Ensure your impact is as positive as your experience.
When you go on vacation, you want to let loose. It’s time to indulge in delicious meals, go on adventures, and take in the beauty around you. There are people, of course, who make it all possible for you and are impacted by your visit. Here are 11 pieces of advice to heed on your next trip to the Bahamas to ensure your impact is as positive as your experience.
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Don’t Treat Us Like We’re Subhuman
Raised on small islands where everyone seems to know each other and recognizing the country’s reliance on tourism, Bahamians are hospitable people. Taxi drivers will enthrall you with stories of another time, straw market vendors will suggest a great place for lunch, and tour guides will adjust schedules based on your energy level. Don’t take any of this for granted. It is not because Bahamians are machines, made to serve you. The people on the frontlines of tourism have been trained to provide excellent service, and this is how they spend most of their waking hours. Don’t blow cigarette smoke in their faces, harass them, threaten them, or treat them like they are indebted to you. Enjoy the service and be respectful.
Don’t Forget to Tip
Most of the people you interact with on your trip are paid low wages. This means they depend on tips. Restaurants automatically add 15% gratuity to bills, but this is not a ceiling, and a portion of that gratuity usually goes to the back of the house. If you are able, please tip your servers. Taxi drivers and housekeeping staff would appreciate tips, as would tour guides and salespeople in the shops you drop by. They can go a long way, helping to pay bills or just making a small treat possible at the end of a long day.
Don’t Stiff the Packing Boys
When you shop at grocery stores in the Bahamas, you’ll notice that your items are not only packed but taken to your vehicle for you. Commonly referred to as “packing boys,” this group includes school-age children and adults. They are unwaged workers, only receiving tips from customers whose bags they pack. When they re-enter the store, they will join a line of people waiting to pack again, so please don’t have them carry your bags if you don’t intend to tip. The tip amount is up to the customer, but it is suggested that you tip them at least $2 per bag. If you decide to carry your own bags, it is still good to tip the packer. If you do not have cash or don’t want to tip, please pack your own bags.
Don’t Depend on Credit Cards
Resorts and large businesses are able to process credit card payments, but it is cost-prohibitive for small businesses because of the machine rental and the percentage taken by the bank. There are some places that are cash-only, and others that prefer to set a minimum purchase amount for credit card transactions. Be sure to check before you get to the cashier. U.S. dollars are accepted in the Bahamas and ATMs dispensing Bahamian currency are in most gas stations and at all banks. It’s also a good idea to have small bills for tipping.
Don’t Remain at the Resort
Maybe you want to be in the lap of luxury or have a couples-only experience. That’s great, and there are several options for you. Enjoy your time at the resort, but please don’t forget to leave the property. You haven’t been to The Bahamas until you’ve dined in a Bahamian-owned restaurant. Visit local attractions, purchase authentic Bahamian souvenirs from vendors, check out art galleries, and get some sun on a public beach. Resorts are foreign-owned and the money you spend does not trickle down to the local economy. Spend money off-property to have a real impact on the lives of the people who make your experience of paradise possible.
Don’t Buy Mass-Produced, Inauthentic Souvenirs
Those “Hey Mon!” shirts may look cool, but they are definitely not Bahamian. We don’t even say “mon.” If there is a Bahamian equivalent, it’s “bey.” Ask a Bahamian to say it and challenge yourself to get close to the right pronunciation. Most of the items you’ll see in downtown souvenir shops are not made in the Bahamas. Purchase quality products from straw vendors, galleries, and craft stores. Stock up on postcards, Bacardi rum cakes, handmade jewelry, and paintings. It’s worth finding the good stuff and supporting artists and Bahamian-owned businesses.
Don’t Try to Cross the Street Without Looking
This should go without saying, but tourists often wander into the street all the time without looking both ways. You may be in a small place, but there are streets and, believe me, a lot of cars. See for yourself on just about any street in the capital from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. There are a lot of people on the road, in a rush and frustrated, trying to get ahead of the cars in front of them. For your own safety, use the pedestrian crossings, and wait for cars to stop to let you cross the street.
Don’t Block Traffic With Scooters
There is something about being on an island that makes it seem like the rules don’t apply, but the Bahamas is a real place. Scooters are fun for riders, but a real nuisance for others because they are so unpredictable and often used irresponsibly. It’s best to use them in low-traffic areas. Follow the traffic rules, including using your signal, not obstructing traffic, and always parking completely off the road. Wear your helmet and have a great time safely exploring.
Don’t Feed the Pigs Beer
It may seem obvious, but getting pigs to chug beer is not a good idea. Take the trip to Exuma. It’s a great opportunity to visit another island in the Bahamas, see some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, feed iguanas, and see the world-famous swimming pigs. What you eat and drink is completely up to you, but please do not give the pigs beer. Pay attention to what the guides tell you to avoid ruining the experience for others.
Don’t Touch the Coral
Make like a mermaid and get under the sea. There is a lot to see beneath the surface of our crystal clear, turquoise waters. Choose a snorkeling or scuba diving adventure, strike cool poses, and take great photos. Just be careful not to destroy marine life. The coral are beautiful, and they are very fragile animals. They are critical to the ecosystem and help to protect coastlines. Resist the urge. Look, but don’t touch.
Don’t Demand Gratitude for Your Visit
Every Bahamian knows tourism is important to the Bahamian economy. We love the way other people love our home so much that they come back again and again. We do not, however, appreciate it when our dependence on tourism is used as leverage against us. Laws must be enforced, policies must be followed, and respect is the bare minimum. Come to the Bahamas, enjoy all we have to offer, and acknowledge that this is both a vacation for you and the home and livelihood of people.