The name Bahamas is of Lucayan Taino (Arawakan) derivation, although some historians believe it is from the Spanish bajamar, meaning "shallow water." The islands occupy a position commanding the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the entire Central American region. Their strategic location has given the history of The Bahamas a unique and often striking character. It was there that Christopher Columbus made his original landfall in the Americas. The Bahamas is a distinctive blend of European and African heritages.
The islands, lacking natural resources other than their agreeable climate and picturesque beaches, have become heavily dependent on the income generated by the extensive tourist facilities and the financial sector that have been developed, often as a result of the injection of foreign capital. The continued popularity of the islands with tourists, largely from North America, has helped to maintain a relatively high standard of living among the population, most of whom are of African descent. The capital, Nassau, is located on small but important New Providence Island.
Despite the concentration of the population in urban centres (especially Nassau and Freeport) that are devoted to tourism, the traditional pattern of small farming and fishing prevails in some villages, notably in the southeastern islands. The Bahamas has a predominantly market economy that is heavily dependent on tourism and international financial services.
Major islands of the Bahamas include Abaco, Acklins, Andros Island, Cat Island, Crooked Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Inagua, Long Island, Mayaguana, New Providence, and San Salvador Island.
Why should people visit during the winter?
The Bahamas is famed for its long sandy beaches, clear waters, and spectacular coral reefs. Snowbirds flock to the islands not only to view the colourful coral gardens, sharks, rays, moray eels, and other abundant marine life but also to explore the numerous shipwrecks–a legacy of the tricky shallow waters and of the marauding pirates who once cruised the region.
Winter is the best time to visit the Bahamas which is from mid-December to mid-April, the country's peak season and temperatures here are great year-round. Bahamians are very laid-back and friendly, and they rarely rush, causing snowbirds to enjoy the simple life.
The Bahamian climate, mild throughout the year, is one of the great attractions of the area. The temperature in The Bahamas averages 75°F - °F (24°C - -18°C) in both winter and summer, although it can get chilly in the early morning and at night. Prevailing winds, coming from the northeast in winter and from the southeast in summer, lend a cooling influence to a generally humid atmosphere. The winter period normally does not see hurricanes (the hurricane season is from June to November).
For more climate information visit Meteoblue
To a large extent, the Bahamas is relatively safe. Statistically, Nassau is the most dangerous place in the Bahamas, followed by Grand Bahama. These two islands are where most Bahamians live and are also the places the vast majority of tourists visit in the Bahamas.
Criminal activity is much less common in the Out Islands but has included burglaries and thefts, particularly of boats and/or outboard motors. Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatching, and other theft of personal property are the most common crimes against tourists.
Snowbirds to New Providence Island should avoid "over the hill" neighborhoods south of downtown Nassau (south of Shirley Street), particularly at night.
To avoid becoming a victim of crime, snowbirds visiting the Bahamas are advised the following:
- Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol
- Do not accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers.
- Do not leave valuables on the beach or poolside while swimming.
- Travel in groups and use taxi cabs during the night.
- Keep an eye on your credit cards and maintain security when using an ATM to prevent unauthorized charges from stolen account and PIN numbers.
- Secure valuables in your hotel room, such as in a safe.
- Keep car doors locked and windows rolled up when driving, and don't roll down your windows for strangers.
- Do not answer your door at your hotel/residence unless you know who it is.
- Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Review the Crime and Safety Report for The Bahamas.
- Leave copies of your itinerary, contact information, credit cards, and passport with someone at home, in case they are lost during travel.
Communication, Internet, and cellphone in The Bahamas
English is the only language native to Bahamians, although, because of the influx of Haitian immigrants since the mid-20th century, French or the related Haitian Creole vernacular is spoken.
There are a number of hotels in the Bahamas with free Wifi. Plus, there are plenty of coffee shops and restaurants snowbirds can swing into to take advantage of Wi-Fi. To communicate with friends and family back home, snowbirds should consider a messaging app, such as Skype or WhatsApp, so they can send messages when they're connected to Wifi without any roaming charges.
Check your own carrier about the roaming cost for The Bahamas. Depending on your plan roaming can be very expensive, and in those cases, we advise winter visitors to purchase a local Sim card Unlocking their phones, snowbirds can use their cell phones in the Bahamas by inserting a Bahamas cell phone SIM card. The main wireless providers are BTC and Aliv.
Snowbirds can purchase a Bahamas SIM card online before their trip or when they get there. There's an Aliv kiosk at the customs in the Nassau airport and there are BTC and Aliv stores on each of the islands. Convenience stores are also a great source of prepaid SIM cards in the Bahamas. Once the SIM card is activated, snowbirds will have a local Bahamas phone number you can use.
Snowbird locations in The Bahamas
- New Providence Island: This is also called Nassau Island and it is the most popular destination in the Bahamas. It's easily reachable through the popular Nassau International Airport. The island is also connected with a bridge to the popular Paradise Island where snowbirds will really find all they want. It is a great area for a family stay as well as for great nightlife
- Grand Bahama: for relaxed beach time with small kids, this is a perfect place to be.
- Long Island: for a more secluded place.
- Paradise Island: for an easy stay with plenty of kid's activities.
Things to see in The Bahamas
Bahamas has notable places that are worthwhile visiting:
- The Beaches: The calm, turquoise waters and soft, powdery sand of the beaches have earned them top honors as some of the best in the world: Treasure Cay Beach in The Abacos, Gold Rock Beach on Grand Bahama Island, Cape Santa Maria Beach on Long Island, and Harbour Island's Pink Sand Beach.
