The Bahamas is a group of about 700 islands in the Atlantic Ocean to the South East of the United States. It is one of these islands the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus landed first when he reached the new world in 1492.
The Bahamas has been a popular destination with tourists from around the globe for over a century. In 2019, over 7 million tourists visited the archipelago, which has a population of close to 400,000. Indeed, tourism is one of the country’s two primary sources of foreign exchange. The other is offshore financial services.
Table of Contents
- 1 Visa application
- 2 Cities and towns popular with digital nomads
- 3 Cost of living and Cost of living arbitrage
- 4 Security and safety
- 5 Culture and social norms
- 6 Political and economic stability
- 7 Language and language barriers
- 8 Health and Vaccination
- 9 Telephone and internet plans
- 10 The population of ex-pats
- 11 Payment services and infrastructure
- 12 Transport infrastructure and services
- 13 Climate and seasons
- 14 Cuisine
- 15 Tax requirements on digital nomads
- 16 Medical Insurance options
- 17 Common concerns
Over time, a growing number of visitors to the archipelago comprises people who work remotely or do business online. In late 2020 the government took steps to cater to the needs of this category of travelers.
Indeed, The Bahamas is popular as a vacation destination, especially for Americans. In this post, I share the critical information you need to decide if you should move to the archipelago and work remotely from there.
Given the importance of tourism to its economy, the Bahamas has continuously built itself as a traveler-friendly destination. That includes putting in place the necessary infrastructure and making it easy to apply for and get visas.
The Bahamas launched the digital nomad Visa in October 2020
Those holding a US passport are not required to apply for Visa to visit as tourists. The common Visas other travelers need to apply for to get into the archipelago include tourist, business, and health visas.
In October 2020, the country launched the digital nomad Visa.
The Digital nomad Visa
Indeed, the Bahamas is among the first countries to issue a Visa specifically designed for digital nomads. The Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) Visa is available for remote workers, online entrepreneurs, and individuals studying remotely. With this visa, one can live in any of the Bahamas islands for up to 12 months.
At the end of the period, one can apply for a renewal of the visa if they so wish, and as long as they still meet the requirements, they stand a chance of getting an extension to their stay.
The process of applying for a Visa
To apply for a Visa to the Bahamas, one must collect a form from the nearest embassy or consulate and fill it out. The form can also be downloaded from the ministry of foreign affairs website.
Once filled, the form should be returned alongside copies of relevant documents, including a valid passport, passport photos, bank statement, police report, and a letter of recommendation.
You can apply for the BEATS visa online and make the relevant payments. It takes about a week to get feedback on the success of your application.
Requirements to qualify for BEATS Visa
The following are the requirements for one to apply for the digital nomad visa:
- A remote job or enterprise as your primary source of income. The clients you serve should be based outside the territory of the Bahamas.
- A valid Passport with more than six months remaining.
- A letter from your employer, a bank statement, or a letter from your college proving that you are financially self-sufficient.
- Health insurance that covers the Bahamas.
- Proof of not having a criminal record.
The Cost of applying for a visa
Applying the BEATS and other types of visas to visit the Bahamas costs $110 in processing fees. If you need a visa with your biometric data and features, it costs $250.
The permit fee for the BEATS visa is $1000. If you plan to travel and live with dependents such as a spouse and kids, you must pay an extra $500 each.
The difficulty as compared to the Rest of the world
Generally, it is easy to get a Visa to visit the islands, especially compared to popular destinations in Europe such as Portugal and Spain. With that stated, the difficulty depends on the country you are applying from. For example, if you are from the US, you do not even need to apply for a visa if you intend to stay for more than 90 days.
Cities and towns popular with digital nomads
There are tens of cities and towns located on the various Bahamas islands. However, none of these cities and towns has a population exceeding 250,000.
Nassau, the capital city, has a population of about 220,000 —more than 50% of the total population of the Bahamas. Other popular cities include Lucaya, with about 50,000 inhabitants, and Freeport, with a population of about 25,000.
With a valid Visa, you can live in any of the numerous towns and villages. However, as a digital nomad, you will likely be more comfortable living in the capital Nassau and Freeport city.
