Shopping hours in Freeport/Lucaya are generally Monday through Saturday from 9am to 6pm. However, in the International Bazaar, hours vary widely, with shops usually closing a bit earlier in the day.
Port Lucaya Marketplace
Port Lucaya and its Marketplace took precedence over the International Bazaar (described below) in the mid-1990s, when it became clear that the future of merchandising on Grand Bahama had shifted. Today, Port Lucaya Marketplace on Seahorse Road rocks and rolls with a spankingly well-maintained facility set within a shopping, dining, and marina complex on 2.4 hectares (6 acres) of low-lying seafront land. Regular free entertainment, such as steel-drum bands and strolling musicians, as well as recorded music that plays throughout the evening hours, adds to a festival atmosphere.
The complex emulates the 19th-century clapboard-sided construction style of the Old Bahamas, all within a short walk of the island's most desirable hotel accommodations, including the Radisson at Our Lucaya. The development arose on the site of a former Bahamian straw market. Today, in addition to dozens of restaurants and upscale shops, it incorporates rows of brightly painted huts from which local merchants sell handicrafts and souvenirs.
The waterfront location is a distinct advantage. Lots of the business that fuels this place derives from the expensive yachts and motor craft that tie up at the marina here. Most of those watercraft are owned by Floridians. You might get the sense that many of them have just arrived from the U.S. mainland, disgorging their passengers out onto the docks here.
The older and less glamorous of Grand Bahama Island's two main shopping venues, the International Bazaar has steadily declined since the collapse of the mega-resort Crowne Plaza, immediately next door. Originally conceived as a warren of alleyways loaded with upscale, tax-free boutiques, and still plugging away valiantly at its location at East Mall Drive and East Sunrise Highway, it encompasses 4 hectares (10 acres) in the heart of Freeport.
It's currently a pale shadow of what it was during its peak in the mid-1980s, when it boasted 130 purveyors of luxury goods, when the Marketplace at Port Lucaya was still a dream, and when busloads of cruise-ship passengers would be unloaded in front of its gates at regular intervals. With many shops permanently closed and cracks in its masonry, its aggressively touted role as an "international" venue seems a bit theme-driven and tired. Even worse for the retailers here, its rising competitor, the Port Lucaya Marketplace, is looking better every day.
Buses at the entrance of the complex aren't numbered, but those marked INTERNATIONAL BAZAAR will take you right to the entrance at Torii Gate on West Sunrise Highway. The fare is $1. Visitors walk through this much-photographed gate, a Japanese symbol of welcome, into a miniature World's Fair setting (think of it as a kitschy and somewhat run-down version of Epcot). The bazaar blends architecture and cultures from some 25 countries, each re-created with cobblestones, narrow alleys, and a layout that evokes a somewhat dusty casbah in North Africa.
In the approximately 34 shops that remain in business today, you might find something that is both unique and a bargain. You'll see African handicrafts, Chinese jade, British china, Swiss watches, Irish linens, and Colombian emeralds. Many of the enterprises represented here also maintain branches within the Port Lucaya Marketplace. Various sections evoke the architecture of the Ginza in Tokyo, with merchandise -- electronic goods, art objects, luxury products -- from Asia. Other subdivisions suggest the Left Bank of Paris, various regions of India and Africa, Latin America, and Spain.
Some merchants claim their prices are 40% lower than comparable costs in the U.S., but don't count on that. If you're contemplating a big purchase, it's best to compare prices before you leave home. Most merchants can ship your purchases back home at relatively reasonable rates.
A straw market next door to the International Bazaar contains items with that special Bahamian touch -- colorful baskets, hats, handbags, placemats, and an endless array of T-shirts, some of which make worthwhile gifts. Be aware that some items sold here are actually made in Asia, and expect goodly amounts of the tacky and tasteless.
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.