Bahamas First Impressions-10 things to note!

Bahamas is a popular holiday destination for Americans- just like how Indians are drawn to beaches in Thailand or Maldives.

Nassau, the capital of Bahamas is a short hop from Miami, Florida and gets flights from various part of North and South America.

As I visited Bahamas and spent 3 days there, below are my major observations about the Bahamas and visiting Bahamas for tourism. I've already written about using public transport in Nassau,  Bonefish Pond mangrove forest park and view of Bahamas from top

1. Centred around Cruise ships
Nassau has a cruise terminal that has capacity to support up-to 6 big cruise ships. On any day you can see 3-4 big cruise ships anchored here.  These ships usually stay for a day- like arrive by 8 AM, depart by sunset time. Cruise passengers disembark, get to spend 6-10 hours on the island before heading back.
Because of this, most of downtown Nassau is centred around needs of cruise passengers.
- Most shops shut shop by 7-8PM once cruise ships leave.
- Tender coconut is sold at insane 7 to 8 dollars (2-3$ in USA) targeted at tourist crowd.
- Most tourists are not keen to explore interiors of Nassau or any places of historic importance. Most do some shopping and head to Paradise island where they can do more shopping, some watersports etc and head back in time for their ship's departure.

I saw these boards in some places- apparently many locals are not happy about volume of cruise passengers arriving and everything revolving around them, making things expensive/inaccessible to locals.
2. Everything is expensive.
Bahamas is expensive place to visit- mainly because it is a small island without much of local production. Everything is imported from elsewhere, mainly USA.
Some examples:
  • A gallon of Gas was costing 2.7 USD in Baltimore while it was costing 4.2 USD in Bahamas and rising.
  • You get two bananas for a dollar in US Supermarkets- while only 1 in Bahamas
  • A simple t-shirt, probably not worth more than 5-6$ was being quoted at 25$ to me. When I was reluctant, shopkeeper offered it at 15$. There's no point shopping in Bahamas because everything is imported and sold for a premium, but most tourist crowd don't seem to care.
  • I walked into Avis office in downtown Nassau and asked how much it is to rent a small car for a day. 125 USD+ tax and insurance was the quote. You can rent a car for 2-3 days for that price in most US cities.
  • Packaged tender coconut drink is manufactured in Thailand, exported to Jamaica and from there imported into Bahamas. They do have coconut trees in Bahamas but don't seem keen to build some business around it
3. Former British Colony- vehicles are mix of left and right hand drive
Bahamas was a British colony. So there're lots of vehicles with India like right hand drive systems. But being close to Mainland USA, lots of imported vehicles have left hand drive. So cars in Bahamas are a mix of left and right hand drive. Most buses are right hand drive.

4. Lone Indian Restaurant
I found just one Indian Restaurant in Nassau (there could be few more, but didn't notice). But like everything else, this one is also expensive. A plate of Biriyani and Raita could set you back by 25$. A plate of tomato rice cost me 12$ and it wasn't that tasty either.
5. Public transport is difficult but manageable.
Bus ride costs about 1.25 USD per ride. Buses operate on various routes from Downtown Nassau and frequency is ok. I've a separate post on using public transport in Nassau. Read it here. I could avoid taxi (one taxi person quoted 17$ for a 5km distance, listening to which I decided to walk)

6. Tropical weather
Weather in Bahamas was similar to India. It is closer to equator and hence not as cold as north America or Canada. Wasn't too harsh during my visit but you will need some shade and lots of liquids during your outings.

7. Visiting nearby islands- Flights and Postal boat
Bahamas is a collection of 100s of islands. I was hopping to board a public ferry and visit a few nearby islands. But when in downtown Nassau, I couldn't find proper public ferry to any islands (except Paradise). I read that postal department has a big ferry that shuttles different islands and even public can board this ferry. But without being able to access a clear schedule (for assurance that I can come back to Nassau same day) I felt it is difficult proposition.

There're some regular commercial flights you can take to islands like Excuma- return ticket can cost around 300 USD. Exuma is popular for swimming pigs. I thought about going there for a day but then, should I spend 300-400 $ just to see pigs swim? I had second thoughts and eventually decided not to go.

8. Places to visit inside Nassau
Nassau does have a few places of interest to explore. I visited most of them.
Bone Fish Pond Natural park * Queen's staircase waterfalls * Fort * Several beaches

9. Is Bahamas worth visiting?
There's no point visiting Bahamas from India- you're better off visiting Maldives, Mauritius or Thailand that is cheaper to visit.

If you're in mainland US and need a getaway, particularly during winter months where you'd like to visit warmer places, Bahamas or other islands in the Caribbean area would make a good choice. But again see if you can visit a cheaper, less popular island as that will be less crowded and will save you money

If you're on a cruise where Bahamas is one of the stops, then it may be good idea.

10. People and culture
Most people speak good enough English to be able to deal with tourists, so language is not a problem unlike South America.
People are largely natives or from other Caribbean countries living in Bahamas looking for a job (as it is very popular among tourists)

People are reasonably friendly. On a Sunday evening as I was waiting for bus, one person came to me and advised me to take a taxi or walk as buses won't be available after 6 PM. Haven't heard of any security issues like in Colombia. Infrastructure is Ok- not the best possible but not broken either

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