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Is Nassau Safe? What to Know When Visiting

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If you plan a vacation to Nassau in the Bahamas, you probably wonder if the area is safe. While statistics don’t lie, there is crime in Nassau, but the island and its people are warm and welcoming. You’ll find relaxation, adventure, a lively atmosphere, and an enjoyable array of activities for families, solo travelers, and female travelers, whether you’re stepping off cruise ships or arriving by plane to visit Nassau.

Located on New Providence Island, Nassau is the capital city and largest city in the Bahamas. It’s one of the top destinations in the Bahamas for honeymoons, family vacations, and other travelers. The popular cruise port is famous for the historic straw market, an open-air market where vendors sell straw crafts, souvenirs, t-shirts, and other items.

Compared to other Bahamian islands – like the outlying islands (also known as the Family Islands) of Eleuthera, Long Island, or the Abacos Islands – Nassau does have one of the highest crime rates in the chain (Freeport on Grand Bahama Island is another one of the higher crime areas).

Whether the safety issue is pickpocketing, food poisoning, physical injuries, taxi scamming, purse snatching, or other violent crimes, you’ll have a much better travel experience if you feel prepared. Along with staying aware of your surroundings and using the same common-sense tactics you would anywhere else, you should have a safe and enjoyable trip.

As with any travel overseas, remember travel insurance! Shop around at places like TravelInsurance.com to find the right deal for you.

What is the Crime Rate in Nassau, Bahamas?

Per crime statistics and reports I’ve read, crime in Nassau happens in both tourist and non-tourist areas (unlike other destinations where it’s more likely found in touristy areas).

Stat The Bahamas United States
Violent crime – Intentional homicide rate 37
Ranked 8th. 8 times more than the U.S.
4.7
Ranked 7th.
Violent crime – Murder rate 94
Ranked 60th.
12,996
Ranked 9th. 138 times more than the Bahamas
Violent crime – Murder rate per million people 260.75
Ranked 13th. 6 times more than the U.S.
42.01
Ranked 43rd.
Violent crime – Murders per million people 260.75
Ranked 13th. 6 times more than the U.S.
42.01
Ranked 43rd.
Violent crime – Rapes per million people 216.37
Ranked 14th.
274.04
Ranked 9th. 27% more than the Bahamas

How Safe is Nassau?

The U.S. State Department lists the Bahamas at Level 2 on its four-level scale of travel risks. This travel advisory means travelers should use caution due to the crime risk.

Nassau is generally safe for cruise ship travelers, singles, families, and female travelers visiting the island’s beaches, historic sites, and natural attractions. Common crimes in Nassau include petty crime, robberies, purse snatching, drink spiking in nightclubs, and tour fraud (unlicensed operators) regarding boat and jet ski rentals.

See Related: Best Caribbean Islands to Visit

What Are Some of the Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in Nassau?

Heritage Village by Gray Cliff on Hill Street in historic Nassau, New Providence Island, Bahamas
Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock.com

Most of Downtown Nassau is safe for tourists. As with anywhere, travelers should avoid some dangerous areas when looking for things to do in Nassau. Criminal activities like robberies and purse snatching occur in cruise ship terminals and resorts. In Nassau, these areas include the Fish Fry/Arawak Cay, Sand Trap, and Over-the-Hill.

Fish Fry and Arawak Cay

Views of Arawak Cay Fish Fry village,of hand painted colorful structures providing Caribben fish food and drinks along the beach shore.
Dee Browning / Shutterstock.com

Fish Fry, on Arawak Cay, is a community filled with authentic restaurants and food vendors selling grilled shrimp, fried snapper, conch, lobster tails, cornbread, plantains, and other popular Bahamian dishes, along with the thirst-quenching Kalik (the Beer of the Bahamas) and Sands (the Truly Bahamian Beer). There’s also a stage for musical performances where popular Junkanoo groups play and practice.

Arawak Cay was named after the original West Indian islanders. Known simply as The Fish Fry due to the variety of seafood eateries, the community dates to 1969 when Nassau Harbor was dredged (sand taken from the harbor was placed here and formed the cay or small island.

Fish Fry was developed rather haphazardly in the 1980s. Many of the structures were constructed without proper safety and health procedures. The area has a lack of proper public restrooms and a lack of police presence.

While Fish Fry is certainly a cultural destination and an excellent way to enjoy traditional Bahamian cuisine, keeping your eyes open is smart. A 2018 U.S. State Department travel advisory advised U.S. citizens to stay away from Arawak Cay at night.

Sand Trap

The boisterous Sand Trap Bar & Grill (located on the island’s north side across from Arawak Cay) was the site of a shooting death several years ago. American officials have since deemed the area off-limits for its employees and their families.

