Taste of Turks and Caicos

Each year, I try to make sure I spend my birthday in a place that I think will be fabulous.  Of course it has to be on an island in the caribbean and my accommodations have to be near a beach.  So, the birthday trip for 2016 was spent on Providenciales in Turks and Caicos.  Typically I am packed well in advance for my trips and that same protocol held true to form for this trip.  Unfortunately this particular trip was a bit bittersweet as a my childhood twin from another mother passed three weeks prior to our shared birthday.  My heart was heavy and I wanted to cancel the trip; however, I decided to go to try to honor her memory and deal with the emotions I was feeling.

I set out for the trip to Turks on Saturday, 2 July 2016 at 6a.m.  Pause.  Here is where I must THANK GOD for TSA pre-check.  Apparently EVERYONE was flying out Saturday morning and the regular security lines were snaking down the hall and contorted several ways to Sunday.  With TSA pre-check I was cleared through security in approximately 10 minutes and on my way to the gate.  Great!  Now I can sit back, have a little snack and…. Woah.  Oh no!  I left my snack back in the car.  So I run to the gate agent to find out what time boarding will start and am told that it will commence in 1.5 hours.  Okay, so that’s 5 minutes to exit the airport, 10 minutes to get to the car lot, 1 minute to get my snack back out of the car, 10 minutes back to the airport, and 10 minutes to clear security.  Okay, no problem.  Easy peasy.

I manage to exit the airport, get on the shuttle and make it in my car in approximately 10 minutes flat.  So, I am ahead by five minutes.  I grabbed my bag, got on the shuttle, and back again to the airport we go.  Kewl, I will have plenty of time to spare before my flight departs.  Needle on the record.  So, even though the TSA pre-check lane is still open, at 7a.m., they are no longer honoring pre-check patrons; however, I am not informed about this until my bags are already on the conveyor belt.  So, because my electronics are still in my bag, I am subject to extra screening– along with three other pre-check individuals.  This adds about 25 minutes to the timeline.  By the time the additional screening is finished, I have approximately 20 minutes left to make it to my gate and relax before boarding.

Five hours after take off from my departure city, and a brief layover in Atlanta, I arrive in Providencials, Turks and Caicos.  For those who have never been to the island, please know that you will depart the plane down the stairs on the tarmac and then walk to the immigration hall, no jet bridge.  If you or someone in your traveling party has limited mobility, be sure that you are aware of this fact prior to your trip.  It is only a two minute walk to the immigration hall from the plain; however, it took almost TWO hours to clear immigration.  Needless to say I was very tired and worn by the time I reached my temporary dwelling, a VRBO property in Richmond Hills, approximately a ten minute drive from the airport.

The property where I stayed was a small studio, with a private pool, five minutes from Grace Bay beach and a ten minute walk from the local grocery story.  Most of my days were spent lazing by the pool at the residence and doing a six-mile walk around the local area to get my cardio in.  Other days I visited the beach, the local wine cellar and had lunch at one of the Grace Bay restaurants.  There are not a lot of activities for one to do outside of the normal water sports and tours to the other island of the Turks, so this was really a laid back vacation for me.

The day prior to my birthday I chose to dine at Mr. Groupers, a local restaurant known for some of the best grouper on the island.  Hear me when I say that this had to be the BEST blackened grouper hands down and there was more than enough left for me to take back for dinner.  Prior to returning back to my residence, I decided to venture to a local souvenir store to find my shot glass when I met one of the local tourist guides.  He recommended that I visit a local craft market to find the glass.  Unfortunately none of the shot glasses they had appealed to me.  So, instead of going back to my residence, I ended up hanging out with him for a few hours, visiting a few happy hour spots, picking up and dropping off guests, and visiting the famous “Conch Shack”.  I am not one for visiting tourist traps; however, the Conch Shack has the best rum punch I’ve experienced in a while and they have a great live band.

I ended my stay on the island with a quick visit to Grace Bay beach to take some photos and enjoy the scenery prior to heading to the airport.  Although I did not fall in love with the island, I would say that I at least had one highlight during the trip, had some great drinks, met a really awesome person and experienced some of the most gorgeous ocean water I’ve ever seen in the caribbean.  I do not see a visit back to the island in my future because it didn’t make my top ten, but I am sure it would be a great destination for some of my friends in relationships.

 

Know Before You Go:

  • Turks is an island under British rule; however, they are quite independent.
  • The US dollar is the official currency of the island.
  • There is no public transportation; however, there are gypsy cabs.  Visitors are highly discouraged from taking the gypsy cabs because a lot of them are not licensed or insured.  Of course I wanted to experience the forbidden fruit, so I actually took a ride in one and he was relatively safe.  The only problem is that he was Haitian and didn’t have a good command the english language.
  • Apparently electricity is a premium expense on the island.  Therefore, if you are staying at a VRBO you may receive an additional feel for using the AC in your unit.  My particular unit did not have this extra added cost; however, I do not use the AC even when temperatures creep into the 90s in the states.  The ceiling fans worked just fine for me.

