Turks and Caicos Tourist Guide & Info
If you are looking for a truly relaxing holiday and an opportunity to reacquaint yourself with nature, then look no further then the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is ideal for couples of all ages, family vacations and nature lovers. The main attractions here are the beaches, considered amongst the most beautiful on earth, and the world's third largest coral reef system, ideal for diving and snorkelling.
Turks and Caicos consist of more than 40 islands. Eight of these islands are inhabited, they are: Grand Turk, Salt Cay, South Caicos, Providenciales, Middle Caicos, North Caicos, Parrot Cay and Pine Cay. The island of Providenciales, Provo for short, is the main tourist destination. Visitors can choose from all inclusive luxury resort, some with world class spas, or more rustic accommodations. A wonderful local cuisine, as well as international fare, can be enjoyed at one of the many restaurants.
Origin & Culture
Also found on menus are chicken and ribs, curried goat, hominy (grits), peas and rice, Cajun blackening and Jamaican jerking. A weekend favourite is the native dish of boiled fish with Johnnycake.
Popular drinks include the rum punch. This is made with local Lucayan rum, coconut rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and sirop de grenadine.
The native people are descendants from African slaves, originally brought over as slaves. Referred to as the Belongers, they are a very kind and friendly people and are also religious.
Local artists find much inspiration from the people, the landscapes and seascapes and mostly express themselves through painting, sketching and drawing. Phillip Outten, June Taylor and Ianthe George are three prominent local artists.
The national music of the Turks and Caicos is called Ripsaw Music, also known as Rake and Scrape. The basic instruments used are the saw, the goatskin drum, the hand accordion, hand made maracas and the acoustic guitar. Lovey Forbes and his son Corry Forbes are the fore runners in composing and recording Ripsaw music. Jamaican reggae, Bahamian Calypso and Soca all play a major role in the local music scene.
There are a number of local dance steps and styles in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The most popular is the Winin, consisting of gyrating the hips from the waist in a circle, from to back and up and down all in the time to the beat of the music being played. Most of the elderly folks look down on this style and prefer the more stylized moves of the Shati or the Heal and Toe Polka. The Conch Style is a local dance that is done by stepping and hooking one foot behind the ankle of the other in time to the ripsaw music.
Out of the 40 or so islands, only eight are inhabited: Salt Cay, Grand Turk, South Caicos, Middle Caicos, North Caicos, Providenciales, Parrot Cay and Pine Cay. The capital city of Cockburn Town is located on Grand Turk. Tourism is the main revenue, followed by lobster exportation and its offshore financial center.
The name Turks is derived after the indigenous Turk's Head fez cactus, and Caicos comes from the Lucayan term caya hico, meaning string of islands. The first people to discover the islands were the Taino Indians, later followed by the Lucayans.
Modern history claims that Columbus discovered the islands in 1492, others argue that Ponce de Leon arrived first. The 17th century saw the arrival of settlers from Bermuda, accompanied by slaves to rake salt. Later many British Loyalists, fleeing the American Revolution, moved to the islands. The economy of the island revolved around the rich cotton and sisal plantations, until fierce competition, a poor soil and the hurricane of 1813 eventually eradicated this industry. Solar salt became the main economy of the islands.
Turks and Caicos became part of the Bahamas colony in 1766, annexed to Jamaica in 1874, re-associated with the Bahamas for just over 10 years in 1962, and finally thereafter became a British Crown Colony.
Other protected areas include marine replenishment areas as well as breeding grounds for sea turtles, colourful fish, large grouper, and manta rays, seabirds and other creatures. Humpback whales can be seen migrating on the way to their breeding grounds during January through March. Another unusuality occurs once a month, a few days following the full moon: the marine Glow Worms sparkle up the waters during their mating ritual.
The Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana is found nowhere else in the world. This shy and harmless reptile, once found on nearly all of the islands of the Turks & Caicos archipelago, has now taken refuge mainly on small-uninhabited cays away from human settlement.
Horseback ridding, tennis, biking or hiking are always a delight. You can even try skydiving. Golfers will enjoy theProvo Golf and Country Club is a par 72, 18-hole championship course.
Local spectator sports include basketball, cricket and soccer.
Other Useful Info
The legal tender is the US dollar. Canadian dollars can be exchanged in the many banks and change offices. A few ATMs are available in the more populated areas of the islands.
Major credit cards and traveller's cheques are accepted but smaller shops in towns don't always accept them, so it is a good idea to always have a certain amount of cash on hand.
For monthly average temperatures please refer to your destination of choice.
The international code is 649. Local telephone numbers are seven digits. The island is covered by Cable and Wireless. Most hotels offer internet services and there are Internet cafes available as well. Television broadcasts come from the Bahamas. The Turks and Caicos Free Press is the islands’ newspaper.
There are no required vaccines to enter the country, unless you are arriving from a yellow fever affected destination. The following vaccines are recommended for any tropical destination: hepatitis A and B, rabies, typhoid, tetanus and yellow fever.
January 1 – New Year's Day
March – Commonwealth Day
March/April – Good Friday, Easter Monday
May – National Heroes Day
June – Queen's Birthday
August – Emancipation Day
September – National Youth Day
October – Columbus Day
October – International Human Rights Day
December 25 – Christmas Day
December 26 – Boxing Day
Turks and Caïcos is considered relatively safe and enjoys a low crime rate. However as a tourist you are more likely to be a target of petty crime.
Use good judgement, take advantage of the safety deposit boxes provided by the hotels, do not leave valuables unattended in public and carry your wallet and camera discreetly. Also make sure to lock your hotel room and rental car.
Stamp collectors will be interested in the wide selection of stamps sold by the Philatelic Bureau in Grand Turk. The brightly coloured stamps are highly valued across the world.
Lucayan rum, made here on the islands, always makes for a great souvenir.
The departure tax of around US $35, per person over the age of 2, must be paid when leaving the islands.
There is no sales tax on purchased goods. Hotels charge a 10% occupancy tax, as well as a 10% to 15% service charge. Restaurants also add a 10% government tax but tips are not usually included in the bill. It is customary to leave a 10% to 15% tipl. Taxi drivers also expect 10% of the fare.
Driving here is on the LEFT side. Car rentals are available, as are scooters and bicycles rentals. A flat tax of $15 is charged on all car rentals. Taxis are metered on the bigger islands and are available at hotels, the airport and other tourist attractions. Small buses, called jitneys, make up the public transport on the main islands. There is also a shuttle service along the Grace Bay beach area.