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Etiquette & Tipping in the Turks & Caicos

Beachfront and clear ocean water at Cockburn Town
The calm waters at Cockburn Town Beach.

General Etiquette

The culture in the Turks and Caicos is heavily influenced by American culture, much more so than British culture. People are moderately more conservative than the US or UK, but not significantly so.

English is the official language, although many hospitality staff are Haitians (who speak French Creole), Dominicans (Spanish), or Filipinos (Tagalog). The predominant religion is various forms of Christianity.

General greetings are a handshake as in the US or UK. Hugs or kisses or not normal (unless between relatives or close friends).

There is generally a high level of respect for seniority and elders.

When entering spaces or businesses where persons are waiting or gathered, such as Government offices, it is common to greet the room with a ‘good morning’, ‘morning, morning, morning’, or ‘good afternoon’.

Time

Within the local community, it’s common to arrive on ‘island time’, that is to say 5-40 minutes late. It’s a little different with tourism-oriented business, as there are usually stricter times with regard to schedules, etc. If you hear someone refer to ‘island time’, it means likely arriving late.

Clothing and Attire

Some businesses have restrictions on beachwear being permitted attire for entry, with notable inclusions being the main supermarkets. Security guards will generally refuse entry for women wearing bikinis or men without shirts.

This isn’t the case with beach restaurants, which generally allow any beach attire. Note that some staff and other patrons may take offense at scanty clothing, and it frequently makes the rounds on social media every couple of weeks.

Most restaurants have a casual dress code, including the more expensive ones. No restaurant on Providenciales requires formal dress, such as a tie/suit for men or similar attire for women.

Taxes

New Year's Eve fireworks oven the resorts and water of Grace Bay Beach
New Year's Eve fireworks over Grace Bay Beach.

There is no sales tax, VAT, or GST in the Turks and Caicos, but most tourism-oriented businesses, including all accommodations, charge a 12% Hotel and Tourism Tax.

In addition, some accommodations also add a 5% Facility Fee, which is just another charge that businesses may keep, but isn’t taxed by the Government.

Many tourism businesses also charge Service Charge, which is similar to a tip or gratuity, but is different in that all non-managerial employees of a business share it, and not just the staff who you deal with.

Other Taxes

Tourism Tax, Service Charge and Facility Fee, if present, are the only mandatory taxes. Anything else, such as City Tax or any other tax, is not a legal tax and you should not pay it.

Note that some businesses use U.S. software, and the 12% Tourism Tax is labeled as 12% Sales Tax.

Tipping

Tips of around 15% are expected for nearly all service jobs in the Turks and Caicos, such as taxi drivers and waiters.

Some businesses automatically include gratuity on bills, so check first.

Service Charge vs Gratuity (Tip)

Some businesses charge Service Charge, which is up to 10%, and different from an optional gratuity or tip. Some businesses charge a higher amount, however, this is illegal. Service Charge is shared by all non-managerial employees of a business, and not just the person you deal with.

If you are at a business that charges Service Charge, you can decide how much gratuity to leave above this amount, which normally goes to your server only. We recommend leaving at least an additional 5%, to bring the total Service Charge and gratuity up to the expected 15%.

Practices to Avoid

A fat Turks and Caicos Islands rock iguana
An overweight endemic Turks and Caicos islands rock iguana. Don't feed the iguanas.

Common criticisms of visitors to the Turks and Caicos include poor driving practices, referring to the Turks and Caicos as ‘Turks’, using strongly pungent sunscreens, and wearing especially casual clothing outside of a beach or boating setting.

The general driving practices and skills of many residents in the Turks and Caicos are remarkably poor, yet it’s nevertheless common for inhabitants to criticize tourists that drive on the wrong side of the road or incorrectly use roundabouts. Residents and visitors that are not familiar with the UK Highway Code protocol should see Driving in the Turks and Caicos.

Some more environmentally conscious residents strongly dislike when visitors feed the wildlife, touch or stand on the reef, fish or collect conch in protected areas, create stone stacks, chase or harass marine mammals and wildlife, drive on the beach, or use sunscreens in the ocean that are damaging to the reef.