Why is the Bahamas considered a country

Bahamas at a glance

The islands of the Bahamas stretch over 800 kilometers in the Atlantic Ocean between Florida and Hispaniola, a popular holiday destination especially for Americans. The focal points of tourism are the island of New Providence with the capital Nassau and holiday centers such as Paradise Island and Cable Beach as well as Grand Bahama with the Freeport / Lucaya holiday center, which has been built up since the 1950s.

These islands are correspondingly busy, as the Bahamas are known as the “Mallorca of the Americans”. Recently opened up for tourism thanks to EU funds, not yet a holiday center and very idyllic are the Out Islands, where 13 islands await guests.


Photo: © Bahamas Tourist Office

The Bahamas - baja mar means shallow water in Spanish - are often mistakenly assigned to the Caribbean. In any case, they too offer beautiful white and pale pink beaches, turquoise water and a subtropical climate, exotic cuisine that includes seafood such as conch (mussel meat), lobster (lobster) or Nassau grouper (grouper), colorful festivals such as the afro- Bahamian carnival called Junkangoo, country-specific music such as Goombay, rake 'n scrape, socca and gospel, local art and the numerous souvenirs made of straw on offer.

Most of the island's visitor attractions are due to the landscape, flora and fauna. 109 different bird and over 120 plant species can be found in the Bahamas. The Lucayan National Park on Grand Bahama has the longest measured underwater cave system in the world, it consists of pine forests, mangrove swamps and sand dunes. The island of Great Inagua with the Inagua National Park is one of the largest breeding grounds for this bird species in the western hemisphere thanks to 60,000 flamingos in Windsor Lake, an inland lake also known as Lake Rosa. The barrier reef off the island of Andros is the second largest in the world, its “Blue Holes”, the entrances to the cave system, are popular with divers. Established in 1959, Exuma Cays National Land & Sea Park, the first national park in the country, consists of 15 larger and countless smaller cliffs. The 45,000 hectare land and sea area can only be reached by water. There are up to 1.80 m long lizards, rock iguanas ("Bahamas dragons") and huge land crabs at home. The Bahamas National Trust manages a total of twelve national parks.

View of part of the Exuma Land & Sea Park
Photo: © Bahamas Tourist Office

From Abaco you can take boat tours and see whales. You can experience the feeding of sharks on Grand Bahama, you can swim and dive with dolphins, for example on Blue Lagoon Island off Nassau and in the diving center Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO) with the Dolphin Experience of Grand Bahama. On the latter island, the Parrot Jungle’s Garden of the Groves is also popular, where you can see not only endangered parrots, but also alligators and cockatoos. There are guided tours of the Rand Nature Center on Grand Bahama with its rare birds. The Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island has the largest tropical open-air aquarium in the world with a total of over 40,000 marine animals. The Ardastra Gardens near Nassau, including the zoo and conservation center, are famous for the “flamingo parades”. There are regular tours with glass-bottom boats from Nassau.

Reef diving in the Bahamas
Photo © Bahamas Tourist Office

Due to the natural conditions, the list of offered leisure activities is very extensive: There are 23 diving centers, you can dive or snorkel, the clear waters often offer 50 to 60 m visibility. Water skis, jet skis, parasailing equipment and water bikes are for rent. You can kayak in the Atlantic Ocean or through the mangrove swamps of Lucaya National Park. The Bahamas has eight golf courses, numerous tennis facilities, riding stables, and bike and mountain bike rentals. The shallow water areas are ideal for sport fishing and the sea in front of Abaco is a sailing paradise.

Especially New Providence and Grand Bahama, where the big cruise ships anchor, have the appropriate tourist infrastructure after the Bahamas on Florida's “doorstep” since the US boycott of Cuba has become the favorite sun island of the Americans. There are sometimes huge "hotel castles" from US chains, casinos, nightclubs, discos, pubs, numerous restaurants and opportunities for duty-free shopping. A US millionaire had already invested in tourism in Nassau in the 19th century, and Pan American Airways regularly landed in the city from 1929.

Colonial buildings worth seeing historically, often painted in pastel colors, old forts like Fincastle, from where you have a beautiful view, and the most important museums of the Bahamas can be found in the capital Nassau. The Junkanoo Expo is dedicated to the carnival, the Pompey Museum of Slavery and Emancipation tells the story of the Bahamians from Africa. The octagonal building of the Nassau Public Library and Museum was built in 1797 and was formerly a prison. Also worth seeing is the Bahamas Historical Society Museum on the history of the island state. The latest attraction is the “Pirates of Nassau”, a kind of interactive Madame Tussaud’s for buccaneer stories. This is where the crusaders are directed, and the company also includes the “Pirate Pub”, “Pirate Gift Shop” and the “City & Pirates Tour”. The Dundas Center for Performing Arts offers cultural events such as performances by the National Dance Company or the National Youth Choir. Another reminiscence of colonial history is the ceremony of the Changing of the Guards, the changing of the guards in front of Government House, accompanied by the Police Force Band.

