The U.S. State Department has issued a travel advisory for the Bahamas, urging travelers to “exercise increased caution.”
The Level 2 advisory, issued last Monday, said violent crime, including burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault, “is common, even during the day and in tourist areas,” noting that most crime happens on New Providence and the Grand Bahama Islands.
There are four levels, ranging from "exercise normal precautions" (Level 1) to "do not travel" (Level 4).
It also said activities involving commercial recreational watercraft, including water tours, are “not consistently regulated.”
“Watercraft are often not maintained, and many companies do not have safety certifications to operate in The Bahamas. Jet-ski operators have been known to commit sexual assaults against tourists.” As a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet-ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise Islands.
The State Department advises those who wish to travel to the Bahamas take the following precautions:
- Exercise caution in the area known as "Over the Hill" (south of Shirley Street) and the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay in Nassau, especially at night.
- Do not answer your door at your hotel/residence unless you know who it is.
- Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
- Review the Crime and Safety Report for the Bahamas.
- S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency and medical situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.
In response, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation put out a statement, saying "the vast majority of our 6 million annual visitors do so without any incident whatsoever." It listed safety and security efforts currently underway, including the use of CCTV, heightened police presence with foot, bicycle and motor patrols, and additional Beach Enforcement Officers that have been deployed to beaches frequented by visitors.
"Safety and security on land and at sea is critically important for visitors and for the Bahamian people. Aggressive efforts are underway across all relevant Bahamian ministries and departments to ensure that our islands remain a destination that provides a welcoming environment where visitors enjoy our culture and our citizens enjoy economic opportunity."
This story has been updated with a statement from the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation.