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Warm, white beaches; warm, clear waters in a dozen shades of turquoise; and a gentle breeze characterize the paradise of the Turks and Caicos Islands. With direct flights from many US cities, this Caribbean gem promises an unforgettable vacation.

If you’re planning on traveling to the Turks and Caicos Islands in the coming months, be sure to take advantage of these insider tips, travel guidelines, and other essential information when planning to visit paradise on earth.

Airports and Airlines

The Turks and Caicos Islands offer three airports with international service to Grand Turk, Providenciales and South Caicos. Providenciales International Airport is the most popular, receiving the majority of international flights and visitors.

You have a number of airline options including American Airlines, Bahamas Air, British Airways, Delta Airlines, Spirit Air, and US Airways. All operate flights to and from the islands. However, to travel to other Caribbean destinations from the Turks and Caicos Islands, you must first stop over in Florida, most commonly Miami.

Customs and immigration

The islands require all US visitors to bring a valid passport. If you are from Canada, an original or notarized copy of your birth certificate and photo ID are sufficient for entry. Your visit can extend your visit to 30 days with a one-time renewal. All visitors to the island must present proof of a return ticket.

Most visitors, including those from the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom, do not require a visa, but some other international visitors do require a visa. Be sure to double-check your country’s requirements and give yourself plenty of time to obtain any required documentation.

For more specific immigration questions and visit guidelines, you may contact the Turks and Caicos Islands Department of Immigration directly by phone at (649) 946-4233 or by fax at (649) 941-5696.

Turks and Caicos Customs will allow typical tourist items, such as cameras, sports equipment like fishing rods, golf clubs and tennis rackets, and even some types of food. Pornography and controlled drugs are illegal, and visitors may only bring firearms with the written consent of the Commissioner of Police.

Accommodation

All the resorts and hotels on the islands will welcome you with open arms, and some will charge you an arm and a leg for their world-class amenities and services. The islands offer a wide range of accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets.

A great resource for researching different hotels and resorts is TripAdvisor. Guests leave comments about their experiences and rate properties. TripAdvisor also offers reviews for B&Bs.

Climate

The average year-round temperature in the Turks and Caicos Islands is 77 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. The islands average annual rainfall is only 21″.

With a mostly sunny climate, be sure to bring extra sunscreen, a hat, and a long-sleeved shirt or two for extra sunscreen.

Bring mostly casual clothes. The dress code on the islands is decidedly casual, although some of the best restaurants require closed shoes and a collared shirt. Foodies should bring a decent set of clothes, just in case. Swimwear worn away from the beach or pool is generally frowned upon.

Money

The official currency of the islands is the US dollar and the islands place no restrictions on the amount of money brought onto the island.

Travelers checks are accepted on the island, although some companies may charge a 5% transaction fee for travelers checks.

Credit cards are generally accepted

In tourist hotspots such as Providenciales and Grand Turk, you’ll have no problem using your credit card. Don’t forget to alert your credit card company of international transactions to prevent your card from being “frozen” and if you plan to visit some of the less traveled islands, keep a reserve of cash.

In restaurants, a tip of 15% is customary, as in the United States. But don’t be surprised if some restaurants include a 10% service charge in the bill. Tipping personal services and taxis is also generally accepted practice.

Pets

All pets brought to the island must have a rabies vaccination certificate. Be prepared for a public health inspector to examine your pet upon arrival. Check with your hotel to make sure it and its staff allow pets.

Although planning an international trip always presents some challenges, the 12 miles of Grace Bay Beach offers ample rewards for trips to the Turks and Caicos Islands. The hardest part will be leaving.

By Austin L. Church

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