People often assume that the Bahamas are part of the US due to their close proximity, but the truth is — they’re not.
These stunning islands were under British rule for over three centuries before gaining their independence. Since then, The Bahamas and the US have built a strong partnership, collaborating on various fronts like diplomacy, economics, culture, and shared security.
But the question remains — if the Bahamas are not part of the US, what documents do you need to enter the country as a US citizen? Where is it located? Is there anything important you have to keep in mind before you go?
Let’s explore these questions and more to help you plan your dream vacation.
The Bahamas is not and has never been a part of the United States.
Its closest historical tie is with Britain. The Bahamas was under British rule for over 325 years, since the early 17th century, when the English arrived in this island country and established their first settlement.
The British first took charge of the islands to stop pirate activities in 1717, when The Bahamas officially became a British colony.
After three centuries of peaceful British rule, on July 10, 1973, The Bahamas officially became a free and sovereign nation. Today, the country stands as a sovereign member of various international organizations, like the Commonwealth, the United Nations, the Caribbean Community, and the Organization of American States.
So, in the grand historical scheme of things, The Bahamas shares a deeper history with Britain than it does with the United States.
The Bahamas is situated in the Lucayan Archipelago of the Caribbean Sea. It’s to the southeast of the United States, north of Cuba and Hispaniola. The Bahamas has over 700 islands, cays, and islets, and its capital city, Nassau, is on the island of New Providence.
Since The Bahamas isn’t part of the US, citizens from the United States need to have a US passport to visit this tropical paradise.
The passport must be valid, so make sure you check the expiration dates before you book your vacation. If you’re traveling on a cruise to the Bahamas, you need a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) document. Lastly, if your Bahamas vacation goes beyond 30 days, remember to arrange a Bahamas visa.
You can apply for a visa on the official website of the Bahamas government, where you can submit the necessary documents (proof of accommodation, return flight tickets, proof of financial means, a valid passport, etc.) and wait for a positive (or negative) answer.
The United States and The Bahamas established diplomatic relations in 1973 after the Bahamas gained independence from the United Kingdom.
Although the Bahamas aren’t part of the US, they are close neighbors, with the nearest Bahamian island just 50 miles away from Florida, so they have a history of collaboration. They work together to:
- Improve maritime and border security
- Combat crime
- Tackle the challenges of climate change and health crises
- Prioritize disaster preparedness
- Incentivize international banking, tourism, and the manufacture of goods
The relationship between the two countries has always been important because of their shared border in the ocean. Around 7 million tourists visit the Bahamas every year, and 80% of them come from the United States — so it’s in the interest of both countries to keep the well-being of both locals and tourists in this island country.
On top of that, the trade between the United States and The Bahamas is substantial, amounting to $7.3 billion every year. Notably, the U.S. Navy operates an underwater research facility on Andros Island, further cementing the close ties between the two nations.
The official language of The Bahamas is English, so you won’t have to worry about a language barrier during your vacation. Nevertheless, you might notice some Bahamian English dialects and accents among the locals.
The great news is that the Bahamian dollar is pegged at a 1-to-1 exchange rate with the U.S. dollar (USD), so you won’t need to exchange your currency, as they are interchangeable.
In the US, the legal drinking age is 21, but in the Bahamas, you can drink at 18 years of age.
Drinking alcohol in public places in the Bahamas is also allowed as long as you have your drink in a plastic cup or covered with a paper bag. In some other countries, like Mexico, that isn’t the case, despite their legal drinking age also being 18 years old.
When it comes to responsible drinking, keep in mind that the legal blood alcohol limit for driving is 0.08%. So, if you’ve been enjoying a night (or day) of drinking, don’t get behind the wheel.
All in all, even if your home country has different drinking rules than The Bahamas, as long as you’re 18, you can legally enjoy alcohol there – just be sure to do so responsibly.
Tourists have several ways to reach The Bahamas through the United States:
- Direct Flight: Major US cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, and Charlotte have direct flights to Nassau, Freeport, and the Out Islands.
- Connecting Flight: If your city doesn’t have direct flights, you can first fly to a U.S. city that offers flights to the Bahamas and then take a connecting flight to the islands.
- Cruise Ship: U.S. ports that offer cruise ship transport include Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Port Canaveral.
- Private Yacht: Book a private yacht ride from places like Florida.
- Ferry Ride: Take a ferry from South Florida or connecting cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale to islands like Bimini and Grand Bahama.
- Seaplane Ride: Taking a seaplane to The Bahamas is a scenic and efficient way to visit the Out Islands.
As it turns out, The Bahamas is indeed an independent country. If you want to learn more about this destination, we suggest checking out the following articles:
- Bahamas Travel Safety 2023: How Safe is the Bahamas for Travel?
- Hawaii vs Bahamas: Which Destination Should You Visit?
- Is Bahamas Tap Water Safe to Drink?