When is the best time of year to visit the Turks and Caicos?
Honestly, all year round is great. We get a bit more rain in the spring (April/May) and toward the end of the year, but not enough to change vacation plans. Hurricane season is technically June to November, but ‘peak season’ is September and October. With today’s forecasting capabilities, most storms can be predicated up to a week or so in advance with decent accuracy. It’s hottest here in August and September; it’s coolest in January and February. It’s most crowded here from Christmas through Easter (although never real crowded) and the week after New Years is traditionally a slow one. It’s least crowded in September and October and in fact some resorts and other businesses close during that period. Summer is a nice time with generally calmer waters – and lower hotel rates. Some major events on our calendar are Christmas and New Years; a Summer Festival usually at the end of July, and the annual Conch Festival the last Saturday in November. Bottom line, come down any time and while we don’t have the traditional four seasons of northern climes, we do have a bit of diversity.
Why is stuff so expensive there?
Well, it’s not that expensive. But visitors do notice higher prices for things like gas, food and other day to day consumables. The main reason is we have to import everything so you have to consider shipping costs for everything. Plus, we don’t have income or property tax here; the main income generator for the government is import duty, which assesses a duty on just about everything that comes in. So those two additional expenses make our prices a bit higher than a ‘mainland’ city or town. Quit your bitchin’ – you’re on vacation.
So should I bring my own supplies?
I wouldn’t be bothered. The stores here have just about everything you need and the prices aren’t that bad (compared to the cost of checking extra luggage these days!). IGA is the supermarket mecca here and it’s just like being in a modern store back home.
What are you favorite restaurants?
That’s a tough one – there are so many great places, and it really depends on what you’re looking for, your budget your desired atmosphere, who you’re trying to impress, etc.
In no particular order we can recommend these non-hotel based restaurants: Opus, Fairways (at the golf course), Coyaba, Coco Bistro, Caicos Café, Lemon, Bella Luna, Iguana, and Baci. Add in Yoshi’s if you are hankering for sushi and Bankok Express if you want Thai.
Inside the resorts are great restaurants, too: Anacaona at Grace Bay Club; Mango Reef at Royal West Indies; Hemingway’s at The Sands; Parallel 23 at The Palms, Grace’s Cottage at Point Grace; O’Soleil at The Somerset; Somewhere on the Beach at Coral Gardens; Atlantic Bar & Grill at West Bay Club; and Bagatelle at Wymara/Gansevoort.
More casual places would be Danny Buoy’s, Sharkbite, Tiki Hut, Pizza-Pizza, Fresh, Jimmy’s Dive Bar, Salt Mills Diner, Flamingo’s (Ricky’s), Fairways.
Good local food can be had at Hole in the Wall, Bernie’s, Tasty Temptations, Harbour Kitchen, Da Conch Shack, Horse Eyed Jacks, Sailing in Paradise, and Three Queen’s.
C’mon I only have a week!
Ok, for the best fine dining: Opus, Coyaba, Coco Bistro.
For casual lunch or dinner: Hemingway’s (outside on the beach), Tiki Hut or Sharkbite (on Turtle Cove Marina), Salt Mills Diner (inside in a/c).
For a true local experience: Three Queen’s or Hole In the Wall
To really impress a date when the budget is not an issue: Anacaona or Grace’s Cottage.
What about nightlife?
TCI is not known for its wild nightlife but if you know where to go, you can have a good time. The weekend bar scene in Grace Bay consists mainly of Danny Buoy’s, Calico Jacks (Ports of Call) and Vino Tiempo – you can walk between all three. Thursday through Saturday nights are the best nights. Big games or matches – UK and American – draw good crowds at Danny Buoy’s, too.
The casinos are open late – Player’s Club and Casablanca (which is right in Grace Bay). Both have full bars and sports on the tube even if you’re not a gambler.
The bars at Mango Reef and Hemingway’s are fun to hang out at and catch up on the local gossip. They both shut down by 10 or so most nights, though.
Ricky’s on the beach between Club Med and Ocean Club East has live music some Sunday afternoons, and is generally a cool place to hang out during the day.
Try a night pass at Club Med – it includes a pretty decent buffet style meal and a show, plus a lot of party-happy guests, many of them French!
In Turtle Cove, Sharkbite draws a good crowd on Friday afternoons for Happy Hours, with live music. Big sports hangout, too. Tiki Hut can get going at random times, too. And is a good place to watch the boats come and go from the marina.
Sibonne/Bay Bistro sometimes does a full moon party on the beach.
The Palms has been showing concerts on the big screen on its lawn on Saturday nights. Kinda fun.
Occasionally big name Caribbean music acts appear at Williams Auditorium downtown. Look for signs on the highway and plan on a late night. The downtown clubs can be fun, but rowdy. Cameos and 2005 are among the most popular for those preferring a Latin influence.