Over-the-Hill Neighborhood

Landscape with Fort Fincastle and old cannons. New Providence, Nassau, Bahamas
NAPA / Shutterstock

The Over the Hill area in Nassau is a residential and poorer section of town. It’s located south of Shirley Street. The area begins south of Blue Hill Road at the Graycliff Hotel, and then you’re “over the hill.”

It’s advised to only explore here on foot daily (most prefer to drive), as most crime happens in this area. Armed robberies and sexual assaults have been reported in this area.

Descendants of formerly enslaved people built rainbow-hued homes. This neighborhood is filled with true Bahamian-African culture, historic churches, handicraft vendors, and the upbeat sound of Junkanoo-Goombay drums. The Queen’s Staircase and Fort Fincastle sites are found in this neighborhood. 

To check out the Queen’s Staircase, Fort Fincastle, and other sites that might be located in this neighborhood, book a historic and cultural highlight walking tour with a reputable company. Tours take place during the day and are led by local guides and experts on the subject matter. You’ll have an enjoyable experience, stay safe, and learn some fun facts.

How Safe is Public Transportation in Nassau?

Harborside Villas aerial view at Nassau Harbour with Nassau downtown at the background, from Paradise Island, Bahamas
Wangkun Jia / Shutterstock

It’s been many years since I visited Nassau, but I remember feeling perfectly safe using the city’s public local bus system and taxis to and from the airport. There are also water taxis that cruise from one area of the island to another (and make for a super fun mode of transport).

You can also rent scooters to get around. Now, I suggest you know what you’re doing before scrolling around. They may look easy, but looks can be deceiving, and you could very well end up with a bad case of road rash. Be aware that the Bahamas is a left-hand driving region. That in itself can take getting used to on a scooter.

I once met a couple who spent a small portion of their vacation in a hospital dealing with injuries from a scooter wreck. Luckily, it all turned out okay, but do you want to spend any amount of time in a hospital (especially while traveling)? This is the type of situation where medical travel insurance like SafetyWing comes in handy, especially for solo travelers. If that’s not you, shop around on sites like TravelInsurance.com to find the best deal.

How Safe Is Nassau Compared to Other Islands?

Nassau, the largest city in the Bahamas, is the most dangerous city compared to other Bahamian islands like the Out Islands of Eleuthera, Andros, or Cat Island. Burglaries, armed robbery, sexual assault, fraud, purse snatchings, and property crimes occur. Exercise increased caution while out at night or in poorly lit areas.

See Related: Where to Stay in Jamaica: Best Areas & Neighborhoods

Safety Tips for Visiting Nassau

As with anywhere, there are a few common-sense tips to stay safe while exploring the port city of Nassau.

  • Be aware of your surroundings, and don’t go into unknown areas. Avoid walking in dimly lit areas.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers, as drink spiking is known to happen.
  • Don’t accept rides from unlicensed taxi drivers. Only take rides from licensed taxi services or city buses. Always negotiate the fare first, as many taxis don’t use meters.
  • Alert your bank that you’ll be traveling in the event of suspicious activity.
  • Don’t carry large amounts of cash or walk around wearing a pile of jewelry.
  • Stay on the left side of the road if you rent a car or scooter. You need an international driver’s permit and a driver’s license to rent a car.
  • Don’t answer your hotel door unless you know who’s there, and keep car doors locked.
  • Use caution when booking through short-term vacation rental properties, as private security companies usually don’t have a presence.
  • Provide all of your accommodation and travel itinerary information to someone at home. That way, if something should happen, someone will have the details.
  • Book tours through a resort, a cruise ship, or a reputable tour provider like GetYourGuide or Viator. Tour fraud and unlicensed boat and jet ski operators are common. Stay safe, and don’t get talked into a tour just because it sounds cheaper than other tours. There’s usually a reason.
  • June through November is the official hurricane season in the Bahamas (as well as other Caribbean areas). Travel insurance is a go-to commodity for situations like this. You’ll be covered if severe weather, injuries, and other issues related to tropical storms cancel or cut your trip or cruise short.
  • If offered illicit drugs for purchase, listen to your mama and say no. Despite the perception, Marijuana, as well as everything else related vis-a-vis drugs, is illegal in the Bahamas. Just stick to rum. Most of it is superb!
  • Use insect repellent as some health risks associated with travel to the Bahamas include Zika, dengue fever, and chikungunya. Wear long sleeves and pants to help avoid mosquito bites.

Another tip that doesn’t just apply to the Bahamas: Enroll with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). This free service allows U.S. citizens and nationals traveling or living abroad to enroll with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

You’ll receive important updates, travel advisories, and information about safety conditions in your country. This also helps the Embassy contact you in an emergency, natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.

