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Travel Security Advice for the Bahamas

 

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BAHAMASBahamas_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

The Bahamas is a developed, English-speaking Caribbean nation composed of hundreds of islands covering a territory approximately the size of California.  Tourism and financial services comprise the two largest sectors of the economy.  Independent from the United Kingdom since 1973, The Bahamas is a Commonwealth nation with more than a century-old democratic tradition.  The capital, Nassau, is located on New Providence Island.  Please read the Department of State Background Notes on The Bahamas for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

All Americans traveling by air outside of the United States are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States.  This requirement will be extended to sea travel (except closed-loop cruises), including ferry service, on June 1, 2009.  Until then, U.S. citizens traveling by sea may present government-issued photo identification and a document showing their U.S. citizenship (for example, a birth certificate or certificate of nationalization).  Starting June 1, 2009, all travelers must present Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant document such as a passport or a passport card for entry or re-entry to the U.S.  Sea travelers should also check with their cruise line and countries of destination for any foreign entry requirements.

We strongly encourage all American citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport or passport card well in advance of anticipated travel.  American citizens can visit travel.state.gov or call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports.

U.S. citizens do not need to obtain visas to visit The Bahamas and may enter using either a passport or, if traveling by sea, a passport card. The Bahamas does not accept Enhanced Driver's Licenses (EDLs) for entry.  U.S. citizens planning on an extended stay of several months may be asked by Bahamian immigration authorities to provide proof or evidence of financial solvency upon entry to The Bahamas.  Travelers arriving via private watercraft are charged docking fees.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:

The water sports and scooter rental industries in The Bahamas are not carefully regulated.  Visitors should rent equipment only from reputable operators, and should insist on sufficient training before using the equipment.  Every year people are killed or injured due to improper, careless or reckless operation of scooters, jet-skis, and personal watercraft.  Visitors should insist on seeing proof that operators have sufficient medical and liability insurance.  Travelers should also invest in low-cost traveler’s insurance that includes medical evacuations, as most American insurance companies do not cover this (please refer to the section on medical facilities in this document for additional information).

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada or, for other callers, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.  For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:

Although The Bahamas has a high crime rate, areas frequented by tourists during the day are not generally prone to violent crime. Visitors should exercise caution and good judgment at all times.  Criminals tend to target restaurants and nightclubs frequented by tourists.  One common approach is for criminals to entice victims into accepting a ride, either as a “personal favor” or by claiming to offer taxi service, and then robbing and/or assaulting the passenger once they are in the car.  Visitors should use only clearly marked taxis with yellow license plates and make a note of the license plate number for their records.

Travelers should avoid walking alone after dark or in isolated areas, and avoid placing themselves in situations where they are alone with strangers.  Be cautious on deserted areas of beaches at all hours.  Hotel guests should always lock their doors and never open their hotel room door without first verifying the identity of the person knocking. Further, hotel guests should never leave valuables unattended, especially on beaches.  Visitors should store passports/identity documents, airline tickets, credit cards, and extra cash in hotel safes.  Automated teller machines (ATMs) are available; however, visitors should try not to use them, especially after dark.  Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, particularly expensive watches, which criminals have specifically targeted.  Visitors should take care to ride only in taxis with seatbelts.

Visitors are advised to report crime to the Royal Bahamas Police Force as quickly as possible. Early reports frequently improve the likelihood of identifying and apprehending suspected perpetrators.

The U.S. Embassy has received numerous reports of sexual assaults, including assaults against teen-age girls.  Most assaults have been perpetrated against intoxicated young women, some of whom had reportedly been drugged.  To minimize the potential for sexual assault, the Embassy recommends that young women stay in groups, consume alcohol in moderation or not at all, ride only in licensed taxis, and not accept rides or drinks from strangers.

The legal age in The Bahamas for consumption of alcoholic beverages is 18.  Parents should be aware, however, that minimum age requirements are not strongly enforced.  It is easy for teenagers to obtain alcoholic beverages and underage drinking is prevalent.  Many of the arrests, accidents and violent crimes suffered by U.S. citizens in the Bahamas involve alcohol.  Engaging in high-risk behavior such as excessive consumption of alcohol can ultimately be dangerous because it greatly increases the vulnerability of an individual to opportunistic crime.

In many countries around the world, including the Bahamas, counterfeit and pirated goods are available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, attempting to bring such goods back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.  More information on this serious problem is available from the U.S. Department of Justice.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Bahamas is 919.

Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Persons violating Bahamian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.  Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Bahamas are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.  Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

Customs:

The Bahamas’ customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation or exportation of firearms.  It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas in Washington or one of the Bahamian consulates in the U.S. for specific information regarding customs requirements.  Tourists who arrive by private boat are required to declare firearms to Bahamian Customs and leave firearms on the boat while in The Bahamas.  Please see our information on Customs Regulations.