You can visit the other islands and cities whenever you have the time and need to explore.
Cost of living and Cost of living arbitrage
The cost of living in the Bahamas can be extremely high, depending on where you come from. For example, according to data from Numbeo, a website that tracks the cost of living around the globe, consumer Prices in the Bahamas are 26.56% higher than in the United States when rent is excluded.
When rent is part of the cost, consumer Prices are 10.87% higher in the Bahamas than in the United States. Groceries cost 4.65% higher in the Bahamas than in the United States, and restaurants will charge you 40.09% more than in the United States.
Indeed, rent is the only meaningful cost lower in the Bahamas than in the US. On average, you will pay 14.89% less than in the United States. Nevertheless, if you have young children, you are likely to pay 70% less in childcare costs in the Bahamas than in the US.
Meanwhile, the local purchasing power in the Bahamas is 55.55% lower than in the United States.
Cost of dinner ranges between $10 and $50 in an inexpensive restaurant. A beer costs between $3 and $6, while a loaf of white bread goes for about $5.
You can move around the islands using boats and airplanes. Within major cities, particularly in Nassau, you can use buses to move around. The fair per route costs $1.25 to $3.50 per person.
You can also use a taxi, which costs about $3 for the first quarter mile and fifty cents for each additional quarter mile. If you prefer hiring a car, that will cost you about $100 a day.
The monthly rent of a furnished one-bedroom in the city center is about $1000. A similar dwelling slightly outside the city center goes for $900. A three bedrooms apartment costs $2400 and $2500 respectively.
The major towns, particularly Nassau, are home to several hotels and resorts ranging from 2 to five stars. The most popular include Margaritaville Beach Resort, Sandyport Beach Resort, and Breezes Resort & Spa Bahamas.
Of course, if you plan to stay for up to a year, you are better off renting a flat through local real estate agents. You also can rent through Airbnb, especially for shorter stays and when exploring other parts of the country.
According to stats from the world bank, over 90% of the people in the Bahamas access the internet. That means you are likely to have access to the internet in most cities, towns, and islands in the country.
The average download speed in the country is 5 Megabits per second (Mbps), which is slow. However, it is important to point out that this is the average download speed. You will likely get a download speed exceeding 100mbps in Nassau and other major towns.
The internet is accessible through broadband and also mobile networks. The average price for a gigabyte of data in the Bahamas is about $6.
It is important to note that the electric power infrastructure is designed to feed devices 120 volts and 60 Hz. You may need to get an adapter for your electronic device.
Best coworking spaces
If you are a team choosing to relocate your operations to the Bahamas, renting an office space might be the best option. You can do this through local real estate agents.
As an individual, however, you might opt to find a coworking space. This is especially ideal if you want to interact with other digital nomads from various parts of the world. Nassau’s most popular coworking spaces include Incudesk, Equinox Business center, and Crypto Isle.
The monthly charges for the coworking space range from $50 for open-plan seating to $600 for a private office.
There is a growing crypto community in the Bahamas. The islands regularly host crypto, including some that grab global attention. In May 2022, the first FTX/SALT Crypto Bahamas conference was held, and some of those in attendance included Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.
You might not get the same size of the digital nomad crowd in Nassau as in Lisbon, Portugal, or Canggu, Indonesia
Nomad Expat Community
Being a popular travel and vacation destination, the Bahamas does get visited by remote workers. It is a bit expensive for the average digital nomad. That means you might not get the same size of the digital nomad crowd in Nassau as in Lisbon, Portugal, or Canggu, Indonesia.
Local Nomad Job Opportunity
There are few opportunities locally due to a small crowd of digital nomads on the islands and the fact that the Bahamas is a small country.
Popular recreational activities and fun spots
When it comes to recreation, you have a long list to choose from. You can spend your afternoon in the sun on the white and pink sandy beaches. In the evenings, you can visit one of the many nightclubs and bars on most islands popular with tourists.
You can also go snorkeling, kiteboarding, kayaking, deep-sea fishing, playing with dolphins, or on boat rides. You can also go for nature walks in one of several conserved parks.
Security and safety
The Bahamas is not homogenous when it comes to crime. Much of the crime happens in the capital city Nassau, and most reported cases are pickpocketing and exhortation.