- Nature & Parks: The Bahamas National Trust is concerned with the preservation of wildlife and the conservation of some two dozen national parks, including Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.
- Other top attraction sites: Atlantis Paradise Island, Harbour Island, Aquaventure, Cable Beach, Cat Cay, Ocean Cay MSC Marine Reserve, and Blue Lagoon Island.
Activities in the winter in The Bahamas
- Deep- fishing and sailing
- Shop at the Nassau Straw Market
- Embark on a historical tour of Exuma
- Go Bonefishing
- Visit the Forts of Nassau
- Take a chance at one of the casinos
- Visit the Pirates of Nassau Museum
- Visit the Flamingos (and other wildlife)
- Take a walk up the Queen's Staircase.
- Relax and take love photos at the Pink Sand Beach
- Go for a swim at Blue Lagoon Island
- Take a stroll through the caves at Lucayan National Park
- Explore Port Lucaya Marketplace
- Junkanoo – Celebrate Christmas. The main event takes place between Christmas and New Year's Day each year.
- Harbour Island – Take a walk.
- Visit Arawak Cay
- Spend an afternoon at Atlantis Waterscape
- Trying the "goombay smash" drink
- Follow cricket and football
- Sample trying some of the country's rum. New Providence Island's John Watling's Distillery is considered one of the country's best places to sample the liquor and learn more about the rum-making process.
Shopping + Restaurants. Are they open in the winter?
Atlantis, Paradise Island, Sandals Emerald Bay and other upscale Bahamian hotels and resorts offer a number of gourmet restaurants, but these fine dining establishments rarely serve Bahamian fare, and their dishes are often pricey. To eat well – and like a resident – snowbirds will have to venture outside the hotel district. The islands are renowned for their johnnycakes (which is similar to cornbread) and peas n' rice (a side dish that combines rice with pigeon peas), but seafood is prominent on most restaurant menus.
Local staples include grilled and fried grouper; conch served in chowder, as a raw salad, and in deep-fried fritters; and broiled and steamed rock lobster. Sweet treats like guava duff (a guava-filled pastry topped with rum or brandy butter sauce) and rum cake (a cake that features rum in its batter and a rum butter sauce) are also available at many eateries.
Highly-regarded restaurants can be found on many Bahamian islands, but snowbirds will find some of the country's best cuisine is offered at casual pubs and bars on New Providence Island, Grand Bahama Island and Eleuthera. A few local favorites include Pirate Republic Brewing and The Bearded Clam Sports Bar in Nassau; Rum Runner's Bar and Da Conch Man in Freeport; and Budda Snack Shack and Sandbar Bar & Grill in Spanish Wells.
Shopping in the Bahamas is usually a thrill. From open-air markets to straw vendors and large retail centers, The Bahamas offers a plethora of unique authentic Bahamian products that reflect their heritage, creativity, and passion. Snowbirds will also find resort wear and a variety of duty-free items, like jewelry and watches, at boutiques and shops throughout the islands.
The main shopping areas on the island are: the Port Lucaya Marketplace, and the International Bazaar. The downtown shopping area is also a fun place to find great deals. Snowbirds will discover local artists and crafts, and taste some authentic Bahamian cuisine as they stroll through the markets.
The best way to get around the Bahamas is by jitneys (or public buses). They are the most common form of transport from the country's many airports – Nassau's Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) and Freeport's Grand Bahama International Airport (FPO).
However, jitneys are not available on other islands (including New Providence Island's adjacent Paradise Island), so to get around elsewhere, snowbirds will need to hail a taxi or rent a car.
Traveling between Bahamian islands, meanwhile, requires flying from Nassau's airport using the inter-island air service, Bahamasair, or hailing pricey water taxis. Some cruises and boat tours also make stops at multiple islands.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development administers public health services through community clinics throughout The Bahamas and offers home and district nursing and disease surveillance. There are several public hospitals in Nassau and Freeport, and there are rural health clinics on Grand Bahama and its surrounding cays.
Privately operated hospitals are located in Nassau and Freeport. The Department of Environmental Health Services oversees the management, control, and conservation of the environment. Adequate medical care is available on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands, but more limited elsewhere, and surgical capabilities are limited.
General emergency numbers: 911 or 919 for police/fire/ambulance. Some recommended hospitals include:
- Doctor's Hospital, New Providence Island
- Sunrise Medical Center, Grand Bahama Island
Snowbirds can find doctors and dentists that speak English.
There are a fair number of resorts, hotels, short-let apartments available for rent in The Bahamas. The houses are usually well equipped with basic amenities and furnished.
The Bahamas' apartment options are a simpler way of spending a holiday on the island. These apartments can stand alone or they may be attached to residential houses. These are ideal when snowbirds want to keep it simple yet quite comfortable.
Bed-and-breakfast accommodations are available for the budget-conscious or those who prefer to keep things simple. Most of the bed-and-breakfasts although they vary in size, all provide the allure of "cool 'n breezy" island life as part of the package deal for a tropical getaway.
There are some very inexpensive local hotels and Inns like Check out Towne Hotel, Grand Central, Arawak Inn, and Orchard Garden Apartments, Nassau Palms, Quality Inn, Orange Hill. Accommodation prices range from $58 (approx. €49, £45, $76 CAD, $79 AUD) per night.