Country Facts and Interesting Information
The Bahamas is a coral-based archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean. Its 700-plus islands and cays range from uninhabited to packed with resorts and tourists. The northern most islands, Grand Bahama and Paradise Island is home to may up scale hotels. Scuba diving and snorkeling sites include the Andros Barrier Reef , Thunderball Grotto and the black-coral gardens off Bimini.
- Capital: Nassau
- Currency: Bahamian Dollar (BSD)
- Languages: Bahamian Creole and English
- Major Religion: Christian
- Continent: North America
- Largest Cities: Nassau, Lucaya, Freeport
- Population is approximately 392,718
- One of the richest countries in the Americas
Bahamians can be best described as an easy-going, friendly and hospitable people. Religion is a huge part of life in the Bahamas with Christianity being the predominant religion practiced in the country. The Bahamian Constitution guarantees freedom of expression. Aside from religion, Junkanoo is a music and dance form that originated in the Bahamas during the days of slavery and it is extremely popular. A festive parade is held in the early hours of Boxing Day (December 26) and on new years day, winding up on sunrise. The parade is complete with colorful costumes,goatskin drums,, clanging cowbells,whistles and horns. Regional Caribbean music also has a strong influence such as Reggae, Calypso,Merengue and Socca, ‘Goombay’ is known as the official music and dance of the Bahamas. In more recent years, American soul,rhythm and blues , pop and rock music has had a strong impact on the younger generation as well.
In recent years health standards have greatly improved throughout the Bahamas especially in Grand Bahama and Nassau. New hospitals and health care facilities have opened and are providing high quality care. Any one that is visiting or living in the Bahamas will have equal access to medical care. There are three public hospitals in the Bahamas, two of them are located on in New Providence. There are also community clinics and satellite clinics that provide medical care to people living on the family islands. While living in the Bahamas expats may turn to private hospitals and healthcare centers for treatment. There are also two smaller private hospitals in the Bahamas; The Doctor’s Hospital and Lyford Cay. Aside from emergency services and general care both hospitals will provide specialized care to patients with other medical issues such as heart disease. The Bahamas does not have a national health insurance scheme that expats may contribute to. The national insurance board offers some medical benefits for job-related illnesses and injuries, you should make sure to have private health insurance which covers all of your basic needs through out your stay in the Bahamas.
A US drivers license is valid in the Bahamas for up to three months all you need to do is present your current license to the car rental company before picking up your vehicle. Keep in mind that it is illegal for any passenger under the age of five to travel in any vehicle without the proper child seat holding them in place. Expats should be aware that traffic in the Bahamas moves on the left side of the roadway and some rental cars may come with the steering wheels on either side of the car. There are also other options such as buses and taxis although buses are not the most reliable and taxis are not readily available in the Out Islands.
If you would like to apply for a Bahamian drivers license there are some requirements:
- Must be 17 years or older and possess a driver’s license from a place other than New Providence
- knowledge of Highway Codes for the Bahamas
- Successful interview
- Present completed forms and supporting documents to the Road Traffic Department Examination Unit
- After verification of all information the applicant is then interviewed by Chief Driving Examiner, the interview includes an oral test of applicant’s knowledge of the Highway Codes for the Bahamas
- Once the applicant passes the interview process the documents are then forwarded to the Drivers License Unit to be fully transferred
- the clerk will then issue a bill to the applicant for payment
- once payment is received the drivers license clerk will issue the New Providence issued drivers license
Once all the requirements are met the license can be issued on the same day, there will be some instances that further processing of some applicants may be necessary and can take up to but not exceeding three business days. The fee for a transferred drivers license is BS $1.66 per month up to the end of the applicants next birth month.
Driver’s License Unit:
Thomas A Robinson Stadium
Eastern Entrance Section 4
P.O. Box N-1615
Nassau, The Bahamas
Agency Contact Information:
Road Traffic Department
Eastern Entrance Section 4
P.O. Box N-1615
Nassau, The Bahamas
Customs and Immigration
Upon arriving in the Islands of the Bahamas everyone is required to fill out and sign an immigration form,keeping a portion of the card in hand until departing. Each adult visitor is allowed to bring 50 cigars,200 cigarettes or one pound of tobacco, one quart of spirits and a variety of personal effects such as a personal radio headset, bicycle or two cameras. All beer that is imported into the country in dutiable at a rate of $10 per imperial gallon or $18 per case. Purchases up to a value of $100 are permitted by all arriving passengers.
