The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is a country in the West Indies that sits just to the east of the Florida panhandle. It is part of the Lucayan Archipelago, consisting of over 700 different islets, cays, and islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Christopher Columbus is credited as being the first European to see the islands, making landfall in 1492.
The Bahamas became a crown colony of the British in 1718 due to British efforts to reduce piracy problems in the area. After the war with America resolved later in the century, loyalists came to the island to resettle on plantations offered from land grants. Slavery was common in this period, with the trade not being abolished until 1834. In the years that followed, the nation would become a safe haven for those freed from bondage.
It wouldn’t be until 1973 when the Bahamas would become an independent commonwealth realm. Elizabeth II was named as the queen over the archipelago. There have only been four different prime ministers since then that have governed the island and its booming economy.
If you are thinking about moving to this lovely country, then there are several pros and cons of living in the Bahamas that you will want to review.
List of the Pros of Living in the Bahamas
1. The people in the Bahamas are exceptionally friendly.
When you start living in the Bahamas, you will notice immediately that the environment is warm and friendly from a social standpoint. There is an ability to be happy on these islands even when someone doesn’t own much. Part of this attitude is due to their dependence on a robust religious faith, but there is a natural charm that comes through as well. You will find people smiling and greeting you when you pass by, even if they are strangers. Some groups even practice an attitude where they help one another at any coast.
2. It is really easy to start meeting people in the Bahamas.
There are large expat communities in the Bahamas that make it very simple to start meeting new people and making friends. It doesn’t take long to find new groups that hold the same interests as you do when you start living on the islands. The communities tend to be smaller and close-knit because of the geography of the nation, so there is a real feeling of small-town charm that you can enjoy.
There are formal groups for you to join that will also help with the social nature of life in the Bahamas. You can find everything from rugby leagues to culinary gatherings so that it doesn’t feel like you’re all alone.
3. The beaches in the Bahamas are stunning.
Some of the best beaches in the world are found in the Bahamas. You can swim right up to the corals, enjoy snorkeling, or go diving almost whenever you want. There are numerous opportunities to view sea life right from the shore. You don’t need to go to the tourist beaches to have a great time either. There are plenty of quiet spots where it might only be you and the waves as you enjoy some sunshine on a warm afternoon.
Don’t forget to visit Cable Beach and anything along Nirvana Beach to enjoy a truly authentic Bahamian experience.
4. There are some excellent schools in the Bahamas.
If you are moving to the Bahamas, one of the strongest recommendations that you’ll receive is to settle near Sandyport. Many families come to this Nassau community because of its proximity to several excellent schools. You’ll be 15 minutes or less of driving time away from the amenities that you need for a comfortable life. Several international schools are in the area from which to choose. You are pretty much forced into sending children to a private institution, but the cost is generally manageable.
5. The Bahamas offers a laid-back lifestyle for you to enjoy.
You will discover that the pace of life in the Bahamas is much slower than most of the rest of the world. Many people enjoy the fact that you can take a step back, have time to breathe, and reduce the frenetic pace of the modern lifestyle. It is an easy way to relax so that stress doesn’t impact your life as directly. This advantage can lead to some service issues, like not getting your water line installed when someone told you it would be, but there are fewer issues with long, tiring days because of this attitude as well.
6. Hurricanes are taken seriously in the Bahamas.
Tropical storms and hurricanes can impact the Bahamas every so often. Hurricane Dorian is the most recent example, with its Category 5 strength bringing sustained winds of more than 185 miles per hour. Wind gusts were up to 220 mph. It was the strongest storm of its type to impact Great Abaco and Grand Bahama. Although you will have the threat of these weather events to think about if you start living here, the building codes have improved dramatically since Hurricane Floyd blew through in 1999. You’ll still want to make sure the property comes with storm-resistant construction for the safest possible experience.
7. Most rental properties in the Bahamas are already furnished.
When you decide to move to the Bahamas, then you should leave your furniture and appliances behind. It is very unusual to find a place for rent that doesn’t include furnishings and the other essentials you required. You can always go to a Rooms to Go or a Furniture Plus to obtain items that might be missing in your space. Talk to your real estate agent or potential property manager about what is already available on the property so that you know what you’ll need to bring for the move.
8. The tax situation in the Bahamas is positive for most people.
There is no income tax in the Bahamas that you’ll need to worry about when you start living here. You won’t have a capital transfer tax, an estate tax, or even a capital gains tax. When you have a job, then you’ll contribute to the national insurance at a rate of 3.9%. Employers pay 5.9%, which means a self-employed opportunity requires you to pay both. Even with the 7.5% VAT that began in 2015, you’ll find that your money can stretch a little further here than in comparable places around the world. As long as you avoid the duties on imported goods, the tax savings can often make up for the higher cost of living that you’ll experience.
Non-resident incorporated business entities and offshore agencies are usually exempt from business license fees. Many can avoid the stamp duty too.
9. Establishing residency in the Bahamas is rather simple.
You can enter the Bahamas as a visitor for up to two months. During your stay on the islands, you are permitted to apply for a residence permit from the Department of Immigration. You can apply for an annual one, permanent residency, or a homeowner’s card. If you choose the first option, then you can apply based on a rental or lease agreement. If you chose the ownership option, then the value of your purchase must be above $250,000. Since the Bahamian dollar is usually pegged to the U.S. greenback, so the cost is the same as if you made a purchase in the States.
