Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos


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Destination Basics

Turks & Caicos is blessed when it comes to weather. The islands are relatively arid and drier than other Caribbean destinations. The average annual temperature is in the high-20s, with July, August and September being the hottest months.

Rainfall is limited, and most islands get less than 76 centimetres annually. Between late September and December, Turks & Caicos gets the most rain. When it does rain here, the showers are usually brief. Then the sun shines through, leaving behind the occasional rainbow in its wake.

Pack your sun essentials like sunscreen, hat and sunglasses. Bring along a lightweight jacket or sweater for early mornings, late nights and for places where the air conditioning may be a bit too cool.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Turks and Caicos

Turks & Caicos is actually a group of 40 islands and cays. Some of these islands are uninhabited and completely unspoiled, while others have small communities. The total population is only roughly 30,000.

The tagline used to promote the islands is "beauty by nature." With its wealth of marine and aquatic life, from sea turtles to game fish, Turks & Caicos really delivers on providing visitors with authentic eco-adventures.

Each island in Turks & Caicos has its own personality and attractions. The Leeward Cays is a chain of islands that caters to the rich and famous with private villas. The small Little Water Cay is a protected area and home to the famous Turks & Caicos rock iguana.

North Caicos is dubbed "the garden island" because it receives more rainfall than other spots in the country. The area is lush with native fruit trees, flocks of pink flamingos and the remnants of plantations from long ago.

It's no wonder locals regularly island-hop for business and pleasure. Visitors follow suit once they learn more about each island and what it they offer. Part of the charm of Turks & Caicos is it's like having multiple vacation spots in a single visit.

With destination weddings becoming one of the hottest trends in travel, it's not surprising so many couples have chosen Turks & Caicos for their nuptials or vow renewals. Wedding planners are easy to come by here and can be found through your hotel.

You soon learn to appreciate the simplicity of life here. Quality is favoured over quantity. For example, there are not as many golf courses as other tropical destinations, but the courses in Turks & Caicos are world class. The same is true of the islands' restaurants, spas and hotels.

In Turks & Caicos, you are lulled into a peaceful calm state by the surroundings. To appreciate the island way of life, savour each moment, each sunset and each wave that breaks onto the beach. It's easy to disconnect from the world and really get into a holiday state of mind.

You'll feel like you've had a longer vacation than you really have because Turks & Caicos delivers so well on its promise to make you feel like you belong here. When you leave, the one thing on your mind is: “How soon can I come back?”

Turks & Caicos is relatively small at just 948 sq. km, about the same size as Edmonton, AB. But, as vacationers know, good things do come in small packages, especially when it comes to ideal holiday spots.

The islands have more than 380 km of coastline, and that means plenty of fantastic beaches. You won't find mountains here other than just a few notable hills that top off at 48 metres (Flamingo Hill). Elsewhere, the terrain is low, flat limestone, with areas full of marshes and mangrove swamps.

Vegetation isn't abundant on the island, but you can find beachside vegetation like sea oats, Caicos plum shrubs and sea purslane (sometimes called sea pickle) with its tiny pink flowers. The country's national plant is the Turk's head cactus. It has a cylindrical-shaped cap that turns red with budding flowers, and it appears on the national seal and flag.

Interestingly, when the seal was sent to the United Kingdom for approval, a British artist thought the flower portion should be painted white. So, for a brief time, the national symbol of the Turks & Caicos appeared to be an igloo.

The islands' shimmering white-sand beaches come courtesy of small bits of reef, algae and shells ground up into tiny particles over time by the wind and the waves. The sand is fine and soft, almost powdery. It's heavenly to walk on, and it gleams in the sunshine.

Like many Caribbean islands, the culture of Turks & Caicos is linked closely to its history. It is thought that Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the area when he set foot onto Grand Turk in 1492. There, he found two tribes – the Taino and the Lucayan.

The islands changed hands through the usual European players in the Caribbean. It passed from the French to the Spanish. Then, the British stepped in around 1710 to claim Turks & Caicos on behalf of Bermuda. At one point around 1799, the islands were regarded as part of the Bahamas. In the early 1980s, Turks & Caicos won its independence but it remains part of the British Commonwealth.

The mixture of countries that once reigned over Turks & Caicos has left a lasting impression on the local culture. You'll notice this in the diversity of ethnic dining options and even the language. Take the main island for commerce, Providenciales; its French name recalls the 17th century when France ruled the islands.

Fort George Cay is a nod to the British roots of Turks & Caicos. It was strategically built to defend the islands from the French who were busy throughout the Caribbean fighting to gain control of other islands. Plus there were pirates in the area, ready to plunder the ships loaded with goods ready to export. The British were successful in defending the islands, and that's why English (and not French) is the dominant language.

Rentals and Taxis

Visitors to Providenciales have many options when it comes to transportation. Rent a car, scooter or bike, or catch a cab. Just be careful if you're not familiar with driving on the left-hand side of the road.

If you're looking to take a tour of the island, you're probably best to rent a car. If you do decide to take a cab, it is always best to ask the driver for a quote before you begin. Taxis here are metered and cost US$2 per person per mile! Be forewarned – fares can add up quickly.

On the other hand, renting a car costs around US$60 a day and most rental companies offer unlimited mileage. All you need is your driver's license and liability insurance, which you can purchase at the rental dealership.

If you're staying on Grand Turk and other areas outside Providenciales, you won't need to rent a car. But keep in mind that taxis often aren't metered in these areas, so it is best to confirm the price beforehand.

The official currency of the Turks and Caicos is the U.S. dollar. Most hotels, restaurants and stores also accept major credit cards.

On Providenciales, you can find ATMs in banks (including Scotiabank), as well as in large supermarkets, the Ports of Call shopping center, and Ocean Club Plaza. You will also find Scotiabank branches on Grand Turk.

To travel to Turks & Caicos, you will need a valid passport and proof of return flight (so be sure to keep proof of your return WestJet trip in your carry-on luggage). As with most international destinations, you will be provided with an immigration/customs form to fill out on the plane before you land.

Travel requirements

Once you've arrived at Providenciales International Airport, you'll go through local immigration and pick up your luggage from the baggage claim area. If you have pre-booked hotel transfer services with WestJet Vacations, look for the Olympia Destination Management Company representative. Just identify yourself as a WestJet Vacations guest and you'll soon be headed to your destination in style.

Turks & Caicos uses the North American standard plug, however some properties have only two-pronged receptacles in the room rather than three-pronged receptacles.

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