The U.S. Department of State has revised its travel advisory for the Bahamas. The U.S. government is telling tourists to take “increased caution” due to rising crime rates.
The official State Department Advisory shows that the country is listed at Level Two on the four-step scale.
Department of State officials are warning travelers about the potential for violent crime. “Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault is common, even during the day and in tourist areas. Although the family islands are not crime-free, the vast majority of crime occurs on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands” according to the U.S. Department of State.
The warning extends so far as to ban U.S. government officials from visiting the Sand Trap or Fish Fry area of shops and restaurants that are in walking distance of downtown Nassau. It’s unfortunate, particularly because that row of restaurants was where we had one of our best meals during our visit to Nassau. If you’re planning a visit to the Bahamas, you should avoid Over the Hill and the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay in Nassau, especially at night.
State also warns you to practice caution when renting watercraft such as jet-skis due to frequent poor maintenance and little regulation. The warning also mentions that several sexual assaults have been tied to these vendors. U.S. government officials are not allowed to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.
The Bahamian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement related to the warning on watercraft rentals, which indicates the local ministries of tourism, aviation, and transport are working to make changes in regulation and enforcement to ensure the companies are operating in a safe and responsible manner.
The Ministry of Foreign affairs also refutes the idea that crime is a major problem for locals and tourists.
“The reality is that the vast majority of the six million visitors who come to the Bahamas – by air, sea, and cruises – vacation in our islands without any incident whatsoever, but, notwithstanding, the Bahamas takes the safety of residents and visitors very seriously and will continue to work in keeping the safety and security of all visitors to our shores priority.
“The efforts of law enforcement authorities, along with significant investments by the Government of the Bahamas in human capital and information technology to fight crime, have made significant progress in reducing serious crimes like murder (-25%), armed robbery (-18%), attempted robbery (-19%) and shop-breaking (-23%). These efforts are commended by the Administration and people of The Bahamas.”
If you decide to travel to New Providence or Grand Bahama Island, the Department of State offers some tips:
- Do not answer your door at your hotel/residence unless you know who it is.
- Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Crime and Safety Report for The Bahamas.
- U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency and medical situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
The statement from the Bahamas concludes:
“We take all recommendations to travelers to any destination very seriously, not only to ensure their safety and security but to ensure their enjoyment of wonderful, meaningful, fun-filled and memorable experiences in the Bahamas.”
We only have pleasant memories of our stays on Nassau. We didn’t even stay in a resort bubble. We stayed in downtown and walked everywhere, including Fish Fry, and even visited the local liquor store. The conditions certainly could have changed, but it’s hard to imagine.
Even so, the tips from State are common sense. You should always be aware of your surroundings, it is easier to give up your money than fight, and you should never let strangers into your hotel room. A little extra caution is probably all you need to enjoy your trip, even under an official advisory.