I recently visited beloved Nassau on Paradise Island. Being my first visit, just about everything from the unique to the mundane was a surprise. Here are some interesting facts about Nassau and the Bahamas for all of you would-be travelers.
1) The name Bahamas is actually Spanish, and means “baja mar” or shallow water or sea.
2) The Bahamian dollar is equal to the U.S. dollar. Exchange rate is 1-to-1. Given this fact, U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere so there is no need to hit up the money changer in the airport.
3) The Bahamian dollar is not accepted in the U.S. When purchasing items, many retailers will hand you change in both U.S. or Bahamian dollars. I’ve been given $10 in change, and had a $5 Bahamian bill alongside a $5 US dollar bill. Both are acceptable on the island, but back in the states you will not be able to change out your Bahamian dollars. Be sure to spend them all before you leave.
4) Buses are like large taxi-vans or shuttle buses. They appear to be independently-operated, as taxis are in the states, but do fall under some regulations. As of 2014, it cost only $1.25 for a single ride on a bus.
5) Bus 10 takes you downtown, along with 10A and 12. But bus 10A will take you through local communities so you can see how Bahamian people really live.
6) The Atlantis is the most happening place on Paradise Island. Even if you don’t stay there, you will probably end up there to experience some of the hotels unique activities.
7) Bahamians watch American cable TV. The same exact channels we have from MTV to HLN, they have as well. Their only real Bahamian entertainment are some local news shows. Even many of the commercials on TV are the same as in the U.S.
8) Conch is the most popular seafood on the island, and it is what the Bahamas are known for. They actually have conch farms in the water where they mass produce lots of this popular seafood. But it is very plain and doesn’t really take on the taste of the rest of the ingredients in the dish. For this reason, you may or may not like conch.
9) The Bahamas is composed of 700 different islands, but only 30 are inhabited. New Providence is one of the most populated with 212,000 residents. Many citizens from smaller islands come to New Providence for high school and college.
10) New Providence and Paradise Island are also home to some famous American eateries including Johnny Rockets, McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Dominoe’s Pizza, Subway, and Starbucks. Just like in America, it is often cheaper for locals to eat at these places than many of the Bahamian restaurants.
11) Mount Alvernia on Cat Island rises 63 meters (0.4 miles) in altitude and is the highest peak in the Bahamas.
12) The Bahamas is famous for rum, but rum was actually invented thousands of years ago in either India or China. In addition, it was used to fund slavery in the Americas.
13) There are 212,000 residents on New Providence Island and 2 million cars (as told by my tourist guide).
14) They don’t like you to touch the fruit at the market. As an American I’m used to squeezing and picking up fruit before I buy, but one Bahamian fruit stand owner told me not to “molest the fruit.”
15) Sunday is a very quiet day in the Bahamas. No one is really out, including the tourists.
16) Pedestrians should walk carefully when crossing the street; there are very few stop signs and traffic lights in Nassau.
17)Surprisingly, half the cars on the road have the steering wheel on the right of the car, and half have the steering wheel on the left.
18) The Bahamas used to be a British territory. What remains from the British is driving on the opposite side of the road and English. Other than that, Bahamians seem to have more in common with Americans.
19) Americans can clear U.S. Customs in Nassau. It took us less than 15 minutes to clear customs in Nassau. So when we landed in the U.S. we avoided a long customs line, which is so convenient!
20) The Bahamas has 2,400 cays, or coral reefs. The longest underwater cave system – Lucayan National Park – can be found on Grand Bahama Island. And the Bahamas is also home to the deepest Blue Hole in the world – Dean’s Blue Hole – which plunges 202 meters (or 0.12 miles) into the sea; it’s located west of Clarence Town on Long Island.