are an extensive chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, USA and to the northeast of Cuba. Some 30 of the islands are inhabited and the country is a major tourist attraction. Islands
Grand BahamaNew Providence Island — dominated by the capital NassauParadise Island — site of the famous Atlantis resortOut IslandsThe AbacosAcklins/Crooked IslandAndrosBerry IslandsBiminiCat IslandEleutheraThe ExumasHarbour IslandInaguaLong IslandMayaguanaParadise Island — home to the gigantic Atlantis casino resortSan SalvadorCities
Nassau - CapitalFreeportMatthew TownAlice Town BiminiOther destinations
Several cruise lines operate private island retreats in the Bahamas. Among them is Castaway Cay of the Disney Cruise Line. To visit these islands you usually have to be a passenger on the cruise line that owns the island.Understand
Arawak Indians inhabited the islands when Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World on San Salvador 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.Culture
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 American South. This devotion does nothing to prohibit the activities of visitors nor is it intended to. There is a very "libertarian" attitude about personal morals.Festivals
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 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!Climate
Tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream. Hurricanes and other tropical storms cause extensive flood and wind damage.Terrain
Long, flat coral formations with some low rounded hills. The highest point is Mount Alvernia (63 m), on Cat Island.Electricity
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.Get in
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.By plane
The largest airports in the Bahamas are at the capital Nassau, on New Providence, and Freeport, on Grand Bahama.By boat
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 $300 for over 35'.Get around
offers a comprehensive network radiating out from Nassau and covering most population centers. However, fares are expensive, frequencies are low, planes are small and the airline is notorious for extensive delays, and many travellers in a hurry opt to charter planes instead.By bus
Nassau/New Providence have a system of buses called jitneys
, discussed in the Nassau article. Bus travel on the other islands (with the exception of Grand Bahama) is very limited.By car
The best way to go around the larger islands (Grand Bahama, Grand Exuma, Andros, etc) is to hire a car. There are many opportunities to rent a vehicle on Grand Bahama Island (Freeport) and can be well worth it if you want to get away from your resort. The Lucaya resort area has a nice town center with a wide variety of shopping in walking distance.
Driving is on the left, but due to the many American tourists there are many pavement markings to remind you. Although driving is on the left, many cars' driver's seats still are on the left side of the car. A particular challenge is always the turning circle. Gasoline is expensive, but distances are low.Talk
: English, Haitian Creole (among Haitian immigrants); however, a visitor who understands English will still need to listen beyond the heavily accented talk - called Bahamianese by some. This way of speaking is "spiced" with slang and twang sayings, e.g. "muddo" and "chile". Standard English is the accepted formal language.Buy
The local currency is the Bahamian dollar
(B$), 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 to change money, and many tourist-oriented businesses will even give change back in US$. Do keep an eye out on the famous (but now rare) three-dollar bill
and 15-cent coin
, both originally made to ease the 1966 transition from 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. Cuban cigars are also readily available. 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.Eat
There is a variety of seafood readily available for consumption. Visitors are always encouraged to try conch
(pronounced "conk" with a hard K), a type of mollusk which is a Bahamian staple, served deep-fried or raw with a twist of lemon.
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.Drink
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.BeerKalik
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.
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 $5.00.Hard Liquors
The Bahamas has significant amount of liquor stores in relation to the population of the country. You can find liquors stores downtown, by the hotelsRum
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.Sleep
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.Learn
The are two forms of education here in The Bahamas - Public & Private.
Both systems can run from Kindergarten/Nursery to Senior year - 12th grade.
Every habited island in the country has at least one school. On the outer islands, there are "All Age" Schools where students are sorted based on their age range.
Students in both systems study for the GLAT exam in 3rd and 6th grade in primary school then leaving for 7th grade which is considered high school in The Bahamas.
The majority of private schools are on the capital - Nassau.
There are many private schools that offer a full range of educational services and a few offer college level courses for high school students as well (The Advanced Placement Exam and the International Baccalaureate).
Private schools in the Bahamas charge school fees which can range anywhere from $550 per semester to $6000 per semester.
All public schools are free and in good supply.
There are several tertiary educational institutions in the country namely The College of The Bahamas, 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.
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.Work
Tourism is the main industry followed by banking.
