Live like a local in Nassau, Bahamas
The Bahamas is a Caribbean archipelago located off the coast of Florida with a long history of colonization; however, the country became independent from the UK in 1973. With a population of approximately 319,000, almost 70 percent of inhabitants live on New Providence Island. Paradise Island is connected to New Providence by a toll bridge with some of the best beaches along with high-end accommodations, luxurious villas, golf courses and casinos.
Of its 700 islands, only 29 are inhabited. The area is home to almost 2000 coral reefs, spanning the distance from the southeast coasts of Florida to the northwest of Hispaniola.
The government is elected every five years and the parliament has sat, uninterrupted, since 1729. The Bahamas is connected with the UK through the Commonwealth of Nations, of which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is head.
Follow the Money
The rich and famous selecting The Bahamas for their retreat include: Nicolas Case who owns an estate on Paradise Island and a private island in the Exuma chain; Tiger Woods, owns property at the Albany Estate; Mariah Carey, owns a house on Windermere, a private island connected to Eleuthera. Other notables (past and present) who spend time in the Bahamas include Johnny Depp, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Lenny Kravitz, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, and Eddie Murphy. The most popular places among expats are New Providence, Abaco and Grand Bahama.
New Providence, the capital of the country, is the seat of government, a commercial center, the locale for the Lynden Pindling International airport and populated with major hotels.
Villas and Condos Upstage Hotels
For a growing number of global travelers, hotels just don’t cut it. No matter how well designed and decorated, the hotel environment can be stressful…especially for families with special-needs children (from autism to nutrition), adults with military trauma, Alzheimer’s or other debilitating medical issues as well as adults who want to eat, sleep and walk around in their PJs and/or need personal security. The hotel environment requires conforming to the rules and regulations of others and this, for a growing number of travelers, is just not a holiday.
Know Before You Go
Whether you are planning on living in Nassau on a trial basis by renting a villa or condo over the Thanksgiving and New Year’s holiday, or buying a second home and creating a brand-new Bahamian lifestyle, there are many factors to consider. Nassau presents an excellent venue for holiday /extended-stay opportunities…but like everywhere else…life is not a beach.
Because of the close proximity of the US to the Bahamas, Nassau provides a quick escape to the “exotic” while being close to friends, family and business in the case of an emergency. There are frequent air links between Nassau and the US, English is the language of the country and the US dollar is acceptable currency although passports are necessary for US visitors to The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
- Food. Because most of the food/beverages (wines and spirits) are imported and the Bahamas places high import duties on products (instead of income taxes), the cost of dining can be “more expensive” than planned. Some Bahamians fly to Florida to shop for groceries as well as clothes, so check with your real estate broker for information on food delivery services from mainland to Nassau and the best local food markets.
- Bureaucracy. If you are in Nassau as an extended-stay holiday family, government red tape is not likely to become an issue; however, should you decide to buy or build a home, start a business or invest (citizenship by investment), make sure the tranquilizer prescription has been renewed and your fidget toy in operational.
- Crime. There are inner-city ghettos, gang violence, and poverty; however, villas, condo and other gated communities in either the east or west sections of New Providence are communities that are picture-perfect beautiful with pools and beaches within walking/biking distance and come equipped with private security.
- Entertainment. There are a few small cinemas, a bowling alley, roller skating rink, paintball arena and lots of beaches that are easily accessible for swimming, snorkeling and scuba as well as sailing. The Dundas theatre offers Bahamian plays and shows; Arawak Cay for meeting and eating with locals; the National Art Gallery for views of local artists and their works; the Baha Mar features local artists and the Atlantis, Baha Mar and Breezes offer casinos.
- Culture. Bahamians love to express themselves through art, music and dance and there are many local artists/sculptors/designers to meet.
- Healthcare. The Bahamas has several well-equipped medical facilities and well-trained staff with three government and two private hospitals. There are 55 health centers, with nine on New Providence.
- Taxation. The Bahamas are a tax haven. The country does not have a capital gains tax, inheritance tax, personal tax or gift tax and, as a result, it is one of the most preferred tax havens for residents of the US and European countries. There is also offshore banking and registration of offshore companies. Offshore companies or people with offshore bank accounts have no tax liability at all for income earned outside of the jurisdiction. It is interesting to note that The Bahamas was among the first Caribbean countries to adopt stringent banking secrecy laws.
- Tourism is the main source of income for the larger islands; however, the smaller family islands are more secluded and allow visitors the opportunity to experience a laid-back lifestyle.
Villas and Condos
The first person to contact as soon as you decide to spend quality time in The Bahamas, is a real estate broker. I recently spent time with Tim Roland, one of the top 4 producers at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, who whetted my appetite for a Nassau lifestyle by introducing me to a selection of accommodations where I could “live like a local.”
