Bahamas travel guide
The quiet coves and crowd-free beaches of the Bahamas offer visitors the intimacy of a secluded retreat within a paradisiacal expanse of some 700 palm-fringed isles.
Christened baja mar (meaning 'shallow sea') by Christopher Columbus, these islands, with their astonishing hues of sand and sea spanning the colour spectrum from twinkling turquoise to rose pink, are the personification of paradise.
Crystalline waters secrete ancient shipwrecks and a rainbow of coral reefs, while pastel-coloured seashells and vibrant clapboard houses perch atop a tropical landscape that resonates with exotic birdsong.
There’s the over-riding feeling that the Bahamas has got tourism just right: a range of resorts cater for holidaymakers, including a growing range of eco-hotels, yet their impact on the islands’ natural beauty remains, by in large, minimal.
The full gauntlet of watersports beckon for the active holidaymaker: from scuba diving and snorkelling to parasailing and sailing, there’s more than enough to get the pulse racing here. Then there are the glitzy golf courses, designed by the game’s best, whose vistas are enough to compensate for a bad day on the fairways.
Pack your hiking shoes and explore the clutch of nature reserves that are scattered across the archipelago. Pack your binoculars too and look out for the myriad of bird species that call the Bahamas home: from bright pink flamingos to multicolored parrots, you can’t miss some of the more flamboyant species.
Come sundown, Bahamian bars and clubs pulsate with island rhythms; discover riotous dance festivals that mix African slave-trade rituals with Bahamian tempo and American hip-hop twists, or head to one of the archipelago’s bustling straw markets to haggle over spices, and ceramics.
If it all gets too much, recharge your batteries at one of the wonderful seafood restaurants or with an infamous rum cocktail. Whatever you do, the vividness of the Bahamas never ceases to assault your senses.
13,939 sq km (5,382 sq miles).
392,718 (UN estimate 2016).
23.3 per sq km.
HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor-General Dame Marguerite Pindling since 2014.
Prime Minister Perry Christie since 2012.
Last updated: 18 November 2019
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands. However, travel to other islands of The Bahamas is unaffected.
Hurricane Dorian passed over The Bahamas on 2 and 3 September, causing significant and widespread damage to Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands. Most airports in Grand Bahama and Abaco have reopened. Water, shelter, power supplies and communications access have all been affected, but are now available, though in short supply. The local authorities on Grand Bahama have set up emergency assistance lines on 351-4902, 351-4903 and 351-4904.
If you’ve been affected by the hurricane and need urgent consular assistance, call +1 876 936 0700. If you’re in the UK and are concerned about a British national in The Bahamas, call the FCO in London on 020 7008 1500.
We are aware of various cruise operators offering transit to Nassau. You should check with travel operators. All evacuees have been required to hold valid travel documents. United States authorities strongly encourage private vessel and aircraft operators to coordinate any evacuation missions with Bahamian authorities before evacuating anyone from The Bahamas. Check with local authorities for the latest information on departure options.
The hurricane season in The Bahamas normally runs from June to November. You should follow the advice of the local authorities and any evacuation orders. You can also monitor the progress of approaching storms from the US National Hurricane Center.
On 26 June 2019 a fatal shark attack took place in The Bahamas. While this is a very rare occurrence, the Bahamian authorities have issued advice urging the public to exercise extreme caution in and around the waters of New Providence, adjacent islands and cays.
UK health authorities have classified The Bahamas as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Almost 28,000 British nationals visited The Bahamas in 2015. Most visits are trouble-free.
There have been incidents of violent crime including robbery.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in The Bahamas, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There is no permanent consular representation at the British High Commission in Nassau. However, the British High Commission in Kingston, Jamaica, can provide consular support to British nationals.
Safety and security
There have been incidents of violent crime including robbery, which is often armed and sometimes fatal, in residential and tourist areas of New Providence, Grand Bahama and Freeport. The number of break-ins and robbery incidents reported to the British High Commission has increased. There are police patrols in the main tourist areas.
