COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Bahamas is a developed, English-speaking Caribbean nation composed of hundreds of islands covering a territory approximately the size of California. Tourism and financial services comprise the two largest sectors of the economy. Independent from the United Kingdom since 1973, The Bahamas is a Commonwealth nation with a democratic tradition more than a century old. The capital, Nassau, is located on New Providence Island. To the north lies Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, the nearest sizeable settlement to Florida’s major shipping hub, and second most important populous city in The Bahamas. Please read the Department of State Fact Sheet on The Bahamas for additional information.
SMART Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)/ Embassy Location: If you are going to live in or visit The Bahamas, please take the time to tell our Embassy or Consulate about your trip. If you enroll in the SMART Traveler Enrollment Program, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We encourage U.S, citizens traveling to the Bahamas to download our free Smart Traveler app, available through iTunes and the Android market.
CONTACTING THE U.S. EMBASSY: You can reach the Embassy's switchboard at (242) 322-1181 and the American Citizen Services Unit at (242) 328-3496. In the event of an after-hours emergency, please contact the main switchboard. You may also contact the American Citizens Services Unit by fax at (242) 356-7174, or e-mail at ACSNassau@state.gov and through the Embassy website. For emergency American Citizens Services, please call (242) 323-5578 during business hours or (242) 357-7004 after hours. Please note that a lost passport or visa does not constitute an emergency. If you lose your passport while traveling and it is a weekend or the Embassy is closed, please check with your airline regarding any pre-clearance procedures that may help you facilitate travel. Otherwise, you may apply for a temporary emergency passport at the U.S. Embassy the following business day.
Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
U.S. Embassy Nassau
42 Queen Street
Emergency after-hours telephone: 242-357-7004
Air Travel: All U.S. citizens are required to present a valid U.S. passport in order to enter The Bahamas, as well as to enter or re-enter the United States when traveling by air. U.S. citizens do not need visas for short trips to The Bahamas for tourist/business purposes, however, Bahamian regulations require that air passengers entering for tourism have a round trip ticket. Travelers should be prepared to show return/onward travel arrangements to immigration authorities if requested. Passengers arriving with one way tickets could be denied entry.
Sea Travel: U.S. citizens traveling to The Bahamas by sea on private watercraft or most commercial vessels must have a valid passport. Those traveling by sea on an officially-designated “closed-loop cruise”, meaning that the port of entry is the same port as the port of re-entry upon return to the U.S., may enter using a passport, passport card, or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document, however, it is prudent to obtain a passport before travel in case of an unforeseen emergency that requires a cruise passenger to disembark and return by air. (Please verify with your cruise line if your intended cruise is designated a closed-loop cruise.) Travelers arriving via private watercraft are charged docking fees.
We strongly encourage all U.S. citizens to apply for a passport book or passport card well in advance of anticipated travel. You can call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for passports. If you are planning on an extended stay, be prepared to present evidence of financial solvency upon entry to The Bahamas. Contact the Embassy of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas for the most current visa information.
Embassy of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas
2220 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC 20008
Minors traveling unaccompanied or accompanied by a guardian or chaperone: What is required to enter The Bahamas may vary greatly from what is required to re-enter the country of origin. In general, a child under 16 years of age may travel into the Bahamas merely with proof of citizenship. Proof of citizenship can be a raised seal birth certificate and preferably a government issued photo ID if on a closed loop cruise or a U.S. passport if entering by air or private vessel.
The Bahamas requires compliance with regulations to divert child abduction. Any child traveling without one of the parents listed upon the birth certificate must have a letter from the absent parent granting permission for the child to travel. This should be sworn before a notary public and signed by the absent parent(s). If the parent is deceased, a certified death certificate may be necessary.
It is advisable to have the minor carry a written notarized consent letter from both parents (if both are listed on the child’s certificate of birth) before sending your child to travel as a minor with a guardian or chaperone.
