Bahamas Travel Guide
The Budget Bahamas Travel Guide includes 8 Important Travel Planning Tips that will allow you to see and do more on your budget. Learn how you can benefit.
Welcome to The Bahamas Travel Guide! The Bahamas may not be everyone’s idea of a budget-friendly travel destination, but you may be pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to enjoy without splashing too much cash. Some of the attractions – such as the Aquaventure Park – are going to be outside the means of any shoestring traveler, but most of the best that the Bahamas has to offer doesn’t need to cost much as all.
Providing you take the time to plan your trip suitably, make accommodation arrangements well in advance (we’re talking months in most cases), and are happy making most of your own fun there’s nothing stopping from having an amazing time here. The Bahamas Travel Guide will explain the best ways to save on these crucial expenses as well as explain how to make the most of those many free attractions.
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Things To See & Do
Only about 30 of the 700 islands that make up the Bahamas are actually inhabited. Needless to say, that allows plenty of opportunity for searching out the perfect and most tranquil island beach experiences you’ll find pretty much anywhere! As a budget visitor, the biggest issue if how to practically get around without spending crazy sums – and we’ll explain the best ways to manage these costs later in the Bahamas Travel Guide.
No matter where you go throughout the islands you’ll enjoy gorgeous beaches, genuinely crystal clear waters, some spectacular aquatic and avian life, and stumble across plenty of other pleasant little distractions along the way. Here is a selection of the most unmissable sights that can also be squeezed into a budget-conscious visit.
Explore The Abacos
OK – the best way to traverse this group of postcard-perfect islands is to charter your own boat – and that isn’t likely an option for most people on a budget! However – it is perfectly possible to either join other people on their tour or sign-up for one of the many larger vessels that skip between the best places.
If you cannot justify the expense involved then look into ways to hop between the major islands independently and explore as you go – the Bahamas has a knack of being very forgiving to adventurous travelers! The Out Islands are easy to get to and you could head out to the Great Guana Cay for some amazing snorkeling as part of a casual tour group (about $60-80 depending on whether you also need equipment).
Kayak Around The Exuma Cays
If sailing boats are just too far outside your budget then kayaking is certainly the next best option. This massive chain of islands in the middle of The Bahamas (there’s literally a different one for each day of the year) is popular with shoestring visitors. Organized tours tend to run for 3/4 days and while they cost about $300 or so they’ll include kayak hire, equipment, places to stay/camp, and your guide.
Considering that we’re looking at about a budget of $80-100 day to realistically explore the Bahamas anyway that’s a sound investment all things considered – especially given the mind-blowing sights and natural splendor involved!
Swim With The Piggies!
For reasons nobody can actually explain Exuma island is populated entirely by pigs. Plenty of tours dock here (and you’ll be able to grab a ferry or a ride easily enough) and let people enjoy a few hours making friends with these friendly natives.
The pigs are believed to have been here for many generations, so long in fact that they’ve learned to comfortably spend long parts of their day swimming in the shallows. If you’re looking to experience something quite out of this world then be sure to make a visit to Exuma Island.
Hike Lucayan National Park
Budget visitors should look to spend a good proportion of their time in the Bahamas exploring the many hiking networks across most of the larger islands. Lucayan National Park is probably the best especially if you’re planning on staying for a few days. Most trails take you from the beaches (Gold Rock if a popular starting destination) and then through the forests and close to the extensive cave system lurking below the island surface.
If caving/potholing is your thing then there’s plenty of people willing to take you down on guided tours – although you’d best be in good shape and able to dive as well. Overall, this is a great spot to rest up for a while, take in some gentle hiking, and spend plenty of time really getting to know a totally pristine part of an island.
Dine Well (And Cheaply)
You’ll have plenty of options when it comes to blowing $100+ on a fancy beach-side meal – but don’t assume that the best places to eat are those with the longest menus. The Bahamas has plenty of fine little eating establishments that’ll fill your plate for just a little more the ingredients would cost in a grocery store. Stuart’s Conch Stand is one of the best known and serves up the freshest possible conch – literally right from the sea – in enormous portions.
Nippers Beach Bar is another good spot especially if you like your drinks served on the stronger side. That cocktail may cost $10 but will be poured with enough for three or four normal drinks! Check out The End Of The World saloon on Bimini if you’d like to walk in Hemingway’s footsteps.
Go Souvenir Hunting In Freeport
Yes – the Bahamas seems to have thousands of stalls selling cheap and somewhat mass-produced trinkets for passing tourists. Kitsch as these can be, you’ll have better fun shopping around the Port Lucaya Marketplace that serves several dozen local businesses ranging from crafts and arts through to casual street food.
It has become more popular in recent years and you’ll find the tat has started to invade, but there’s still some literal gems to be found and a nice buzz to enjoy while looking about. You’ll find some of the cheapest private tours based around here as well if you’re looking to head somewhere more tranquil.
A good proportion of the more budget-friendly accommodation is found in Nassau and there’s a good chance you’ll end up based here for a significant part of your stay. Make the most of this by taking in the often impressive local museums and galleries, head up to look around the daunting Fort Charlotte, and be absolutely sure to visit John Watling’s Distillery.
It is totally free – and liberal with the freebies – and there’s no obligation to buy a bottle of their heavy-proofed rum at the end of the tour (although most people are tempted by that stage!). The Straw Market is also a good place for some casual shopping, and again you’ll find many tour operators here including those offering more comprehensive multiple-day excursions.
There are far more options out there for budget visitors and we simply do not have the space to list all of these in this guide. However, this selection should give you a good indication of how best to see the Bahamas on a budget.
Pick out good value excursions that break up your spells in booked accommodation, look to spend plenty of time hiking, canoeing, exploring, and of course lazing on the beach! There are bargains a-plenty here if you keep your eye’s peeled – and sometimes you’ll easily be able to keep your spending well below the daily average.
What Are the Typical Accommodation Costs
Note that the Bahamian Dollar is pegged at the same value as the US Dollar. In most practical senses the two currencies are pretty much interchangeable.
Accommodation is going to be the biggest single expense when visiting the Bahamas and from a budget visitor’s perspective by far the most important to get right. Living costs aren’t exactly cheap but you’ll still be able to get by easily enough if you anticipate spending perhaps 15-20% more than you would in the USA.
The Bahamas can be as cheap (or expensive) as you are willing to compromise when it comes to taking out trips and excursions but it is worth also factoring in a daily allowance for transportation between the islands. Even if you don’t take a boat everyday stash that money aside to cover longer distance trips and tours.
Camping & Hostels
Bargain-basement accommodation is in short supply in the Bahamas. Camping is illegal outside of the handful of official sites and you will most likely be caught if you try it. Those official sites are hardly enormous and often booked up by scout groups and suchlike, but if you can get a plot they are a solid choice for saving cash in the short term (about $25-30/night per tent). Hostels are equally limited with the majority being based in Nassau.
As you’d likely have anticipated these are often booked out months in advance so keep an eye on their availability and don’t be shy of sending a polite email asking about super-advanced bookings and reservations. The worst that can happen is you’ll be knocked back or ignored! If you get a hostel bed expect to still spend about $30-40/night for a dorm bed.
Guesthouses & Private Accommodation
Take a look at the popular hostel search sites and you’ll find a number of places listed that don’t exactly fall into most people’s expectation of a ‘hostel’. Most B&Bs and casual lodging houses also list themselves on these websites and they can be a decent alternative. Yes – they’re a bit more expensive on average (around $60/bed in a shared room or $100/private double) – but usually include at least one meal.
Look a little deeper and you’ll also find listings on Airbnb and even Couch-surfer. Self-catered apartments are fantastic for groups but still likely to cost around $40-60/person at least. If you can find somewhere to crash then you’ll save a lot of money – remember to take a gift and don’t count on it not falling through at the last minute. There is a degree of ‘pay your money and take your chance’ with private online listings but most of the time you’ll come up trumps.
Hotel prices aren’t quite as insane on the Bahamas as some other Caribbean destinations. Much will depend upon the time of year you visit (more on this below) and how far you can book ahead. There’s sometimes also some room for negotiation especially if you are booking for larger groups – although consider yourself doing well if you can haggle 10% off the quoted price. Cheap hotels start at around $100-140 and that is based on a double ensuite room.
