It almost goes without saying that the Bahamas is a tropical paradise. It’s close to the US but has an entirely more favorable tax regime.
With thousands of hours of sunshine and temperatures that range from mild to hot it’s hard to imagine an unpleasant corner of the island country. And with over 700 islands to choose from, it’s easy to think that options must be unlimited.
The best places to live in the Bahamas for you will depend, at least partly, on your goals and life situation.
Is your relocation part of a dream retirement plan? Are you moving your digital nomad operation to the Bahamas? Will you be working for a company in the country’s financial center?
We’ll take all of these factors into account as we figure out where to live in the Bahamas. Read on for your guide to strategically approaching this essential question.
Table of Contents
An Island View of Where to Live in the Bahamas
Compared to other Carribean countries that fit into the one-big-island category (like Cuba or Jamaica), the Bahamas is what’s known as an “archipelagic state”. In other words, the country is spread out across 100s of islands, reefs, islets and cays.
First of all, of the 700 total islands, only 29 are inhabited. That cuts the selection down significantly but there is still a noticeable difference between the inhabited islands.
When relocating to some countries it’s mostly about picking the right town or neighborhood for you. But in the Bahamas, what island you’re on is what makes most of the difference.
New Providence is the Most Populous
Roughly 70% of the 320,000 Bahamanians live on New Providence island. Nassau, the capital, largest city and financial center is located on New Providence and legally covers the whole island.
There are various settlements on New Providence but development and relocation to the island since the 1950s has caused Nassau to sprawl over basically the whole island.
New Providence includes a few wealthy and very exclusive areas. Lyford
Grand Bahama is the Other Inner Island
In the Bahamas, locals refer to all of the islands, 28 are inhabited, 300 uninhabited, except for New Providence and Grand Bahama as “the Out Islands”.
Most people on Grand Bahama live in either Freeport or Lucaya. The former is more touristy (with cruise ships calling regularly) and the latter has more of a locals-only vibe.
With second homes belonging to the likes of Oprah, Bill Gates
Bahamas’ Out Islands
Away from the cruise ships and bank towers these are where you’ll truly find the pure expression of island life in the Bahamas. Highlights in this part of the Bahamas include:
- Eleuthera: As idyllic as the name sounds, this group of outer islands has 11,000 inhabitants. It’s especially popular with retired expats who want to try their hand at gardening because there is more soil here than in the generally quite rocky country.
- Abacos: This chain of islands is the spot of choice for enthusiasts of outdoor pursuits. For instance, it has a world-class links-style golf course, but with a view of the sunny Caribbean instead of the blustery Firth of Forth.
- Exumas: Living here, especially in retirement, is like a constant vacation. Beyond the famous swimming pigs on Big Major Cay, this part of the Bahamas also has some of the best diving in the world.
The Out Islands can still be an option even if you’re not ready to retire to the beach for the entire year. The government of the Bahamas understands that the secluded lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean giving up creature comforts and occasional access to the outside world.
For instance, there are four flights a day from Exuma to Nassau and much of the main Eleuthera island is served by municipal water and sewer systems.
Expats: Where to Live in the Bahamas?
Generally, when a country becomes a popular focus for expats there are three likely candidates to consider when looking for where they’ve already clustered. They are:
- The biggest city where jobs are most available and there might already be more diversity than in the countryside.
- Special areas set aside by the government where development is encouraged and new-economy companies have established themselves.
- Vacation-friendly areas that have matured beyond just resorts to also include long-term rentals within easy reach of the beach and other outdoor pursuits.
In some ways, the Bahamas offers all three. Wealthy expats tend to live in gated communities within easy reach of both the beach and the financial center. Nassau also has more affordable options in a few up-and-coming areas.
So far, the Bahamanian government seems to be mostly interested in checking resort development when it might consume too much nature rather than steering expats away from traditional neighborhoods for locals.
Communities of Choice for Expats on New Providence
Expats with children tend to think that the communities close to the top schools, especially St. Andrews and Lyford Cay, are the best places to live in the Bahamas.
On the western side, crime is lower and there are also more gated options, in Lyford Cay, Old Fort Bay
Finding the Right Place to Retire in the Bahamas
If you’re planning to retire to the Bahamas and want to be among other retirees, look back to the discussion of thinking of the Bahamas on an island-by-island basis. Very generally speaking retirees group themselves:
- Those looking for culture, golf, the height of luxury seem to end up on New Providence.
- If sun and sand are priorities, Grand Bahama (away from the cruise ships at least) is the place.
- Gardeners and nature lovers feel at home on Eleuthera.
The Cheapest Place to Live in the Bahamas
The two factors that make things expensive in the Bahamas are tourist demand and transportation. Generally, that means that the further you get from the beach and the closer to Nassau, the cheaper things will be.
Obviously, it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, but a beachfront home on Abaco, in the Out Islands, could go for well over $5-million while a canal-side condo in Nassau can be had for about $200,000.
Even if you find a place that sells or rents for well under your budget (without sacrificing points for safety or convenience) consider that there may be unexpected costs in the Bahamas.
Electricity can be very expensive, so ask about the average monthly hydro bill before renting a place. Taxis are also relatively expensive on the Bahamas, so you’ll want to take variations of how much you use them into account when picking a community to live in.
Consider Security When Picking the Best Place to Live
Many expats in the Bahamas choose to live in a gated community because they are concerned about their wellbeing and their property.
The US State Department puts the threat level for crime against visiting Americans on New Providence Island at critical. The murder rate in the Bahamas is 10 times what it is in New York City.
Like anywhere, crime is concentrated in certain areas and it is possible to stay safe in the Bahamas. This is why it’s critically important to work with a real estate agent you trust and try to visit the Bahamas to pick a neighborhood before relocating here.
Bottom Line for Picking a Place to Live
Despite the very strong guarantee of sunny weather and placid water, there is plenty of variation in how pleasant life is in the Bahamas. Lots of that depends on where you choose to live.
When you’re making this decision, it pays to remember that:
- Like in the US, gated communities are partly about luxury and exclusivity, but here in the Bahamas, they also are a practical matter of safety.
- Finding the right island to suit the lifestyle you want is the first (and most important) step of finding the best place to live in the Bahamas.
- Families coming to the Bahamas with kids will want to focus their search on communities near the best schools.
- It can feel like the beach is next to every where in the Bahamas but there is also plenty of variation and specialization for outdoor activities like scuba diving, sailing, hiking and exploring the environment away from the sea.
With so many different options to choose from it can feel a bit overwhelming. I’ll be happy to help advise you on your search for a place to live in the Bahamas. Drop me a line and we’ll get started right away.