2021 Bahamas Guide to Nassau & The Atlantis // 2021
Updated: Jul 7, 2021
If you plan on traveling to the Bahamas in 2021, (specifically Nassau) I've put together a guide on staying at the Atlantis, COVID regulations, traveling out of the country post-pandemic, where to eat, our favorite excursions and I threw in some travel hacks too! I'm sharing how to do your trip on a budget and where it's worth the splurge.
WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT COVID-REGULATIONS & RESTRICTIONS // PRE-TRIP & THROUGHOUT YOUR STAY
We went to Nassau in May 2021. At the time we were not fully vaccinated so we had to jump through some hoops before we left the US. I can't speak on what it is like if you are fully vaccinated AND remember Covid travel restrictions and regulations change ALL the time- so just make sure you are up to date on what you need to get done!
We had to apply for a travel health visa. I think it was $90 and I believe you need one even if you are vaccinated. It will make you input your passport number, photo, flight information and some other things too. It is a pretty easy application but it isn't complete until you get your PCR Covid test results as NEGATIVE. Yes, it has to be PCR it cannot be a rapid test. Be careful to look at the timeline. You have to do your PCR test 5 days out I believe, since test results can take up to 48 hours to get back. Make sure where you go to get your PCR test, they will have results that quickly. Some clinics take up to 5 days. We did ours at CVS and they came back within 24 hours, plus they send you the results via email and its super easy to screenshot and upload to your Visa.
*Note that if you say your PCR test is for travel it will not be covered by insurance, do what you want with that information- they WILL ask you why you are getting tested
Once you have your negative results you then have to put them into the health visa and submit for approval. They say this can take up to 48 hours, ours took only a few hours. But you will need approval before you leave- so again, be mindful of timelines!
AT THE AIRPORT
At the airport you will have to show your negative covid test and travel visa at Check In along with your passport. *I suggest printing these so you have a back up just in case you lose a phone, it's dead and it's easier than sorting through your screenshots to find
You will also need them once you are through check-in, at the gate. The gate agent will ask for both your travel visa (it comes up as a barcode they scan), passport and negative test. Additionally, once you land you will have to show everything when going through Customs. *ALWAYS keep it handy, save to a folder on your phone and print! It will save you so much time
AT THE RESORT
To get into the resort you will have to show your negative test and travel visa as well. We stayed at Harbourside and took a taxi from the airport. Everyone in the taxi, including the driver had to show a negative COVID test.
You are required to take daily health checks which can be done on your phone.
*I suggest setting a daily alarm or notification and doing it first thing in the morning. You can be fined if it is not completed!
You also will have to take another COVID test 5 days after you have been at the resort. This is just a rapid test and can be done right at the resort. *Sign up as soon as you can because spots book quickly and you have to get it done on exactly your 5th day. I'd recommend the first spot so you can get in and out. We saw the lines get pretty long throughout the day.
Masks are required for EVERYONE when inside the resort and anytime you are at a bar (even poolside). If you are by the pool or beach and go to the bar for food or drinks, you will have to have a mask on or they will not serve you.
You will have to get your temperature checked every time you enter the hotel. It is pretty easy since it is just a face scanner, but it is required.
ON THE ISLAND
Everyone wears masks and most people are not vaccinated. There is also a 10pm curfew. Apparently that doesn't affect tourists or taxi drivers but the town is pretty much shut down late night. If you are going to another resort for dinner, the concierge should still be able to call you a taxi and get you back to your hotel no problem.
Let's just say we came home and got vaccinated ASAP after all the hoops we had to jump through!
GETTING AROUND // AIRPORT TRANSPORTATION
There is no Uber and Taxis are EXPENSIVE. There is your warning (lol). They make you pay by head rather than a flat rate fee. Plus the second they pick you up at the Atlantis (or any resort really) the price goes way up. Plus to get over the bridge onto Paradise Island, there is a toll fee but I think they include that in what they charge you.
*I recommend skipping out on the resort shuttle and booking your car service ahead of time.
I can't remember how much the Atlantis shuttle is if you book through the resort, but it as a bit pricey (shocker). We found a taxi service where we could book round trip and I think it was $40 each person. Which came out to $20 a person each way. Plus this was our own private car (nothing fancy, just a taxi) but it did the job and the staff was great! We used Shuttlefare and could enter number of riders, how many bags we had and our flight information so they were there when we landed and at the resort when it was time for us to head home.
There is a shuttle to hop around the resort that comes every 5-10 minutes. It doesn't matter if you are at The Reef, Coral, Harbourside - they will take you around. It's super easy and convenient!
EATING & DRINKING AT THE RESORT // WHERE TO SAVE AND WHERE TO SPLURGE
If you can't already tell, everything is EXPENSIVE. Cocktails start at about $16 and you already know vacation cocktails go down WAY too easy. Plus the food is just as expensive and most things are sold as a meal, so you will have to order a burger plus fries plus a drink.
*Bring snacks with you and go to the local grocery store on your first day and stock up on some basics
Since we were staying at Harbourside we had our own little kitchen. We brought snacks like crackers, granola bars, instant oatmeal, peanut butter, jelly and some chips. (Which ended up saving us SO much $ by throwing some sandwiches in our beach bags) I am not sure if the resort rooms have mini fridges or microwaves- but I would ask. Anything that is a dry good that you can pack, bring it!! Crystal light is also great for DIY cocktails.
THE GROCERY STORE
We originally planned on asking our taxi driver to stop by the grocery store between the airport and the resort, but since we flew in on Sunday, everything was closed. I guess in the Bahamas, quite literally everything is closed on Sundays, so keep that in mind. We got settled in our room and learned that just outside Harbourside (about a 5 minute walk out of the gate on Paradise Island) there is a strip mall with a liquor store, grocery store, Dunkin Donuts and Beach Shop.
