Bahamas Travel Information

Photo Since attaining independence from the UK in 1973, The Bahamas have prospered through tourism and international banking and investment management. Because of its geography, the country is a major transshipment point for illegal drugs, particularly shipments to the US, and its territory is used for smuggling illegal migrants into the US.

Eighty-five percent of the Bahamian population is of African heritage. About two-thirds of the population reside on New Providence Island (the location of Nassau). Many ancestors arrived in the Bahama Islands when they served as a staging area for the slave trade in the early 1800s. Others accompanied thousands of British loyalists who fled the American colonies during the Revolutionary War.

School attendance is compulsory between the ages of 5 and 16. The government fully operates 158 of the 210 primary and secondary schools in The Bahamas. The other 52 schools are privately operated. Enrollment for state and private primary and secondary schools amounts to more than 66,000 students. The College of The Bahamas, established in Nassau in 1974, provides programs leading to bachelors and associates degrees. The college is now converting from a 2- to a 4-year institution. Several non-Bahamian colleges also offer higher education programs in The Bahamas.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus made his first landfall in the Western Hemisphere in The Bahamas. Spanish slave traders later captured native Lucayan Indians to work in gold mines in Hispaniola, and within 25 years, all Lucayans perished. In 1647, a group of English and Bermudan religious refugees, the Eleutheran Adventurers, founded the first permanent European settlement in The Bahamas and gave Eleuthera Island its name. Similar groups of settlers formed governments in The Bahamas until the islands became a British Crown Colony in 1717.

The Bahamian economy is almost entirely dependent on tourism and financial services to generate foreign exchange earnings. Tourism alone provides an estimated 60% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about half the Bahamian work force. In 2000, more than 4 million tourists visited The Bahamas, 83% of them from the United States.

The United States historically has had close economic and commercial relations with The Bahamas. Both countries share ethnic and cultural ties, especially in education, and The Bahamas is home to 7,000 American residents. In addition, there are about 110 U.S.-related businesses in The Bahamas and, in 2000, some 83% of the 4 million tourists visiting the country were American.

Important: Travel to Bahamas may require a travel visa. Whether a visa is required for travel depends on citizenship and purpose of journey. Please be sure to review Travisa's Bahamas visa instructions for details. Visa instructions for other countries are available on our do I need a visa page.

Country Statistics

Full country name: Commonwealth of The Bahamas
Capital city: Nassau
Area: 13,880 sq km
Population: 316,182
Ethnic groups: black 85%, white 12%, Asian and Hispanic 3%
Languages: English
Religions: Protestant 67.6%
Government: constitutional parliamentary democracy and a Commonwealth realm
Chief of State: Queen ELIZABETH II
Head of Government: Prime Minister Perry CHRISTIE
GDP: 10.6 billion
GDP per captia: 30,400
Annual growth rate: 1.6%
Inflation: 3.2%
Agriculture: citrus, vegetables
Major industries: tourism, banking, cement, oil transshipment, salt, rum, aragonite, pharmaceuticals, spiral-welded steel pipe
Natural resources: salt, aragonite, timber, arable land
Location: chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, northeast of Cuba
Trade Partners - exports: Singapore 28.2%, US 26.9%, Dominican Republic 11.7%, Ecuador 8.6%, Switzerland 5.1%
Trade Partners - imports: US 25.8%, India 18.6%, South Korea 14.3%, Venezuela 9.6%, Singapore 7.7%, China 4.1%