How to Experience the Bahamas Like a Local
If you are the type of traveler that likes to blend in with the locals, one of the first things you should consider is how you dress. Don’t be tempted to wear those big floral shirts that Magnum, P.I./Tom Selleck would have worn in the 80s. The expensive cameras hanging off your neck that once screamed tourist can be replaced by a compact smartphone. And gawking at the Bahamian scenery does nothing to help you not stand out in a crowd.
One way to mimic a local is to go to the same stores that the locals frequent — you will get better deals and avoid getting “authentic” craft that is really made in another country. Also, research the cultural differences beforehand so that you don’t come across too pushy or in too much of a hurry; that could be a turn-off in a more conservative and laidback environment. For example, many cultures outside of the U.S. are friendly, particularly in the islands where saying “hello” to a total stranger is the norm rather than the exception. In addition, and surprisingly, a lot of Spanish is spoken and Spanish-speaking tourists are encouraged to come to the island.
No holiday in the Bahamas is complete without visiting Junkanoo Beach, which is just minutes from where the cruise ships dock north of Nassau and adjacent to the Western Esplanade Beach. It is a favorite destination for locals and visitors alike, where the ships accessing the harbor form a relaxing backdrop to an enjoyable and active day in the sun.
Usually relatively quiet, the area comes alive during spring break. Interestingly, the Junkanoo Beach gets its name from a highly revered cultural expression: Junkanoo has a street festival like Mardi Gras, characterized by costumes, music and infectious island fun.
One great way to experience the Bahamas is to seek out local events or watering holes and hobnob with the locals. And because there are food influences from American South cuisine like grits and other side dishes, as well as other influences from the Caribbean, the cuisine is very unique. Seafood is also very popular with conch being the national dish. You will feel like a true Bahamian when you partake in a plate of barbecued chicken or fish, with peas and rice. And don’t forget to wash it down with the local Kalik beer.
The Bahamian Government touts its free People to People International (PTPI) program where tourists are linked with one of their many Bahamian host ambassadors who serve as your own personal Bahamian travel guide. The People to People program is designed for those interested in an authentic and personal view of Bahamian culture and has received positive reviews on TripAdvisor from those that have benefitted from the experience.
To take advantage of this free service, you must make sure you register online at least two weeks prior to your trip to get a Bahamas-savvy, certified host ambassador. You can then connect with your host ambassador via email, online or telephone prior to the visit. Then, for a day, you get to see and experience the Bahamas through the eyes of the local, sipping their drinks, eating their foods and seeing the real Bahamas.
By the end of the vacation, you can gauge how successful you have been at blending into Bahamian life. If you have developed a love for ubiquitous Japanese cars, have happily guzzled Kalik beer, made track and field your favorite sport and lived life to the fullest, you may just be considered an honorary Bahamian.
It’s a good life, isn’t it?