a much better underwater experience.
The West Indian Flamingo (also known as the American Flamingo or the Caribbean Flamingo) is seen on all of the main islands in the Turks and Caicos.
The regions on Providenciales where you’re most-likely to spot a flamingo are the remote west coast protected areas of Northwest Point Pond Nature Reserve and the Frenchmans Creek and Pigeon Pond Nature Reserve. However, the only access into these expansive and secluded areas is by poor-condition unpaved roads.
Of the easily-accessible areas of Providenciales; flamingos are occasionally seen at the interior pond near the southern Leeward entrance gate, at Flamingo Lake near Turtle Tail, and on the ponds at the golf course.
There are countless ponds and wetlands on North and Middle Caicos, and flamingos are occasionally seen at almost every such site. It’s simply hit or miss whether they’ll be there or not.
If you’re looking to photograph flamingos, the best conditions are found on South Caicos. Here, the majestic wading birds are a little less skittish than those in the remote ponds, and the salina walls allow for an easier approach.