Bahamas Guide

Know Before You Go...®

Whether you’re heading to the Bahamas to party or relax against the backdrop of sandy beaches and the sparkling ocean, there’s a lot to know before booking your villa or rental property. Use the information on this page to learn which Bahamas islands specialize in water sports and which are known for shopping, and find out tons of other useful information as well.

Why Bahamas?

  • The Bahamas was the site of Christopher Columbus' first landfall in the New World in 1492.
  • The world's first underwater post office is located in the Bahamas.
  • The Bahamas is home to the world's third-largest barrier reef.
  • The world's longest underwater cave system is located in the Bahamas.
  • The Bahamian dollar is officially pegged to the US dollar at a rate of 1:1.

Bahamas Weather/Climate

Average Temperatures

January
78° F
64° F
February
79° F
65° F
March
80° F
66° F
April
82° F
68° F
May
85° F
71° F
June
88° F
75° F
July
90° F
76° F
August
90° F
76° F
September
89° F
75° F
October
86° F
73° F
November
83° F
70° F
December
79° F
66° F

Average Rainfall

January
0.84 inches
February
0.95 inches
March
1.29 inches
April
1.02 inches
May
2.05 inches
June
4.67 inches
July
2.99 inches
August
4.77 inches
September
3.46 inches
October
2.61 inches
November
1.87 inches
December
0.9 inches

Overview

Across the Straits of Florida, just 50 miles from Miami begins the 120,000 square miles of ocean lightly scattered with 2,400 islands known collectively as the Bahamas. This diverse group of islands provides limitless vacation possibilities for young and old alike. The low-lying limestone and coral islets (Cat Island boasts the highest point at 207 feet) have a history rich in British tradition and on July 10, 1973 became the free and sovereign Commonwealth of the Bahamas, ending 325 years of British rule.

The two main cities of Nassau and Freeport are on two of the smaller islands in the chain. The capital city of Nassau on New Providence Island boasts lively casinos, resorts (many on adjacent Paradise Island), shopping, and is the center of government and commerce. Cruise ships make Nassau and Freeport, Grand Bahama Island regular stops on their Caribbean routes. Accommodations in each city range from first class resorts to small family-run inns. Nightlife, water sports, golf, tennis, fishing and family activities make these two islands a favorite vacation destination for travelers seeking a tropical resort atmosphere. Grand Bahama features the Dolphin Experience where you can swim in the open water with trained dolphins.

The other populated islands and cays are known as the Out Islands. Eclectic visitors, towns and islanders make these remote islands the Bahamas’ best-kept secrets. They are not hard to get to and your efforts are well rewarded with deserted, powdery white sand beaches (pink sand sparkles on Eleuthera and Harbour Island) rimmed with coconut palms and causerina pines. Peace and solitude, the hallmark of the Out Islands, is reflected in their friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

Abacos is hailed as some of the finest yacht cruising in the world and is the northernmost island group in the Bahamas. Annual billfish tournaments, sailing and diving are Abaco’s claim to fame.

Land of water, sea of life-Andros, the Bahamas largest island is full of holes and inhabited by mysterious creatures, both in the trees and under water. Snorkelers and divers explore the island’s blue holes and underwater caves. Go bird-watching to see pink flamingos or enjoy world-class bonefishing at one of the many fishing camps throughout the island.

Bimini, a favorite of many celebrities, hosts big game fishing tournaments and is a great getaway for those who just want to relax and leave the world behind. Enjoy Hemingway memorabilia and laze away the days on your own white sand beach. No shopping, nightlife, or casinos here, just Out Island charm at its finest.

Often overlooked, but so perfect a spot, Cat Island offers a few small resorts, excellent diving and water sports, 17th century pirate history, and secluded beaches for the road-weary traveler.

Long and skinny, Eleuthera’s 100 miles are some of the most developed in the Out Islands. Off the northern coast lies Harbour Island and Spanish Wells, two favorites for vacationers. A comfortable place to enjoy white sand beaches and crystal clear water.

The Exumas are a sailor’s paradise. These 350 little cays are some of the most unspoiled in the Bahamas. Enjoy bonefishing, annual sailing regattas and maybe your own private island.

Long Island extends 60 miles north and south dotted by small towns and innumerable nooks and crannies worth exploring. There are several large resorts, golf, diving, sailing, fishing, lovely deserted beaches, two airports, and that Out Island friendly hospitality.