There’s always Bingo on Sunday nights – at The Tropicana Supper Club (which also has an occasional oldie performance – recent acts include Peaches and Herb (“Reunited”) and Percy Sledge (“when a Man loves a Woman..”) .
Should I go to the Conch Farm? The Hole? Iguana Island? Cheshire Hall Plantation?
Yes (but call first). No. Yes (but you need a boat). Not so much.
What about the Morman Tabernacle Choir?
Can I use my phone/ATM/laptop/drivers license/money down there?
Cell phone: yes, but beware of big roaming charges from your carrier at home. Better to buy a pre paid SIM card from a local TCI carrier if you just want to make local calls (Digicel, LIME or IslandCom). Use Skype for international phone calls – much cheaper!
ATM card: most will work at Scotia Bank machines (branches on Leeward Highway and Grace Bay)
Laptop: There are a lot of WiFi networks on the island – in bars, restaurants, and in hotels so you should be able to connect fairly easily.
Driver’s License: Yes, you need a valid one to drive here but you don’t need a locally issued one if you are just visiting.
Money – US dollar only, senor. Bring your Benjamins. Major banks will exchange major currencies. Most places take MasterCard and Visa; Discover and Amex not as much. Travelers cheques accepted widely and exchangeable at the banks.
Can I buy beer on Sundays?
Not officially but a few local shops will sell you a six pack to get you through the day. Bars and restaurants are open on Sunday.
Should I rent a car or use taxis?
Depends on where you are staying and what you want to do. If you are in the Grace Bay area and are planning on doing routine beach stuff, maybe a little diving, fishing or golfing, you can probably get away without a car. The dive shops will pick you up at your resort, as will the casinos. You can walk a lot of places here, and taxis are easy enough to get (albeit pricey if you use them every day).
Rent a car if you want to explore the island or if you are staying on the south side of the island, or in northwest point area.
Can I learn to scuba dive/water ski/kite board/windsurf when I am visiting?
There are several scuba shops here which can do full certification classes (PADI) or resort certification which doesn’t get you an official C Card but is a good way to get your feet wet quickly, so to speak. Try taking your class work for full certification before you come here and just do the check out dives when you get here. Just make sure you do a PADI course at home.
Water Ski – Nautique Sports has everything you need to get started, including expert instructors. Fun outfit.
Kite boarding: For instruction and rentals try these guys: www.kiteprovo.com. By the way, the beach on Long Bay is where the cool dudes hang – and glide – these days.
Wind surfing: Check out: www.windsurfingprovo.tc. They do wind surfing and Hobie Cat instruction from Ocean Club.
How easy is it to get to the other islands from Provo?
Pretty easy. To get to North Caicos and Middle Caicos, there is a ferry that runs several times a day from Leeward/Walkin Marina in Provo (just past the Conch Farm) to Sandy Point in North Caicos. From there you can rent a car (suggest making reservations in advance) or grab a taxi for a tour of North and Middle, which are connected by a causeway. Another alternative is to hire a tour operator and go by private boat. Several of them will do land/sea tour of North and Middle, plus you can see Pine Cay and Fort George Cay along the way (good sea shelling and nice places for beach picnics), do some snorkeling or fishing and get an expert tour of places like Flamingo Pond in North or the caves in Middle.
To get to Grand Turk, South Caicos or Salt Cay, take a local flight on Air Turks and Caicos. They fly several times a day and any of these islands can be seen in a day trip.
West Caicos is uninhabited but a major resort is planned there (an in fact 75% complete, although looking for some financing). Right now the only reason to go there is to dive the great wall dives there, and most dive shops go there although Caicos Adventures is recommended as West Caicos specialists.
How is the crime situation there – is it safe to go outside my resort?
Turks and Caicos is a very safe island, but any standard. We have petty crime like anywhere else, so use your common sense when going out, or at the beach. Don’t leave valuables unattended or in an unlocked car. The Grace Bay area is safe day and night and increasingly well patrolled by local police. Resorts typically have 24 hour security. Still it’s always best, anywhere, to try to avoid dark areas and walking into unknown areas alone. TCI’s crime rate remains one of the lowest in the Caribbean.
What’s going on with the Government down there?
Turks and Caicos has for many years been a British Overseas Territory, similar to Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Jersey and a few other remnants of the old British Empire. By and large these territories govern themselves with locally elected officials, and a London-appointed Governor oversees things at arms length.
However, recently the UK Government conducted an investigation (called a Commission of Inquiry) into allegations of corruption here in the TCI. The investigation resulted in a report which recommended that the UK institute direct rule for a while here. So, now the Governor is in direct control, although advised by a group of influential locals. It’s something of a controversial move but generally is seen as a way to restore good governance. This situation shouldn’t last more than two years.
In general this has little to no effect on visitors to Turks and Caicos. In fact, the Governor is committed to ensure an even a higher degree of security and policing for tourists visiting us here. So relax, the sun is still shining on the beach and Turks and Caicos is still the same safe, friendly Beautiful by Nature vacation spot it always has been.