*If you are staying at the main resort, take the shuttle to Harborside then walk to this area to stock up on food, water and booze!
The grocery store is small and there's not a ton. But we grabbed bread, some mixers, bananas, and some water. We barely got anything and our bill was almost $100. It's not cheap but still better than eating every meal out.
Atlantis claims to have water stations around the resort, but let it be known the tap water tastes like the ocean. I would not recommend. But what's even worse is that if you want to BUY filtered water it is $13 for a paper carton of water. YUCK. (and talk about a rip off) But I would still bring a reusable one for when you buy water you can keep it cold.
*Head to the liquor store for $2 Liters of legit water
You can buy it from the grocery store but we found the best place to buy was from the Liquor Store or the Souvenir Shop at the strip mall. The BIG 1L bottles of water at the Liquor store were only $2 and kept in the fridge. Consider this a STEAL and STOCK UP!
We also stocked up at the liquor store. Prices weren't insane if you wanted local rum. We got Bacardi and I think it was like $30. (aka the price of 2 drinks) We also treated ourselves to lots of mojitos and rum punch too- don't worry. :)
REUSABLE SODA CUPS
I highly recommend splurging on the $30 reusable soda cups. If you plan on making some of your own drinks, this is a great way to have a cup to carry it around in. Plus the soda machines are scattered throughout the waterpark and can be used as mixers! I wish we had done this the first day.
EATING AT THE RESORT
Get reservations ASAP if you want to eat at the resort. We didn't really eat at the resort too much because we didn't have reservations and most places were booked. We did eat a lot by the beach or pool, just grabbing chicken fingers or hot dogds. (When we weren't smuggling in our PB&Js) We also walked around the Harbour area and grabbed burgers one day. (There are also some great restaurants in that area too but you do need reservations!) The breakfast place was almost always closed or booked for private events. There is a casual fast food type breakfast shop and Starbucks if you are looking for something quick. There's also a Dunkin Donuts only a 5 minute walk away from Harbourside.
There's also a Margaritaville on Paradise Island right when you go over the bridge. This is right outside the Harbourside gate and is such a fun atmosphere! They have a huge menu- we ate there twice and had lots of drinks there too.
THE FISH FRY
The place all the locals rave about. Supposedly super cheap, the most fresh and delicious seafood and a very local spot. You can get a taxi from the resort to have lunch here. I heard the experience is great and to split a meal because they are THAT massive.
Go to Mckenzies! It is as authentic as it gets. Right over the bridge in a shack over the water, the conch fritters were absolutely insane. Our tour guides recommended them and we were blown away. I will say the fish is so fresh that mine came with eyeballs and bones. That part was a little too fresh for me. But the experience was still so great and it was fun to have a cheap local meal!
EXCURSIONS // WHAT TO DO OUTSIDE THE RESORT
Now for the fun stuff! We chose to do 2 excursions. We were there for 7 days and since 2 were travel days we had the perfect combination or days on the lazy river or relaxing by the beach and days spent doing our excursions. We did a snorkeling trip and a Reggae and Rum tour- both were very inexpensive and an absolute blast. We did not book any excursions through the hotel!
Our snorkeling trip was so much fun! We took off right from Margaritaville so we grabbed a drink at the bar while we waited to go on. Plus you could bring it on board! We went to a little reef and hung out on the boat, swam, jumped off and then the $5 rum punch started flowing. Let's just say the ride and walk back is a bit foggy lol...
RUM AND REGGAE TOUR
I actually had a follower send me this and I am SO grateful because it was the highlight of our trip. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! It was $60 a person and was an entire day adventure. UNLIMITED RUM PUNCH, transportation, 2 guides, rum cakes, distillery tours, Bob Marleys house and so much more. It was an absolute blast and honestly the best way to see the island. I can't recommend it enough. Since it is the Bahamas, it is 18+! EAT BREAKFAST. There is no food on the tour and drinking all that rum will work up an appetite. BRING SNACKS! Do anything to feed yourselves because we were not feeling that great after hours of drinking and walking around without any food. I can't recommend this enough. Book yours HERE.
Downtown Nassau is unfortunately pretty much closed. They told us that it would likely reopen once cruise ships were back. We were really bummed Senor Frogs and the Straw Market was closed- maybe next time!
GENERAL FAQs // NEED TO KNOWS
IS THERE WIFI AT THE RESORT?
Yes but it is not free. It is about $25 each day for 4 devices. There is supposed to be free wifi in the lobby but it didn't work for us. We unplugged and only bought it a few days!
DO THEY TAKE AMERICAN MONEY/CREDIT CARDS?
Yep! Bring some cash for taxi drivers and do it before you have to deal with insane ATM fees. Make sure to check your credit cards for foreign transaction fees. My Visa had foreign transaction fees but my American Express didn't. Not everywhere takes American Express though. (I believe the Atlantis does)
IS THERE NIGHTLIFE?
Yes, but be warned the drinking age is 18 so EVERYONE is young. This is a hot spot for high school grads apparently. We went to one of the bars in the hotel and it was fun, there was a DJ, but at 24 we felt old.. so just keep that in mind.
WHAT'S THE DRESS CODE?
Casual! Literally everywhere is super casual. We didn't go to the steakhouse, but I assume the more $$$ places may be more dressy.
WHERE ELSE IS THERE TO STAY BESIDES THE ATLANTIS?
BAHA MAR! We went for dinner and it is the most BEAUTIFUL hotel. Think boujee boutique Vegas. It is pricier and more high end for sure but it was great. Way more of an older crowd too.