I was lucky enough to have visited Turks and Caicos in 2014. I stayed at Club Med Turkoise, which is located on Providenciales (Provo) - one of the islands with the most resorts and hotels.
Turks & Caicos are consistently rated one of the top Caribbean Islands - they currently rank at #3 by US News and World Reports.
The waters of Turks & Caicos are just as blue as the pictures look and the weather was absolutely perfect. Provo is home to two of the top-rated beaches in the world - Grace Bay and Governor's Beach.
The cruise ships do not stop at Provo because of the barrier reefs, so it is not inundated with ships blocking your view or tourists jamming up restaurant spaces. Some cruise ships do stop at Grand Turk, so keep that in mind if you are planning a trip.
1. Bring Coral Reef Safe Sunscreen
The sun is HOT in Turks and Caicos so be sure to bring your sunscreen!
However, as we want to be responsible travelers, you'll need to bring "reef safe" sunscreen. These are sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone (which studies have shown is also damaging to sea urchin, fish, and mammals).
Some snorkel/dive tours will not allow you to enter the water if you are wearing a sunscreen that is not considered "reef safe." So be sure to prepare ahead of time so you don't pay an arm and a leg for the sunscreen onsite.
Even if you don't plan on snorkeling or scuba diving, the amount of sunscreen that is deposited into the ocean by tourists swimming at the beach is enough to damage the marine life.
2. US Dollars Are Accepted
Even though Turks & Caicos are part of the British Commonwealth, the currency is in US dollars because of their proximity to the United States and the amount of tourists that come from there.
If you are visiting the smaller islands, make sure you have cash on hand as they probably won't have a way to accept credit cards.
3. You Must Try Conch
As a Caribbean island, many of the local food dishes rely on seafood - conch in particular. Conch is a shellfish and the Turks & Caicos islands are home to the only conch farm in the world.
It's quite delicious and my personal favorite are conch fritters!
4. Dive Safely
Scuba diving is obviously popular in most of the Caribbean. The Turks & Caicos islands are no exception.
While you shouldn't miss out on this amazing experience, make sure you take safety precautions. Be properly certified, check the weather before you go out (storms do pop up), and always dive with a partner.
I am not a diver myself, but I do love snorkeling and the same rules apply!
5. Rent a Car or Take Taxis
There is no public transportation on the islands, but if you are staying at a resort, they may offer shuttle service to/from the airport.
However, if you are staying at a smaller hotel or renting an apartment, you'll want to consider renting a car to get around. Most of the beaches, restaurants, shopping, etc. are quite spread out so walking to each destination would be quite difficult.
KEEP IN MIND: Because these islands are part of the British Commonwealth, they do drive on the LEFT side of the road, like in England. If you are not comfortable with that, stick to taking taxis!
6. Bring STRONG Bug Spray!
I was not expecting this one because I've been to other Caribbean islands before.
But when I was in Turks and Caicos, it was November and the end of the rainy season. This is typically when the bugs are the most bothersome and I did get eaten alive at night.
When I go back someday, I will be sure to bring strong bug spray like my favorites below!
7. Best Time to Go
As I mentioned above, I went to Turks and Caicos at the end of November, which was the end of the rainy/hurricane season. I was lucky to not have any substantial rain (a few showers did pop up here and there) or hurricanes during my time there.
Peak season is from December through March, when the Northerners (like me!) are trying to escape from our cold winters. The prices for flights and hotels will be higher during this season.
But the most popular time to go is from March through May. The weather is warm, not much rain, and the crowds aren't as high as during peak season.
8. You'll Feel Welcome
I loved meeting locals on Provo - they are so friendly and welcoming! English is the official language so I had no trouble communicating. Tourism is the major industry there and every place I visited was very customer-service oriented.
One thing to note: even though most of the islands are purely beach, you still need to cover up when you are not actually ON the beach. You'll be seen as an obvious tourist if you walk around in your bikini and flip flops!
9. It's Not a Cheap Destination
Turks & Caicos is not a destination for the budget conscious. Even in the non-peak season, I still paid quite a bit for my flight and accommodation.
But with views like this, it was worth the price to me! :)
10. Watch Out for Customs
Most people don't know that you can only export conch shells during "open season" - which runs from July to October and you must obtain a permit first!
Even conch jewelry has been seized by tourists at customs upon leaving the country. My advice: just don't buy or collect any shells while you are there.
Have you been to Turks and Caicos?
Or are you planning a trip? Tell me about it in the comments below!