The Commonwealth of The Bahamas
is an English-speaking nation consisting of two thousand cays and seven hundred islands that form an archipelago. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Florida and the United States, north of Cuba and the Caribbean, and northwest of the British dependency of the Turks and Caicos Islands.History
Although the area may have been populated previously, the seafaring Taino people moved into the Southern Bahamas around the seventh century from Hispaniola and Cuba. These people came to be known as the Lucayans. There were an estimated forty thousand Lucayans at the time of Columbus' arrival.
Christopher Columbus's first landfall in the New World was on San Salvador Island, also known as Watling's Island, in the southern part of Bahamas. Here, Columbus made contact with the Lucayans and exchanged goods with them.
Bahamian Lucayans were later taken to Hispaniola as slaves; in two decades, many Lucayan societies ceased to exist, as the population endured considerable forced labour, warfare, disease, emigration and outmarriage. After the Lucayan population was eliminated, the Bahamian islands were virtually unoccupied until the English settlers came from Bermuda in 1647. The Eleutherian Adventurers established settlements on the island of Eleuthera.
The Bahamas became a British crown colony in 1718. Some 8,000 American Loyalists and their slaves moved to the Bahamas after 1783 from New York, Florida and the Carolinas. The Emancipation of the British West Indies United Kingdom Emancipation Act took force on August 1, 1834, thereby ending slavery in the Bahamas. This led to many fugitive slaves from the US braving the perils of the Atlantic for the promise of a free life in the Bahamas.
The British made the islands internally self-governing in 1964. In 1973, the Bahamas became fully independent, but retained membership in the Commonwealth of Nations. In 1967, Sir Lynden Pindling became the first black Premier of the colony, and in 1973 became Prime Minister. He appointed Sir. Milo Butler as Govenor General.
Based on the pillars of tourism and financial services, the Bahamas' economy has prospered since the 1950s. Today, the country enjoys the third highest per capita income in the western hemisphere, and the highest in the Caribbean excluding the dependent territories of Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Despite this, the country still faces significant challenges in areas such as education, health care, international narcotics trafficking, correctional facilities and illegal immigration. The urban renewal project has been launched in recent years to help build up dilapidated urban areas and arrest social decline in the main islands.
The origin of the name "Bahamas" is ambiguous. It is thought to derive from the Spanish baja mar
, meaning "shallow seas"; others trace the name to the Lucayan word for Grand Bahama Island, ba-ha-ma
"large upper middle land".Geography
The closest island to the United States is Bimini, which also known as the gateway to the Bahamas. The island of Abaco is to the east of Grand Bahama. The most southeastern island is Great Inagua. Other notable islands include the Bahamas' largest island, Andros Island, and Eleuthera, Cat Island, Long Island, San Salvador Island, Acklins, Crooked Island, Exuma and Mayaguana. Nassau, The Bahamas capital city, lies on the island of New Providence.
To the southeast, the Turks and Caicos Islands, and three more extensive submarine features called Mouchoir Bank, Silver Bank, and Navidad Bank, are geographically a continuation of the Bahamas, but not part of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
The climate of the Bahamas is subtropical to tropical, and is moderated significantly by the waters of the Gulf Stream, particularly in winter. Conversely, this often proves very dangerous in the summer and autumn, when hurricanes pass near or through the islands. Hurricane Andrew hit the northern islands in 1992 Atlantic hurricane season 1992, and Hurricane Floyd hit most of the islands in 1999 Atlantic hurricane season 1999. Hurricane Frances in 2004 the Atlantic hurricane season of 2004 was expected to be the worst ever for the islands. Also in 2004, the northern Bahamas were hit by a less potent Hurricane Jeanne. In 2005 the northern islands were once again struck, this time by Hurricane Wilma. In Grand Bahama, tidal surges and high winds destroyed homes and schools, floated graves and made roughly 1,000 people homeless, most of whom lived on the west coast of the island. They are still recovering to this day.Districts
The districts of the Bahamas provide a system of local government everywhere in The Bahamas except New Providence, whose affairs are handled directly by the central government. The districts are:
Government and politics
The Bahamas is an independent country and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Political and legal traditions closely follow those of the United Kingdom.
The non-resident Queen of the Bahamas is the ceremonial head of state, represented by a Bahamian governor-general. The Prime Minister is the head of government and is the leader of the party with the most seats in the elected House of Assembly. The current Governor General is Arthur Dion Hanna and the current Prime Minister is Hubert Ingraham. The upper house (the Senate) is appointed. Executive power is exercised by the cabinet. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament.
