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Bahamas Inter-Island Restrictions Eased

After initial entry into the country, cruisers will no longer be required to take additional COVID tests while sailing inter-island.

Updated:

November 9, 2021
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Hope Town Lighthouse
The iconic Hope Town Lighthouse— or Elbow Reef Lighthouse, is a favorite landmark for cruisers in the Abacos. With five ports of entry, the Abacos is a popular first stop for many cruisers. Cruisers should have a valid Bahamas Health Travel Visa completed and printed out to ensure clearance. Courtesy Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

There’s some good news for cruisers heading to the Bahamas this season—the Bahamian government has removed the requirement for inter-island COVID testing.

While vaccinated travelers are still required to apply for a Bahamian Health Travel Visa before arriving in the islands, they are no longer required to take COVID tests while traveling through the islands. Previously, cruisers were required to take COVID tests every five days as they moved through the islands.

The Ministry of Tourism confirmed Tuesday fully vaccinated cruisers with proof of vaccination are still required to produce a negative COVID test, administered no more than five days before travel. The guidelines listed on the Bahama government website clearly state all travelers must upload their negative COVID test to their Bahamas Health Travel Visa application, regardless of vaccination status.

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Several sailors Cruising World contacted, however, reported encountering differing requirements upon their arrival. In general, proof of vaccination and a valid Bahamas Health Travel Visa were sufficient during their visits, and they were not required to provide a negative test, or take a COVID test upon arrival. But to be safe, always check updates on the official sites before departing for the islands.

Cruisers should have proof of vaccination prior to arrival. Cruisers without proof of vaccination need to apply for a Bahamian Health Travel Visa before arriving in the islands, and upload a negative COVID test (Rapid Antigen Test or PCR are accepted), to the Health Travel Visa application.

Out Islands
The Out Islands near Eleuthera and the Abacos are some of the best cruising grounds to be found. Cruisers that arrive in the Bahamas in an official port of entry with a valid Bahama Health Travel Visa will no longer be required to take additional tests for COVID during inter-island travel. Courtesy Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

While the negative test must be dated within five days prior to arrival in the islands, the Bahamian government has clarified a few exceptions to address these concerns: Crews traveling to the Bahamas can arrive in the country outside of the required 5-day window provided they can demonstrate that they made the voyage directly to the port of entry in the Bahamas without an intervening port.

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Basil Smith, the executive director of the Association of Bahamas Marinas, said the guidelines and protocols for entering the Bahamas on a private vessel are continually updated on the association’s website, and he noted that travel restrictions and requirements can change rapidly. He suggests anyone who plans to travel to the Bahamas check all updates at bahamasmarinas.com/procedures-and-protocols.

Another well maintained source for information is Noonsite. It is frequently updated with information from fellow cruisers as well as in-country officials and other sources.

“When we went in May to West End, Grand Bahama, we arrived by private vessel,” said sailor Monica Jennings. “We uploaded our proof of vaccination to the portal (the Bahama Health Travel Visa portal). Jennings highly recommends printing out a paper copy of your travel visa prior to arrival, in order to avoid complications upon arrival. She witnessed several visitors encounter serious complications when they were unable to provide a paper copy.

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Cruisers can apply for a Bahamas Health Travel Visa at travel.gov.bs (click on the International Tab unless you are a Bahamian citizen). For questions, email [email protected].

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