The Bahamas delivers a steady stream of sun-filled days and glittering nights. When you want to get into non-stop action – or get away from it all – The Bahamas has an island for you!
Beyond the sands are the sophisticated pleasures of New Providence (home of Nassau, the capital, and popular Cable Beach), Paradise Island, and Grand Bahama, where glitz, gambling, top cuisine, great golfing, nightclubs, and world-class spas are found.
Nassau is the seat of Bahamian culture, history, and shopping. Packed with colonial charm, it offers the closest thing to an urban experience and is an ideal base for day trips to nearby Paradise Island and many of the quieter Out Islands. Neighboring Cable Beach is a glittering strip of hotels, restaurants, and casinos.
Paradise Island’s many resorts mark it as an adult playground, albeit one where Bobby Flay, Nobu Matsuhisa, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten rule the culinary roost. Their home is The Atlantis, certainly the most over-the-top resort in The Bahamas (and one you must see to believe).
Grand Bahama’s Freeport and Lucaya resort areas are ideal for families, with broad beaches, challenging golf courses, out-of-this-world scuba diving spots, and plenty of water sports excitement.
There are fewer crowds on the sultry Out Islands, such as Abaco, Harbour Island, and Long Island, partly because of their lack of accessibility. Many are reached only via boat, but these are really theplaces to get away from it all.
When people say “It’s better in The Bahamas,” they know what they’re talking about!
Where is Bahamas?
Bahamas is a country consisting of 700 islands to the east of Florida, north of Cuba.
The Bahamas plays host to adventure seekers and tourists looking to escape into the beauty of the Caribbean. All powdery sand and endless beaches – and barely rising above sea level – the islands of The Bahamas are a popular, affordable, and easily reached retreat.
History of Bahamas
In fact, in 1670, King Charles II of England granted The Islands of The Bahamas to six British noblemen called the Proprietors. These men brought British settlers from Bermuda to the island of New Providence where they built a fort and a city, which they called Charlestown, in honour of the king. Several years later, the city was renamed Nassau, to honour William, Prince of Orange-Nassau, the successor to the throne of England.
Although some of the religious farmers from Eleuthera lived in Nassau, most of its population were pirates, privateers or wreckers, only too willing to lure ships aground on the reefs and plunder their precious cargoes. In an attempt to stop the plundering, the Spanish and French fleets attacked and destroyed Nassau periodically over the following years. However, the lawless citizens would always return and rebuild the port city.
In 1718, Great Britain declared The Islands of The Bahamas a Crown colony and named former privateer Woodes Rogers as its first Royal Governor. Rogers flushed out the pirates from Nassau, restored law and order and built Fort Nassau.
After accomplishing his mission, Rogers left the islands, but returned in 1729 at the request of the Bahamians. He opened the first House of Assembly in The Bahamas and presided over the colony until his death. The assembly adopted Rogers’ official motto, ‘Expulsis Piratis, Restituta Commercia’ which translated means ‘Pirates Expelled, Commerce Restored’.
During the Revolutionary War, British Loyalists fleeing America in the 1770s settled in Nassau. They added to the town’s architecture, population and prosperity. During the American Civil War and Prohibition, Nassau grew and prospered as it was ideally situated for shipping blockaded goods to the United States.
Bahamas Visa Requirements
A valid passport is required by all visitors to the Bahamas but citizens from many countries do not need a visa to visit for stays of up to 3 months. This includes Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Ireland. Citizens of the US and UK can stay for up to 8 months without a visa. Canadian citizens are also permitted entry for a short visit (not exceeding 3 weeks) if in possession of a Canadian photo drivers license and birth certificate.
You may be required to show immigration officials that you have return or onward tickets and adequate means of support and accommodation upon entering the Bahamas.
Upon arriving in the Bahamas, travellers are required to complete and sign an immigration form. A portion of the card must be retained and submitted upon departure. An oral baggage declaration is also required.
Departures to the US must go through US Customs pre-clearance.
If travelling from countries infected with yellow fever then a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required.
A departure tax of US$15 applies for all travellers over five years old.
As entry requirements may change from time to time it is strongly advised that you check with the department of foreign affairs or your local consulate or embassy for the current requirements.
Bahamas Travel Health
Although mostly free from endemic diseases, malaria is a slight risk in the Bahamas, and visitors to the Out Islands should protect themselves from mosquitos. It is also reommended that visitors over two years old be immunised for Hepatitus A. For those arriving from areas effected by Yellow Fever, a vaccination will be required for entry.
There are good medical facilities available in Freeport and Nassau, but treatment can be expensive and payment in advance will be required. Consequently, travel insurance is highly recommended.
Although the Bahamas is very safe for tourists, basic precautions should be taken, particularly in the major cities after dark. For instance, expensive jewellery should be left at home and carrying large sums of cash should be avoided.
If considering watersports, travellers are advised to seek reputable operators and receive adequate training and supervision.
Hurricaine season runs from June through November, and the Bahamas has been subject to damage in recent decades.
The phone number for emergency services throughout the Bahamas is 911.
