Island Hopping Bahamas: The Options
As you know that Bahamas is a chain of many islands out of which about 30 are inhabited. So transportation in the Bahamas can be both travelling across the islands as well as within an island.
When you are planning to travel between two islands, your options could be fast air-conditioned ferries operated by 'Bahamas Ferries', or taking a domestic flight operated by the national airline 'Bahamas Air', or even a Mailboat (slow ferries which are still in operation since old days). There are many airports and airstrips across the islands (57 of them and several having 'Port of Entry' status) and all islands would have ferry docks. If you can of course charter a yacht or flight, there is no better option.
A Fast Ferry 'Seawind' operated by Bahamas Ferries
Source: Bahamas Ferries
When it comes to getting around within an island, then the transportation options vary across the islands, and becomes limited in the remote out islands.
Note that vast majority of the tourists land up in Nassau of New Providence Island and the adjacent Paradise Island. Next most popular is Grand Bahama. Rest of the out islands have limited tourist flow. As a result the public transportation system in Nassau, Paradise Island as well as in Grand Bahama are well developed with several options such as minibuses (known locally as 'Jitney'), taxi, car rentals, scooter rentals, horse drawn carriages for local sightseeing tours, bicycle rentals etc.
However in the out islands there is no bus service. Taxis are limited to few. You need to mostly depend on car or scooter rental, or even golf carts to get around (note that in several out islands the golf carts are usually available for rent by the ferry docks).
Note that renting a boat to hop around the islands in the Bahamas is not quite feasible. You may try at a marina to hitch a ride with someone, but most would be unwilling to travel with strangers.
Since Nassau is the main tourist hub in the Bahamas, most tourists fly or cruise into Nassau. Those who plan to visit Grand Bahama or some of the out islands, they avail either a flight from Nassau or a fast ferry (or sometimes mailboat service) to reach the destination. On reaching the destination, one can avail local ferry services or water taxis on that island to get to other nearby islands.
Transportation Between Islands
These are fast air-conditioned catamarans which mostly operate from Nassau to several other islands and return. This is one of the most popular yet reasonably priced option to travel between islands.
Source: Bahamas Ferries
Bahamas Ferries connect Nassau to several island destinations within the Bahamas, such as...
Nassau to Freeport, Grand Bahama
Nassau to George Town, Exuma
Nassau to Marsh Harbour, Abaco
Nassau to Fresh Creek, Andros
Nassau to Current, Eleuthera
Nassau to Governors Harbour, Eleuthera
Nassau to Harbour Island, Eleuthera
Nassau to Spanish Wells, Eleuthera
Nassau to Rock Sound, Eleuthera
Nassau to Simms, Long Island
There are also direct fast ferry connections between several pairs of the other islands, for example, between George Town (Exuma) and Simms (Long Island), Freeport (Grand Bahama) and Abaco (South Abaco Terminal), between Harbor Island, Three Island Dock and Spanish Wells of Eleuthera etc.
Source: Bahamas Ferries
NOTE: Depending on demand and prevailing situations, Bahamas Ferries change the ferry schedules as well as the destinations they serve. You can check latest schedules and book a one-way or return trip between a source and destination online through Bahamas Ferries Website
or call up their office (phone 242-323-2166) to get assistance in booking and ferry information.
The ferry service is quite regular and time of travel depends on the distance. The journey can last from couple of hours to even overnight travel depending on destination. For example average time taken from Nassau to Harbor Island in Eleuthera is about 2 hours 40 minutes with an adult one-way fare in the Main Cabin of $92 including taxes, in Voyager Class $106. Note that the round trip fares are cheaper compared to two one-way fares.
Other than island to island transfers, Bahamas Ferries also offer day-away packages from Nassau. For example a day-away package from Nassau to Harbor Island comprises of hotel pickup, roundtrip return ticket, lunch coupon worth $20, guided island tour on golf cart etc. The Harbor Island day-away package costs $225 per adult and $154 per child (package cost is indicative).
You can call 242-323-2166 or send an e-mail to [email protected]
for booking a day-away package (it can not be booked online).
