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The Bahamas travel guide - Travel S helper

The Bahamas

travel guide

The Bahamas, formally the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, is an archipelago state in the Atlantic Ocean, north of Cuba and Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic); northwest of the Turks and Caicos Islands; southeast of the US state of Florida; and east of the Florida Keys. Nassau, on the island of New Providence, serves as its capital. The term “The Bahamas” may apply to either the country itself or to the broader island chain it shares with the Turks and Caicos Islands. According to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force’s mandate/manifesto, the Bahamas territory includes 470,000 km2 (180,000 sq mi) of maritime area.

In 1492, Columbus made his first landing in the New World in the Bahamas. Lucayan, a branch of the Arawakan-speaking Taino people, occupied the islands at the time. Although the Spanish never colonized the Bahamas, they transported the indigenous Lucayans to Hispaniola as slaves. From 1513 until 1648, the islands were largely abandoned until English colonists from Bermuda arrived on the island of Eleuthera.

In 1718, when the British cracked down on piracy, the Bahamas became a British Crown province. The Crown relocated hundreds of American Loyalists in the Bahamas after the American War of Independence; they brought their slaves and built plantations on land concessions. Africans made up the vast bulk of the population throughout this time period. The Bahamas became a haven for freed African slaves for several reasons: the Royal Navy resettled Africans liberated from illegal slave ships here; American slaves and Seminoles escaped from Florida here; and the government freed American slaves transported on United States domestic ships that arrived in the Bahamas due to bad weather. Slavery was abolished in the Bahamas in 1834. Today, descendants of slaves and free Africans make up almost 90% of the population; slavery-related problems pervade society.

In 1973, the Bahamas became an independent Commonwealth country, with Queen Elizabeth II serving as queen. The Bahamas is one of the wealthiest nations in the Americas in terms of gross domestic product per capita (behind the United States and Canada), with an economy centered on tourism and finance.

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Bahamas - Info Card

Population

400,516

Currency

Bahamian dollar (BSD), United States dollar (USD)

Time zone

UTC−5 (EST)

Area

13,878 km2 (5,358 sq mi)

Calling code

+1 242

Official language

English

Bahamas | Introduction

Geography Of Bahamas

It is situated between the Latitudes 20° and 28° N and the Longitudes 72° and 80° W.

The Governor of the Bahamas announced in 1864 that the Colony comprised 29 islands, 661 creeks as well as 2,387 rocks.

Bimini, known as the gateway to the Bahamas, is the closest island to the USA. The island of Abaco is located east of Grand Bahama. The southeastern island is Inagua. The largest island is Andros Island. Other inhabited islands are Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island, San Salvador Island, Acklins, Crooked Island, Exuma, Berry Islands and Mayaguana.

All islands are low and flat, with ridges that generally do not exceed 15 to 20 m (49 to 66 ft). The highest point of the country is Mount Alvernia (formerly Como Hill) on Cat Island. It has a height of 63 metres (207 ft).

Geology

The archipelago of the Bahamas are actually the tops of banks formed some 90,000 to 120 years ago by the formation of coral reefs. The well-known pink sand beaches of the Bahamas get their bright appearance from the broken shell pieces combined with the sand. The highest point in the Bahamas is Mount Alvernia on Cat Island, which is 63 metres (over 200 feet) high.

Wildlife

The wildlife in the Bahamas includes several species. Many different species of crabs can be found on the beaches. Hermit crabs and Cardisoma guanhumi are two of the land crabs commonly seen on the island. Abaco’s wild horses on the Bahamas have become famous.

During a Bahamas tour, visitors to the island may encounter various other species, such as the Bahamas hutia, numerous frogs, rock raccoons, snails such as cerion, cicadas, blind cave fish, ants and reptiles.

The wildlife of the Bahamas offers a wide range of amazing birds. In the Bahamas, parrots and pigeons are among the most common and most popular birds that you can find.

In the Bahamas, you will also find a variety of marine life. There are sharks, dolphins, anglerfish, starfish and turtles which can be seen in the waters around the Bahamas. Apart from numerous species of fish, tourists can also discover various types of worms.

Demographics Of Bahamas

The Bahamas has an estimated population of 392,718, of which 25.9% are under the age of 14, 67.2% are between the ages of 15 and 64, and 6.9% are over the age of 65. They have a population growth rate of 0.925% (2010), with a birth rate of 17.81/1,000 inhabitants, a death rate of 9.35/1,000 and a net migration rate of -2.13 migrants/1,000 inhabitants. They have a life expectancy of 69.87 years, 73.49 for women and 66.32 for men. The total fertility rate is 2.0 children/woman.

