Feb222012

Five tips for Nassau Bahamas travelers

Some people like to research their vacation destination prior to leaving home like their vacation is a military expedition where all travel contingencies have been considered, plotted and preplanned.

I don’t travel that way. Instead, I ask lots of questions when I get there.

My first research into the Bahamas was sitting in Charlotte Airport and wondering if I should pick up some foreign currency.

1. Money – My smartphone told me that the US dollar is just like money over there on those drops of emerald isles across the sea from Florida. There is a Bahamian dollar and Bahamian currency notes. The U.S. dollar is the more widely used currency. In fact, you do not want to have any Bahamian currency notes since they are instantly devalued once you leave the islands and no longer worth the same as U.S. dollars.

I never saw any Bahamian currency during the week I was on the islands. All transactions were paid in US dollars and all change I received was US dollars.

2. Hotel Taxis – New Providence, the island name for Nassau in the Bahamas is loaded with taxis at the hotel resorts. The good news is the rate for a taxi is relatively fixed on point to point locations. This means you will not watch the meter roll by dollar after dollar as you sit in the notorious traffic of Nassau at rush hour trying to get from the airport to Paradise Island.

I left Atlantis on Paradise Island on a Friday afternoon heading to the Cable Beach hotel area where the Sheraton, Wyndham and Sandals resorts are located. The set fare is $20. The taxi ride was nearly an hour to travel ten miles. I gave the woman $25 since she was so informative about life on the island. She also avoided a head-on crash when we rounded a bend next to the seawall and only heard the fire engine siren at the last second as it was passing traffic in our lane. She drove off the road to avoid a head-on collision and didn’t flip the van into a ditch.

I rode four taxis on the island and none had a working seatbelt.

Airport to/from Paradise Island (Atlantis, One&Only Ocean Club, Comfort Suites, Best Western, Riu) = $32 + $1 bridge toll for two passengers. Additional passengers are $3 each.

Airport to/from downtown Nassau (Hilton) = $27.

Airport to/from Cable Beach (Sheraton, Wyndham, Sandals) = $18.

Cable Beach to/from Downtown Nassau = $15.

Cable Beach to/from Paradise Island = $20 + $1 bridge toll.

3. Hotel Taxes – The hotel taxes and fees in the Bahamas are among the highest I have seen in the world. I can’t figure out exactly what all the hotel taxes and fees are since I was master billed at the Atlantis Resort and did not get a receipt and I stayed on Cash & Points at the Sheraton Nassau.

Let me just show you an example of the taxes from a hotel booking at the Comfort Suites, Paradise Island.

The room rate for six nights is $1,218.

The taxes and fees associated with the six night stay is $434.64.

That is a 35.68% add-on in taxes and fees to the Comfort Suites room rate.

Bahamas Hotel Tax-1

Atlantis sample bookings show a 25.35% tax and fees rate in addition to the room rate.

Bahamas hotel tax Atlantis

I heard many tourists complaining about the additional fees associated with hotel stays.

Insider Tip: Atlantis has the Aquaventure water park and guests staying at Atlantis receive complimentary admission to the rides and pools. Day passes are $120/adult and $80/child up to 12 years. Guests of the Comfort Suites Paradise Island, literally across the street from the Atlantis Resort, also receive complimentary admission to Aquaventure. A couple can stay at Comfort Suites and possibly have a room and waterpark admission for less than the cost of day passes to the park.

4. The Cost of Food – eating is expensive in the Bahamas. Plan on spending $100 per day per adult if you are eating and drinking three meals a day. Grocery shopping at a local market can cut the food expense considerably.

Atlantis does not have access to free water aside from tap water and bottles of water add up at $5 to $8 each.

Buffets are popular at the island hotels. There is a 15% tax on restaurant meals.

Alcohol drinks are typically $8 to $12.

Typical prices per adult after tax with low-end being Wyndham and Sheraton Nassau and Atlantis at high-end price:

  • Breakfast buffet $20 – $30.
  • Lunch buffet $28-$40.
  • Dinner buffet $32 – $50.

5. Graycliff Airport Lounge, Nassau

The Diners Club sign caught my eye as I walked to my airport departure gate.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the Graycliff Lounge just outside my departure gate 41 at the Nassau Airport. The lounge is a $10 admission fee or $15 includes a drink.

