The Bahamas are an archipelagic chain in the western Atlantic Ocean; they are located southeast of Florida and north of Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. The islands, islets, and cays in the Bahamas number more than 700. The Bahamas are considered a commonwealth nation, which means that while it is independent and has its own government, it is also observes the Queen as a nominal head of state. “The Bahamas” can refer to either the island nation or to the island chain that it shares with the Turks and Caicos.
The capital of the Bahamas is Nassau, on the island of New Providence. The Bahamas is where Christopher Columbus first made landfall in 1492; evidence as to where exactly is still inconclusive. Before Europeans came to the Bahamas, the natives were originally from West Africa and came from either slave ships or as escaped slaves from the US. The culture is heavily African-based, with dancing, music, drumming, and poetry, folklore, and legend making up the colourful lifestyle. Junkanoo, a native parade with vibrant dancing, masks, music, and more, takes place on New Years Day and Boxing Day in Nassau and a few other cities on the islands. If you are there, make it a point to watch.
The climate in the Bahamas is tropical savannah; average daily temperatures range from 21-29 degrees Celcius. Geographically, the islands are relatively flat with slight ridges and no mountains; the highest peak is Mount Alvernia, which is only 63m high.
The currency of the Bahamas is the Bahamian dollar, but United States dollars are widely accepted. Tourism is one of the key industries in the Bahamas; it generates 60% of the GDP and provides a majority of jobs on the islands. Cruise ships from all over the world call into Nassau year-round; cruise tourism accounts for 70% of the yearly visitors to the island chain. The second biggest economic sector is financial, with foreign banks accounting for 15% of the GDP.
Travellers who are looking for hostel accommodation can find only a few in Nassau. There are very few European-style hostels in the Bahamas; it is actually hard to do the Bahamas on a backpacker budget. If you are determined to spend little money, consider a guesthouse instead of a hostel, or splurge on a nice, inexpensive hotel. Unfortunately, the Bahamas is just not a backpacker destination; they passed a law in 1978 outlawing camping, so be warned that you will end up spending quite a bit of money.
Whether you choose to arrive in the Bahamas by ship or by air, you will find something exciting to do. The former Pirates Republic is now a haven for tourists seeking sun and fun, exotic Afro-Caribbean culture. Enthusaiastic travellers should definitely get out of Nassau to the more remote islands for a more authentic Bahamian experience. Outdoor enthusiasts will want to explore the national parks - which are full of caves and wildlife -, the blue holes, and the botanical gardens. Anyone interested in underwater activities will certainly enjoy the coral reefs, underwater sinkholes like Deans Blue Hole, the second largest blue hole in the world, and marine life that the Bahamas offers.
Hi, I'm Jakob Lombardi,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Bahamas hostels. Welcome.