Your US dollars are welcome in the Bahamas (the Bahamian dollar is always on par with $US). But if you get change in Bahamian currency, be sure to exchange it for US money before you go home, because you won't be able to spend those pretty banknotes with Queen Elizabeth's portrait in the States.
Bahamians are largely conservative. Hot as it can get, it is not unusual to see men in ties and women in long, colorful dresses. Bathing suits are not proper attire in town, and you will be treated hostilely if you try it. Everything is closed on Sundays because everyone is in church. (Note: Services here can last over 3 hours at some churches.)
All beaches in the Bahamas are open to the public. No hotel/private owner can toss you off "their" beach. There are no topless/nude beaches on GBI. Even if you find an empty stretch where you can indulge, remember that the police frown upon such displays.
You'll find familiar American stores in Lucaya and downtown Freeport: Winn-Dixie, Grand Union and Burger King for example. But prepare yourself for the prices, usually 50% higher than US stores. On the other hand, the Bahamas has no sales taxes.
As a rule of thumb, you will find the friendliest, most helpful Bahamians either in the tourist enclaves or the smallest villages. In downtown, you will be treated indifferently, at best. People move slowly here, so expect grocery check-outs or dinner orders to take twice as long as back home. Most restaurants add 15% to your check, one reason servers have no incentive to speed things up; they'll get their tip whether they earn it or not.
Avoid the "rude boys", who dress like American gang-bangers. They want your money and will try to sell you something illegal (usually fake). As if you were in a big city, don't flash your cash around, secure your vehicle at all times, and lock your doors.
All over the island are the unique small block churches that are found all over the Carribbean. They all look much the same but they are not ugly they are block painted white and sit very well with the surrounding landscape. On Grand Bahama the oldest and most unique ones are on the western part of the island near eight mile rock.
Most of the locals seem to just put up with the tourist and are understandably put off by the fact that over 80% of the islands economy is based around the tourism industry. All the locals have to deal with tourist’s everyday of their lives most of whom they don't like. It is evident that the locals want to be able to support themselves without relying on outside support but they realize that they will remain poor and underpaid while working for companies that make a few people on the island and many in other nations vast sums of money. Most of the locals who own businesses catering to tourists struggle to get by and have been hurting more than usual in the last 2-3 years.
Though walking the streets in swim trunks in mid-January might sound irresistible, beach clothing is inappropriate on the streets, in churches, restaurants and casinos. In the more laid-back eastern and western areas, the dress-code is more flexible.
If you like casinos and gaming, then you'll probably want to check out the Isle of Capri Casino in Port Lucaya across from the marketplace.
Don't expect to see any Grand Bahamians playing though. They are not allowed to, theory being that they don't want to have the citizens spending all of their hard-earned dough in there when it can go back into the country. With tourism being the biggest industry, there are enough tourists to play there instead. Grand Bahamians are allowed to go on a gambling cruise 2X a year.
I was told they're always full...
I know this might seem obvious considering the fact that Bahamians drive on the left side of the road. For those of you who are used to right-side driving, take extra caution when crossing the street, etc.
This last time we were in the Bahamas, Jill and I had an opportunity to view for ourselves the enormous wealth that exists on the Grand Bahama Island.
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of poverty also. Most of the wealth is in the hands of foreigners who purchased land when it was quite "cheap" and built their vacation homes on the island.
On several occasions, Jill and I just walked behind these private beach locations; thus, we were able to see the huge mansions that were already built or were being built near the Club Fortuna Resort. Interesting, Club Fortuna was originally a privately owned home, but the man (rumor has it) went to prison because of tax evasion and drug connections.
It's always fun to stare at such enormous places; yet, I felt guilty to enjoy it so much when I had also seen the way many of the native Bahamians lived in poverty.
I found it refreshing to see the ambition of some of the Bahamian children. Instead of begging for money, candy, etc., they earned their money via entertainment.
This photo is of a young boy who set up his steel drum in the marketplace near the outdoor restaurants. What a clever concept.
He was really marvelous. We had heard steel drum performances all over the Island; however, he was almost as good as a professional.
We were delighted with his courteous behavior and marvelous talent. Thus, we tipped him well.
His smile was worth way more than the amount that we gave him.
Driving is on the left hand side of the road.
Mostly Christian population, Sunday blue laws are in effect. There are many great Churches to choose from. Bahamas people add a liveliness to worship.
Wednesday night is fish fry at Smith's Point.
Entry into the Country is VERY easy for US citizens. You need a birth certificate and photo ID.
Bahamas also has a program that hooks you up with a local family to get to know some people personally.