Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas. As such, it’s home to the government, bustling marketplaces, and a significant portion of the nation’s population.
If you’re visiting the Bahamas, you certainly don’t want to miss vibrant Nassau. But is Nassau safe? The good news is that Nassau is a generally safe destination for tourists, though there are several neighborhoods you should avoid or exercise caution in.
Crime levels are similar to those in many major cities. US authorities have categorized Nassau in their travel advisory’s second level, advising tourists to “exercise increased caution.” This means that dangerous crime and violence do exist, but they’re not so prevalent that you should skip this beautiful city.
But in this guide, we don’t just focus on crime. We’ll go through all the potential hazards you might encounter in Nassau, including CO poisoning, natural disasters, shark encounters, COVID-19, and more.
Keep reading for info and what to expect and tips on how to stay safe.
According to the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory, the safety of The Bahamas fall in the level 2 category – “Exercise Increased Caution” – and warns tourists of the following:
“In Nassau, you have to be extra vigilant in the area Over the Hill south of Shirley Street where inter-gang violence has resulted in a high rate of homicides primarily affecting the local population. Violent crimes, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas. Be vigilant when staying in short-term vacation rentals where private security companies are not present.”
“Thefts also occur at cruise ship terminals and in or around busy resorts, even during the day. Crimes increase during the holiday seasons. Credit card and ATM fraud occur, particularly in Nassau. Be vigilant at all times and don’t walk alone away from the main hotels, tourist areas, beaches, and downtown Nassau, particularly after dark.”
So, do the authorities encourage tourists to visit Nassau? Absolutely, but they emphasize the importance of not assuming it’s a crime-free paradise. Crime exists in any capital and around tourist hotspots, but it’s not alarming to the point where you should stay away from Nassau. The key is to take all the necessary precautions, which we’ll talk about towards the end of this guide.
Safety statistics regarding Nassau indicate that its crime rate falls in the middle, with a score of 63.84. That means it’s not among the safest, but it’s also far from being the riskiest destination.
This year (2023), the capital has a lower crime index compared to major cities like Baltimore, US (74.92), Tijuana, Mexico (71.59), and Cape Town, South Africa (73.63). On the other hand, Nassau has higher crime rates than tourist hubs like Buenos Aires, Argentina (63.41), Playa Del Carmen, Mexico (47.25), Athens, Greece (56.06), and Paris, France (57.45).
Numbeo statistics reveal a rise in reported crimes over the past three years. To gain a more detailed understanding of the increase, we’ve made a chart consisting of all the crime reports for New Providence Island, home to Nassau.
These statistics cover the years 2020 to 2022 and are sourced from the official annual crime analysis provided by the Royal Bahamas Police records.
|Crimes Against Person||2020||2021||2022|
|Unlawful Sexual Intercourse||117||92||99|
|Crimes Against Property||2020||2021||2022|
|Stealing from Vehicle||801||625||371|
Looking at the crime statistics, it’s clear that property crimes are a major concern in the capital. As stated in the US State Department’s travel warning, these crimes are not limited to locals and frequently occur in tourist locations, so visitors must be cautious.
Furthermore, violent crimes, such as homicides, rapes, and robberies, are predominant. However they are mostly concentrated in high-risk areas and mostly impact Nassau residents. Still, tourists should exercise caution and remain alert so they don’t fall victim to such incidents, however unlikely that is.
The media has done its fair share of exposing Nassau’s underbelly, and we decided to highlight some criminal cases that attracted the most attention. However, do note that not all crimes in Nassau are as severe as the ones we’ll discuss. Crime happens everywhere, including your hometown.
Let’s begin with drug busts. We managed to find several major drug busts shared by the media from recent years, including the discovery of $3 million in marijuana in October 2023, a marijuana and ecstasy bust valued at $336,000 in March 2021, and a $1.2 million marijuana bust in January 2019.
Perhaps the most alarming of these incidents was the fentanyl seizure in April 2023, where the police confiscated over 3 kilograms of the highly potent and deadly drug. Such an amount has the potential to kill more than 2 million individuals, highlighting the persistent challenges associated with the distribution and consumption of illegal substances in the capital.
During a three-week period in 2019, Nassau suffered an alarming spike in child abductions. There were five abductions in total, which occurred in four separate events. Notably, the abductors in all of these cases were female. Although these incidents occurred some time ago, it is critical to know about such incidents, especially if you plan to visit Nassau with children.
