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Grand Turk Basics

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Scenes of Grand Turk

Fast Facts: Grand Turk


Grand Turk is a small island in the British Overseas Territory of Turks and Caicos. Only 7 miles long, and maybe a mile at its widest, the island is home to Cockburn Town, the capital of the Territory. There are only around 4,500 people who live here, so when a large cruise ship arrives, the population on the island can double. Today's visitors come to Grand Turk for the sun, the beach and the diving reefs.

The mainstays of the economy of Turks and Caicos Islands are government, financial services and tourism. The big boost to Grand Turk came when Carnival Cruise Lines, working with local partners, opened the Grand Turk Cruise Center in 2006; this marked the beginning of large scale cruise tourism to the Turks and Caicos. The Cruise Center is adjacent to the 1,000 foot long pier, which was created by dredging the coral reef, allowing large cruise liners to dock.

Grand Turk has a tropical marine climate, with year-round daytime temperatures ranging from the low to high 80s F. The dry season begins in December and lasts through April, while the rainy season commences in May and extends through November, with the heaviest rains taking place in September and October.


Grand Turk map


First Impressions


Cockburn Town
© Turks & Caicos Tourist Office

Your ship will dock at the Grand Turk Cruise Center pier. It's a short and easy walk from your ship into the Cruise Center. If you're taking an excursion by bus or van, your vehicle will pick you up at the parking lot just in front of the Cruise Center. Likewise, if you're taking an excursion by boat, you'll board it at the Cruise Center.

A number of people have said that Grand Turk today is what many of the Caribbean islands were like 30 years ago. It's a small island that doesn't have much built up tourism infrastructure. In fact, over 90% of the tourists that come to Grand Turk come by cruise ship.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, in that you won't find tourism venues crawling with people (except at the Cruise Center--but that's what it was built for). Time moves fairly slowly in Grand Turk, and some of the more popular restaurants don't even have telephone numbers. If you're looking for cultural attractions, you won't find them here. Most people come here for the sun, the snorkeling and the scuba diving. But Grand Turk has an interesting history that goes all the way back to Columbus' first voyage to America, or so some people say.

The only town you'll find in Grand Turk is Cockburn (pronounced "co-burn") Town, which is also the capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands. It's a fairly quaint place, with its seaside streets (Front and Duke Streets) lined with buildings that were built over a century ago in the Bermudan style. However, many of the buildings in town are dilapidated, victims of neglect or 2008's Hurricane Ike, when 95% of the houses suffered damages.

Grand Turk is supplied with all its foodstuffs, building materials and other requirements weekly, when a freighter brings in supplies. It's an arid place, with little rain and no fresh water springs. As a result, fresh water is precious, and most of the island's fresh water is made from a desalination plant using a reverse osmosis process.

The people on Grand Turk are mostly descendents of Africans slaves who were brought to the Turks and Caicos to work the salt pans or on the cotton and sisal plantations. The locals are very friendly and accommodating, making them one of the best calling cards for the Islands.

It's hot on Grand Turk, so plan to dress accordingly. Cool, casual, comfortable resort and leisure wear is acceptable everywhere. Make sure not to forget your sunscreen! A hat and cover-up for extra protection against the sun is also advisable.

Just be aware that swim wear worn other than at poolside or at the beach is frowned upon. There are no nude beaches on Grand Turk.


Latest News for Travelers to Grand Turk


  • (9/7/15) The T & C Weekly News reports today that there's anger as a Grand Turk dolphin park moves closer ... more

Time Zone


Grand Turk is on Atlantic Standard Time, which is four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Daylight Savings Time is observed in the Turks and Caicos.

Turks & Caicos flag Grand Turk Local Time
 


Language


English is universally spoken in Grand Turk.


Dealing with Money on Grand Turk


Currency



Dollar bill

The currency of the Turks & Caicos Islands is the U.S. dollar, and it is printed on bills in seven denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100. Coins include the penny, nickel, dime, quarter, fifty cent piece and dollar.

Using Credit Cards in Grand Turk

All of the shops at the Cruise Center, as well as the larger restaurants on the island, generally accept credit cards, but when you go into Cockburn Town to do some dining or local shopping, the best advice is to bring cash.

