Planning

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Planning

When to Go

With the warm Gulf Stream currents swirling and balmy trade winds blowing, New Providence is an appealing year-round destination. Temperatures usually hover in the 70s and 80s and rarely get above 90°F on a midsummer's day or below 60°F on a winter's night. June to October tend to be the hottest and wettest months, although rain is often limited to periodic afternoon showers.

The best time to visit the island is December to May, especially if you're escaping the cold. Don't mind the locals, who'll likely tell you it's too chilly to hit the beach in winter, but you may want to pack a light sweater if you plan on dining outdoors. Visitors from colder climates may find the humid summer days and nights a bit stifling. Be aware that tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes are a possibility in New Providence during the Atlantic hurricane season from early June to late November. Expect to pay between 15% and 30% less off-season at most resorts.

Top Festivals

Winter

Bahamas International Film Festival. In early December, the Bahamas International Film Festival in Nassau celebrates cinema in paradise, with screenings, receptions, and movie-industry panels.

Authentically Bahamian Christmas Trade Show. The Authentically Bahamian Christmas Trade Show on Cable Beach showcases conch-shell jewelry, straw handbags, batiks, and other island-made crafts the first weekend of December.

Christmas Jollification. This ongoing arts-and-crafts fair with Bahamian Christmas crafts, food, and music is held at the Retreat in Nassau.

Junior Junkanoo Parade. The island's schoolchildren compete for bragging rights in the Junior Junkanoo Parade in mid-December. The parade starts at 6 pm and kids in preschool through high school rush down Bay Street, putting on an exciting show.

Junkanoo. Once Christmas dinner is over, the focus shifts to Junkanoo. The first major parade of the season starts just after midnight in downtown Nassau. There's a second parade on New Year's Day.

Spring

International Dog Show & Obedience Trials. In Nassau, watch dogs of all classes compete at the International Dog Show & Obedience Trials, held mid-March. Check www.bahamaskennelclub.org for location.

Summer

Goombay Summer. Woodes Rodgers Walk is transformed during the annual Goombay Summer festival held weekends during July or August. Listen to Rake 'n' Scrape bands, watch a Junkanoo rush-out, and sample local foods.

Fox Hill Festival. The Nassau Fox Hill Festival in early August pays tribute to Emancipation with church services, Junkanoo parades, music, cookouts, games, and other festivities.

Fall

International Cultural Weekend. Eat and drink your way around the world at the International Cultural Weekend, hosted at the Botanic Gardens the third weekend of October.

Getting Here and Around

Air Travel

Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) is 8 miles west of Nassau. There is no public bus service from the airport to hotels. Major car-rental companies are represented at the airport. A taxi ride for two people from the airport to downtown Nassau costs $27; to Paradise Island, $42 (this includes the $1 bridge toll); and to Cable Beach, $25. Each additional passenger is $3, and excess baggage costs $2 a bag.

Boat and Ferry Travel

Water taxis travel between Prince George Wharf and Paradise Island during daylight hours at half-hour intervals. The one-way cost is $3 per person, and the trip takes 12 minutes.

Cruise Ship Travel

Cruise ships dock at one of three piers on Prince George Wharf. Taxi drivers who meet the ships may offer you a $2 "ride into town," but the historic government buildings and duty-free shops lie just steps from the dock area. As you leave the pier, look for a tall pink tower—diagonally across from here is the tourist information office. Stop in for maps of the island and downtown Nassau. On most days you can join a one-hour walking tour ($10 per person) conducted by a well-trained guide. Tours generally start every hour on the hour from 10 am to 4 pm; confirm the day's schedule in the office. Just outside, an ATM dispenses U.S. dollars.

As you disembark from your ship, you will find a row of taxis and air-conditioned limousines. Fares are fixed by the government by zones. Unless you plan to jump all over the island, taxis are the most convenient way to get around. The fare is $9 plus $1 bridge toll between downtown Nassau and Paradise Island, $20 from Cable Beach to Paradise Island (plus $1 toll), and $18 from Cable Beach to Nassau. Fares are for two passengers; each additional passenger is $3. It's customary to tip taxi drivers 15%.