The most populated islands at the moment is New Providence, where is located Nassau, its capital and largest city, as well as Grand Bahama, where is located the second largest city, Freeport.

Racial and ethnic groups

According to the 99% response rate from the race question in the 2010 census questionnaire, 91% of the population reported being African or Afro-Bahamian, 5% European or Euro-Bahamian, and 2% mixed race (African and African) European). In 1722, 3 centuries earlier, at the time of the first official census of the Bahamas, there were 74% whites and 26% blacks in the population.

Afro-Bahamians are Bahamian nationals whose primary ancestry was in West Africa. While the first Africans to arrive in the Bahamas were liberated slaves of Bermuda. They arrived with the Eleutheran Adventurers looking for an opportunity to make a new life.

Africans or Afro-Bahamians are the largest ethnic group in the Bahamas since the plantation colonial era. in the 21st century, they make up about 91% of the country’s population. The Haitian population is also predominantly of African descent, with a population of approximately 80,000 people. Due to an extremely high immigration of Haitians to the Bahamas, the Bahamian government began deporting illegal Haitian immigrants to their homeland in late 2014.

There are 16,598 (5%) descendants of Europeans or European Bahamians. European Bahamians or Bahamians of European and mixed European descent are the largest minority and are mainly descendants of English Puritans fleeing religious persecution in England and American Loyalists escaping the American Revolution, which arrived in 1649 and 1783, respectively. Many Southern Loyalists went to the Abaco Islands, half of whom were of European descent as of 1985. A small portion of the Euro-Bahamian population is descended from Greek workers who helped develop the sponge industry in the 1900s. They make up less than 1% of the country’s population, but have retained their distinct Greek-Bahamian culture.

Entry Requirements For Bahamas

Visa & Passport for Bahamas

Foreign nationals from the following countries/territories do not require visa to visit The Bahamas: American Samoa, Andorra, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Azores, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey. Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Finland, France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, Gambia, Galapagos Islands, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guam, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hong Kong SAR (Hong Kong SAR Passport or IC), Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montserrat, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, South Korea, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norfolk Islands, Norway, Northern Mariana Islands, Oman, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Pitcairn, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion, Romania, Russia, St. Barthelemy, St Helena, St Kitts and Nevis. Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Martin, St Pierre and Miquelon, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tahiti, Tanzania, Tokelau, Trinidad and Tobago. Tobago, Tonga, Turkey, Turks & Caicos, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Venezuela, Virgin Islands (United States and United Kingdom), Western Samoa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Visitors do not have to fill in the customs form.

If you need a visa to enter the Bahamas, you can apply for one at a British embassy, high commission or consulate in the country where you are legally resident if there is no Bahamian diplomatic mission. British diplomatic missions charge £50 for processing a Bahamian visa application and an additional £70 if the Bahamian authorities require the visa application to be forwarded to them. The Bahamian authorities may also decide to charge an additional fee if they correspond with you directly.

Travellers returning to the United States from the Caribbean must present their passport when entering the United States. This applies to both minors and adults. Pre-clearances for U.S. immigration are available in Nassau and Freeport.

Destinations in Bahamas

Islands

  • New Providence (Nassau, Paradise Island)
    Dominated by the capital Nassau and connected to the small island of Paradise, home to the gigantic Atlantis casino complex.
  • Grand Bahama
    An ecological playground consisting of a system of underwater limestone caves. The Ecotourism Centre, which offers nature discovery tours, national parks and botanical gardens.
  • Bimini
  • Abacos and Elbow Cay
  • Eleuthera
  • Andros
  • Exuma
  • Long Island
  • Cat Island
  • Berry Islands
  • San Salvador Island / Rum Cay
    This could be the first time Columbus landed.
  • Acklin’s Island / Crooked Island
  • Inagua
  • Mayaguana

Cities

  • Nassau – Capital
  • Freeport
  • City of Matthew
  • Alice Town Bimini

Other destinations

Several cruise lines operate private islands in the Bahamas. Disney Cruise Line owns Castaway Cay, Norwegian Cruise Line owns Great Stirrup Cay, Princess Cruise Line owns Little Stirrup Cay, Carnival Cruise Line owns Half Moon Cay and Royal Caribbean owns Coco Cay. To visit these islands, you usually have to be a passenger of the cruise line that owns the island.

