Bahamas Travel Guide
Bahamas is a country in the Caribbean consisting of 29 islands, cays and many islets. There are currently 330,000 people residing in the Bahamas. The Bahamas were the site of Columbus' first landfall in the New World in 1492.
During the 18th century, Bahamas became a haven for pirates, including the infamous Black Beard. It then became a plantation colony like many of the Caribbean islands. Today Bahamas' major population is Afro-Bahamian from African slavery descent. Rich in culture, history and heritage this beautiful island is a must see.
All of Bahamas' islands are low and flat. The highest point is Mount Alvernia (commonly known as Como Hill) which has an altitude of 63m (207ft). Bahamas climate is tropical to subtropical. The temperature ranges from 21-28C (70-82 F) annually. There is usually beautiful weather year round but hurricanes have been known to hit the islands during hurricane season which is in the summer and autumn.
Bahamas is one of the most prosperous regions in the Caribbean. It relies heavy on the tourist industry which employs half the country's workforce and is 60% of the country's economy.
Anthem: March On, Bahamaland
Royal Anthem: God Save The Queen
Time Zone: EST (UTC-5), Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Languages: English, Bahamian Creole
Power Outlets: 120 V, 60 Hz, along with 50 Hz in more remote areas
Currency: Bahamian dollar (BSD)
Credit Cards: All major credit cards accepted.
Traveler Checks: Traveler checks accepted.
Side of road to drive on: Left
Legal Drinking Age: 18
National Anthem: Hino Nacional Brasileiro
Time Zone GMT -2, GMT -3, GMT -4 (Year Round)
Power Outlets: North American Non-Grounded , North American Grounded, European 2-pin Electrical Adapter Plug and Electrical Outlet
Entry requirements differ depending on what country you are a resident and citizen of. Effective Oct. 1, 2007, U.S. citizens traveling by air to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda must present a passport or other WHTI-compliant documentation to enter or depart from the United States.
A current passport is required for Canadian citizens travelling through the United States on their way to The Bahamas.For persons 16 years of age and younger: A birth certificate is all that is required. If the traveller is a student and possesses a student ID, the traveller should also carry the student ID to facilitate being processed by Bahamas Immigration. A notarized parental letter of consent is required. In the case of organized group travel, a letter is not necessary. It is assumed that the chaperon has obtained prior permission.
To enter The Bahamas, citizens from countries other than the U.S. and Canada are required to present a valid passport which must be current up to your travel period and some countries are also required to have a Bahamas visa. If you are departing The Bahamas for a country that has the passport validity requirement of six (6) months beyond the dates of travel, then that requirement will be enforced. You must also have a return, or onward journey ticket, and proof of funds to support your visit.
HIV/AIDS restrictions: The Bahamian Ministry of Health has recommended that persons who are HIV-positive not be admitted to The Bahamas. However, Bahamian Immigration does not routinely require testing for persons arriving for less than 30 days. Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for other visitors to and foreign residents of The Bahamas. Please verify this information with the Embassy of The Bahamas before you travel.
All airports in The Islands of The Bahamas follow and meet strict international security standards. All passengers are subject to these regulations.Security Checkpoints: Departing passengers entering secure areas will be inspected, along with checked and carry-on bags. Restrictions on carry-on bags vary according to security alert level at time of travel, but it is generally advisable to pack everything in your checked bags except those items you must have for the flight, along with keys, jewellery & important documents. Be prepared to remove jackets, coats, belts and shoes, take laptop computer out of its case, place keys, cell phone and other electronic devices in inspection tray and remove resealable bag of lotions and medication for inspection. If you wish to lock your bags, you may do so after clearing all inspection points.These include guns, knives, explosives, lighters, compressed gas cylinders, flammable liquids such as paint thinner, turpentine or chlorine and other potentially dangerous household goods, including spray paint that could explode under pressure. Restricted items are subject to change.
Upon arriving in The Islands of the Bahamas, everyone must fill out and sign an immigration form, keeping a portion of the card in hand until departing. An oral baggage declaration is required. Each adult visitor is allowed to bring 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes or one pound of tobacco, one quart of spirits and a variety of personal effects (personal radio headsets, bicycle, two still cameras, etc.). All beer imported into the country is dutiable at a rate of $10 per imperial gallon or $18 per case. Purchases up to a value of $100 are permitted by all arriving passengers.
Departures to the U.S. must go through U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance. U.S. visitors may take home $800 worth of duty-free merchandise. The next $1,000 is taxed at 10%. Gifts valued up to $50 may be mailed home duty-free. One liter of wine, liqueur or liquor and five cartons of cigarettes may be taken duty-free.
If entering The Bahamas by boat, there is a flat fee to clear Customs and Immigration, which is $150.00 for boats 35 feet and under and $300.00 for boats 36 feet and over. This covers a vessel with four persons or less. Also included is a cruising permit, a fishing permit, Customs and Immigration charges and the $15.00 Departure Tax for up to four persons. Each additional person above four will be charged $15.00 Departure Tax. If you plan to stay longer than 12 months, special arrangement must be made with Bahamas Customs and Immigration.
SALES TAX AND FEES
There is no sales tax in The Bahamas. However, there are several taxes that
visitors must be aware of;
- A government tax and resort levy of 8% on hotel room rates is added to your bill upon check-out.
-$7 Ticket Tax is payable on the price of each airline or cruise ticket bought in The Bahamas & is included in the price of the ticket.