Boating/Fishing:

Boaters should be aware that long-line fishing in Bahamian waters is illegal.  All long-line fishing gear is required to be stowed below deck while transiting through Bahamian waters.  Fishermen should note that stiff penalties are imposed for catching crawfish (lobster) or other marine life out of season, undersized or in protected areas.

Wildlife:

Hunting of certain types of fowl in The Bahamas requires a special license and may only be done in season.  All other hunting is prohibited in The Bahamas .  A number of endangered and/or protected species reside in The Bahamas.  U.S. citizens should not disturb, harrass, or otherwise threaten wildlife, including species that may be huntable in the U.S.  Americans have been arrested and prosecuted in The Bahamas for disturbing and/or hunting wild animals.  Specific information is available from the Bahamian Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources.

Time-Shares:

U.S. citizens should exercise caution when considering time-share investments and be aware of the aggressive tactics used by some time-share sales representatives.  Bahamian law allows time-share purchasers five days to cancel the contract for full reimbursement.  Disputes that arise after that period can be very time-consuming and expensive to resolve through the local legal system.

Hurricanes:

The Bahamas, like all countries in the Caribbean basin, is vulnerable to hurricanes.  Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, although hurricanes have been known to occur outside that time period.  Visitors to The Bahamas during hurricane season are advised to familiarize themselves with the State Department’s preparedness tips and to monitor weather reports in order to be prepared for any potential threats.  General information about disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  Please see our Customs Information.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

High-quality medical care is generally available, but expensive, in Nassau and Freeport.  Medical care is limited outside of Nassau and Freeport.  Bahamian doctors and hospitals do not usually accept U.S. medical insurance policies and typically expect immediate cash payment for professional services.  It is the patient's responsibility to seek reimbursement later from their insurance companies.  Serious health problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Persons with serious or life-threatening conditions who wish to return to U.S. medical facilities for treatment normally must be airlifted.

There is a chronic shortage of blood at Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, where most emergency surgery is performed.  Travelers with rare blood types should know the names and locations of possible blood donors should the need arise.  The Lyford Cay Hospital has a hyperbaric chamber for treatment of decompression illness.

Ambulance service is available, but may not be able to respond quickly in the event of a major emergency or disaster.

Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of The Bahamas.  The HIV virus is present in The Bahamas.  Please verify this information with the U.S. Embassy before you travel.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site. Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning The Bahamas is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Traffic in The Bahamas moves on the left side of the roadway.  Roads in Nassau and Freeport are generally adequate, but traffic congestion in Nassau is endemic.  Rural roads can be narrow, winding, and in poor condition.  Flooding frequently occurs on roads in low-lying areas throughout The Bahamas, including Nassau and Freeport.  Drivers should be alert for unmarked construction zones throughout The Bahamas. Travel by moped or bicycle can be quite hazardous, especially in the heavy traffic conditions prevalent in Nassau.  Travelers should exercise appropriate caution when renting motorbikes.  Those who choose to ride a moped or bicycle should follow Bahamian helmet law and drive defensively.  Accidents involving U.S. tourists on motorbikes have resulted in severe injuries and fatalities.

Pedestrians need to remember that vehicular traffic comes from the right, as many tourists have been struck by cars after failing to check properly for oncoming traffic.

Emergency ambulance service is generally available and can be reached by dialing 919.  Roadside assistance is also widely available through private towing services, listed in the phone book.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.  Visit the web site of The Bahamas’ national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of The Bahamas’ Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of The Bahamas’ air carrier operations. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:

Americans living or traveling in The Bahamas are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within The Bahamas.  Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.  The U.S. Embassy is located next to McDonald's restaurant on Queen Street in downtown Nassau; telephone (242) 322-1181, after hours: (242) 328-2206.  The Consular Section’s American Citizen Services hours are 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 9:00 a.m. -11:00 a.m. on Fridays.  The Embassy is closed on local and U.S. holidays.  You may wish to visit the U.S. Embassy web site or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The U.S. Embassy is also responsible for consular services in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCIS), a United Kingdom (British) overseas territory.  U.S. citizens may obtain updated information on travel and security in TCIS from the U.S. Embassy in Nassau or the Country Specific Information for the Turks and Caicos.


This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Bahamas dated September 24, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements and Special Circumstances.

 


 

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (UK) has information on the Bahamas HERE...

You can access the CDC Malaria Map HERE.....

Need an Embassy ?, check out our World Wide Embassy Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

Regards

The SW Team.............

 

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