Nassau Day 6 036

I asked about Diners Club and I was told that I had a $20 credit. I spent 90 minutes in the lounge working on my computer and I finally got to try a Kalik Gold brand beer (7%) before leaving the Bahamas. Best of all was my Diners Club card membership provided lounge access and one free beer.

Nassau Day 6 038

Graycliff Lounge provided the perfect end to my first vacation in the Bahamas.

Update: July 7, 2014 Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island, Nassau, Bahamas is joining Marriott Autograph Collection.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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  1. Good tip on the Choice Suites and the Aquaventure water park. Just be sure to note the Energy surcharge of $13.95/person/night (to pay for their “green initiatives”?). They also add a $5/person/night housekeeping gratuity. I prefer to tip based on how well I think they’ve done, not be forced to pay a certain amount. I’m assuming these are also charged on award stays.

    They also charge $40 + taxes and fees/person/night extra for 3rd and 4th persons in the room, thereby negating one of the advantages of having a suite.

  2. Had to laugh at your first sentence about planning like a military expedition – that’s definitely me (for better or for worse) – and probably the most humorous description I’ve read about my researching tactics 🙂

  3. One can pay a small additional fee to the taxi driver to stop at a local grocery store, run in and stock up on bottled waters for $1-3 each. Especially if you are going to Atlantis-a liter at Atlantis costs $9.75; Hawaii is less expensive! I tried to book a room at Comfort Suites for one night to get the pass admission (I was in a cruise, so disn’t really need the room) but they had a minimum night stay-they know people try to do that and use the room for a lunch break or quick shower before going back to the ship.

  4. @New Girl in the Air – generally I make sure to have my first hotel night booked and some information on how to get to the hotel using public transportation – not taxis.

    The Bahamas reminded me of why I rarely ride in taxis.

    Planning definitely allows a tourist to get more stuff packed into an itinerary. I am more of a free flowing spirit and I typically decide what I want to do once I am there.

  5. Your description of the prices in the Bahamas in general, and Atlantis in particular, reminded me why I have never gone, nor will ever go, to the Bahamas. Unless I win an all expense paid trip :>}

    For $20 more than the cost of a single day pass to the Atlantis water park, I can get a AAA rate Ocean View room for two at the lovely Marriott CasaMagna Cancun. Over the Thanksgiving holiday ! Including a delicious full, and I mean so full you won’t need to eat until dinner, breakfast buffet. A Litre of Evian is less than a dollar at the shop across the street. If you must have a water park, the Wet and Wild in Cancun is 45/39 day, including unlimited food and drinks.

    Service in Cancun is usually friendly and helpful, whereas all I’ve heard about Bahamaian service is slow and surly.

    $8 for a bottle of water? Hotel taxes of over 35% on already super inflated room prices? Whats the point of woking so hard to get free airline tickets if we just give our money away when we get there.

    “I was master billed at the Atlantis Resort and did not get a receipt” Are you serious? You have no idea what you were charged for. And if the charge on your card when you get home is more than you signed for, you have no proof of what you should have been billed? Why not just give them a signed check and let them fill in the amount later? I wouldn’t settle for an unitemized bill in the US, much less the Bahamas…

    Thanks for this post. It reminded me to make my Cancun reservation for next fall…..

  6. @Robert Hanson – I had no charges on my credit card for my Atlantis stay. The Carlson Rezidor conference included all the meals and I did not need to charge anything to my room during the three day stay.

    My sister and her family stay in a timeshare in Cancun regularly and love it.

  7. Sorry, I’d missed the previous post about the conference, and the disclosure that your stay was comped. The term “master billed” didn’t mean anything to me.

    That was some sweet deal. You say the value of the free conference attendance was $875. Yet the lowest price I can find this time of year for a 3 day stay for one person, with breakfast and dinner plan and taxes, but no drinks, is around $1,500.

  8. @Danielle – Stopping by a store in a taxi sounds like a strategy.

    @Robert Hanson – the reason I said $875 is that is the number tossed out when I checked out. Another conference attendee told me extra nights were $209 + all the fees. She also said the rates were up to $500 for the week following the conference.

    The actual rates are probably more like $1,500 for three nights from rooms I recently checked. I never checked room rates before going to Atlantis.

    The sweet deal on the rates is likely due to the fact that the Carlson Rezidor Global Conference booked up about 1,500 hotel rooms at Atlantis and scheduled three large parties, one for each evening of the conference.

  9. Great list of things to know if you want to travel to the Bahamas. The Bahamas has always been a place that I’ve wanted to visit as it seems like such a beautiful location.

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