Safety Travel Essentials for Nassau

It may seem tempting to pack pepper spray or mace. While one 4 oz. bottle of pepper spray or mace is permitted in a checked bag on a domestic flight, International regulations (ICAO/IATA) prohibit any type of self-defense spray in checked or carry-on bags.

So, if you’re traveling to Nassau from an international location, there is no pepper spray for you. This includes flying from the United States to the Bahamas. Mace is illegal in the Bahamas, just in case you were wondering.

Along with all the fun of swimsuits, flip flops, breezy dresses, and other standard beach packing items, you’ll want to remember to include these safety essentials when traveling to Nassau (or anywhere else in the Bahamas, for that matter).

  • Passport and photocopy of it
  • Driver’s license and photocopy of it
  • Prescription medication
  • Cash and credit cards (the U.S. dollar is widely accepted in Nassau)
  • Travel wallet with RFID-blocking technology (and carry in a front pocket if possible)
  • Health insurance cards
  • Travel insurance information
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and other UV protection
  • Hand sanitizer wipes
  • Basic first aid kit with bandages, gauze, eye drops, and Dramamine (You won’t believe how many friends you’ll suddenly acquire when you’re the only one on the boat with Dramamine. I know this one from experience.)
  • Portable door lock
  • Wear a cross-body bag rather than carrying a handbag

Travel Insurance

  • TravelInsurance.com is one of our favorite comparison marketplaces for finding the best travel insurance plan for your trip. Easy and safe to use, they work with some of the biggest and best names in the travel insurance industry. If you’re unsure which provider to use, this site should be your first port of call.

  • SafetyWing is a global travel health insurance that covers people all over the world while outside of their home country. You can even purchase insurance from them if you’re already abroad, making them perfect for digital nomads. They’re also a top choice for solo travelers.

Where to Stay in Nassau

There are plenty of safe areas, hotels, and all-inclusive resorts in Nassau. The safest areas include Paradise Island, Lyford Cay, Old Fort Bay, and the Cable Beach.

They’re all perfect for families, couples, groups, or LGBT and solo travelers to feel safe. You can learn more from our in-depth article on where to stay in the Bahamas.

See Related: How Much is a Sandals Vacation? Average Cost Per Day

Paradise Island 

Aerial of Beautiful Bahamas Island
FotosForTheFuture / Shutterstock

If you’re searching for access to kid-friendly attractions, activities, shopping, and dining in a safe location, Paradise Island is one of the best places to stay in Nassau. It’s accessible to mainland Nassau via two bridges.

The area is about five miles long and less than a mile wide. Comprising most of the island’s west side, it’s predominantly a tourist area tucked away from the rest of the island, making it one of the safest places to stay in Nassau.

Paradise Island is home to that gorgeous pink palace known as Atlantis Paradise Island that we’ve probably all seen in magazines and TV ads. The Atlantis Resort is one of the best resorts in the world and consists of four smaller hotels – The Cove, The Reef, The Royal, and The Coral – giving you a variety of choices. 

You’ll also find Dolphin Cay (an eco attraction and marine habitat), the 141-acre Aquaventure water park, an aquarium, private beach access, and multiple restaurants and snack shops (Fish by José Andrés, NOBU, Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, and Carmine’s, to name just a few). Enjoy beachfront access, a golf course, a casino, a nightclub, and live entertainment such as comedy shows and concerts by names like Grammy Award-winner Pitbull.

Located near Atlantis, Comfort Suites Paradise Island guests can enjoy all of the amenities at Atlantis. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option but want the amenities of a large resort, this is a terrific choice.

There’s a pool, a restaurant, business facilities, meeting rooms, and complimentary breakfast. Rooms at this all-suite have a refrigerator, cable television, electronics charging ports, and separate seating areas with a sleeper sofa. 

Looking for things to do near Paradise Island? The 007’s Private Beach Club – Swimming with the Pigs experience takes you to three snorkel/swim spots.

You’ll take a powerboat to snorkel at a tropical reef, visit turtles at Green Cay, and enjoy the fun of swimming pigs at Rose Island at OO7’s private Beach Club. By the way, OO7 stands for Oasis Ocean 7 boat charters.

Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage tour of Downtown Nassau and the Atlantis Resort with a Discover Nassau Town & Atlantis tour. This is a great way to sit back and listen to tales of pirates and Colonial history while exploring Fort Fincastle, viewing the impressive Government House, tasting local rum cake, and discovering the Atlantis resort’s casino, shops, and lobby. 