Dolphin Encounters is an all-natural marine dolphin facility with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions located on Blue Lagoon Island (Salt Cay), a privately owned island and tourist attraction 5 km from Nassau, Bahamas.

Accommodation & Hotels in Bahamas

Accommodation in the Bahamas is expensive and there is virtually no hostel-style accommodation. The cheapest hotels start at around US$70 and most hotels cost US$200-300/night, with the best resorts easily exceeding US$500. However, deals can be had in the summer low season.

Please note that the Bahamas charges a “Service Fee or Resort Fee” for each person staying on site. Hotels charge a fee of $18 per person per night, plus a one-time fee of $6 per person for bellhop service. This fee is in addition to the room rate and is not optional and cannot be waived. Tourists often only find out about it when they check in at the hotel.

The Bahamas government levies a hotel guest tax, which is payable by every guest. This tax is 10% of the hotel price and is paid monthly by the hotel operator to the Bahamas government.

Hotels in the Bahamas may charge guests a number of additional fees on top of the standard bill, including gratuities (maid or waiter), a “tax” (advertising fee), cable, telephone, water and sewer, extra charges for energy, pool and towels.

Most of the hotels and resorts in the Bahamas are in New Providence (Nassau) and on nearby Paradise Island. The rest of the country remains fairly off the beaten track, and places like Eleuthera, although 100 miles long, have only three hotels.

How To Travel To Bahamas

Get In - By plane

The largest airports in the Bahamas are in the capital Nassau on New Providence and Freeport on Grand Bahama. Smaller airports are scattered throughout the other islands. The Bahamas has six international airports, the largest being Lynden Pindling International Airport, which is located west of Nassau.

Get In - With the boat

The Bahamas is a popular port of call for cruise ships sailing in the Caribbean. The capital Nassau, on the island of New Providence, is one of the busiest cruise ports in the world and is well served by ships from Florida. Freeport, on the island of Grand Bahama, is also a growing destination.

Most island groups have customs and immigration services for those arriving by boat. The customs fee for a private yacht is $150 for yachts up to 35 feet and $300 for yachts over 35 feet.

Royal Caribbean has its own island in the Bahamas called Coco Cay. This island is leased by Royal Caribbean and is not fully owned by Disney like Castaway Cay, which is owned by Disney. It is reserved exclusively for Royal Caribbean’s cruise passengers. There are 25 small gift shops on the island and their own private beaches and water features in the middle of the crystal blue ocean. They have a barbecue and main picnic area with the cruise staff as well as the people Royal Caribbean hires to live and work on the island. Royal Caribbean is very busy all year round as the warm climate of the Bahamas attracts many travellers all year round.

Disney’s Castaway Cay, formerly known as Gorda Cay, is a private island near Abaco Island, close to Sandy Point. This island differs from most leased cays in that it is owned by the Walt Disney Company and has its own dock, so no dinghy is required. Castaway Cay has separate areas for families, teens and adults. The island also contains a fibre optic network that is connected to the ship.

How To Travel Around Bahamas

Get Around - By plane

Bahamasair offers a comprehensive network that radiates out from Nassau and covers most population centres. However, fares are high, frequencies are low, aircraft are small and the airline is known for long delays. Many travellers in a hurry prefer charter flights.

Get Around - By bus

Nassau/New Providence have a bus system called Jitneys, which is discussed in the Nassau article. Bus service on the other islands (except Grand Bahama) is very limited.

Get Around - By taxi

Taxis are very expensive. A short ride from the airport to Cable Beach costs $18, a short ride to downtown costs $26. Between Cable Beach and downtown you can expect a price between $15 and $20, with no room for negotiation.

Get Around - With boat and yacht

  • Mailboats serve almost all the inhabited islands of the Bahamas and are among the cheapest ways to reach many areas, although they are far from the fastest or most comfortable. The government has published an online calendar of mailboat routes [www], which may or may not reflect reality.
  • Windward Islands [www– [www], a yacht charter company, can take care of all charter needs from unmanned to manned yachts in the Bahamas (from Abaco).

Food & Drinks in Bahamas

Food in Bahamas

As you would expect from an island nation, seafood is very popular. The national dish is conch (pronounced “conk” with a hard K), a type of mollusc served fried (“cracked”) or raw with a lemon zest, and as elsewhere in the Caribbean, the classic side dish is peas and rice.

