Bahamas Travel Tips
Picture-perfect beaches make this country a popular holiday retreat for millions of tourists every year, especially Americans and cruise ship visitors. There are a huge range of historical, cultural, and natural attractions to take in, but like most islands in the Caribbean, the Bahamas are an expensive destination. Take this into account when planning your visit – smart planning can help you get more bang for your buck as you indulge in everything the islands have to offer.
- Accommodation: Lodging is expensive. There are very few hostels, but there are reasonably priced guest houses and budget hotels with ensuite rooms for around $75 USD per night.
- Food: You’ll pay around $8 USD for fish, a side dish and dessert, which is fairly reasonable for local fare. However, most restaurants also specialize in American and British meals that can cost between $17-25 USD a plate. There is often also a compulsory service charge of 15% on your bill, so keep in mind as you settle a check.
- Transportation: If you’re staying in Freeport or Nassau, a minibus trip for $1.25 USD a ticket is the cheapest way to get around, but they stop running at 6pm. Another option is the wildly popular water-taxi running every hour for $6 USD from Nassau to Paradise Island. In terms of inter-island travel, there are frequent and affordable mail boats going from Nassau to the outer islands that cost $45 USD each way, but plan accordingly because these can take anywhere from 12-48 hours and offer little in the way of modern conveniences. Inter-island flights (via Bahamas Air or other local carriers) are a much more efficient option, and if you buy ahead of time, the fare usually won’t break the bank.
- Activities: Snorkeling, diving, swimming with dolphins, and fishing trips can all easily creep up to around $125 USD, but are an incredible way to experience the islands if you have the budget. Other inland activities such as the Pirates of Nassau Museum and the Garden of the Groves on Grand Bahama are much more reasonable at around $12 USD.
Money Saving Tips
- Nightclub passes - Many hotels and even taxi drivers will sell you a $5 USD discount pass to get into the clubs around town at a discount. This is a particularly good value if you are visiting on a weekend when cover charges may be close to $50 USD at a swanky spot.
- Drink rum – Alcohol is expensive in the Bahamas – a case of imported beer can cost around $50 USD! The exception to this rule is rum or local beer, Kalik or Sands.
- Bike - For around $20 USD a day, renting a bike offers a good alternative to using taxis to get around. Roads in Freeport and Nassau are generally in good condition though there is more traffic; roads in the Out Islands may not be as well cared for, but you’ll rarely come across a stop light or more than a handful of cars.
Top Things to See and Do
- Eleuthera – If you want to escape the mass tourism of Freeport or Nassau, then visit Eleuthera Island. The dozens of beaches here are amazing, and Current Cut is one of the most famous diving spots in the country. Get swept up with schools of stingrays, mako sharks, and reef fish as the current carries you along. In addition to spending time on the phenomenal beaches, take a scenic drive through the island and experience the vibrant expat life. Make sure you go to Tippys for nightly music, great drinks, and some of the most affordable food on the island. Tell them I say hi!
- Harbor Island – Just north of Eleuthera, Harbor Island is a tiny spot filled with some really nice resorts and beaches. The island is so small, people drive around in golf carts (who wouldn’t be into that) and while it may be a lot more expensive than other parts of the Bahamas, if you want an upscale place for a holiday, this is it. To save a bit of cash, consider staying on Eleuthera, and coming to visit for a day.
- The Tongue of the Ocean - The Tongue of the Ocean is an oceanic trench that runs along the entire length of the Andros Island coast. The wall of the trench leads to an almost 6000 feet drop to the sea bed where divers can get up close and personal with reef sharks as they swarm in to feed.
- Swim with dolphins – One of the most popular activities in the Bahamas is to swim with dolphins. About 30 minutes from Nassau and Paradise Island you’ll find Blue Lagoon Island where there are two options for dolphin encounters – the first and cheapest option is to pet and feed them (about $100 USD) while standing on a platform in the water. The second and more expensive option is to swim with them for closer to $200 USD.
- Pirates of Nassau - Pirates of Nassau is a museum dedicated to showcasing the history of piracy on the island. The building is huge and in it you’ll walk around a pirate ship, visit the dungeon, and experience all the folklore surrounding the pirates’ legacy.
- Atlantis – This is one of the most prestigious, luxurious, and expensive hotels in the world. If you can’t afford to stay here, you can use the activities within the resort. The Aquaventure Waterpark has 11 pools, huge water slides (including a Mayan temple themed one which tunnels through a shark pool), river rapids, and rock climbing. Other popular attractions within the resort are Dolphin Cay, the casino, and the Marine Habitat.
- Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park – This was the first land and sea park in the world and is still one of the best. You can hire a kayak and have a guide steer you over the coral reefs to get a look at the amazing marine life below you.
- Garden of the Groves – Located in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, this 12-acre eco-tourist attraction is home to alligators, exotic birds, 10,000 different species of plants, four waterfalls, and dozens of lakes. Admission is $15 USD with a guided tour.
- Junkanoo – If possible, try to visit the Bahamas in late December or early January – every Boxing Day and New Year’s Day, Bahamians celebrate their national festival, Junkanoo. Brass bands, drums, cow bells, and whistles provide the soundtrack for thousands of people dancing in the streets. If you can’t be there for the main festival, there is a mini festival held in June.
- Fish Fry – Make sure to visit Arawak Cay or “Fish Fry” as it is known to the locals in Nassau. For around $20 USD, you can have a plate filled with delicious seafood, potato salad, Bahamian macaroni and cheese, and the Caribbean staple, peas and rice.
- Abaco Wild Horse Preserve – This island refuge is home to descendants of horses brought over by Christopher Columbus. The horses are believed to be the purest strain of Spanish Barbs in the world. This endangered species is highly protected, but private island tours by horseback can be set up in advance.
- Lucayan National Park – This forty-acre park is home to the world’s largest underwater limestone cave system—however, it is only accessible to experienced divers. For everyone else, there are various hiking trails that wind all throughout the pine forest and along Gold Rock Beach.
- Port Lucaya Marketplace – This 12-acre shopping complex in Freeport has more than 60 shops, a dozen restaurants, 90 vendors, two dozen artists, hair-braiders, and more. You’ll find great bargains on hand-crafted goods and one-of-a-kind items.
- Fort Charlotte – This fort from the 1780′s has a large moat, cannons, hidden passageways, and dark dungeons to explore. Those interested in history will really enjoy this attraction just off the beaten path.
- Arawak Cay – Located in Nassau, this area is home to the island’s best seafood restaurants. You will find the freshest conch, shrimp, lobster, and more, all cooked to perfection at a reasonable price. Most seafood is served in the traditional Bahamian style, with fresh lime juice and spicy chili peppers.