The Bahamas Tourist Office's People to People program is an opportunity to meet locals and shouldn't be missed. More than 1000 Bahamians in Nassau, Paradise Island, Grand Bahama, and some of the Out Islands are ready to host the vacationers for a day or evening. A registration form is available at the Bahamas Tourist Office in Frankfurt / M., It should be returned one month before the start of the journey. When you arrive at the hotel you will be informed when the meeting will take place. The visit is free, you should bring a small gift and family photos from your home country. Basic knowledge of English is required for the encounter.

In addition, the Governor General Dame Ivy Dumont invites from January to August on the last Friday of each month between 4 and 5 pm for the “People-to-People-Party” in the Government House in Nassau. Local artists show their works, culinary specialties of the country are served (registration via the Bahamas Tourist Office in Nassau).

The attractiveness of the holiday destination speaks for the fact that it provided the backdrop for over 60 feature films. "James Bond" was there three times ("Fireball" 1965, "You Only Live Twice" 1967, "Never Say Never" 1983), the Beatles were in front of the camera for "Help" (1965), "The old man and that Sea ”(1958) according to Hemingway played in the Bahamas as well as“ 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ”(1954) according to Jules Verne. "Sharks on Board" (1971) brought Freddy Quinn to Nassau and the archipelago occasionally even stood for Far Eastern paradises: "Honeymoon in Bali" was the title of a Hollywood film in 1939, but it was made on the beaches of the Bahamas.

Werner Skrentny

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General travel information and current Entry requirements as well as notes on security and medical care can be found on these pages of the Foreign Office (Berlin): Foreign Office

Summer and winter are the two seasons of the year in the Bahamas, and the almost constantly blowing trade winds ensure even temperatures. In the subtropical climate, these rarely exceed 32 degrees in summer and do not fall below 16 degrees in winter. July and August are the hottest months. Short and heavy rain showers must also be expected in summer. In summer the water is on average 27 degrees, in winter 23 degrees. During the day, light clothing is appropriate, in the evening gentlemen should wear jackets in upscale restaurants and casinos. You should have a sweater or jacket on cooler winter evenings and in hotels with air conditioning. The peak season in the Bahamas runs from December to April. At Christmas and at the turn of the year, the hotels are usually fully booked by short vacationers from the USA.

Numerous organizers offer package tours. There are individual flights with U.S. Airways from Frankfurt / Main, with British Airways via London-Heathrow or with other companies via Florida / USA, from where there are around 50 daily connections to the islands. The Bahamian airline is Bahamas Air.

The official currency is the Bahamian dollar (B $), but US dollars are also accepted as a method of payment. Both currencies are equivalent. You can still pay with credit cards and US dollar travelers checks. Credit cards are rarely accepted in the Out Islands. Euros and Swiss francs can only be changed by one bank in Nassau. Financial institutions on New Providence and Grand Bahama are open Mon-Thu 9:30 am-3pm and Fri 9:30 am-5pm. Since all consumer goods except fish are imported, the Bahamas is not a cheap travel destination. In addition to the room rate, there is an overnight tax of 12% of the room rate, an energy surcharge per person and night of up to $ 3.50 and a fee for room service of $ 1-2 (does not apply to package tours). Porters get $ 1-2. In restaurants, 15% service charge is partly already included in the bill. Taxi drivers expect 15% "tip". A tax is levied on departure, $ 15 per person in Nassau and $ 20 in Freeport.

English with a light accent.

120 volts / 60 Hz, so bring an adapter for US flat sockets.

1st January, Good Friday, Easter Monday, 1st Friday in June: Labor Day, Whit Monday, 10th July: Independence Day, 1st Monday in August: Day of the Liberation of Slaves, 12th October: Day of Discovery, 25th December, 26th December

Eastern Standard Time, compared to Central Europe minus 6 hours.

