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Nassau is the capital of The Bahamas and makes up most of the island of New Providence. Approximately 70 percent of the total population of The Bahamas lives on this island alone and with just under 250,000 residents the city is always flowing with life. This popular tourist destination features beautiful sandy beaches, amazing turquoise water, and gorgeous weather that draws the attention of nearly two and tree million tourists each year.
Traveling to Nassau for the first time can be intimidating but with the help of this guide you will come to find that The Bahamas is one of the most relaxing and stress free places in the world. Begin your trip to paradise with this helpful and informative Nassau travel guide.
BEFORE WE BEGIN
History – The Bahamas was originally inhabited by the Lucayans who sailed from Cuba and lived there for hundreds of years. When Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492 the Lucayans were soon sold and shipped to become slaves. Because of terrible farming soil The Bahamas were not much use for the Spanish and were soon abandoned. By the 1600’s the islands became a center for pirates and most of the more famous pirates such as Blackbeard called them home. The English sought to regain the islands and in 1718 send Woodes Rogers to do the job. Soon after many wealthy entrepreneurs came to the island bringing slaves with them. When slave trade was abolished many of the slaves chose to stay and their descendants are what make up most of Nassau. When the Cuban embargo occurred The Bahamas became a hotspot for vacationers and the main industry soon became tourism. In 1973 The Bahamas became their own country and have become a great spot to relax for years.
Weather – The Bahamas has only two seasons, summer and winter, and maintains a mostly tropical climate all year round reaching temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity can be very high depending on which island you are on but generally the weather is sunny and warm. Because The Bahamas are considered a tropical climate, showers can occur suddenly and heavily and disappear within a matter of minutes. Hurricane season starts June 1 and ends on November 30 however you shouldn’t be worried because most hurricanes miss The Bahamas completely.
Geography – The Bahamas are located southeast of Florida, about 187 Miles from Miami, and 345 miles northeast of Cuba. It covers approximately 13,940 sq km of land and is inhabited by nearly 301,790 people. It is made up of over 700 islands however only a small fraction are inhabited.
Culture – The Bahamian people are extremely friendly and welcoming towards tourists and will generally help you in any way possible as long as you are kind in return. Bahamians love to joke and many take religion very seriously so you can expect many religious references to be used in everyday conversation. While crime is virtually non existent towards tourists you must keep in mind that you are in a city. Walking around alone in shady areas is not recommended and you should always have a companion with you. Never go with people you have never met or have just recently met.
When To Go – While Nassau is a popular vacation spot it does have its on season and off season. When you want to go solely depends on the type of crowd you want to deal with. The on season officially starts from mid-December and ends in mid-April. During this season hotels will charge more, there will be a lot more people, and the crowds can get pretty annoying. Throughout March and April is spring break and a lot of younger college kids choose Nassau as their top destination. If you don’t want to deal with a younger crowd, higher prices, and more people all around, then don’t travel during this season. However a single, younger crowd will usually like this time of year.
The off season is considered the rest of the year, from mid-April to mid-December. Prices will be cheaper and there will be less people in Nassau. The only downside is that most people don’t have the time to travel on this time of year and you could be near construction because most hotels choose to renovate during this time of year.
BEGINNING THE TRIP
Planning is essential to make your trip stress free. Nassau can be the perfect vacation spot but you have to plan ahead and make the correct confirmations as well as research the layout of the islands to make sure the trip is easy and fun.
What To Wear – Make sure you have the right clothes before you leave. Shorts, tank tops or t-shirts, flip-flops or denver broncos hawaiian shirt are advised. Hats and sunglasses are recommended but optional. If you plan on swimming, a bathing suit is also required. I would also advise bringing a light rain jacket because rain does start randomly and unexpectedly.
What To Pack – Make sure to pack all essential items. Remember that over packing is much better than under packing. Sufficient clothes that will last you the whole trip are advised unless you are going for an extensive period of time. In which case you will be able to wash your clothes. Remember all medication and attach a prescription with them. The most important thing you can remember is your passport. If you are flying you will need this to get into the country. All hotel and flight reservations or tickets must be remembered in case the hotel or flight has no record of you. Don’t forget toiletries and other hygiene necessities as well. Check out this checklist below to make sure you don’t forget anything.
- Hotel Confirmation
- Flight Confirmation or Ticket
- Medication With Prescription
- T-shirts or Tank Tops
- Flip Flops or Sneakers
- Rain Jacket
- Shaving Cream
Getting There – You generally have two options for traveling to Nassau. You can either fly there or take a cruise or boat. For first timers we recommend taking a flight to the Lynden Pindling International Airport or a cruise ship that will dock at the Prince George Wharf. You may also take a Yacht from Miami however, we do not recommend this for people traveling for the first time. Book your flight or cruise ticket ahead of time to make sure you are prepared.
