Ministry of Tourism
Nassau Court, PO Box 3701
Nassau, Bahamas
Tel. 322-7501/4, 322-86 34/7- Cable: Bahmintour.
Telex: 20164


Physical geography

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas is a chain of 700 islands, cays and rocks, starting only 50 miles off the coast of Florida and extending in a 550 mile arc through the Altantic to the northern edge of the Carribean. Closest to the USA is the island of Bimini while in the south, the island of Inagua is only 20 degrees north of the Equator. Only 29 islands are inhabited.

The Bahamas can be geographically summarised as consisting of New Providence, Grand Bahama and the remainder, known as the Out Islands. Of all the islands Andros is the largest, with an area of 2,300 square miles. It is, however, largely unexplored. Principal Islands are the Bimini group, the Abacos, Eleuthera, the Exumas, Cat Island, Long Island, Mayaguana, Crooked Isiand, Inagua and the Berry Islands. Topographically The Bahamas are generally low-lying, rarely more than 150 feet in elevation. There are no rivers on the entire archipelago. The islands have a fossil coral foundation, but much of the rock is oolitic limestone which has weathered into caves, pinnacles and arches in many places. Though much of the land is either rocky or mangrove-covered some of the soil is very fertile, but thin. Excellent timber is found in abundance on some of the islands, especially Andros and the Abacos.


Temperatures in The Bahamas are ideal throughout the year. The Gulf Stream keeps the islands warm and balmy in the winter months, and cool and comfortable during the summer. When it rains (the average annual rainfall is only about 50 inches), showers come and clear quickly. Temperature averages 75°F in winter and 85° F in summer, each season lasting about six months.

Economic geography

The principal industries of The Bahamas are finance and tourism. In 1994, 50 per cent of the gross domestic product came from the latter and the amount of visitors to the islands continues to increase as facilities develop.

The islands are not rich in natural resources although in the Biminis the mineral aragonite, which is used in a wide range of industrial processes, is exported, as are cement, salt, citrus and pulpwood from the pine forests in the Western Isles.

Freeport, which is increasingly being used as a warehousing and forwarding base between Europe and the markets of the Caribbean and Latin America, has a deepwater harbour capable of handling 500,000-ton supertankers.


The population of The Bahamas in 1990 was nearly 255,000, of whom over 170,000 were living on New Providence island.

A brief history

When Columbus first landed in the New World at San Salvador in 1492, he found the islands inhabited by the gentle Lucayan Indians. For more than a century The Bahamas remained in Spanish hands, but it took them less than 20 years to completely deplete the Indian population by shipping them off to mines in Cuba or Hispaniola.

In 1648 a party of Englishmen, led by William Sayle, set out from Bermuda to find a new land of religious freedom. They called themselves the 'Eleutheran Adventurers' and gave the name of Eleuthera to the Bahamian Island which they colonised. For the next 70 years pirates used the island as a base until they were driven out by Captain Woodes Rogers, the colony's first Royal Governor, appointed in 1718. In 1776, during the American Revolution, a US naval squadron captured Nassau, but withdrew after 24 hours, taking the governor and attorney general as hostages. Afterwards thousands of loyalists escaped from the United States with their slaves and came to live in The Bahamas.

In 1782 the Spaniards recaptured The Bahamas, but the islands were restored to the British a year later by the Treaty of Versailles and have remained under the British Crown ever since. After the American Civil War of 1860-1865, the population was swelled by Southern planters who fled to The Bahamas with their slaves to farm on the islands. Both the Civil War and prohibition brought prosperity to The Bahamas as in the first instance, Southern ships traded ammunition and medical supplies for cotton - then ran these supplies to their troops through Northern blockades. In later years, The Bahamas served as a supply port for American rum-runners.

Since the 1940s, the islands of The Bahamas have been growing as a popular holiday centre. Today both scenic beauty and the high standard of facilities have combined to make the islands one of the world's fastest developing leisure areas.

In 1964 the islands achieved internal self-government and on 10 July 1973 became an independent country within the British Commonwealth.


The bulk of the population is Christian. The Church of England is the Church of State, and other denominations most strongly represented and with churches in the islands are the Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Methodist and the Seventh Day Adventists.

Languages spoken by nationals

English is the official and commercial language and also the language of the people.


The Bahamas Standard Time is five hours behind GMT


The principal unit of currency is the Bahamian dollar, divided into 100 cents. The Bahamian $ is on a par with the US$.

