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Two Major Hotels Are About to Reopen in the Bahamas

AFAR logo AFAR 2/2/2021 Lyndsey Matthews

a blue and white boat sitting next to a body of water: Two Major Hotels Are About to Reopen in the Bahamas © Courtesy of Baha Mar Two Major Hotels Are About to Reopen in the Bahamas

Since November 1, 2020, all international travelers have been allowed to travel to—and freely move about—the Bahamas upon arrival, as long as they follow all testing and safety protocols implemented by the government. And with the upcoming March 2021 reopenings of SLS Baha Mar and Rosewood Baha Mar—two of the island nation’s most popular resorts—here’s what you need to know about travel in the Bahamas right now.

Is the Bahamas open for travel?

Yes: The Bahamas is open for travel and visitors can move about the country freely as long as they comply with all necessary testing requirements and follow government mandated face masks requirements and social-distancing efforts.

Like many other islands in the Caribbean, the path to reopening travel in the Bahamas has involved a lot of back and forth. After initially opening its borders to all international commercial travel in July 2020, the Bahamas restricted flights from the United States a few weeks later after an uptick in coronavirus cases. In October 2020, the Bahamas eased open its borders to travelers from the United States once again, requiring negative PCR test results taken within five days prior to arrival. 

Keep in mind, per a new CDC rule effective January 26, all international passengers flying into the United States (including returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents) must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than three days prior to departure. Many resorts, including Baha Mar, have opened dedicated testing centers on site to help travelers with this new requirement. Learn more about how to procure a COVID test abroad here

What is the current COVID-19 situation in the Bahamas? 

As of February 1, there have been 8,174 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 176 deaths in the Bahamas, according to data from Johns Hopkins University

On November 23, 2020, the State Department issued a Level 3: Reconsider Travel advisory to the Bahamas due to COVID-related conditions. The CDC currently says, “Travelers should avoid all nonessential travel to the Bahamas.” It ranks the destination as a Level 3 (High Level of COVID-19) in a travel notice that was last reviewed on January 29.

What kind of safety protocols are in place in the Bahamas?

All incoming travelers are required to upload a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test taken no more than five days before their arrival date (children 10 and under are not required to take a test). In addition to presenting negative PCR test results upon arrival in the Bahamas, travelers must also upload them at travel.gov.bs to complete a Bahamas Travel Health Visa application.

As part of the Travel Health Visa application, travelers must also opt-in for COVID-19 health insurance that will cover the length of their stay. The cost of the insurance is included in the visa application fee, which depends on the length of stay. It costs $40 for citizens of the USA and Canada staying up to four nights and $60 for those staying longer than four nights. Residents of all other countries need to pay $50 for up to four nights and $70 for more than four nights. It’s free for children 10 years and under.

Travelers staying more than four nights and five days in the Bahamas will also need to take a rapid antigen test. The cost of this test is included in the visa application fee. Those who fail to take this test will be fined $1,000 or imprisoned for one month. People departing on or before day five will not need to take this test. 

If you abide by all these protocols, you’ll be able to move freely about the Bahamas and no longer have to “vacation in place” within the confines of your resort or accommodations.

What commercial airlines are flying to the Bahamas?

After all commercial flights from the U.S. were banned from flying into the Bahamas in July 2020, American, JetBlue, Delta, and United have since resumed routes from cities like Miami, Atlanta, and New York. 

The national airline of the Bahamas, Bahamasair, has also resumed outgoing flights to the United States. 

From January 31 to April 30, 2021, all flights are canceled between Canada and Caribbean destinations—including the Bahamas—on Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat.

In Google Flights, it appears that British Airways won’t resume its nonstop route to Nassau until March 2021.

What else is open in the Bahamas?

During their time in the Bahamas, all international travelers are being asked by the government to practice social-distancing measures and are required to wear face masks while transiting through airports, as well as in transit in taxis or buses and when entering and exiting restaurants. While masks aren’t required on beaches, you must wear them when entering and exiting them. Those who refuse can be fined $250 or imprisoned for a month.

Note that some islands have imposed other rules such as curfews and reduced service for restaurants and other business. For example, on Nassau and Paradise Island, where most major resorts are located, indoor dining is permitted at hotels only, while outdoor dining is available elsewhere, including the Arawak Cay Fish Fry. People must be back on their hotel grounds by curfew time, which starts at 10 p.m. and runs through 5 a.m. daily in Nassau and Paradise Island, Eleuthera and Exuma, and Grand Bahama Island. On less populated islands, like Cat Island, indoor dining is allowed everywhere and there is no curfew. To check individual island restrictions, visit bahamas.com/tourism-reopening and scroll down to the Interactive Island Guide.

Which hotels are open?

Hotels and vacation rentals, including Airbnb and HomeAway, are allowed to welcome guests and the Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort has remained open to guests, with new safety protocols in place, including temperature checks of guests every 24 hours. Face masks are also required of all guests 10 years and above in all public spaces. Additionally, two of the Bahamas’ largest resorts reopened in December 2020. Here’s what you can expect.

Atlantis Paradise Island

On December 10, 2020, the Atlantis Paradise Island resort reopened to guests. Upon arrival, guests must have their temperatures taken, and everyone two years and older is required to wear a mask while in public places at the resort. Under the newly formed Paradise Island Safe Zone, registered guests who stay within the safe zone during their stay are not required to take the rapid antigen test on day five of their trip. The safe zone spans the resort’s 200 acres, five miles of white sand beaches, as well as the Ocean Club Golf Course, among other amenities. Atlantis’s flexible cancellation policy allows for cancellations up to 72 hours before arrival. For more information about the Atantis reopening, visit atlantisbahamas.com/travel-info.

Baha Mar

On December 17, 2020, Baha Mar began its phased reopening by welcoming guests back to the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar at a capacity of 60 percent. The Rosewood Baha Mar and the SLS Baha Mar will reopen on March 4, 2021.

Guests are now required to wear face masks in public places at the resort. They will also be required to take a free rapid antigen test prior to check-in in a semi-private setting onsite at the hotel. After checking in, guests must remain in their rooms until test results are available (about 30 minutes). Those with positive results will be visited in their room by a medical professional from the resort’s medical director’s office who will conduct a PCR test.

Guests who must take another rapid antigen test on day five of their trip, per government rules, or need a PCR test before returning home can do so at Baha Mar’s on-site testing center run by Doctor’s Hospital Nassau. All three Baha Mar properties are offering complimentary rapid antigen tests and RT-PCR tests onsite for $134 per person for guests whose country requires negative test results to return home. (The required day five rapid antigen test at the approved testing sites listed at bahamas.com/travelupdates are also free as part of the Bahamas Travel Health Visa fee.)

Baha Mar’s flexible cancellation policy allows for cancellations up to 24 hours before arrival. For more information about the resort’s reopening, read Baha Mar’s Commitment to Your Wellbeing, which outlines all of the safety protocols and requirements.

Can I work from the Bahamas for an extended time? 

Yes, professionals and students alike can now work remotely from the Bahamas for up to one year with the launch of the Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) program. To apply via portal.immigration.gov.bs, you’ll need a valid passport, medical insurance, and proof of employment or a valid student ID. In addition to a $25 application fee, work permits are $1,000 for the head of household and $500 for each dependent. Student permits are $500 per person.

This article was originally published on July 20, 2020; it was updated on February 1, 2021, to include current information.

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