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TRAVEL TIPS

 

Tip #1

WHEN TO GO TO TURKS AND CAICOS

High season in Turks and Caicos runs roughly from January through April, with the usual extra-high rates during the Christmas and New Year's holiday period. Several hotels on Provo offer shoulder-season rates at the end of April and May. During the off-season, rates are reduced substantially, as much as 40%. With bad world economies, you can find specials even during peak seasons or call resorts directly to negotiate.

There are two major festivals in the Turks and Caicos. At the end of November, the Turks & Caicos Conch Festival offers local boat races, live music, and conch recipe competitions.

At the end of December there is the annual Maskanoo, which offers live bands, street vendors, fireworks, and Junkanoo parades.

Courtesy of: Fodors

Tip #2

Fast forward to your vacation

AIR TRAVEL

You can fly nonstop from Atlanta (Delta), Boston (American and JetBlue), Charlotte (US Airways), Miami (American), New York-JFK (American and JetBlue), Newark-EWR (United), and Philadelphia (US Airways).

Although carriers and schedules can vary seasonally, there are many nonstop and connecting flights to Providenciales from several U.S. cities on American, Delta, JetBlue, and US Airways. There are also flights from other parts of the Caribbean on Air Turks & Caicos; this airline also flies to some of the smaller islands in the chain from Provo. There are also flights from Nassau on Bahamas Air, to Canadian cities on WestJet and Air Canada, and to London on British Airways.

Airports: The main gateways into the Turks and Caicos Islands are Providenciales International Airport (PLS) and Grand Turk International Airport (GDT). For private planes, Provo Air Center is a full-service FBO (Fixed Base Operator) offering refueling, maintenance, and short-term storage, as well as on-site customs and immigration clearance, a lounge, and concierge services. There are smaller airports on Grand Turk (GDT), North Caicos (NCS), Middle Caicos (MDS), South Caicos (XSC), and Salt Cay (SLX). All have paved runways in good condition. Even if you are going on to other islands in the chain, you will probably stop in Provo first for customs, then take a domestic flight from there.

AIRPORT CONTACTS

Turks & Caicos Islands Airport Authority. The TCIAA website has a schedule of all flights coming into and out of the islands, along with real-time delay information. www.tciairports.com.

AIRLINE CONTACTS

Air Turks & Caicos (649/941-5481.www.airturksandcaicos.com.)

American Airlines (649/946-4948 or 800/433-7300.www.aa.com.)

Bahamas Air (242/377-5505 in Nassau; 800/222-4262.up.bahamasair.com.)

Caicos Express (649/243-0237. caicosexpressairways.com.)

Delta (800/241-4141. www.delta.com.)

JetBlue (800/538-2583. www.jetblue.com.)

United Airlines (800/864-8331. www.united.com.)

US Airways (800/622-1015. usairways.com.)

Courtesy of: Fodors

Tip #3

Island hop, there's lots of cool stuff to discover

BOAT AND FERRY TRAVEL

Despite the islands' relative proximity, ferry service is limited in the Turks and Caicos. You can take a ferry from Provo to North Caicos and from Grand Turk to Salt Cay and, if you're willing to spend the night, to South Caicos.

CONTACTS

Caribbean Cruisin' (Walkin Marina, Leeward, Providenciales.649/946-5406 or 649/231-4191. www.tciferry.com.)

Salt Cay Ferry (Salt Cay. 649/244-1407.www.turksandcaicoswhalewatching.com.)

Courtesy of: Fodors

Tip #4

Sometimes the road less traveled isn't a road at all

CRUISE-SHIP TRAVEL TO GRAND TURK

Cruise ships dock at the southern end of the island, near the former U.S. Air Force base south of the airport. The $40 million cruise center is about 3 miles (5 km) from tranquil Cockburn Town, Pillory Beach, and the Ridge, and far from most of the western shore dive sites. The center has many facilities, including shopping, a large, free-form pool, car-rental booths, and even a dock from which many sea-bound excursions depart. Governor's Beach is adjacent to the cruise-ship complex and one of the island's best beaches, but others are right in and around Cockburn Town.

If you want to come into Cockburn Town, it's reachable by taxi. Taxi rates are per person and by "zone"; you'll find a rate card outside the cruise terminal. You can also rent a car to explore the island on your own terms and schedule.

Grand Turk Cruise Terminal. Head to the Web site for cruise schedules, a list of the shops at the terminal, and options for excursions and transportation. There's even a live webcam so you can check the actual weather at any given moment. South Base, Grand Turk Cruise Terminal. 649/946-1040.www.grandturkcc.com.

Grace Bay Car Rentals. Grace Bay Car Rentals can meet at the port, so you can see the sights on your own time. Remember, driving is on the left. Providenciales. 649/231-8500.www.gracebaycarrentals.com.

