Frequently Asked Questions we always get about the Turks and Caicos Islands
We always get questions about our beautiful islands in the Caribbean when helping with planning vacations here. So, we’ve taken the time to post them. Got a quick question? If you use Twitter, tweet us at @TurksCaicosRez
When is the best time of year to visit the Turks and Caicos?
Honestly, weather 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 predicted 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. Graceway Gourmet is directly in the Grace Bay tourist area and 5 to 20 minutes walk from your accommodations if you’re staying in the central part of the Grace Bay resort strip area. Checkout the video – it’s helpful.
What’s the shopping like?
Pretty good actually – see this Shopping video – check it out
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 and Mango Reef. Add in Yoshi’s if you are hankering for sushi and Garam Masala if you want Indian.
Inside the resorts are great restaurants, too: Infinity at Grace Bay Club; ASU on the Beach at The Alexandra Resort; Hemingway’s at The Sands; Parallel 23 at The Palms, Grace’s Cottage at Point Grace; The Pavillion at The Somerset; Somewhere on the Beach at Coral Gardens on Grace Bay; Noodles at West Bay Club; and Stelle at Gansevoort.
More casual places would be Danny Buoy’s, Sharkbite, Tiki Hut, Pizza-Pizza, Big Al’s Island burger, Flamingo’s (Ricky’s), Fairways.
Good local food can be had in Providenciales at Fresh Catch Island Bites, Crackpot Kitchen, Pelican Bay Restaurant at Royal West Indies, Hole in the Wall, Tasty Temptations, Da Conch Shack, Kalooki’s, and Three Queen’s. In North Caicos, try Pelican Beach Hotel, Silver Palm Whitby, Miss B’s Island Hut, My Dee’s Restaurant, Super D Cafe, Titters Club, Higg’s Cafe. In Middle Caicos try Daniel’s Cafe, Passion Sweet, Little Oasis, Sapodilley’s, Mudjin Restaurant. In South Caicos, try Sunset Bar & Grill and the options at East Bay Resort. In Grand Turk try Secret Garden at Salt Raker Inn, The Sand Bar, Guanahani Restaurant at Bohio Dive Resort, The Bird Cage, Mookie Pookie Pizza, Joans Deli. In Salt Cay try Island Thyme Bistro, Mt Pleasant Bar and Restaurant, One Down One to Go, Sports Bar, Pat’s Place.
C’mon I only have a week!
Ok, for the best fine dining: Seven, Coco Bistro, Caicos Cafe, Infinity, Stelle.
For casual lunch or dinner: Hemingway’s (outside on the beach), Tiki Hut or Sharkbite (on Turtle Cove Marina), Big Al’s Island Burger (inside in a/c) and Mango Reef.
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: Infinity 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, Crackpot Kitchen (Ports of Call) and Sandbar – you can walk between among 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 casino is open late – Casablanca (which is right in Grace Bay). It has a full bar 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 (or Flamingo’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. Mango Reef is in this area as well.
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.
Should I go to the Conch Farm? The Hole? IguanaIsland?
Yes (but call first). Nah (unless you have lots of time to spare). Yes (but you need a boat).
What about the Morman Tabernacle Choir?
Wrong Provo. Ha!
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 carrier if you just want to make local calls (Digicel, FLOW). 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 Sundays.
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 with us 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/kiteboard/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. Don’t forget that we can book all of your watersport activities.
Water Ski – Nautique Sports has everything you need to get started, including expert instructors. Fun outfit.
Standup Paddleboarding & Kite boarding: For instruction and rentals, we work with the best of the best on the island for safety and experience. By the way, the beach on Long Bay is where the cool dudes hang for Kite boarding these days.
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 book a car rental with us 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, we’ll book you an inter island flight. 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 (and 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.
How is the crime situation there – is it safe to go outside my resort?
Turks and Caicos is a very safe island, by 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 the protocol for tipping at condos, hotels, resorts, restaurants?
In many condos, and all hotels, there is a 10% service charge added to the bill. That is a baseline ‘tip’ for all service staff to share. If the service was extra good, leaving an additional cash tip in the room at the end of your stay is a nice gesture but not required. If there is no 10% fee attached to your bill (e.g. you are renting directly through an individual owner) you may want to ask the owner how and who to tip since they may have an individual person under contract. For restaurants, check your bill or ask the staff whether or not a service charge is included. Sometimes there is and sometimes not, and, like most places, it is up to your discretion how much to tip (many restaurants automatically charge 15% on the bill so be sure to check). Tipping rates are similar to what they are in North America.
Finally, all restaurants and hotels (even the condo hotels) charge an additional 11% government tax. This is not a service charge or gratuity. It goes right to the government. In Turks and Caicos there are no income or property taxes and government is funded by these kind of ‘consumption’ fees and taxes.