Even in the capital, there is less crime in the islands known as the Family or Out Islands, which include Abacos, Andros, Eleuthera, and Exumas. The more violent part of Nassau is New Providence and the ‘Over-the-Hill’ community (south of Shirley Street).
Crime against visitors is not as high as that of locals. However, to be safe, one needs to take necessary precautions.
Dos and don’ts
- Avoid parts of the town with the high crime rate
- Don’t walk at night, especially in areas not frequented by foreigners
- Avoid using public transport at night
- Avoid carrying valuables such as jewelry, camera, watches, or large amounts of cash.
The cultural norms of the Bahamas are closely related to those of its neighbor to the northwest (the United States).
The Bahamas is a fairly open society. While most of the population professes Christianity, it accommodates people who hold other faiths or are not religious. Indeed, religion is hardly a topic you will be expected to discuss while in the country.
How you might be expected to behave
In the Bahamas, you can be yourself for the most part. This society has learned to cater to the needs of tourists and travelers from different parts of the world. There are no extreme restrictions on how you should dress, for example.
Cultural dos and don’ts
Some of the cultural and customary practices you should observe:
- Use surnames more when addressing people. In the Bahamas, it is more acceptable to use surnames instead of first names.
- Away from the beach, be a little more modest with your clothes. Nothing extreme, but just be covered to some extent while in public.
- Keep time whenever you plan to meet someone or you have a restaurant reservation. Coming even a little might be interpreted as being rude.
- The majority of the population professes Christianity, and it’s something they hold dear. It is, therefore, better if you don’t broach the topic, especially to avoid sounding offensive.
Political and economic stability
The Bahamas is a stable democracy. Even though the country has a turbulent past, it has grown to be one of the most politically stable in the region.
The nature of politics and government
The government is formed through the people’s will, and civil rights and liberties are generally respected. The head of state is the monarch of the UK, and the head of government is an elected prime minister.
The country is among the wealthiest in the Americas. It has an income per Capita of about $28000, putting it in the top 50 in the global ranking on this economic indicator.
Language and language barriers
The locals speak a dialect of English known as Bahamian Creole, which might be challenging for outsiders to understand
The Bahamas is a former British colony and still a Commonwealth member. English is both the official and the national language. Indeed, nearly every native is competent in speaking the language.
Other languages spoken
However, it is important to note that the locals speak a dialect of English known as Bahamian Creole, which is challenging for outsiders to understand. However, this is a dialect mostly used among the locals.
There is also a huge community of people who migrated to Haiti. These people speak a local dialect of the Caribbean (Haitian) Creole. Nevertheless, most of those who speak this language are also fluent in standard English.
Health and Vaccination
The Bahamas is not particularly known to have a high prevalence of a particular disease. It is, however, known to have a high number of mosquitoes, especially in the months after high rainfall.
Common insects spread diseases
The mosquitoes in the Bahamas are known to spread the Chikungunya virus and Dengue Fever.
The best way to protect yourself from these diseases is to use sleeping nets. You should also use insect repellants, mostly at dawn and dusk.
Health Care Cost
There are three major public hospitals in the Bahamas and two major private hospitals. Hospitals need payment upfront before they can render any care. It is, therefore, important to have cash even if you have insurance coverage. The hospital usually reimburses you later if you have medical insurance coverage.
Before traveling to the Bahamas, it is recommended to get vaccinations against diphtheria, polio, tetanus, and measles.
Telephone and internet plans
There are two mobile operators in the Bahamas: BTC and Aliv.
How to register for a Sim card
To get the Sim card, you need to go to the operators’ official stores, which are available in Nassau and the other major urban centers. The store will require you to provide two identification documents, such as a passport and a driving license so that they can register your sim card, a mandatory requirement. The sim card costs $15 for BTC and 30$ for the Aliv one.
Mobile phone plans and cost
While both BTC and Aliv have equal coverage and speed, the latter is considered cheaper by the locals in terms of call charges and the prices of data plans.
The BTC monthly plan, known as the Combo bundle, costs about $60. It includes 10GB of data, 3000 minutes of on-net calls, unlimited access to Facebook and WhatsApp, and unlimited minutes of calls to the US and Canada.