Recent reports of sexual assaults in Nassau may raise concerns, particularly for solo female travelers. In July 2023, there were a total of three sexual assault cases. The first incident occurred on July 18, 2023, when an unknown male approached a female, robbed her, and assaulted her sexually. Two other separate incidents took place over the last weekend of July, involving a 9-year-old girl and a 40-year-old woman.
Tragic incidents of innocent bystanders being in the wrong place at the wrong time can occur. In July 2022, a four-year-old boy and his parents were walking on a street and found themselves in the midst of a crossfire. Unfortunately, the boy was shot and, despite being rushed to the hospital, he did not survive his injuries. This heartbreaking incident serves as a strong reminder for travelers to exercise caution and stay informed about the safety situation in Nassau.
To conclude this section on a more reassuring note for tourists, the US State Department has confirmed that many of these violent crimes are primarily directed at the local population and not tourists. Criminal groups appear to understand that a decline in tourism could negatively impact the economy, so they strive to ensure the tourism industry thrives. Travelers should still exercise caution but can find some comfort in knowing that they are not the primary target of these crimes.
Tourists in Nassau can rest assured that a dedicated police force will come to their aid in times of danger, threats, or emergencies. The Royal Bahamas Police Force is the main authority for maintaining order in Nassau, with a sizable team of over 4,000 officers, reserves, and police civilians. They are also supported by INTERPOL, which enhances their ability to monitor and address organized crime.
In case of emergency, dial 911. However, remember that local laws apply to everyone, even visitors, so you, too, need to stay on the right side of the law.
Police officers regularly patrol the city – and especially the party venues at night – so it would be in your best interest to avoid any illegal activities. Do not buy narcotics, carry weapons, or drive under the influence of alcohol. Safety and respect for local laws go hand in hand for an enjoyable experience in Nassau.
As of 2023, there have been a total of 38,084 confirmed cases of coronavirus in The Bahamas and 844 deaths were caused by the virus. On a positive note, 36,366 individuals have successfully recovered.
As of October 18, there are no reported cases of COVID among Nassau’s population of 227,936.
These relatively stable numbers have prompted the Government of The Bahamas to end all COVID-related measures, such as pre-arrival COVID-19 testing, proof of vaccine, The Bahamas Travel Health Visa, curfews, and wearing masks in public areas.
While authorities have lifted all restrictions regarding the virus, it’s essential to acknowledge that any pandemic can pose unforeseen challenges to the world. So continue to practice social distancing and regularly wash your hands.
In case you experience flu-like symptoms during your Nassau vacation, you can get tested at any hospital, clinic, or laboratory. If you develop symptoms before your trip, it’s highly advisable to postpone traveling to prevent potential virus spread and avoid exacerbating your symptoms with air travel.
Nassau, like many coastal and island destinations, faces potential risks from various natural disasters.
Primarily, its location in the Atlantic Ocean’s warm waters means that there’s danger of hurricanes. Additionally, being situated on the edge of the North American tectonic plate means that Nassau is at risk for low-level earthquakes.
Let’s delve into more details about these natural phenomena.
Hurricanes are potent and destructive storms known for ferocious winds and heavy rainfall. They frequently lead to flooding, storm surges, and substantial infrastructural damage.
The official hurricane season in the Bahamas spans from June 1 to November 30, though hurricanes can also occasionally occur outside this timeframe. Hurricanes are most likely in August, September, and early October.
On average, The Bahamas experiences seven hurricanes a year. However, historical data reveals that Nassau hasn’t encountered any major hurricanes yet. So far, in this area, hurricanes tend to manifest as tropical storms with strong winds.
All in all, hurricanes in Nassau often do not pose an immediate or life-threatening risk. However, natural disasters are unpredictable, and given that Nassau is a coastal, island city, it’s vulnerable to destruction and flooding in the event of a major hurricane.
While such a devastating scenario has yet to occur (or hopefully – never), it’s best to stay up-to-date on the latest hurricane information in the area. Overall, it’s best to plan your travels outside of peak hurricane season.
Earthquakes lead to structural damage and can trigger tsunamis or landslides.
In 2023, The Bahamas experienced only four earthquakes, indicating that the region is relatively stable. Plus, Nassau was not the epicenter of any of these earthquakes, so the region technically had zero earthquakes during the year 2023.
