Bahamas was once a safe haven for pirates, fugitives, bootleggers and criminals. Now, it is one of the best places to spend your vacation. The Bahamas is made up of 29 islands and 661 Cays (very small islands, usually made of corals). Whether you want to have your wedding under water, just relax on the beach all day long or keep yourself busy with water sports like scuba diving or snorkeling, Bahamas is the place to go. Unlike Fiji, Bahamas is located conveniently in the Caribbean and hence is much easily reachable from the US and Europe.
Above: Aerial View of the Bahamas
Planning for Bahamas Trip:
Once you have decided to go to Bahamas as a vacation point, you are quite likely to get confused. You will have many questions pop up in your head like these:
1) Should I take a Cruise Ship to Bahamas or should I fly?
2) With over a few dozen airports and 29 different islands, which one should I pick?
3) Should I book an expensive resort like the Atlantis or should I book a cheaper motel to stay in Bahamas?
If you like to spend a lot of time on the ship and a couple of days in Bahamas, choose the cruise. Most cruise ships depart from Florida (Miami or Orlando) and cost roughly about $125 a day. That is, if you go on a three day cruise, you will pay about $375. If you are planning to really stay and spend as much time as possible in The Bahamas, book a flight.
With many islands and airports in Bahamas, don't be confused. Nassau, Paradise Island, Freeport and the Great Exuma Island are the most popular islands (they have their own airports) and you should pick one of the four.
Above: Another Breath Taking Aerial View of the Bahamas
If you are planning to stay in a high class resort with great facilities including access to their private beach, free snorkeling kits, kayaks, breakfast and entertainment facilities, get ready spend from $250 to over $1000 a night on accommodation alone. If you are willing to adjust without a fridge, microwave, etc and be spending most of your time outside your room, you can find cheaper motels, like Quality Inn, Palm Resort, etc. The price ranges from 80-120 USD a night on these types of motels. When you arrive, you will be surprised (not anymore) with "incidental charges" of about $15 a day. The incidental charges have to be paid upfront and is charged for electricity and housekeeping. Even though these motels do not have a refrigerator or a microwave, they have TV and Air Conditioning. No coffee makers at rooms, but you can get free coffee from the lobby.
Activities to do in Bahamas:
Stuart's cove submarine trip:
This is the most recommended activity in Bahamas. Situated in Nassau, they provide a unique trip for $119 per person. They have a custom made vessel powered by oxygen just for you and take you under water. You do not have to know swimming and you get a great view of the fishes underwater. You are also allowed to snorkel for sometime. They make a video of your underwater "driving" and the DVD is available for about $65 after an hour of your trip. Stuart Cove provides quality service and also specialize in snorkeling trips ($65) , Shark adventure ($150), diving lessons and so on. You are also picked up and dropped at your hotel for free by Suart's Cove.
Below: You can see the underwater sub video at Stuart cove's
Exuma Island Wonders Trip:
The trip costs about $180 per person if you call them yourself. If an agent or a hotel front desk clerk refers you, you will be charged $200. The seats are limited and they have two departure times, 9 AM and 1 PM. A bus will pick you up from your hotel free of cost and you will begin riding a boat that lasts for an hour. You will land on a secluded uninhabited island where you are given a continental breakfast with muffins, fruits and bread. After the breakfast you will be allowed to explore the island for some time. Then, you will be taken for snorkeling in a 3 feet deep water near a cay. Beers and coke are free and are carried on the boats and on the island. After this, you will be taken to a deeper location where you can see the corals and have some amazing snorkeling experience.
Now, you will be taken back to the island where you can have a big lunch. Fried chicken, Steak, fruit salad, bread and rice are served. After you are done eating, you can throw the leftovers in the shark feeding station. Many huge sharks like the lemon shark and the nurse sharks swarm this area and they eat anything you feed. After feeding the sharks, you can lay on the beach, swim or explore the island for an hour or so. Then, you will be taken to another island which is full of Iguanas. You will be given some grapes which can be fed to these iguanas.
Above: Feeding iguanas during the Exuma Trip
After this, you get back to your boat and the bus drops you at your hotel. It may sound pricey, but you do not shell out a single buck other than the $180 fee. Your breakfast, lunch, drinks, boat ride and your bus ride are all completely taken care of. The trip lasts about 7-8 hours in total.
This company offers may different packages including Dolphin Encounters ($98), Dolphin Swim ($185) and Sea Lion Encounter ($80). All the packages are well worth the money and also includes a whole day stay at an island. Hammocks, ping pong tables, etc are free and you can rent other equipments really cheap. The dolphins and sea lions are playful and pose for the pictures with you. You can get the pictures and the video for an extra $100.
Below: See three generations (Grandma, Mom and Daughter) play at the Dolphin Encounters
Breezes - Super Club:
You can get a day pass at this Breezes resort for $60 a person. The brochures will say Para-sailing, etc is included but no motor equipments like jet ski or para sailing trips will be provided. They only have sailboats, kayaks and windsurfing. However, unlimited food, drinks, nice swimming pool are available and you can spend the who day at the beach or the pool here.
