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A Travel Guide to Grand Bahama.

A Travel Guide to Grand Bahama.

Looking for a destination teeming with exciting parties and nights that never end? Well sorry, but heading to Grand Bahama is not that kind of trip. But if relaxing on beautiful quiet beaches, interacting with exotic wildlife and indulging in delicious food is what stokes your travel fire, then this little out-island paradise may be just what you’re looking for.
Grand Bahama is the northernmost of all the islands of the Bahamas and is the 4th largest in the archipelago. Although it is not the most energetic of all the Bahamian islands, it does offer the typical tropical charm of the other islands and is only a 3 hour boat ride or a 40 minute flight from Florida. Having been here for an extended period of time I will admit that the island does not offer the daily upbeat rhythm one might find in other more lively Caribbean cities; however I believe it is a good option for a quick trip to get away from it all. The island attracts a fair amount of tourists, most of who arrive via cruise ship, but does offer a more intimate alternative to Nassau since it is less crowded. So if you plan to give Grand Bahama a try on your next visit to the Bahamas here are a few tips to consider.

 

Things to do:

Port Lucaya Marketplace– This marketplace is one of the biggest tourist hotspots in Grand Bahama. It offers a central place where visitors can enjoy duty free shopping as well as restaurants of varied cuisines including Bahamian, Japanese, Latin fusion, Greek and more. It also features colourful and quaint craft shops where tourists can stock up on Bahamian souvenirs. The Port Lucaya Marketplace also offers a little bit of nightlife as the bars and restaurants attract a mix of tourists and the locals who come out to listen to local bands play music, on occasion, or to enjoy karaoke and tapas.

Port Lucaya Marketplace entrance.

 

The picturesque boat dock inside the marketplace.

 

Craft shops to stock up on souvenirs.

 

The Beaches– The best part of getting away from it all is being able to relax on a quiet beach. That is definitely one of the charms of Grand Bahama. I have never seen what one would call a crowded beach since I’ve been here and if you’re lucky you may just have an entire stretch of white sand beach all to yourself. The best part is the beaches are free! Beaches to try include Paradise Cove Beach, Taino Beach, Barbary Beach, Fortune Beach and Lucayan Beach among others. Some of these beaches provide opportunities for water sports or boat rides.

Lucayan Beach is one of the many beaches which offer water sports. Jet Skis anyone?

 

Fortune Beach.

 

Gorgeous pathway into Fortune Beach. Had to take this shot!

 

Nature Tours– Another highlight of Grand Bahama are the wonderful experiences it offers through Eco-tourism. There are many nature tour companies that will offer activities such as kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, bird watching and excursions via bike or jeep.

Snorkeling with the sting rays out by Sandy Cay.

 

Boat dock out by Old Bahama Bay. Let’s set sail!

 

Money:

The Bahamas uses Bahamian Dollars (BSD), however it is the equivalent of the United States Dollar (USD) so US dollars are accepted everywhere. When making any purchases tourists can ask to have their change given in US dollars as most businesses are happy to oblige if they have it available.

 

Getting around:

Unfortunately Grand Bahama does not have the most reliable public transportation, and almost everyone on the island gets around via personal vehicle. If you are visiting as a tourist, there are jeep and car rental companies to provide you with transportation if you want to discover the island on your own.

 

Where to stay:

There are a few hotel choices on the island including Paradise Cove Beach Resort, Pelican Bay Hotel and The Grand Lucayan. It is worth mentioning however that the Grand Lucayan is conveniently positioned as it is just by Lucayan Beach and directly across from the Port Lucaya Marketplace.

 

Food:

If you are not familiar with Bahamian cuisine then I should let you know that the one thing you must try while in the Bahamas is conch. Bahamian cuisine features conch in so many forms; cracked conch, steamed conch, conch fritters, conch salad and the list goes on. I also highly recommend their fried fish as well as their crab rice. Some good spots to try local food include Pepperpot, Sire’s, Silk Café, and Smith’s Point Fish Fry.

Delicious Bahamian conch fritters!

 

Climate:

The weather in Grand Bahama is mostly warm, however it does get quite chilly around the winter months. I was quite surprised when I experienced temperatures as low as 12 degrees Celsius.

12 Ways to stress less during travel.

12 Ways to stress less during travel.

Traveling is not without its hiccups, but many of them are quite avoidable. Here are a few tips to consider when roaming:

 

  1. Be informed on all requirements for travel– Think a visa is all the documentation you might need to consider for your trip? There are actually several other potential requirements for travel that may slip your attention. These can range from mandatory vaccines with accompanying documents to minimum cash requirements for entry to particular countries. Some countries, like Cuba, even require you to have some form of travel insurance to be allowed entry. So to avoid anything killing your travel buzz upon arrival at your destination, ensure you are fully prepared for all requirements that their immigration might have. This can be done by simply visiting the immigration website of your particular destination or paying a visit to their local embassy or consulate to get all the necessary details.

 

  1. Don’t over pack– Packing your fabulously green-eye worthy 6 inch heels for your upcoming trip to see Machu Picchu just in case you need it may turn out to be a bit of an overkill. It is essential in travel to pack only what you know you will need, especially if you are going somewhere that you will have to figure out how to get around on your own. A good tip is to plan your outfits ahead of time for the days you will be traveling so you avoid packing “options” that create unnecessary weight for you to lug around in transit. It really worsens your jet lag if you are also sore the following day from pulling heavy suitcases and hand luggage through train/bus stations and large airports. Ease of movement is a virtue during travel.

 

  1. Keep all documents in a central location– Another issue that can really cause unnecessary stress during travel is not being able to conveniently locate particular necessary documents. It makes things much simpler to have a single folder or envelope where all your travel paperwork is kept. This helps for easier organization during travel and removes unnecessary worry in locating documents. It also lessens the likelihood of losing any important papers during the journey.

