GRAND TURK ISLAND
Grand Turk, the capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Grand Turk is an island in the Turks and Caicos Islands, a British Overseas Territory that’s located in the Atlantic between the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. Grand Turk is the historical center of the Turks and Caicos and is the second most populated island in the territory after the island of Providenciales. The capital city of Cockburn Town is found on Grand Turk. Originally founded by settlers from Bermuda as a site for sea salt production in 1681, Cockburn Town has been the official capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands since 1766.
In recent years, Providenciales has largely replaced Grand Turk as the primary site of government and commerce. Many of the country's main government offices, including the Supreme Court and Governor's Residence, can be found here. Several important historic events have taken place around this small island, including being the likely spot of Columbus's first landfall in the New World, and the first dry land American astronaut John Glenn stepped foot on after orbiting Earth in 1962.
The Origin of the Turks and Caicos Name
Many believe that the Turks in Turks and Caicos is derived from the Turks head cacti (melocactus intortus), a small stubby cactus capped with a spiny structure resembling a Turkish Fez hat. However, this is almost certainly not where the name came from. For many centuries previous to the 1800s, Islamic corsairs preyed on vessels in the Mediterranean and off the coasts of Europe and Africa. These raiders were often referred to as 'Turks', and the term went on to become a synonym with pirate. Early map makers combined this with a version of the Lucayan word ‘cayo hico’, meaning string of islands. Together, they served as a warning to avoid the pirate islands.
Things to Do on Grand Turk
It features a beautiful marine environment, and it’s no wonder that many of the island’s top activities happen on or in the ocean. There’s lounging on the beach, scuba diving, snorkeling, boat charters, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, fishing, and whale watching. Take in the historical ambiance, visit a secluded beach, and simply have fun driving in a British Overseas Territory (we drive on the left!). On Front Street, Her Majesty's Prison, Victoria Library, St. Mary’s Church and the cannons and square at the Government Offices are quite picturesque.
The small yet fascinating National Museum offers informative exhibits on the Taino peoples, the Molasses Reef Wreck (the oldest European shipwreck to be excavated in the Americas), ship salvaging and much more.
Overlooking the precarious yet scenic North Reef (where the first British Royal Mail ship to be lost at sea sank), the Grand Turk Lighthouse is another interesting sight and the only lighthouse in the Turks and Caicos.
Its located on southern end of the island. This facility was opened in 2006 by Carnival Cruise Lines as a stop for ocean liners and as a base of operations for cruise ship visitors. Many jewelry and gift shops, restaurants, bars, and attractions are located here, along with swimming pools for cruise ship guests. It opens only when there is a cruise in town.
Hurricanes and Your Vacation
The hurricane season is the time of year when tropical cyclones weather events may be expected in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane season is generally considered to start on June 1st, and end on November 30th. It’s possible for tropical cyclones and hurricanes to form outside of this period, yet it is very uncommon. Tropical cyclones, which are expansive rotating storms with a low-pressure center, are usually referred to as tropical storms if the sustained wind speeds reach 39 to 73 mph (63-118 kph), or hurricanes if the sustained wind speeds exceed 74mph (119 kph).
Obviously, a hurricane can put a serious damper on your visit to the Turks and Caicos. Generally, the summer hurricane season months experiences beautiful (yet hot!) weather, however, although unlikely, the risk of a storm hit does exist.
Our advice on whether to plan your vacation during the hurricane season hinges on the flexibility of your schedule. There’s typically about a week’s warning of a possible storm hit. If you purchase an airline fare with waived ticket change fees or travel insurance that includes cancel for any reason (CFAR) coverage, and if your personal schedule allows for a possible vacation date change, chances are that you’ll have a great stay. If a storm hit is imminent, airlines will often provide additional flights out of the country before the expected storm. The local accommodations are usually amenable to rescheduling or refunding if a hurricane or tropical storm threatens the country, however, inquire on the policies before booking. Partially due to the potential storms, tourism in the Turks and Caicos tends to slow down at the late summer and autumn months. A few resorts and restaurants will close during this period, however the businesses that remain open will typically offer the lowest rates of the year at this time.
Dogs - Potcakes
We think the native dogs “Potcakes” are the best dogs in the world, but we are a bit biased! Most of the dogs you will see on the island are native ‘Potcakes’, some are feral and some are people’s pets. They may on occasions bark, but they are generally very friendly and only want to be loved and cared for. Many of us on the islands own Potcakes and work with locals and the TCSPCA to help the feral Potcakes. If you would like to take a Potcake home (puppy or mature) we have a program to accommodate your wish. They make very smart and devoted pets.