For up-to-date information on regulations for international travel, Us residents should visit the travel section of the US customs and Border Protection home page www.cbp.gov
If you are entering the islands by boat, there is a flat fee to clear customs and immigration, which is $150.00 for boats 30 feet and under and $300 for boats 31 feet and over. This will also cover a vessel with three persons or less. Also included is a cruising permit, a fishing permit, Customs and Immigration charges and the $25.00 departure tax. If you plan on staying longer than 12 months, special arrangements must be made with Bahamas Customs and Immigration.
Visas and Work Permits
Entry requirements will differ depending on what country you are a resident and citizen of.
For current information on regulations for international travel, visit the travel section of the US Customs and Border Protection Home Page www.cbp.gov
A Canadian citizen does not require a visa to visit the Bahamas and can remain there for a maximum period of 8 months. You must however have the following documents:
- A Canadian passport,with an expiry date that is not less than 3 months after leaving the Bahamas(for direct travel) and not less than 6 months (if transiting through other countries such as the United States)
- A return ticket
Permanent residents of Canada may stay in the Bahamas for 30 days without a visa but they must travel with the following items:
- A valid passport from the country of origin of which expiry date after return is no less than 3 months (for direct travel) and 6 months (if transiting through other countries such as the United States)
- An original Canadian Permanent Resident Card which expiry date must not be less than 3 months (for direct travel) and 6 months (if transiting through other countries such as the United States)
- a return ticket
Latin America Citizens
To enter the Bahamas citizens from Latin America are required to present a valid passport which must cover the period of intended stay. You are not required to have a Bahamas visa if the stay is less than 3 months. Most visitors to the Bahamas do not need special vaccinations before entering the country. However, travelers over the age of one must provide a yellow fever vaccination certificate, if you are arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission. This requirement also applies to travelers having transited more than 12 hours through an airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission. They must be vaccinated 10 days before entering the Bahamas. The yellow fever vaccination is not a requirement for cruise ship passengers but passengers on Cruise and Stay Packages (hotel accommodations included) in the Bahamas are required to have the vaccination. If you would like more information regarding Vaccination Requirements can be found at www.cdc.gov/travel
To enter the Bahamas citizens from other countries other than the US and Canada are required to present a valid passport which must be current up to your travel periodand some countries are also required to have a Bahamas visa. If you are departing the Bahamas for a country the passport validity requirement of six months beyond the dates of departures, then the requirement will be enforced. You must also have a return or onward journey ticket, hotel confirmation and proof of funds to support your visit.
Cost of Living
The main source of income in the Bahamas is tourism which means that there is little manufacturing done in the country. Most goods such as food,clothes,cars and appliances have to be imported. When comparing other countries that are able to mass produce their own goods, the cost of living is high. This is not the place to go for an inexpensive night out as restaurants and bars are more costly. Shops are generally open from Monday to Saturday from 9 to 5, where Sunday is seen as a rest day and shops are generally closed. On some of the smaller islands businesses may only be opened part time so expats may have to research if you are planning on visiting a smaller populated island. The standard of consumer goods is high and readily available this is due to the fact that bigger towns attract wealthier people and local businesses like to cater to them. There is no need for expats to import their own goods.
Sending and receiving mail in the Bahamas is easy as long as it contains a Bahamian postage stamp, most tourist shops carry kiosk that sell stamps so an extra trip to the post office is not necessary. Postage is around $0.65 (USD) as long as it weighs less than one half ounce. Each half ounce afterwards may be subject to an additional fee.If sending or receiving mail from the out islands be prepared to wait; mail service to these islands is slow,even by air. Most resorts will receive mail just make sure to check with them at the front desk. Most post offices keep general house and are opened Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m and Saturday from 9:00 a.m to 12:30 p.m http://www.bahamas.gov.bs/wps/portal/public
Pets and Animal Regulations
Planning on bringing your pet with you to the Bahamas? Here are some rules you’ll have to abide by;you must obtain an import permit from the Ministry of Agriculture. The permit will be good for one pet and must be used within one year of the issue date.
- Your pet must be at least 6 months old
- Must have a recent rabies vaccination certificate from a licensed veterinarian
- You must also have a Veterinary Health Certificate and present it to a licensed veterinarian within 48 hours of arriving in the Bahamas
Phone and Internet
Like most of the world communication is mostly done through cell phones and internet. It’s best to contact your cell provider and become aware of roaming charges. Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) is the primary service for telephone,internet and wireless services, headquartered in Nassau and partly owned by the government.