Five Things First Time Travellers To The Bahamas Should Know
- You don't need to tip. A service charge is automatically included in bills at restaurants and bars in the Bahamas. But if you notice there isn't one, a standard tip is 15%. If you want to tip more than this, it's always appreciated.
- English is the official language in the Bahamas. Don't worry about having to overcome a language barrier; you'll be able to communicate with most of the locals.
- The Bahamas uses the US dollar as well as their own Bahamian dollar. Just make sure you have cash and credit cards with you on your trip. This is because some hotels only accept cards as a payment method and taxis only take cash.
- Don't forget to drive on the left hand side of the road. If you decide to hire a car, you can use your license from home or apply for an international driver's license once in the country.
- The tap water is drinkable throughout the Bahamas. However, the locals don't like it because it's heavily chlorinated. If you feel the same way after trying it, bottled water is available at any store or supermarket at a reasonable price.
Best Time To Visit The Bahamas
There's no bad time to visit the Bahamas. With 300 days of sunshine, it all depends on what you want out of your holiday.
If you want the picture-perfect beaches all to yourself, plan your visit around May to October. You'll find the best hotel deals between July and November, with some resorts knocking as much as 50% off their usual rate.
The only downside to visiting during this period is that some of the outer islands will be closed. There's also the threat of hurricanes and thunderstorms that keep most visitors away. But if you don't mind having a flexible itinerary, you'll still be able to visit the most popular destinations without any problems.
The busiest time of year is during the winter months. From November to February, travellers flock to the Bahamas, and hotels are booked out months in advance. You'll end up paying almost double for your room and end up waiting in line for most of the island's activities. But if you don't mind the crowds, you'll be rewarded with excellent weather and not a rain cloud in sight.
Another busy season to keep in mind is spring break. From March to April, college students arrive, and beach parties are an almost daily event. You might want to skip this period if you aren't going to join the party as most hotels will also host events.
Nassau is the capital city of the Bahamas. Its port is one of the most popular stops in the Caribbean and beach lovers flock here from all around the world. Nassau boasts some of the best luxury resorts in the region and is a playground for the rich and famous.
Its West African, English and Haitian cultures are infused in the city's food and architecture. Before heading to the beach spend some time sampling the cuisine, exploring its charming shopfronts and visiting the excellent museums.
Freeport is the Bahamas' second most popular port of call. The city is full of local flavour with bustling marketplaces and historic appeal.
The best part about coming here is that despite its size it's not as busy as Nassau. It's easy to find a secluded spot on its sandy white shores without running into the masses.
Freeports highlights include the world's largest underwater cave systems and three national parks.
If you're looking to escape the big city bustle, head to Matthew Town. This idyllic island paradise is home to 1,200 people and is the perfect place to visit if you're looking for peace and serenity.
While there isn't much going on, Matthew Town's biggest drawcard is its flamingo population. More than 80,000 call the Great Inagua home making it the largest flamingo nesting ground in the Western Hemisphere.
Top Attractions in The Bahamas
Atlantis Paradise Island
Inspired by the legend of the city of Atlantis, the resort is now one of the top attractions in the Bahamas. Inside you'll find mythical sea creatures, one of the largest outdoor aquariums and little expense spared to bring this fantasy world to life.
Head to the water park and take the Leap of Faith - an 18-metre drop through a tunnel in a shark-filled lagoon. Animal lovers can join the Ultimate Trainer for a Day program at the Dolphin Cay or simply admire the creatures from afar.
For the less adventurous, there are more than 20 swimming areas and the Lazy River Ride that will gently float you down the stream.
Andros is the biggest island in the Bahamas and is home to one of the world's largest barrier reefs. But that's not all; Andros also boasts impressive freshwater blue holes and underwater caves begging to be explored.
With so much to see underneath its surface, a trip here is a must for any scuba diver.
But if you prefer to stay dry, the island has another claim to fame. It's considered "the bonefishing capital of the world". Nature lovers can also head to the hills and explore one of the five national parks. The forests are rich with wildlife as well as mudflats and mangrove swamps.
Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park
The Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park is a beautiful protected area in the east of the Bahamas. It's famous for being the first "no-take zone" in the world.
One of the best activities to do here is to hire a kayak. Your guide will steer you over the coral reefs, and you'll have plenty of opportunities to admire the amazing marine life swimming below you.
For divers and snorkelers, the Exuma Cays is a mecca. On a good day during the dry season, visibility is at least 30 metres. But the park's most famous inhabitants are the swimming pigs, and the Thunderball Cave featured in the James Bond movie.
Harbour Island is one of the oldest settlements in the region. It was established in the 1700s by English Loyalists and is where the first Bahamian parliament was based.
Today, the island is known for its sandy pink beaches and luxury resorts. It's a popular destination for some of Hollywood's biggest stars, and it's not unusual to spot a few celebs soaking up the sun.
Popular activities include snorkelling, diving and exploring the pristine natural environment.
If you don't have the cash to spend a night here, it's an easy day trip from Nassau and well worth the effort.
Garden of the Groves
Located on Grand Bahama Island, the Garden of the Groves is a spectacular eco-attraction. It's home to more than 10,000 different species of plants, countless exotic birds, waterfalls and dozens of lakes.
It's easy to spend a whole day here, strolling through the garden and exploring its hidden gems. While it costs BSD 17 to get in, your ticket includes the cost of a guide. You'll be able to learn all about the unique flora found on the island and how to spot the diverse range of wildlife.
Once you've explored the gardens to your heart's content, head to the chapel perched on top of a hill. It boasts a beautiful labyrinth inspired by Chartres Cathedral in France.
Major International Airports in The Bahamas
- Lynden Pindling International Airport
- Grand Bahama International Airport
- Exuma International Airport
- Rock Sound International Airport