Car Travel

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Car Travel

You may not be able to get by without a rental car in Provo, depending on where you're staying. Especially on your first trip, it's wise to plan on renting a car for at least a couple of days for some exploration, then you should decide whether you need it the rest of the week. Taxis can be expensive, with each round-trip equal in cost to a daily car rental, but if you feel uncomfortable driving on the left or if you want to go out and not worry about having too much to drink, then a taxi can be a good option. A car is the way to go if you want to do much exploring, because taxis will not wait for you in isolated areas. You will also need a car if you plan to snorkel at Smith's Reef, where you won't be able to call a taxi.

If you travel to North Caicos or Middle Caicos, you almost have to rent a car, because everything is so spread out. On the other islands, you can get by just walking or taking an occasional taxi.

To rent, you do need to have a valid U.S. license to drive, and you need to be 25 or older. As of October 1, 2013, you also need a temporary local driving permit, which costs $30 (good for 1 to 90 days). You can pay the fee at the car-rental office.

Gasoline

Gasoline is much more expensive than in the United States. Expect to pay about $2 to $3 more a gallon. There are numerous gas stations around Provo, but most accept only cash. The Texaco on Leeward Highway at the roundabout to Seven Stars is the only one that takes credit cards.

Parking

Parking in the Turks and Caicos is easy and free, and there are paved public accesses to all the beaches on Provo. Grace Bay has numerous public parking lots up and down its 12 miles (18 km). And all the resorts and restaurants offer free parking; even those that are gated have general public areas to park. North and Middle Caicos also have parking areas at all the restaurants and places to stay. You probably won't have a car on any of the other islands, but all the hotels have some free parking spots.

Rental Cars

Avis and Budget have offices on the islands. You might also try local Provo agencies such as Grace Bay Car Rentals, Rent a Buggy, Tropical Auto Rentals, and Caicos Wheels—the latter rents scooters, colorful ATVs, cars, and even cell phones (some companies include a pay-as-you-go cell phone with a car rental).

On Provo, small cars start at around $39 per day, and a small high-clearance vehicle averages about $69 to $85 a day. All rental agencies in the Turks and Caicos will drop off a car for you at either the airport or your hotel. Upon return, you can always leave it at the airport. All the companies are fairly competitive and offer similar rates. All the companies offer cars with the steering wheel on the left (as in the United States) except for Grace Bay Car Rentals, which carries right-drive cars (as in the United Kingdom). Avis, Bayside, Budget, and Thrifty operate on Provo out of the airport; other local companies with off-airport locations include Caicos Wheels (which also rents dune buggies and scooters), Grace Bay Car Rentals, KK and T's Auto Rentals, Paradise Scooter and Auto (which also rents scooters and bicycles and runs Vespa tours), Rent a Buggy, Scooter Bob's (which also rents scooters).

Tony's Car Rental is the only car-rental company on Grand Turk. You can rent a car from Tony and explore on your own, or you can hire him to give you a guided tour. He will meet you at the airport and can also rent out snorkeling gear, scooters, jeeps, and Jet Skis. Alternatively, for $80 per day you can rent a golf cart from Nathan's Golf Cart Rental (you may be able to negotiate a lower rate if you’re on the island for longer because much of Nathan's business is with cruise passengers). The island is small enough that it's more fun to get around by golf cart. The office is right outside the cruise ship port gates; on days no ship is in call before reaching Grand Turk. Nathan will meet you at the airport.

Al's Rent-a-Car and Pelican Car Rentals are on North Caicos.

Contacts on Providenciales

Avis (Airport, Providenciales. 649/946–4705, 649/941-7557, or 649/946-8570. www.avis.tc.)

Bayside Car Rentals. $15 airport charge Airport, Providenciales. 649/941–9010. baysidecarrentals.com.

Budget (Airport, Providenciales. 649/946–4079. www.budget.com.)

