On 31 January 2023, the Government announced that effective 1 February 2023, the owner or master of a pleasure craft (like a yacht or other vessel for recreational use) before sailing to or from the Turks and Caicos Islands must use SailClear (www.sailclear.com
) to submit information about their voyage to the Customs and Immigration at least 24 hours before arrival or departure. This article will be updated shortly with more information.
he Turks and Caicos, and especially the island of Providenciales, is a popular destination for yachts and sailing. Conveniently, Providenciales is also located halfway between Florida and Puerto Rico, so we're also a great place to refuel.
There are many marinas and harbors to choose from, and the larger sites can accommodate vessels with a maximum draft of 8.5 feet at low tide. There are deeper water moorings for vessels with greater drafts.
The same shallows that provide the Turks and Caicos with plentiful conch and lobster unfortunately also make navigation especially tricky. Our underwater steep bank foundation also means that the depth goes from very deep to very shallow in a short distance, and there’s often shallow reefs at the transitions. Great caution should be taken when navigating in the Turks and Caicos.
General Travel Information
The Turks and Caicos is made up of nine inhabited islands, and has a total of about 100 named islands, cays, and rocks. We’re a British Overseas Territory that’s largely self-ruled.
We’re located in the tropical Atlantic, yet are not actually in the Caribbean.
The majority of marinas, shopping, professional services, and medical services are on the island of Providenciales. All scheduled international flights arrive at the Providenciales International Airport (PLS).
English is our official language, we use the U.S. Dollar, and we observe Eastern Standard Time (UTC/GMT-5).
Customs and Immigration Information
Yachters and cruisers must follow the same passport and visa requirements that apply to air travelers. A valid passport is required, yet a visa is not needed for many nations.
Your initial stop once you arrive in the islands must be at a port of entry. There are several on Providenciales, which are listed below.
The harbormaster has the authority to grant a permit to enter for one week at the cost of $100 ($130 on weekends and holidays). If you wish to stay longer, you must visit one of the Immigration Department offices located in either Downtown, Providenciales, or at South Base near the airport on Grand Turk. It’s possible to obtain a 90-day Cruising Permit, which costs $300.
Upon arrival, vessels and crew will be cleared by officers from the Turks and Caicos Customs Department. Crew should remain on board until the arrival of the government officers.
Firearms and Prohibited Items
Firearms are strictly controlled in the Turks and Caicos, and it’s illegal to be in possession of a firearm, ammunition, or a firearm part or accessory without an appropriate license.
In most cases, the police will meet vessels at the port of entry, and maintain custody of any weapons until the vessel’s departure from the Turks and Caicos.
If your vessel is carrying any guns or ammunition, contact the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force for more information and instructions before arrival in the country.
Any drug or substance that’s illegal in the United States or United Kingdom is also highly likely to be illegal in the Turks and Caicos as well. There are stiff penalties for those found in possession of such substances.
The same requirements applicable when flying with pets applies to those on ocean vessels: a valid veterinary certificate from your country of origin, a completed import application, and a fee of $50. Certain breeds of dogs may be restricted.
Charts and Navigation
Proper charts are a necessity for navigating in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The waters of our archipelago can be very difficult to navigate. The leading charts and marine GPS map data tends to be quite accurate for primary routes.
The foremost chart publisher is Waveyline Publishing, based in Grand Turk, which sells detailed charts of Providenciales and Grand Turk, plus overview charts of the complete Turks and Caicos archipelago.
Electronic charts containing Waveyline data are available for Garmin GPS chart plotters with the Bluechart Americas mapset, versions 7.5 and above. Paper charts can be ordered from Waveyline directly, and can be purchased on Providenciales from Walkin Marine.
Mooring and Anchoring Locations
Mooring and anchoring is possible if you’d rather not stay in a marina. All of the inhabited islands in the Turks and Caicos offer adjacent and sheltered locations for typical cruising vessels during usual weather conditions.
All vessels greater than 60 feet (18 m) in length will require an Anchoring Permit, which is valid for 30 days and can be obtained from the Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) and some of the larger marinas.
For larger vessels with drafts above 8 feet (2.5 m), the choice is a bit more limited to permanent moorings off Grace Bay and the Bight Beach, off Parrot Cay, and off Malcolm's Road Beach near Amanyara Resort.
National Parks and Protected Areas
The Turks and Caicos is home to many marine nature reserves and national parks, and it’s important that yachters are aware of these areas and applicable laws and policies.
It is illegal to harm or remove and natural or historical object, or use jet skis in a protected area.
Great care and attention must be taken both inside and outside of protected areas to only anchor on sandy bottoms, and not to damage and coral, reef, or seagrass. Significant fines may apply if reef damage occurs.
