Nassau's shopping options are more upscale than they once were, with the arrival of swanky jewelers and a burgeoning fashion scene. There are still plenty of T-shirts claiming that "It's Better in The Bahamas," but you can also find diamonds and platinum watches. The range of goods is staggering; in the midst of all the junk souvenirs, you'll see an increasing array of china, crystal, watches, and clothing from such names as Herend, Lalique, Baccarat, Bally, and Ferragamo.
But can you really save money compared to what you would pay stateside? The answer is "yes" on some items, "no" on others. To figure out what's a bargain and what's not, you've got to know the price of everything back home, turning yourself into a sort of human calculator.
Don't try to bargain with the salespeople in Nassau stores as you would with merchants at the local market. The price marked is the price you must pay, though you won't be pressed to make a purchase. The salespeople here are generally courteous and helpful.
There are no import duties on 11 categories of luxury goods, including china, crystal, fine linens, jewelry, leather goods, photographic equipment, watches, and fragrances. Antiques, of course, are exempt from import duty worldwide. But even though prices are "duty free," you can still end up spending more on an item in The Bahamas than you would back home; it's a tricky situation.
If you're contemplating a major purchase, such as a Swiss watch or expensive perfume, it's best to do some research in your local discount outlets or online before you leave home. While the alleged 30% to 50% discount off stateside prices might apply in some cases, it's not true in others. Certain cameras and electronic equipment, for instance, are listed in The Bahamas at, say, 20% below the manufacturer's "suggested retail price." That sounds good, except the manufacturer's suggested price might be a lot higher than what you'd actually pay in retail stores back home. Some shoppers take along catalogs from the U.S. or print out online references to determine if they are indeed getting a bargain; it's not a bad idea.
A lot of price-fixing seems to be going on in Nassau. For example, a bottle of Chanel perfume is likely to sell for pretty much the same price anywhere, regardless of the store.
How much you can take home depends on your country of origin.
The principal shopping areas are Bay Street and its side streets downtown, as well as the shops in the arcades of hotels. Not many street numbers are used along Bay Street; just look for store signs.
Remember, U.S. citizens are prohibited from bringing Cuban cigars back home because of the trade embargo. If you buy them, enjoy them in The Bahamas.
In addition to the stores mentioned, another good source for leather goods is the Brass & Leather Shops.
The Nassau International Bazaar consists of some 30 shops selling international goods in a new arcade. A pleasant place for browsing, the million-dollar complex runs from Bay Street down to the waterfront (near Prince George Wharf). With cobbled alleyways and garreted storefronts, it looks like a European village.
Prince George Plaza, on Bay Street, is popular with cruise-ship passengers. Many fine shops (Gucci, for example) occupy space here. When you get tired of shopping, dine at the open-air rooftop restaurant that overlooks Bay Street.
Perfumes & Cosmetics
Nassau has several good perfume outlets, notably John Bull and Little Switzerland, which also stock a lot of non-perfume merchandise.
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.