Traveling to a new country can be somewhat of a daunting experience. There are often many uncertainties and unanswered questions about choosing the right destination for your travels. Without knowing much about The Bahamas, it’s hard to make the expensive decision of traveling here. I hope that this article makes your decision easy and you’ll begin planning your trip to visit this fantastic Country!
The Bahamas is an absolutely amazing island experience; both its beauty and its culture will have you coming back over and over! With 700 Island’s & Cays, there are many places to explore, each with its own vibe and beauty.
Of the 700 Islands & Cays (Cay is pronounced “Key” and by definition is an island with a population of under 100 people), 14 of the Islands can be visited, many with having smaller cays within them. For more info on each island and what they have to offer, check out another blog post I wrote here.
Bahamas Travel Tips: Bahamian Language & Culture
The locals to The Bahamas are called Bahamians (pronounced Bah-hay-me-ans). Bahamians all speak easily understood English, with a twist of their own dialect. Bahamians are amicable people overall; they are welcoming, very happy, and always available to give you some local tips or tell you a good old funny story.
The Bahamas, as you can imagine, has a very laid-back island lifestyle. Time is very much on “island time”, no one is rushing to get anywhere fast and some people can sometimes confuse this with laziness, but it’s just actually the laid-back culture.
Bahamians love to gather in groups, socialize, joke around, drink, eat, and play dominos. It’s an enjoyable and entertaining culture, I encourage all to dive into the local scene when visiting!
Bahamas Travel Tips: Weather & When is the Best Time to Visit the Bahamas?
The Bahamas basically experiences summer 365 days a year, and if you ask a local, they will most likely tell you, “its always a good time to visit”. This is true in the sense that it rarely gets under 70 degrees, and the sun is shining almost every day.
Peak season is known to be December through April, the weather is usually in the high 70’s, we have minimal rain, and there is no fear of hurricanes. Tourists from places where there is snow, and cold weather usually hop down for a 75-degree winter in The Bahamas, followed by the Spring Breakers catching the perfect weather in March & April.
June through November is known to be Hurricane Season; however, don’t let that interrupt your summer plans. The summers in The Bahamas are my personal favorite, as it’s always warm, the water is very comfortable, and the seas are flat calm, perfect for boating and beaching. Whereas hurricanes can be detrimental to The Bahamas, there is always a significant amount of warning before they come, and they usually wont affect your travel plans. Hurricane season “officially starts” in June; however, active hurricane season usually starts closer to August and lasts through October.
Bahamas Travel Tips: Airport Process & Immigration
Every island has an airport; some are larger than others, with Lynden Pindling in Nassau being the largest one. Even though I say largest, it’s still tiny compared to other international airports.
No matter what airport you are traveling to, the immigration & airport process will be relatively smooth. You go through a quick customs process; they ask you what you are traveling there for and how long you will be staying (you need a return ticket to travel to The Bahamas). You do not need a visa if you plan on staying for three months or less. Any time over three months requires a visa or a prearranged work permit or residency. Please do not come to the Bahamas to find a job, it is a complicated process and should be figured out beforehand.
Due to the COVID pandemic, we have additional requirements for traveling. You can find additional information here.
Bahamas Travel Tips: Currency & Pricing
The Bahamian currency and the U.S dollar are used interchangeably. You can bring American cash and use it anywhere in The Bahamas. You may get Bahamian money back in change, but it is the same currency as your U.S Dollar. On your way out, if you have excess Bahamian cash you can go to a local bank with your passport & travel itinerary, and they will exchange it back to the U.S dollar for you.
Almost everything you will buy is imported into The Bahamas. Considering most items have to be shipped in and then taxed when entering the Country, most items are much more expensive than they are in other places in the world. Our government charges 40% duty on most imports and a 12% VAT on all imports. This means If you buy a shirt for $10 in the states, it will most likely be about $15-$20 here.
You will notice this the most when you go out to eat. Depending on what you drink, you may find the pricing very similar to the states, beer is much more expensive (about $2.50 for 1 beer, even if local), but you can get a bottle of rum for anywhere between $10-$20.
Whether you are eating out of buying food at the grocery store, you will notice 12% VAT added at the end of your bill; this is our Value Added Tax. VAT will be added on virtually everything you purchase in The Bahamas, including your accommodations, transportation, etc.
Bahamas Travel Tips: Safety When Traveling in The Bahamas
The Bahamas has gotten a bad rap for crime, and many advisories are warning Americans when visiting; however, if you use the necessary safety skills you use in everyday life, you will be just fine.
The safety issue arises when cruise shippers and other tourists drink heavily and walk around as if they don’t need to be cautious of their environment. Nassau specifically gets a bad rap, and that’s because it is a city, operating just like any other city in the world, and getting anywhere between 10,000-30,000 tourists through the small city daily.
When tourists don’t exercise ordinary common sense, such as avoiding drunkenly walking through the streets alone at 2 am, bad things can happen. Just as you wouldn’t leave your purse on your chair in a crowded area of New York City, you should follow the same type of reasoning in Nassau. A little common sense and awareness, and you’ll be A-Okay!