There are many popular mooring location for the typically sized vessels around the island of Providenciales, including inside the barrier reef near the Bight and Turtle Cove, off Sapodilla Bay Beach, at Malcolm's Road Beach, at Cooper Jack Bay in the lee of the hills, and in the lee of Bay Cay near Five Cays.
North Caicos and Middle Caicos
The options of North Caicos and Middle Caicos are a bit more limited. The north coasts of these islands are generally a bit too exposed, and much of the remaining coastlines consist of shallow wetlands.
Bellefield Landing and the adjacent Parrot Cay Channel on North Caicos offer the best conditions.
The lee side of Long Cay in the Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park offers the best anchoring near South Caicos. This location is only a short cruise from Cockburn Harbour, where fuel and some supplies may be found.
Much of the ocean off the west coast beaches of English Point and Cockburn Town Beach at Grand Turk is suitable for anchoring. There are no marinas dedicated for private yachts and boats.
There is a small public dock at Cockburn Town for the landing of tender boats.
The quiet little island of Salt Cay offers sheltered anchoring off the west coast near Deane’s Dock and the main settlement of Balfour Town. Little more than fuel and the most basic essentials can be bought in town.
A short cruise away from Salt Cay is the exquisite anchoring spot of Big Sand Cay. This breathtaking uninhabited cay is home to one of the finest beaches in the Turks and Caicos, and as the island’s landmass is long and thin, there’s typically ample sheltered on the leeward side of the cay.
Supplies, Repairs and Refueling
Providenciales is home to a great range of services and shops. Almost anything other than specific or proprietary parts can be found. There are grocery stores, marine and fishing shops, and the expansive Do It Best building center.
The shops and stores of Grand Turk also offers a decent selection of necessities.
Due to the small-scale commercial fishing industry, there are fuel services and some supplies available on South Caicos, yet the selection is limited.
There isn’t a wide range of shops or amenities on North and Middle Caicos (which are connected by a road causeway), and Salt Cay.
There are strict guidelines on vessel waste management and disposal in the Turks and Caicos. It is illegal to discharge any waste, including sewage and bilge, within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of shore.
Treated sewage and bilge that does not discolor the water or result in a sheen may be discharged when over 12 nautical miles (22 km) when the vessel is traveling at no less than 10 knots.
It is illegal at any time to discharge any oil or chemical product, trash, or solid waste.
Repairs and Service
Nearly all repair services are on Providenciales, and most marinas offers the typical cleaning and refueling services. South Bank Marina is the primary site for hull work, engine repair, or painting. Tibor’s Machine Shop on Providenciales is the foremost welding and metalworking establishment in the country.
Weather, Climate and Tides
The Turks and Caicos generally experiences great and sunny weather throughout much of the year. Typical conditions vary from calm, sunny days, to breezy days with 12-18 knot (22-33kph) east-southeast winds.
Rainfall tends to be quite low throughout the Turks and Caicos.
As we’re in the tropical Atlantic, we’re at risk of a tropical cyclone during the hurricane season, yet the number of hurricane strikes in recent decades has been quite low.
Concierge and Catering Services
Concierge, catering and private chef services are available on Providenciales, and many businesses have experience working with luxury yachts and private aircraft.
Most services can be arranged, including private transport, activities and local excursion charters, the handling of customs and immigration issues, accommodations, food crafts, private dining, and more.
Those that enjoy the great outdoors will find plenty of free marine attractions in the waters of the Turks and Caicos. There are great beaches, exquisite snorkeling sites, and many of the historical and natural land attractions that feature free admittance.
If you’d like to spend some time exploring on land, rental cars on Providenciales start at about $40 per day. On our smaller and outer islands, rates are higher at around $75 per day.
The south coast Providenciales marinas of South Bank Marina and South Side Marina tend to have the best slip and fuel rates.
If you’re looking to stock up on food supplies, the wholesale supermarkets near Downtown Providenciales offer the best prices.
A fishing license is required to fish in the Turks and Caicos. At most marinas and at the Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA), a one-day license may be purchased for $10, and a 30-day for $30.
Be aware of our protected areas, where fishing is generally prohibited, and our fishing seasons for conch, lobster, and Nassau Grouper.
Dangers and Considerations
The Turks and Caicos is generally a very safe destination for cruising and yachts. The only yacht and boat crime reports tend to be occasional theft from unattended vessels. Most marinas (especially the larger sites) have staff or security onsite at all times.
The greatest concern is accidental strikes to the reef and coral heads, and grounding in shallow waters.
The Turks and Caicos receives many cruisers, yet even considering this, there are too many vessel groundings, wrecks, and instances of reef damage. Please take great care when navigating in the Turks and Caicos.
Marinas and Ports of Entry
Call ahead on channel 16 or by phone before arriving as customs officials are not stationed permanently at all ports. The larger complexes on Providenciales typically offer pilot and guide boat services, which we generally advise taking advantage of.