Official holidays (all offices and shops closed)

January 1, New Year's Day; 5 April, Good Friday; April 8, Easter Monday; 1st Friday in June, Labour Day; May 16, Whit Monday; July 10, Independence Day; 1st Monday in August, Emancipation Day; October 12, Discovery Day; December 25, Christmas Day; December 26, Boxing Day.

On public holidays shops on New Providence and on most other Bahama Islands are closed. All are open on Saturday.

What one should not fail to see

New Providence Island

Nassau: Government House, Fort Charlotte, Fort Montagu, Rawson Square, Straw Market, Woodes Rogers Walk, Bay Street, Coral World, St. Matthew's Church Queen's Staircase, Flamingos at Ardastra Gardens, Pompey Museum, Junkanoo Gallery and Fort Fincastle.

Out of Nassau

Blackbeard's Tower, Paradise Isand.

Grand Bahama Island

Freeport: International Bazaar, Rand Memorial Nature Centre, the Garden of the Groves.


Governors Harbour, Cupids Cay, Tarpum Bay, the 'Glass Window', Ocean Hole, Harbour Island, Spanish Wells.


Hope Town, Treasure Cay Resort, Man o' War Cay boatbuilders, Green Turtle Cay, Cherokee Sound.


Exuma Cay Land and Sea Park, George Town.

San Salvador

Columbus Monument and Olympic Flame dais.


Flamingo Reserve.

Most favourable seasons for sojourns and touring

See under Climate.

How to dress

Dependent upon the type of holiday and the time of year, in Nassau and Freeport daytime wear is extremely casual. For women, cotton skirts, lightweight dresses, blouses, shorts and, of course, bathing costumes. Very short skirts and bathing suits are not permitted in shopping areas. For men, daytime wear is sports shirts and slacks or shorts.

For evening wear, ladies have a choice of smart daytime dresses, pant suits or hostess gowns and during the winter season, a lightweight wrap or cardigan may be useful. Men are generally expected to wear jackets in restaurants and hotels. On the Islands, the order of the day is 'informality' and unless staying in a luxury resort, 'dressing' for dinner is not always necessary.

Main holiday resorts

There are 700 islands in The Bahamas and each has its own character. For visitors seeking sun, sea, sand and an away-from-it-all atmosphere they offer a world of relaxation and adventure. The principal islands which offer accommodation facilities are Abaco; Andros; Berry Islands: the Biminis; Cat Island; Eleuthera; Exuma; Great Inagua; Harbour Island; Long Island; San Salvador and Spanish Wells.

For those who seek the bright lights and entertainment, both Nassau (New Providence), Freeport/Lucaya and West End (Grand Bahama) have plenty to offer with high quality shops, restaurants, night-clubs, discotheques and casinos.

Main holiday sports

The Bahamas are a sportsman's paradise offering every facility imaginable. Excellent tennis courts can be found at most of the big hotels. Swimming, in the clearest waters in the world, is perfect wherever you go. Watersports such as sailing, scuba diving and water-skiing are available for beginners and experts. And, of course, the Bahamian waters are renowned for their game fishing. The other main attraction is golf, with 15 first-class courses spread around the main islands.

What to eat and drink

The wide variety of restaurants in Naussau and Freeport provide German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polynesian, American, English, Chinese and of course Bahamian food, a speciality of which is the conch chowder or salad.

Bacardi Rum, distilled in The Bahamas, is an unofficial national drink.

What to buy

Bahamian handicrafts are predominantly in straw-work and woodcarvings. For the European, savings can be made in spirits and tobacco. In the Straw Market in Rawson Square, Nassau, bags and hats can be bought from their Bahamian makers at negotiable prices.

Frontier formalities


Each person entering The Bahamas must fill out, upon entry, an embarkation-disembarkation card. In the case of non-residents, the designated portion is retained and must be surrendered upon departure from the country.

All visitors are required to have a return or onward ticket to another country and the necessary documents for entry therein. If visitors intend to stay in The Bahamas for more than a few days and up to a maximum of eight months, they will be asked to produce evidence of sufficient financial support. They may also be asked to indicate a relative or friend with whom they will be staying. Visitors are not allowed to engage in any form of gainful occupation while in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.


Passports are required by all persons, except citizens of the United Kingdom and colonies and Canadian citizens on temporary visits not exceeding three weeks. Passports are, however, required for re-entry into the UK.

