For adapting to everyday life in The Bahamas as you vacation in paradise, follow this practical guide:
Arriving in The Bahamas | Departing The Bahamas | Business Hours | Drinking Water | Duty Free Shopping | Electricity | Government Services | Legal Drinking Age | Mailing Letters | Taxes | Time Zone | Tipping.
Upon arriving in The Bahamas, non-residents must fill out and sign an Immigration Form and must present a properly completed Visitor Arrival Card to the Immigration Officer at airports and seaports. After processing a portion of the card is given back until the time of departure when that portion must be given to the airline agent at the check in counter. An oral baggage declaration is required if the visitor has only their used personal belongings. If you are bringing other items then you must fill out a baggage declaration (C17) form and declare the items. All returning residents are required to complete a baggage declaration (C17) form whether they have items to declare or not.
When leaving The Bahamas residents and visitors six (6) years and over must pay a Departure Tax of $20. Each visitor must present the retained portion of the Visior Arrival Card to the Immigration Officer. Most ticketing services now include Departure Tax at the time of purchase. Departures to the US must go through US Customs Pre-clearance.
Government Offices are open Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. -5:30 p.m.
Post Offices are open from Monday to Friday from 9:00a.m. -5:30p.m. and Saturdays from 9:00a.m.-12:30p.m.
Supermarkets or food stores, as they are known locally, are open Monday to Saturday from 9:00a.m.- 6:00p.m. and on Sunday at varying times.
Most Bahamians drink bottled water or well water, although they use tap water for cooking, bathing and washing. Local and imported water is readily available for purchase in the capital and on the Family Islands. Some islands have their own brands of water, although the most commonly found brands are AquaPure and Chelsea's Choice, along with the common international brands. Bahamians hardly drink sparkling water, although you can find it at gourmet or European restaurants.
Most of the major islands have duty-free shopping on cameras, binoculars and telescopes, china and crystal, watches and clocks, jewelry, perfumes, fine linens and tablecloths, liquor and leather goods. Savings on these items are between 25–50% below US prices.
Electrical outlets in The Bahamas are 60 cycles/120 volts, which is compatible with all US appliances. British and European appliances require a flat two-pin adaptor and 220-volt converter. The electrical service in the Bahamas is normally 120 volts, 60 cycles AC, in which case North American appliances are fully compatible, while European appliances will need both converters and adapters. Voltage varies with location, however, and some places in the islands may have 220 volt electrical service. Call your hotel ahead of time to find out which system they use. The reliability of service is very good on the major islands, and many large resorts have their own generators.
Government services are easily identifiable by a colour code. Whether you are looking for an administrative office, a police station or public clinic, here are the colours you should generally look out for when touring the Islands of The Bahamas.
- Libraries and Post Offices: Yellow
- Clinics: Pink
- Hospitals: Pink
- Police Stations: Green
- Schools: Yellow
- Government House: Pink
Eighteen is the legal age in The Bahamas for drinking, voting and gambling. However, only non-residents are allowed to gamble in The Bahamas.
If you are sending letters or postcards from any one of The Islands of The Bahamas be sure to use only Bahamian stamps. Mail travelling to the Family Islands will arrive a bit more slowly than to Nassau and Grand Bahama Island since it goes by mailboat.
Guests at hotels pay a government tax of 4% and a resort levy of 4%. Departure tax is $15.00 throughout The Bahamas; However, in Freeport, Grand Bahama there is an additional $3.00 airport security fee for a total of $18.00. Small children are exempt from paying departure tax. There is a fee of $1.00 for motorized vehicles to cross the Paradise Island Bridge. There are currently no sales taxes in The Bahamas; however, the government plans to introduce Value Added Tax around June 2014.
We follow the Eastern Standard Time Zone and we also observe Daylight Saving Time. This is the same Daylight Aavings Policy practiced in Australia, Canada and the United States.
Many establishments include a 15% gratuity, so make sure you check your bill. However, leaving a tip is discretionary depending on the quality of service, and you are at liberty to tell an establishment to remove the gratuity if you wish. Tipping is customary for bellboys and porters, as well as waiters, taxis and other service staff.