My Observations from Paradise: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
*This post was written in 2015 while I was consulting with a local hotel group. I spent two months living in Providenciales and returned frequently over the course of a year. Some information may have changed, however this post will still give you an overall idea of life in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos and what to expect as a visitor. If you have any questions, please feel free to post in comments.
Go Epicurista is coming to you straight from paradise! My current outpost is a dream job project consulting with a beautiful beach resort on the island of Providenciales, the largest of the exotic Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). This is definitely what I imagine paradise would look like. Warm breezes, the most breathtaking shades of blues and greens along the infinite ocean, miles of powdery white sandy beaches, year-round warm temperatures and the friendliest people.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in paradise or if you’re planning a visit to Turks and Caicos, here’s what I’ve learned about paradise and life in TCI during my first week. Some of it is nice, some not as much. It’s all in your perspective.
1. It’s easy to get to Paradise:
In case you were wondering where paradise can be found, the country of exotic islands known as Turks and Caicos is 575 miles southeast of Miami and only 90 miles north of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic & Haiti). 19 cities currently have non-stop flights to Providenciales including American Airlines, twice daily from Miami, Delta from Atlanta and New York, Jet Blue from New York and recently added Ft. Lauderdale, just to name a few. The increase in popularity equals an increase in flights. Providenciales is the main port of entry, however, Grand Turk and South Caicos also have international airports. Book your flight and in a short blink of the eye you’re in paradise!
2. Bags don’t fly free to Paradise:
I despise checking in luggage about as much as I do a trip to the dentist, so I’ve become skilled at packing all I need in the ubiquitous carry-on suitcase and personal bag allowed on most airlines. Due to the length of my trip to Turks and Caicos, I decided to put my disdain aside and check a bag, under the misinformed impression that first bags fly free between all international destinations and the U.S. My assumptions were wrong, and you know what they say about that, right? Apparently paradise is too popular of a destination for free bags to be allowed. $25 for your first bag, $40 for your second on American Airlines. Now you know. Check with your airline before packing. Everyone, including luggage, has to pay to come to paradise.
3. There’s no jetway into Paradise:
Upon arrival at Providenciales airport, I discovered it was in fact a good thing to check my bag and travel light on the carry ons. There is no jetway from the aircraft into the airport. You will be descending the stairs of the airplane directly onto the tarmac. My customary heavy carry-ons would have probably led me on a nose dive straight into paradise. That was $25 in checked luggage fees well spent. There’s the silver lining.
4. There’s a long line to enter Paradise:
The staff at the PLS airport was very polite and pleasant. Two immigration officers were designated to welcome residents, called “Belongers” and five attended to visitors. 90% of those on my flight from Miami were visitors, thus the line was long and moved at a snail’s pace. The officers, whose duty it is to allow you entry into paradise, take their jobs quite seriously. Ensure you have your passport, all forms completed and don’t forget your proof of return ticket. Apparently, they don’t just let anyone in to paradise and, you are welcome to visit but you just can’t stay.
5. Driving in Paradise may be hazardous to your health:
Turks and Caicos follows their British heritage by driving on the left side of the road. For those of us accustomed to driving on the right, it’s just downright confusing, nerve-wrecking and hazardous to your health. I felt like I took my life in my hands by simply riding a bike on the left hand side of the road. Look right, look left, look right again, look behind me, give way at the roundabout, oh my! I can’t imagine actually driving a car. Just being a passenger in a car with the passenger seat on the right and having headlights staring at me around every turn has me gripping the dashboard in fear. Providenciales has no traffic lights, only roundabouts, and from what I hear, stop signs are merely a suggestion. There are no street lights, so you must proceed with greater caution in the evenings. Although the speed limit is 20 miles per hour around most of the island with 40 MPH being the max speed, it feels like Germany’s Autobahn to me. I may just have to wait a bit to drive in paradise. Yes, I’m aware my British friends are laughing at me right now.
