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The Islands Travel Information

The Basics

Time

Local time in the Bahamas is GMT -5 (GMT -4 from first Sunday in April till last Sunday in October).

Electricity

Electrical current in the Bahamas is 120 volts, 60Hz. Two-pin flat blade plugs and flat blade plugs with round grounding, are also standard.

Language

English is the official language in the Bahamas.

Travel Health

A yellow fever vaccination is required by travellers aged more than one year arriving from infected areas, and Hepatitis A immunisation is recommended for visitors over two years. There is a risk of malaria and travellers should take precautions before travel. Food and water is considered safe, though it is advised not to eat fruit or vegetables unless peeled or cooked. Visitors should note that some types of fish, including tropical reef fish, are poisonous to eat even when cooked. Medical facilities are good in Nassau and Freeport, but expensive and usually require payment in cash on treatment. Medical insurance is advised. Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, where most emergency surgery is performed, is experiencing a chronic shortage of blood so those with rare blood types are advised to know the names and locations of possible donors in the event of an emergency. The Lyford Cay Hospital has a hyperbaric chamber for treatment of decompression illness.

Tipping

Many hotels and restaurant bills in the Bahamas automatically include a service charge of 15% to cover gratuities, otherwise a 10-15% tip is expected for most services, including taxi drivers. Hotel staff usually receive US$1 per bag.

Safety Information

Most visits to the Bahamas are trouble-free though care should be taken in the major cities of Nassau and Freeport. Visitors should take sensible precautions and not carry large amounts of cash or jewellery on their person or wander away from the main tourist areas, especially after dark. In light of several fatal accidents and serious injuries that have occurred using rented watersports equipment, it is advisable that only those experienced on jet skis consider renting them on New Providence and Paradise Island. The watersports industry here is poorly regulated and visitors should only rent equipment from reputable operators and make sure that they have received adequate training before going out onto the water. Hurricane season is from June to the end of November.

Local Customs

The British and African influences on the Bahamas are still obvious, but the island's proximity to the US has resulted in a somewhat Americanised culture. Some of the islands and resorts are very upmarket and require a certain standard of dress. Beachwear should be confined to the beach and smart-casual dress is usually expected for the evening.

Business

Nassau is the business centre of the Bahamas, whose economy is heavily dependent of tourism and offshore banking. Business protocol is fairly relaxed, although appropriate business attire is expected. Meetings are usually held in conference rooms, they begin punctually, and business cards are customarily exchanged. Handshakes on introduction are the norm between both men and women; women are treated as equals in the business environment. Office hours are 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.

Communications

The international access code for the Bahamas is +1, in common with the US, Canada and most of the Caribbean, followed by 242. The outgoing code is 011 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 01144 for the United Kingdom). Calls from the Bahamas can be expensive, so if possible use a calling card. VOIP services are a much cheaper and more popular means of communication. A mobile network operates on the GSM 1900 band. Internet cafes are widely available.

Duty Free

Travellers to the Bahamas over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, or 50 cigars or 454g of tobacco; 1 litre spirits and 1 litre wine; and other goods to the value of US$100. Prohibited items include firearms and ammunition without a police permit. Pets and dogs from countries with rabies infections are strictly prohibited from entering the country.

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