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THE BAHAMAS TRAVEL GUIDE
Hello, my name is Gwen, and here is my Bahamas travel guide for over 40 solo travel, including budget, safety/female and eco-travel tips, photographs and interesting posts for your Bahamas travel planning.
WELCOME TO THE BAHAMAS!
The Bahamas – home to Junkaroo, pink beaches, blue holes (Cousteau putting the ‘Big Yard’ on the map), world-class snorkeling and diving, Grand Bahama, Nassau, Paradise Island, the Loyalist Cays, and Pig Beach – all of which reside over an archipelago of 700-plus islands and cays that make up some of the world’s largest coral reef systems in the world.
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LANGUAGES IN THE BAHAMAS
The official language is English, with a ‘Bahamian Dialect’, but Haitian Creole can also be heard spoken.
The Bahamian culture derives mostly from African influences combined with British and American culture. Claiming independence from the British in 1973, the Bahamas Christianity is the predominant religion in the country. Combined with the African influence, Bahamians enjoy a mix of indigenous forms of music, dance, art and cuisine. Like Belizeans, Bahamians are considered laid back and easy going. You’re more than apt to experience a welcome smile and friendly demeanor amongst the Bahamians on their 30 inhabited coral-based islands.
POPULAR BAHAMIAN ACTIVITIES
Considering The Bahamas make up such a large reef system, it goes without saying that the top activities enjoyed here are fishing, diving and snorkeling. Boating, of course, is also popular. Dance, music and sport also play a big part of Bahamian activities. The big event for the Bahamas is Junkaroo parade, a street carnival that has been taking place for over 500 years. This historic, cultural even takes place on Boxing Day (December 26th), New Year’s Day and in the summer. If you go The Bahamas, try to attend one of these – you will not be disappointed.
The Bahamian dollar (BSD or $) is basically a one-to-one exchange rate with the U.S. dollar. U.S. dollars can be used in The Bahamas but do expect to receive Bahamian dollars in the exchange, which cannot be used in the U.S.
TRAVELING THE BAHAMAS
The Bahamas has all modern forms of transportation (no Uber or Lyft at this time, however), including taxis, so getting around and booking transportation in advance or working on the fly, is no problem, although it may be recommended to book a taxi in advance to ensure you receive the correct car.
TIPPING IN THE BAHAMAS
Traveling in a new country is easier when you know the country’s tipping etiquette in advance as each country has its own rules. That said, country rules and norms can shift, so here is an international tipping resource for over 70 countries to use as a general guideline that I have found is constantly updated.
What’s not on there is how to tip a concierge, beauty salons or spas, travel or tour guides, etc. For these extras, it is acceptable to tip 10% at minimum. Remember, tipping is for good service only.
Additionally, you should always tip in the local currency (if tipping in cash), and do not be offended if your tip is refused as it may not be the norm. I feel it’s always better to offer a tip for good service than not, unless I know it will be considered offensive, like in Japan.
A key activity to do in your early planning stage is to know, at minimum, the national holidays. I so suggest also looking into the local holidays. It’s a complete bummer to spend time and money to take the holiday of your lifetime and when you show up at one of your key attractions, it’s closed due to a holiday. It’s also not fun trying to travel and have a hard time accessing travel or other essential resources when no one is around because, yes, it’s a local holiday. So take just a few moments to look at The Bahamas’ holidays.
BAHAMAS ELECTRONIC ESSENTIALS
Besides money, required ID and your ticket, The Bahamas’ voltage is 120 and the standard frequency is 60 Hz, so they use both Type A and Type B adapters, like the U.S. Although you don’t have to bring an adapter, check your electronics – if you have one requiring a 3-prong outlet you may want to bring a Type B adapter just in case. Remember, most smart phones, tablets and laptops don’t require a converter, but double-check your device(s) before you leave home. If you are going to another country on your trip other than The Bahamas, you can check the global adapters list to make sure you’re prepared. I have also provided suggested global adapters below for your convenience!
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS FOR THE BAHAMAS
From the U.S., you will need a valid passport valid at time of entry that allows for two pages required for entry stamp. Visas are not required for U.S. citizens. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to The Bahamas. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
VACCINATIONS FOR THE BAHAMAS
There are normally no vaccinations required for The Bahamas. The U.S. State Department always has their link up to date with pertinent information when traveling to The Bahamas. It is advised to always check there during your planning stage and again before you leave. If you are not from the U.S., please check your government’s website.
