The Bahamas are one of the most popular travel destinations for family vacations, honeymoons and cruises. Whether you need a passport to go to the Bahamas depends on how you will travel there.
In most cases, travelers will need their passports to fly to the Bahamas and re-enter the United States. This includes those traveling on a “closed-loop” cruise that begins and ends at the same port.
Travel Document Requirements
If you are traveling to the Bahamas by sea on a cruise ship or other private watercraft, then you do not need a passport. You can use a WHTI-compliant document like a passport card, REAL ID or Trusted Traveler Card, as long as it is valid for both air and sea travel back to the United States. However, the U.S. Department of State recommends that you bring your passport in case something unforeseen happens, such as a family or medical emergency back home.
The Bahamas is a visa-free destination for US citizens who plan to stay less than 90 days. Children under the age of 16 can also visit with a notarized letter of consent from both parents (if they are listed on the child’s birth certificate). All travelers over the age of 1 must provide proof of yellow fever vaccination. For travelers who are not visiting the Bahamas directly from a country that is at risk of yellow fever transmission, they can obtain an exemption certificate upon arrival at a CBP port of entry.
All U.S. citizens, regardless of age, must have a valid passport for international air travel. Passports are size 3 travel documents that follow specific regulations for their construction, layout and content. They usually display the bearer’s name, photo, place of birth and nationality and are recognized internationally as full documents of identity and nationality.
Passports are issued by the Department of State and can be obtained from regional passport agencies, at some libraries and post offices, some county courthouses and other government facilities, through some private firms and by appointment at consulates abroad. The application process is relatively straightforward if you have all your documents in order.
Direct-hire federal employees and other officials who need to travel internationally on official business can obtain a no-fee passport from the Department of State. This document is not for leisure travel and must be surrendered when duty ends. It may be replaced with a regular-fee tourist passport or with a passport card if that’s more convenient for the trip.
U.S. Permanent Residents
Green card holders traveling to the Bahamas should be prepared to present government-issued photo identification, including a passport. They will also need to provide proof that they have sufficient funds to finance their trip; onward or return tickets to leave the Bahamas; and accommodation proof.
In addition to these documents, travelers are encouraged to bring a copy of their itinerary with them, and should have an up-to-date Yellow Fever vaccination certificate if they are traveling from a country where yellow fever is prevalent. Travelers should also consider bringing travel insurance.
It is always wise to apply for a passport well in advance of your planned travel dates, as it can take four to 12 weeks or more for processing. It is also recommended to fill out the application completely and with sincere answers, and bring two passport-sized photos. It is also a good idea to have an address, phone number and other contact information in the Bahamas in case of emergency.
Canadian citizens who plan to stay less than 30 days do not need a visa for the Bahamas. Those visiting for longer periods must have a passport that expires at least three months after their date of departure (it may be as long as six months if the traveler is traveling back to Canada directly from another country). Canadians also must bring proof of onward or return travel, lodging reservations and, if requested, sufficient funds for the duration of their visit.
Sexual assault is a problem in the Bahamas, especially at resorts and casinos, so travelers should be cautious about leaving personal belongings unattended. It is also advisable to avoid accepting snacks, beverages or gum from strangers. Visitors who wish to fish in Bahamian waters must carry a valid license and comply with local laws. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction applies to the Bahamas, so consult a lawyer about obtaining the return of children who have been wrongfully taken from their parents.