See Related: Best Resorts in North Bimini

Lyford Cay

Aerial view of Lyford Cay, Bahamas
Oscar Flowers / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Located at the western end of the island, the exclusive Lyford Cay was home to the original James Bond, Sir Sean Connery (Thunderball was filmed nearby). It’s the oldest planned community in the Bahamas.

There are about 450 Colonial-style homes in this private and exclusive community of about 1,000 acres. Along with Mr. Connery, Lyford Cay has been home to Henry Ford II (grandson of Henry Ford), the Bacardi family, and Sir Tony O’Reilly. 

The private and exclusive Lyford Cay Club sits at the heart of the community. It has an 18-hole Rees Jones-designed golf course, a spa, a tennis center, and a 74-slip marina. There’s a shopping center at the entrance to the club. 

You can also find a luxurious vacation rental with a pool in Lyford Cay or a new modern apartment in a gated community. Another top option is The Island House, near the private gated community of Old Fort Bay. You’ll find it to be a safe and relaxing way to spend a Nassau vacation

Lyford Cay is near Primeval Forest National Park and Clifton Heritage National Park.

Old Fort Bay

Old Fort Bay, Nassau, Bahamas
JRPHOTOGRAPHY242 / Shutterstock

Old Fort Bay, located east of Lyford Cay, is another private gated community with a residential yet resort-y feel. It’s similar in style to Lyford Cay and is a safe place to stay in Nassau. Notable residents of Old Fort Bay include Shania Twain and Shakira.

Home to the private Old Fort Bay Club, the area was a former British Colonial fort. Houses are Caribbean to Georgian in style and offer amazing waterfront views. Consider a vacation rental like this fully staffed oceanfront villa with a pool or a luxury oceanfront 9-bedroom villa.

A series of canals wind through the area, making most of the home’s waterfront property (and an excellent choice for boaters).

So, whether staying on a canal or the ocean, you’ll have beautiful waterfront views. Speaking of water, Old Fort Beach is considered one of the best beaches on the island. 

Cable Beach

Pier over paradise Cable Beach in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas
Paulina Chrzanowska / Shutterstock

Cable Beach, on the island’s northern side, is another fun and safe area for travelers. If you’re searching for a beachfront Bahamas vacation, Cable Beach is one of the best and safest places to stay in Nassau. The soft sand beach is about four miles long and located on the island’s northern side.

Cable Beach is a wonderful family-friendly beach. The water is gentle, the sand is soft, and it’s pretty shallow if you’re traveling with young kids.

This beach has terrific snorkeling, and you can rent chairs and umbrellas. Love Beach and Cabbage Beach are near Cable Beach if you want to switch it up. 

You’ll find resort hotels, casinos, bed and breakfast accommodations, restaurants, a golf course, and natural attractions like Cairo National Park. Choose this Spacious Cable Beach Condo or an all-inclusive resort like Sandals.

Baha Mar and its lively casino are at the eastern end of Cable Beach on Goodman Bay. A waterpark, a spa, multiple pools, shopping, and several restaurants make up this luxurious complex, which consists of three hotels: Rosewood, SLS, and the Grand Hyatt.

See Related: Best Resorts in Turks and Caicos

Final Thoughts

All in all, Nassau is a safe vacation destination for tourists. You’ll have an enjoyable and safe trip, especially if you follow the above safety precautions.

Many of the hotels mentioned above and resorts have many amenities, restaurants, and on-site activities that you may want (or even need) to leave. But we encourage you to get out and explore this beautiful and friendly British Commonwealth island nation.

Remember to remain vigilant, use common sense tactics, practice safety precautions, and look into travel insurance before you leave.

FAQ

Is Nassau safe for solo, female, and LGBT travelers?

Nassau is generally safe for all travelers, including solo, female, and LGBT travelers. While the Bahamas has become increasingly more LGBT-friendly in recent years, it’s still a good idea to refrain from PDAs to avoid discrimination and attracting attention. Same-sex marriages are still illegal in the Bahamas, so it is always best to err on safety.

Is Nassau a safe city for tourists?

The Bahamas is a safe city by following standard common sense and remaining vigilant.

Is Nassau’s water safe to drink?

I always advise travelers to stay safe and drink bottled water in other countries. Tap water is probably just as safe as anywhere else, but I’d rather not ruin any days of a trip with even a mild case of Montezuma’s revenge simply because you’re not accustomed to the water.

Is it safe to use Uber in Nassau?

The Islands of the Bahamas have a powerful taxi driver’s union. Therefore, there is no Uber, or other ride-sharing services in the country. These apps could take away jobs from officially licensed taxi companies. It’s a really bad idea to accept any rides from a non-official taxi service.

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