They provide each dog with the necessary shots and paperwork to get them into Canada and/or the United States. All you have to do is pay for the transport fee. They take care of the rest. Puppies may be taken on planes during winter months, but a dog may not leave with you when you leave, especially during summer months when airlines restrict transport of animals in the holds. If you would like to feed them, you can purchase dog kibble in bulk at the grocery store. We often travel around the island leaving food for the dogs – especially the ones that need it most.
Horses, Cows & Donkeys
All the donkeys on the island are feral and are not owned. The horses are privately owned in most cases, even though they roam free. There is no need to be afraid of them, as they are shy and gentle animals and only want to be left alone, so please be respectful. During the summer months, they come very close to the Villa in search for water or scraps of food, we provide a trough with water by the fence and some of the donkeys will put their heads through the fence to see if anyone has a spare piece of fruit. Oranges, melon and corn on the cob are their favorites. You will certainly meet Lady Donkey, she comes by daily during the summer months for some water and snacks.
We recommend our guests purchase travel medical insurance prior to the trip. We are sure you won’t need it while you’re here, but if you do, the hospital is just a few minutes’ drive from Villa Azul. The hospital is new and is run by a Canadian company.
Once a week the grocery stores on Grand Turk receive a shipment of food and supplies. It arrives by boat from the US. We will show you where the markets are located and most accept major credit cards.
Just a short drive from Villa Azul you can go to our new fish market and purchase fresh fish starting around 4 PM during the week. They only accept cash.
Carnival Cruise Ship
When the ships are in, everything on the island is open. When the ship(s) are not in, some of the businesses are closed. Check on line for their schedule so you can plan your trip/shopping accordingly. Most of the ships leave between 3:00-5:00pm. www.grandturkcc.com/port-schedule.aspx
PLS Local Airlines
Getting to Grand Turk (GDT) from the US, Canada or Europe involves flying first to a neighboring island called Providenciales (PLS) then a 20-minute flight to Grand Turk, this costs about $65 per person one way, you should book and pay on-line to reserve seats. First bag is free on both airlines.
Transportation: Car/Cart Rental
There’s no public transportation on the island so we recommend you rent a golf cart or a car for the entire time you’re here or for a least a couple of days so you can see some of the attractions that are too far to get to.
Operators will happily drop off the car or golf cart at either the airport or Villa Azul the day you arrive. If you want to pick up your vehicle at the airport, we will meet you there and you can follow us back to the Villa. Some of them take cash only, you pay directly to them.
Vendors: Arti: car only: $60 per day (I can arrange that for you, just let me know. Arti is our friend), Luigi 649-431-7116, Neville 649-232-0933, Omar 649-346-2450 (golf carts only), Scott 649-341-2114 (golf carts only)
Requirements for Visitors
On arrival in the Turks and Caicos Islands, you must show a valid passport. You must also have a valid onward or return ticket.
Upon arrival, each person will need to complete an immigration form which will be presented to an immigration officer. In addition, the head of each family will also be required to complete a customs form (C105). In the case of friends traveling together, with different surnames, each will need to complete their own customs declaration form.
Practical Travel Information
English is our sole official language. We’re a British Overseas Territory.
U.S. Plugs - 120V, 60Hz
Converters and adapters are required for 220V visitors (everyone from Europe).
GSM and CDMA (4G)
Most mobile phones will work. Check with your provider for international roaming before you leave.
No Health Issues
No vaccinations are required or recommended. There are no endemic diseases.
We use the U.S. Dollar as our sole currency. Exchange foreign currency before you arrive.
UTC-5:00 EST (Eastern Standard Time) same as at New York, Miami, and Boston.
We drive on the left, as in the United Kingdom.
Average 82° (28° C)
We have great weather year-round and it rarely rains.
Bringing Goods into the Turks and Caicos Islands. Each arriving visitor and resident over the age of 17 is allowed to bring the following into the Turks and Caicos without incurring duty:
1 liter (33.8 US fluid ounces) of spirits OR 2 liters (67.6 US fluid ounces) of wine (less than 40% alcohol by volume).
200 cigarettes OR 100 cigarillos OR 50 cigars OR 250 grams (8.8 ounces) of tobacco.
50 grams (1.8 ounces) of perfume.
$400 of gifts or items that will remain in the Turks and Caicos (for non-commercial use).
'Reasonable' amount of personal goods. Any goods over your allowance will be charged at normal duty rates (typically 30%). Some goods, such as basic food products and books, are exempt.
Returning to Your Home Country
USA Customs and Border Protection allows (for a trip of at least 48 hours, every 30 days):
$800 worth of goods.