The party system is dominated by the centre-left Progressive Liberal Party and the centre-right Free National Movement. A handful of splinter parties have been unable to win election to parliament. These parties include the Bahamas Democratic Movement, the Coalition for Democratic Reform and the Bahamian Nationalist Party.
Constitutional safeguards include freedom of speech, press, worship, movement, and association. The Bahamas is a member of the Caribbean Community. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. Jurisprudence is based on English common law.Demographics
Blacks 85%, Whites 12%, Asian and Hispanic 3% according to the last census completed about the races on the island, which was recorded in 1953.
Source: Culture and sports
Bahamian culture is a hybrid of African and European influences. Perhaps its greatest expression is a rhythmic form of music called Junkanoo. Aside from Junkanoo, other indigenous forms of music include rake and scrape, calypso, and a unique form of hymnal, known internationally through the music of the late Joseph Spence. Marching bands are also an important part of life, playing at funerals, weddings and other ceremonial events. The country's first movie, Filthy Rich Gangster, was written and directed by a Bahamian named Jimmy Curry, who also wrote, produced and performed the regions first Hip Hop and Junkanoo Hip Hop records. Curry was also the first Bahamian signed to legendary American record label Sugar Hill Records.
In the less developed outer islands - islands outside the capital Nassau, known as the "Out Islands" or "Family Islands" - crafts include basketry made from palm fronds. This material, commonly called "straw", is also plaited into hats and bags that are popular tourist items today.
Regattas are important social events in many family island settlements. They usually feature one or more days of sailing by old-fashioned work boats, as well as an onshore festival.
Some settlements have festivals associated with the traditional crop or food of that area, such as the "Pineapple Fest" in Gregory Town, Eleuthera or the "Crab Fest" on Andros. Other significant traditions include story telling.
A strongly religious country, there are more places of worship per person in the Bahamas than many other nations in the world. The islands are overwhelmingly Protestant Christian (over 80%). Baptists form the largest denomination (about one third), followed by the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. As of 2006, one out of 191 in the population was a Jehovah's Witness .
A few people, especially in the southern and eastern islands, practice Obeah
, a spiritistic religion similar to Voodoo. Voodoo is also practiced by the large number of immigrants from Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic. While well-known throughout the Bahamas, Obeah and Voodoo are shunned by many Bahamians.
Officially, the national sport of the Bahamas is cricket. However, its popularity has declined. Track and field is currently the most popular sport. Football and rugby also have a strong following. American sports such as basketball, softball, baseball and American football are also played.
Bahamians have won Olympic gold medals in sailing (Sir Durwood Knowles and Cecile Cooke in 1964), and track and field (Tonique Williams-Darling in the 400m, 2004) and women's relay team (the 4 by 100m in 2000).Economy
In the mid-1980s, the Bahamas was classified as an upper middle-income developing country and ranked among the wealthiest nations in the Caribbean region. Tourism was the nation's primary economic activity. In 1986 the World Bank reported that tourism directly and indirectly accounted for approximately 50 percent of employment. Tourism's share of the gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at 70 percent by the United States Department of Commerce.
In order to lessen the economy's dependency on tourism, the government has followed a policy of diversification since the 1970s, emphasising development in the industrial and agricultural sectors. Success, however, has been limited. The nation experienced setbacks in the early 1980s with the closing of steel and cement plants and oil refineries. Because industries locating in the Bahamas tended to be capital intensive, the industrial sector's share of the labor force was estimated at just 6 percent in 1979. Industry's share of GDP was estimated at about 10 percent in the mid-1980s. The agricultural sector (including fishing) also employed only about 6 percent of the labour force in the early 1980s. Despite various programs to boost production, the World Bank estimated that agriculture in the Bahamas accounted for less than 5 percent of GDP in 1986. The nation's banking and finance sector experienced significant growth in the 1970s and 1980s. This sector contributed approximately 7 percent to GDP in the mid-1980s but employed only about 3,000 Bahamians.
The overall performance of the economy during the past several decades has been positive. In the 1960s, the country recorded robust economic growth; growth rates averaged 9 percent annually as direct foreign investment spurred the development of tourism. Economic performance in the 1970s was not as successful. The international economic recession caused a reduction in investment, especially after the 1973 and 1979 oil price shocks. Bahamian independence in 1973 also caused a certain amount of uncertainty, contributing further to reduced foreign investment. Toward the end of the decade, however, economic performance improved, led by growth in tourism; investment soon followed suit, resulting in a boom in the construction sector and an increase in employment levels.
