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Country Guides for Caribbean

Bahamas

Bahamas

Boasting over 700 islands, thousands of miles of coastline, wonderful sandy beaches, clear, warm water, coral reefs, abundant marine life, and pleasant climate, it's no wonder that the Bahamas is such a popular travel destination. From the casinos and straw market of cosmopolitan Nassau, and the pink sands and New England-style architecture of Eleuthera, to the laid-back, resort atmosphere of Biminis, the sunken shipwrecks of Conception Island, and the world-class fishing, there is something for everyone. Birders will enjoy the national parks, home to the Abaco parrot, West Indian flamingo, and hundreds of other protected species.

Language: English (official), Creole (among Haitian immigrants)

Major International Airport:

City

Airport
Airport
Code
Distance
From City
NassauNassau Int'lNAS16 miles SW

The preventive measures you need to take while traveling in the Caribbean depend on the areas you visit and the length of time you stay. You should observe the precautions listed in this document in most areas of this region.

Food and Waterborne Diseases

Make sure your food and drinking water are safe. Food and waterborne diseases are the primary cause of illness in travelers. Travelers' diarrhea can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites, which are found throughout the Caribbean and can contaminate food or water. Infections may cause diarrhea and vomiting (E. coli, Salmonella, cholera, and parasites), fever (typhoid fever and toxoplasmosis), or liver damage ( hepatitis). Illness caused by a parasitic worm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) can occur in this region. People can get infected by eating raw or undercooked snails or slugs that are infected with the parasite.

Diseases found in the Caribbean (risk can vary by country and region within a country; quality of in-country surveillance also varies)

Malaria
Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness.

Humans get malaria from the bite of a mosquito infected with the parasite. Prevent this serious disease by seeing your health care provider for a prescription antimalarial drug and by protecting yourself against mosquito bites. All travelers to malaria-risk areas in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, including infants, children, and former residents of these islands, are at risk for malaria. All travelers to Haiti are at risk for malaria, except no risk in the cruise port of Labadee (Labadie). Travelers to rural areas of the Dominican Republic, especially in the provinces bordering Haiti, are at risk for malaria. No risk in resorts in the Dominican Republic. Travelers to Haiti and rural Dominican Republic should take chloroquine to prevent malaria.

There is no risk for malaria in: Anguilla (U.K.), Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda (U.K.), Cayman Islands (U.K.), Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique (France), Montserrat (U.K.), Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico (U.S.), St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos (U.K.), Virgin Islands (U.K., U.S.).

Yellow Fever
Yellow fever is present only in Trinidad & Tobago in this region. A certificate of yellow fever vaccination may be required for entry into certain countries in the region if you have visited Trinidad & Tobago or an endemic area in South America or sub-Saharan Africa. For detailed information, see Comprehensive Yellow Fever Vaccination Requirements. Also, find the nearest authorized U.S. yellow fever vaccine center.

Other Disease Risks
Dengue is transmitted by mosquitoes in this region. Protecting yourself against insect bites (see below) will help to prevent this disease.

Cutaneous larval migrans is a risk for travelers with exposures on beaches and leptospirosis is present. Eosinophilic meningitis caused by Angiostongylus cantonensis occurred in travelers to Jamaica. Anthrax occurs in Haiti. Other infections that tend to occur more often in longer-term travelers (or immigrants from this region) include lymphatic filariasis (Dominican Republic and Haiti), cutaneous leishmaniais (Dominican Republic), tuberculosis (Haiti), HIV (Haiti), and hepatitis B (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). There remains very limited risk of schistosomiasis in few areas. Other hazards for travelers include toxic fish poisoning.

Other Health Risks

Injuries
Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers. Protect yourself from motor vehicle injuries: avoid drinking and driving; wear your safety belt and place children in age-appropriate restraints in the back seat; follow the local customs and laws regarding pedestrian safety and vehicle speed; obey the rules of the road; and use helmets on bikes, motorcycles, and motor bikes. Avoid boarding an overloaded bus or mini-bus. Where possible, hire a local driver.

Routine Vaccinations

Check with your healthcare provider: you and your family may need routine as well as recommended vaccinations.

Before travel, be sure you and your children are up to date on all routine immunizations according to schedules approved by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice (ACIP). See the schedule for adults and the schedule for infants and children. Some schedules can be accelerated for travel.

See your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect. If it is less than 4 weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. It might not be too late to get your shots or medications as well as other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

Recommended Vaccinations

The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to The Caribbean. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines you will need.

  • hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
  • hepatitis B, especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
  • rabies, if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities.
  • typhoid, particularly if you are visiting developing countries in this region. typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors
  • Yellow Fever, for travelers to Trinidad and Tobago
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles.

