Geography Turks and Caicos are located 575 miles southeast of Miami Florida. We are 30 miles south of the Bahamas and 90 miles north of the Dominican Republic. The main islands consist of two groups separated by the Columbus Island Passage: The Turks Group, which includes Grand Turk and Salt Cay, and the Caicos Group, which includes West Caicos, Providenciales, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, and South Caicos.
The total land area of the main islands is 193 square miles.
Culture & History The name Turks is derived after the indigenous Turk's Head "fez" cactus, and the name Caicos is a Lucayan term "caya hico," meaning string of islands. Columbus was said to have discovered the islands in 1492, but some still argue that Ponce de Leon arrived first. Whichever it was, the first people to truly discover the islands were the Taino Indians, who unfortunately left little behind but ancient utensils. Then the Lucayans eventually replaced the Tainos but by the middle of the 16th Century they too had disappeared, victims of Spanish enslavement and imported disease.
The 17th century saw the arrival of settlers from Bermuda, who established themselves on Grand Turk, Salt Cay and South Caicos. They used slaves to rake salt for British colonies in America, and were later joined by British Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution. The economy of the island revolved around the rich cotton and sisal plantations, their harvests sold in London and New York. Due to competition and the thin soil, however, the cotton plantations slowly deteriorated, most of them finally perishing in a hurricane in 1813. Solar salt became the main economy of the islands.
In 1766, after being controlled by the Spanish, French and British, Turks and Caicos became part of the Bahamas colony, but attempts to integrate failed and were abandoned in 1848. London - Kingston. boats frequently visited Turks and Caicos, so links with Jamaica were well developed. The Turks and Caicos were annexed to Jamaica in 1874. After Jamaicas' independence in 1962, the Turks and Caicos Islands were loosly associated with the Bahamas for just over 10 years until Turks and Caicos became a British Crown Colony.
The 1976 elections were won by the PDM, the People's Democratic Movement, who were then to negotiate independence if they won the next elections in 1980. But the other main political party, the Progressive National Party (PNP), won the 1980 elections and plans for independence were set aside. The Turks and Caicos Islands prides itself on having been stable for 250 years.
Climate The average temperature ranges between 85 and 90 degrees (29-32 degrees celsius) from June to October, sometimes reaching the mid 90's (35 degrees celsius), especially in the late summer months. From November to May the average temperature is 80 to 84 degrees (27-29 degrees celsius). Water temperature in the summer is 82 to 84 degrees (28-29 degrees celsius) and in winter about 74 to 78 degrees (23-26 degrees celsius). A constant trade wind keeps the climate at a very comfortable level.
There is an annual rainfall of 21 inches on Grand Turk and South Caicos, but as you go further west the average rainfall could increase to 40 inches. In an average year the Turks and Caicos has 350 days of sunshine.
Hurricane season can vary but usually runs from June to October.
Currency The US dollar is the official currency of Turks and Caicos. Most hotels, restaurants and taxi services accept travelerís cheques, which can be cashed at local banks. Most credit cards are accepted and banks offer ATM's as well as cash advances on credit cards. Tipping is normally paid to waiters, taxi drivers, maids and porters at 15%.
Customs Duty free goods that may be brought in to the Islands include: 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, 1.136 liters of spirits or wine and perfume for personal use. There are no restrictions for travellers on the import of cameras, film or sports equipment, except spear guns and Hawaiian slings. To bring in firearms of any type (including spear guns and Hawaiian slings), you must have written approval from the Commissioner of Police. Controlled drugs and pornography are illegal.
Entry & Departure Effective January 8, 2007 all US Citizens traveling by air to the Turks & Caicos Islands will be required by the US Government to have a valid US passport. Cruise ship passengers have until June 1, 2009 to meet the requirement. Visitors from other countries do require passports, but no visas are necessary except from countries of the former Eastern Bloc. They are advised to contact the nearest British Consulate Office.
All visitors must hold a round trip ticket. Visitors are allowed to stay for 30 days; this is renewable one time only. For luggage restriction, individual airlines should be consulted.