What to do
What to do when visiting Nassau, The Bahamas: A Visitor’s Guide to the Island of New Providence
Congratulations on deciding to visit a bustling and beautiful society! The Bahamas is famous as a travel destination, with Nassau, New Providence, being the most popular destination. The Bahamas is an archipelago nation with over 700 islands, islets, and cays (pronounced “keys”). The major islands include New Providence, Grand Bahamas, Bimini, Abaco, Andros, Eleuthra, Exuma, Long Island, Cat Island, Ragged Island, Inagua, and a host of smaller islands, such as Pearl Island and Rose Island. Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas, and the downtown area is often the first and only experience that tourists have when reaching by sea or air; however, there are several other places on the island to visit while here.
First, the jitney (i.e, bus) system is one way to travel cheaply to nearly any part of the island. All jitneys eventually make their way downtown where passengers are picked up and/or dropped off.
Probably the two most popular routes traveled are the 10 and 12b jitneys because their routes go east and west along West Bay Street, which includes stops at Breezes, the Baha Mar, Melia
, Sandals, and all the way down to Love/Nirvana Beach. These are the buses you will take.
Typically, fares are $1.25, except in some cases when a route is particularly long, which can double the price. You can wave a bus down along the street anywhere, and fares are typically paid just before one exists the bus, which is wherever a passenger calls out, “Bus stop, please!” USD or BSD are both accepted throughout the Bahamas, so fares can be paid in either denomination. It is polite to greet Bahamians when entering a bus (or in just about any other occasion) with a cordial, “Good morning,” “Good day,” “Good afternoon,” “Good evening,” or “Good night,” but many Bahamians understand that tourists are often unfamiliar with this particularly cultural norm of the Caribbean.
Jitneys typically run from early in the morning (about 6am) to about 6 pm and can be considered unpredictable in comparison to bussing systems in the United States, UK, and elsewhere. Other travel accommodations are by taxi, which can be very expensive yet reliable, to renting a vehicle, such as a scooter or car. Taxi drivers will ask, “Need a taxi,” and the price should be negotiated before entering the vehicle. Fares are determined via zone but always negotiate. Bahamians are adept at negotiating prices, but likely hope that the first price offered is the first price taken.
Shopping & Eating
Along those lines, Cuban cigars, bracelets, bags, clothing, and many other items are sold through the several markets on the island, such as the Straw Market downtown and those along Junkanoo Beach and Arawak Cay (aka “Fish Fry”). Fish Fry is a strip of 30 or so restaurants and bars close to downtown that provide similar menus of Bahamian fare: macaroni, chicken wings, coleslaw, potato salad, grouper, snapper, and, of course, conch. Sometimes, hosts or owners of various restaurants will offer complementary conch fritters and/or a Bahama Mamma to entice potential customers to patronize their shop. Saying, “No, thank you,” is a polite way of declining, but it sometimes leads to a lowered price or offering of more complementary goods and services.
Complementary drinks are served for patrons of both the Baha Mar and Atlantis casinos, and both resorts/casinos are popular with visitors. Baha Mar is the new kid on the block, so to speak, and, like Atlantis, is world class. Baha Mar is centrally located in an area known as Cable Beach, and Atlantis is on Paradise Island across from downtown.
Cable Beach is home to several restaurants and bars, including local establishments like Curly’s and Pirates, as well as several franchises like Dominos, Marcos, Burger King, Dairy Queen, and Starbucks. Heading farther west will lead one from Cable Beach to its neighboring areas, Sandyport and Deleporte, and even farther west is an area known as Gambier, which includes popular bar/restaurants, Compass Point and Studio, each of which has a beautiful view of the ocean and live music on the weekends.
If your conference experience allows an extra day away, there are a number of excellent excursions. Diving is available through Stuart Coves’s operation; they are well known for their afternoon shark dive. Stuart’s also offers snorkel trips, sub trips, and discovery diving.
Other popular excursions include PowerBoat Adventures day-trip to Exuma, or more locally, trips to Blue Lagoon/Dolphin Encounters, and Sandy Toes, Rose Island (Sunday Funday is a common locals’ day-away.)
If you have questions about excursions, activities, or anything else, please let us know!