All in all, there’s no need to be concerned about earthquakes during your trip to Nassau. While The Bahamas do experience occasional, minor earthquakes, they are usually of low magnitude and their epicenter is outside of Nassau.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a silent and deadly gas. Unfortunately, it took the lives of three tourists during their stay at the Bahamas Sandals Resort in May, 2022. So what makes carbon monoxide so hazardous?
This gas is produced when carbon-based fuels do not burn completely. CO can escape from malfunctioning appliances like stoves, gas water heaters, and furnaces. Since it’s invisible and odorless, our senses cannot alert us to its presence, which is how it’s believed the tourists were poisoned. The only way to recognize CO poisoning is through its symptoms.
When you inhale carbon monoxide, it disrupts the blood’s ability to deliver oxygen to your cells and tissues, causing headaches, nausea, and dizziness. It can cause paralysis or even brain damage in severe cases. Prolonged CO exposure can completely impair the blood’s ability to transport oxygen, ultimately leading to death. In the tragic case of the tourists, they were exposed to lethal levels of CO while sleeping, and never woke up.
Keep in mind that this was an isolated incident and not something you should really worry about.
Besides, The Royal Bahamas Police has urged citizens and rental companies to install carbon monoxide detectors outside every sleeping area in homes, rental units, and hotels. However, when traveling to Nassau, you can’t always be sure if a functional CO detector is in place in your room. To enhance your safety, you can carry a portable CO detector with you. These devices are cost-effective, typically priced around $20, and can be a lifesaver.
So, is CO poisoning dangerous? Yes. But it’s also unlikely and preventable. As long as you bring a portable carbon monoxide detector with you, absolutely. Your safety and peace of mind are well worth this small investment.
Nassau’s beaches are very safe thanks to a colored-flags system that denotes the safety levels and potential concerns, ensuring that visitors can enjoy the water securely. Here’s what each flag represents:
- Green flag: Calm waters, safe for swimming
- Yellow flag: Moderate currents, swim with caution
- Single red flag: Strong currents, swimming isn’t recommended
- Double red flags: Very dangerous, the water is closed to the public
- Red and yellow flag: Swimming area with lifeguards
- Black and white quartered flag: Surfing area, swimming isn’t allowed
- Purple flag: Dangerous marine life
In addition to beach safety, Nassau’s beautiful waters are home to various marine life, including sharks. These creatures are present throughout the island, so even beaches without a purple flag don’t guarantee the absence of marine life. The Bahamas has recorded a total of 32 shark attacks since 1749, which is relatively low. The most recent incident occurred in Nassau in 2022 when a 58-year-old American woman tragically lost her life while snorkeling.
When it comes to shark attacks, taking basic precautions is key. Avoid swimming at night, when sharks are more active, and refrain from swimming with open cuts to minimize the risk of shark encounters.
All in all, to prioritize safety, only swim on beaches with green flags.
Nassau’s climate is the epitome of tropical charm: hot and rainy from May to October and balmy and dry from November to April.
Average temperatures typically range from 80 to 90°F (26 to 32°C) in the summer and 70 to 89°F (21 to 31°C) in the winter. The wet season spans from May to October, with the rainiest months being July, August, and September. Nevertheless, the showers are usually in the afternoon and pass quickly.
Let’s go over each season so you know what to expect in this tropical paradise.
It’s never really cold in The Bahamas. Still, there are shifts in weather.
March ushers in a delightful springtime in Nassau. You’ll enjoy daytime highs of about 79°F (26°C) and comfortably cooler evenings at 64°F (18°C). The ocean warms up as well, reaching around 77°F (25°C) – perfect temperature for swimming.
April is known as one of the best times for a Nassau visit — it’s sunny but not scorching hot and it’s safely outside the hurricane season. Daytime highs reach 81°F (27°C), with nights at a mild 66°F (19°C).
As May arrives, temperatures and humidity begin to climb. Yet, the chance of rain remains modest. Any rain is typically a brief afternoon shower, leaving you with ample sunshine for the day’s adventures. In May, expect daytime temperatures around 84°F (29°C) and pleasant nights of approximately 72°F (22°C). The sea temperature is ideal for water activities, around 81°F (27°C).