6. Bubbles are a Luxury in Paradise:
When paradise is a small island, everything is imported which sadly carries a hefty fee. A bottle of Veuve Cliquot Champagne can be found in the U.S. for around $45, here it’s $73.99 at the local Turks and Caicos supermarket. Life without bubbles would not be paradise at all, would it? I may have to forgo other necessities. Electricity, quite expensive on the island, is overrated, right? Candles and bubbles sounds like a perfect evening. Who am I kidding? I couldn’t survive without AC! Tough choices.
7. We all scream for Ice Cream in Paradise:
House made ice cream is very popular in Turks and Caicos as I suspect it is the perfect antidote to the hot weather. Walking around Grace Bay Road, I spotted five ice cream parlors and one frozen yogurt shop. Score! Island Scoop, with a sign that needs no further explanation, The Patty Place sells ice cream and Jamaican Patties (perfect, no?), Shay Cafe has house made gelato in a variety of flavors, Giggles features ice cream amongst pirates, and TurkBerry, is a Turks and Caicos version of PinkBerry, all located within a two block walk. Restaurants on the island are also known to make their own ice cream and sorbets for a gourmet and refreshing ending to any meal.
My first ice cream in Turks and Caicos was at Melt, a kitschy little store/cafe full of tchotchkes, decadent ice cream sundaes, creative cocktails, coffee drinks and the nicest staff in Regent Village. At $19 for “Melt’s Very Special Sundae”, an impressive concoction of chocolate, coffee and Baileys ice cream topped with banana, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a side shot of Baileys, it was not just dessert, it was also my diner. Please don’t judge. Yes, this is definitely paradise!
8. There’s no Starbucks in Paradise:
I hate to be the bearer of bad news for all Starbucks addicts out there but you won’t be getting your venti triple shot skinny upside down caramel machiatto, or your blended coffee drink of choice, in this version paradise. That familiar green logo will not be there to greet you on every street corner. In fact, there are no chain restaurants or stores anywhere on the island. I have learned there is one coffee roaster, TCI Coffee Roasters, a family run company that provides the only freshly roasted and blended coffee to hotels and restaurants on the island. Apparently, caffeine must come from other sources in paradise.
9. Sundays are a day of rest in Paradise:
Throughout the island, not much happens on Sundays. Most businesses are closed and no liquor sales allowed. The popular area along Grace Bay Road is practically deserted. It’s a day for visitors to relax and enjoy the spectacular 135 miles of sugar sand beaches. Based on the large number of churches I’ve seen on the island, over 35 from almost every denomination listed in the yellow pages, this is a day for Belongers to worship. Take it easy. Relax. It’s easy to do in Turks and Caicos. Sunday is truly a day of rest and worship in Paradise. Perfect, indeed.
Condiments on the Road
In case you were wondering about my “Have Condiments, Will Travel” story, and whether I, in fact, needed the condiments on this trip, here’s an update. My travel size bottle of hot sauce and garlic salt have left their comfy carrying case on three occasions during my first week in Providenciales. The food here runs on both opposite ends of the flavor spectrum. It is either quite flavorful and spicy, with Jerk being the seasoning of choice amongst residents, or it is very safe (and bland) to appeal to the American tourist market which makes up the majority of visitors to the island. It definitely pays to travel with condiments as these meals deserved to be saved.
This salad had a lot going on! Suffering from an identity crisis, it had Scallops, Sautéed Bacon & Mushrooms, Grilled Shrimp, Smoked Salmon with Capers, carrots, cucumber, and tomato all piled over Romaine. What was missing was a little heat! Thank heavens I travel with condiments. They can rescue any meal. Have you read my “Have Condiments Will Travel” Story. It’s #OnTheBlog if you need a chuckle. #GOEpicTCI
Were you surprised by any of my observations? Please share your comments or any questions you have about Turks and Caicos in the comments below. Is there anything you want me to scope out for you in paradise?
Are you ready to come and visit the Turks & Caicos paradise? This video may influence your decision:
I will be here for the next two months and can’t wait to continue exploring and learning about this beautiful country. Stay tuned and follow my adventures in paradise with the hashtag #GOepicTCI on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.