The economy continued to perform well in the early and mid-1980s. Real GDP growth in the 1980-84 period averaged 3 percent. The only notable setback occurred in 1981, when recession in the United States resulted in a decline in stopover visitors (hotel occupants rather than cruise ship or day visitors) and the manufacturing sector was hurt by the closing of several plants; real GDP for that year fell by 9 percent. Tourism recovered quickly, however. In 1982 about 1.7 million foreign tourists visited the Bahamas, and by 1986 that figure had grown to 3 million. GDP was US$1.8 billion in 1985, and per capita GDP was estimated at US$7,822.
The nation was not without economic problems. Growth and development were not uniform throughout the country. Most development occurred in New Providence and Grand Bahama, causing significant migration from the Family Islands to these two urban centres. This migration strained the infrastructure and social sectors of New Providence and Grand Bahama. The government also was faced with the heavy burden of spreading facilities and services throughout the Family Islands. A second problem of the Bahamian economy was its dependence on a single sector, tourism; that sector's well-being was in turn affected by the economy in the United States, the source of most tourists. To reduce this dependency, the government actively pursued a policy of diversification. Finally, the country was afflicted with the problem of structural unemployment; in 1986 unemployment levels were estimated in the 17- to 22-percent range. Industrial development tended to be capital intensive because of a high wage structure and a scarcity of technically skilled labour.
In 2005, the Bahamas was captivated between a fight between a California golf developer and a small island, Great Guana Cay. The islanders opposed the megadevelopment on grounds that the golf course and large imprint of the development would destroy the coral reef, the mangroves and sea turtle habitat of the island, as well as spoil their unique, quiet lifestyle and tourism draw.
The fight between Baker's Bay Golf & Ocean Club and the islanders became an allegory for the larger economic issues of the time. The Perry Christie Administration believed in doing anything to bring any kind of development to the Bahamas, and many believed his administration was handing out land, resources and special favors to unsavory foreign developers.
In the May 2007 elections, Perry Christie lost the Bahamian general elections. Many experts believe the Great Guana Cay struggle and the way it played out in the press helped the fall of a central government approach that overstepped local government bounds to favor unsustainable megadevelopments.
Today, Great Guana Cay is in appeals court with the developer, and many marine conservationists around the world, including Jean-Michel Cousteau oppose the development. References
General historyCash Philip et al. (Don Maples, Alison Packer). The Making of the Bahamas: A History for Schools. London: Collins, 1978.Albury, Paul. The Story of The Bahamas. London: MacMillan Caribbean, 1975.Miller, Hubert W. The Colonization of the Bahamas, 1647â€“1670, The William and Mary Quarterly 2 no.1 (Jan 1945): 33â€“46.Craton, Michael. A History of the Bahamas. London: Collins, 1962.Craton, Michael and Saunders, Gail. Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992Economic historyJohnson, Howard. The Bahamas in Slavery and Freedom. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishing, 1991.Johnson, Howard. The Bahamas from Slavery to Servitude, 1783â€“1933. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1996.Storr, Virgil H. Enterprising Slaves and Master Pirates: Understanding Economic Life in the Bahamaz. New York: Peter Lang, 2004.Social historyJohnson, Wittington B. Race Relations in the Bahamas, 1784â€“1834: The Nonviolent Transformation from a Slave to a Free Society. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, 2000.Shirley, Paul. "Tek Force Wid Force", History Today 54, no. 41 (April 2004): 30â€“35.Saunders, Gail. The Social Life in the Bahamas 1880sâ€“1920s. Nassau: Media Publishing, 1996.Saunders, Gail. Bahamas Society After Emancipation. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishing, 1990.Curry, Jimmy. Filthy Rich Gangster/First Bahamian Movie. Movie Mogul Pictures: 1996.External links
Official website for Bahamas governmentOfficial website for Bahamas Tourist OfficeBahamas Financial Services BoardThe Association of International Banks & Trust Companies in The BahamasThe Bahamas ConstitutionBahamian Studies OnlineRum Cay, BahamasGreat Guana Cay Development Controversy