Nassau is located on New Providence Island and is the capital and largest city in the Bahamas. 70% of the Bahamian population live in Nassau. Nassau is one of the most popular cruise ports in the Bahamas and the Caribbean due to its proximity to Florida. Nassau is known for pristine beaches with warm water, snorkeling/diving, shopping, historic landmarks and Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island. There are many free beach options including Cable Beach and Junkanoo Beach. The best shopping options are on Bay Street and in the newly rebuilt Straw Market. The primary historical landmarks are Fort Fincastle, Fort Charlotte, Balcony House, Government House and the Queen's Staircase. There are many other sites, attractions and excursions available in Nassau. The links above have more detailed information about what is available ashore in Nassau.
Nassau is in the Eastern time zone on the same time reference as the east coast of the US.
Eastern Standard Time: GMT - 5 hours
Eastern Daylight Time: GMT - 4 hours
English is the language of the Bahamas.
The Bahamian dollar is the official currency of the Bahamas however the US dollar is usually accepted. The value of the Bahamian dollar is directly matched to the US dollar.
What Not to Miss
Straw Market - Duty-free deals can be had for local souvenirs. Not all items are local though so be sure to look out for "Made in China" stickers on the items you may want to buy. ALWAYS NEGOTIATE and shop around! There are no set prices and most shops sell the same items. Be sure to also walk around the outside of the Market as there are often local craftsmen making handmade art and wood carvings that are definitely one of a kind.
Bay Street- High end items can be found from the stores on Bay Street as well as low end souvenir and T-shirt shops. Overall it has a little something for everyone and is Duty-free.
Fort Fincastle is on Bennett's Hill which is the highest point on the island. It also has a water tower behind it that you used to be able to climb for the best view on the island. Unfortunately, the water tower was damaged in a hurricane and is no longer open. Entrance to Fort Fincastle is $1.00.
Fort Charlotte is an 18th century fort with dungeons, tunnels and a moat. It also offers a good view of the harbor from the high ramparts of the fort. The best part is it is only $1.00 to visit!
Parliament House - Pink colonial-style government buildings past Rawson Square with a statue of Queen Victoria enthroned out front.
Government House is the official residence of the Governor- General of the Bahamas since 1901.
Queen's Staircase is a 66-step staircase carved out of a coral based sandstone at the end of the 18th century. The staircase is located on the other side of the water tower from Fort Fincastle off of Elizabeth Avenue.
Balcony House - The island's oldest wooden structure. One of the notable scenic spots on the island is from the balcony. Make sure to see the mahogany staircase inside the house which is said to have been salvaged from a mid-1800's shipwreck.
Views / Scenic spots
Kids / Children
Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre - A small zoo and garden just minutes from the heart of Downtown Nassau featuring Pink Flamingos that march in a parade, various other birds including peacocks and Macaws.
Pirates of Nassau - An interactive museum with a pirate based theme and large pirate ship you can walk through.
Seaworld Explorer- A 90-minute submarine tour with large glass windows that enables you to view the underwater beauty of the waters surrounding Nassau from 5 feet below the surface without even getting your hair wet!
Atlantis Casino - There are a few casinos in Nassau, but none that rival the Atlantis Casino on Paradise Island.
Places to Avoid
The "Over-the-Hill" area south of downtown is the poorest part of Nassau, and tourists might want to be wary.
Some criminals target restaurants and nightclubs frequented by tourists. The most common approach is to offer a ride either as a favor or by claiming to be a taxi, and then robbing and/or assaulting the passenger once in the car. Be sure to ride only in licensed taxis which are identified by their yellow license plates.
Locals may solicit tourists with offers of jet ski rides, booze cruises, marijuana, hair-braiding services, or a taxi ride. It gets monotonous but a friendly "no, thank you" and moving on will keep both you and the locals happy.
Most Cuban cigars for sale in Nassau are counterfeit. Buy only from reputable dedicated tobacconists. Visit Cigar Stogies for authentic Cubans and Graycliff for authentic Bahamian cigars.
There is a high crime rate in Nassau at the moment. US Dept of State has labelled New Providence "Critical" and Grand Bahama "High". Crime previously among drug-related groups has now moved toward armed robberies of tourists. Recent local news reports suggest this is not abating.
Cellular service is available for all major carriers through local partners. You would have to add international service to your plan to avoid paying high rates (even with international plan the rates are relatively high). Verify cost with your service provider prior to departure. The best way to contact anyone is through Wi-Fi voice (VOIP), texting (iMessage or similar) or video (Facetime calls).
Festival Place- Wi-fi currently inactive due to security concerns
Starbucks- $3 / hour
Woodes Rogers Walk
Marina Village, Paradise Island
Cable Beach Casino
Harbour Bay Shopping Center
Mall at Marathon
McDonalds - Free Wi-Fi
Dunkin Donuts - Free Wi-Fi with purchase
Conch Fritters Bar & Grill - Free Wi-Fi
Nassau is a small city and is difficult to get lost in. Be sure to watch when crossing the street as the drivers aren't as cautious and careful as most and they drive on the left side of the street!
Taxis are common but you need to verify the fare amount in advance. Drivers are typically tipped 15%.
Paradise Island: $4 / person each way
Cable Beach: $15 / person each way
Island tour: Costs more but is negotiable; Taxi driver will act as your tour guide.
Jitney buses are the way the locals get around. They are $1.25 per person ($1 for small children) per trip (no matter the distance) but have several different routes. They run 6 am to 6 pm daily except for Sundays when there is limited service. Exact change is required and the buses do not go to Paradise Island.
Key Jitney bus #10 & 10a - Loads on George & Bay streets to Cable Beach
From Bay Street (opposite Parliament Street) to the Eastern end of the Island (including foot of the bridge to Paradise Island) and return -- Bus Numbers: 1, 9, 9A, 9B, 19, 21, 21A, 23
From Frederick Street (Bay Street) to Town Center Mall and return -- Bus Numbers: 4, 4A, 5, 5A, 6, 6A, 11A, 12, 15, 15A
From Bay Street (George Street) to Cable Beach and return -- Bus Numbers: 10, 10A
Water Taxi / Ferries
The Nassau water taxi leaves from Festival Place at the Prince George dock and goes to Paradise Island. The trip is $4 each way ($8 round trip) and takes about 10 minutes. The ferry leaves every 30 minutes and operates daily from 9:00am to 6:00pm. The operators will give you a brief tour on the way and may approach (pester) you for a tip at the end of the ride.
Horse-drawn carriages cost $15 / person for a 25 minute ride but the price is typically negotiable. From May to October the horses rest from the sun / heat from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. They leave from the area behind Festival Place near Rawson Square and also along Bay Street and tour the downtown area.
Car / Scooter Rental
Reasons not to rent a car or scooter:
The drive on the left side of the street.
There is limited time in port to rent a car.
Cars are expensive ($100/day).
Scooters are hazardous because they are small and hard to see in Nassau's crazy traffic.
The scooters are not well maintained and can leave you stranded far from the port with little to no hope of contacting the scooter vendor. Key Message: Don't miss the boat!