Updated: Feb 24, 2021
There's strong interest in traveling to The Bahamas right now, and for good reason! With the vaccine rollout and several protocols put in place to mitigate the risks of Covid-19, you can vacation safely in this bucket list destination.
Below are some helpful travel tips for first time travelers-- especially if you're flying from the West Coast. I usually fly out of Las Vegas.
If you're more interested to know current travel requirements due to COVID, tours and attractions available, and whether you can dine in at restaurants, read my Ultimate Guide to Bahamas Covid Travel for regularly updated information.
Can you beat that view?
Choosing Your Airline and Flight Schedule
I usually opt for the red eye flight from Las Vegas that arrives in Miami (MIA) early morning the following day. That flight is about 5 hours long but the layover in MIA gives me time for a leisurely breakfast before boarding the connecting flight.
From there, it's a quick flight to Nassau -- less than an hour. This schedule is especially great if you don't want to lose a whole day because of traveling.
Another good flight schedule to choose is one that stops in Dallas (DFW). It breaks your trip into two 3-hour legs, making your flights shorter and more bearable.
Getting Shut-Eye on the Red Eye
If you're one of those who can't easily fall asleep on the plane, try taking melatonin before take off. Bring your noise canceling headphones or ear buds in case you're seated next to a loud snorer or crying baby. No offense to parents who bring their young ones. Oftentimes their infants/toddlers just get uncomfortable and cry throughout the flight.
Sleep eye masks are also helpful especially when you're ready for shut-eye but a passenger close to you is working on his computer or watching a movie on his device. It's not a bad idea to bring a travel pillow either. For women like me, pack a pashmina or wrap and use it as a blanket in case the air-conditioning gets uncomfortably cold.
Pre-plan Your Entertainment
If you're flying American Airlines, download their app ahead of time. Once on the plane, it will be easier to watch free TV shows or movies from the app. Most of AA's aircraft no longer have the TV screens. If you don't have a tablet or a mobile device with you, I suggest you prepare to play Sudoku found in the inflight magazine.
Stock Up on Snacks
There have been changes to food and beverage service on board flights because of the pandemic. Some airlines have limited service depending on flight duration and destination. I usually bring some cashews/almonds and power bars.
By the time the flight takes off, you're likely to just sleep. But in case you do get hungry or in case of any delays, you'll have some munchies ready. Remember to bring water. For flights longer than 4 hours, you need the hydration.
Be Smart About Roaming Charges; Get a Mobile Plan
Keep in mind that you are traveling overseas. Work with your mobile carrier about a temporary international plan while you're traveling. You wouldn't want to come home to an outrageous mobile phone bill due to international charges or ridiculous roaming charges.
Apps such as Viber, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger as well as Apple's FaceTime will allow you to communicate for free via WiFi connection. They are great for video/voice calls or text messages. Just remember that if you make a phone call from Nassau to the US, rates can be as much as $1.99 per minute.
The Latest Carry-on and Personal Bags Intel
While waiting to board, American Airlines sometimes announces that they are willing to check your carry-on bag for free. Make sure to keep valuables and other essentials in your personal bag so that anytime this happens, you need not worry about handing them your carry-on luggage.
It's a good idea anyway because it's a long flight. If you end up in the window seat, you wouldn't want to crawl over your seat mate to reach for your items in the overhead compartment.
For JetBlue passengers, take note of a change in their carry-on policy effective July 20, 2021. "Blue Basic fares booked on or after February 25, 2021 for travel July 20, 2021 or later will only include a personal item that fits under the seat in front of you. Carry-on bags that go in the overhead bin will not be allowed."
Don't Forget to Bring Dollar Bills
Keep in mind that in The Bahamas, cash is king. Power outages are common and debit/credit card systems are down when there's no power.
Some establishments accept only cash so it's best to have some $ in your wallet. US dollars are accepted here. The Bahamian dollar is equivalent to an American dollar so don't be surprised to get your change in a combination of both currencies.
Another good thing to note is that Bank of America and Scotiabank are both members of the Global ATM Alliance. If you bank with BofA, you can withdraw from any Scotiabank ATM on the island without incurring international access fees. You will still, however, be subject to the local 12% VAT or Value Added Tax.
Be aware that there is a 12% VAT or Value Added Tax that is charged with services. It is typical to get charged a 15% auto-gratuity on top of that. So if you ordered food that was priced at $25 on the menu, don't get a heart attack when your final bill comes to $31.75. Always check your receipts!
On your flight to Nassau, you'll be required to fill out an Immigration Form so make sure you have a pen handy.
I also recommend spending the money on Trip Insurance. Anytime you're traveling overseas, this is a no-brainer.
Do you have any tips you'd like to share or add? Feel free to comment below. I'd love to hear from you!
Junkanoo welcome at Lynden Pindling International Airport