Entering The Bahamas during COVID-19: The Knot A Clue Experience
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
We arrived in The Bahamas, specifically Bimini, in late November on Thanksgiving Day in 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been changes to the immigration process (namely additions) and we know that many cruisers are interested to know about them for their own travel plans. So we thought we would describe our experience, but please check the details for yourself before departing.
An official travel requirements summary is available here
You can watch a video of these steps below:
Step 1: Go to http://travel.gov.bs and get informed
We start with this as it's important you research the details yourself in case of any changes!
Step 2: Obtain a Negative Covid RT-PCR Test
At the time of writing, this is the infamous nasal swab although we hear that some labs may offer throat swabs too. The important part of this is the type of test. RT-PCR is a molecular test and is considered highly accurate and usually takes 24-48 hrs to receive results. It is not the same as the antigen test, which is the 'rapid' test that typically yields results under an hour.
We were departing from Fort Lauderdale, and we chose the testing site at nearby C.B.Smith Park (click here for sites). It was a free, drive-through service and we had to wait over 4 hours in line to get our test. Yikes! We took our test Monday lunchtime and received our negative result via email on Tuesday night. [We have since met cruisers who did at-home tests and sent them to a lab, but bear in mind the impact of timing on your leave date - see below]
Step 3: Apply for your Bahamas Health Visa at http://travel.gov.bs
Here you will create an account, and then create a 'Trip', which is the departure and arrival details of your entry into the Bahamas. We left from Fort Lauderdale and arrived in Alice Town, Bimini at Big Game Marina.
You will be asked to upload a copy of your negative RT-PCR test as well as pay a fee for health insurance. It is $40 for trips less than 5 days and $60 for over 5 days.
We applied for our visa on Wednesday morning and within a few hours received email confirmation that it was granted. We paid $60 each for insurance.
Step 4: Download/screenshot and PRINT:
- Your negative RT-PCR test result
- Your approved Bahamas Health Visa (even though it has a QR Code, print it out)
- All other necessary immigration documents (per usual check-in process)
Step 5: Make your crossing to arrive no later than 5 DAYS after the test
The test itself is considered valid for up to 5 days, so you must arrive within that time (regardless of when you get the results back).
We took our test on the Monday before Thanksgiving, and therefore could arrive no later than Friday. We chose to depart on Thursday for weather reasons. There are exceptions for arriving later if you can prove that you did not go to port anywhere along the way, but for simplicity's sake, we recommend keeping to these guidelines.
Step 6: Clear in at Immigration and Customs with:
- Negative Covid Test Results
- Approved Health Visa
- Other necessary immigration documents
For our clearance in on Bimini, the Immigration and Customs processes were the same as earlier in the year. Immigration also asked for the printed RT-PCR test results and the printed Health Visa, but otherwise, it was straightforward. We were granted a cruising permit for 90 days. We did not ask for longer but our impression is that seems to be the common maximum length of time at the moment. You are able to renew it at a later date.
Wear your mask at all times when on shore!
Step 7: Make arrangements for your Day 5 test
The day that you clear into the Bahamas is considered Day 1. If you are staying more than 5 days you must take another COVID test, this time the 'rapid' antigen version, on Day 5. Once again, if you are out at sea on Day 5 there is an allowance for you to take it as soon as you reach the next available location, but for simplicity, we stuck to the main guidelines.
Since we cleared in on Thursday our 5th day was considered Monday. Locations for the Day 5 test can be found here. We chose Bay Street Marina in Nassau as we were passing by there on that day to get fuel. We called ahead to make the appointment.
In addition, for the next five days, you will be asked to take a daily Health Survey online from the Bahamas Travel Visa site. It is 5 questions and takes less than a minute. We received automatic email reminders for this.
Step 8: On Day 5 take your Rapid Test
We arrived in Nassau early Monday morning (Day 5), got fuel next to Bay Street Marina, and walked to the Bay Street Marina office. We did the rapid test (once again this was administered up the nose!) and received results within 20 minutes. The person who tested us scanned our health visas and uploaded the results into the system immediately. The process was very smooth and we were docked no longer than an hour in total - all good to go!
Our Day 5 test was free - it is covered in the fee for health insurance. Some places charge a concierge service fee so make sure you ask when you’re booking it.
Step 9: Keep us with local regulations at https://opm.gov.bs
Like the US there are regulations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and like the US they vary by location. These include mask-wearing and, in some islands, there are curfews both during the week and at weekends. Please read up on the requirements for the locations you are visiting! There are steep fines for breaching the rules.
In speaking with the Association of Bahamas Marinas, we were informed that once we had completed the Day 5 test we were free to travel around the islands. At the time of writing, there are some restrictions for travel if you spend more than 24 hours in some locations (like New Providence). We are not 100% clear how that affects cruisers, and since we only spent an hour there we were not affected. So we recommend speaking to them if you are unsure - they are very helpful!
Step 10: Enjoy!
You made it! Enjoy the experiences this beautiful country has to offer and we hope to see you out there on the water!
From the Knot A Clue Crew