Split that with your roomie and all of a sudden $50/60 per night seems (and is) pretty reasonable. It is more than hostels – and remember hostels are a good way of meeting other travelers and splitting activity and transportation costs – but it isn’t too bad in the grand scheme of things. Groups may prefer trying to hire apartments because not only will they be a little cheaper but you’ll also be able to self-cater meals and save further.
As mentioned earlier grocery prices tend to be a little steeper than in the USA (especially for imported and fresh ingredients) but you’ll still easily be able to feed yourself for a week within an $80 budget. Fish Frys are the cheapest and arguably best street food (about $10-15/portion).
If you’re happy to eat casually and supplement this with convenience store groceries you should be able to avoid needing to dine in the fancier restaurants. Restaurant prices are quite high and become steeper closer to the popular and most picturesque spots. Expect to pay north of $50 for a two-course meal and a beer to wash it down with.
Remember that you’ll need to ‘stash’ cash for transportation between the islands as well. We’ll discuss these prices later in the Bahamas Budget Travel Guide but it’s wise to try and set aside about $20/day as you can.
What Are the Typical Accommodation Costs
The Bahamas are not cheap but you’ll still be able to expect to spend an average of $80-100/day providing you find somewhere cheap to stay and are open to making your own fun and taking up the free attractions and experiences as often as possible.
That should be enough to cover basic accommodation needs (be it a hostel/B&B/Airbnb/campsite), keep you fed well enough, allow for local buses/occasional ferry, and enough change for some drinks and to save up towards a couple of paid-for experiences.
If you want to visit the Bahamas on a more flamboyant budget you’ll be looking at spending considerably more to upgrade your accommodation to a comfortable hotel, have the freedom to take whatever ferry/bus you like as you choose, eat out somewhere more upmarket occasionally, and take in some of the paid-for experiences. $200/day should be enough to just about cover all that.
Double it again and you’ll be around the right spot for a resort-style vacation with the freedom to do pretty much anything you like – including sea fishing, boat charter, and half-day private tours.
There is that substantial ‘grey area’ between the $100/day and $200/day budget and it’s there for a good reason. Having an extra hundred bucks a day in your pocket isn’t necessarily going to substantially enhance your experience all that much. We’d recommend sticking to the budget-friendly accommodation options and using that to fund a more comprehensive tour of the key Islands including a multiple-day excursion or two.
Most people spend practically every waking minute outside of their accommodation anyway – it’s only worth upgrading if you want to lounge around the hotel pool for hours on end. Pretty crazy when there are some of the best beaches in the world on your doorstep!
How Can I Save Money
The Bahamas tourism industry is geared towards visitors who have money and are willing to spend it – often in considerable amounts! While that should ring some alarm bells for the budget visitor, the knock-on advantage is that the tourism industry is also very competitive and you’ll find plenty of deals, discounts, and bargains without digging especially deep. Keep your eyes out for these (the official tourism website is a good place to start) and remember that baseline prices vary between times of the year.
Just a few weeks could make an enormous difference in both the cost of your accommodation and the feasibility of taking those tours and excursions. Plan your visit carefully according to the season (more on this to follow!).
If you can find somewhere to couch surf then you’ll be able to have a fabulous time here without comparatively needing to spend all that much money. Only a small proportion of budget visitors will be this lucky – so plan your stays at the hostels, campsites, and bargain hotels according to a relatively strict itinerary. It is nice to be flexible on any adventure but for simple economic reasons, that’s often a bit too large a gamble in the Bahamas.
There’s nothing preventing anyone from being able to enjoy different islands and seeing all the free sights within a modest budget – it just does take some planning and organization.
Booze is pricey here and you’ll find that everything besides the local rum comes with seriously inflated prices. If you’re heading out for a night consider a little ‘pre-party’ at home first to save on the costs. Clubs and some high-end bars operate high door charges ($50+ is not unusual) so perhaps look to spend more time in the fun and free pouring dive bars instead!
If you have a headache the next morning then drink down as much tap water as you like. It’s safe to consume everywhere on the islands and you should refill your bottle (and cut down on plastic waste) as you go.
