The Bahamas are an extensive chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, USA and to the northeast of Cuba. Some 30 of the islands are inhabited and the country is a major tourist attraction.
Islands in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas
Tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream. Hurricanes and other tropical storms cause extensive flood and wind damage.
Long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills. The highest point is Mount Alvernia (63 m), on Cat Island.
Arawak Indians inhabited the islands when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World on San Salvador in 1492. British settlement of the islands began in 1647; the islands became a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.
The populace is predictably friendly and more religious than one might expect. Local newspapers will reveal religious references by elected officials in a manner that exceeds what would be found in the American South. This devotion does nothing to prohibit the activities of visitors nor is it intended to. There is a very "libertarian" attitude about personal morals.
Officially 120V 60Hz, which is identical to the U.S. and Canadian standard. Outlets are North American grounded outlets, identical to standard U.S. and Canadian wall outlets. Occasionally non-grounded outlets may be found, which do not accept the third, round pin present on grounded plugs, and require an adapter. Older North American outlets may not be polarized (with one slot wider than the other). Otherwise, adapters are available which accept a polarized plug and adapt it for use with a non-polarized outlet.
Residents of the United States can use a birth certificate to get into the Bahamas without a passport. Take care, though, as beginning January 8, 2007, travelers returning to the United States from the Caribbean must display their passport to get back into the states. This applies to minor children as well as adults.
The Bahamas are a popular port of call for cruise ships plying the Caribbean. The capital, Nassau, on New Providence Island is one of the world's busiest cruise ship ports, and is well served by ships that originate from Florida. Freeport on Grand Bahama Island is a growing destination as well.
Most island groups have customs and immigration available for those arriving by yacht. Note that the customs fee for a private yacht is $150 for 35' and under and $300 for over 35'.
Driving is on the left, but due to the many American tourists there are many pavement markings to remind you. Although driving is on the left, many cars' driver's seats still are on the left side of the car. A particular challenge is always the turning circle. Gasoline is expensive, but distances are low.
The buses in Nassau (called jitneys) are great for tourists because they cost $1 to travel on to most points, and go to most anywhere you would want to go. Routes are posted on the buses' windshields. The only exception is the airport, where buses are not allowed and you have to get a taxi ($25 to downtown). Do note, however, that by 7PM most buses stop operating. Alternatively, rental cars and motorcycles are available at the airport.
Bus travel on the other islands (with the exception of Freeport) is very limited. The best way to go around is to hire a car. There are many opportunities to rent a vehicle on Grand Bahama Island (Freeport) and can be well worth it if you want to get away from your resort. The Lucaya resort area has a nice town center with a wide variety of shopping in walking distance.
Don't bother to exchange US currency as it is accepted everywhere and the national currency is tied to the US.
There is very little made in the Bahamas, but some European goods can be purchased at a bargain. Cuban cigars are most often not really Cuban cigars, but may be Cuban tobacco.
Don't buy shells or sponges as you can easily pick them up on the beaches free.
Ordinary meals can be had for anywhere from $5-$25 a plate. You can find fast-food chains such as KFC or McDonalds, especially in the downtown areas, but as it is a highly touristed country, you can find many nice restaurants serving many different cuisines. Most restaurants serve American or British food, though you can easily find the normal island flair, especially during the Fish Fry during June, where you can usually get a meal for about $8. A 15% service charge is added to the bill at most establishments; additional tips are optional.
Service is distinct from the American standard. There is a concentration on the customer at hand that means that your table will be completely cleared and re-set before you get your bill. At fast food restaurants the server will take care of only the first customer until they have left the service area. Don't expect to be in a hurry even at a fast food establishment.
Service in Freeport ranges from slow to very slow. Travelers can expect a leisurely pace to their meal. Expect slow, if polite, service at most establishments.
This is a tourist town. Soda is pretty pricy, and you will find it only on a soda tap if you are in a good restaurant; otherwise, you will usually get it in a can. The cheapest way to get this would be to go to a local "Food Mart."
"Goombay Punch" is the local soda. It is sold in cans at all grocery stores and also available in almost every Bahamian eatery.
Kalik is the national brewery of the Bahamas and is always served at "all-inclusive" resorts. Kalik is a decent brand, especially given the dearth of options available.
Imported beer is incredibly expensive in the Bahamas, as it is not produced there. Expect to pay about $6.00 a can there, and bottles are almost impossible to find. Don't even expect to find a decent selection.
In Freeport, the Port Lucaya Marketplace and Marina has many bars offering two Kaliks (and some other brews) for $5.00.
This is not much of a step up from beer. You have to go out of your way to even FIND wiskey, and when you do, it's expensive, and they have only Jack Daniels. I couldn't even find brandy, and vodka averaged $15 a bottle... for the cheap stuff.
This is by far the best choice of drinks in the Bahamas. It's as cheap as you can get ($2-$10 a bottle), tastes great, and it's made fresh by 3 different companys, the largest being the Bacardi Rum factory, where you can take tours and get free drinks if you go on a 2-hour bus ride.