Frequently Asked Questions About The Bahamas
Q. What are The Bahamas?
A. The Bahamas are made up of 700 islands (30 of the largest ones are inhabited) and 2,000 cays, islets and rocks.
Q. Where are The Bahamas located?
The islands and cays of The Bahamas begin 50 miles from the Florida coast and form a 760-mile arc through the Atlantic, creating a natural barrier across the eastern gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. The island of Bimini is closest to Florida, while the southernmost island, Inagua, is 60 miles from Haiti.
Q. What are the most popular destinations?
A. The two most popular destinations in The Bahamas are the city of Nassau/Paradise Island and Grand Bahama Island.
Q. What is the capital?
A. The Bahamas’ capital is Nassau, located on New Providence Island. It is rich in colonial history and charm and offers varied opportunities for sports activities, shopping and sightseeing.
Linked by bridges to Nassau is prestigious Paradise Island, a playground of the rich. On Paradise Island is the world-famous mega-resort, The Atlantis. More on this later.
Q. Describe Grand Bahama Island.
A. Grand Bahamas Island contains the city of Freeport which is a modern resort-residential complex. It is more cosmopolitan and sports oriented than Nassau. Grand Bahama was developed more recently than Nassau and has become a favored resort, due in part to its nearness to Florida.
Q. Who typically vacations in The Bahamas?
A. About 80% of the people vacationing in The Bahamas are from the United States.
Q. What are the Out Islands?
A. The principal Out Islands are Abaco, Andros, Bimini, Cat, Eleuthera, Exuma and Long Island. The Out Islands are known the world over for game fishing, scuba diving, sailing, pristine beaches and emerald-blue seas.
There are resorts on these islands that are deliberately noted for their lack of commercial development. They are a favorite place for yachting and fishing enthusiasts. They include excellent marinas, guides and boats for hire and championship golf courses.
Q. What is the history of The Bahamas?
A. The Bahamas claims the distinction of being Christopher Columbus’ first New World discovery. Over the years, the islands have been dominated by the Spanish and English.
At times, the islands were overrun by pirates such as Blackbeard and Calico Jack In addition, Confederate blockade runners during the American Civil War and bootleggers during America’s Prohibition Era also exploited the island because of its proximity to Florida.
In 1973, the islands became an independent sovereign nation headed by a prime minister.
The islands are a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations. As such, the islands retain many legacies from the years of British rule, including the distinctive Bahamian accent and two popular spectator sports – cricket and rugby.
Q. What is the population of The Bahamas?
A. About 305,000.
Q. What is the weather like?
A. The climate is warm and tropical with temperatures in The Bahamas averaging between 75 F and 85 F in both winter and summer.
Q. What language is spoken?
Q. What is the currency?
A. The currency is the Bahamian dollar (B$1) which is pegged to the U.S. dollar so that they are always equivalent. U.S. currency is widely accepted particularly on Grand Bahama island.
Q. What is required to visit The Bahamas?
A. Proof of U.S. citizenship (a passport or original birth certificate) and a return or through ticket are required. No visa is needed for stays up to one month. Starting January 1, 2007, the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security will require all U.S. citizens returning from the Caribbean to present a valid passport.
Q. Is air transportation readily available from the U.S. to the islands?
A. Air service from the East Coast and the Midwest is available aboard many major carriers to Nassau International Airport and Grand Bahama Island International Airport.
American Eagle, BahamasAir, Chalk’s Ocean Airways, Delta, Continental Connection/Gulfstream International, S Airways and others depart daily from Miami.
Jet Blue and Song Airlines offer daily non-stop flights between New York and Nassau, and Spirit Airlines flies daily from Ft. Lauderdale. Flight time from Miami to Nassau is about 35 minutes.
Q. What is the Bahamian government’s policy toward new development?
A. The government is very pro business and is putting money into tourism infrastructure, especially on Paradise Island, across from Nassau, as well as Freeport/Lucaya on Grand Bahama Island. Outside investors are encouraged to develop in the islands.
Cruise-ship tourism continues to increase. As a result, a more upscale crowd is coming back after abandoning the Bahamas for many years. Tourism is booming again. About 1.6 million visitors from all over the world now come to the islands each year.
Q. Who heads The Bahamian government and how would you characterize its political stability?
A. Perry Gladstone Christie, Progressive Liberal Party, was elected prime minister in the 2002 general elections. He is pro business. Unlike Haiti and Jamaica, The Bahamas has remained politically stable and made the transition from minority white rule to black majority rule with relatively little tension.
