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  • Turks and Caicos Islands

    Turks and Caicos Islands travel guide

    Overview

    The friendly Turks and Caicos islanders, known as the'belongers', rely almost solely on tourism for their livelihood andtherefore welcome visitors to this Caribbean British OverseasTerritory with open arms.

    The 'TCI', as the archipelago is known colloquially, is situatedat the end of the Bahamas chain, around 575 miles (925km) southeastof Miami, Florida. The Turks, with their dry, scrubby landscape,are divided from the more lush Caicos Islands by the ChristopherColumbus Passage.

    The pristine white beaches, vast coral reefs and crystal clearwarm waters that surround this set of eight inhabited islands andnumerous deserted cays draw honeymooners, scuba divers andvacationers in droves, with many visitors arriving by cruise ship.Everyone leaves smiling and de-stressed, and most return again andagain to enjoy the tranquillity of this unspoiled tropical islandparadise.

    The Turks and Caicos Islands are famous for the reef system thatsurrounds them, the third most extensive coral reef in the world,making it a prime destination for divers and snorkelers. Visibilityand an abundance of marine life, as well as excellent divefacilities, ensure that diving is the number one activity on theislands. The channel that separates the Turks Islands from theCaicos Islands is a deep passage that is a major route for humpbackwhales, dolphins, and eagle and manta rays. The reef wall aroundthe southern edge of South Caicos Island is said to provide thefinest diving in the archipelago. The shallow reefs close to theshore are excellent for snorkelers and with visibility up to 200ft(61m) there is no need to be underwater to appreciate all thesights.

    The most popular islands for holidaymakers are Grand Turk, thesite of the quaint capital, Cockburn Town, and Providenciales('Provo' for short), both well equipped with modern hotel,condominium and spa complexes that offer every tourist amenity. Theother islands offer more rustic accommodation suited to romanticsand nature-lovers who want to unplug from the real world for awhile. Clocks, televisions and radios are hard to find on thelaid-back cays, and the nightlife mostly consists of sundowners andstargazing.

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    The Turks and Caicos Islands enjoy a tropical marine climate,with trade winds ensuring that the islands maintain a comfortablewarm temperature, which varies little between winter and summer.Between June and October the temperature hovers between 85°F and90°F (29°C to 32°C), dropping only a few degrees in the wintermonths. The water is almost as warm as the air. The westerlyislands enjoy high annual rainfall, and hurricanes are possiblebetween June and October, but on average the islands have 350 daysof sunshine a year.

    Providenciales International Airport
    Location: The airport is located one mile (2km) west ofProvidenciales town.
    Time: Local time is GMT -4
    Getting to the city: Most resorts and hotels offer an airport transfer service. Taxisare freely available.
    Car Rental: Avis, Budget and Hertz, among others, are represented at theairport.
    Fascilities: The airport has a restaurant, bar, cafeteria, VIP lounge,duty-free shop, newsagent, gift shop, wireless internet connectionin the International Departure Lounge and a travel agency.
    Money:

    The US dollar (USD) is the official currency, which is dividedinto 100 cents. Local banks and most big hotels, restaurants andtaxi services accept travellers cheques and credit cards. Banksoffer ATMs as well as cash advances on credit cards.

    Language:

    The national language is English, but some words arepronounced in a way unique to the islands.

    Electricity:

    Electricity is the same as in the US: 120/240 volts,60 Hz.

    Entry Requirements:

    US citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days,provided they hold a passport valid for the period of intendedstay.

    British nationals require a valid passport, but no visa isrequired to enter the islands for a stay of up to 90 days.

    Canadian citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to 90days, provided they hold a passport valid for the period ofintended stay.

    Australian citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to 90days, provided they hold a passport valid for the period ofintended stay.

    South African citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to90 days, provided they hold a passport valid for the period ofintended stay.

    Irish nationals do not require a visa for stays of up to 90days, provided they hold a passport valid for the period ofintended stay.

    US citizens do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days,provided they hold a passport valid for the period of intendedstay.

    New Zealanders do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days,provided they hold a passport valid for the period of intendedstay.

    Passport/Visa Note:Visa:

    All visitors must hold a return or onward ticket, all documentsrequired for their next destination and sufficient funds. As partof the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellerstravelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda,and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport orother valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States.If departing from the USA, a valid passport will be required byimmigration authorities. Your passport should be valid for aminimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Turks andCaicos. Immigration officials often apply different rules to thosestated by travel agents and official sources.

    Travel Health:

    No vaccinations are required for entry to the islands, exceptfor those coming from a yellow fever area that must hold proof ofvaccination. A vaccination for hepatitis A should beconsidered.

    Medical facilities are limited and comprehensive healthinsurance, including coverage for transfer by helicopter, isrecommended for all travellers. Serious cases are usually evacuatedto Miami or Nassau. There is a small hospital on Grand Turk andsome private general practitioners on Providenciales.

    Tipping:

    Tips of around 15 percent of the bill are the norm for waiters,taxi drivers and bar tenders. Hotels usually include a servicecharge of 10 to 15 percent.

    Safety Information:

    Visits to the Turks and Caicos Islands are usually trouble-free,and crime is generally of a petty, opportunistic kind. The crimerate is low, but on the favourite tourist island of Providencialesthere have been incidents of burglary and theft, so visitors shouldtake precautions with valuables. Robberies have occurred on GraceBay Beach. Hurricane season generally runs from June toNovember.

    Local Customs:

    Culture in the Turks and Caicos Islands is relaxed andhospitable if not overly friendly, and islanders are known fortheir good manners. Address strangers with respect and note thatthe use of titles is considered normal and appropriate. Thingshappen slowly on the islands and attempting to rush service willonly annoy. You should cover beachwear when off the beach, and menneed to wear long pants at smarter restaurants. Topless and nudesunbathing is illegal. Gay and lesbian relationships are legal, buttend to be discreet and public displays of affection may be frownedupon.

    Business:

    The Turks and Caicos Islands are subject to English Common Lawand business is conducted in a similar manner to the UnitedKingdom; however, suits are only necessary for the most formal ofoccasions. Business hours are generally 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday toFriday.

    Communications:

    Cable & Wireless Ltd. provides the islands, and most of theCaribbean, with a digital network of telecommunications, includingGSM cellular coverage and internet connections. The country directdialling code is +1 followed by 649. The outgoing code is 011followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01144 for the UnitedKingdom). Public phones operate with phone cards.

    Duty Free:

    Travellers may enter the Turks and Caicos Islands with thefollowing goods without paying customs duty: 200 cigarettes or 50cigars or 220g of tobacco products; and 1 litre spirits or 2 litreswine. Spearguns are strictly prohibited.

    Useful Contacts:

    Turks and Caicos Tourist Board, Grand Turk: +1 649 946 2321 orwww.turksandcaicostourism.com

    Turks and Caicos Islands Embassies:

    Turks and Caicos Island Foreign Representation, London, UnitedKingdom: +44 (0) 20 7034 7845

    Foreign Embassies in Turks and Caicos Islands :

    US Embassy Nassau, The Bahamas (also responsible for Turks andCaicos): +(242) 322-1181 ext. 4406.

    UK Governor's Office, Grand Turk: +1 649 946 2309.

    Canadian High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (also responsiblefor Turks and Caicos Islands): +1 876 926 1500

    Turks and Caicos Islands Emergency Numbers : Emergencies: 911
    Turks and Caicos Islands