The Turks and Caicos Islands are two groups of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of the Bahamas.
Even though you only boarded the plane in Miami, Florida a scant hour before, the moment you step off the plane, you know you are in a different world. The tropical breeze hits you as you step onto the tarmac, and you start looking forward to the incredible scuba diving that awaits. Although definitely not one of the prettiest (at least above water) of the islands, it has its own charms that come from being a mostly undiscovered tourist destination.
The islands were part of the UK's Jamaican colony until 1959, when they assumed the title of a separate crown colony. The governor of The Bahamas oversaw affairs from 1965 to 1973. With Bahamian independence, the islands received a separate governor in 1973. Although independence was agreed upon for 1982, the policy was reversed and the islands are presently a British overseas territory.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are arid compared to many other islands in the Caribbean. In the winter the weather is generally in the 70 - 80 degree Fahrenheit range. The temperatures easily climb into the 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer. The island gets less than 50 inches of rainfall a year. Most rainfall occurs during the hurricane months of summer. Sunshine and breezy cooling winds are the norm in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
American Airlines is a popular carrier that schedules flights from many US cities to Providenciales International Airport. Other major carriers from the US include Spirit Airlines, US Air and Delta. British Airways also offers flights to London.
It is easy to sail to the Turks and Caicos from the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas or Cuba; so long as you have an ocean-going vessel. A small boat will do well simply cruising around the island chain, but to cross the open ocean, something about 36 feet or larger is best.
Taxis are widely available on Providenciales and Grand Turk. However, if you are able to drive, it is recommended that you rent a car. A number of car and motorcycle rental agencies are available on the island. Remember to drive on the LEFT side of the road and watch out for people who forget. Though the Turks and Caicos uses a righthand-drive road system, only about half the cars are equipped with righthand drive. The others use lefthand drive, the kind used in North America. It is certainly possible to use a bicycle to get around, but be careful as some island drivers are not keen on following rules. Be careful driving at night. Most natives will walk or use bicycles as means of transportation.
English is the official language. Some people living on the islands are Spanish migrants from poorer Latin American countries, and may not speak English well. However, encountering such people is a relatively rare event and the common tourist need not worry about it.
The Saltmills plaza in Grace Bay is generally considered to be the premier plaza on the island of Provenciales (or Provo as it is often called).
Not all that many years ago, local island tables didn’t know what was going to be on the menu for dinner until the fishing boats brought in their catch of the day. Today the Turks and Caicos Islands feature fine and imaginative cuisine and world class chefs.
Work permits are easily obtained for foreigners. However, many jobs are designed for "Belongers" only. Belongers are people that have TCI citizenship which is not easily obtained. Work permits are applied through agencies on the island and require proof of citizenship, proof of employment, proof of residence on the island, and are then ratified by passing an HIV test. This test is safely and cleanly performed at the local clinic for $100 USD. After a work permit has been issued, your employer may ask you to apply for "National Insurance".
Few work permits are issued for specific jobs. Example, as of 2007 only 5 work permits on the island were held for photographers. Typical cost for this profession was around $2500 USD, renewable every six months. There are discounts (through agencies) for one year permits. A work permit for a Clerk position is $500 for every six months, with the same discount structure.
It can take up to 6 months to actually have the work permit in hand, with enforcement being slack unless you are in direct competition with a Belonger.
Certain jobs on the island are deemed unfit for non-Belongers to apply for: banking, civil servants, and boat operators are specific jobs that fall under this rule.
The Turks and Caicos are extremely safe by Caribbean standards, but please exercise common sense. Don't leave valuables in plain view, and always lock your car when leaving it, and lock your dwelling when you are not in it. Mopeds and motorcycles are targeted by thieves, so be sure that you lock yours up properly. Also, be aware that Islanders can be very aggressive drivers, so it is best to use caution when crossing or driving on the roads.
The Turks and Caicos has few fresh water reserves at ground level. Therefore, most water comes from either wells or cisterns that have collected rainwater. Cistern water is almost always safe to drink, but unless well water is purified, it could be contaminated or have unpleasant taste. It is generally a good idea to use bottled water when possible, but tap water can be used if necessary.
Islanders are very kind people and believe in practicing good manners and exercising respect. Greet people with a friendly "Hello" "Good Afternoon" and so on. In recent years, there has been talk about a union with Canada. Many islanders are bitterly divided on the subject, and awkward situations can arise when the subject is brought up. It is best to avoid this subject unless you're with friends and family whom you know.