Perusing a map, it’s tempting to think that island-hopping down the chain is easy. Unfortunately, it’s not – that is, unless you have your own boat or plane. Interisland air is centered on Nassau. Getting between the islands without constantly backtracking is a bit of a feat. Even the mail boats are Nassau-centric.
Water taxis ply between Nassau and Paradise Island. Several other offshore islands and their neighboring cays are served by private water taxis.
Bahamians are generally cautious and civilized drivers and main roads are usually in good condition. Side roads? Not so much. Believe any Bahamian who warns you that a road is bad. Lighting is also poor on main roads and side roads on the Out Islands, so night driving can be a bit of challenge when looking for unfamiliar destinations.
Several major international car-rental companies have outlets in Nassau and Freeport, along with smaller local firms. In the Out Islands there are some very good local agencies. Ask your hotel for recs, or look for display boards at the airport.
Renters must be 21 (some companies rent only to those 25 or older). Collision damage waiver insurance is US$15 a day. Local companies may not offer insurance.
You usually rent for a 24-hour period, with rates starting at US$70 (from around US$80 in Nassau and from US$65 for smaller islands).
Golf carts can be rented on the smaller islands and cays for US$50 per day.
There’s no public transportation on the Out Islands or at airports, as the taxi drivers’ union is too powerful. Likewise, few hotels are permitted to operate their own transfer service for guests. A number of adventure outfitters and tours, however, will send courtesy shuttles to your hotel before and after reserved trips.
There’s no shortage of licensed taxis in Nassau and Freeport, where they can be hailed on the streets. Taxis are also the main local transportation in the Out Islands, where they meet all incoming planes and ferries in the larger settlements.
All taxi operators are licensed. Taxi fares are fixed by the government according to distance: rates are usually for two people. Each additional person is charged a flat rate of US$3. Fixed rates have been established from airports and cruise terminals to specific hotels and major destinations. These rates should be displayed in the taxi.
Bahamas Ferries makes the four-hour run (one way/round trip US$60/100) between Sandy Point, Great Abaco and Nassau twice a week.
Bahamas Ferries also currently makes a daily two-hour run from Potter’s Cay in Nassau to Harbour Island (one way/round trip US$75/115) at 8am, returning at 3:55pm Mon-Fri and 1pm Sun. It also runs a ferry (one way/round trip US$70/80) from Potter’s Cay to Governor’s Harbour on Tuesdays, Thursday and Fridays and returns on the same days.
Anot-so-fast ferry departs the Bahamas Ferriesdock at Potter’s Cay for the overnight journey to the Exumas. The scheduled 12-hour trip can stretch closer to 14 depending on the weather. It’s a ‘sleep in your seat’ deal so pack a blanket and a toothbrush, dress comfortably and expect to wake up several times during the night. It provides a snack bar and a movie.
Pinder’s Ferry (242-353-3093, 242-557-6624; round trip/one way $US90/45, children half price) A small boat runs twice a day between McLean’s Town, Grand Bahama and Crown Haven on Little Abaco.
Interisland flights offer the only quick and convenient way to travel within the Bahamas and islanders ride airplanes like Londoners use buses. Private charter flights can be an economical option for those traveling in a group.
Bahamasair (242-377-5505, in Freeport 242-352-8341; www.bahamasair.com) The dominant airline in the Bahamas operates on a hub-and-spoke system, so to fly between adjacent islands, such as Cat and Long Islands, you’ll have to first return to Nassau. If you do a lot of island-hopping, you’ll feel like a yo-yo and may need to overnight in Nassau between flights; budget accordingly. Bahamasair flies to Freeport, Marsh Harbour, Treasure Cay, North Eleuthera, Governor’s Harbour, Rock Sound, George Town and several southern islands including Cat Island and Long Island.
Most flights to the Out Islands are during the day since the smaller airports are not properly lighted for night flights. A few smaller interisland airlines and charters, are listed below:
Cycling is cheap, convenient, healthy, environmentally sound and typically fun. Just make sure your seat has padding – most bikes are heavy, have one speed and can be a bit worn out. Major resort hotels rent bicycles for about US$20 daily. See local listings for specific rental companies.