HIV/AIDS restrictions: The Bahamian Ministry of Health states there are no travel restrictions for persons with HIV entering The Bahamas.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:
The threat of terrorism is low, but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could take place in public areas, including places frequented by travelers.
For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts as well as the Worldwide Caution. You can also call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the United States and Canada, or by calling a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The water sports and scooter rental industries in The Bahamas are not carefully regulated. Every year people die or suffer
injuries due to improper, careless, or reckless operation of scooters, jet-skis, and personal watercraft or scuba/snorkeling
equipment. You should rent equipment only from reputable operators, and insist on sufficient training before using the equipment.
Travelers have reported that some operators do not actually provide insurance coverage even when the renter opted (and paid)
for insurance coverage. You should insist on seeing proof that operators have sufficient medical and liability insurance and
are properly licensed to operate in The Bahamas before renting any motorized or other vehicle.
As visitors, you should exercise caution and good judgment at all times. Do not engage in high-risk behavior such as excessive alcohol consumption, as it greatly increases your vulnerability to accidents or opportunistic crime. Do not accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers.
CRIME: The criminal threat level for New Providence Island is rated as critical by the Department of State. New Providence Island has experienced a spike in crime that has adversely affected the traveling public, with a spate of more violent criminal activity between 2009 and 2012. The U.S. Embassy has received multiple reports indicating tourists have been robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint in tourist locations in the downtown areas of Nassau, to include the cruise ship docks and the Cable Beach commerce areas; several of these incidents occurred during daylight hours. Burglaries, larcenies and “snatch-and-grab” crimes happen in Nassau and U.S. citizens have been victims of these crimes as well. The U.S. Embassy has received reports of assaults, including sexual assaults, in diverse areas such as in casinos, outside hotels, or on cruise ships. The Bahamas has the highest incidence of rape in the Caribbean according to a 2007 United Nations report on crime, violence, and development trends. The majority of sexual assaults reported occurred after excessive consumption of alcohol. The loss of ability to remember facts and details due to alcohol consumption makes prosecution of sexual assaults more difficult. Much of the violent crime occurs outside tourist spots, such as in the “over-the-hill” section of Nassau (the area inland from Bay Street, to the South of Bay Street, behind the tourist district), but can occur anywhere, including in areas frequented by tourists. Home break-ins, theft, and robbery are not confined to any specific part of the island.
The upsurge in criminal activity has also led to incidents which, while not directed at tourists, could place innocent bystanders at risk.
Armed robbery remains a major criminal threat facing U.S. citizens in The Bahamas. The Royal Bahamas Police Force issued a message citing concerns about the increased number of armed robberies in Nassau. AU.S. citizen was fatally shot in Nassau in May 2013 during an armed robbery. Between January 1, 2013 and April 15, 2013, there were 328 armed robberies, 111 robberies, and 660 house break-ins, according to statistics available on the Royal Bahamas Police Force website.
Criminal activity in the outlying family islands does occur, but to a much lesser degree than on New Providence Island. The Embassy has received reports of burglaries and thefts, especially thefts of boats and/or outboard motors on Abaco and Bimini.
The Embassy has received no reports of harassment or hate crimes motivated by race, religion, or citizenship. Visitors have reported harassment of persons based on sexual orientation; some women have reported verbal harassment and unwanted attention. Some organized criminal activity is believed to occur in The Bahamas, primarily related to illegal importation and smuggling of illicit drugs or human trafficking. The Bahamas, due to its numerous uninhabited islands and cays, has historically been favored by smugglers and pirates. As a tourist, you would typically not have noticeable interaction with organized crime elements; however, those operating their own water or air vessels should be alert to the possibility of encountering similar crafts operated by smugglers engaged in illicit activities on the open seas or in air space near The Bahamas.
You are advised to report crime to the Royal Bahamian Police Force as quickly as possible. Early reports frequently improve the likelihood of identifying and apprehending suspected perpetrators. In general, the Royal Bahamian Police Force is responsive to reports of crime and takes the threat of crime against tourists very seriously. However, the police response is sometimes slowed by a lack of resources or by physical constraints imposed by geography and infrastructure.
