Traveling to a new country can be somewhat of a daunting experience. There are often many questions about how to best prepare for your trip, and decide whether or not you are choosing the right destination.
The Bahamas is an absolutely amazing island experience. Both its beauty and its culture will have you coming back for more beautiful beach days & sunshine! With 700 Island’s & Cays, there are many places to explore, each with their own vibe and beauty.
Of the 700 Islands & Cays (Cay is pronounced “Key” and is an island with a population of under 100 people), fourteen 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, where to stay and how to get there, check out another blog post I wrote here.
Language & Culture
The proper name for people from The Bahamas is Bahamians (pronounced Bah-hay-me-ans). They all speak easily understood English, but some do have a bit of their own dialect. Bahamians are very friendly people overall. They are welcoming, very happy and always available to give you some local tips or tell you a good 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 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 rum and play dominos. It’s a very fun culture and I highly suggest you dive into the local scene when you come to visit!
Weather & when should you go?
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. All the people experiencing 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 stop your summer plans. The summers in The Bahamas are my personal favorite, as it’s always warm, the water is a very comfortable warm temperature and usually flat calm, perfect for boating and beaching. Whereas hurricanes have had a dramatic impact on The Bahamas in the past, there is always a significant amount of warning before they come and they shouldn’t affect your travel plans. Hurricane season “officially starts” in June, however, it’s usually more towards August through October when we really see any threats.
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 extremely small 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 are planning on staying under 3 months, anything over 3 months requires a visa or some sort of work permit or residency.
Currency & Pricing $$$$
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 extra 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 is imported into The Bahamas, with this being said, most items are 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 here.
You will notice this the most when you go out to eat. If you are picking up take out or fast food, the prices will be similar to other places, however, if you are eating a sit-down meal you are looking for a minimum of $25 per person for just the cost of food. 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 or buying food at the grocery store you will notice 12% VAT added at the end of your bill, this is our Value Added Tax, and will be added on virtually everything you purchase in The Bahamas, including your accommodations, transportation, etc.
The Bahamas has gotten a bad rap for crime and many advisories are warning Americans when visiting, however, if you use the basic safety skills you use in everyday life you will be just fine.
The safety issue arises when cruise shippers and other tourists are drinking heavily and walking 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 people don't exercise regular caution such as not drunkenly walking through the streets alone at 2 am and being aware of their surroundings, bad things happen. Just like you wouldn’t leave your purse on your chair in a crowded area of New York City, you shouldn’t do the same in Nassau. A little common sense and awareness and you’ll be A-Okay!
I’ve written an entire guide on transportation in Nassau, 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).
Nassau is not a walkable city and if you want to explore, I highly recommend renting a car. A few things to note is that we drive on the left side of the road, some of the cars are right-hand drive and we have many roundabouts. The island 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!
The rest of the islands pretty much require a car, pick up a rental at the airport when you arrive, they will usually run about $70 per day.
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!
Cell Phones & Wifi
You’ll need to get an international plan when traveling as The Bahamas is not covered by most phone carriers in other countries. If you plan on staying for a while or need to use lots of data, I suggest getting a local SIM card and filling it with data/minutes. Most places in Nassau have WIFI, however, when venturing to the smaller businesses especially on the family islands, WIFI will be quite hard to find.
BTC & Aliv are our two phone carriers, both offering prepaid plans. I personally think BTC has better options for visitors that just 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 2 weeks. Stick the SIM card in your phone If you have an unlocked phone, 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 😊
On the discussion of phones, I wanted to mention that adapters are not required, regular plugs can be found throughout the country!
Eat locally, like a local
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!
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 my blog to explore this topic in more depth, I also have some amazing food tips on my Instagram @floatyourboatbahamas.
On the topic of food, I should mention that whenever you eat out, a 15% gratuity will usually be added to your bill. If you feel like your server did extra well or was extra nice I suggest adding another 5% or so, but it's not mandatory.
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 :)
Things to do in the Bahamas
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!
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 me to book an excursion or check out my website to get more info on the excursions we offer!