SAFETY / FEMALE TRAVEL TIPS
BAHAMAS TRAVEL SAFETY
Petty and violent crimes can exist in The Bahamas during the day and in tourist areas – more so in New Providence and Grand Bahama. Be smart and take precautions while traveling and consult local and U.S.-based advisory boards in advance, if need be. Beyond that, my standard tips for female and solo travelers are:
- always carry photo ID with you; if you don’t want your passport on you at all times, at least carry a copy of it.
- always be “street wise”.
- always be aware of your surroundings, especially if you feel the need to imbibe or feel the need to “let loose” – you’re on vacation so have fun!
- never leave your food or drink unattended.
- keep your belongs on your person, or at least in your view in close proximity, at all times.
- be open to meeting and talking with new people – that is where a lot of the travel experience lies – but be careful on how you divulge personal information.
- research places in advance, if possible, so you know what to expect (i.e., “have a familiar view” – I like to Google the street view of new addresses I’m going to first).
- if something, someone or someplace makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut – leave.
BUDGET TRAVEL TIPS
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE BAHAMAS
The Bahamas’ high season, due to the best weather conditions, is November to mid-April but, of course, this could make it the highest cost time to go as well. A lower cost time to go is from July to October, but that is considered hurricane season so plan well and have travel insurance in case you need to rebook or get delayed due to weather. Like Belize, I would recommend going at the end of high season in April to May to avoid the crowds and costs and before it gets too hot.
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SUSTAINABILITY / ECO TRAVEL TIPS
It is very easy to do your part for the planet and implement environmental sustainability into your travel. If you would like to learn more about how you can implement environmentally sustainable, or eco-friendly, travel measures into your travel, please see my 10 Easy Eco-Travel Tips and suggested Eco Travel Resources.
When doing any type of water sports in the Bahamas, ensure to use reef-safe sunscreen to protect the coral reef and its marine biodiversity. Here is a list of the Best Recommended Reef-Safe Sunscreens on the Market to get in advance:
- Badger SPF 30 Unscented Sunscreen Cream
- Stream2Sea SPF 30 Mineral Sunblock
- Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen
- All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion
- Coral Safe All Natural Biodegradable Sunscreen
- Sun Bum Reef Friendly Ingredients Sunscreen
- Babo Botanicals SPF 30 Clear Zinc Lotion
- Raw Elements SPF 30 Certified Natural Sunscreen
- TropicalSport Biodegradable Mineral Sunscreen
Additionally, if you are flying to or within The Bahamas, consider purchasing carbon offsets through your airline or through a third party, like MyClimate.org, Carbonfund.org, or terrapass. Carbon offsetting allows you to buy a certificate to reduce carbon emissions, a major contributor to climate change, which in turn contribute community projects across countries to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are several ways to go about this to help reduce your impact to climate change through your travel. Check it out!
I first went to The Bahamas during the Christmas/New Year’s holiday season 2000 (and the “Y2K scare”). I thought if there was going to be a place to be stuck during a supposed world technology shutdown, The Bahamas seemed OK, right? The weather in Nassau that time of year is lovely, but the water can still be chilly. Experiencing the Junkaroo Festival held the day after Christmas was a major treat. The dance and colorful costumes were amazing to behold.
I also played my first round of golf there. Military golf, that is. I bought my then-husband a round of golf as a Christmas present. We shared the time on the course as he taught me with plenty of people playing through, of course. It took forever to get through the back nine. By the we finished the sun was going down and there was no one left on the course. Or so I thought. While my husband was returning the rental clubs, I stood alone on the path watching a couple of golf carts coming my way from the front nine. As they got closer, I could see the tall driver more clearly, tongue slightly out (I’m not kidding). They drove up to about 10 feet away from me to only then veer right and up to a gate that slowly opened for them which revealed a white stretch Mercedes limousine. I don’t get star-struck, but I must say my jaw dropped. Yes, it was Michael Jordan, driving the golf cart with this body guards in tow. Seems his family was also on the island vacationing for the holidays. As a UNC basketball fan, this was the highlight of my trip, as I’m sure you can imagine. My poor ex missed it.