June is the gateway to summer, with almost 14 hours of daylight and temperatures reaching 88°F (31°C). However, as Nassau’s summer unfolds, so does the hurricane season. There may be plenty of rainy days (up to 17), but the good news is that the odds of a hurricane hitting are still quite low.
July and August are the hottest months of the year, with daytime temperatures soaring to 90°F (32°C). So beach enthusiasts, take note: sunscreen is your best friend. You should also expect more afternoon showers, totaling about 19 rainy days per month, and a higher likelihood of a hurricane, so it’s wise to stay updated through local news for your safety.
The temperature remains warm throughout September and October, ranging about 88°F (31°C). But here’s the catch: it’s hurricane season. Tourism is declining, and several hotels are taking a break for maintenance. As a result, this is not the best time to visit The Bahamas.
November brings with it a change of scene. It marks the end of both wet and hurricane seasons in Nassau. With fewer rainy days and delightful temperature (a pleasant 82°F/28°C), November shines as an excellent month for your Nassau adventure.
The start of winter greets you with abundant sunshine and clear blue skies. Daytime highs hover around 79°F (26°C), while nights settle around 64°F (18°C). It’s a perfect balance – you’ll neither sweat in the heat or shiver in the cold.
Both January and February bring similar temperatures, with pleasant daytime highs of 77°F (25°C) and cooler nights at 63°F (17°C). Water temperatures dip to about 77°F (25°C), still perfect for swimming and sunbathing at the beach.
Although Nassau’s nice year-round, hurricane season is from June to November, while May is rather rainy.
The ideal time to visit Nassau is from December to April. You get picture-perfect weather and crystal-clear waters. However, this is also peak season for tourists, so expect fully-booked hotels, higher prices, and occasional queues at popular spots.
For those looking to avoid the crowds and get up to 50% lower prices on hotels and air tickets, May and November are excellent options. During these months, you can still enjoy great weather (maybe a bit of rain here and there but definitely not hurricanes), but with the benefit of fewer visitors and lower prices.
The least favorable times to visit Nassau are during the peak hurricane months, September and October, as well as June, which is the rainiest month. During these months, activities are limited and some hotels close down temporarily for maintenance. For the best experience in Nassau, it’s wise to avoid these periods.
Nassau is an excellent destination both for solo travelers and family vacations. However, be mindful that, per the US State Department’s travel advisory, there is some crime in Nassau. So, while you soak in the beauty of this destination, keep your safety radar on and take the following safety precautions.
Essential tips for staying safe:
- Look up the nearest police station’s location on Google Maps
- Memorize the emergency number: 911 for the police, ambulance, and fire brigade
- Book at trustworthy hotels
- Do not answer your hotel door unless you’re certain who’s at the other side
- Explore the city during the day, and never in the late hours of the night
- Never, ever go in secluded neighborhoods and the Over The Hill area
- Withdraw money from a bank or ATM in a mall where there’s security around
- Don’t roam around the streets with expensive jewelry or other valuables
- Do not physically resist an armed robbery
- Have some Bahamian dollars (BSD) on hand for small purchases
Tips for traveling alone:
- If possible, stay within the hotel’s boundaries during the night. Nighttime outings may involve more risks, like conflict with intoxicated individuals or a police field operation
- Keep personal information private, especially from strangers you’ve just met
- Dress modestly, especially at night; if faced with catcallers, ignore them and avoid further interaction
- If you hit up a bar, drink responsibly and never leave your drink unattended to prevent potential spiking
- Politely decline if offered narcotics, as using them can lead to legal and safety threats
- Ensure someone back home knows your travel plans for added security
Tips for traveling with your family:
- Always keep a watchful eye on your kids
- Travel together to prevent any accidental separation
- Rent a car is it spares you from constantly waiting for taxis and buses
- Avoid drinking and driving
- Carry a well-stocked medical kit
- Select reputable restaurants that prioritize food safety
- Stay at the hotel with your children in the evenings — dine Bahamian food or enjoy a movie night
So, if you’re planning a vacation to Nassau, get ready for abundant sunshine, warm temperatures, and the occasional rain shower, especially during peak hurricane season.
Speaking of safety, Nassau falls in the medium crime rate category. While it’s far from one of the world’s most dangerous places, it’s wise to exercise increased caution as you explore the city. Follow our safety tips, and let the Royal Bahamas Police handle the rest.
Have an amazing trip to Nassau!