The Bahamas, located southeast of Florida, are made up of more than 700 islands spread across 100,000 square miles of ocean. Although only 16 of the islands are commonly visited, traveling on or between those can be expensive, time-consuming, and unreliable. A visit to the Bahamian islands is a world-class experience, and there are ways to avoid or minimize the transportation problems. The Bahamas are spectacular, with classic white or pink sand beaches and clear turquoise water, and with pleasant temperatures year-round both on the beaches and in the sea. Mariah Carey, Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Eddie Murphy, and many more well-known people have homes or even their own private islands in the Bahamas.
If you don’t have your own sailboat or plane, your only real choice for smooth, comfortable, reasonably priced island-hopping — and it’s a great one — is to take a Bahamas cruise. Traveling by cruise ship puts you in the middle of all the beauty as you glide from spectacular vista to fabulous beach, exploring hidden lagoons and caves along the way. You can swim and snorkel and frolic at numerous spots en route. You’ll wend your way among hundreds of islands, surrounded by azure water, lush flora, and exotic fauna such as dolphins, sea lions, and rare colorful birds. You’ll also enjoy cruise-sponsored inland trips to see the non-beach-related highlights, such as shopping in Nassau or visiting pirate-related historic sites.
You can rent a car at major Bahamian airports. If you do, be prepared to spend heavily on the rental and on gas. Also, be prepared for narrow, poor-quality roads, many of them one-way, with lots of chaotic traffic. Your U.S. driver’s license is good for three months, but remember to drive on the left side of the road!
In the bigger cities, you can hail taxis on the street or find them at taxi stands located at popular tourist attractions and hotels. Your hotel can also call a taxi for you. There is no Lyft or Uber in the Bahamas, as the taxi drivers have strong unions protecting their drivers from competition. Most taxis don’t have meters; instead, rates are predetermined between specific spots. Your fare usually covers two passengers, and a flat rate is assessed for each additional rider. Be sure to ask how much the fare is before you get in the taxi.
By Boat, Water Taxi, or Ferry
You may be able to rent a boat on some of the more remote islands, but it’s not a common option for getting around. Water taxis for short trips are affordable, usually around $5. By ferry, expect to spend around $100 one-way to get to another island, plus you’ll probably need taxis to get to and from the ferry terminals. Trips can take a couple of hours or even overnight. Be sure to check ahead, since some days the ferries don’t run.
In bigger towns, you may find any of a half-dozen or more Bahama-based airlines ready to whisk you to another island. Plan to spend over $100 to go anywhere. If money is no object, you can charter a plane. You won’t find public transportation to or from the airport, so be prepared to spend on a taxi.
For an authentic experience, take the jitney buses. You can wait at a bus stop, although jitney routes may stop running for any number of reasons, or hail one of these private minibuses by signaling with a wave. When you want to get off, yell “Stop!” Rides are not expensive, but you’ll want to have exact change. There are no set schedules, so don’t rely on jitneys if you want to be somewhere at a certain time. They also don’t run in the evenings. Traveling around the Bahamas is not likely to be relaxing unless you take a cruise, but it will be worthwhile. Few experiences on Earth are more idyllic than spending time among these exquisite islands.