The Bahamas is located in the Atlantic Ocean between the southeast coast of Florida, a US state 80 km away, and the island of Hispaniola. Northeastern Cuba is about 100 km away. The Bahamas consist of over 700 islands and around 2400 cays, the latter being mini coral islands or rocky reefs that extend over 800 km. 30 islands are inhabited, 15 are developed for tourism. 65% of the population, namely 172,000 residents, live on New Providence, 16% on Grand Bahama Island. Most Bahamas vacationers arrive in New Providence. There are the capital Nassau and the tourist centers Paradise Island (with the Atlantis Resort, the second largest holiday complex in the world) and Cable Beach. Grand Bahama (41,000 inhabitants), the northernmost island of the Bahamas archipelago not far from Miami, is another holiday destination, where the Freeport / Lucaya holiday center is located. The Out Islands, also known as "Family Islands", are not yet well developed for tourism, including Abaco (10,000 inhabitants), Andros (8,000, with almost 6000 square kilometers the largest island in the Bahamas), Eleuthera (10,500), Bimini (1,600) and Exuma (3500) belong.

Columbus and his companions were the first Europeans to discover the island of San Salvador on their first trip to the West Indies on October 12, 1492. In 1629 the islands came into British possession. From 1690 to 1720 they were considered a center of piracy, up to 1000 privateers are said to have lived in Nassau. The Bahamas was occupied by the US fleet during the War of Independence in 1776 and ceded to Spain in 1782. A year later they were again British property. The slave trade ceased in 1807 and slavery was abolished in 1838. The Bahamas became independent on July 10, 1973.

The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the official name of the country, is a parliamentary-democratic monarchy of the British "Commonwealth of Nations". The formal head of state is Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain. It is represented by a governor in the Bahamas. A footnote in world history: In 1997 the Bahamas broke off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and instead established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. The reason: large Hong Kong companies wanted to invest in tourism on the islands.

The Bahamas has a population of 305,000. In the decades after Columbus discovered the islands, the Indians were deported to work in the gold mines in Hispaniola (now Haiti / Dominican Republic). The remaining Lucayans died out. 80% of the 288,000 Bahamians are of African descent and descendants of the slaves. The illegal immigrants from impoverished Haiti represent a foreign policy problem with domestic political repercussions. The Haitians, 40,000 to 50,000 people, now make up over 20% of the total population, half of whom are legal in the country. The majority of the population is Christian (32% Baptists, 28% Anglicans, 19% Roman Catholic, 12% Protestants).

The airline Bahamasair serves 21 destinations within the country. A fast ferry connects Grand Bahama with Palm Beach, Florida (99 minutes drive). North Eleuthera and Harbor Island, which are part of the Out Islands, can be reached from Nassau with a fast catamaran. Post boats also run to the Out Islands from Nassau and Freeport. In Nassau and on Grand Bahama, the jitneys, which are minibuses, connect all the sights and larger hotels. Taxi fares are fixed on New Providence and Grand Bahama. In the Out Islands, you agree a price with the taxi driver. The chauffeur is also available as a tour guide. Rental cars and motorbikes (helmet compulsory!) Can be rented in Nassau, Paradise Island and Grand Bahama; rental cars are very expensive on the Out Islands. An international driver's license is required. On some Out Islands, e.g. on Harbor Island, golf carts are rented out as vehicles. Warning: there is left-hand traffic in the Bahamas! Motorcyclists should have experience, but the poor condition of the roads (potholes, boundaries) should be noted. Cyclists are at risk from reckless drivers.

The Bahamas are almost completely dependent on imports from the USA (consumer goods, food) and on US tourism. The only internationally known company in the country is the rum manufacturer Bacardi, founded in Cuba in 1862 and relocated to Nassau after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Services are dominant. The financial sector continues to play a role, since Freeport and Lucaya on Grand Bahama have been regarded as “tax havens” since 1955. The tax exemption in "Switzerland of the Caribbean" or the "Monaco of the Caribbean" applies until 2015, the duty exemption until 2054. The banking and finance is therefore the second largest economic factor. The Bahamas reject a common market with the Caribbean countries with regard to their own relatively high standard of living, the importance of tariffs and indirect taxes as the main source of income and the currency parity with the US dollar. They also fear the immigration of cheap labor from other countries. Unemployment in the Bahamas itself is 6.9%.

Tourism is the main source of income in the Bahamas, 40% of the population are employed in this industry, 70% of the gross national product is generated. Most of the holidaymakers, namely 80%, come from the USA (Germany annually approx. 10,000 visitors, Switzerland 4,500, Austria 1,600). In 2002, 4.4 million arrivals were counted, which meant an increase of 5.3% and a new record. Although located in the Atlantic Ocean, the Bahamas are an integral part of Caribbean cruises. In this respect, the majority of the guests “only” come to the islands for flying visits: 3 million tourists are cruise participants who land in Nassau and Freeport, 1.4 million arrive at the airports.