There is nobody better at protecting you than yourself. Beware of your surroundings at all times. The U.S. Embassy reports that victims of crime are often those who have let their guard down to individuals who appeared overly friendly or became victims after criminals targeted them as easy prey due to the visitor appearing excessively drunk or unaware. Take some time before travel to improve your personal security—things are not the same everywhere as they are in the United States. Here are some useful tips for traveling safely abroad.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, you may be breaking local law too.
SPRING BREAK TRAVELERS: The Bahamas receives the third largest number of Spring Break visitors in the world. Please see our Spring Break Safety Pamphlet with tips on how to have a safe Spring Break vacation.
The local emergency numbers in the Bahamas are 919 or 911.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates). If your passport is stolen, we can help you replace it during normal Embassy hours. For violent crimes such as assault and rape, we can help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and help you get money from them if you need it. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
It is important to stress that if you are the victim of a crime and you choose to depart the island in order to not miss your cruise ship, or you are not willing to return to The Bahamas to testify in court, the U.S. Embassy cannot serve as your representative or go to court on your behalf. Victims of crimes must file a police report and be willing to do file the necessary legal and paperwork if they want charges to be brought against the perpetrator of a crime. In several instances, U.S. citizens have left the islands and requested that the U.S. Embassy follow up on their behalf while not being willing to return to The Bahamas. Without the direct involvement of the victim and a local attorney, it is much more difficult for the perpetrator to be prosecuted and convicted.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
Real Estate and Sale of Property and other Business Transactions: The U.S. Embassy has received several reports from U.S citizens who purchased real estate, private vehicles, or private vessels and watercraft that became victims of a scam and could not get their money back. Some of the incidents reported include real estate development projects where the development project was not completed and individuals could not get their money returned; there have been reports that after the final sale and purchase of property, a second individual appeared with a deed of trust claiming rights to the property, causing long legal disputes that sometimes are not resolved in favor of the purchaser.
Business transaction reports have also included reports of irregular rental car contracts or the rental of substandard vehicles, mechanics using one’s personal vehicle brought for repair for their own use, further damage and repair costs after depositing a vehicle at a repair shop, and individuals who reported they could not get their car back after bringing it to the mechanic. Although such incidents can occur in any country, U.S. citizens have complained of a lack of ability to get speedy assistance when such incidents occur to a visitor who is on the island for a temporary period of time. Compensation in such cases has been reported to be difficult if not impossible without incurring the additional expense of seeking legal action.
Time-Shares: When considering time-share investments, be cautious and aware of any aggressive tactics used by time-share sales representatives. Bahamian law allows time-share purchasers five days to cancel the contract for full reimbursement. Disputes that arise after that period can be very time-consuming and expensive to resolve through the local legal system. Please refer to Real Estate Matters in The Bahamas for further information on purchasing real estate.
Criminal Penalties: While traveling in another country, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States. You can be prosecuted under U.S. law upon return to the U.S. if you buy pirated goods overseas. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in The Bahamas, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in The Bahamas can result in long jail sentences and/or heavy fines. It’s very important to know what is legal and what is not where you are going before you go.
Mandatory Consular Notification Country: Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in The Bahamas, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
For additional information regarding arrests and the judicial process, please see the U.S. Embassy’s website on Arrests in The Bahamas. Travelers should also be aware that Bahamas laws do not include a right to a public defender in lower courts. Any legal representation is at the expense of the visitor.
Customs: The Bahamian customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation or exportation of firearms. Officials have arrested and sentenced to stiff penalties U.S. citizens entering the country with firearms or ammunition. The Embassy advises contacting the Embassy of The Bahamas in Washington, D.C. or one of the Bahamian consulates in the U.S. for specific information regarding customs requirements. Tourists arriving by private boat may seek permission to declare firearms to Bahamian Customs but must leave them secured on the boat for the duration of their stay.