Regular meals can be purchased for $5 to $25 per plate. Authentic island dishes are available at Fish Fry, a collection of small open-air restaurants where many locals congregate. Meals can be had for around $8. On Sunday nights, locals flock to this area for an authentic Bahamian nightlife experience. There are fast food chains such as KFC or McDonalds, especially in the city centres, but as it is a very touristy country, there are many nice restaurants serving many different cuisines. Most restaurants serve American or British food, but you can also find the usual island atmosphere, especially during the Fish Fry in June. Most places add a 15% service charge to the bill; additional tips are optional.

The service differs from the American standard. You put the customer first. You are expected to wait patiently for your turn. In fast food restaurants, the waiter only deals with the first customer until they have left the service area. Do not expect to be in a hurry, even in a fast food place.

Service in the Bahamas is conducted at a relaxed pace. Travellers can expect their meals to proceed at a leisurely pace. Expect polite, if slow, service in most establishments.

Drinks in Bahamas

Soda

Soda can be quite expensive in hotels and you will only find it on a soda tap in a good restaurant; otherwise you will usually get it in a can. The cheapest way to get it is to go to a local food mart.

Goombay Punch is the local lemonade. It tastes like pineapple and is what the locals call a “sweet” lemonade as opposed to a cola. It is sold in cans in all grocery shops and is also available in almost every restaurant in the Bahamas.

Non-alcoholic malt beverages are also very popular. The main brand of choice is Vita-Malt.

Beer

Kalik is the national beer of the Bahamas and is always served at all-inclusive stations. There are three quite different varieties: “Kalik regular”, which contains 4 % alcohol and tastes refreshingly mild; “Kalik Light”, often compared to a Budweiser, is a light lager that tastes like regular Kalik but has a lower alcohol content and fewer calories; “Kalik Gold” contains 7 % alcohol, is very strong but has an excellent taste and gives an additional impression of the island. Guinness is also very popular.

There is a new beer called Sands. It is available in many resorts and local liquor shops. It is similar in structure to Kalik. Sands is now available in both regular and light versions.

Imported beer can be incredibly expensive in hotels, but it is not overpriced in bars and liquor shops. Cases of beer are available in various duty free liquor shops.

In Freeport, at the market and in the marina of Port Lucaya, there are many bars offering two Kaliks (and a few other beers) for $5.

The minimum age for drinking alcohol is 18, but enforcement is weak and youth drinking is widespread.

Hard liquor

The Bahamas has a large number of liquor shops in relation to the country’s population. You will find liquor shops in the city centre, in hotels, in the market in Port Lucaya. If you are not sure where these shops are located, please ask for help.

Rum

It’s the best drink choice in the Bahamas. It’s as cheap as you can get it ($2 to $10 a bottle), tastes great and is made fresh by three different companies. The biggest is the Bacardi rum factory in New Providence, south of Nassau, where you can take tours and get free drinks if you take a two-hour bus ride (Bacardi is closed!).

The Bahamas has its own indigenous rum with a variety of brands to offer which include Ron Ricardo Rum, Ole Nassau Rum and a very popular Fire in the Hole Rum. This Fire in the Hole Rum has a golden colour and a very distinctive bottle label that is sure to be a good topic of conversation around the house. Both Ron Ricardo and Ole Nassau rums are available in a variety of flavours. Ron Ricardo Rum is the best coconut rum used for the ever-popular island drink “The Bahama Mamma”. Other flavours include mango, pineapple and banana, golden rum, light rum and 151 rum. Ole Nassau Rum also offers all the flavours of Ron Ricardo’s rums. The bottle label is also very unique and creative, showing a pirate ship in the Bahamas.

Money & Shopping in Bahamas

The national currency is the Bahamian dollar (B$), but it is pegged to the US dollar on a 1:1 basis, and US dollars are accepted everywhere at face value. Therefore, Americans do not need to exchange money, and many tourist shops even give change in US dollars. Look out for the famous (but now rare) three-dollar note and 15-cent coin, both originally developed to ease the transition from sterling to dollars in 1966, with $3 being roughly equivalent to 1 pound and $0.15 being roughly equivalent to a shilling.

There are very few products made in the Bahamas, but some luxury goods can be bought at bargain prices. Sellers at the straw market have a very direct but often humorous way of negotiating the price of a product. A sense of humour is highly valued in this island nation.

