Moving To The Bahamas? What You Need To Know Now

By Rogan Smith |
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Image of This Bahamian Gyal blogger posing on a beach in Exuma, The Bahamas

If you’re thinking about packing your bags and moving to The Bahamas, there are some key things you need to know.

The Bahamas is easily one of the most beautiful countries in the world with its gin-clear waters and powdery sand beaches, making it a big draw for visitors.

But, it’s not perfect. So, for those hoping to make their stay more permanent, there are some key things they need to know.

1. Before Moving To The Bahamas, Please Know That It Has Many Islands

Despite its popularity, many people still don’t know that The Bahamas is made up of several islands and cays – 700 to be exact. It’s an archipelagic nation located in the Atlantic Ocean.

While Nassau is the capital, there are many other islands surrounding it that people need to get to know, especially if they plan on relocating to The Bahamas.

Settling in The Bahamas requires a lot of planning and deciding which island one wants to live on. The outer islands, also known as the Family Islands, are more laid-back. They also lack a number of accommodations and facilities that Nassau and Grand Bahama do.

For example, there are no major hospitals on many of the Family Islands. So, if you have an accident you may have to be airlifted to Nassau. There’s also not a big nightlife or activities on those islands. So, you’ll have to create your own fun.

This Bahamian Gyal blogger, Rogan Smith poses in downtown Nassau, Bahamas.
This Bahamian Gyal blogger, Rogan Smith poses in downtown Nassau, Bahamas.

2. Bahamians Drive On The Left Hand Side

It’s one of those vestiges from The Bahamas’ former colonised days, but motorists drive on the left hand side of the road. This is incredibly important for people to understand, especially if they are coming from countries that drive on the right hand side of the road.

Caution when approaching roundabouts is especially important. Many visitors have been known to get into accidents because they approach the roundabout the wrong way.

3. The Bahamas Is In A Hurricane Belt

The Bahamas is located in a hurricane belt, so there is a high probability that the islands may experience a hurricane or tropical storm every year. In 2019, Hurricane Dorian that killed countless people and resulted in more than $1 billion in damages.

If you’re reluctant to deal with hurricanes, The Bahamas may not be for you. For the record, hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

Satellite image of Hurricane Dorian over The Bahamas.
Satellite image of Hurricane Dorian over The Bahamas.

4. Island Time Is A Real Thing

Island time is a real thing. Especially in The Bahamas. Things rarely start on time, including government functions. Get used to it. Bahamians are notoriously late people. And they move at a glacial pace when getting things done. In the rare occasion you find a speedy worker, hold on to him for dear life.

5. Dealing With The Government Is The Worst

Pack your headache medicine, crystals and books on meditation if you plan on moving to The Bahamas and dealing with any government agency or department. It’s the worst. There is always a lot of red tape and simple questions usually result in complex answers.

Lines are always long because you’re dealing with people who operate on island time and even when you make it to the front of the line, you’ll find that you’re missing a crucial item that is needed – like a passport, birth certificate or driver’s license.

It’s best you travel with these documents anytime you have to make a trip to a government department. You’ve been warned.

Also, make sure you have plenty of time to burn (hint: don’t go on your lunch hour) and also make sure you wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be standing a while.

The National Insurance Board of The Bahamas.
The National Insurance Board of The Bahamas.

6. The Bahamas Is A Heavy Tip Culture

Here’s a tip: TIP! The Bahamas is a very heavy tip culture and it’s a running joke among Bahamians.

Because people operate on island time and some of the workers aren’t the greatest when it comes to being efficient, customers know that they have to tip them in order to get things done. Sad, I know. And honestly, it’s corruption. Do all workers have to be tipped to do their job? No. But, a good chunk of them do. So, be prepared.

And even though public service workers (government workers) are not supposed to ask for tips (there are signs posted advising customers not to tip), it doesn’t stop workers for dropping not-so-subtle hints.

Those hints often come in the form of requests for lunch.

7. Be Prepared For Stray Dogs – Potcakes

The Bahamas has a stray dog problem. Those stray dogs are known affectionately as potcakes and you will find them at in wealthy areas and poor areas. Now, I hasten to add that the country is not overrun with strays, but you will see them.

Bahamians are not the most responsible pet owners so spaying and neutering is not always done.

8. It’s Expensive To Live In The Bahamas

The Bahamas imports the majority of its food and products, and that comes at a cost.

Housing is expensive and so is eating out. In the dine-in restaurants, there is an automatic 15 percent gratuity added to the bill in addition to VAT, which currently stands at 12 percent.

9. There Is No Income Tax

Workers do not pay an income tax because no such tax exists in The Bahamas. Every worker, however, must make National Insurance contributions, which is a form of social security. Taxes are also built into items because retailers have to pay Customs taxes. There is also value-added tax, which – as of July 2021 – stands at 12 percent.

10. The Bahamas Is An English-Speaking Country

Bahamians speak English with a colourful dialect. The country also has a large Haitian population that speaks Creole.

11. Nassau Doesn’t Have The Best Beaches

Nassau has decent beaches, but they’re not the best The Bahamas has to offer. Some of the best beaches are hidden behind major resorts and gated communities. And because the majority of Bahamians live in New Providence (Nassau) the beaches tend to get crowded very easily.

I have travelled The Bahamas extensively and found that some of the best beaches are in Exuma, Eleuthera, Cat Island, Andros and Paradise Island.

This Bahamian Gyal blogger, Rogan Smith on a beach in Exuma, The Bahamas. If you're considering moving to The Bahamas, you may want to consider living on another island other than Nassau.
This Bahamian Gyal blogger, Rogan Smith on a beach in Exuma, The Bahamas. If you’re considering moving to The Bahamas, you may want to consider living on another island other than Nassau.

12. Most Stores Close At 5pm

If New York is the city that never sleeps, Nassau is the city that goes to bed early.

Take a stroll in downtown Nassau after 5pm and you’ll see just how dead it is. There’s a great number of retail stores, banks and restaurants that shut their doors at 5pm. The foot traffic comes to a screeching halt and you’ll see area workers hopping in their cars or catching the local buses to head home.

There isn’t much of a nightlife in the town area and this was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Infographic on things to know about The Bahamas
Infographic on things to know about The Bahamas

13. Cash Reigns Supreme

Not all businesses in The Bahamas accept credit cards and if you decide to live on the Family Islands, it’s worse. Credit card machines often go down and some businesses just don’t accept them at all. It’s best to have cash as a back-up.

14. Some Bahamians Are Xenophobic

There’s no prettying this up, but some Bahamians are incredibly xenophobic. This is not the majority of Bahamians, but the ones who are, are very vocal about it. Many feel as if foreigners are coming into the country to change their way of life or to take their jobs away. So, if you’re relocating to The Bahamas, you may have to deal with some poor attitudes. Don’t let it discourage you. There are fine Bahamians who think this way of thinking is absolutely ridiculous.

15. There Is Crime

The Bahamas is a real place in the real world. Therefore, there is crime. There are people who believe crime doesn’t happen in paradise. It does. However, the majority of crimes are typically gang related, drug related or as a result of domestic violence.

Be sure to watch my video on The Bahamas below and subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking here. There are more tips in the video.

XOXO,

This Bahamian Gyal

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