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September 20, 2021
Ahh, beautiful Turks & Caicos. I often describe this island group as my favorite tropical destination. The water is the clearest and most vibrant turquoise I have ever seen and the powder sand beaches are breathtaking. It’s no wonder Grace Bay in Providenciales is often recognized as the most beautiful beach in the world – I couldn’t agree more. Which is why we absolutely had to stay there on this visit. In fact, we actually stayed at the resort next door to where we stayed last time!
Turks & Caicos is certainly a luxurious locale. Since it’s an island, costs are higher, and therefore reflected in pricing. And then of course there’s the demand. If millionaires flying in on private jets and sailing in on yachts are frequent visitors, you can bet there will be evidence of it everywhere – from the stunning architecture and decor to the plethora of excursions offered.
TURKS & CAICOS TRAVEL GUIDE
What to Know
Getting There: Entry Requirements
Getting to Turks & Caicos is pretty easy. In fact, we have a direct flight from ATL to PLS in Providenciales, which is where you’ll want to fly into and most likely stay during the entirety of your trip.
In order to enter the Turks & Caicos Islands, there are many steps you have to take. Since they are so far away from any large landmass, their resources are limited. They have to be VERY careful in making sure they keep their residents and all visitors safe and healthy. In order to visit, you must:
- have no signs or symptoms of COVID-19
- be fully vaccinated; your second shot must have been administered no less than 14 days prior to entry
- be fully covered by travel insurance that explicitly covers COVID-19
- provide proof of a negative covid test within 72 hours of arrival
- apply for entry with the tourism board no less than 24 hours prior to arrival
The entry requirements may seem excessive to some, but honestly, it made me feel a lot safer once we got there. They are doing a great job of slowing the spread so I appreciate the measures in place!
One thing that made a huge difference for was was Skypass Caribbean. This is basically a fast pass through customs and shaved at least an hour off of travel time for us. We were greeted by Skypass as soon as we stepped foot in the airport. We were then escorted through passport control, skipped the lines, and had our bags delivered to us within minutes. We were out the door and on the way to our resort in record time. It is definitely worth the cost, especially if you hate waiting like me!
Communicating and Spending
The official language of the Turks & Caicos Islands is English and everyone definitely speaks it. I will say that one surprising thing I noticed as far as communication goes is that many locals we came across (actually, most of them were from Haiti, so better yet, residents) were not super friendly. They didn’t smile much and seemed almost bothered when we asked for something like ice at a restaurant/bar – and it’s not because we weren’t tipping well. We couldn’t figure out if it was a cultural thing, or just how that particular hotel staff was.
The currency in Turks & Cacios is the United States Dollar, which certainly makes things easier for us Americans. As mentioned, prices are high in TCI. A 4-star hotel can range from $700-$1500/night in peak season. And if you’re going for an all-inclusive, it’s even more. We found that grocery store prices were about 2.5x the prices we were used to; a bag of chips was $8 and our favorites GT’s was $7.50. And most importantly, a case of Turks Head beer is $50!
They do not have Uber in Turks & Caicos, instead, they have ConchCab! There’s no app; you just use their website. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to work on our trip. I don’t think there’s much availability. However, all the hotels have taxis outside waiting to take you wherever you want to go. One piece of advice I have is to confirm the price (preferably in front of hotel staff) before you leave. We had a couple people try to increase the price on us which just stressed us out and put a damper on our time.
We felt very safe during our visit and I remember feeling safe the last time I visited Turks & Caicos. Crime is not prevalent there, especially when it comes to tourists. The islands rely on revenue from tourism for their economy, and most people respect that.
What to Pack
Resortwear was made for Turks and Caicos. Think luxe bikinis, flowing sheer dresses, wide-leg pants galore, and the biggest floppiest hat you can find. Bring your big sunnies, gold jewelry, and of course a bag from Queen Carmen for that extra touch of fab. See below for what I brought with me on this trip and click to shop it yourself!
Where to Stay
I definitely recommend staying in Grace Bay near the Bight Settlement. There are tons of gorgeous hotels to choose from, but one important thing to consider is all-inclusive or not. I’ve done both and we definitely loved the convenience of all-inclusive, especially for our group of 12. This time, we opted for a resort that was not all-inclusive and I kind of wish it was (although it was already extremely expensive!). We ended up spending about $1000 in food and drinks at the hotel and $300 at the grocery store, including booze. If it was all included, we definitely would have gone all out instead of limiting ourselves.
Another option is to stay on the other side of Providenciales in Long Bay Beach. This is the more outdoorsy active side of the beach popular with windsurfers. It’s a lot windier on this side, so lazing at the beach is a bit of a different experience. This is one of the main reasons we chose Grace Bay over Long Beach Bay.
Where to Eat & Drink
First things first: the local beer is called Turk’s Head and it’s delicious. My favorite is the Down-Da-Road IPA, but they are all delicious! Now for the food.
Da Conch Shack
Da Conch Shack is probably the most popular restaurant to visit in TCI. They’re known for their conch fritters, but have tons of yummy options for any preference. Since they’re right on the beach, the atmosphere is the perfect island vibe. Plus they have pink and turquoise decor so definitely bring your phone and snap some pics! They also offer live music on Wednesdays and Sundays – so fun!
Coco Bistro is well known as a great choice for a nice dinner in Providenciales. I actually went there for my birthday dinner the last time I was in Turks! It’s right on the water, but not a beach. It’s kind of dock-like. The food is so great and the atmosphere is perfect for date night or a special dinner with friends.
Another great beachside restaurant is Bugaloos. There are actually two locations and the one further away from Grace Bay is the original, so if you can make it there definitely go, but if not, the Grace Bay location is great as well. They’re known for their Sundays with live music and entertainment. It’s definitely an island party at Bugaloos!
What to Do
Turks & Caicos is FULL of things to do. But honestly just taking it easy and laying on the beach every day is just as amazing as exploring the islands. We stayed for almost five full days and it was NOT enough. I would definitely recommend a week. But either way, you’re in for a treat. Here are my top recommendations:
Charter a Boat
Going out on a boat is without a doubt my top recommendation. If you think Gracy Bay is pretty from the beach, you’re going to be blown away when you go out on a boat. It’s incredible. The water is so crystal clear it’s hard to believe it’s real. It can get so deep too – over 7,000 feet deep! Most boat tours have a budget option for a public tour, or you can get a private tour. Either way, you get to stop at the prettiest islands, snorkel, and lay in the sun. We actually got to go fishing and caught a lobster that they cooked right there on the boat!
We didn’t actually go parasailing on this trip, but our friends we met at our hotel, Warren and Andy, raved about their experience. They absolutely loved it! I’ve been parasailing before in another destination and it was very peaceful. I can only imagine that it’s even better above the stunning blue waters of Turks & Caicos.
Snorkeling here is such a special experience because the coral is really close to you. I felt like I could reach out and touch it (of course I didn’t!). We saw so many colorful fish, lobsters, and even an eel!
Walk the Beach at Night
I never would have thought I’d be recommending a walk on the beach at night in a travel guide, but this could not be skipped. Of course, you can see the stars in the sky so much better than here in the city, but the most amazing part of our nighttime beach walk was….a shark sighting! That’s right, we saw a shark swimming right along the shoreline! It was a smaller size and we suspect it was a nurse shark, so totally harmless and totally amazing to see! We were blown away. It was definitely a highlight of the trip!
Have you ever been to Turks & Caicos? What would you add to the list?
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Photos by Ryan Carpenter.