If the value of your property is $1.5 million or more, you can receive a response to your application in 21 days or less. Most people can establish citizenship after seven or more years of residency if they meet the immigration requirements.
List of the Cons of Living in the Bahamas
1. Living in the Bahamas means dealing with a high cost of living.
Nassau has a very high cost of living of which you need to be aware of before moving to the Bahamas. Renting a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home with enough space for everyone can easily top $3,500 per month. You might have an electricity bill that tops $400 per month. You’ll be paying between $4 to $5 per gallon for the fuel you need for your vehicle. Pretty much all of your groceries, unless they are local, are going to be about double the cost that you currently pay.
You can manage some of these expenses by purchasing items in bulk and reducing the times you go to a restaurant for a meal. It is going to cost significantly more than some communities, even in the United States, to start living here.
2. Crime in the Bahamas can be a significant problem.
The U.S. government recommends that all citizens exercise caution when living in the Bahamas because of the crime rate. Violent incidents are common, even in tourist areas and during daylight hours. There are places like the Sand Trap in Nassau where personnel are not allowed to visit because of reported incidents. You will need to be aware of your surroundings and ensure that you’re not venturing into unsafe neighborhoods. Most people can stay safe by practicing some common sense.
Most of the incidents tend to involve domestic violence or drug-related activities, but it can be easy enough to get caught up in the fray when issues occur.
3. Some people struggle to adapt to the laid-back lifestyle.
There are some people who love the idea of living in a place like the Bahamas where life slows down. Others prefer a faster pace to their day and don’t mind coping with potentially stressful incidents. The idea of going with the flow tends to be one of the most challenging issues that expats face when they start living on the islands. Nothing gets done in a rush. Some people even say that the work ethic on the islands is somewhat lacking. That leads to a lack of professionalism in areas that need swift attention, such as customs duties, manufacturing, or even activities for children.
4. There are minimal elder care services available.
There are few resources available in the Bahamas for families in need of elder care services. If you have a family member who requires assistance, then you are going to become their caregiver. There are no properly licensed home-care resources available on the islands. Medical care can also be problematic for some challenging diagnoses, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. You can always hire someone from outside of the country for these needed services, but then it would be up to you to obtain work permits for them.
This disadvantage could also apply to anyone with physical or developmental disabilities. If you or someone in your family requires specialized care, then living in the Bahamas might not be the best choice right now.
5. You will need to source your large home items on the islands.
When you decide to make the move to the Bahamas, then you’ll want to bring along the small goods at home that help to create a comfortable life. Packing your core kitchen items, some good linens, and your favorite towels is what you’ll want to do. Bringing along your clothing and a few personal effects will help the new place feel welcoming too. Because of the high cost of duties that you’ll pay when bringing things over, you’ll want to purchase your furniture and appliances upon arrival.
Make sure that you itemize the items in your container to include their exact prices instead of relying on the inspection to do it. You’ll save several thousand dollars by taking the extra time to do so.
6. Get used to higher levels of traffic after moving.
One of the best examples of this potential disadvantage of moving to the Bahamas involves Paradise Island. People love it there, and the destination is a mecca of tourism for the country. You’ll quickly discover that there are very few daily services there that will help you to establish a home. There’s online one bridge onto the island and one that goes away from it, so it is not unusual to spend 2-3 hours in traffic to accomplish basic chores. Most places on the island will require extra time in traffic than what you’re likely used to experiencing.
7. You will need to find a job before moving to the islands.
You cannot apply for a work permit by yourself if you’re thinking about a move to the Bahamas. Only your future employer as the authority to submit the paperwork to the government on your behalf. There are some gray areas about coming to the islands on a tourist visa to start working, but the high cost of living almost necessitates getting a job offer first.
The law of the Bahamas is that you can only obtain a work permit if there is evidence that no Bahamian can perform your job. Since there are no licensing requirements or standards in place for many industries, you’ll find that almost everyone works as a contractor or in the construction industry.
8. Island fever is a real issue that you’ll want to manage.
Anyone who has spent time living in the Bahamas will tell you that there are times when you need to plan an escape. That means you’ll need to budget some extra money each month to make that happen. Getting off of the islands just to go shopping can feel like a holiday adventure. Most expats plan a trip to West Palm Beach about 3-4 times per year for medical treatments and other needs that they might have. Expect tickets to be in the $500 range if you book well enough in advance.
9. Overcrowding is a significant issue in the Bahamas.
Housing can often be challenging to find because there are almost 400,000 people living in the commonwealth. That’s one of the reasons why the places that are available are at a rent that is unusually high. The government is taking measures to create more space for expats and locals, but it is a project that is already 20 years old and making minimal progress for people in the lower Middle Class or below. This disadvantage is even worse for the most popular gated communities that you’ll find in Port New Providence, Old Ford, Lyford Cay, and Nassau.
The Bahamas might be small, but it provides a significant economic resource to the entire region. It is one of the richest countries in the Americas, coming in behind only the United States and Canada. Most of its economy is based on offshore finance and tourism. Its location off the coast of Florida helps to establish these sectors for the islands.
There are several excellent reasons why moving to the Bahamas makes sense. It could also be a challenging experience for anyone who is unprepared or doesn’t have an employment opportunity that reflects the higher cost of living.
The pros and cons of living in the Bahamas are essential to review if you plan to visit the islands for more than a couple of weeks. Keep each key point in mind during your stay so that you can maximize your enjoyment.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.