Banks and ATMs

There are just a handful of ATM machines (also called "ABMs" on Grand Turk) that can be found on Grand Turk. The ATMs here operate through the Cirrus and Plus systems. Here is a list of ATM machines in the area:

  • Scotiabank has a branch and two ABMs in Waterloo Plaza, Cockburn Town. Phone: (649) 339-7020

  • Scotiabank also has an ABM at the Santa Maria Casino & Gaming Saloon, located at the White Sands Beach Resort. The Casino is located right next to the Grand Turk Cruise Centre.

  • CIBC/First Caribbean has a branch and an ATM on Duke Street in historic Cockburn Town. Phone: (649) 946-2831

Grand Turk ATM Map


Map icon

See our Grand Turk ATM map for the locations of the above Banks and ATMs.


Using US Dollars in Grand Turk

US dollars are used as the territorial currency.


Weather


Turks head cactus
© Turks & Caicos Tourist Office

Grand Turk enjoys a tropical marine climate, which is heavily influenced by conditions in the Caribbean Sea. Average daily highs range from 81° to 88° F (27° to 31° C) throughout the year, with daily lows ranging from the mid-70s F to the low-80s F. The days are cooled by easterly Caribbean trade winds.

Like most tropical destinations, Grand Turk is bi-seasonal, with a "dry season" and a "rainy season." That being said, Grand Turk does not receive a lot of rain, averaging only 22 inches per year. The rainy season begins in September and extends through December. The dry season begins in January, and lasts through August. Rain can fall at any time of year, and normally comes in short, heavy bursts of showers, often followed by sun.

As a rule, the humidity in Grand Turk is pretty low.

Sea water temperatures range from 76° to 84° F (25° to 29° C) throughout the year, with the cooler temperatures taking place during the dry season.

Hurricane season lasts from June through November. The peak months for hurricanes are August and September.

Average Temperatures

Average Precipitation



Keeping In Touch


Internet Access in Grand Turk

You can find several places for Cyber Cafes and Wi-Fi on Grand Turk. Here are a few suggestions:

Wi-Fi on Grand Turk

  • Margaritaville, located at the Grand Turk Cruise Center, offers free Wi-Fi. This is Margaritaville's largest restaurant in the Caribbean.

  • Froots, also located at the Grand Turk Cruise Center, offers free Wi-Fi along with fresh smoothies and healthy wraps.

  • Osprey Beach Hotel, located at 1 Duke Street in Cockburn Town, offers free Wi-Fi poolside at their restaurant.

  • Jack's Shack, located about 1,500 feet up the beach from the Cruise Center, offers free Wi-Fi. They operate a bar and grill, and there are beach chairs and umbrellas for rent. This can be a fun place to visit and check your email.

  • White Sands Resort, located just up the beach from the Cruise Center, offers free Wi-Fi. They operate Captain Hook's bar and grill, and there are beach chairs and umbrellas for the use of their guests.

Internet Cafes on Grand Turk

  • Cees Internet Cafe, located in Cockburn Town, has a small Cyber Cafe. Phone: (649) 946-2995

  • Victoria Public Library, located on the corner of Victoria and Front Streets, offers internet access. Open Monday through Saturday 9:00 am to 6:30 pm. Phone (876) 974-7038

Grand Turk Internet Access Map


Map icon

See our Map of Grand Turk Internet Access Points for the locations of the above internet access points.


Internet Cafe

Cellular Phone & Data Services

Customers of the four major U.S. wireless carriers can expect the following levels of service in Grand Turk:

Verizon

Cell service: Verizon's CDMA service in Grand Turk is provided by local partner Islandcom.
Data services: Through partner Islandcom, Verizon offers 3G coverage on the island.
See details on Verizon's cell and data services pricing and coverage maps.

ATT Wireless

Cell service: AT&T's GSM service in Grand Turk is provided by Cable & Wireless, Digicel and Islandcom.
Data services: AT&T offers 3G service on the island through its partners Cable & Wireless, Digicel and Islandcom.
See details on AT&T's cell and data services coverage maps.

Sprint

Cell service: Sprint's CDMA service in Grand Turk is provided by partner Islandcom.
Data services: Through Islandcom, Sprint offers 1G coverage on the island.
See details on Sprint's cell and data services pricing.

