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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for The Bahamas

The Bahamas - Consular Information Sheet
May 18, 2001

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Bahamas is a country of many islands and has a developing economy. Tourist facilities are widely available.

ENTRY AND EXIT REQUIREMENTS: U.S. citizens must present original proof of U.S. citizenship (a valid or expired passport, a certified U.S. birth certificate or a Certificate of Naturalization), photo identification, and an onward/return ticket for entry into The Bahamas. Voter registration cards, driver's licenses, affidavits and other similar documents are not acceptable as proof of U.S. citizenship. Visas are not required for U.S. citizens for stays up to eight months. There is an airport departure tax for travelers age six years and older. For further information, U.S. citizens may contact the Embassy of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, 2220 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 319-2660, or the Bahamian consulates in Miami or New York. Additional information is available on The Bahamas Tourist Board web site at http://www.bahamas.com or telephone 1-800-422-4262.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry and departure.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The water sports industry in The Bahamas is not carefully regulated, and visitors should rent equipment only from reputable operators. Ask about the operator's insurance coverage and insist on sufficient training before using the equipment. A number of Americans have been killed or injured by the improper use of jet-skis and other personal watercraft.

CRIME: Visitors should exercise normal caution and good judgment when visiting The Bahamas. Although violent crime is on the increase, most incidents take place in a part of Nassau not usually frequented by tourists (the "over-the-hill" area south of downtown). Hotel guests should always lock their doors and should never leave valuables unattended, especially on beaches. Visitors should store passport/identity documents, airline tickets, credit cards, and extra cash in hotel safes, and should avoid wearing expensive jewelry, particularly Rolex watches, which have been targeted increasingly by criminals. Visitors should not travel alone on deserted areas of beaches and poorly lit areas at night. Use only clearly-marked taxis and make a note of the license plate number for your records.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlets, A Safe Trip Abroad and Tips for Travelers to the Caribbean, for ways to promote a trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs,

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care is generally good in Nassau and Freeport, but is limited in other areas. Persons with serious or life-threatening conditions normally must be airlifted to hospitals in the United States for treatment.

There is a chronic shortage of blood at Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, where most emergency surgery is performed. Travelers with rare blood types should know the names and location of possible blood donors should the need arise.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have, when a medical emergency occurs, found it life-saving. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299); or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the U.S. The information below concerning The Bahamas is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Good
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair

Road conditions throughout Nassau and Freeport are generally adequate but drivers should be alert for construction zones, which are not always properly marked. Road travel in other parts of The Bahamas is limited. Some rural roads are narrow, winding, and in poor repair. All drivers, especially those on mopeds, must remember to drive on the left side of the road. Travel by moped or bicycle is very hazardous, especially in the heavy traffic conditions prevalent in Nassau and Freeport, and visitors should carefully consider whether such travel is worth the risk of a serious accident. Those who choose to ride a moped or bicycle should wear a helmet and drive defensively. Pedestrians also should be aware when stepping off curbs that vehicular traffic comes from the right. Death and serious injuries have occurred when visitors failed to adapt to unfamiliar rules of the road.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Bahamian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact The Bahamas National Tourist Organization offices in New York at (212) 758-2777 or via the Internet at http://www.bahamas.com.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of The Bahamas civil aviation authority as Category 2 -- not in compliance with international aviation safety standards for the oversight of Bahamian air carrier operations. While consultations to correct the deficiencies are ongoing, Bahamian air carriers currently flying to the U.S. will be subject to heightened FAA surveillance. No additional flights or new service to the U.S. by Bahamian air carriers will be permitted unless they arrange to have the flights conducted by an air carrier from a country meeting international safety standards. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. In addition, DOD does not permit its personnel to use air carriers from Category 2 countries for official business except for flights originating from or terminating in the United States. Local exceptions may apply. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: It is illegal to import firearms or ammunition into The Bahamas or to possess a firearm in the country without appropriate permission. Tourists who arrive by private boat are required to declare firearms to Bahamian Customs and leave firearms on the boat while in The Bahamas. Penalties for illegal possession of a firearm or ammunition are strict, and can involve heavy fines, lengthy prison terms, or both. For further information on firearms in The Bahamas, please contact the Embassy of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas in Washington, D.C., or the Bahamian consulates in Miami or New York.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the U.S. and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating Bahamian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in The Bahamas are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.


BOATING/FISHING: Boaters should be aware that long-line fishing in Bahamian waters is illegal. All long-line fishing gear must be stowed below deck while transiting through Bahamian waters. Fishermen should note that stiff penalties are imposed for catching crawfish (lobster) or other marine life out of season or in protected areas.

REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT: U.S. citizens should exercise caution when considering time-share investments and be aware of the aggressive tactics used by some time-share sales representatives. Bahamian law allows time-share purchasers five days to cancel the contract for full reimbursement. Disputes that arise after that period can be very time-consuming and expensive to resolve through the local legal system.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: The Bahamas, like all countries in the Caribbean basin, is subject to the threat of hurricanes. Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, although hurricanes have been known to occur outside that time period. Visitors to The Bahamas during hurricane season are advised to monitor weather reports in order to be prepared for any potential threats. General information about disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting The Bahamas are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Nassau and obtain updated information on travel and security within The Bahamas. The U.S. Embassy is located next to McDonald's restaurant on Queen Street in downtown Nassau; telephone (242) 322-1181, after hours: (242) 328-2206. The Consular Section hours are 9:00 a.m. - 12 noon and 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday - Friday, except local and U.S. holidays. The U.S. Embassy is also responsible for consular services in the Turks and Caicos Islands, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. The Consular Information Sheet for the British West Indies provides additional information on the Turks and Caicos Islands.

This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated March 29, 2000, to add sections on Safety and Security and on Special Circumstances, and to update the sections on Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, and Customs Regulations

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