-Each person leaving The Bahamas must pay a $15.00 departure tax. Children
under 6 years old are exempted.
-An additional security fee of $3 is also payable by the International passengers departing Freeport.
The emergency number in the Bahamas is 919 or 911.
Good medical facilities exist in The Bahamas. Every hotel has a doctor on call for guests. Most medical doctors are trained in the USA, Canada, Great Britain or The University of The West Indies.
Bringing in prescriptions:
If you are required to take medication, you may carry only the amount you need for the flight in your carry-on bag. It should be in original packaging, along with the prescription.
Most visitors to The Bahamas do not need special vaccinations before entering the country. However, travelers over age one must provide a YELLOW FEVER VACCINATION CERTIFICATE, if they are coming from infected areas.
Accused of a crime in the Bahamas:
Persons violating Bahamian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Victims of Crime:
If you are the victim of a crime in the Bahamas you should contact the local police and your embassy and or consulate for help. This includes the loss or theft of a passport. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds may be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local Bahamian authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
Travelling to Bahamas with a criminal record:
Persons with criminal records or persons, who are on parole, should write to the Director of Immigration at the following address before booking any travel to the Bahamas:
Director of Immigration
P.O. Box N - 831
Nassau the Bahamas
Tel: 001 242 322 7530
Fax: 001 242 326 0977
The letter should include the following information:
-Date of entry and exit to and from the Bahamas
-Anticipated length of visit
-Details of accommodation (private address or hotel / villa)
-Details of conviction - i.e. sentence, time served and current status
-Documentary proof of termination of sentence or pardon
If the intended traveler is on parole, the parole Officer should provide a letter on letterhead stating that there is no objection to letting the intended traveler leave the jurisdiction of parole; the letter should also include the full name, date of birth and place of birth, the nationality, passport number and place of passport issuance. The Bahamas Immigration Department would respond to the initial letter sent directly from the Parole Officer.
You must be 25 or older with a valid drivers license, to rent a car in the Bahamas.
There are many taxis in the Bahamas and many of these are licensed, however beware of drivers who do not display their license directly in their vehicle as you will have to negotiate the price before you enter the car. Taxi fares are fixed by the government
There are many local buses that service the major cities and will pick you up even when not waiting directly at the bus stop. The cost is $1 for adults and $0.50 for children. Be advised that Bahamian bus lines are not known for their promptness, and estimates on how frequently the buses in the Bahamas run can range from 10 to 30 minutes.
Drivers License Info:
You can drive in the Bahamas with an international drivers license. Some other countries licenses are acceptable but vary so it is best to have an international license.
Motto: Forward, Upward, Onward, Together
Wardrobe: Bahamians have a relaxed fashion sense however for church, restaurants and other venues it is formal wear.
Smoking: All outdoor restaurants & indoor bars or lounges permit smoking; however, smoking is prohibited in all indoor restaurants.
Etiquette: Bahamians are known to be hospitable and very polite. The most common greeting is the handshake. The way to form a relationship is to ask someone to come into your home and share a meal. Most Bahamians are devout Christians and take their religion very seriously.
Tipping: The usual tip is 15%; however, many resorts and hotels automatically add a service charge to cover gratuities.
Garden of the Groves
This tropical garden has over 10,000 different species of plants, flowers, and trees. It is located on Grand Bahama Island, and is known to have a little something for everyone, from a cedar playset for the children to a spiritual Labyrinth for those seeking to meditate.
Lucayan National Park
Home to the Lucayan Caverns; one of the longest underwater cave systems in the world; the Lucayan National Park is also filled with trails and boardwalks displaying Grand Bahamas Island most impressive landscapes.
Fort Charlotte is the largest and most interesting of the three forts found in Nassau. Built in 1789 by Lord Dunmore and named in honor of the wife of King George III. It includes a water-less moat, draw-bridge, ramparts and dungeons.
One of Nassau's most popular attractions; the 65 steps were carved out of solid limestone by slaves from 1793-1794. It was named in honor of Queen Victoria.
TRAVEL AND SAFETY TIPS
-Always walk like you know where you are going, even if you don't. This means keep your back upright and eyes straight ahead. When asking for directions keep your voice low so others don't know you are lost.-Take precautions. Do not wear a lot of jewelry or conspicuous clothing while travelling to avoid being a target of crime.
-Be cautious when taking a taxi and always look for the appropriate documentation which should be posted in eyes view. Never take a cab from the airport that is off by itself.
-If your hotel or resort recommends staying on their property you should follow these precautions.
-Never leave valuables in a soft material. The seam can easily be cut. Often the crime takes place long before it is noticed. This applies to purses, bags and luggage.
-Do not invite strangers to your hotel room.
-Do not agree to meet strangers by yourself. Even those you consider new friends and fellow tourist's.
-Plan for the unexpected, this includes extra money and medication that is required should your stay be extended.
Health book/record of immunizations
Photocopy of all travel documents. (Do not keep this in the same place as your passport, visa, etc)
Fax, telex or letter stating that your visa will be available upon arrival for countries who do not issue visas outside their country. (I.e. UAE, Oman, etc.).
Major international credit cards (i.e. American Express, Diners, and VISA/MasterCard)
Airline frequent travel cards
Telephone numbers at destinations
Commercial invoice for laptop computers, etc. - check with the destination office on this.
Roof of travel/medical/car insurance
Prescription medicines in clearly labeled containers
Small first aid kit
Card listing allergies and medical conditions