Sailing the Bahamas Part II - Checking in to the Bahamas
Headed to the Bahamas soon? This is the second post of a two-part series for Prepping For A Trip To The Bahamas Via Boat. The first post is Preparing for a Gulf Stream Crossing to the Bahamas and this one shares what to expect for the check in process.
Paperwork Organization & Prep Work
Make sure to have all of your paperwork in order before leaving port, many countries will not let you enjoy their homeland if you do not have everything in order. Keep things organized so that you make things speedy for checking into a new country, or if you are boarded by the Coast Guard on the way over. We keep everything organized in an Excel sheet to have everything handy for upcoming expirations. If you are not sure of what the Coast Guard may be looking for when they board your vessel, visit their guidelines, here.
Here is a quick list of paperwork you should have up-to-date and in order -
- Registration of Vessel
- Registration of Dinghy
- US Coast Guard Documentation
- Radio Station Authorization
- Title of Vessel Ownership
- Customs & Border Patrol Decal aka DTOPS (for returning back to the U.S.)
- Passports of ALL crew members
Costs Upon Arrival
- Vessels up to 35 feet - $150, valid for two entries during a 90-day period with four people or less
- Vessels over 35 feet - $300, valid for two entries during a 90-day period with four people or less
This fee includes cruising permit, fishing permit, Customs & Immigration charges, and a $15 per person departure tax; additional costs will apply for crews of 5+ people. If you're planning to stay longer than 90 days, you'll need to arrange additional time with the Bahamas Customs and Immigration Officers.
The crew aboard Tipsy Gypsy includes two chihuahuas that will join our travels to the Bahamas. In order for you to bring a pet to a new country, there are rules and regulations to follow and might not be the same when hopping from country to country. It is important to research what is needed before committing to them joining you and know that not all types of animals are allowed.
When visiting the Bahamas, you'll need to have an up-to-date health certificate for each pet you bring that includes 1-3 year rabies vaccinations given at least 1 month before visiting the country. In addition to preparing your pets beforehand, you'll also need to apply for a pet permit. The animal must be at least 6 months old; and other requirements must be met if your pet is not spayed or neutered (but it’s easier and less risky to just get them fixed). You can find additional information on the form you fill out, which you can find here. We highly suggest sending this via FedEx and receiving it back via fax. (We've sent by snail mail a couple times, never to see anything back in return.) Also, before sending, call to confirm the address in which you should send the paperwork to. Sometimes their paperwork information online never gets updated when other information might have been changed.
If you'd like to receive your mail while traveling, St. Brendan's Isle provides a great mail forwarding service. Although it would be very expensive to forward to the Bahamas, they will also open and scan your mail to you on a weekly basis and upon request. This service can cost as little as $8/month and will save you a whole lot of headache.
Although this may not be actual paperwork, it is still important for any paperless items you may be receiving. We are digital nomads, so having internet allows us to travel full-time and work remotely even while visiting a new country. To get started, it takes a little leg work, but once it’s setup, you won’t regret it. First, it is important to have a global phone that allows you to replace the sim card with carriers that provide reliable local service within each country you visit. Secondly, it is nice to have different sim cards for different carriers in case other services work better than others in certain areas. This may sound unnecessary and expensive, however you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that data is generally much cheaper elsewhere than in the United States.
In the Bahamas, you can have either Aliv or BTC. Both work well, but we always carry both to make sure we stay connected. To get the sim cards, it is best to visit one of their stores to purchase a plan. You can add more data and minutes via their website, but it's important to have the sim cards as soon as you arrive in the country. Once you get to more remote islands, both Aliv and BTC office hours of operation become less predictable and regular. If you want to have a working cell phone or internet along the way, take care of that right away.
Although Tipsy Gypsy does not carry firearms, you may want to bring yours. You must declare your firearm(s) with Customs immediately upon arrival into their country. Bring the firearm serial number and manufacturer, plus an EXACT count of ammunition. Though firearms are allowed on your vessel, you are not able to take it off the vessel unless a permit is obtained by the Bahamian police. Keep weapons under lock and key at all times. Any infraction of this law is dealt with severely, and not something you want to experience. Additional information or questions should be brought to Customs and Immigration BEFORE arrival into the country.
You are most definitely able to bring kayaks and SUPs across, but if you have something that you are unsure of, do your research and check Bahama's regulations before bringing it with you. Two examples: drones are strictly regulated; spear guns (besides Hawaiian Slings), are not allowed. You may be allowed to have these items on board, but do not use them in the Bahamas, as you must follow local laws and regulations while visiting their country.
Use these posts as a reference when you are preparing for your own crossing to the Bahamas. These will surely get you started and help to stay organized around maintenance, preparing accordingly for weather, and what to do when you get there. Better preparation is tedious, but will expedite your time at customs and provide more relaxation in the Bahamas!
Cheers and thanks for reading!
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If you have additional questions about making the Gulf Stream Crossing to Bahamas or Checking In to the Bahamas, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.