One great tip that can save you lots of money as well as make your beach time adventures even more fun is to consider buying your own snorkel kit. Organized trips have the advantage of including transport to those more distant spots but can become very expensive if taken over multiple days. For around $40-50 you can purchase your own snorkel kit and use it everywhere you travel independently. It is a small outlay that can substantially reduce your need for these tours – and a handy little memento to either take home or continue using on future travels.
Where Is the Best Place to Stay
Hostels are geographically limited and it can be hard to bag a spot – but if you can arrange one they’re probably the handiest and cheapest places to stay for at least one part of your journey. Budget hotels become much more reasonable when splitting the costs, campsites are rare but can cater to some tastes, and you’ll never beat Couchsurfing for value – providing you can find a willing host of course!
Most budget trips will combine at least two or three of these options if they’re aiming for a more comprehensive tour across the islands. Remember that it seriously pays to book ahead to secure those cheaper options and to also keep an open mind regarding when and where you’ll be visiting. It is not difficult to arrange these but you’ll need to be persistent and organized as budget rooms are in high demand here to say the very least!
What are the Best Transportation Options
You have basically two options for getting between the Bahamian Islands. Internal flights are handy between the major islands but even the shortest will cost at least $100 one-way – making them outside the reach for most people visiting on a budget. Look instead at making use of the following options.
Sail Between Islands
Ferries can cover some substantial ground and the longest routes take about 20 hours in total. Anticipate prices anywhere from $65 – 160 depending on the distance. Some services only operate on a weekly basis so make sure you have accommodation and plans in place (told you organizing was important!).
Take a look at more ‘off the wall’ options if you want to save money on getting between the islands. Mail boats usually take passengers and can cost as little as $30-45 for longer routes. You’ll need to make arrangements beforehand and remember that numbers are limited. Water taxis are pretty common in popular spots but also rather expensive. A five-minute hop between nearby islands starts at $20 and increases according to passenger numbers.
Traveling On Land
Cabs are reasonably priced but sometimes tricky to find outside of the larger communities. Expect that $20 to cover a ten-minute trip or so depending on the time of day and number of passengers. Buses are fantastic value where they run and often pretty informal. Remember to pay in exact change (they rarely split notes) once you arrive at your destination. Services can be haphazard and rarely run after dark.
When Is the Best Time to Visit
Are you willing to risk a hurricane to save money? That’s the big question when choosing when to visit the Bahamas. December through to mid-April is usually the peak season – not just because the weather is gloriously consistent but because it is well outside of hurricane season. Rather understandably the islands are very busy over these months (especially with North American and European visitors seeking out some sunshine) so prices are uniformly high and availability somewhat scarce.
The window between mid-April and the start of June is a grey area. Some years it is fine and in other years it can be a washout. The hurricane season is really too significant a risk unless you are planning a last-minute visit and are hoping to dodge the worst of the season (remember it still rains a lot over these months).
Considering that budget visitors will still be looking at spending a fair amount of money here the savings probably aren’t worth the risk overall. We’d suggest looking to visit in late March or April when offers/discounts start to become a little more common but not too much later than that.
How To Stay Safe On My Trip
The Bahamas can look and feel like paradise – but you do need to be careful in some parts of Grand Bahama and New Providence. Crime is an issue here although it rarely becomes overtly apparent in the heavily policed tourist areas. Take care at night and avoid unknown areas as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ neighborhoods are often next door to each other. Use ATMs in well lit public areas and avoid anyone offering to sell you drugs (9/10 they’re looking to rip you off).
Don’t become complacent in the Bahamas – keep your room windows/balcony locked, store valuables and documents in the safe, watch your bags even on the quietest beaches, and ignore the occasional aggressive hawker/scam artist. Crime has been rising across the Bahamas in recent years but providing you follow the basics and avoid trouble you’ll likely not encounter any issues.
Health insurance is important when visiting the Bahamas and you need to make sure that your plan includes adequate cover for riskier pursuits such as potholing, sea sports, and so on. Medical services are good but do be advised that tourists who become injured or sick are automatically taken to the most expensive private hospitals. They’re expensive so make sure your policy has a high rate of cover and ideally includes a generous repatriation allowance just in case.
We hope you enjoyed reading the Budget Bahamas Travel Guide – and good travels! Contact us with any questions you may have about travel to the Bahamas.