Right next to the Breezes is a beach where Jet skiing and para sailing is done. Jet Skiing cost about $60 per 30 minutes and para sailing costs $60 per person.
Check out the brochures page for other activities like treasure hunt, powerboat adventure, dinner cruise and many more!
The Straw Market:
The Straw market in Nassau consists of more than 200 small shops, which sell a variety of items including hand made bags, star fish, hand carved statuettes, leather belts, and any other small items you can think of.
Below: A view from outside the straw market of Nassau, Bahamas
Below: A view from on of the aisles inside the straw market of Bahamas
Women tourists swarm this place and if you are good at bargaining you may get some really good deals. Remember that the market closes at 6 PM, so go early if you want to check out the deals. You can also get your hair braided here for about $1.50 a braid (again, if you are good at haggling).
Atlantis Hotel & Casino:
This is a huge casino and is very well maintained. Ample tables for almost all games, a big food court, fancy restaurants, clubs and a huge aquarium. Staying at the Atlantis hotel can be quite expensive, even though this is the most popular place where people stay. This is situated in Paradise island and you can take the ferry from Nassau for $3 a person or take a taxi which costs about $15.
Best Places to Eat in Bahamas (Nassau) :
Da Fish Fry Area: The most recommended place to eat local Bahamian delicacy and Fresh Fish is "Da Fish Fry". You need to understand that "Da Fish Fry" refers to an area and not one restaurant. Furthermore, you will see many restaurants at this location with the same name: Da Fish Fry . "The Twin Brothers" restaurant is the most recommended in the location. To add to the confusion, you will see two "Twin Brothers" Restaurant owned by each of the twin brothers. Both restaurants have good local delicacies like Conch Fritters and Peas & Rice. They also have excellent Fried Fish, Cracked Conch, lobster, etc.
Below: Peas & Rice - A Bahamian Delicacy
Above: Conch Fritters - Another Bahamian Delicacy
Señor Frog's Restaurant& Bar:
While "Da Fish Fry" is a good place to try the local food, Señor Frog's is a great place to drink, eat American style and be merry. This restaurant is located right on the dock of Nassau and is the best place to hang out. Bahama Mama and Bahama Papa are the Bahama Special drinks which are served in Yard sizes in Señor Frog's. The price is reasonable and you get to keep the Yard Glass as a souvenir.
Below: Señor Frog's at Nassau, Bahamas
Above: Yard Size Bahama Mama at Señor Frog's
Must read Tips before going to Bahamas:
1. Beware of crooks and cheaters. Many people will try to rip you off and it includes even bus drivers. This bus driver charges $5 for all tourists while the locals pay regular price (about $1). He will also drop you at the wrong locations and arguing with him will be of no use.
Above: A drunk bus driver gives us the finger after ripping us off.
Above: Same cheating bus driver in Bahamas
His name is Keith Adderley and drives a number 12 bus in Nassau. Such type of open fraud is common as you usually have no one to lodge a complaint to.
2. The currency conversion rate is "dollar for dollar" meaning one US dollar is equal to one Bahamian dollar. US dollars can be used anywhere, so you do not have to look for currency exchange when you are in Bahamas.
3. Tips are included in almost in all restaurants and other services.On most bills,you will see that A 15% service charge or gratuity is automatically charged, so don't tip another 20% on top of that. When you are in doubt, feel free to ask.
4. Don't go to secluded areas or hang out at beaches after dark. Crime rate is very high and you can end up being mugged easily. Always walk on well lit streets after day time.
5. Bargaining is very common and you are expected to haggle. Whether you are shopping in the straw market for starfish, or taking a Jet ski ride, or getting your hair braided, always bargain. Unless they have a price tag or a written price on a board, they do lower their prices instead of losing a customer.
6. Most shops will close at 6 o clock! This is true even for pharmacies, supermarket, jewelry stores and boutiques! So a walk in Nassau downtown after hours can be funny and weird at the same time. So, buy essential items during day time to avoid getting stuck during nights.
7. Alcohol is available almost anywhere and is cheap. Many small kiosks on the roadside sell beer for $3 and a glass of Bahama Mama for $5. You can drink while you drive (?), walk or sail.
Above: A small kiosk in Nassau selling alcohol by the beach
8. The buses can be waved down which will take you to most of the locations for a $1 or $1.50. Always board a Taxi which has the word "Taxi" written on it. You can also rent a motorcycle at the Nassau Ferry area for about $100 a day, including gas, insurance, etc. Driving is on the LEFT side!! Be careful while you drive as you have to get used to driving on the left side. The traffic is much slower about 25-35 MPH, so it is not that dangerous.
9. Check the brochures page before you ask an agent or a front desk clerk about rides and trips in Bahamas. If you call directly, you can get a lower price.