Bahamas Travel Tips: Transportation in the Bahamas for Tourists
I’ve written a complete guide on transportation, which you can find on my blog or here. To share the basics, we have a few forms of transportation. You can rent a car (starting at $50 per day), you can use taxis (usually will cost $25 minimum per ride), or you can take the bus ($1.50 each way).
Nassau is not a walkable, runnable, or bike-able city, and if you want to explore, I highly recommend renting a car. This goes for all the Islands as well; regardless of the island you travel to, it’s highly recommended that you rent a car or golf cart if staying on one of the smaller islands.
A few important things to consider are that we drive on the road’s left side and have many roundabouts. The island of Nassau is only 21 miles long by 7 miles wide, you won’t ever really be going over 30 miles per hour, and as long as you remember to stay left, driving will be a breeze!
Gas is about $5 per gallon, but you won’t need more than probably a $30 tank if you have a smaller car to get you through a week’s worth of exploring!
Bahamas Travel Tips: Cell Phones & WiFi in The Bahamas
You’ll need to get an international plan when traveling as The Bahamas is not covered by most phone carriers from other countries. If you plan on staying for a while or need to use a lot of data, I suggest getting a local SIM card and filling it with data/minutes.
BTC & Aliv are our two phone carriers, both offering prepaid plans. I personally think BTC has better options for visitors that need it for a week or two. You can get a SIM card for about $15 and then fill up with whatever kind of data plan you need, ranging from $10 to $30 for two weeks. Simply stick the SIM card in your phone if it’s unlocked, but if not, don’t worry! You can buy a cheap phone for about $50 from the BTC store and be on your way to a data-filled life on your vacation!
PRO TIP: If you purchase a cheap phone from BTC, you can run a hotspot from it and use your regular phone to access its Wifi and BOOM 24/7 wifi for you on your trip, never miss an Instagram moment again 😊
While we are on the subject of phones, I wanted to mention that adapters are not required; regular plugs can be found throughout the Country!
Bahamas Travel Tips: Eating in the Bahamas
Whenever I travel to another destination, I like to dive into their food culture. I want to eat everything the locals eat, and specifically things that come from their land. We have a few amazing meals that I would say are “must-eats” when visiting The Bahamas!
Pictured above is Conch Salad. I’ll admit that a conch salad is not for everyone, however, you have to at least try it! Conch (pronounced “konk”) comes from a large shell and has the texture of calamari or octopus and if prepared properly is not chewy, and essentially flavorless. A conch salad is prepared much like ceviche. You can order it the original way which consists of tomato, onion, green pepper, lime, salt and hot pepper (you choose the heat) or the tropical way which is the same as above, with some fruit added, such as pineapple, apple, and mango, this is my personal favorite!
- Snapper (served any way) – Snapper is a locally caught fish and is a favorite of mine. It usually comes fried or steamed (in some tomatoes and onions) and is served whole. It’s not a very fishy fish and its delicious smothered in some lime & hot pepper, best paired with pea’s and rice plus some Bahamian macaroni!
- Local Fish – Any type of locally caught seafood will be delicious, we have lobster, snow crab, grouper, Mahi-Mahi, tuna & wahoo.
- Sky Juice – You have to try a sky juice or “gully wash”. This is a local creation with gin, sweetened condensed milk, coconut water, and nutmeg might sound weird but literally is the most delicious thing!
I’ve written tons of blogs about the best food options in Nassau from local food to fine dining, feel free to check out The Float Your Boat Bahamas blog to explore this topic in more depth, I also have some amazing food tips on my Instagram @floatyourboatbahamas.
Bahamian Dining: Tipping
It’s important to factor into your budget a 15% gratuity will usually be added to your bill whenever you eat out. If you feel like your server provided excellent service or was extra nice, I suggest adding another 5% or so, but this is not customarily expected.
If you are purchasing food at the grocery store, there will most likely be a kid bagging your groceries; they will accept a tip. I suggest $2-$5 for their help as they don’t get paid hourly 🙂
Regardless of the service, it’s always nice to throw the person helping you a few extra dollars in the tip to thank them. From the baggage help in the airport to the man serving you a pina colada on the beach, tipping is always appreciated and will boost the likelihood of you getting excellent service!
Things to Do in the Bahamas: Beaches
The obvious thing to do while visiting The Bahamas is to go to the beach! There are many amazing jaw-dropping beaches all over The Bahamas. If you’re in Nassau you have to do a bit more searching as we are much more of a city than our neighboring islands. Check out my guide on Best Beaches in Nassau to find your perfect fit!
As far as the family islands, you’ll basically be able to pull over to any beach and find it untouched and simply amazing!
Things to Do in the Bahamas: Boating
If there is one thing you should do on your vacation, it should be taking a boat excursion. Whether it’s locally or to another island, it’s an absolute must-do. The feeling you have while on a boat and looking into the crystal-clear blue waters will be the most exhilarating feeling you will have on your vacation! Contact Float Your Boat Bahamas to book an excursion or check out our info on Bahamas excursions and tours to get more info on the excursions we offer!