The Bahamas has more than 700 islands, with about two dozen of these inhabited, so it's hard to generalize about crime and safety from one place to the next. But we'll try: Statistically, Nassau is the most dangerous place in the Bahamas, followed by Grand Bahama. These two islands are where most Bahamians live, and are also the places the vast majority of tourists visit in the Bahamas.
The U.S. Department of State rates the criminal threat level for New Providence Island (Nassau) as critical, with the criminal threat level for Grand Bahama Island, which includes Freeport, rated as high. Crime in general has been rising in the Bahamas. Armed robberies, property theft, purse snatchings, and other theft of personal property are the most common crimes against tourists. The Bahamas has experienced a spike in armed robberies at gas stations, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, banks, and residences. Some robberies have resulted in shootouts on the streets of downtown Nassau.
"In previous years, most violent crimes involved mainly Bahamian citizens and occurred in 'over-the-hill' areas, which are not frequented by tourists," according to the State Department. "However, in 2011 there were numerous incidents reported that involved tourists or have occurred in areas in tourist locations.
These incidents have specifically occurred in the downtown [Nassau] areas, to include the cruise ship docks (Prince George Wharf) and the Cable Beach commerce areas." Cruise-ship passengers have reported numerous incidents of armed robberies of cash and jewelry, during both daylight and nighttime hours.
In several cases, the victims were robbed at knifepoint.
Sexual assaults have been reported in casinos, outside hotels, and on cruise ships. Criminal activity is much less common in the Out Islands but has included burglaries and thefts, particularly of boats and/or outboard motors.
Most of the 127 murder victims in the Bahamas in 2011 were native Bahamians and usually involved drugs, domestic violence, or retaliation.
Police generally respond quickly and effectively to reports of travelers being victimized by crime. Police foot patrols of tourist areas are common and visible.
To avoid becoming a victim of crime, visitors to the Bahamas are advised:
- Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol
- Don't accept rides from strangers or from unlicensed taxi drivers.
- Do not leave valuables on the beach or poolside while swimming.
- Travel in groups and use taxi cabs during the night.
- Keep an eye on your credit cards and maintain security when using an ATM to prevent unauthorized charges from stolen account and PIN numbers.
- Secure valuables in your hotel room, such as in a safe.
- Keep car doors locked and windows rolled up when driving, and don't roll down your windows for strangers.
- Don't confront or provoke criminals, most of whom carry guns or knives.
Visitors to New Providence Island should avoid "over the hill" neighborhoods south of downtown Nassau (south of Shirley Street), particularly at night.
Traffic in The Bahamas travels on the left side of the road, opposite from the United States. Many tourists have been injured because they fail to check the proper direction for oncoming traffic. Roads in Nassau are busy, drivers can aggressive or even reckless, and traffic circles can be a challenge to inexperienced drivers. Pedestrians often walk in the road, many streets lack adequate shoulders, and traffic laws are sometimes ignored by local drivers, with traffic enforcement minimal. If you drive, be wary of flooding on roads after storms.
Visitors should exercise appropriate caution when renting vehicles, including motorcycles, jet skis, and mopeds.
Travel by moped or bicycle can be hazardous, especially in Nassau. Wear a helmet and drive defensively.
Hurricanes and tropical storms can hit the Bahamas, sometimes causing significant damage.
Adequate medical care is available on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands, but more limited elsewhere, but surgical capabilities are limited. There is a chronic shortage of blood at Princess Margaret Hospital in Nassau, where most emergency surgery is performed.
General emergency numbers: 911 or 919 for police/fire/ambulance
Recommended hospitals on New Providence Island include: Doctor’s Hospital: (242) 322-8411 or 322-8418 or 302-4600
Princess Margaret:(242) 322-2861 Medical Walk-In Clinic, Colin’s Avenue, near downtown Nassau: (242) 328-0783 or 328-2744
Medical Walk-In Clinic, Sandyport Business Center, near Cable Beach: (242) 327-5485
Recommended hospitals on Grand Bahama Island include:
Sunrise Medical Center: (242)373-3333
Rand Memorial Hospital: (242) 352-6735
Lucayan Medical Center (Clinic West Freeport): (242) 352-7288
Lucayan Medical Center (Clinic East Freeport): (242) 373-7000