While the ferry 'Bo Hengy' (shown in a picture above) can carry only passengers, some of the other ferries can carry bikes, golf carts and even cars at extra charges. The ferries can also be rented for harbor cruise to hold private group functions, parties etc.
Water Taxi Bahamas
Nassau to Paradise Island
There is a water taxi or ferry boat option for transfers between Nassau and paradise Island. These water taxis leave every 30 minutes from the Nassau Downtown Wharf. You can get tickets from the counter at Festival Place (just outside the cruise port). One way fare is $4 (round trip is $8). It takes about 12 minutes one way and along the way the view of the harbor is wonderful.
Water Taxis at Nassau Dock
The boats are privately run by different owners and the experience depends on the specific boat and the captain you get. Although the boats leave every 30 minutes, they usually wait until there are enough passengers. So there is likely to be some wait time. Most captains are friendly and along the way they explain the various land marks that are visible on the coastline.
Some of the sights that you will see are Prince Albert Dock, the British Colonial Hilton Hotel, Haitian fishing boats, Paradise Island Estates on the coastline, and of course as you approach the Paradise Island you can see the towering Atlantis Resorts from far.
Green Turtle Ferry Service (Abaco)
This is a privately operated ferry service between New Plymouth in Green Turtle Cay (Abaco) and Treasure Cay. There are regularly scheduled daily ferry services starting in the morning until late afternoon. One-way adult fare is $14 (same day round trip fare is $20). It's a 5-minute ride one way. Visit their Website
for current schedules and fares. Phone: 242-475-3841
G&L Ferry Service (Abaco)
This ferry service operates from Marsh Harbour to Hope Town, Man-O-War Cay and Guana Cay. There are several daily trips between Marsh Harbour and Hope Town (roundtrip fare is $20 per person). There are also daily services from Marsh Harbour to Man-O-War and Guana Cays, but fewer in number. Visit their Website
for current schedules and fares. Phone: (242) 577-0611
Glenrick's Water Taxi Services (Bimini)
They provide a daily back & forth water taxi service between North and South Bimini. You can also charter their boat for local sightseeing on the waters around Bimini. For details, call (242) 553-9025.
Frederick Major's Ferry Service (South Andros)
They provide ferry connection between Drigg's Hill (South Andros) and Lisbon Creek (Mangrove Cay). The ferry operates twice daily. Phone: (242) 376-8533
Acklins & Crooked Island Ferry
This is a free ferry service between Lovely Bay (at Acklins) and Cove Point (at Crooked Island). The ferry operates twice daily (Monday to Saturday) at 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. There is an additional free service available between Long Cay and Crooked island only on Wednesdays and Saturdays (it leaves Long Cay at 7:30 a.m. for Turtle Sound, Cabbage Hill, and returns at 2:00 p.m.). You can also avail chartered service at a cost. Phone: (242) 344-3250.
Harbour Island to mainland Eleuthera Ferry
There are several operators providing ferry services between Harbour Island and Eleuthera.