Caicos Wheels (Grace Bay Court, Grace Bay Rd., Grace Bay, Providenciales. 649/242–6592 or 649/946-8302. www.CaicosWheels.com.)

Grace Bay Car Rentals (Grace Bay Plaza, Grace Bay Rd., Grace Bay, Providenciales. 649/941–8500. www.gracebaycarrentals.com.)

KK and T's Auto Rentals Ltd. (Long Bay Rd., Long Bay, Providenciales. 649/941–8377. www.kkntsautorentals.com.)

Paradise Scooter and Auto (Grace Bay Plaza, Grace Bay Rd., Grace Bay, Providenciales. 649/333–3333. www.paradisescooters.tc.)

Rent a Buggy (1081 Leeward Hwy., Leeward, Providenciales. 649/946–4158 or 649/231-6161. www.rentabuggy.tc. Jeep rentals.)

Scooter Bob's (Turtle Cove, Providenciales. 649/946–4684. www.scooterbobstci.com.)

Thrifty (649/946–4475. www.thriftytci.com.)

Tropical Auto Rentals (Tropicana Plaza, Leeward Hwy., Leeward, Providenciales. 649/946–5300. www.tropicalautorentaltci.com.)

Contacts on Grand Turk

Nathan's Golf Cart Rental (Outside the gates, Grand Turk Cruise Terminal, Grand Turk. 649/946–1896.)

Contacts on North Caicos

Al's Rent-A-Car (Dock, North Caicos. 649/331–1947.)

Pelican Car Rentals (North Caicos. 649/241–8275.)

Rental Car Insurance

Everyone who rents a car wonders whether the insurance that the rental companies offer is worth the expense. No one—including us—has a simple answer. If you own a car, your personal auto insurance may cover a rental to some degree, though not all policies protect you abroad; always read your policy's fine print. If you don't have auto insurance, then seriously consider buying the collision- or loss-damage waiver (CDW or LDW) from the car-rental company, which eliminates your liability for damage to the car. Some credit cards offer CDW coverage, but it's usually supplemental to your own insurance and rarely covers SUVs, minivans, luxury models, and the like. If your coverage is secondary, you may still be liable for loss-of-use costs from the car-rental company. But no credit-card insurance is valid unless you use that card for all transactions, from reserving to paying the final bill. All companies exclude car rental in some countries, so be sure to find out about the destination to which you are traveling. It's sometimes cheaper to buy insurance as part of your general travel insurance policy.

Roadside Emergencies

If you find yourself stranded, chances are you'll be close to somewhere where you can ask for help, or someone sooner or later will go by that has a cell phone. Most rental companies have after-hours cell phones, and will either show up to help or bring you a new car. Keep emergency numbers (car-rental agency and your accommodation) with you, just in case. Picking up hitchhikers is not recommended.

Road Conditions

Most of Leeward Highway is a smooth, four-lane divided highway complete with roundabouts. However, the paved two-lane roads through the settlements on Providenciales can be quite rough, although signage is improving. A high-clearance vehicle is recommended if you want to head to Malcolm's Beach or if you’re staying in the Turtle Tail area, those two areas have roads of rolled pack sand and have been known to have many potholes. The less-traveled roads in Grand Turk and the family islands are, in general, smooth and paved.

Rules of the Road

Driving here is on the left side of the road, British style; when pulling out into traffic; remember to look to your right. Give way to anyone entering a roundabout, as roundabouts are still a relatively new concept in the Turks and Caicos; stop even if you are on what appears to be the primary road. And take them slowly; locals are quite used to seeing tourists and will keep their distance if they see you are struggling. The maximum speed is 40 mph (64 kph), 20 mph (30 kph) through settlements, and limits, as well as the use of seat belts, are enforced. Use extra caution at night, especially if you've had some drinks and don't remember to drive on the left. Although the police might not necessarily stop you, if you wreck you may have to be flown (expensively) to Miami. You will also be responsible for a new car. Don't be surprised if the car in front of you all of the sudden stops to say hello to someone, so always be on guard.

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