San Salvador maintains the lookout on the Atlantic as the easternmost island. Home to a few resorts, development has largely passed this lovely island by. Superb diving, island exploring, beachcombing and biking will make your stay memorable.

History

The Bahamas, an archipelago of over 700 islands and cays located in the Atlantic Ocean, has a rich and diverse history that dates back thousands of years. The islands were originally inhabited by the Lucayan people, a peaceful indigenous tribe believed to have migrated from South America.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the islands during his first voyage to the New World. He named the islands “Baja Mar” meaning “shallow sea” in Spanish. However, the Spanish did not establish a permanent settlement on the islands and it wasn’t until the mid-17th century that the Bahamas became a popular destination for European explorers and colonizers.

In the early 1600s, the British claimed the islands and established the first permanent settlement on the island of Eleuthera. The island was named “Eleuthera” which means “freedom” in Greek, as it was a safe haven for British Puritans seeking religious freedom. The British also brought African slaves to the islands to work on cotton and tobacco plantations, leading to a diverse population of European, African, and indigenous peoples.

During the 18th century, the Bahamas became a popular hideout for pirates, most notably the infamous Blackbeard. The islands’ location and shallow waters made it an ideal spot for pirates to hide and attack passing ships. However, the British Navy eventually cracked down on piracy in the region and the Bahamas became a Crown colony in 1718.

In the 19th century, the Bahamas saw a significant increase in its economy with the growth of the sponge industry and the establishment of a lucrative salt trade. The islands also became a popular stop for American ships, leading to a strong cultural and economic influence from the United States.

In the mid-20th century, the Bahamas gained independence from Britain and became a sovereign nation in 1973. Today, the Bahamas is a popular tourist destination known for its crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches, and vibrant culture. The islands’ economy relies heavily on tourism, with millions of visitors each year.

Despite its tumultuous history of colonization, piracy, and slavery, the Bahamas has emerged as a thriving nation with a unique blend of cultural influences. From its indigenous roots to its modern-day tourist industry, the Bahamas continues to evolve and attract visitors from around the world to its beautiful islands.

Straw Market

Bargain hunting at the Straw Market

Venture into the heart of Nassau, near Bay Street Shopping Center and George Street, and you'll find the Straw Market tent. Here you can shop for handcrafted Bahamian treasures including signature straw hats, beautiful handmade woodcarvings, tubs of Guava Jelly and other island souvenirs. You might also run into vendors selling knock-off Rolex, Prada, and other luxury items. Just don't be shy about bargaining. Those that don't usually over pay. Open 7 days a week from about 7am to 8pm.

Golfing at Grand Lucaya Resort

Tee off at one of the best golf courses in the Caribbean

Travel & Leisure and Caribbean Travel & Life magazines both recognized Our Lucaya Resort on Grand Bahamas Island as one of the best for golf. Experience it for yourself on one of two 18-hole, par of 72 golf courses. The Reef Course has been called a "Scottish-like course, but a lot warmer". It opened in 2000 with deceptively open fairways, rolling greens, and an assortment of tall grasses, treacherous bunkers and huge lakes. It's rated one of the Top 5 courses in the Caribbean. The Lucayan Course, which was originally laid out in 1964, features tree-lined fairways, small elevated greens and Dick Wilson bunkers. To help you play your best, the resort is home to one of the finest golf schools in the world.

Garden of the Groves

Enjoy exotic wildlife and botanical gardens

The Grand Bahamas Garden of the Groves is home to over 12 acres of exotic wildlife and botanical gardens. It's the most photographed spot in the Bahamas and frequently used for weddings ceremonies. Children come for the farm animal petting zoo. There are also parrots, alligators, ducks and turtles and hundreds of tropical plants. Garden of the Groves is located on the corner of Magellan Drive and Midshipmann Road on Grand Bahama Island. It is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Sundays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Admission is $3.95 for children 3 through 10 and $9.95 for adults.

Transportation on Bahamas

Getting to Bahamas and getting around. Our transportation tips will help make your trip smoother. More good sand advice.

Entry Documents

Proof of citizenship (passport, birth certificate and photo I.D. in the form of a driver’s license) and a return or ongoing ticket. British and Canadian citizens may enter without passports or visas.

Airlines Flying Here

American, Delta, British Air connects the Bahamas through Miami and Fort Lauderdale.  Bahamasair flies from Miami to Nassau and Freeport.