 

  1. Bring a meal for the journey– A hungry Roaman is an angry Roaman and unfortunately not all flights offer meal service, so bringing a meal for the trip is a good solution to have you happy and energized upon arrival to your destination. It’s no secret either that airports can be unbelievably expensive, so bringing your own food can help to avoid any unnecessary spending. This is a good way to stretch your travel budget and you will end up having more money for activities or even buying souvenirs on your travels. Ensure of course that your meal is not excessively liquid, such as soups or chowders, as airport security is unlikely to allow you to take it with you on the flight.

 

  1. Dress for the occasion– I know, I know, looking fabulous during your trip is part of the fun, especially for my Jamaican people; but the way you dress can really complicate the experience of traveling. It is best to avoid excessive jewellery, belts or complicated shoes (e.g. strappy gladiators) when going through airports. With airport security being the way it is today, these items are more of a hindrance than an accessory during travel since you will end up having to remove them anyway. Try to dress comfortably with shoes that are easily removed and replaced. This makes security check go quicker and it is far less of a hassle when you have to put yourself back together once you are cleared. The same principle applies to sightseeing; doing a 3 hour tour of Berlin in high heels, for example, is certain to put a damper on the experience.

 

  1. Take advantage of long layovers– One of the pitfalls of traveling, especially as it concerns cheap travel deals, is the lengthy wait during some connecting flights. If possible, turn this potentially boring and tedious wait into a plus for your travels by checking for any interesting places to visit during the layover that are close to the airport. This is a way to really maximize your travel experience and you actually get more bang for your buck by including layover cities into your sightseeing schedule.

 

  1. Keep yourself entertained– Traveling is meant to be fun and exciting so try to keep this vibe going as best as possible throughout the journey. To avoid boredom on long flights, plan ahead by creating a playlist of your favourite songs to listen to on the flight, or compile a few movies you’d like to watch (planes never play anything I really want to see). Also, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with your neighbour on the plane; I’ve had many fun experiences connecting with people on long flights and on overnighters at the airport. This will definitely make your overall experience during the trip more positive and allow you to arrive at your destination in that happy vacation mood.

 

  1. Do as the Roamans do– It can be a little daunting traveling to a country where no one speaks your language or where their customs are dramatically different from your own. Try doing some prior research on your destination and get to know the nuances of that particular culture (this is especially good for avoiding potentially awkward situations and offensive acts). It is also very helpful to bring with you a dictionary or travel book specific to your destination to avoid any hiccups that a language barrier might cause. An awesome alternative to books is to download a free translation app (e.g. Google Translate) that can readily provide you with useful translated phrases as you need them.

 

  1. Start the visit by relaxing– After arriving, try to make your first activity the most relaxing one of the trip. Overexerting yourself after hours in transit, pulling luggage and getting yourself settled at your hotel/hostel will really take its toll and your body will definitely pay for it the following day. A great start to your trip would be to schedule a relaxing activity such as lounging somewhere serene, whether a park, poolside, beach or garden. Even sitting down to a sumptuous meal followed by a long nap is a good way to re-energize yourself for all the sightseeing and various activities to come. Relaxing first will also allow your body to recover much quicker from any jet lag you may be experiencing after arrival.

 

  1. Stay oriented– So you turn up to your destination and realize you have no clue what is important to see or how to even get around. A quick visit to the local tourist office or the information desk at the airport of your destination is a good solution to this problem. These are good options for locating anything from maps of the town to bus or tram schedules, so this is a nice first stop upon arrival. Free brochures of your destination are also often provided at these offices and they make nice keep sakes from your trip.

 

  1. Avoid overspending– Nothing kills your buzz faster, after returning home, than looking at your bank balance and experiencing instant depression because you realize you’ve overspent; but there are ways to really stretch how far your money goes while traveling. Two things that really worked for me were touring pedestrian style and using local supermarkets to stretch my food budget. I know walking is never a first choice for many, but it really is a wonderfully cheap way to explore your destination, especially if the town you’re visiting is pedestrian friendly. You also get to see so much more of the location while saving on fare for transportation (and burning calories to boot). Using supermarkets on my travels saves me from having to go to restaurants for all my daily meals. A good formula I’ve used is to book a hotel or hostel that includes at least a free breakfast, go to the supermarket to buy items to make a cheap lunch, and then visit a local eatery for dinner. This way you don’t blow through a lot of your money by going to restaurants for all meals, and supermarkets are a great option if you’re traveling in a group and want to dine picnic style with your friends.

 

  1. Try these souvenir ideas– Buying souvenirs can turn into quite the costly venture and can be especially problematic after you’ve just spent most of your money on different activities during your trip. Some fairly affordable options to take back for friends and family include the following:
  • Spices– This is an especially great idea for visits to places that specialize in particular spices such as countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia or the Caribbean. A good tip is to buy a fair amount of spices that you can then split up among your loved ones when you return home.
  • Candy/Snacks– Most countries have some form of candies or snacks that are typical to them and they make excellent low cost souvenirs to take home. For example gizzadas, grater cakes and coconut/peanut drops are wonderful sweet snacks to bring back from your visit to Jamaica. Chocolate is a good idea if you’re in Switzerland and my Mexican friend Nancy introduced me to cajeta, which is a yummy caramel candy typical to Mexico.
  • Coins– Why not put your change to good use? It’s very rare that you get to spend every last cent of your foreign currency on your travels, so using your left over coins as souvenirs is a convenient way to share memorabilia from your trip with your friends and family.
  • Keychains– These are another inexpensive option for souvenirs to take home. I’ve gotten Eiffel Tower keychains in Paris for as low as 2.50 euro for 10, so give these a try.