A beginner’s guide to visiting Turks and Caicos Islands

As I mentioned in my previous post, I visited Turks and Caicos this past March, and as amazing and relaxing as it was, I learned a few things that I will keep in mind if I ever decide to visit again, or if I visit another Caribbean island. Here’s my guide to visiting Turks and Caicos.

We flew into Providenciales, also known as “Provo.” It is the main island and most developed. Most of the hotels are located in Grace Bay, the northeastern part of the island, however we stayed at an Airbnb in Sapodilla Bay, which is a more secluded area and apparently home to luxury villas, which brings me to my first tip:

Stay at an Airbnb to Save Money

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The Airbnb near Sapodilla Bay

When we first researched lodging in Turks and Caicos, the cheapest hotels we found were almost $300/night, which was definitely not in our budget. So, we decided to try out an Airbnb. Overall, it was a pleasant experience. It costed around $170 per night and we had a wonderful host who took us to a grocery store on our first day to buy food, and her villa was right next door to the one she rented out, so it was nice to have that security and know she was there (especially in a new country). This was actually my first time visiting a country without being part of a tour group or cruise, and staying at an Airbnb really gave us the experience of living there. The villa overlooked the water and there were roosters that crowed each morning.

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The view from the Airbnb

However, I will say that Airbnbs are hard when you don’t rent a car. Turks and Caicos has a jitney service, where you basically bum a ride off of a complete stranger and all you have to do is approach a car that pulls over by you. It sounds completely scary, I know, but it’s $4 per person and helpful if you are in desperate need for a ride. I definitely would not have gone into a  car by myself and was grateful that our host was with us.

Without a car, it was hard to get around and I did not realize that this area would be so secluded that the closest place to buy groceries was in the downtown area. Plus, the roads are designed just like the U.K., which caught me by surprise and I would not have felt comfortable driving. If I can visit again, I would prefer to stay by Grace Bay.

Visit Grace Bay

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Sunset at Grace Bay Beach

When I first got to Grace Bay, I thought I wouldn’t like it because it is very much catered to tourists, but there are places that even locals visit and prefer compared to Sapodilla Bay. It’s easier to visit shops, restaurants, and other hotels. My favorite place that was visited was at Blue Haven Resort. If you go past the grocery store and cafe, there is an outdoor area where people can sit down and watch private boats sail by. It was relaxing to just sit down, sip coffee, and stare at the water.

And, of course, a visit to Grace Bay would not be complete without a visit to the beach. This beach seems to stretch on forever, however it is only a little more than three miles long, according to Visit Turks and Caicos Islands.

I grew up in Hawaii, so I had an idea of what nice beaches would look like, but it’s no wonder that Grace Bay is one of the best beaches in the world because the water is legitimately turquoise and the sand is white. I have only ever been to one beach in Hawaii that resembled Grace Bay Beach, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s beautiful.

Eat Conch

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Conch fritters (left) and conch salad (right) from Da Conch Shack

Conch is a marine snail commonly found and consumed in the Caribbean, however it seems to be the most important thing to try in Turks and Caicos—so much so that a conch shell is even on the Turks and Caicos flag.

The most popular place to try conch is Da Conch Shack in Blue Hills. I visited and tried conch salad: marinated conch mixed with tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and lime juice; and conch fritters. Conch salad reminded me of a dish called lomi-lomi salmon, traditionally found in Hawaiian luaus of diced, salted salmon, tomatoes, and onions. I’ve also tried escargot and am an avid seafood eater, and I thought this really just tasted like scallops. It’s definitely worth trying, if you are up for it. Plus, you can watch the conch shells being cracked open and see some up close, all while dining with a view of the beach.

I also ate conch salad at Las Brisas Restaurant at Neptune Villas near the Airbnb, and there weren’t many differences for the most part. Las Brisas is a bit more upscale as well, so it is nice to visit for a special occasion.

Other Tips for Visiting Turks and Caicos

  • Turks and Caicos accepts U.S. dollars
  • As I previously mentioned, the roads and steering wheels are opposite to the U.S.
  • Food and shopping prices resemble New York City prices, if not more expensive. To put it into perspective for groceries, a six-pack of Corona beer costs $18 and a box of cereal costs $5
  • There are no addresses, you would just have to know the name of the street and follow the road
  • Peak travel season is December to March

My main takeaway from this whole experience was that I got to see a whole different perspective of the island that not many tourists may get to see because I didn’t stay in a hotel where everything is nice and furnished. I got to see some of the rough parts of the island, but I also got to see how locals work hard to make a living and how important tourism is. I can’t wait to visit again.

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