Airport

Lynden Pindling International Airport, the main airport formerly known as Nassau International Airport;  six airports exist among the many islands - numerous flights from the U.S.

Departure Tax

$15 U.S

Driving

On the left - need to show driver’s license to rent a car

Local Transportation

1. Taxis: Taxis are a popular mode of transportation in the Bahamas, especially in the main tourist areas. They are readily available at airports, hotels, and cruise ports and can also be hailed on the street. Taxis in the Bahamas are not metered, so it is important to negotiate the fare with the driver before starting the trip.

2. Local Buses: In Nassau and Freeport, there are local buses that run along fixed routes and are a more affordable option for transportation. These buses may not be as comfortable as taxis, but they are a great way to experience the local culture and interact with the friendly Bahamian people.

3. Water Taxis: With the Bahamas being a collection of islands, water taxis are a popular mode of transportation between different islands and cays. They are also a great way to explore the various beaches and attractions along the coast.

4. Rental Cars: Renting a car is another option for transportation in the Bahamas, especially if you plan on exploring different parts of the island. Most major car rental companies have locations in the Bahamas, and driving is on the left side of the road.

5. Scooters and Bicycles: For a more adventurous way of getting around, you can rent scooters or bicycles to explore the islands. This is a great option for those who want to take their time and enjoy the scenic views.

6. Golf Carts: In some parts of the Bahamas, such as Harbour Island and Green Turtle Cay, golf carts are a popular mode of transportation. They are a fun and unique way to get around, and the slower pace allows you to take in the beautiful surroundings.

7. Private Boat Charter: If you want to explore the islands at your own pace, you can also charter a private boat. This is a great option for island hopping and visiting secluded beaches and coves.

8. Horse-drawn Carriages: In some of the more historic areas of the Bahamas, such as Nassau and George Town, horse-drawn carriages are a popular mode of transportation. This is a unique and charming way to explore the city.

9. Seaplanes: For a more luxurious and scenic mode of transportation, you can take a seaplane between the islands. This is a great option for those who want to avoid the longer ferry rides and enjoy stunning aerial views of the islands.

10. Walking: Finally, one of the best ways to explore the Bahamas is on foot. Many of the main tourist areas are pedestrian-friendly, and walking allows you to take your time and discover hidden gems along the way.

Know Before You Go...® - Bahamas Travel Tips

Before making their way to Bahamas , vacationers like to know a little bit of helpful information to make them feel more at home during their stay. Take a look at our travel tips to make your time in villas in Bahamas even more relaxing.

Capital: Nassau
Population: 303,770
Size: 3,940 sq km, slightly smaller than Connecticut
Electric Current: 110
Time: zone:-5 (GMT/UTC )
Official Language: English (official), Creole (among Haitian immigrants)
Currency: Bahamian dollar (BSD), US dollar accepted
Tipping and Taxes: Tipping and taxes in the Bahamas are an essential part of the country's economy and culture. Here are some key points to understand about tipping and taxes in the Bahamas: 1. Sales Tax: The Bahamas has a 12% value-added tax (VAT) on most goods and services, including hotel accommodations and restaurant meals. This tax is usually included in the price listed, so there is no need to tip on top of it. 2. Hotel Taxes: In addition to the VAT, hotels in the Bahamas also charge a 10% service charge. This is not a tip, but rather a mandatory charge that goes towards covering the cost of services such as housekeeping and bellhop services. 3. Tipping in Restaurants: It is customary to tip 15-20% in restaurants in the Bahamas. Some restaurants may automatically add a gratuity to the bill, so be sure to check before leaving an additional tip. If you receive exceptional service, it is appropriate to leave a larger tip. 4. Tipping in Hotels: In addition to the service charge, it is also
Dress Code: Casual, comfortable clothing is recommended for the dress code in Bahamas, with lightweight fabrics and beach attire being appropriate for outdoor activities.
Topography: long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills
Telephone: international: country code - 1-242

Bahamas Weddings and Honeymoons

Vacationers don’t just stay in Bahamas villas - they come to paradise to get married and celebrate their honeymoons! An affidavit available at the U.S. Embassy in Nassau must be completed.  Cost: US$120 for a marriage license.  Documents Required: Passports or birth certificates plus divorce or death certificates, if applicable.

See our favorite Bahamas villas for weddings.