The largest monthly plan by Aliv costs $140, and it includes 100 gigabytes of data, 7500 on-net call minutes, and 7500 off-net call minutes.
The population of ex-pats
A significant portion of the population in the Bahamas is expatriates and migrants. According to the 2010 census, nearly 70,000 immigrants (20% of the population) live in the Bahamas.
A significant number of the expatriates consists of Americans who have chosen the archipelago as their retirement home. Besides, over 7 million tourists visit every year.
All these mean that as a digital nomad in the country, you will likely meet and network with people from many backgrounds.
Payment services and infrastructure
The Bahamas is a major center of the global financial industry. That also translates to a highly developed financial infrastructure that those in the archipelago can use.
Popular domestic payment services
It is easier to pay using payment cards, traveler’s cheques, and personal checks for major payments such as booking a hotel or renting a car. You can also use checks to pay for rent. For smaller purchases, you are better of with physical cash in the form of the Bahamian dollar (BSD)
Accessible international payment services
Payment cards supported by Visa and MasterCard payment processors work in the Bahamas. You can also use crypto on the islands, and to spend it in hotels, stores, and other establishments, you need to get a crypto debit such as the Club Swan one.
To receive international payments, you could get a dollar or a Euro account, which makes your transactions easier, especially for your clients. The local banks can give you dollar or Euro accounts, but you can also get them through international services such as Club Swan.
Currencies and exchange rates
The Bahamas’ currency is known as the Bahamian dollar (BSD). It exchanges with the US dollar at a rate of 1:1.
With that being the case, you can make payments in US dollars in many stores and restaurants around the country. In particular, you can pay with payment cards issued elsewhere as long as Visa or Mastercard supports them.
Transport infrastructure and services
The Bahamas is connected to global air travel through four international airports on four islands. To travel from one island to another, motor boats and jetskis are convenient means of transport. There are also sea planes that fly between the islands.
Availability and reliability of public transport
There are buses on the main streets of the major towns. These buses, however, do not usually operate past 6 PM. It is also the case that they do not pick and drop in most locations you might be going to.
In the major cities, particularly Nassau, the primary means of transport are taxis. These are readily available on the streets and where many people congregate.
The taxi-hailing apps such as Uber do not work in the Bahamas. That means the only way to get a taxi is to flag one driving by or call a taxi company and request one.
It is common for taxi drivers to charge you exorbitantly. It is, therefore, important to know the distance of your ride beforehand and to understand the driver on the charges before getting into their vehicle.
Climate and seasons
The Bahamas is generally warm and sunny throughout the year. However, the archipelago is generally dry between November and June. Meanwhile, a significant amount of rainfall is experienced between July and December.
During and immediately after the wet season, there is an increased amount of mosquitoes. It is, therefore, important to take the necessary measures to protect yourself from these insects.
The Bahamas, in general, is huge on seafood, especially conch meat. However, going by its popularity as a tourist destination, many restaurants, especially in Nassau, offer a wide range of cuisines. That ranges from Italian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican, and others.
Tax requirements on digital nomads
Digital nomads in the Bahamas are not required to pay income and capital gain taxes. However, that does not mean they are not legible to pay taxes in their home countries.
That can change, however, if you make the Bahamas your tax residence. This, in return, is achievable if you qualify and get the Bahamas permanent residency certificate, whose major qualifications are to invest more than $500000 and spend more than 90 days in the country in a year.
Medical Insurance options
Indeed, having medical coverage that includes the Bahamas is one requirement you must fulfill before you qualify for the digital nomad Visa. That means it is up to you to shop and find an insurance service provider in your home country or elsewhere that will cover you while you stay in the archipelago.
The most common concerns about staying in the Bahamas include the following:
- An inefficient public transport system
- Taxi drivers who are always looking to overcharge
- Mosquitoes, especially in the wet months
- Pickpockets, thieves, and robbers
- Poor quality sea transport equipment
- High cost of living
Generally, the Bahamas is a digital nomad-friendly country. It has great internet coverage, a wide range of recreational activities to choose from, coworking spaces, and many ex-pats to interact and network with.