Economic conditions have slowly improved and yet Nassau retains a good deal of its traditional British feel. By contrast, Freeport/Lucaya has become almost completely Americanized, with little British aura or Bahamian tradition left.
Q, What are the most significant changes noted?
A. The biggest changes have occurred in the hotel sector. Sun International (Sol and Butch Kerzner – Kerzner International Limited) has vastly expanded its Atlantis Resort property on Paradise Island, turning it into a virtual water world. Even more expansions, including The Residences at Atlantis condo hotel, have been announced. More on Atlantis in a minute.
The Hilton interests have developed the decaying old British Colonial in Nassau, restoring it to life.
Another interesting trend is the interest in eco-tourism. More than any government in the Caribbean except perhaps Bonaire, The Bahamas is trying to protect its natural heritage.
Government, private companies, and environmental groups have drawn up a national framework of priorities to protect the islands. Efforts have been made to protect the nearly extinct West Indian flamingo, and to prevent extinction of the green turtle, the white-crowned pigeon, the Bahamian parrot and the New Providence iguana.
Q. Tell me about New Providence Island.
A. New Providence Island is home to a majority of the country’s population. It is the domain of the capital city, Nassau. It is a prime tourist destination that features all the amenities associated with The Bahamas – an array of water sports, golf, tennis, nightlife, casinos, international shopping and a colorful history.
The 21-mile long, seven-mile wide island is home to the popular resort areas of Cable Beach and Paradise Island (a small island connected to Nassau).
Q. You most often hear about Paradise Island in the Bahamas. What makes it a favorite?
A. Paradise Island is located just 590 feet off the north shore of Nassau. It is a preferred vacation spot for East Coast Americans.
The centerpiece of Paradise Island is the mammoth Atlantis Paradise Island Resort & Casino, which has become a nightlife mecca and a sightseeing attraction in it own right.
The Atlantis has top hotels, casino action, Vegas-type revues, fabulous beaches, and a posh address. Its natural beauty still makes it a choice vacation spot.
Think of The Atlantis as the Vegas in the Tropics. The mega-resort is massive, opening onto a long stretch of white-sand beach with a sheltered marina.
The Atlantis is a self-contained “water world,” with a Lost Continent of Atlantis as its theme. It’s a great choice for a family vacation, since kids love all the facilities and available activities. The Atlantis also offers so many sports, dining and entertainment options’ that many guests never set foot off the property during their entire vacation.
The focal point of this extraordinary resort is the massive Paradise Island Casino, the best-designed casino in The Bahamas.
Atlantis’ next phase of development includes a 600-room all-suite luxury hotel; a 400-unit condo hotel to be called The Residences at Atlantis, additional water-themed attractions including a dolphin encounter, and 100,000 sq. ft. of additional group and meeting facilities.
Q. Tell me about the island of Grand Bahama.
A. Grand Bahama Island is only 50 miles east of Florida. It is a major tourist destination. Grand Bahamas is the second most popular tourist destination in the Bahamas (Nassau/Cable Beach/Paradise Island is first).
It is the fourth largest island in the Bahamas and contains some 530 square miles. It is known for excellent bone fishing, reef and deep-sea fishing. Its hotels and nightspots have earned it the title of “New World Riviera.”
The resort center of the island is Freeport. It attracts outdoor enthusiasts with its many opportunities for fishing, sailing, snorkeling, swimming, golf and tennis.
Freeport contains two of the most visited attractions in the country: the Crown Plaza Golf Resort & Casino at the Royal Oasis and the International Bazaar shopping complex. The local straw market, where you can buy inexpensive souvenirs, lies just to the right of the International Bazaar.
Lucaya, with a population of some 10,000 people, is twenty miles east of Freeport along the southern coast of Grand Bahama Island. It is a beach resort. The six-acre Port Lucaya Marketplace and Marina features shops, restaurants and live entertainment centered around Count Basie Square, named for the jazz artist who wintered on the island.
Much less explored is the West End of Grand Bahama. But not for long. Ginn Club & Resorts plans to build an immense development on 2,000 acres that will include Nicklaus and Palmer Golf courses, a casino, a mega-yacht marina, two waterparks, a private airport, and upscale retailers and restaurants.
It will be called Ginn sur Mer and will contain 4,400 condo hotel units plus 1,800 single family homes. Ginn sur Mer will be the largest resort community ever to be developed in the Bahamas. It will take nine to ten years to build.
Reservations are currently being taken for homesites at Ginn sur Mer. The condo hotel units will become available at preconstruction prices in early 2007, however, interested parties are encouraged to get their name on the Ginn sur Mer VIP list now.