The Commonwealth of the Bahamas consists of 29 separate islands and has a total population of approximately 330,000, nearly 80% of which (260,000) live in the capital, Nassau.
The Bahamas are, per capita, the wealthiest nation in the Caribbean although Nassau itself does not seem particularly wealthy. The only evidence of its wealth to be found in Nassau is in the cost of living: groceries cost more than in New York City and restaurants and bars are on par with NYC. Don’t expect to pay less than $10 for a meal out anywhere except maybe McDonald’s.
Despite the cost, Nassau does present some great opportunities for the back packer or budget traveler. Buses run along the main routes constantly for very low fares making Cabs largely unnecessary (cabs are also on par with NYC prices).
Hotels are quite expensive, starting at $120 (with tax) per night during the week at the time of this writing, so spend some time shopping on-line before you go and pay attention to location. There is at least one hostel in down town Nassau which provides a cheap alternative to the hotels.
Down town Nassau boasts quite a few sites of interest as well as some relatively affordable restaurants and bars. Try Conch Fritters for lunch (try the Steamed Conch or Friend Snapper specials, both $10) and enjoy free internet (wifi as well as two desk top computer work stations available for customers, all free).
Wander around the straw market for the tourist trinkets and shop among the many duty free stores for Cuban Cigars. Prices for cigars vary greatly, including one shop in the center of the shopping area that offers any three Cubans for $20 total (including Monte Cristo and Romeo & Julieta Churchills).
Visit the Pirate Museum for some entertaining history and Ft. Charlotte for a free guided tour of 19th century Caribbean fortifications as well as wonderful panoramic views of the harbor.
Several public beaches offer great convenience to the sunbather and beach goer staying in down town, including small stands on the beach offering fabulous drinks and cheaper food. Stop by “Uncle Steve’s” on Lighthouse beach for some killer Daiquiris and an entertaining time.
Nassau isn’t the easiest Caribbean location to visit if you are on a budget, but it can be done with planning and preparation. Don’t neglect this historic city; it offers some real gems for the budget traveler.