I Just Traveled to the Caribbean. Here’s How They Kept Me Safe From Coronavirus
These beautiful beaches felt like an escape from the despair of this global pandemic. And I also felt safe.
I recently spent a week in Turks and Caicos, my first time out of the country since the pandemic hit. Like many Caribbean countries, Turks and Caicos rely almost entirely on tourism to power their economy, so they’re desperate for travelers to return. I’m happy to report that these beautiful beaches felt like an escape from the despair of this global pandemic, and here’s how they are keeping travelers safe.
You Need a Negative COVID Test to Enter the Country
Visitors to Turks and Caicos will need to apply for travel pre-authorization, which requires uploading a copy of a negative COVID-19 PCR test from within five days of guests’ scheduled arrival. With many testing facilities across the United States reporting delays, waiting to see if you’ll get your result back in time for your flight can be a stressful new travel challenge. Resorts and airlines have all reported being flexible to accommodate last-minute changes, but if you’re worried, consider waiting for the result, then booking a flight and hotel immediately after. There will almost certainly be availability.
Airport Arrival Sets the Tone
It’s clear that Turks and Caicos is taking sanitation seriously as soon as you step off the plane. Instead of a welcome drink, you’re given a mandatory spritz of hand sanitizer as you exit the plane, then your temperature is taken before you head to customs. Guests are asked to remain six feet apart while in line and the customs officers are wiping down surfaces in between guests.
Occupancies Are Low
Resorts are reporting low occupancies right now, with most hovering around a quarter full. The low density makes social distancing easy and prices are more affordable than usual. American tourism dollars are so important right now, considering that Turks and Caicos locked down in the middle of high season. Summer and autumn are typically low seasons in Turks and Caicos, but with 350 days of sunshine a year, there’s really not a bad time to visit.
“Without American tourists, we are doomed,” says Mike Parrish, the founder of eco-tour operator Big Blue Collective. Many resorts are offering enticing packages to encourage visitors to return now too, including suite upgrades, free nights with minimum stays, and dining credits.
There Are Many Private Villas Available for Ultimate Privacy
There are a plethora of private villas scattered throughout Providenciales for guests looking to maximize privacy. These larger, multi-unit homes are great for groups or multi-generation families planning a beachfront reunion. For example, The Shore Club has six private villas, each with six bedrooms adjacent to their main resort so guests can enjoy seclusion but also have full access to resort amenities, including dining and spa. Grace Bay Resorts also has a Private Villa Collection and Wymara Resort, though it may not open until October 15, has seven four- and five-bedroom villas on the Turtle Tail peninsula that are the most secluded options of them all.
PPE Kits and Plenty of Hand Sanitizer
At family-friendly West Bay Club, PPE kits are waiting for guests in their rooms, including individually packaged masks and small bottles of hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer is readily available everywhere you go, becoming as commonplace as sunscreen and bug spray at resorts. Wymara Villas have installed hand sanitizer stations outside each villa gate as well, a gentle reminder to sanitize often.
They Take Masking Seriously
Based on my observations, everyone was diligently following rules, with both staff and guests wearing masks whenever indoors. “I’ve never seen us so disciplined about anything before,” says Adelphine Pitter, the general manager of West Bay Club. Many of the resorts, like West Bay Club, have designed fashionable masks to match their brand. With livelihoods on the line, everyone is willing to do their part–even in hot and humid weather–to keep one another safe.
Outdoor Adventures Are Great for Social Distancing
Luckily, most of the time you’re in Turks and Caicos you’ll be outdoors. You don’t need to wear a mask when you’re kitesurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, or lounging on the beach. Operators like Big Blue Collective are taking care to give any equipment, like kayaks and paddles, a comprehensive scrub down between guests so you can have peace of mind and focus on enjoying your vacation.
While indoor dining continues to be a concern in the United States, it seems like nearly all the restaurants in Turks and Caicos have ample outdoor seating. Everyone would prefer to dine with ocean views outside anyway. Enjoy the freshest local seafood with your toes in the sand at Froggies on the Beach and Da Conch Shack. The intimate garden at Seven is a romantic setting for superb fine-dining, blending local flavors with French technique. This meal is of course accompanied by the best wine cellar in the country, including coveted bottles from Champagne and Burgundy.
Spas Are Open and Safe
Resort spas have reopened, with therapists wearing masks and face shields while working with guests. At Point Grace spa, cabanas face the ocean, with an open wall to allow for a gentle breeze to circulate, helping with airflow. I felt very safe having my first facial in months–a brightening facial by Tata Harper–at Dune Spa at The Shore Club. During a pedicure, I wore my mask the whole time as well to protect the spa therapist. Of course, if you’re staying in a private villa you can have the therapist come to your villa and have your massage outside.
They’ll Do the Right Thing, Even if it Means Closing
COMO Parrot Cay abruptly closed just days before I was due to check-in, closing immediately following the first positive cases of COVID-19 on the neighboring island of North Caicos. They did the right thing by closing to protect both guests and their employees (who live in close quarters) even though it meant lost revenue. Hopefully, this doesn’t happen to you, but with generally low occupancies across Turks and Caicos right now, if it does, you’ll have no problem finding another place to stay.
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