Water taxis travel between Prince George Wharf and Paradise Island during daylight hours at half-hour intervals. The one-way cost is $3 per person, and the trip takes 12 minutes.

Bus Travel

The frequent jitneys are the cheapest choice on routes such as Cable Beach to downtown Nassau. Fare is $1.50 each way, and exact change is required. Hail one at a bus stop, hotel, or public beach. In downtown Nassau jitneys wait on Frederick Street and along the middle of Bay Street. Bus service runs throughout the day until 7 pm.

Car Travel

Rent a car if you plan to explore the whole island. Rentals are available at the airport, downtown, on Paradise Island, and at some resorts for $40–$120 per day. Gasoline costs between $5 and $6 a gallon. Remember to drive on the left.

Contacts

Virgo Car Rental (242/377–1275.)

Scooter Travel

Two people can ride a motor scooter for about $65 for a half day, $85 for a full day.

Taxi Travel

Unless you plan to jump all over the island, taxis are the most convenient way to get around. The fare is $9 plus $1 bridge toll between downtown Nassau and Paradise Island, $20 from Cable Beach to Paradise Island (plus $1 toll), and $18 from Cable Beach to Nassau. Fares are for two passengers; each additional passenger is $3. It's customary to tip taxi drivers 15%.

Contacts

Bahamas Transport (242/323–5111.)

Taxi Cab Union (242/323–5818.)

Essentials

Banks

Banks are open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 to 3 and Friday from 9:30 to 5. International ATMs are scattered throughout the island.

Embassy

U.S. Embassy (Queen St. across from British Colonial Hilton, Nassau, New Providence Island. 242/322–1181.)

Emergencies

Contacts

Ambulance (911, 919, 242/322–2881, or 242/302–4747.)

Doctors Hospital (Collins Ave. and Shirley St., Nassau, New Providence Island. 242/302–4600; 242/302–4747 ambulance. www.doctorshosp.com.)

Police (911, 919, or 242/322–4444.)

Princess Margaret Hospital (Shirley St., Nassau, New Providence Island. 242/322–2861.)

Hotels

If you want to mix with locals and experience a little more of Bahamian culture, choose a hotel in downtown Nassau. Its beaches are not dazzling; if you want to be beachfront on a gorgeous white strand, stay on Cable Beach or Paradise Island's Cabbage Beach. Reasons to stay in Nassau include proximity to shopping and affordability (although the cost of taxis to and from the better beaches can add up).

The plush Cable Beach and Paradise Island resorts are big and beautiful, glittering and splashy, and have the best beaches, but they can be overwhelming. In any case, these big, top-dollar properties generally have more amenities than you could possibly make use of, a selection of dining choices, and a full roster of sports and entertainment options. Stay in Cable Beach if you don't plan to visit Nassau and Paradise Island often; you need to take a cab, and the costs add up.

Restaurants

Foodies will delight in New Providence's restaurant range, from shabby shacks serving up the kind of food you'd find in any Bahamian's kitchen, to elegant eateries where jackets are required and the food rivals that found in any major city. You'll recognize celebrity chef names like Bobby Flay, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Nobu Matsuhisa, all of whom have restaurants on Paradise Island.

Eating out can get expensive, particularly in resort restaurants, so a budget-friendly strategy is having brunch at one of the myriad all-you-can-eat buffets at the larger hotels on Paradise Island and Cable Beach, then a light snack to hold you over until dinnertime.

Note: A gratuity (15%) is often added to the bill automatically. Many all-inclusive hotels offer meal plans for nonguests.

Hotel and Restaurant Prices

Restaurant prices are based on the median main course price at dinner, excluding gratuity, typically 15%, which is often automatically added to the bill. Hotel prices are for two people in a standard double room in high season, excluding service and 6%–12% tax.

Visitor Information

The Ministry of Tourism operates tourist information booths at the airport, open daily from 8:30 am to 11:30 pm, and at the Welcome Center (Festival Place) adjacent to Prince George Wharf, open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. The Ministry of Tourism's People-to-People Program sets you up with a Bahamian family with similar interests to show you local culture firsthand.

Contacts

Ministry of Tourism (242/302–2000. www.bahamas.com.)

People-to-People Program (242/324–9772. www. bahamas.com/peopletopeople.)

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