United States citizens entering The Bahamas as bona fide visitors for a period not exceeding eight months must carry proof of nationality. The best proof of nationality is a US passport, either current or expired. Those without passports who were born in the US may use a birth certificate or church baptismal certificate issued within 60 days of birth, bearing the embossed seal of the church.

Naturalised citizens may use their naturaliastion certificates or a valid or expired passport. Naturalisation certificates may NOT be photocopied or xeroxed as it is against the law. Persons claiming dual citizenship, one of which being the US, can only enter the US with the US passport. Although US passports are not requiredby law for return to the US, they are strongly recommended.

Passports are not required by visitors with return or onward tickets or other means of travelling to another country to which they have the right to entry.


Visas are required by all persons entering The Bahamas except: a) British Commonwealth citizens and Landed Immigrants of Canada for visits not exceeding 30 days, if in possession of Form 100; b) US citizens entering as bona fide visitors for a stay not exceeding eight months; c) alien residents of the US who upon arrival in The Bahamas are in possession of the US Alien Registration Card (also referred to as a 'Green Card'), for visits not exceeding 30 days; d) citizens of the following countries, who require passports but no visas: Belgium, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey; e) citizens of the following countries, who require passports but no visas for stays of three months or less: Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Namibia, Sweden and South Africa; f) citizens of the following countries, who require passports but no visas for stays not exceeding 14 days: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, El Salvador, Surinam, Venezuela and Uruguay; g) persons in possession of a valid residence or work permit issued by the Director of Immigration; h) persons in transit, including stateless persons in possession of valid passports and tickets to some destination outside The Bahamas, and whose stay while awaiting onward passage on the first available ship or aircraft does not exceed three days.

Applications for visas from persons in the following categories must be referred to the nearest Bahamian Consular Office: Nationals of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Colombia and Asian countries. Nationals of all other countries are advised to check entry requirements with the Immigration Dept., PO Box N-83 1, Nassau, The Bahamas. Phone: (809) 322-7530.

A visitor with proper documents (these include evidence of financial support and a return ticket) may be landed by a Bahamas immigration official for a maximum period of eight months. Should he wish to stay longer he must apply to the Director of Immigration, PO Box N-831, Nassau, The Bahamas, who will consider him for temporary residence on an annual basis. (Visitors and temporary residents cannot engage in gainful employment while in The Bahamas.)

Main travel routes

All major resort islands are covered by domestic flights operated by Bahamasair. In addition, Bahamasair, Island Express, Gulf Stream Airlines, American Eagle and US Air Express serve several of the islands out of Florida. The cheapest inter-island transportation is by local mail boat, but this is not recommended for tourists. Taxis and self-drive cars are available, also scooters and bicycles can be hired.

Representatives abroad

Bahamas Tourist Offices in Europe

London: 3 The Billings, Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, Surrey GUI 4UL England. Phone: 01483-448900. Fax: 01483-448990.

Frankfurt: Leipziger Strasse 67d, D-60487 Frankfurt/Main, Germany. Phone (069) 9708340. Fax: (069) 97083434.

Paris: 60 rue Saint Lazare, 75009 Paris, France. Phone: (331) 45266262. Fax: (331) 48740605.

Milan: Via Cusani No7, 20121 Milan, Italy. Phone: (2) 72023003/2526. Fax: (2) 7202 3123.


Bahamas Tourism Centre - Area South, One Turnberry Place, 19495 Biscayne Bld, Suite #809, Aventura, Florida, FL 33180-2321. Phone: (305) 932-0051/ 9370585. Fax: (305) 682-8758 Area office/(305) 931-4715 News Bureau.

Bahamas Tourism Centre - Area Mid-West, 8600 West Bryn Mawr Ave. Suite #820, Chicago, Illinois. IL 60631 Phone: (312) 693-1111. Fax: (312) 693-1113.

Bahamas Tourism Centre - Area East, 150 East 52nd Street, 28th Floor, New York. NY 10022. Phone: (212) 758-2777. Fax: (212) 758-6531.

Bahamas Tourism Centre - Area West, 3450 Wilshire Bld, Suite #208, Los Angeles, California, CA90010. Phone: (213) 385-0033. Fax: (213) 383-3966.


Bahamas Tourism Centre - Toronto, 121 Bloor Street East, Suite 1101, Toronto, Ontario M4W 3M5 Canada. Phone: (416) 968-2999/ (800) 667-3777 (Canada only). Fax: (416) 868-6711.

We have been able to publish the present tourist information on The Bahamas thanks to the co-operation of the Ministry of Tourism in Nassau.