American Express -- Representing American Express in The Bahamas is Destinations, 303 Shirley St. (btw. Charlotte and Parliament sts.), Nassau (tel. 242/322-2931; www.destinations.com.bs). Hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. The travel department is also open Saturday from 9am to 1pm. If you present a personal check and an Amex card, you can buy traveler's checks here.
Area Code -- The country code for The Bahamas is 242.
Business Hours-- In Nassau, Cable Beach, and Freeport/Lucaya, commercial banking hours are Monday through Thursday from 9:30am to 3pm, Friday from 9:30am to 5pm. Hours are likely to vary widely in the Out Islands. Ask at your hotel for specific information. Most government offices are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, and most shops are open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm.
Drinking Laws -- Alcohol is sold in liquor stores and various convenience stores; it's readily available at all hours, though not for sale on Sundays. The legal drinking age in The Bahamas is 18.
Drug Laws -- Importing, possessing, or dealing unlawful drugs, including marijuana, is a serious offense in The Bahamas, with heavy penalties. Customs officers may at their discretion conduct body searches for drugs or other contraband goods.
Electricity -- Like Canada and the U.S., The Bahamas normally uses 110-120 volts AC (60 cycles), compared to 220-240 volts AC (50 cycles) in most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. American appliances are fully compatible; British or European appliances will need both adapters and downward converters that change 220-240 volts to 110-120 volts.
Embassies & Consulates -- The embassy of the United States is at 42 Queen St., P.O. Box N-8197, Nassau (tel. 242/322-1181; http://nassau.usembassy.gov).
The consulate of Canada is at Shirley Street Plaza, P.O. Box SS-6371, Nassau (tel. 242/393-2123; firstname.lastname@example.org).
There is a British High Commission in Jamaica, at 28 Trafalgar Rd., Kingston (tel. 876/510-0700; http://ukinjamaica.fco.gov.uk).
Gasoline (Petrol) -- Gasoline is plentiful on New Providence Island (Nassau/Cable Beach) and Grand Bahama Island (Freeport/Lucaya), but be prepared to pay almost twice the price you would in the United States. In the Out Islands, service stations are not plentiful, so plan your itinerary accordingly. Some islands are small and compact, but others, such as Eleuthera and Andros, are very spread out, with gas stations few and far between. In addition, watch out for those Sunday closings.
Hospitals -- On New Providence Island (Nassau/Cable Beach), patients are treated at the government-operated Princess Margaret Hospital, on Shirley Street, Nassau (tel. 242/322-2861; www.phabahamas.org).
On Grand Bahama Island, patients are seen at the government-operated Rand Memorial Hospital, on East Atlantic Drive, Freeport (tel. 242/352-6735; www.phabahamas.org), and at several government-operated clinics.
A dozen or so health centers are located in the Out Islands. Many resorts also have either in-house physicians or on-site medical clinics. If intensive or urgent care is required, patients on the Out Islands are brought to Nassau by the Emergency Flight Service.
Language -- In The Bahamas, locals speak English, but sometimes with a marked accent that provides the clue to their ancestry -- African, Irish, or Scottish, for example.
Lost & Found -- Be sure to notify all of your credit card companies the minute you discover your wallet has been lost or stolen. Also file a report at the nearest police precinct: Your credit card company or insurer may require a police report or record of the loss. Most credit card companies have an emergency toll-free number to call; they may be able to wire you a cash advance immediately or deliver an emergency credit card in a day or two. American Express cardholders and traveler's check holders should call tel. 800/221-7282. MasterCard holders should call tel. 800/307-7309. The emergency contact for Visa is 800/847-2911. For other credit cards, call the toll-free number directory at tel. 800/555-1212.
If you need emergency cash over the weekend, when all banks and American Express offices are closed, you can have money wired to you via Western Union (tel. 800/325-6000; www.westernunion.com).
Mail -- You'll need Bahamian (not U.S.) postage stamps to send postcards and letters from The Bahamas. Most of the kiosks selling postcards also sell the stamps you'll need to mail them, so you probably won't need to visit the post office.
Sending a postcard or an airmail letter (up to 1/2 oz. in weight) from The Bahamas to anywhere outside its borders (including the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.) costs 65¢, with another charge for each additional half-ounce of weight.
Mail to and from the Out Islands is sometimes slow. Airmail may go by air to Nassau and by boat to its final destination. If a resort has a U.S. or Nassau address, it is preferable to use it.
Newspapers & Magazines -- Three newspapers are circulated in Nassau and Freeport: the Nassau Guardian, the Tribune, and the Freeport News. Circulation in the Out Islands is limited and likely to be slow. In Nassau, you can find such papers as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Miami Herald, London's Times, and the Daily Telegraph at newsstands in your hotel and elsewhere around town.
Packing -- For helpful information on packing for your trip, download our convenient Travel Tools. Go to www.frommers.com/tips/packing_tips and click on "Smart Traveler" for either domestic or international flights.
Police -- Dial tel. 919.
Smoking -- The government is on a drive to crack down on smoking in public places. Health officials are now in the process of drafting legislation that will ensure that nonsmokers are not subjected to secondhand smoke.
Taxes -- A 6% to 12% tax is imposed on hotel bills; otherwise, there is no sales tax on any purchase made within The Bahamas. Visitors leaving The Bahamas pay a $20 departure tax, a tariff that's automatically included in the price of any airline or cruise-ship ticket.
Time -- Eastern Standard Time (EST) is used throughout The Bahamas, and daylight saving time is observed in the summer.
Tipping -- Many establishments in The Bahamas add a service charge, but it's customary to leave something extra if service has been especially fine. If you're not sure whether service has been included in your bill, don't be shy -- ask.
Bellhops and porters, at least in the expensive hotels, expect a tip of $1 to $2 per bag. It's also customary to tip the chamber staff at least US$2 per day -- more if she or he has performed special services such as getting a shirt or blouse laundered. Most service personnel, including taxi drivers, waiters, and the like, expect 15%, or 20% for waiters in deluxe restaurants.
Toilets -- Public toilets are few and far between, except in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, museums, department stores, bus stations, and service stations. Large hotels and fast-food restaurants are often the best bet for clean facilities. Restaurants in resorts or heavily visited areas may reserve their toilets for patrons.
Water -- Technically, tap water is drinkable throughout The Bahamas. Still, we almost always opt for bottled. Resorts tend to filter and chlorinate tap water more aggressively than other establishments; elsewhere, bottled water is available at stores and supermarkets, and tastes better than that from a tap. On many of the Out Islands, rainfall is the main source of water -- so be sure to drink bottled water there.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.