|Government||constitutional parliamentary democracy|
|Currency||Bahamian dollar (BSD)|
|Area||total: 13,940 sq km |
water: 3,870 sq km
land: 10,070 sq km
|Language||English, Creole (among Haitian immigrants)|
|Religion||Baptist 32%, Anglican 20%, Roman Catholic 19%, Methodist 6%, Church of God 6%, other Protestant 12%, none or unknown 3%, other 2%|
The Bahamas are an extensive chain of Caribbean islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, USA and to the northeast of Cuba. Some 30 of the islands are inhabited and the country is a major tourist attraction.
- Administrative divisions
- 21 districts; Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bimini, Cat Island, Exuma, Freeport, Fresh Creek, Governor's Harbour, Green Turtle Cay, Harbour Island, High Rock, Inagua, Kemps Bay, Long Island, Marsh Harbour, Mayaguana, New Providence, Nichollstown and Berry Islands, Ragged Island, Rock Sound, Sandy Point, San Salvador and Rum Cay
- San Salvador in 1492. British settlement of the islands began in 1647; the islands became a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.
The populace is predictably friendly and more religious than one might expect. Local newspapers will reveal religious references by elected officials in a manner that exceeds what would be found in the American South. This devotion does nothing to prohibit the activities of visitors nor is it intended to. There is a very "libertarian" attitude about personal morals.
Officially 120V 60Hz, which is identical to the U.S. and Canadian standard. Outlets are North American NEMA 5-15 grounded outlets, identical to standard U.S. and Canadian wall outlets. Occasionally non-grounded NEMA 1-15 outlets may be found. Non-grounded outlets do not accept the third, round pin present on grounded plugs. Adapters are available to allow equipment with grounded (three-pin) plugs to plug into non-grounded outlets while avoiding the otherwise necessary step of cutting the grounding pin off of the plug.
Additionally, U.S. and Canadian outlets are polarized. Polarized means that one of the two vertical blades is taller/wider than the other. This is a safety feature which restricts a non-grounded plug from being inserted into an outlet "upside down". Older North American outlets found in much of Central and South America, the Caribbean and other areas may not be polarized. As such, polarized plugs may not fit into non-polarized outlets. To remedy this, the wider vertical blade on a polarized plug may be filed down to match the width of the other. Otherwise, adapters are available which accept a polarized plug and adapt it for use with a non-polarized outlet.
Residents of the United States can use a United States official Birth Certificate to enter the Bahamas without a passport.
United States Customs is located in the airport, so leave extra time to clear customs when leaving the country.
They used to require visitors to pay a $15 per person departure tax in cash, but now it's included in the cost of the ticket.
The Bahamas are a popular port of call for cruise ships plying the Caribbean. The capital, Florida. Freeport on Grand Bahama Island is a growing destination as well. Furthermore, most of the islands have marinas that serve as a ports of entry for private boats.
Driving is on the left but due to the many American tourists there are many pavement markings to remind you. A particular challenge is always the turning circle. Gasoline is expensive but distances are low.
The buses in Nassau (called jitneys) are great for tourists because they cost $1 to travel on to most points, and go to most anywhere you would want to go. Routes are posted on the buses' windshields. The only exception is the airport, where buses are not allowed and you have to get a taxi ($25 to downtown). Do note, however, that by 5PM most buses stop operating. Alternatively, rental cars and motorcycles are available at the airport.
Bus travel on the other islands (with the exception of Freeport) is very limited. The best way to go around is to hire a car. There are many opportunities to rent a vehicle on Grand Bahama Island (Freeport) and can be well worth it if you want to get away from your resort. The Lucaya resort area has a nice town center with a wide variety of shopping in walking distance.
- English, Haitian Creole (among Haitian immigrants)
Don't bother to exchange US currency as it is accepted everywhere and the national currency is tied to the US.
There is very little made in the Bahamas but purchase of some European goods can be purchased at a bargain. Cuban cigars are most often not really Cuban cigars but may be Cuban tobacco.
Don't buy shells or sponges as you can easily pick them up on the beaches free.
Ordinary meals can be had for anywhere from $5-$25 a plate. You can find fast-food chains such as KFC or McDonalds, especially in the downtown areas, but as it is a highly touristed country, you can find many nice restaurants serving many different cuisines. Most restaurants serve American or British food, though you can easily find the normal island flair, especially during the Fish Fry during June, where you can usually get a meal for about $8. A 15% service charge is added to the bill at most establishments; additional tips are optional.
Service is distinct from the American standard. There is a concentration on the customer at hand that means that your table will be completely cleared and re-set before you get your bill. At fast food restaurants the server will take care of only the first customer until they have left the service area. Don't expect to be in a hurry even at a fast food establishment.
This is a tourist town. Soda is pretty pricy, and you will only find it on a soda tap if you are in a good restaurant, otherwise you will usually get it in a can. The cheapest way to get this would be to go to a local "Food Mart."
Kalik is the national brewery of the Bahamas and is always served at "all-inclusive" resorts. Kalik is a decent brand, especially given the dearth of options available.
Imported beer is incredibly expensive in the Bahamas, as it is not produced there. Expect to pay about $6.00 a can there, and bottles are almost impossible to find. Don't even expect to find a decent selection.
This is not much of a step up from beer. You have to go out of your way to even FIND wiskey, and when you do, it's expensive, and they only have Jack Daniels. I couldn't even find Brandy, and vodka averaged $15 a bottle... for the cheap stuff.
This is by far the best choice of drinks in the Bahamas, it's cheap as you can get ($2-$10 a bottle), tastes great, and it's made fresh by 3 different companys, the largest being the Bacardi Rum factory, which you can take tours of and get free drinks if you go on a 2 HR bus ride.
- Atlantis Paradise Island Resort and Casino (http://www.atlantis.com) Paradise Island. Tel. 1-800-ATLANTIS in the U.S, +1 (242) 363-3000. The largest, most tourist-oriented hotel in Nassau. Located on Paradise Island, just across the causeway from downtown Nassau. A tourist attraction in itself, with a giant aquarium, a casino, shopping center, marina, water park, not to mention the beach. Often crowded with families on packaged vacations, so the service can be wanting. Very expensive!
- British Colonial Hilton Nassau (http://www.hilton.com/en/hi/hotels/index.jhtml?ctyhocn=NASHITW) One Bay Street. Tel: +1 (242) 322-3301 Fax: +1 (242) 302-9010. A hotel catering more to business travellers than package tourists. Occupies a historical landmark (Fort Nassau), and has its own private beach, from which you get a fantastic view of the cruise ships going into, going out of, and at the docks. Step out of the hotel and you're right downtown on Bay Street's shopping attractions.
- Wyndham Nassau Resort & Crystal Palace Casino (http://nassau.wyndham-hotels.com/) West Bay Street. Tel. +1 (242) 327-6200. Fax. +1 (242) 327-5227. A tropical paradise waiting to be discovered, just minutes from the Nassau International Airport. Conveniently located near downtown Nassau, shopping centers and other island tourist attractions.
- Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach Resort (http://viva-fortuna-beach.wyndham-hotels.com/) CHURCHILL DRIVE & DOUBLOON ROAD. Tel. +1 (242) 373-4000. Fax. +1 (242) 373-5555. Grand Bahama's only truly all-inclusive resort located on the south coast of Grand Bahama Island. Nestled on 23 acres of prime beachfront property with 1,200 feet of white sandy beaches at your fingertips.