Beware when buying Cuban cigars. The vast majority of “Cubans” sold in the Bahamas are fakes. Buy cigars only from reputable and dedicated tobacconists, do not buy on the street, at the market or in cigar and liquor shops. Genuine Cubans cost more than $30 per cigar. If the price is $10, it is 100% fauxhiba. If you are considering buying cigars, an online search can help you identify authentic Cubans. The sites “The Ultimate Counterfeit Cuban Cigar Primer” [wwwand “The Havana Journal Counterfeit vs Real Cohibas” [www] can be particularly useful.

Festivals & Holidays in Bahamas

Festivals

The biggest event in the Bahamian calendar is Junkanoo, a street carnival that takes place on Boxing Day (26 December) and New Year’s Day (1 January). Junkanoo bands parade through the streets of the cities, especially in Nassau, wearing spectacular but disposable crepe paper costumes and playing the characteristic Junkanoo music, which combines African rhythms with brass instruments and loud cowbells, fusing them into a medley that becomes cacophonous but extremely danceable. The costumes, which are made each year, are thrown out onto the street at the end of the party and make a great free souvenir to take home!

Public holidays

  • 1 January: New Year’s Day
  • 10 January: Majority Rule Day
  • (varied) Good Friday
  • (varied) Easter Monday
  • (varied) Whit Monday
  • 7 June: Labour Day
  • 10 July: Independence Day
  • 5 August: Emancipation Day
  • 12 October: National Heroes’ Day
  • 25 December: Christmas Day
  • 26 December: Boxing Day

Culture Of Bahamas

In the less developed outer islands (or family islands), basketry is made from palm leaves, among other things. This material, commonly known as “straw”, is woven into hats and bags, which are popular tourist items. Another use is for “voodoo dolls”, although these dolls are a product of the American imagination and not based on historical fact.

A form of folk magic (Obeah) is practised by some Bahamians, mainly in the Family Islands (outer islands) of the Bahamas. The practice of Obeah is illegal in the Bahamas and is subject to criminal prosecution.

Junkanoo is a traditional Afro-British street parade with “rush”, music, dance and art that takes place every year on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day in Nassau (and some other places). Junkanoo also celebrates other festivals and events such as Emancipation Day.

Regattas are important social events in many family settlements on the island. They usually involve one or more days of sailing on historic working ships and a feast ashore.

Many dishes are associated with Bahamian cuisine, which reflects Caribbean, African and European influences. Some places have festivals associated with the culture or traditional food of the region, such as the Pineapple Fest in Gregory Town, Eleuthera or the Crab Fest in Andros. Other important traditions are storytelling.

Bahamians have created a rich literature of poetry, short stories, plays and short novels. Common themes in these works are (1) awareness of change, (2) search for sophistication, (3) search for identity, (4) nostalgia for ancient customs, and (5) appreciation of beauty. Authors include Susan Wallace, Percival Miller, Robert Johnson, Raymond Brown, O.M. Smith, William Johnson, Eddie Minnis and Winston Saunders.

Bahamian culture is rich in beliefs, traditions, folklore and legends. Some of the most famous Bahamian folklore and legends are Lusca in the Bahamas Andros, Pretty Molly in the Bahamas Exuma, the Chickcharnies in the Bahamas Andro and the Lost City of Atlantis in the Bahamas Bimini.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Bahamas

Stay safe

By the middle of the year 2007, the country had already recorded 42 murders. The murder count for 2010 was 96. Police statistics will show that most murders are linked to domestic violence or gang related disputes, mostly fueled by competition in the illegal drug trade. In 2011 the Commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force stated that the vast majority of murder victims in New Providence (Nassau), were already well known to police. A report done by an international body stated that The Bahamas ranks amongst the top for crimes committed against women. However, to maintain good local and international relations, the police have increased their presence and the judicial system vowed to bring about “swift justice”.

Visitors should exercise caution and good judgment when visiting The Bahamas. Violent crime has increased in the recent past, and the American Embassy has received several reports of sexual assaults on American tourists, including teen-aged girls.

Firearms

It is illegal to import a firearm or ammunition into The Bahamas or to possess a firearm in the country without appropriate permission. Tourists who arrive by private boat are required to declare firearms to Bahamian Customs and leave firearms on the boat while in The Bahamas. Penalties for illegal possession of a firearm or ammunition are strict, and can involve heavy fines, lengthy prison terms, or both.

Penalties

Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Bahamian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Police enforcement is aggressive in tourist areas, as drug dealers are known to frequent areas where tourists congregate. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Bahamas are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Stay healthy

The adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has reached 3.0% or 1 in 33 adults.

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