The Bahamas is a tropical island chain in the Caribbean Sea, popular as a tourist destination.
When Christopher Columbus first arrived in the West Indies in 1492, he landed on a Bahamian island he named San Salvador. The island now presently known as San Salvador (formerly called Watling Island) has long been thought to be the island where Columbus landed. But in truth, historians do not agree on the exact site of the landing. The possibility narrows between two islands: San Salvador itself and Samana Cay, about 80 miles southeast.
Arawak Indians inhabited the islands when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World on San Salvador Island in 1492. British settlement of the islands began in 1647; the islands became a colony in 1783. Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.
The populace is predictably friendly and more religious than one might expect: the Bahamas have one of the highest ratios of churches per capita in the world, with Baptists being the largest single group. Local newspapers will reveal religious references by elected officials in a manner that exceeds what would be found in the United States. This devotion does nothing to prohibit the activities of visitors nor is it intended to. There is a very "libertarian" attitude about personal morals.
The biggest event in the Bahamian calendar is Junkanoo, a street carnival held on Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year's Day (January 1). Junkanoo groups "rush" through the streets of towns, especially Nassau, wearing spectacular yet disposable costumes of crepe paper and playing distinctive Junkanoo music, which combines African rhythms with loud brass and cowbells, fusing them together in a medley that veers on cacophony but is exceedingly dancable. The costumes, made from scratch every year, are disposed of on the streets as the party ends and make a great free souvenir to bring home!Bahamas is also the site of Ms.Universe 2009
Tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream. Hurricanes and other tropical storms cause extensive flood and wind damage. Can be cool if trade winds shift.
Long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills. The highest point is Mount Alvernia (63 m), on Cat Island.
Officially 120V 60Hz, which is identical to the U.S. and Canadian standard. Outlets are North American grounded outlets, identical to standard U.S. and Canadian wall outlets. Occasionally non-grounded outlets may be found, which do not accept the third, round pin present on grounded plugs, and require an adapter. Older North American outlets may not be polarized (with one slot wider than the other). Otherwise, adapters are available which accept a polarized plug and adapt it for use with a non-polarized outlet.
Visitors from most industrialized countries (including US, Canada, EU and Japan) do not need an advance visa for stays of up to three months. Visitors do not need to complete the Customs form.
Travelers returning to the United States from the Caribbean must display their passport to get back into the States. This applies to minor children as well as adults. US immigration pre-clearance facilities are available at Nassau and Freeport.
The largest airports in the Bahamas are at the capital Nassau, on New Providence, and Freeport, on Grand Bahama.
The Bahamas are a popular port of call for cruise ships plying the Caribbean. The capital, Nassau, on New Providence Island is one of the world's busiest cruise ship ports, and is well served by ships that originate from Florida. Freeport on Grand Bahama Island is a growing destination as well.
Most island groups have customs and immigration available for those arriving by yacht. The customs fee for a private yacht is $150 for 35' and under and $300 for over 35'.
Bahamasair offers a comprehensive network radiating out from Nassau and covering most population centers. However, fares are expensive, frequencies are low, planes are small and the airline is notorious for extensive delays, and many travellers in a hurry opt to charter planes instead.
Nassau/New Providence have a system of buses called jitneys, discussed in the Nassau article. Bus travel on the other islands (with the exception of Grand Bahama) is very limited.
Mail boats serve almost all populated islands in the Bahamas, and are amongst the cheapest way to reach many areas, though far from the fastest or most comfortable. The government has a mailboat schedule of mailboat routes online which may or may not reflect reality.
The local currency is the Bahamian dollar (B$), but it's tied to the US dollar at a 1:1 ratio and US dollars are accepted everywhere at par. There is thus no need for Americans to change money, and many tourist-oriented businesses will even give change back in US$. Do keep an eye out for the famous (but now rare) three-dollar bill and 15-cent coin, both originally made to ease the 1966 transition from British pounds to dollars, $3 being roughly equivalent to £1 and $0.15 approximating a shilling.
There is very little made in the Bahamas, but some luxury goods can be purchased at a bargain. Salespeople in the straw market have a very direct but often humorous manner of negotiating the price of a product. A sense of humor is greatly appreciated in this island nation.
Beware of purchasing Cuban cigars. The vast majority of "Cubans" for sale in the Bahamas are counterfeit. Only buy cigars from reputable and dedicated tobacconists, do not buy on the street, in the market, or from rinky-dink combination cigar/liquor shops. Real Cubans cost upwards of $30 USD per cigar. If the price is $10, it's 100% fauxhiba. If you do plan to buy cigars, some online research may assist you in identifying authentic Cubans. The Ultimate Counterfeit Cuban Cigar Primer and The Havana Journal Counterfeit vs Real Cohibas pages may be particularly useful to you.
