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Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas, a member of the British Commonwealth. It is the largest city in the Bahamas and its low-rise sprawl dominates the eastern half of New Providence Island.
The climate is best described as subtropical. With a climate identical to South Florida, the area usually experiences very warm, humid weather throughout the year, with cool nights in the 40s during wintertime occasionally, and cold snaps sometimes hitting the region. Snow was reported once.
Orienting yourself in central Nassau is fairly easy. Bay Street, which runs parallel to the shore, is the main shopping street, filled with an odd mix of expensive jewellery boutiques and souvenir shops. The hill that rises behind Bay St contains most of the Bahamas' government buildings and company headquarters, while the residential Over-the-Hill district starts on the other side.
Nassau's Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) is the largest airport in the Bahamas. Major U.S. airlines have flights to Nassau. Limited service from Toronto and London also exists.
The two most popular Fixed Based Operators (FBO) located at Lynden Pindling International Airport are Executive Flight Services and Odyssey Aviation. Air taxi and air charter companies such as Jetset Charter', Monarch Air Group, Mercury Jets fly a variety of private charter aircraft and jets, from charter luxury Gulfstream's down to economical piston twins for small groups and individuals into and out of Nassau.
Security for other destinations is considerably more laid back, and arriving an hour in advance of your scheduled departure should suffice.
Nassau is a favorite port of call for the many cruise ships plying the Bahamas. Up to seven cruise ships can dock at the Prince George Wharf Cruise Terminal adjacent to downtown Nassau. Water taxi and yacht charter companies, such as Bahamas Boat, offer a variety of private crewed charters, in and around Nassau for small groups and families.
By water taxi
A water taxi service is an available alternative to a taxi to get to Paradise Island from downtown. It is picked up under the bridge.
Minibuses act as the bus system of Nassau city and New Providence island. Jitneys are found on and near Bay Street. The famous Jitney to Cable Beach loads passengers on George & Bay Streets.
Taxis, often minivans and always identifiable by their yellow license plates and little Gothic blackletter "Taxi" lettering, roam the streets of Nassau. They're equipped with meters but will usually refuse to use them, so agree on the fare in advance. They will often try to change the rate in the car.
You could also rent a car. All major U.S car rental shops are in Nassau. Worthy of note for travelers from the UK is the very British feel of the roads. Unlike the nearby US, cars drive on the left side of the road, have UK road signs and even the odd roundabout.
Scooter (small motorcycle) rental is also popular in Nassau.
Bicycle rental is not popular and not recommended as traffic is bad, there are many blind corners in the old streets of Nassau, and cars drive recklessly and on the left side of the road, which you may not be used to.
Within downtown Nassau, you could walk around. Distances are very short and a walking tour is a pleasant way of exploring downtown Nassau.
What to see
Take a walk around Old Town, an interesting mixture of abandoned buildings and bright Caribbean structures. It doesn't take long to get away from the over-scrubbed tourist areas in the very center. Walk ten minutes uphill to the pink Parliament Building, which has a statue of an enthroned Queen Victoria out front.
Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Center. Visit the Bahamas' only zoo. See the marching flamingo shows. Let the parakeets land on you as you feed them.
National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, West & West Hill Streets. Opened in 2003, this showcases Bahamian art from the precolonial era to the present. The quality of art is rather uneven to say the least, but the renovated building — once the residence of the Chief Justice — is a sight in itself.
Pirate Museum. Recreations of a pirate town, a pirate ship and a pirate battle, with a few real artifacts mixed in. Cheesy, but fun. Try to catch a guided tour.
Fort Fincastle. A small fort built in 1793 which overlooks the city of Nassau from a small hill south of town. Several cannons are on display.
What to do
The bus tours are pretty interesting. They'll drive you around, and tell you about the local government, tell you about different points of interest, and take you to old forts, and to Paradise Island, to see the famous Atlantis hotel resort and its stunning aquarium.
Straw Market, Bay St. Originally a locals' market, this is now devoted to touristy bric-a-brac. If you are in the market for some souvenirs, this is the place to come. Don't be discouraged by the initial price of things, as this is the only place you can haggle for a better one. Americans don't have to worry about exchanging any money either, as US currency is accepted universally.
Potters' Cay, under the Paradise Island bridge. Best known for its fish market, and there are plenty of stalls that prepare fresh conch salad, conch fritters and other Bahamian seafood delicacies, but there's plenty of other exotic tropical produce available too.