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There are 700+ islands in the Bahamas, but only 30 of them are inhabited.
The Bahamas does follow Daylight Savings Time. Their time zone is similar to Eastern Standard Time, but it is called Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). The Bahamas is 3 hours ahead of Los Angeles and the same time as New York.
U.S. citizens are required to have a valid passport when traveling to the Bahamas, along with proof of departure date.
US permanent residents (non-citizens) planning on a visit not exceeding 30 days are required to have a Green Card, as well as a national passport (from country of birth).
Tourism does not require a Visa up to 90 days.
The national airline for the Bahamas is Bahamasair. It serves 19 different airports on 12 Bahamian Islands, which include many of the Out Islands.
U.S. based airlines, such as American Airlines (www.aa.com) offers service from Miami International Airport to the Albacos, the Exumas, and Eleuthera.
US Airways (www.usairways.com) makes a nonstop flight from Fort Lauderdale to Eleuthera every day and from West Palm Beach to the Albacos, with stops.
Taxis and Jitneys (local buses) are your best bet for getting around. Jitneys are cost-effective and are around $1.25 to 3.50 on one-way trips (exact change only). On the flip side, for travelers with an itinerary the jitney stops can get pretty chaotic. You are allowed to call out “stop” if you wish to exit the jitney, the driver will let you out. Jitneys are not available on the Out Islands.
For those who wish to rent a car to drive themselves around, remember that they drive on the left side of the road in the Bahamas. Gas and tires, however, can run up quite a bill for visitors because of some of the older and less traveled roads along the islands.
Mail boats or water taxis assist in short services between Nassau and Paradise Island but are more common in the Out Islands.
- All air terminals have taxi service generally in those that have “port of entry” status.
- Taxis can also be hailed in most marinas.
- For taxis, make sure you agree on a price before the ride (cash only, no credit cards.) Out Island taxis are not usually metered. It is best to ask your hotel to call for a taxi on the Out Islands.
- The cars are very old, so expect some turbulence along the rough roads.
- Unfortunately, the criminal threat level is high in New Providence Island, which includes Nassau and Paradise Island. The majority of crime is centered in Nassau and Grand Bahama (aka Freeport) Islands.
- Crimes such as burglaries, sexual assaults, purse snatching, fraud, theft and armed robberies do occur, however, not generally in the tourist areas.
- Exercise caution on the south side of Shirley Street, or “Over The Hill,” also at Arawak Cay’s Fish Fry.
- Crimes can be reported to the local police at 919 or 911. US citizens who are sexual assaulted are encouraged to call the US Embassy at +(242) 322-1181.
- Criminal activity in the Family Islands (aka the Out Islands) occurs lesser than others. These islands include: The Berry Islands, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, The Exumas, Harbour Island, Long Island, and San Salvador.
- GENERAL TRAVEL TIPS: Restaurants, casinos, and churches do call for more modesty, so beachwear is not always acceptable in tourist heavy areas. In more remote and relaxed areas, there is more flexibility with attire.
- For Women Travelers: Remember to pack accordingly, be aware of your surroundings, and set clear boundaries.
Some parts of May begin the region’s rainy season. Hurricane season runs from June through November, but hurricanes can happen outside that period of time.
The best times to visit are from mid-December to mid-April, rarely dipping below 60 degrees! Evenings do get cooler from December through February, so packing a light sweater or jacket might be ideal.
English is the most commonly used language in the Bahamas. There is a Bahamian Creole that is spoken as well. Some Phrases:
- “Conchy Joe” refers to a white native or white resident. Mostly used in bars or restuarants.
- “Bey” is used to describe a male, female or person.
- “Leg short” is used when a person or thing arrives late. Could come in handy with those on a schedule.
- “Low fence” is given to someone who is easily taken advantage of.
- “Jam up” is a term that means “full” or “crowded.”
- Most Bahamians are very kind and hospitable. A common greeting is a handshake followed by a warm smile and direct eye contact.
- Bahamians take their time before moving to a first name basis.
- It shows good manners to wait for the woman to offer her hand first.
- Being humorous is part of their communication style, so relax and have an easy smile.
- Avoiding eye contact is suspicious behavior!
- The Bahamian dollar is of equivalent value as the US dollar.
- The US dollar can be used interchangeably on all of the islands, but your change will most likely be in Bahamian dollars.
- Currency exchange desks are available.
- All tips must be in cash!
- Restaurants automatically add 15% gratuity to the final bill. If there happens to be a service charge, tipping is not necessary. At your discretion, you are allowed to tip more for exceptional service.
- Bars: It is standard to leave a 10% to 15% tip to the bartenders or a $1 or 2 per drink.
- Hotels: It is customary to tip bell hops $1 per bag and maids $2 per day.
- Taxi drivers: Commonly tipped 15% or round up to the next dollar for shorter trips.
- Tour guides: It is not required to tip, but it is advised to tip 5-10%.
- Any other services, ex: spa days, it is customary to tip 10%.
The standard voltage in the Bahamas is 120 V, which is the same in the US. The frequency is 60 Hz. Therefore, you don’t necessarily need a voltage converter if the appliance says “INPUT:100-240V, 50/60 Hz.” In fact, the appliance can be used in all countries.
- The Bahamas actually has good water quality, however, for safety it’d be a better option stick to bottled water.
- When taking bottled water, make sure you receive the cap tightly closed.
- Always check the expiration date of the bottle because in a hot climate, it can alter the taste.
- Do not consume the ice or put ice in your drinks unless you know its origin.
There are cafés, restaurants, hotels and businesses that offer Wi-Fi for a fee or completely free. There are Wi-Fi hotspots just about everywhere, much like the U.S.
- LGBTQ+ couples and singles should travel with discretion. Although the Bahamas is becoming increasing “gay-friendly,” full protection is not an official law there.
- The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA) (telephone: 800/GAYTRAVEL; iglta.org) offers a directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses when you go on the link above. There is an option to become a member.
The Bahamas is an eco-friendly destination. It is one of the best in the Western Hemisphere. One of their governments priorities is to conserve the wetlands. The fishing industry generates millions in exports, making it the third largest in the Bahamas.
ECO TOURS AND ADVENTURES:
- Glass Bottom Kayaks in Nassau and Paradise Island
- Segway Nature Tours in Nassau
- Snorkeling with Stingrays
- Lucayana National Park and Cave Tour
- Some hotels that have adopted the ecotourism philosophy are Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros Island and Tiamo, which includes solar power and composting toilets.
FOR THE PLANNERS:
Most travelers stay in Nassau, the largest city on the island of New Providence, or on Paradise Island.
The Lucayans, an Arawakan speaking Taino people, were the first known inhabitants of The Bahamas. They traveled from other parts of the Caribbean.
Christopher Columbus made the first landing in the Western Hemisphere in the Bahamas. He landed on the island of Guanahani, which Columbus renamed San Salvador Island.
The Eleutheran Adventurers, English and Bermudan religious refugees, created the first European settlement.
New Providence begins to be colonized.
Bahamas became a British crown colony.
In an agreement with the Treaty of Paris, Spain gives up The Bahamas to Britain after briefly acquiring the islands the previous year.
The slaves were emancipated.
The Duke of Windsor serves as governor.
The town of Freeport established a free trade area that presented tourist stimulation and off-shore banking attraction.
The Bahamas becomes independent.
Concern over the use of the death penalty arises in the Caribbean. Despite international opposition, two convicted murderers were hanged.
Dame Ivy Dumont is elected, making her the first woman governor-general.
24 refugees were sent home to Cuba by The Bahamas.
August – The Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama suffer widespread damage and loss of life due to Hurricane Dorian.