Bahamas Travel Tips
US visitors staying for eight months or less need a return ticket plus a passport (passports expired up to five years may also be used), or a certified birth certificate with an official photo identification; naturalized citizens require naturalization papers and photo identification; permanent residents (green card holders) require their green card and a valid passport from their place of birth. Canadian visitors not staying more than three weeks need the same identification as those from the US All others need a valid passport. Some visitors may also require a visa.
In Nassau, Paradise Island and Freeport/Lucaya, banks
are opened from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through
Thursday, and 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday. Hours
vary throughout the Out Islands.
The trade winds that blow almost continually throughout The Bahamas give the islands a warm agreeable climate which varies little year round. The most refreshing time is between September through May when the temperature averages 70-75F degrees. The rest of the year is a bit warmer with temperatures between 80-85F degrees.
Casual summer wear can be worn during the day any time of the year; but be sure to bring a jacket or sweater for cooler evenings from December to February. Most hotels/restaurants/casinos require jackets for men in the evening, especially in cosmopolitan Nassau. Though walking the streets in swim trunks in mid-January might sound irresistible, beach clothing is inappropriate on the streets of downtown Nassau, in churches, restaurants and casinos. On the more laid-back Out Islands, dress-codes are much more flexible.
The legal tender is the Bahamian dollar (B$1), which is equivalent in value to the US dollar. Both US and Bahamian dollars are accepted interchangeably throughout the islands.
Customs Regulations & Taxes
Upon entering 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.). Purchases up to a value of one hundred dollars are permitted by all arriving passengers.
When departing, all visitors are required to pay a $15.00 departure tax ($18.00 from Grand Bahama); children six years and under are exempt. Departures to the US must go through US Customs pre-clearance. US visitors may take home US$600 worth of duty-free merchandise. The next $l,000 is taxed at 10%. Gifts valued up to $50 may be mailed home duty-free. One litre of wine, liqueur or liquor and five cartons of cigarettes may be taken duty-free.
British rules apply, so please drive on the left and watch those roundabouts! Visitors may use their home license for up to three months and may also apply for an international driver's license. Pedestrians should remember to look right before crossing streets.
Electricity is normally 120 volts AC. American appliances are fully compatible.
Fishing and Diving
To protect the marine environment, spear fishing using scuba gear and possession of spearguns are illegal in The Bahamas. Cruising boats must clear customs at the nearest port of entry before beginning any diving or fishing activities. A permit is required for visiting vessels to engage in sports fishing at a cost of $20 per trip or $150 per year for vessels on which not more than six reels will be used. (Refer to the Yachtsman's Guide to the Bahamas 1995.)
The official language of The Bahamas is English, more British than American, and generally intertwined with a special Bahamian dialect. Some Indian words like cassava and guava have been retained in the language.
Effective January 1, 1992, the Government of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas abolished all import duties on 11 categories of items. Perfumes and Fragrances, Crystal, Leather Goods, Jewelry, Fine Linens and Tablecloths, Watches and Clocks, Photographic Equipment, China, Binoculars, and Telescopes are all duty free. Savings on these items are between 25% - 50% below US prices. It's easy to see why people often return from The Bahamas with more than nice tans.
The best shopping is concentrated in Nassau, Cable Beach, Paradise Island and Freeport/Lucaya; boutiques and gift shops are also found in most major resorts. Everything from duty-free products to local arts and crafts, wood, straw, shell and clothing creations are readily available.
Spring Break Season
Spring break season runs February 28 - April 10. This is important information, whether you're aiming to avoid the spring break season altogether or intent upon landing right in the middle of this month-long youthfest. Beach parties, sports meets, and musical entertainment lead off the packed Spring Break calendar. The front desk of your Bahamas hotel will surely be updated on the most detailed spring break info--or telephone the Ministry of Tourism at (242)322-7500.
Eastern Standard Time is used on all islands. April to October is Eastern Daylight Time, in conjunction with US summer hours.
Tip according to quality of service. Bellboys and porters usually receive $1 per bag, while most other servers (waiters, taxis, etc.) receive 15%. Some establishments include the gratuity in their bills.