(plus) 200 cigarettes.
(plus) 2 liters of alcohol (at least one must be produced in the Caribbean).
UK Border Agency allows residents to bring the following duty-free:
£390 worth of goods.
(plus) 1 liter of spirits or strong liqueurs over 22 per cent volume OR 2 liters of fortified wine (such as port or sherry), sparkling wine or any other alcoholic drink that's less than 22 per cent volume
(plus) 16 liters of beer.
(plus) 4 liters of still wine.
(plus) 200 cigarettes OR 100 cigarillos OR 50 cigars OR 250g (8.8 oz) of tobacco.
Canada Border Services Agency allows the following (after a visit of 48 hours):
$800 worth of goods.
(plus) 1.5 liters (53 imperial ounces) of wine OR 1.14 liters (40 ounces) of alcoholic beverages OR 8.5 liters of beer or ale.
(plus) 200 cigarettes.
(plus) 50 cigars.
(plus) 200 grams (7 ounces) of manufactured tobacco.
(plus) 200 tobacco sticks.
A limit of 3 mature conch shells may be exported from the Turks and Caicos by visitors returning home. Arts and crafts made from conch shells and purchased locally may also be exported, as well as conch pearls. Other shells, depending on the species and quantity, may require a permit. Corals of any sort cannot be exported legally.
Be aware when returning home that many countries have restrictions on importing conch shells or conch products, and are signatories of the international CITES Treaty, which oversees the protection of endangered plants and animals. When clearing customs at some destinations, it may be necessary to have a CITES permit to legally import the conch products. This permit can be obtained from the Department of Environment and Coastal Affairs (DECR) on Providenciales.
Prohibited Items and Drugs
You may face fines and/or incarceration if you bring in any of the following without prior approval:
Banned weapons (including firearms, firearm parts, ammunition, and 'Hawaiian slings').
Controlled drugs and narcotics, including (but not limited to) marijuana.
Pornography and 'obscene publications
Island & Off-Island Attractions
Light House: East Ridge
Cruise Ship Terminal: Shops & restaurants only open when the ships are in
Grand Turk Museum
North and South Creek: great for kayaking
Salt Cay: by boat or plane. Originally the biggest island for salt production in the early part of the 19th century. Amazing beaches on the North side of the island.
Gibbs Cay: by boat, uninhabited island great for swimming or snorkeling with Stingrays
Governor’s Beach: the most beautiful beach on Grand Turk
Activities, Bars & Restaurants
(We have no financial arrangement with any of the vendors on the island. This means that we do not take a commission of any kind for recommending an establishment to our guests)
The Arches Café: it's a Canadians owned business. Great food great and views of both sides of the island. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lighthouse Rd. 649-331-2399 Opens Tuesday – Sunday. email@example.com
Jack’s Shack: awesome beach bar, great people watching. Just before the cruise terminal turn right, opens when the cruise ships are in.
Bohio Resort: bar and restaurant, diving trips, great beach - 649-946-2135 - bohioresort.com
Anette’s Pizza: Best pizza on the island - 649-241-6107 (no delivery services)
Turks Head Inne: bar and restaurant - 649-241-7232
Osprey Hotel: bar and restaurant - 649-946-2666 - ospreybeachhotel.com
Sand Bar: great beach bar and restaurant
Salt Raker Inn: 649-946-2260 - saltrakerinn.com
Grand Turk Diving Co: Gibbs Cay trips, Discover Scuba Diving and Scuba Diving.
Chris Davies-James – 631-406-0194 or 649- 946- 1559 - www.gtdiving.com.
The Humpback Dive Shack: whale watching, scuba diving and Gibbs Cay Sabina & Brian - firstname.lastname@example.org – -649-946-1559
Deep Blue Charters: deep sea fishing, whale watching, Gibbs Cay – Katherine & Kell - deepbluegrandturk.com - 649-243-6096 -
Funtastic Tours: excursions - 649 332 9254 - funtastictoursgdt.com
Screaming Reels: deep-sea fishing - 649-231-2087 - screamingreelstours.com
Jack & Kathy Taxi Services: 649-346-5337 – 649-343-1240 – 649-246-4093
Ben R&B Taxi & Tours: 649-247-1541
Banks & ATMS
The only bank on the island is CIBC, a Canadian bank. CIBC has a branch and ATM in town branch. The local currency is U.S. dollar.
Cash & Credit Cards
Most places on the island take credit cards. You will need cash for: fish market, gas, tips and rental car( some vendors do except CC). Other than in high season, most restaurants on the island do not require reservations. You do however require reservations for any kind of day excursion.