Briland Gal (Harbour Island). Phone: (242) 565-3002
Briland Queen. You can also charter boats. Phone: (242) 333-2569
Sean 'Lady M' Major. Phone: (242) 333-3050
The Right Choice (Great Harbour Cay)
They offer water taxi service and tours to the Blue Hole and to the cays in the island chain of Berry Islands as well as to the other nearby islands. Phone: (242) 367-8145
This is a ferry service between Crown Haven of Abaco and McClean's Town of Grand Bahama. There are two services daily and it takes 45 minute ride one-way. Departs Crown Haven 7:00 AM and 2:30 PM daily, and Departs McClean's Town 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM daily. Adult fare: $50 per trip, Child fare: $25 per trip. Phone: 242-458-2621; Email: [email protected]
ATL Bus and Water Taxi Service (South Bimini)
They provide both daily bus and ferry services in South and North Bimini between 7am to 11pm (you may need to demand a service). Round trip fare: $8 per person (for both ferry and bus). One way fare: $5 by bus, $3 by ferry. For further information, call (242) 225-4568
Sea Fever II (Harbour Island)
They offer daily ferry services (including chartered ferry) between North Eleuthera, Harbour Island, Spanish Wells, Nassau and Ship Channel Cay (in Exuma). You may need to demand a ride if a service is not scheduled on a day. The timings are between 5:30am to 6pm. Ferry one way fare - $5; Private Charter fare - $120; Half-Day Tour (4 hours) - $900; Full-Day Tour (8 hours) - $1,500. Tours include swimming with the pigs and turtles. Phone: (242) 470-8411
Edney Higgs (North Eleuthera)
They offer daily ferry service between North Eleuthera, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells... you may need to demand a ride. Service Timings: 6am to 5pm. One-way ferry fare: $5 per person. They also offer the ferry on private charters. Phone: (242) 554-6874
George Town to Stocking Island Water Taxi (Exuma)
There are several operators and this is a short 5-6 minute boat ride from George Town of Great Exuma to Stocking Island which has some of the famous bars & grills on the beach.
Elvis Water Taxi has two boats...a 28-foot open hull boat and a 26-foot catamaran. They offer roundtrip water taxi service from Exuma Yatch Club (George Town) to Stocking Island including to the popular Chat ‘N’ Chill beach bar ($15 per person), roundtrip water taxi service from Augusta Bay Bahamas to Stocking Island ($20 per person). Phone: 1-242-464-1558
A1 Water Taxi Exuma offers transfers to Stocking Island, Harbor Tours, Visit to Chat 'n' Chill, Sandbars etc. Phone: +1 242-816-0390, +1 242-357-0544; Email: [email protected]
This is the national airline of Bahamas and mostly availed by frequent travelers and tourists who like to save on time in lieu of extra cost. Bahamas Air connects Nassau's Lynden Pindling Airport to various airports in the out islands. Bahamas Air also flies to a few international airports including Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Pam Beach in Florida (USA), Orlando (USA) as well as Cuba, Haiti etc.
However note that frequent congestion at Nassau airport, long delays and sub-par services are quite common. There have been several passenger complaints on these. If you are hopping through islands via Nassau (for example between Freeport in Grand Bahama to Deadman's Cay of Long Island enroute Nassau), there is a possibility that either you miss the connecting flight from Nassau or the connecting flight too would be delayed in order to accommodate passengers in the joining flight.
Photo: Eric Salard, flickr, cc by-sa 2.0
Presently Bahamas Air caters to the following domestic and international airports (with its major hub at Lynden Pindling Airport of Nassau):
Deadman's Cay (Long Island)
Fort Lauderdale (Florida, USA)
Freeport (Grand Bahama)
George Town (Exuma)
Governor's harbor (Eleuthera)
Marsh harbor (Abaco)
Miami (Florida, USA)
Nassau (New Providence Island)
North Eleuthera (Eleuthera)
Port Au Prince (Haiti)
Providenciales (Turks and Caicos)
Rock Sound (South Eleuthera)
Santa Clara (Cuba)
Stella Maris (Long Island)
Treasure Cay (Abaco)
West Palm Beach (Florida, USA)
This slow traditional ferry service has been in operation since the old days when faster methods were not available. They are known as mailboats because they were once used to carry mails and cargo. Today they are essentially cargo freighters carrying mainly container items between various islands in the Bahamas. However carrying passengers is now a mainstream business of mailboats.
It's the cheapest form of transport between islands in Bahamas, but it's also the slowest. So if you have all the time in the world and don't care for great comfort, then mailboats can be a great economical option to transfer between islands, and also a great way to travel and chat with the locals.
Source: MailBoat Company
All these mailboats are privately operated but under the direction of the Bahamian Chief of Transportation. There are around 20 such mailboats, all of which operate from the Potters Cay of Nassau which is located below the eastern bridge that connects Nassau with Paradise Island.
