Freeport, The Bahamas Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Freeport, The Bahamas

Freeport, The Bahamas 03/14/06

Background:

1. How long have you lived here?

8 months.

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2. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Teacher at the International School.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Many airlines fly in and out of Grand Bahama. Direct flights to Miami, Atlanta, New York etc. Flight time is 45 minutes to Miami, 90 minutes to Atlanta.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is expensive if coming from the States. You can't buy anything on the water for less than half a million. Rentals will run about US$1,000 a month for a smallish 2 bedroom duplex off water and it goes up significantly from there. That being said, if you have the money- you can get a fantastic luxary condo or multi-million dollar home right on the beach with stunning views. Traffic jams are almost non existant. There might be a slow down in front of the schools at peak times, but really nothing.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is imported to the island and the government slaps a heafty tax on all imported goods. My weekly shopping bill is about %40 more than I would pay in the States. You can get just about anything here, although you have to watch the expiration dates and the day or so before a delivery, things like milk, eggs and cheese can be missing from the shelves. Frozen items can also be funky. There are two main grocery stores, both kind of old and drab and a specility import store that sells all kinds of ethnic and exotic foods and other things you can't get at the grocery store. The owner will do special orders. You cannot count on anything specific being there on the day you shop.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Don't ship anything unless you are prepared to pay big for it. There is import tax for everything and you can pay up to 40% of the value of your stuff (even used personal items). People have paid thousands of dollars for a shipment of used regular household items.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

American Fast food: McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Dominos, Papa John's. They are all more expensive and lesser quality than back home. There seems to be very few moderatly priced restaurants. Most are very expensive to out of sight, and I haven't been anywhere where I thought I got a wonderful meal. Bahamian food is good although fattening. And food in the tourist area is very average to below average American fare with very above average prices.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help will run you about US$200-250 a week. Employees expect time off at Christmas and Easter and a Christmas bonus.

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2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can use credit cards at all the major touristy areas and there are a number of ATM's as well. Banking is a speciality here in the Bahamas.

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3. What English-language religious services are available locally?

If you like church, this is the place for you. Everything is here. Religious music is played in the stores. There is a small Jewish temple. I don't know about a mosque, but I know of one Muslim family.

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4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

The local newspaper is entertaining to be sure and it lets you in on local events. Cable Bahamas has a number of selections and packages. The basic package runs US$30 a month. American network TV plays at eastern standard time.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It's the Queen's English on the island. The local Bahamian accent can takes some getting used to.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Most things in and around the city are not set up for physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Drive on the left, British style

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No trains, no real bus system. Taxi's are affordable but only run in certain areas.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

It's British drive and most of the cars are American. It's the craziest thing, the school busses open their doors to the middle of the road to drop the kids off!Passing is dangerous as the driver can't see around other cars until they are halfway out in the road. We have a British drive car which is safer I think, but we can't use the drive-thru restaurants as they are set up for American cars.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Unlimited internet acess through the TV cable is US$40 a month with good quality.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get a cell phone, everyone has one. Getting a land line can take two years and the phone company wants a hefty down payment.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype or using an internet phone.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There is a good vet on the island.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Don't come here without a job in hand. Work permits are expensive and difficult to come by. Working without a permit can (and will) get you deported and the employer fined. That being said, if you have a desired talent or speciality, you may be able to find work here. Locals always get first dibs and the employer has to show that they tried to find and hire a local before employing a foreigner.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

It's hot and humid most of the year, but Bahamians still dress nicely for the most part with women wearing pantyhose. Expats tend to dress more informally with light dresses or pants and shirts. If you are doing business, men should wear long pants. In the touristy areas, anything goes!

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Excellent. There is no real industry on the island and everything else gets blown out to sea. Beautiful clean, clear air all year.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None really. I have heard of some car break ins, but most crime is petty theft and crime of opportunity.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Good quality American and British trained doctors are available. Some make house calls! Anything serious or trauma related should get sent to the States.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

October-April: Warm and sunny and beautiful. May-September:Sunny and hot. Think Miami.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There is one small international school on the island. It offers the IB program along with the Bahamian national curriculum. There are severalother private schools on the island of various quality. The international school is the only school on the island, including government schools that does not teach religion or is affiliated with a church. Corporal punishment is also the norm at most schools. The international school is quite good, but no one school can be all things to all people.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

This is a small island with limited resources. Some children with mild special needs can be accomodated. Check with the school before you come here and bring all your documentation and be clear about what resources your child requires. Moderate and severe needs probably cannot be accomodated.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

The international school has a program for 3-year old's. It's expensive and there's a waiting list. In-home care is the norm for small children. A warm and loving nanny will run you about US$200-250 a week depending on duties.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Hard to say, there are only about 55,000 people on the island total. There are a large number of tourists, snow birds, and part time resident jet setters. There are no

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2. Morale among expats:

Everyone is here because they want to be. Most people are very happy here and a trip to the States will get rid of the island fever

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

For a snall island, there is a big nightlife. Most entertaining seems to take place in peoples homes. Many homes are built to accomodate large parties.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

This is a great place for familes with small children. Bahamians love children. Wherever you go, Bahamians will talk to your child, try to make them laugh. Crying babies draw instant help from anyone around. Children are happy for hours on the many beaches. There is not a lot for teen-agers. The drinking age is 18 here and no one cards. High schoolers generally go to the bars for entertainment. Couples who like outdoor and water sports will have a wonderful time with all there is to do. The singles scene is a little young and centers around the bars.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

This is not a place for openly gay people. There is a strong religious front here on the island and homosexuality is taboo. A recent headline in the paper read,

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Gays and Haitians are easy and frequent targets.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

All water sports, nature walks, biking, bird watching, beach combing.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Rum.

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9. Can you save money?

For people living on a normal salary, probably not, everything is very expensive here.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Short term only. We love living here

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Need for anything to be done.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sun tan lotion. Its terribly expensive here.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Pirates of the Carribbean II.Filmed right here.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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7. Do you have any other comments?

This is a very nice little island and we continue to enjoy our time here. It's a safe, slow pace of life with a real small town feel.

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