Be sure to check out Useful Travel Information, Interesting Facts about the Turks and Caicos Islands, and famous visitors. The Turks and Caicos has had quite a few unusual occurrences and interesting happenstances over the centuries!
Where are the Turks and Caicos Islands located?
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.
How many islands are there in Turks and Caicos?
There are 40 main islands in the Turks and Caicos. Additionally, there are 62 named very small cays and rocks. Nine islands in the Turks and Caicos are populated. By total population, these islands are Providenciales, Grand Turk, North Caicos, South Caicos, Middle Caicos, Salt Cay, Pine Cay, Parrot Cay, and Ambergris Cay.
What country is Turks and Caicos in?
The Turks and Caicos is its own country! We are a self-governed British Overseas Territory, with status equivalent to Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, and Gibraltar. Our capital city is Cockburn Town on the island of Grand Turk.
What does “Turks and Caicos” mean?
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 mapmaker combined the names as a warning to ships traveling 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.
Who were the original inhabitants of the Turks and Caicos?
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.
What islands do cruise ships visit?
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.
Are there any ferries from the USA or the Bahamas to the Turks and Caicos?
No. There are no passenger or vehicle ferries connecting the Turks and Caicos to any other country.
What should I bring to the Turks and Caicos?
What’s the best month out of the year to visit?
The simple answer is that if you don’t mind the high temperatures of summer, any time of the year is typically beautiful. Accommodation and activities rates are lowest during the late summer and autumn Atlantic hurricane season.
Is airport “Fast Track” needed?
Fast Track is a VIP service that is available at the Providenciales International Airport and allows arriving and departing guests expedited service through immigration, customs, and security.
The weekends during the later December to April high season are the busiest times at the airport. The queues to enter and leave the airport outside of these times typically are not long. Fast Track during peak arrivals can save more than an hour of wait times.
How can I keep my vacation costs down?
Are taxis expensive?
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 clarifying that the stated rate is for your whole party and not per person) before traveling.
Are credit and debit cards widely accepted?
Other than accommodation and vehicle rental, we estimate that around 75% of a typical visitor’s expenses on Providenciales can be paid by card. This percentage drops significantly on the less-populated islands.
Are Apple Pay and Google Pay Accepted in the Turks and Caicos?
Yes, Apple Pay and Google Pay are accepted at many businesses and locations in the Turks and Caicos. Some small vendors, however, only accept cash.
What currency is used in the Turks and Caicos?
The Turks and Caicos uses the U.S. Dollar. We do have our own currency, the Crown, however, it’s only utilized as commemorative and collective souvenir coins. It’s extremely uncommon to encounter a Turks and Caicos Crown coin in normal circulation.
Can I bring meat with me into the Turks and Caicos?
The law states that it’s illegal to do so without an import license. However, many do so regardless of this fact. See Bringing Food into the Turks and Caicos.
Can I bring guns to Turks and Caicos?
Guns are strictly prohibited and cannot be brought to the Turks and Caicos. Some airlines incorrectly state that they can be brought in checked luggage, however, this is not accurate.
Persons who bring firearms (and/or ammunition) to the Turks and Caicos without prior written approval from the Commissioner of Police are subject to large fines and incarceration.
There have been cases of tourists who have brought firearms and ammunition to the Turks and Caicos, and they have been subject to jail time (in addition to a fine).
Can I bring cannabis products, such as medical marijuana, THC gummies, or CBD oil into the Turks and Caicos?
No, cannabis is a Class A controlled substance in the Turks and Caicos and it is illegal to import cannabis (marijuana) in any form. Products containing its derivatives (including anything containing CBD or THC) are also prohibited (including products such as CBD oil products or THC gummies).
There is no exemption for medical marijuana products (either with or without a doctor’s prescription).
Persons who attempt to import drugs, including cannabis and marijuana, are subject to a 5-year sentence and a fine of up to $75,000.
Do I need a Turks and Caicos visa if I have a valid USA/UK/Canada tourist visa?
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.
Is the tap water safe in the Turks and Caicos safe to drink?
In most cases, yes, it’s perfectly safe, yet bottled water is the common choice due to the mediocre taste of piped water.
Indoor-plumbed water in the Turks and Caicos almost always originates from one of two sources: reverse osmosis desalination, and less commonly, rainfall collection.
On Providenciales, most resorts, hotels, and rental villas are connected to “city water”. This is a modern 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 that 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.
Where do movie stars and celebrities stay?
What is on the Turks and Caicos Flag?
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!
Can I bring a drone to the Turks and Caicos?
Yes. As our Instagram page can attest to, the Turks and Caicos is one of the best places in the world for drone photography.
Several beaches and attractions in the Turks and Caicos are adjacent to an airport, and it is illegal to fly a drone at such spots. This includes Chalk Sound National Park, Taylor Bay Beach, Sapodilla Bay Beach, English Point Beach, and Governor’s Beach.
Please don’t fly your drone in an irresponsible manner. Keep a safe and respectful distance from crowds and other persons, and don’t fly over private properties.
Do not disturb birds or other wildlife, and do not fly over nature reserves.
What’s the best beach in the Turks and Caicos?
If you weigh every factor (clear water for swimming, clean sand, lack of unsightly development, snorkeling, secluded tranquility, and yes, even casual paddleboard 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.
What makes the beaches in the Turks and Caicos so beautiful?
See our article on the subject.
What’s the best place to watch the sunset?
Do beaches in the Turks and Caicos have sargassum?
The short answer is that typically most beaches in the Turks and Caicos do not have any noticeable sargassum, yet a few coasts do collect varying amounts of the seaweed at some times.
Sargassum is a floating brown seaweed that is starting to be seen in large quantities in warmer Atlantic waters, including Florida and much of the Caribbean. It’s had a great impact at some popular beaches in the Caribbean, accumulating in such amounts that small bays are a mass of brown.
Barring abnormal weather events, most popular beaches in the Turks and Caicos, including Grace Bay, Leeward Beach, Sapodilla Bay, Governor's Beach, Malcolm's Road Beach, and the Bight Beach, are free from sargassum.
Generally, only some windward beaches in the Turks and Caicos experience a noticeable amount of sargassum at times. Such coasts include Long Bay Beach on Providenciales and much of North Caicos. Keep in mind that worst-case sargassum accumulation seen in the Turks and Caicos doesn’t compare to the incredible masses seen in other destinations that have made headlines.
Are there any nude beaches in Turks and Caicos?
No, there are no nude beaches in the Turks and Caicos, and public nudity is illegal.
Is it worth paying up for a beachfront room?
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.
Should I stay at an all-inclusive resort? Or not?
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.
What island has the best diving?
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.
Is it worth paying up for small group or private dive trips?
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.
I want to see a sunken ship! What’s the best wreck site in the country?
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.
Things to Do
What’s the top thing to do?
Other than relaxing on the beach, our top recommended activity would be an island hopping and snorkeling 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.
What’s the best non-beach natural attraction in the Turks and Caicos?
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.
What’s the best historical attraction in the Turks and Caicos?
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.
What’s the best shore snorkeling spot in the country?
Of the inhabited islands, Providenciales has the finest shore snorkeling sites.
Should I snorkel from the beach or take a cruise?
Cost aside, a good snorkeling cruise will usually offer a much better underwater experience.
Where Can I See Flamingos?
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 Frenchman's Creek and Pigeon Pond Nature Reserve. However, the only access in to 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.