These boats are colorfully painted. They all start from Nassau (Potters Cay) and reach out to different out islands of the Bahamas some sailing for several hours and some even for the whole day or overnight. At Potters Cay you can find many local vendors with their temporary stalls and shacks selling hot seafood, snacks and dinner. Many locals take their meal here before starting the journey. Most mailboats have several on board facilities including food and beverages room, TV etc.
Seating at Fiesta Mail
Source: MailBoat Company
Mailboats operate from Nassau to several islands of the Bahamas such as to Exuma, Long Island, Cat Island, Rum Cay, San Salvador, Crooked Island, Acklins, Ragged Island, Inagia, etc. Although mailboats mainly connect Nassau with the out Islands, there are also direct ferry connections available between several out islands themselves.
Mailboats can have different passenger capacities depending on their size. For example the mailboat named 'Fiesta Mail' that operates between Nassau and Freeport (in Grand Bahama) has a passenger capacity of 450 with a large cabin and rows of push back chairs. It takes about 9 hours (one way). An adult round trip ticket costs $126.85 which includes a hot meal.
However most mailboats won't have their schedules and fares published on the online media. They are still too rustic to follow the modern online systems. So in order to know the current schedule and exact fares, you should go down to The Dock Master's Office located at Potters Cay below the Nassau - Paradise Island bridge. You can also contact them over phone: 242/393-1064.
By Private Boat
If you can afford, this is a great way to explore and do island hopping in Bahamas at your own leisure and privacy. Many who own a yacht do so from the US east coast of Florida. You can also rent a charter boat in Bahamas for several days ... it can be crewed or a bareboat. For bareboat, you need to demonstrate that you have the required skills to navigate the waters here that are full of reefs.
Transportation within an Island
Public Bus - Jitney
Public buses which are minibuses and locally known as Jitneys, have frequent services in Nassau as well as in Grand Bahama. Bus service is not available in other out islands. The bus service starts at 6am and ends around 6:30pm. The service is frequent and they run every few minutes during the day time. The buses come in different colors and shapes, but the route number is prominently written in front. You can get in or off the bus anywhere you like in both Nassau and Grand Bahama.
Jitney at Nassau
In Nassau the bus caters to downtown Nassau and several other places in New Providence Island including Cable Beach. However the Jitney does not go over the bridge to Paradise Island. For that you need to take a taxi or ferry boat (water taxi). In Grand Bahama the Jitney service is available in Freeport downtown area as well as at the Lucaya Market Place area. From Freeport downtown the service connects to both east and west ends of the island.
For a ride in the downtown areas of both Nassau and Freeport one needs to pay an average of $1.50 in exact change while getting off. However if you are travelling further out to suburban areas, then the fare increases depending on distance.
Taxis are available in plenty at Nassau and Grand Bahama. Taxis are also available in some Out Islands like Eleuthera, but lesser in number. Most taxis in Bahamas are mini vans or larger vans. The official ones would have orange plates with black letters on them.
In Nassau, you can easily get taxis at hotels, stands at Nassau Downtown area, Cable beach and Paradise Island. Of course taxis queue up at the Nassau airport as well. There will be a person to guide you at the airport taxi area to the next available taxi for your transfer.
Photo: Philip Nelson, flickr, cc by-sa 2.0
In Grand Bahama other than at several hotels, airport and cruise ports, you can get taxis at the stands at Freeport downtown and Lucaya market place areas.
Note that in Nassau and Grand Bahama although many taxis have meters, they often go un-metered and ask for a fixed price between two places. Both meter and fixed prices are controlled by the government. In Out Islands, taxis (wherever available) are not metered. You should confirm the price (locals even negotiate) before getting into the taxi in order to avoid conflicts later.
However when meters are available and the driver is agreeable to go as per meter, that would be the best and usually the most economical option.
The taxis in Bahamas operate in shared basis which means that there can be other passengers also traveling with you, and some of them may be picked up along the way. If you want a reserved taxi, sort this out with the driver before you jump in so that he does not pick up other passengers. For more than two passengers in a group, there is a surcharge for additional passengers and baggage.