What is Bahamas Local Currency?
The unit of currency in the Bahamas is the Bahamian Dollar ($B), which is equal in value to the US dollar. This equivalency is a result of the Bahamian dollar being anchored to the US dollar on a one-to-one basis. Travellers will find that US dollars are accepted throughout the islands.
Foreign currency exchanges and ATMs are available in airports, tourist centers, and resorts, and credit cards, debit cards, and travelers checks are widely accepted.
Shoppers will happy to find there is no sales tax in the Bahamas.
What is Bahamas’s Weather?
The climate of The Bahamas is maritime tropical, which means sunshine and warm temperatures year round.
The average during the winter peak season, roughly November through May, is 23º C (74º F).
In summer, the average is slightly higher, at 28º C (82º F). Temperatures in the southern islands may be higher than these averages, however.
The rainy season extends from June through October, which is also roughly hurricaine season, and hot and humid weather can be expected during this time of the year.
Culture of Bahamas
Culturally, the Bahamas has much in common with both the US and Great Britain, but there are also significant African influences as well. The political system is undeniably British while the popular culture of the Bahamas has become more Americanised since independence. The influence of African culture can be heard in the language and music of the Bahamas as well as tasted in the cuisine.
On Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, Junkanoo street parades are held in many Bahamian cities. The parades feature Junkanoo music (a unique blend of Latin, African, and pop music), colorful crepe paper costumes, and dance.
The predominate religion of the Bahamas is Christianity, and many mainstream demominations are represented including Baptists, Anglicans, and Methodists.
Formal attire is required in many restaurants and casinos and beach wear should be worn only on the beaches.
What Languages Are Spoken In Bahamas?
English is the official language of the Bahamas and English speakers should have little trouble communicating with the locals. With that said, however, it should be noted that the Bahamian English dialects can be challenging to comprehend initially. In addition to the local dialects, there are also a large number of Hatians on the islands who speak a Caribbean Creole that will be incomprehensible to most visitors.
Many US cell phone companies offer roaming services on Grand Bahama and Nassau islands but coverage is limited or non-existant outside these areas. A Bahamas Telecommunications Company SIM card can be purchased for use on the major islands and handsets can also be rented.
International calling cards are widely available and provide greatly discounted rates for visitors calling home while in the Bahamas. To dial out of the Bahamas, dial +011 +country code.
The international access code for the Bahamas is +1 242.
Many hotels have internet access and there are also internet cafes in the major tourist areas. It is advisable to inquire about internet access when booking your hotel, however, and a network cable may come in handy.
Bahama Post provides a full-featured international postal service.
Bahamas Transport Options
The majority of visitors to the Bahamas stay on the islands of Nassau and Grand Bahama where the bulk of the tourist infrastructure is located. International flights generally arrive at either Nassau or Freeport International Airports and shuttle buses service many of the major hotels and resorts.
There are 60 other smaller airports in the Bahamas that are used for island-hopping flights, and if you plan to visit the Out Islands (a.k.a. the Family Islands), tourists flights are frequent and affordable.
In Nassau and Freeport, there are numerous choices for getting around, including buses, taxis, and rental cars. Scooters and bicycle rentals are also available and offer an excellent way of accessing areas off the beaten track. On smaller islands, rental cars are hard to find, but taxis and mini-buses are common, and getting around is rarely difficult or cost prohibitive.
For those considering renting a car, a few things should be noted. First, rental cars are comparatively expensive and the cars on offer are generally not the latest models. Next, petrol is expensive and often difficult to find. And finally, as in most Commonwealth countries, the roads are left-hand drive.
Taxis are abundant and affordable but rates and currency should be agreed upon before hand since many are unmetered. Hourly rates for taxis range from $20 to $50 and for those travelling with children under five years old, a booster seat is highly recommended.
Bahamas Travel Tips
While traveling in the Bahamas, it is important to be polite. Bahamians traditionally greet one another and ask “How are you?” before getting to business. It is advisable that visitors do the same.
Bahamas Local Food
There are a wide range of foods unique to the Bahamas and exploring the different culinary styles of the islands can be an enjoyable and surprising endeavor. Caribbean-style restaurants are abundant and offer the best choice for sampling local foods.
There are also a wide range of international-style restaurants to choose from and these range from Chinese to American and from French to Indian.
Fresh seafood is abundant and grouper, lobster, and conch dishes are common, with conch being a national favorite.
Rum is the spirit of choice for mixed drinks in the Bahamas and Kalik is an American style lager beer brewed in country.
Bahamas Local Timezones
The Bahamas is in the GMT -5, which is also known as the Eastern Time Zone.
The Bahamas use an electrical voltage and outlet system that is fully compatable with US electrical equipment. (120 Volts/60 Hz.)
Bahamas Dutyfree Limits
Duty free shopping for luxury goods in the Bahamas can mean savings of up to 50% for travellers on certain items including watches, china, crystal, fragrances, and photographic and leather goods.
Up to 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars can brought into the country without duty by travellers over 18 years old, and firearms, ammunition and drugs are prohibited.