Finding The Right Hotel – The Atlantis Resort and Casino is the biggest resort on the island (and the Caribbean) and for those of you who are traveling there for the first time and don’t mind spending a ton of cash this is a great choice for you. While expensive The Atlantis does a fantastic job of making a first time to The Bahamas something memorable. Other than that most other hotels or resorts reside on Cable Beach. This is a gorgeous beach that is known around the world for its beauty. Hotels on this beach will be much cheaper than The Atlantis and will often times give you the same quality. Do some research on the prices and remember that big name hotels and resorts such as the Wyndham and the Sheraton will be more reliable.
By Plane – Traveling by plane is quick and reliable. From Miami it takes a mere 30 minutes. You will need a passport for proper identification to get in and out of the country so make sure you remember it and keep it safe while you are there. Your flight will most likely land at the Lynden Pindling International Airport which is located on the west side of Nassau. You will need to go through customs and fill out an immigration form. A customs officer may ask you a few questions but just answer truthfully and you should be through within 30 minutes. Once through you will be directed through the main entrance and there will be many taxis waiting there to pick up vacationers. Taking the taxi is recommended and costs between 20 and 50 dollars depending on how far they are taking you.
By Cruise Ship – When traveling by cruise ship you will land at the Prince George Wharf which is located just north of downtown Nassau and will give you plenty of things to do that are just a short walk from the ship. While having a passport is not required if your cruise ship is traveling from and back to the same U.S. port it is still recommended that you bring one. Getting off your cruise ship in Nassau can be overwhelming with the amount of people and shops that will be set up. Just do research and find things you wish to do while your ship is docked there. If you are getting off the cruise ship and staying in Nassau you can find a taxi or a bus very easily and they will take you to your hotel.
FORMS OF TRAVEL
Nassau has plenty of travel options that range from extremely cheap to a little bit more pricey but reliable. From the airport you will most likely have one option, to take a taxi but when you are at your hotel or resort there will be plenty of other options to travel around the island.
Taxis – Taxis are 100% reliable but are the most expensive form of travel on the island (besides taking a limo). They charge 3 dollars for the first quarter mile and 40 cents for each additional mile added onto that. Additional passengers are 3 dollars each. Many taxis will also charge per bag. Make sure you agree on a price before hand so you know how much you will be paying. Tips are also expected.
Buses – Bus stops are all over the island and rates are incredibly cheap. They usually cost about a dollar for the whole ride. Bus drivers are generally very friendly and will talk with their passengers for the whole ride. The only issue with buses is that they don’t take you to your exact location, they take you to predesignated bus stops (as with all cities). From your bus stop you will most likely have to walk the rest of the way.
Rental Cars – Rental cars are available in the airport but are not recommended for people in Nassau for the first time. Driving is on the left side of the road and drivers in Nassau are extremely aggressive. Rates are usually the same as in the U.S. and you must be at least 23 to rent.
Mopeds – Mopeds are NOT recommended even for those who are experienced in Nassau. Not only are the roads on the left side but the drivers are extremely dangerous and many people die each year from moped rentals. The mopeds are generally old and unreliable and cost about 30 to 50 dollars for the day. A small deposit of between 50 and 100 dollars is required.
THINGS TO DO
Visit A Beach – The beaches in Nassau are some of the most beautiful in the world. The water is warm and the sand is always perfect. Most resorts and hotels are built right on the beach so you can just walk out and enjoy the perfect water. If yours isn’t the beach is most likely just a 10 minute walk (at the most) from where you’re staying.
Eat Local Food – The Bahamas is known for making amazing food featuring conch. Try a conch salad or conch fritters and you will be absolutely amazing. The Bahamians are masters at cooking and it is recommended that you try the local food.
Attend A Festival – The Bahamians are known for their amazing and colorful festivals. If you are lucky enough to travel to The Bahamas during December you may catch the Junkanoo festival. This festival is known around the world for its colorful parade and amazing food. Bahamians usually go all out and it is a sight to see.
Go Fishing and Snorkeling – The coral reefs around Nassau and other islands make for some of the best fishing and snorkeling in the Caribbean. Go on a boat tour and most of them let you snorkel and check out some of the amazing underwater wildlife that Nassau has to offer. If fishing is your thing, Nassau offers big game and regular fishing tours that allow you to catch shark, marlin, and much more.
Visit a Shop/The Straw Market – Downtown Nassau is home to high end shopping that features some of the most exquisite tastes in clothes and jewelry in the world. If high end shopping is your thing you will definitely find lots to do in downtown Nassau. If you don’t like high end shopping there is the straw market and local shops that are all around not only downtown Nassau but the rest of the island. The Straw Market is a famous building featuring hundreds of Bahamians selling little trinkets and great souvenir items.
If you are on a cruise ship you must return on time back to the boat with your identification or passport before it leaves. If you are leaving on a plane make sure to check what time checkout is and make sure you make it in time or you will be paying extra. Take a taxi to the airport where your departure flight is and make sure you have your passport and all of your luggage. From there get on your departure flight and head home.
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write by Athena Nguyen