Described as “Villa Island Dream” this 6500 sq. ft. property offers 5 bedrooms and 6 baths, an in-ground swimming pool, a backyard with water views and palm trees. The interiors are designed with a colonial-island flair, customized furniture, travertine floors, dark wood accents and white columns, plus a guest cottage. The air-conditioned villa is fully furnished and comes with a hot tub, wireless Internet and a boat dock. Nearby there are 2 beaches, a golf course and the Atlantis Hotel offering a waterpark, pools, restaurants, and a walk-in aquarium. The villas rental includes daily housekeeping (but not on weekends and holidays). For a small additional fee, the villa can be stocked with your favorite wines and groceries and airport transfers and special activities can be arranged.
Identified as “Island’s End” this trophy property is located on Paradise Island with nearby white sandy beaches and blue-green water and within walking distance of top – tier shopping. The teak dock is a perfect perch for your yacht. With 6 bedrooms that can accommodate up to 12 family members or your best friends, the master suite comes complete with a steam shower and jetted tub. Of course, there is wireless Internet, and the entire villa is air conditioned. The pool is heated, and includes a spa, and jacuzzi. The housekeeper visits daily and personal chefs, nannies, chauffeurs, etc. can be arranged (for additional fees). This non-smoking villa is not pet-friendly and social events require pre-approval.
For small budgets and fewer friends, a 2-bedroom villa (part of a condo complex) is perfect for under $300 per night (based on season). Within walking distance of the Atlantis (for dining/nightlife/gambling) the property offers a private patio and shared pool. The furnished space is fully air-conditioned and includes TV and Wi-Fi.
A newly-renovated 1-bedroom, 1-bath in a gated condo community is on Cable Beach with dining, and beaches nearby. This fully furnished, budget-priced property, (under $200 per night based on season), offers air-conditioning, cable TV, Wi-Fi and private outdoor space.
One of my favorite options is an almost totally glass-enclosed penthouse in a recently opened condo. The space was just sold and will soon be on the rental list on Cable Beach. (Get in line for this one – it will definitely be in high demand).
Artist and Sculptor. Keisha Oliver
While most rentals in Nassau are presented furnished, visitors may want to add a few of their own personal touches to the walls and tables. If the visit turns into a desire to buy or build, art, artists and interior designers will quickly become the most important people in your life. I recently spent quality time with Kiesha Oliver and was introduced to her works at her studio in Nassau.
Oliver studied at the College of The Bahamas, receiving her BA from the University for the Creative Arts and a Masters in Graphic Design from the University of the Arts London. Currently a member of the faculty and the Coordinator of the Visual Arts Program at the University of the Bahamas she is also the Founder and Curator of the Public Treasury Art Program in Nassau.
Wellness. Doctors Hospital
No matter how carefully travel is planned, there are a myriad of opportunities for having an accidental slip or fall, picking up the flu, having a bad reaction to a prescription or just feeling “under the weather.” The good news is that New Providence has one of the best hospitals in the region, and people from around the world select Doctors Hospital for their unique medical programs and outstanding medical team.
In 2010, this medical facility was accredited by the Joint Commission International and has delivered the highest level of private medical care for over 50 years. With 72 beds, Doctors Hospital is the most modern acute care privately owned healthcare facility in the Caribbean, providing more than 200 professionally educated and trained physicians as part of the media team, representing almost every medical specialty. Visitors can use their holiday time to schedule their Annual Physical Exams.
In addition to Out Patient facilities, the Hospital offers elective surgery, an onsite laboratory, rehabilitation and imaging services as well as wound care, a Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy chamber, and Fecal Microbiota Transplant and Stem Cell programs.
Marina + Yachts
The perfect yacht for the perfect villa may require a lottery windfall. Some of the yachts docked by mansions, high-end hotels and upscale dining spots, shining in the Bahamian sun, can average up to $10 million. When you own one, you are one of a very small group; only 1,512 individuals, worldwide, are able to claim ownership (Camper & Nicholsons International). Who owns or charters these awesome yachts? Mostly Americans, followed by Canadians, Europeans and Arabs. The yachting season runs from December – May.
To call your boat a “super yacht” it must be in excess of 98 ft., and professionally crewed. Amenities include wine cellars, hot tubs, gyms, aromatherapy steam rooms, cinemas, and leisure accessories such as wave runners, and jet skis.
If yacht ownership is not part of the holiday plan, a small (55 ft. Otam Millennium) can be yours for $6,250 for an 8-hour day or $8,250 for one overnight experience. A Moonraker, the costliest to charter, runs $30,000 for 8-hours and $40,500 to spend the night.
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© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.