The official currency used in the Bahamas' is the Bahamian Dollar. This dollar is based on the US dollar and one Bahamian dollar has 100 cents to it.
Because a Bahamian and a US dollar have the same value it is possible to use either currency as legal tender within either country.
The history of the Bahamas' Dollar
The Bahamas dollar has been the currency used in the Bahamas since 1966. Usually it is denoted with the use of a dollar sign $ or with a dollar sign $ with a capital B in front of it: B$.
Prior to the Dollar being the official currency in the Bahamas, the Bahamian pound was used as the currency. The Bahamian pound was basically equivalent to a British pound.
Since the Bahamas dollar was introduced it has consistently been affiliated to and on a par with the American dollar.
The dollar is available in denominations of $1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100, with a 50-cent note also in use.
Coins are issued in denominations of 1,5, 10,15,25 cents.
The Bahamian dollar is quite easy to get hold of, ATMs are easy to locate and available on all of the major islands as well as shopping centres, banks, casinos and various other locations. Credit cards can be used in most of the bigger stores and restaurants.
However if you plan to take a trip to the Out Islands then you should consider changing some money before you go there. On many of the islands you will find that their banks are only open for a few days every week and then even if they do open on the days you visit, they may only be open for a few hours and it is very easy to miss them.
If you take US dollars then you will not need to change your money. However if you take British pounds then you will need to change them. This can easily be done at a bank or at a Bureau de Change, but note that you will pay exchange fees for each transaction.
Traveller's cheques can also be taken in either US dollars or British pounds. Traveller's cheques are more secure than taking cash, particularly large amounts of cash.
Looking after your Bahamian Dollars
Violent crime in the Bahamas is usually restricted to happening within the local community: travellers are a generally quite safe. Nevertheless, there have been incidents where tourists have been subjected to crimes of mugging, thefts and even armed robbery.
But, remember that these incidents are relatively rare and do not occur on a regular basis. However it is prudent to exercise caution when you are out and about in the Bahamas, just to ensure that you keep your personal belongings with you.
Generally travellers are advised not to walk alone at night. This is particularly true in areas such as downtown Nassau or the beaches and any secluded areas. If you are out and about after dark, then please ensure that you are not carrying a large amount of money or wearing very expensive jewellery.
If you go to some of the outlying islands, which are known as the Out Islands or sometimes as the Family Islands, then you will find that crime here is considerably lower than in Nassau or Freeport.
Overall the threat of terrorism is quite low in the Bahamas and, as of 2008, there have been no serious terrorist attacks in the Bahamas, which makes it a safe place to visit and enjoy this wonderful way of life.
Things to do in the Bahamas
There really is plenty to see and do in the Bahamas. This really is one location where you will be spoilt for choice, as opposed to having to look for something to do. There are some stunning beaches to enjoy. Or you can go swimming, fishing, just laze on a boat or participate in some really extreme water sports.
You can also explore all the different islands or like the locals, you can just take life easy.
If you do want to participate in water sports, be aware that it is quite poorly regulated in the Bahamas. This results in people being killed, or seriously injured every year, because they have used jet-skis or other water sports equipment without being properly trained in its use.
One important thing to bear in mind, if you do wish to hire jet skis or a boat, is that if you suffer an injury as a result, then your insurance company may not pay out on any claim that you make. This is because any activity that is considered to be higher risk than 'normal' activities may require a separate insurance policy.
If you do suffer an injury and end up in hospital as a result, you may well find that you have to fund your own hospital treatment, if your insurance policy does not cover it. So, always be aware of the potential risks associated with anything that you choose to do and if in doubt, always check the small print of your insurance policy.
Food and drink
Food and drink is certainly plentiful in the Bahamas. Due to the fact that it is such a popular holiday destination, there are loads of places to eat, drink, relax or make merry, depending on what you feel like at the time.
You will find that there are lots of fresh fruits available in the Bahamas from mangoes to papaya and sweet pineapple. These are absolutely delicious and can be bought almost anywhere.
The range of restaurants and cafes is also extensive. Here you will be able to dine in style or be as informal as you like. Generally food is cooked in hygienic conditions and the risks of catching anything from the food are minimal.
Drinks are also very plentiful and if you enjoy some rum then you will certainly enjoy the Bahamas. Rum is drunk a great deal in the Bahamas. Rum Punch is also something of a national institution.
The nightlife in the Bahamas tends to be quite lively. There are lots of beach parties and discos and many of the hotels tend to have live entertainment on a regular basis. Often this entertainment will include calypso and some goombay music, which is a traditional type of music, originating in the Bahamas.
For those who like to gamble there are four casinos to choose from, one is on Paradise Island, one on Cable Beach and on Grand Bahama there are two casinos one in Freeport and one in Lucaya.
Nightclubs are restricted to Nassau and Freeport.
For those who like things to be a little bit quieter, there are lots of little bars and restaurants where you can have a drink, or something to eat and just soak up the ambience.
Shopping in the Bahamas is a real national pastime. In 1992 the Bahamas abolished all import duties. This means that you can make substantial savings on luxury items such as crystal, perfume, leather, all kinds of jewellery as well as watches and cameras. Basically this makes it an ideal location for anyone who particularly enjoys some intensive retail therapy.
Shops tend to be open during the week and Saturday until about 17:30, however many close on Sunday although in the major tourist destinations you will find that most of the shops stay open a little bit later and some may even open on a Sunday.
The official language of the Bahamas is English. However you will find that it can take a little time to adjust to how locals actually speak. The local dialect in the Bahamas has been strongly influenced by African languages and patois. One of the most endearing aspects of this dialect is that people often do not to pronounce the letter H. So people will say 'Tanks' when they mean to say Thanks, or 'ouse for house. Occasionally this can be a little confusing. There are also some wonderful local sayings, for example people talk about 'day clean' when they actually mean daybreak. Once you get used to how people speak it is very easy to understand them, but it may take a day or so and then, after you leave, you'll miss the gentle patterns of speech.
Another interesting aspect to the language is that the dialect varies from island to island, so just when you think you're getting to grips with it, you may go to another island and find the dialect slightly different there, which all adds to the fun.
There are lots of ways to get around in the Bahamas, if you hold a UK driver's licence then you will be able to drive in the Bahamas. But there are lots of exciting ways to get around, for example, why not try out the local bus service. Sometimes you can even get to ride on a mail boat, when hopping from island to island.
If you to choose to go on a mail boat or on the local bus service, then please bear in mind that they operate according to Bahamas time and this means that they are likely to be late, the only question is how late will it be? But that just about sums up the Bahamas and anyway, what does it matter how late things are? It isn't really worth rushing is it?
Overall the Bahamas offer a great place to enjoy a holiday, to chill out and recharge your batteries. Very few people visit the Bahamas and do not enjoy their holiday. It really is a collection of little islands of Paradise. Some people may find that it is quite busy in some of the tourist resorts. However some of the outlying islands particularly the smaller ones tend to be very tranquil, peaceful and quiet. So, whether you are into crowds and partying all night, or you just want to go somewhere and feel that you are completely alone, then you will be able to do both in the Bahamas. It is a long trek from the UK but the travel time is time well spent, because the islands are simply so special and unique.