In Out Islands, taxis are usually available at the airports and most cruise ports. In Bahamas, empty taxis do not roam around to pick up passengers. They usually wait at designated stands. You can however flag down a taxi on the road if you see one and take a ride, or call one over the phone.
Taxis, particularly in the Out Islands are usually not maintained well... this is due to scarce availability of resources. And the road conditions in the Out Islands are also not good in general. So if you choose a hotel far away from the main settlement areas, you can expect a rough bumpy ride. And with many passengers sharing the same cab, it may not be a very pleasant journey.
In Nassau and Grand Bahama (Freeport and Lucaya) plenty of car rentals are available. However with good network of public transport systems in both these places (i.e. taxis, buses etc) you won't usually need a rental car unless you plan to explore some of the outer areas in the island.
If you plan to rent a car, while there are several local rental companies, I would recommend that you rent one from an international brand like Budget (www.budget.com), Hertz (www.hertz.com), Dollar (www.dollar.com), Avis (www.avis.com) etc. You can expect cars in better condition, better professional service and proper documentation. These car rental companies have outlets at the airport or just go to their website and follow the booking procedure.
These international brands are not available in most Out Islands due to lack of adequate demand. However there are local car rental companies there. But the problem is most of these cars are not well maintained and are in bad conditions. That's the way they all are. And to add to that the road conditions in the Out Islands are not good either particularly if you take one of the back roads.
You can always ask your hotel to arrange a rental car for you if you want one in an Out Island (and of course in Nassau and Grand Bahama as well). If taxi is available in the island, you can also ask the hotel to get you a taxi. Note that in Bahamas you can also hire a taxi by the hour ($50-60 per hour).
Car rental is expensive throughout Bahamas and so is gas. You can expect rental rate of around $60 - $75 per day for a small car. Gas is available in several places in Nassau and Freeport. In the Out Islands gas stations are quite limited and are usually available only in main settlement areas. So in Out Islands if you plan to drive out, ensure you have a full tank.
The gas (Petrol) price varies in the Out Islands. In Nassau the average gas price is $1.17 per liter.
Note that in all over Bahamas, you need to drive on left hand side of the road. So if you are used to driving in the US, remember in Bahamas, Right side is the Wrong side. And with your own local driving license issued in your own country, you can drive in Bahamas for 3 months, after which you need to get International Driving Permit or apply for Bahamian Driving License. You should be minimum 21 years of age to rent a car in Bahamas.
Scooter rental is easy in Nassau, Grand Bahama and few other Out Islands. There are several outlets renting out scooters in Nassau including ones in downtown market place, and also another near the Cruise Pier inside the gates.
But remember, driving scooter in Nassau can be very tricky ... the roads are often crowded and narrow with changing elevations and you need to drive on the left side of the road. If you are not an experienced scooter or motor bike rider, it's better not to rent a scooter in Nassau. But if you must, try to stick to the coastline instead of getting to inland roads. Some of the inland or back roads may not be very safe for tourists as there are possibilities of being mugged.
Paradise Island is comparatively better for scooter rides. However when several cruise ships are in port (like on a Saturday), all roads in and around Nassau and Paradise Island can be over crowded. Try to avoid riding scooters on such days.
Horse Carriage Rides
Horse carriage rides are available in Nassau just outside the Prince George cruise dock. It's a 20-minute tour showing you the downtown area and many other historical landmarks in the island.
Visitors' Reviews and Comments
Angie (August 2021)
My mom & I are going to be staying on Grand Bahama Island from 10/31-11/14. We have a glass bottom boat tour in Nassau on Wed 11/3, & also want to get to Pink Sand Beach on Harbour Island. The FAQs say that there is a ferry btwn Freeport & Nassau, but when you go to purchase tickets it says no trips available.
So, is there a ferry service or not? I'd rather not spend hundreds in plane fare if I don't have to, in order to Island hop. Much cheaper to do ferries & transfer.
Raj (August 2021)
Due to present pandemic situation and low demands, Bahamas Ferries is presently operating ferries only to limited destinations such as Harbour Island, Spanish Wells and Eleuthera.