As you'd expect in an island nation, seafood is very popular. The national dish is conch (pronounced "conk" with a hard K), a type of mollusk, served deep-fried ("cracked") or raw with a twist of lemon, and as elsewhere in the Caribbean, the classic accompaniment is peas and rice.
Ordinary meals can be had for anywhere from $5-$25 a plate. You can find fast-food chains such as KFC or McDonalds, especially in the downtown areas, but as it is a highly touristed country, you can find many nice restaurants serving many different cuisines. Most restaurants serve American or British food, though you can easily find the normal island flair, especially during the Fish Fry during June, where you can usually get a meal for about $8. A 15% service charge is added to the bill at most establishments; additional tips are optional.
Service is distinct from the American standard. There is a concentration on the customer at hand. You are expected to patiently wait your turn. At fast food restaurants the server will take care of only the first customer until they have left the service area. Don't expect to be in a hurry even at a fast food establishment.
Service in the Bahamas takes place at a relaxed pace. Travelers can expect a leisurely pace to their meal. Expect polite, if slow, service at most establishments.
Soda can be pretty pricy in the hotels, and you will find it only on a soda tap if you are in a good restaurant; otherwise, you will usually get it in a can. The cheapest way to get this would be to go to a local "Food Mart."
"Goombay Punch" is the local soda. It has a pineapple flavor and is what the locals call a "Sweet" soda versus a cola. It is sold in cans at all grocery stores and also available in almost every Bahamian eatery.
Non-alcoholic malt beverages are also very popular. The primary brand of choice is Vita-Malt.
Kalik is the national brewery of the Bahamas and is always served at "all-inclusive" resorts. There are two rather distinct types: Kalik Light is a Budweiser-style very light lager, while plain Kalik has a bit more taste. Guinness is also very popular.
A new beer is available -- called Sands. It can be obtained at many resorts. It is a similar style product to Kalik.
Imported beer is can be incredibly expensive in the hotels but is not overly priced in bars and liquor stores. Cases of beer are readily available in a variety of Duty Free liquor stores.
In Freeport, the Port Lucaya Marketplace and Marina has many bars offering two Kaliks (and some other brews) for $5.
The Bahamas has significant amount of liquor stores in relation to the population of the country. You can find liquors stores downtown, by the hotels
This is by far the best choice of drinks in the Bahamas. It's as cheap as you can get ($2-$10 a bottle), tastes great, and it's made fresh by 3 different companies, the largest being the Bacardi Rum factory on New Providence south of Nassau, where you can take tours and get free drinks if you go on a 2-hour bus ride.
Accommodation on the Bahamas is expensive, and there is virtually no backpacker/hostel-type lodging. The cheapest hotels start at around US$70, and most hotels cost US$200-300/night, with the very best resorts easily pushing up above US$500. Deals may be available in the summer off-season though.
Most hotels and resorts in the Bahamas are located in New Providence (Nassau) and neighboring Paradise Island. The rest of the country remains rather off the beaten track for tourism, and eg. Eleuthera, despite being 100 miles long, has only three hotels.
The College of the Bahamas is the main institution that offers post secondary education in the country with several schools including and undergraduate business school, an undergraduate social science. Other tertiary educational institutions in the country include Success Training College, Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute and Nova Southeastern University. The University of The West Indies also has a campus in the Bahamas.
There are also some international universities that offer programs in the country such as the University of Miami's MBA programme.
Tourism is the main industry followed by banking.
By the middle of the year 2007, the country had already recorded 42 murders. Police statisitcs will show that most murders are linked to domestic violence. A report done by an international body stated that The Bahamas ranks amongst the top for crimes committed against women. However, to maintain good local and international relations, the police have increased their presence and the judicial system vowed to bring about "swift justice".
The adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has reached 3.0% or 1 in 33 adults. Be Safe!!
Bahamians are a good-natured people, but do not suffer fools gladly.
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|Area||13,940 sq km|
|Electricity||120V/60Hz (North American plug)|
|Government||constitutional parliamentary democracy|
|Population||303,770 (July 2006 est.)|
|Religion||Baptist 32%, Anglican 20%, Roman Catholic 19%, Methodist 6%, Church of God 6%, other Protestant 12%, none or unknown 3%, other 2%|