Sugary white beaches, crystal like waters and seemingly endless sunny days make The Bahamas a picture-perfect paradise. Additionally, being only 50 km from the shores of the U.S., this chain of beautiful islands is ideal for American citizens, as one of prime vacation destinations in the Caribbean.
While The Bahamas is a visa-free destination, U.S. citizens are generally required to present a valid U.S. passport when traveling to The Bahamas, as well as proof of anticipated departure from The Bahamas. However, there are some alternative options when you take a cruise.
Picture: Sandals Emerald Bay resort in Exuma, the Bahamas.
In this article on the Sandals Blog:
U.S. visitors traveling for tourism will not need a visa for travel up to eight months. The maximum period of stay will be documented in your passport and may vary dependent on the discretion of the immigration officer at port of entry. Business travelers or tourists with longer itineraries should contact the nearest Bahamas consulate or embassy.
When crossing international borders by plane, a passport is always required - the Bahamas are no exception. Another thing to bear in mind is your passport validity, specifically the expiration date. Different countries have different laws around passport validity. Some will allow for three months validity while you travel, but most countries, including the U.S., require that your passport is valid for at least another six months while on your trip.
Let’s say you are traveling in June 2019 and your passport expires August 2019. Many countries will deem your passport to be invalid and you will be denied access into the country. As a rule of thumb, ensure your passport is valid for more than 6 months before you travel.
Most foreign countries require a certain amount of blank passport pages before traveling as an entry requirement for entry visa stamps. U.S. citizens require two blank pages. If travelers do not adhere to this requirement, some airlines will not allow you to board the plane.
Pro tip: Print out your travel itinerary and bring a photo copy of your passport. It will be of great use in case your passport gets lost or stolen. Keep the photo copy separate from the original passport.
If you are traveling by sea, you can use a passport or one of the following documents:
Picture: The Nassau Cruise port view from a cruise ship.
Even though the above are valid travel documents, the U.S. Department of State advises that all U.S. citizens travel with a valid passport in the case of unforeseen circumstances. In the event of a family, medical, personal or business emergency, where the traveler must fly back to the U.S., a passport card is not a valid travel document.
Similarly, if a cruiser does not make it back to the port and must fly to the next port to re-board the ship, they will need a passport to be eligible to fly. For this reason, we always recommend every traveler carry a valid passport anytime they leave the country.
If you are traveling to The Bahamas on a cruise that embarks and ends at the same U.S. port, you can use your government issued driver’s license or birth certificate instead of a passport. This is known as a closed-loop cruise.
As with adults, children in any age group must have a passport to travel to The Bahamas by plane.
A passport card is something between a passport and a government-issued ID card. It can only be used for land and sea travel into the US from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Canada, and Mexico. It is not valid for air travel.
For frequent travelers (traveling by land or sea only) into The Bahamas, a passport card could be considered a less expensive option. A passport for one adult will set you back $135, a passport card costs you only $55.
Passport cards are also seen as more convenient when traveling, due to its size. A passport is 5x3-1/2 inches, while the passport card is wallet-sized. This one-page card has no space for stamps or visas.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) enabled frequent international travelers to join the Trusted Traveler Program which allows members to use expedited lanes at U.S. airports and when crossing international borders.
The Trusted Traveler programs are risk-based programs to facilitate the entry of pre-approved travelers or members. These programs improve security by being more efficient during screenings and facilitate legitimate trade and travel.
Trusted Traveler programs include:
At time of publication, all of the above memberships can be used as identification when embarking on a cruise to the Bahamas. However, none of the Trusted Traveler programs will replace the passport when flying to the Bahamas.
A state-issued Enhanced Driver's License (EDL) provides travelers not only a license to drive, but also a proof of identity and citizenship when exiting and re-entering the U.S. borders. This is a card under the WHTI that has security features and technology that make travel a lot easier and safer. They provide travelers with a low-cost, convenient alternative to a passport.
Note: The Enhanced Driver's License (EDL) allows you to re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico and some countries of the Caribbean. To find out which Caribbean countries, contact the application center nearest to your state. The EDL is only accepted at land and sea border crossings, not for air travel.
The states of Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington State are currently the only states issuing these enhanced drivers licenses. This license cannot be used for air travel.
Realizing you don’t have your passport mid vacation is possibly the worst thing that could happen to anyone on their travels. Whether your luggage was stolen, or you misplaced your passport, the experience is equally as painful.
Tip: If you are staying at a Sandals resort in the Bahamas, head straight to the concierge. The friendly staff will assist you in solving this crisis.
Picture: Bahamian police officer in downtown Nassau.
Below are the necessary steps to get an emergency passport as quickly as possible:
U.S. embassy in Nassau:
42 Queen Street
Nassau, the Bahamas
Phone: +1 242-322-1181
When at the consulate, try to present as many of the following documents as possible. Even if you struggle to provide the consulate with all the documents, they will do their best to assist you with providing an emergency passport:
It is important to note that the emergency passport provided under these circumstances has a limited validity. Unlike an emergency passport which is processed by a paid for expedited service due to unforeseen circumstances, this limited-validity emergency passport will need to be replaced with a permanent passport on your return.
U.S. Citizens can enter The Bahamas visa-free for up to a maximum of eight months. On initial arrival, you will be granted a maximum period of stay by the immigration officer. If you wish to stay longer than that period, you can easily extend your stay at the immigration office:
Department of Immigration
P. O. Box N-831
Nassau, The Bahamas
Phone: +1 242-322-8504
Most tourists are not required to get special vaccinations before entering The Bahamas. The Bahamas only requires proof of Yellow Fever vaccination if you are arriving from a country where Yellow Fever is endemic or there is an outbreak. Travelers over the age of one must provide a Yellow Fever vaccination certificate, if arriving from countries with risk of Yellow Fever transmission such as...
Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Rep., Chad, Congo, Congo (Dem, Rep.) Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda.
This list is complete at time of writing, please do check whether it’s still up to date before planning your vacation to the Bahamas.
This requirement also applies to travelers having transited more than 12 hours through an airport of a country with risk of Yellow Fever transmission. In this case, you must be vaccinated 10 days before entering The Bahamas.
Visitors must declare currency and other documents or receipts of $10,000 or more upon entry and exit of The Bahamas. This can be done at the Customs and Border Protection office at the port of entry.
Disclaimer: All information on this article was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Sandals is not affiliated with immigration authorities or their application centres and will not be liable for loss or inconvenience arising from the use of this volatile information.