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Entering the Bahamas

Entering the Bahamas requires dealing with two distinct groups, Immigaration and Customs. For boaters, it also involves flying flags that signal your entry status.

Flag etiquette for small boats

If US registered, fly the US Ensign on your starboard outrigger or radio antenna. When within sight of land in the Bahamas, run up the yellow quarrantine flag on the port outrigger, signifying know you are in Bahamian water and have not yet cleared. After clearing into the islands, replace the yellow flag with the Bahamian courtesy flag, which now signals your home country and that you've cleared into the current one. When returning to the US, temporarily replace the US flag with the yellow one, until you've cleared Customs there. All flags and the requisite clips are vailable at marine stores.

Clearing involves forms for the boat, and forms each individual. Forms are usually available at the checkin marina, otherwise they will be obtained from the Customs and Immigration offices, which in Bimini are located on the south end of Alice Town, near the seaplane ramp. Only the captain may go ashore prior to finishing the entry procedure being completed. Get the forms, fill them out, and get cleared into the country as the first order of business, before unloading or checking into the marina/hotel.

Immigration ID Requirements

U.S. and Canadian citizens entering The Islands Of The Bahamas as visitors are required to show proof of citizenship with either a passport (current or expired within five years) or two forms of identification, one of which has to have a photo. For example, you may bring your birth certificate and a driverís license.

Naturalized citizens require naturalization papers and a passport.

Alien residents in possession of a U.S. Alien Registration Card may enter The Islands Of The Bahamas without a visa for visits not exceeding thirty days. Presentation of a current national passport, or one that has been expired for five years or less, is required.

Permanent residents (green card holders) require their green card and a valid passport from their place of birth.

Canadian visitors staying less than three weeks need the same identification as those from the U.S. and do not require a visa.

Landed immigrants in possession of the Canadian Immigration Record Form 1000 should follow the same requirements as Alien residents.

British subjects from the United Kingdom and colonies may enter The Islands Of The Bahamas as visitors without passports or visas for periods not exceeding three weeks. For longer stays they must present a passport.

All others need a valid passport.

Other Immigration Rules

Upon your arrival to The Islands Of The Bahamas, you will be asked to fill out an Immigration Arrival/Departure Card, which you will keep part of until your departure.

All visitors who are not members of a boat crew are required to be in possession of a return airline ticket.

U.S. visitors staying for eight months or less need a return ticket plus proof of identity.

A Yellow Fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers over one year of age coming from the following countries: Angola, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Peru and Sudan. Travellers are required to be vaccinated 10 days prior to entering The Islands Of The Bahamas and must have a valid certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever.

. If you carry a weapon (s), you will need the serial number and an exact count of ammunition. Weapons must be declared! There is no problem in declaring one, but immediate jail if found with one that was not declared.


When you enter The Islands Of The Bahamas, you will be asked for a verbal baggage declaration. However, your luggage is also subject to customs inspections. If you are carrying dutiable items, you will need to fill out a Baggage Declaration Form.

Customs Duty

Baggage declaration by temporary visitors is oral, but baggage is subject to Customs inspection. In case there are dutiable articles, the visitor will be required to complete a Baggage Declaration Form. Each adult is allowed 50 cigars or cigarettes or one pound of tobacco and one quart of spirits free of Customs Duty, in addition to personal effects. In addition, purchases up to a value of one hundred dollars ($100.00) are permitted by all arriving passengers.

Household effects, such as small appliances (such as blender etc.) are dutiable at 45% of the cost. Linen and china are duty free for each arriving visit. Computers such as laptops are considered a part of your personal effects and therefore are duty-free.

What's biting, and when?

Jan: wahoo, kingfish and grouper
Feb: wahoo and kingfish
Mar: wahoo, kingfish, dolphin, tuna, marlin
Apr: dolphin, marlin, sailfish, wahoo, tuna,
May: dolphin, marlin, sailfish, wahoo, tuna,
June: dolphin, marlin, sailfish, wahoo, tuna,
July: dolphin marlin, tuna and bonefish
Aug: bonefish, tuna and blue marlin
Sep: bonefish and tuna
Oct: wahoo, kingfish and bonefish
Nov: wahoo and kingfish
Dec: wahoo, kingfish and grouper

Fishing Regulations

You may enjoy fishing off a beach or dock without a license. However, if you are planning a more serious approach to sportfishing, either on your own boat or with one of the legendary fishing guides, it would pay to read the following brief information since the fine for unlicensed (illegal) fishing in The Bahamas is a MINIMUM of $50,000 or ONE year in prison or both. You may not fish in the Bahamian waters until a fishing permit has been obtained. For this reason, it is best not to fish during the crossing because any catch would be deemed illegal without a permit in your possession.


(non-Bahamian registered boats) - no more than 6 lines are allowed in the water at one time. The annual sportfishing permit is $150, or $20 per sportfishing trip.

Total allowable catch per person varies with the type of catch.

Wahoo/Dolphin/Kingfish: Six fish per person, any combination. No grouper weighing less than 3 (US) pounds may be taken.

Vessel Bag Limit: 20 pounds of scalefish, 10 conch and six crawfish per person may be exported from The Islands Of The Bahamas.


Season lasts from August 1 - March 31. Annual closed season is April 1 to July 31. Six tails per person, at any time. Minimum size limits are 3-3/8 inch carapace length or six inches tail length. Egg-bearing female crawfish are protected. Six crawfish per person may be exported from The Islands Of The Bahamas.

The penalties for taking under-sized tails are severe AND ENFORCED.


Any conch taken from Bahamian waters must be well formed with a prominent, flared lip. As a rule of thumb, to stay on the safe side of Bahamian law, conch should be a minimum of 7 to 8 inches lengthwise. The immature conch found in many tidal waters or shallow sea grass areas should be left for another day. Bag limit at any time is 10 per person. 10 conch per person may be exported from The Islands Of The Bahamas.


For recreational divers, it's illegal all year around to catch, net, spear or otherwise capture fish or invertebrate critters while using scuba gea or surface supplied compressed air equipment.


Spearfishing using spearguns is illegal in The Bahamas. Hawaiian slings or pole spears are the only approved spearfishing devices. Use of them to collect fish or lobsters is allowed under the following conditions:

  • a least a mile offshore of Grand Bahama or New Providence.
  • offshore beyond 200 yards of any other Out Island,
  • while freediving or on snorkel, but not on scuba.

Spearing or taking marine animals by any means is prohibited within national sea parks.

Stone Crabs:

Closed season is June 1 to October 15. Minimum harvestable claw is four inches. Harvesting of females is prohibited.


Pelican Cays Land & Sea Park as well as Fowl Cay Preserve (please click here for interactive undersea park locator map) have been set aside as government protected national parks-preserves by the Bahamas Trust (the Bahamian administration authority for the country's national parks and protected preserves). You're not allowed to take anything living out of the waters in these areas ... no fishing, spearing, conching, lobstering, netting or any kind of shelling is permitted.