Courtesy of: Fodors

Tip #5

Get out of your resort and take a drive around

CAR TRAVEL

Driving here is on the left side of the road, British-style; when pulling out into traffic, remember to look to your right. Give way to anyone entering a roundabout, as roundabouts are still a relatively new concept in the Turks and Caicos; stop even if you are on what appears to be the primary road. The maximum speed is 40 mph (64 kph), 20 mph (30 kph) through settlements; speed limits, as well as the use of seat belts, are enforced.

If you are staying on Provo, you may find it useful to have a car since the island is so large and the resorts are so far-flung, if only for a few days of exploring or to get away from your hotel for dinner. On Grand Turk, you can rent a car, but you probably won't need to. Car- and jeep-rental rates average $39 to $80 per day on Provo, plus a $15 surcharge per rental as a government tax. Reserve well ahead of time during the peak winter season. Most agencies offer free mileage and airport pickup service. Avis and Budget have offices on the islands. You might also try local Provo agencies such as Grace Bay Car Rentals, Rent a Buggy, Tropical Auto Rentals, and Caicos Wheels—the latter rents scooters, colorful ATVs, cars, and even cell phones. Pelican Car Rentals is on North Caicos.

CONTACTS

Avis (Airport, Providenciales. 649/946-4705. www.avis.tc.)

Budget (Airport, Providenciales. 649/946-4079.www.budget.com.)

Caicos Wheels (Grace Bay Court, Grace Bay Rd., Grace Bay,Providenciales. 649/242-6592. www.CaicosWheels.com.)

Grace Bay Car Rentals (Grace Bay Plaza, Grace Bay Rd.,Grace Bay, Providenciales. 649/941-8500.www.gracebaycarrentals.com.)

Pelican Car Rentals (North Caicos. 649/241-8275.)

Rent a Buggy (1081 Leeward Hwy., Leeward, Providenciales.649/946-4158. www.rentabuggy.tc.)

Scooter Bob's (Turtle Cove, Providenciales. 649/946-4684.www.scooterbobstci.com.)

Tony's Car Rental (Grand Turk. 649/231-1806.Thriller@tciway.tc. www.tonyscarrental.com.)

Tropical Auto Rentals (Tropicana Plaza, Leeward Hwy., The Bight, Providenciales. 649/946-5300.www.tropicalautorentaltci.com.)

TAXI TRAVEL

You can find taxis at the airports, and most resorts have their own pickup service. A trip via taxi between Provo's airport and most major hotels runs about $12 per person. On Grand Turk a trip from the airport to Cockburn Town is about $8; it's $8 to $15 to hotels outside town on Grand Turk. Transfers usually cost more on the smaller islands, where gas is much more expensive. Taxis (actually large vans) in Providenciales are metered, and rates are regulated by the government at $2 per person per mile traveled. In the family islands, taxis may not be metered, so it's usually best to try to negotiate a cost for your trip in advance. On Grand Turk and South Caicos, it's useful to make advance arrangements with your hotel for an airport pickup.

Courtesy of: Fodors

Tip #6

Don't put all your "eggs in one basket"

BANKS AND EXCHANGE SERVICES

The official currency on the islands is U.S. dollars. On Provo, there are ATMs at all bank branches (Scotiabank and First Caribbean), at the Graceway IGA Supermarket Gourmet, and at Ports of Call shopping center. There are also Scotiabank and First Caribbean branches on Grand Turk.

Courtesy of: Fodors

Tip #7

In case of emergency

EMERGENCY SERVICES

Emergency numbers in the Turks and Caicos are 999 or 911.

Courtesy of: Fodors

Tip #8

See the sights with an expert guide

GUIDED TOURS

Big Blue Unlimited's educational ecotours include three-hour kayak trips and other guided journeys around the family islands. Its Coastal Ecology and Wildlife tour is a kayak adventure through red mangroves to bird habitats, rock iguana hideaways, and natural fish nurseries. The North Caicos Mountain Bike Eco Tour gets you on a bike to explore the island, the plantation ruins, the inland lakes, and a flamingo pond with a stop-off at Susan Butterfield's home for lunch. Package costs range from $85 to $225 per person.

CONTACTS

Big Blue Unlimited (Leeward Marina, Leeward,Providenciales. 649/946-5034. www.bigblue.tc.)

Courtesy of: Fodors

Tip #9

Don't leave home without it

PASSPORT REQUIREMENTS

A valid passport is required to fly to the Turks and Caicos. Everyone must have an ongoing or return ticket.

Courtesy of: Fodors

Tip #10

Stay connected, it's easy with a pay as you go SIM card

PHONES

The country code for the Turks and Caicos is 649. To call the Turks and Caicos from the United States, dial 1 plus the 10-digit number, which includes 649. Be aware that this is an international call. Calls from the islands are expensive, and many hotels add steep surcharges for long distance.

Courtesy of: Fodors

Tip #11

Make sure to budget accordingly

TAXES

The departure tax is $35 and is usually included in the cost of your airline ticket. If not, it's payable only in cash or traveler's checks. Restaurants and hotels add an 11% government tax. Hotels also typically add 11% to 15% for service.

Courtesy of: Fodors