Be vigilant at all times and don’t walk alone away from the main hotels, tourist areas, beaches and downtown Nassau, particularly after dark. Take care if travelling on local bus services after dusk on routes away from the main tourist areas. Don’t carry large amounts of cash or jewellery. Robbers may be armed. Don’t resist in the event of an attempted robbery. If you need the police in an emergency, call 911 or 919.
The outlying islands of the Bahamas (known as the Family or Out Islands) have lower crime rates.
Excursions and activities
Before booking any excursion or activity make sure that health and safety precautions are evident and that the operator has adequate insurance cover.
The water sports industry in The Bahamas is poorly regulated. Be careful when renting jet skis and other water sports equipment as many companies and individuals offering water sports activities are unregistered. People have been killed or seriously injured using jet skis and other watercraft carelessly, or by the reckless behaviour of others. There have been reports of sexual assaults on foreign nationals by jet ski operators in Nassau.
You can drive in the Bahamas with a valid UK driving licence for up to 6 months. If you’re staying longer or living in the Bahamas, you’ll need to get a Bahamian driving licence.
Although traffic drives on the left-hand side of the road most vehicles are imported from the United States and are left hand drive.
There is no permanent consular representation at the British High Commission in Nassau. However, the British High Commission in Kingston, Jamaica, can provide consular support to British nationals. In the event of a genuine consular emergency in the Bahamas, telephone +1 242 225 6033 or +1 876 936 0700. This number should not be used for passport or visa queries.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the Bahamas, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of a terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
In an emergency dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. Medical treatment is of a good standard but can be expensive. Emergency medical facilities are limited on all the Family Islands and serious cases are transferred to Nassau, Freeport or Miami by air ambulance. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
UK health authorities have classified the Bahamas as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Dengue fever is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year.
In the 2013 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 7,600 adults aged 15 or over in The Bahamas were living with HIV; the rate was of infection was estimated at around 3.2% of the adult population. This compares to the prevalence rate in adults in the UK of around 0.3%. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
Local laws and customs
Penalties for possessing or trafficking drugs are severe. Tourists may be offered drugs in pubs and bars. Police are vigilant and you could face a substantial fine, deportation or imprisonment.
Local attitudes towards the LGBT community are mostly conservative throughout the Caribbean. In the Bahamas, same-sex sexual relations have been legal since 1991, with an age of consent of 18. However, LGBT travellers should be mindful of local attitudes and be aware that public displays of affection may attract unwanted and negative attention. Public displays of affection (such as hand-holding or kissing) between opposite or same-sex couples are uncommon. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Pack all luggage yourself and do not carry anything through Customs for anyone else.
Carry photocopies of your passport and travel insurance documents and keep the originals in a safe place.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals visiting are usually allowed entry into the Bahamas for up to 21 days. This can be extended up to a maximum of 8 months by applying to the Department of Immigration in Nassau. Penalties for overstaying include fines and detention pending deportation.
For all other types of travel, seek advice from The Bahamian High Commission in London.
If you are travelling via the USA, you may need to apply for an ESTA. The Bahamas counts as part of the ‘contiguous territory and islands’ for US visa waiver purposes and time spent in The Bahamas counts towards the 90 day maximum permitted stay in the US under this waiver. If you travel to The Bahamas via the USA under US visa waiver arrangements and are in any doubt about your US visa status, you should seek advice from either the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service or any US diplomatic mission before starting your return journey.
You must hold a valid passport to enter The Bahamas. Your passport should be valid for six months from the date of departure from The Bahamas.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
All visitors leaving The Bahamas are subject to a departure tax of $15.00 (US or Bahamian Dollars), which may or may not be included in the price of your ticket.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry to and exit from the Bahamas. However, UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If you’re planning to enter or transit the US the Bahamas using a UK Emergency Travel Document you must apply for a US visa before you travel.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.
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