T Mobile

Cell service: T-Mobile's GSM service is available in Grand Turk through its partner Digicel.
Data services: T-Mobile offers 3G service on the island through its partner Digicel.
See details on T-Mobile's cell and data services pricing.


Samsung Galaxy S III

Grand Turk Telephone Information

Travelers with American or Canadian cell phone plans should be aware that their carriers will add a variety of international roaming and other charges when their phones or other mobile devices are used in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Check with your carrier for the precise details.

If you plan on using your cell phone a lot while on your cruise, you may want to consider getting a SIM card for your trip from OneSimCard.com. These SIMs work in over 200 countries, and provide very affordable prepaid talk, text and data plans. Not only will you save a lot of money, but you'll also avoid a big cell bill surprise when you get home.

Using your US or Canadian cell phone while you're lounging on the beach in Grand Turk is easy--it's just like using your phone back home.

Country Code: 1 (the same as the US and Canada)

Area Code for Grand Turk (and all of the Turks and Caicos): 649

Grand Turk belongs to the North American Numbering System (NANS); calling another phone is just like a call you’d make from one area code to another in the US or Canada.

Local Phone Numbers have seven digits: XXX-XXXX

To call Grand Turk from the US or Canada: dial 1-649-XXX-XXXX

Using your US or Canadian cell phone in Grand Turk

To make a call from:

Grand Turk to the US or Canada: Dial 1 (area code) XXX-XXXX

Grand Turk to a Grand Turk number: Dial (649) XXX-XXXX

Cell phone user

OneSimCard - prepaid international roaming, works in over 200 countries, free calls in over 150 countries

Local Holidays & Festivals in Grand Turk


Look for the following local festivals, holidays and events taking place in Grand Turk in 2017:

  • New Year's Day, Sunday, January 1. National holiday celebrated with dances and festivals. Because New Year's Day occurs on a Sunday in 2017, the holiday is observed on Monday, January 2.

  • Commonwealth Day, Monday, March 13. A public holiday in the Turks and Caicos.

  • Good Friday, Friday, April 14. A public holiday in the Turks and Caicos.

  • Easter Monday, Monday, April 17. A public holiday in the Turks and Caicos.

  • National Heroes' Day, Monday, May 29. A public holiday that celebrates the life of James Alexander George Smith McCartney, the first and only hero of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

  • Queen's Birthday
    © Turks & Caicos Tourist Office
  • Queen's Official Birthday, Monday, June 12. A national holiday celebrated in most Commonwealth countries.

  • Emancipation Day, Tuesday, August 1. A national public holiday that commemorates the official abolition of slavery that took place on August 1, 1834. Celebrated on Grand Turk with a parade, and ecumenical service and a culture show.

  • National Youth Day, Friday, September 29. A national public holiday that honors the nation's youth. Look for parades and a festival on Grand Turk.

  • Santa Maria
  • National Heritage Day (Columbus Day), Monday, October 9. A big deal on Grand Turk, as there are many who believe that Columbus landed on the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1492.

  • National Day of Thanksgiving, Friday, November 24. A public holiday on the islands.

  • Christmas, Monday, December 25. A public and religious holiday celebrating the birth of Christ.

  • Boxing Day, Tuesday, December 26. A public holiday.

Cruise Port Schedules


Carnival ship at pier
© Turks & Caicos Tourist Office

Grand Turk is a very popular port for cruise ships making 7-day cruises to the Eastern Caribbean.

As a rule, you'll spend from 5 to 9 hours ashore in Grand Turk.

In 2016, Grand Turk is slated to host around 809,000 passengers sailing on 302 ships. See our Grand Turk Cruise Ship Schedule - 2016 for further information.

In 2017, Grand Turk is slated to host around 872,300 passengers sailing on 313 ships. See our Grand Turk Cruise Ship Schedule - 2017 for further information.


Cruise Lines Making Port


The following cruise lines will make port in Grand Turk in 2017:

Carnival icon Carnival Princess
Princess
Holland America icon
Holland America
Hapag Lloyd
Hapag Lloyd
MSC icon
MSC Cruises
Silversea icon
Silversea Cruises
Phoenix Reisen
Oceania icon
Oceania Cruises
P&O Cruises
Crystal icon
Crystal Cruises
Costa icon
Costa Cruises
AIDA Cruises
F Olsen
Fred. Olsen Cruises
Cruise Ship

       
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