Electricity

Electrical current in the Bahamas is 120 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin, flat-blade plugs and flat-blade plugs with round grounding are standard.

Language

English is the official language of the Bahamas.

Money

The official currency is the Bahamian Dollar (BSD), which is divided into 100 cents. The Bahamian Dollar is equal in value to the US Dollar and both currencies are accepted throughout the islands. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and many hotels. There are ATMs in the main tourist centres and credit and debit cards are widely accepted in all the big resorts. Banks' opening hours may vary, but tend to be from 9.30am to 3pm (Monday to Thursday) and 9.30am to 04.30 pm (Fridays).

Tipping

Many hotel and restaurant bills in the Bahamas automatically include a service charge of about 15 percent; if this is not included a 15 percent tip is expected for most services, including taxi journeys. Hotel bellboys and porters usually receive about BSD 2 per bag.

Health

Many routine vaccinations are considered cautionary measures, as food and water sources are typically safe and well managed in the Bahamas. Visitors should steer clear of fruit or vegetables unless peeled or cooked, and note that some types of fish, including tropical reef fish, are poisonous to eat even when cooked. Visitors should also use mosquito repellent to avoid bites. Medical facilities are good in Nassau and Freeport, but expensive, and usually require payment in cash on treatment; as a result, comprehensive travel insurance is advised. Visitors will need a vaccination certificate for yellow fever if they've arrived from or transited through a country where yellow fever occurs.

Safety

Most visits to the Bahamas are trouble-free, though care should be taken in the major cities of Nassau and Freeport. Visitors should take sensible precautions and not carry large amounts of cash or jewellery on their person or wander away from the main tourist areas, especially after dark. In light of several fatal accidents and serious injuries that have occurred using rented watersports equipment, it is advisable that only those experienced on jet skis consider renting them on New Providence and Paradise Island. The watersports industry in the Bahamas is poorly regulated and visitors should only rent equipment from reputable operators and make sure that they have received adequate training before going out onto the water. Hurricane season is from June to the end of November and visitors should monitor weather forecasts before making travel plans.

Local customs

A vital part of Bahamian custom is their dialect of English, which is characterful and descriptive, and, while it may take some time to come to grips with, it will only add more colour to travellers' experiences of the Bahamas. Handshakes are the norm for greeting. Visitors should also act in a humble and accepting manner while in the Bahamas, as the locals will treat them in this way; however, Bahamians also have a wicked sense of humour and they have great fun teasing others as a sign of affection. Visitors should note that some of the islands and resorts are very upmarket and require a certain standard of dress. Beachwear should be confined to the beach and smart-casual dress is usually expected in the evenings.

Doing business

Nassau is the business centre of the Bahamas, whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism and offshore banking. Business protocol is fairly relaxed, although appropriate business attire is expected. Meetings are usually held in conference rooms, they begin punctually, and business cards are customarily exchanged and should be treated respectfully by being placed in a card case. Handshakes on introduction are the norm between both men and women, and women are treated as equals in the business environment. Moreover, colleagues and business acquaintances should be addressed by their professional or academic title and surname. It's important to be punctual for meetings and not to hurry others in an effort to end meetings more quickly, as this is perceived as rude. Office hours are generally 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Duty free

Travellers to the Bahamas over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars; 1 litre spirits and 1 litre wine (all imported beer is subject to duties); and other goods to the value of US$100. Prohibited items include firearms and ammunition without a police permit. Pets and dogs from countries with rabies infections are strictly prohibited from entering the country.

Communications

The international access code for the Bahamas is +1, in common with the US, Canada, and most of the Caribbean, followed by 242. Visitors with unlocked phones can use local SIM cards; most hotels and many bars and cafes have free WiFi.

Passport & Visa

All visitors must be in possession of a return or onward ticket, plus proof of funds, and a passport valid for period of intended travel. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers travelling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. It is recommended that passports are valid for six months beyond travel to any country.

Entry requirements

United States passport holders must have a passport valid for period of intended stay. A visa is not required for visits of up to eight months for those carrying a passport issued in mainland USA. Passport holders living in US territories can stay for up to three months visa-free.

Visitors from the United Kingdom should ensure that their passport is valid for the period of intended stay and that they have proof of return or onward tickets. British Citizens can visit without a visa for stays of up to eight months. Passengers with a British passport with nationality of "British Overseas Territories Citizen", "British National (Overseas)", "British Overseas Citizen", "British Protected Person" or "British Subject" can visit without a visa for a maximum stay of three months.

Canadian nationals must hold a valid passport, but no visa is required for a stay of up to eight months.

Passports and other documents must be valid for the period of intended stay. Australians can stay in the Bahamas without a visa for a period of up to three months.

South African nationals must hold a valid passport, but no visa is required for a stay of up to three months.

Irish nationals must hold a valid passport, but no visa is required for a stay for up to three months.

New Zealanders require a valid passport but do not require a visa for a stay of up to three months.

Useful contacts

Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Nassau: +1 800 224 2627, or www.bahamas.com.

919 (Police, Fire, and National Emergency Medical Services)

Embassies / consulates in other countries

Bahamian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 319 2660.

High Commission for The Bahamas, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7408 4488.

High Commission for The Bahamas, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 232 1724.

Embassies / consulates in Bahamas

United States Embassy, Nassau: +1 242 322 1181.

British High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (also responsible for The Bahamas): +1 876 510 0700.

Canadian High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (also responsible for The Bahamas): +1 876 926 1500.

Australian High Commission, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (also responsible for The Bahamas): +1 868 822 5450.

South African High Commission, Kingston, Jamaica (also responsible for The Bahamas): +1 876 620 4840.

Send a link to this travel guide