Must dos:

  • Take a late night swim at Sopadilla Bay Beach.  The water is so calm and actually quite warm once you fully immerse yourself.
  • Visit the Pelican Bay Restaurant at the Royal West Indies Resort during happy hour.  They probably have the best one on the island, with great 2 for 1 specials.  Be sure to try the Spirit of Turks and Caicos.
  • Visit Mr. Groupers for lunch or dinner.
  • Consider contacting Mr. Darnley Daniel to book an island tour or utilize his ground transportation service (http://www.seabreezetaxiandtours.com/).  He is a very friendly local who loves to show visitors around the island.

Be prepared:

  • Taxis are VERY expensive in Turks, as are bottled water and other beverages.  If you stay in Turks for a week or so, budget at least $200 in cab fare.  An alternative to taxis is to rent a motor scooter or a vehicle.
  • If you decide to purchase water, consider purchasing it by the gallon vice individual bottles.  There are refilling areas where you can take your jugs to be replenished for $.80 or so.
  • Pack your patience when dining at certain establishments.  You may want to eat a snack before dining as it could be a while before your meal is served.
  • If you arrive on a Saturday or during peak period, purchase the expedited security service to clear immigration (or fake that you are going to pass out).  Consider yourself warned.

 

Happy traveling!

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These are a few of my favorite sites

As I’ve traveled around the world and within the US, I’ve come to develop a very short list of go-to sites that I use faithfully to check airfares, share information, get the latest deals for parking, lodging and food services while away.  Although there are a few other sites that I’ve used in the past, they didn’t necessarily make the cut this time around.  Please note that I am, in no way, being compensated for referencing the sites below.  However, when you find a good thing, I think it is a GREAT things to spread the word and share with other individuals who have similar travel tastes.

 

  1. VRBO
    – Life was just a series of hotel rooms and resorts until VRBO came into my life.  Now, I have options and am saving a ton of money on travel accommodations.  What I love about VRBO housing is that I have NEVER had a problem when booking a unit.  Most of them provide a lot of space and I do not have to worry about my safety when staying in someone’s home or rental unit.  All of the locations where I have stayed provide me with the basics- a full kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.  Bonus options have included a pool, free wi-fi, walk-in closet space and beach access.
  2. Skipplagged.com
    – Use this site to find “hidden city” deals.  For instance, you want to fly from Washington, DC to Atlanta; however, the fare is $250.  But, you can book a ticket flying from Washington, DC to Miami for $150 and there is a stop in Atlanta.  As long as you are “team carry-on”, you may be able to take advantage of this saving.  Please note that you do not want to do this too often, or with the same carrier.  You also do not want to include your frequent flyer number on your reservation.
  3. Skyscanner
    – I use this site when I have some free time and want to know where I can go within a particular travel period.  Not only is the site intuitive enough to show me fares to my chosen destination from most major airports (not just my preferred airport), but I can also search using a date range and determine if I want to be flexible with my travel dates and save even more money.  It should be noted that the site is a snapshot in time and that airfares change quickly.  So, you may have to do some other research to verify that the fare you see is still available.
  4. 1travelingchica.wordpress.com
    – So, what can I say about this site?  The blogger pours her heart and soul into her work and it is filled with lots of great tips and information.  Perhaps the most important aspect of the site is that her reviews are totally unbiased (except for the fact that she LOVES all things caribbean).  She is not receiving compensation from any sponsors, so the reviews are based solely on her experiences as a solo traveler and one who believes that the world is her classroom and that she is a citizen of the world.
  5. http://www.seabreezetaxiandtours.com/
    – It was by chance that I had the pleasure of utilizing the services of Mr. Darnley Daniel during a recent trip to Turks and Caicos.  Although I would love to see a bit more content on his site, I will say that it does not do justice to his professionalism and dedication to giving visitors a VERY enjoyable experience.  Mr. Daniel is very knowledgeable and doesn’t just tell visitors what they want to hear to get their money, he backs it up through his actions.  I had the pleasure of utilizing his services and must say that the experience left me breathless, highly satisfied and definitely wanting more.  Although I wasn’t planning a return visit, I may just have to give Turks another spin, just so I can take advantage of some his other services.
  6. Groupon/Livingsocial/Travelzoo
    – So, for some people this may be a no-brainer, but for others, it may be a site that is often overlooked.  As previously mentioned, I recently visited Turks and Caicos and chose to stay in a VRBO unit vice a resort (I am just not a big resort fan).  Anyone who has been to the island is well aware that it is pretty pricey; however, there was a deal on the one of the discount sites that offered a stay at one of the island’s premium resorts for over 60% off.  This was the first time that I’ve actually seen a deal for Turks and Caicos, but there have been plenty for resorts in Jamaica, Belize, and St. Maartin/St. Martin.

 

As I mentioned, these are just a few of my favorite sites that I use routinely.  I highly recommend you check them out and see if they could possibly be of use to you.