Private Vessels: To Enter the Islands of The Bahamas Private Vessels need the following:
a) One (1) copy of The Bahamas Customs Clearance Form
b) One (1) Bahamas Immigration Card per person
c) Proof of Citizenship—Passport
Arriving By Boat:
Visiting boaters must clear Customs and Immigration at the nearest designated Port of Entry. As you enter each port, fly the yellow quarantine flag and notify Customs of your arrival. Only the captain is permitted to leave the boat until your vessel has been cleared.
Bahamas Customs and Immigration officials will come to your vessel. Everyone on board must have proof of citizenship and fill out an immigration card. U.S. citizens must present a passport. Before leaving the islands of The Bahamas, be sure to surrender your copy of the immigration card at the last Bahamian port you visit.
If you have a firearm on board (shotguns and handguns only) you must declare it with Bahamian Customs. You must provide the serial number, name of the manufacturer, plus an exact count of ammunition. While you are allowed to have a firearm on your boat, you cannot remove it. Weapons must be under lock and key at all times. In cases of emergencies, which require your departure by air, you must notify Bahamian Police or Customs. They will accompany you to retrieve the firearm and present you with a receipt. Upon your return to the island, Bahamian Police or Customs will escort you to your vessel and return your firearm. Any infraction of this law will be dealt with severely and The Bahamas has recently increased both the penalties and sentencing for violators of local firearm laws.
Entering and Exiting with Cash or Negotiable Instruments
While it is legal to transport any amount of currency or other monetary instruments into or out of the United States, a traveler entering or exiting the U.S. with an amount exceeding USD $10,000 – or its foreign equivalent – must file with U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) prior to departure FinCen Form 105, Report of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments.
According to the Currency and Foreign Transaction Reporting Act, if a traveler asks someone to carry currency or monetary instruments on his/her behalf and the full amount exceeds $10,000, then the traveler is required to report the total amount to CBP. This means that you may not give unreported money to any other individual to transport for you if the total amount exceeds $10,000 unless you declare you are the owner of the currency when going through customs.
Failure to declare the total amount of cash carried in or out of The Bahamas may lead to seizure of all cash or negotiable instruments and may subject you to legal proceedings and/or criminal prosecution.
Boating/Fishing: You should be aware that long-line fishing in Bahamian waters is illegal. All long-line fishing gear must be stowed below deck while transiting through Bahamian waters. Fishermen should note that the Bahamian Government imposes significant penalties for catching crawfish (lobster) or other marine life out of season, taking undersized catch, or fishing in protected areas.
Wildlife and Sealife: The Bahamian Government requires a special license for hunting certain types of fowl. All other hunting is prohibited in The Bahamas. A number of endangered and/or protected species reside in The Bahamas. You should not disturb, harass, or otherwise threaten wildlife, including species that may be hunted in the United States. U.S. citizens have been arrested and prosecuted in The Bahamas for hunting, capturing, or even disturbing protected animals, including reptiles and birds. It is also illegal to damage or remove any sea life from the ocean and coral reefs. Additional information is available from the Bahamian Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources.
Hurricanes: The Bahamas, like all countries in the Atlantic/Caribbean basin, are vulnerable to hurricanes. Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, although hurricanes have been known to occur outside that period. During hurricane season, visitors are advised to monitor local weather reports closely in order to be prepared for any potential threats. Visitors should also be aware that airports and seaports cease operations well before a predicted storm actually arrives, and that seats on most commercial transportation are sold out far in advance.
For more information on hurricane preparedness, please refer to the following pages: Hurricane and Typhoon Season, Hurricane Season: Know Before You Go, and the U.S. Embassy Nassau’s Hurricane Preparedness page.
General information about disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or from the State Department links above and the U.S. Embassy’s website on Hurricane Preparedness. Information regarding pets and disasters is also available from FEMA.
Medical Facilities and Health Information: Adequate medical care is available on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands, but visitors should be aware that serious health problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars in up-front costs, and air ambulance companies generally require payment or an insurer’s guarantee of payment before providing service.
Ambulance service is available on the major islands; however, U.S. citizens have reported major delays in service, both in the length of time to arrive and once at the Emergency room. Ambulance service is even more limited in more remote locations. The endemic traffic congestion on New Providence Island may also impede a quick response. Service is likely to be extremely slow in the event of a major emergency or disaster.
Good information on vaccinations and other health precautions can be found via the CDC website or The Bahamas Ministry of Health page. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information. The Bahamas had an outbreak of dengue fever in 2011 with 10 reported deaths and 1,000 reported cases of individuals with dengue fever symptoms. For additional information regarding Dengue fever in the Bahamas, please visit The Bahamas Ministry of Health website.
Medical Insurance: Do not assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It is very important to find out BEFORE you leave. U.S. citizens have reported that the two main hospitals in New Providence often do not accept insurance purchased in the U.S. and that Bahamian physicians and hospitals expect immediate cash payment for professional services. For this reason, it is strongly recommended to research and enroll in international insurance packages that include the cost of an emergency medevac to the United States. For more information on medevac insurance, please visit the U.S. Embassy’s website on Medevac Insurance.
Serious injuries: There is a chronic shortage of blood at Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, where most emergency surgery is performed. Travelers with rare blood types should know the names and locations of possible blood donors should the need arise before traveling. The Lyford Cay Hospital has a hyperbaric chamber for treatment of decompression illness.
Accessibility: While in The Bahamas, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Some businesses have conformed to legislation that mandates access to transportation, communication and public buildings for persons with disabilities, however, few buildings and public facilities are accessible to persons with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities should check with their travel agent or hotel directly to ensure facilities are adequately accessible.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning The Bahamas is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
It is the law that all drivers and their passengers wear seat belts while riding in a vehicle in The Bahamas. Wearing helmets while riding on a scooter or motorbike is also compulsory.
Driving in The Bahamas is on the left side of the road (i.e. opposite to the United States). Traffic congestion in Nassau is severe, and drivers occasionally display aggressive or careless tendencies. You should always drive defensively and be alert to cars pulling out in front of you from side streets. Local practice is to allow this on an individual basis. Roundabouts are common; unless otherwise designated, you should give way to traffic coming from the right when joining a roundabout. Remember that the slow lane is the far left, not the far right one. Some major streets do not have adequate shoulders or passable sidewalks, compelling pedestrians to walk in the right-of-way. Motorcyclists tend to weave through slow traffic and between lanes of moving vehicles. It is not uncommon to see poorly maintained or excessively loaded vehicles on roadways. Rural roads can be narrow, winding, and in poor condition.
Road flooding occurs frequently in many areas, including Nassau and Freeport, during and after rainstorms. Drivers should be alert for unmarked or poorly marked construction zones. Travel by moped or bicycle can be hazardous, especially in the heavy traffic prevalent in Nassau. You should exercise appropriate caution when renting vehicles in The Bahamas. If you ride a moped or bicycle follow Bahamian helmet law, and drive defensively. Accidents involving U.S. tourists on motorbikes have resulted in severe injuries and fatalities.
Look right then left when crossing the road! Pedestrians should try to remember that vehicular traffic comes from the opposite direction to what you are used to. Many tourists have been struck by cars after failing to check properly for oncoming traffic.
Emergency ambulance service is generally available and can be reached by dialing 911 or 919. Roadside assistance is also widely available through private towing services. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web site of The Bahamas’ national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of The Bahamas’ Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of The Bahamas’ air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: The Bahamas is a Party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction, however, in the Department of State’s 2011 report on child abduction in The Bahamas, they were listed as being non-compliant due to extreme delays in the judicial process, the lack of a prompt response to central authority inquiries, and long delays which far surpass the specified period of return of an abducted child, which is six weeks from the date of abduction.
For more information please visit our international parental child abduction webpage for the Bahamas. The Bahamas is not a Party to the Hague Convention on Intercountry adoption. Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for The Bahamas dated January 31, 2013 to update the section on Crime.
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