Required Vaccinations

  • None.
  • All travelers should take the following precautions, no matter the destination:

    • When using repellent on a child, apply it to your own hands and then rub them on your child. Avoid children's eyes and mouth and use it sparingly around their ears.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water or, if hands are not visibly soiled, use a waterless, alcohol-based hand rub to remove potentially infectious materials from your skin and help prevent disease transmission.
    • In developing countries, drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or bottles. Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. If this is not possible, learn how to make water safer to drink.
    • Take your malaria prevention medication before, during, and after travel, as directed. (See your health care provider for a prescription.)
    • To prevent fungal and parasitic infections, keep feet clean and dry, and do not go barefoot, even on beaches.
    • Always use latex condoms to reduce the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
    • Protect yourself from mosquito and insect bites.
    • Do not eat food purchased from street vendors or food that is not well cooked to reduce risk of infection (i.e., hepatitis A and typhoid fever).
    • Do not drink beverages with ice.
    • Avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
    • Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis.
    • Do not handle animals, especially monkeys, dogs, and cats, to avoid bites and serious diseases (including rabies and plague). Consider pre-exposure rabies vaccination if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas.
    • Do not share needles for tattoos, body piercing or injections to prevent infections such as HIV and hepatitis B.

    After You Return Home

    If you have visited a malaria-risk area in Haiti or the Dominican Republic, continue taking your chloroquine for 4 weeks after leaving the risk area.

    Malaria is always a serious disease and may be a deadly illness. If you become ill with a fever or flu-like illness either while traveling in a malaria-risk area or after you return home (for up to1 year), you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the physician your travel history.



    Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    Those traveling to the Bahamas are at risk from dengue fever transmitted by mosquito bites. Travelers should use topical insect repellent and wear insecticide-treated clothing.

    Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

    With the exception of urban and resort areas, the water supply in the Bahamas is contaminated with viruses, bacteria and protozoa. Travelers should treat water before drinking to avoid potentially serious health problems.

    Download Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by CountryDownload Magellan's Chart of Insect Protection and Water Purification Needs by Country

    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 by the improper use of scooters, jet-skis, and personal watercraft or by the careless or reckless operation of such equipment by others. You 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.

    For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, 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., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, 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 pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

    CRIME: While The Bahamas has a relatively low crime rate, visitors should exercise caution and good judgment. Although most criminal incidents take place in a part of Nassau not usually frequented by tourists (the "over-the-hill" area south of downtown), crime and violence has moved into more upscale tourist and residential areas. Criminals also target restaurants and nightclubs frequented by tourists. The most common approach for criminals is to offer victims a ride, either as a "personal favor" or by claiming to be a taxi, and then robbing and/or assaulting the passenger once they are in the car. Visitors should take care to ride only in licensed taxis, identifiable by their yellow license plates.

    In the last year the U.S. Embassy has received several reports of sexual assaults, including against teen-age girls. Most assaults have been perpetrated against intoxicated young women, some of whom were reportedly 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.

    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 should never leave valuables unattended, especially on beaches. Visitors should store passport/identity documents, airline tickets, credit cards, and extra cash in hotel safes. Avoid wearing expensive jewelry, particularly Rolex watches, which criminals have specifically targeted. Use only clearly marked taxis with yellow license plates and make a note of the license plate number for your records.

    The legal age in the Bahamas for consumption of alcoholic beverages is 18. Parents should be aware, however, that enforcement of the drinking age is weak. 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.

    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, assist you to 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 understand the local criminal justice process and find an attorney if needed.



    Source: U.S. Department of State

    The Bahamas has a tropical marine climate, moderated by the warm Gulf Stream and the cool easterly trade winds. The summers are quite humid, wet (with occasional thunder storms) and warm to hot, and the winters are less humid, cooler and dryer. Winter and spring cold fronts from North America can bring strong winds, rain and unusually cold temperatures, and the tropical storm/hurricane season extends from May through October. Some precipitation can be expected year round.


    City
    Annual
    Precip. Days
    Annual
    Precip. Totals
    Nassau12455"

    Bahamas's electrical current is 120/60 (volts/hz) and uses the plug adaptors listed to the right under Related Items.

    To determine which plug adaptors you'll need and if you'll require a transformer or converter, use our Electrical Connection Wizard.

    For a detailed discussion of international electrical standards, see our related article on Electrical and Phone Adaptation.

    Download Magellan's Guide to World Electrical ConnectionsDownload Magellan's Guide to World Electrical Connections

    On December 31, 2005, the U.S. Government will begin to phase in new passport requirements for U.S. citizens traveling in the Western Hemisphere. By December 31, 2007, all U.S. citizens will be expected to depart and enter the United States on a valid passport or other authorized document establishing identity and U.S. citizenship. The Department of State strongly encourages travelers to obtain passports well in advance of any planned travel. Routine passport applications by mail take up to six weeks to be issued. For further information, go to the State Department's Consular website: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cbpmc/cbpmc_2223.html

    U.S. citizens must present original proof of U.S. citizenship (valid U.S. passport or certified U.S. birth certificate with a government-issued photo ID) and a return ticket. A passport is recommended as it eases processing upon return to the United States. Voter registration cards, Social Security cards, driver's licenses, affidavits, and other similar documents are not acceptable as proof of U.S. citizenship. U.S. citizens do not need to obtain visas for stays of up to one month. Travelers arriving via private watercraft are charged docking fees. U.S. citizens may contact The Embassy of The Bahamas at 2220 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel: 202-319-2660), its Consulates in Miami and New York, or by email at bahemb@aol.com.



    Source: U.S. Department of State

    The time zone for Bahamas is -5 hours offset from GMT, which means that if it is 12:00 noon in New York, the time in Bahamas would be 12:00 pm

    The unit of currency in Bahamas is the Bahamian dollar (BSD).

    Look up the current exchange rate using XE.com's Universal Currency Converter

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