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When considering an overseas move, it’s difficult to imagine anywhere more idyllic than The Bahamas. Located just north of Cuba, this iconic archipelagic state consists of 700 islands, 2400 cays, and almost 2000 coral reefs that span across an astounding 100,00 miles of the Atlantic Ocean. A population of a mere 395,000 people inhabits 29 of those islands, over 200,000 of whom live on the island of New Providence alone.
Long having held a top spot as a hot tourist destination for as many as 1,443,619 tourists each year, The Bahamas certainly has a lot to offer, and many of those benefits make a permanent move here an incredibly tempting prospect. Some of the key pros to living in The Bahamas commonly cited by expats enjoying the lifestyle first-hand include –
- Low taxes
- Advanced healthcare
- Countless areas of natural beauty
- An average 300 days of sunshine each year
- Stable real estate markets
- Direct flights from the US
- And more
Expats from all walks of life have found a new home in The Bahamas over recent years, each of whom enjoys a more relaxed lifestyle, striking white sand beaches, and a wide range of outdoor activities including golfing in world-class resorts or surfing in some of the clearest seas in the world. If you’re considering a move here then you’re certainly in good company. To help you decide for certain whether this is the right lifestyle for you, we’re going to take a deep dive into those clear oceans by considering what it’s really like living in The Bahamas, and whether you’re truly ready to make the move.
Where should you live in The Bahamas?
As mentioned, The Bahamas spans 700 islands. If you thought fifty states offered a lot of choice, then you’re certainly in for a shock! Luckily, you can narrow things down straight away by remembering that only 29 of those islands are permanently inhabited. Still, given that you’re new to The Bahamas and what it has to offer, even this smaller selection can seem like a lot to wrap your head around.
These wide-ranging offerings ensure that The Bahamian lifestyle has something to offer everyone. Of those 29 islands, there are clear favorites among the expat community, and you may find that gravitating towards these is your best option for a new home you can settle into. Still, it’s important to consider each location off its own merit to guarantee the environment and facilities that you’re after. Some of the hottest expat communities of the moment include –
Home to 70% of the country’s population (around 255,000) Bahamian capital, Nassau, is situated on the Island of New Providence. Famed for its hilly landscape and striking beaches, including the iconic Cable Beach, this location’s popularity does come with a higher price tag, but those looking to get stuck into the heart of city culture with the benefits of a small-town feel will certainly feel at home here.
Formerly known as the less flattering ‘hog island,’ Paradise Island spans just 685 acres, yet still packs a surprising punch with 18-hole golf courses, some of the most popular resorts in The Bahamas, and countless attractions for family fun. Unsurprisingly, this location also hosts some of the most luxurious properties, including beach houses, waterfront apartments, and more.
Made up of 365 islands including Great Exumas and The Exuma Cays, The Exumas are one of the most alluring destinations in The Bahamas, especially from a real estate perspective. Offering a chance to embrace the true quiet-life, these destinations offer secluded white sand beaches and crystal waters galore, all with the benefit of oceanfront condos, luxury boutique resorts, and beach houses that you’d struggle to beat.
These are just a handful of the striking locations on offer, but they provide a perfect insight into the variety you can choose from when it comes to living in The Bahamas. Other hot locations you might want to consider include Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and more.
Buying property in The Bahamas
Before you can start enjoying your life in The Bahamas, you need to buy property. Perhaps the first thing to note in this sense is that the quest for Bahamian citizenship is long, and is only granted once you’ve been a legal resident for at least ten years. That said, there are no restrictions on foreigners buying property in The Bahamas, and licenses are only necessary if you’re purchasing more than 2 acres or are intending to rent. After purchase, you’re eligible to apply for a home owner’s resident card which ensures hassle-free travel across the islands and offers many of the benefits that residency itself can provide.
The buying process is relatively simple, though non-Bahamian residents should register their purchase with Exchange Control at the Central Bank of The Bahamas to ensure that they’re able to remit the net proceeds of any future sales outside of The Bahamas in the same currency as their original investment.
A real estate agent is ideally poised to offer advice surrounding these legal considerations, as well as providing advice surrounding location and added costs including stamp duty, legal fees, and property tax, all of which overseas buyers must adhere to.
The cost of living in the Bahamas
Property prices in The Bahamas are slightly lower than in the US, with even a property in a popular area like Nassau generally costing around 50% less to purchase. Rent, too, is typically 10% lower here, but this is unfortunately not representative of lifestyle costs in The Bahamas overall. With regards to bills and utilities, costs are significantly higher than in the US or Canada, with monthly bills of around $250-$300 a standard for even modest apartments – around 80% higher than in the US. According to Numbeo, the cost of living in The Bahamas is actually around 16% higher than the US on average. In fact, The Bahamas rates above even Japan on the cost of living index.
Luckily, these costs do balance themselves with benefits like more affordable education and, most notably, next to no taxes on citizens or residents. Rather than income tax, estate tax, and corporate and capital gains taxes, it’s only necessary to pay mandatory payroll tax and value-added tax on specific items. This, alongside more affordable housing in most cases, is largely to thank for the popularity of The Bahamas despite potentially higher costs upfront.
Creating a support network in The Bahamas
Community is always crucial when moving overseas, and The Bahamas brings benefits here too thanks to its English-speaking population. The existing expat community also provides fantastic support, with online resources like the Expat Exchange offering a ready-made platform from which to share stories and experiences and to start making friends the moment you touch down or even before a move. On top of this, Bahamian residents are typically welcoming of tourism and overseas residents alike, meaning that you’re certain to get a warm welcome in the location of your choosing.
Working in The Bahamas
After a significant economic hit during the 2008 recession, The Bahamas has very much undergone a drive to reduce unemployment amongst its population, a push that seems to have worked when you consider that unemployment rates rose from 14.2% up to 11.6% in just a few short years. This is fantastic news for rebuilding the country’s economic standing, but it can make finding a job as an expat slightly difficult.
In honesty, the best way to find work in The Bahamas is to seek a direct transfer from an existing employer, in which case your employer will also need to pay for and arrange a work permit. If this isn’t an option, there are typically jobs available in the two top industries within The Bahamas – international banking and tourism, though these do come complete with local competition that, in light of government drives for local employment, you may fail to stand above. Ideally, it’s worth bringing a skill set to The Bahamas that local residents are less likely to have such as skilled labor jobs like carpentry.
Note, too, that a work permit is necessary for any non-resident working more than ninety days in the country. These require a $200 holding deposit and are only issued for one year at a time. Renewal is possible, but it can be difficult in some cases, so you’ll want to either consider this in advance or seek work with an overseas employer from the US who can handle your work permit requirements at management level.
Start your Life in The Bahamas with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate
Living in The Bahamas certainly has a lot to offer, and purchasing property here with the help of professional oversight is the best way to ensure that you secure the ideal real estate in the location of your dreams. From quiet laid-back living to a bustling city feel, The Bahamas has it all, and we at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate have the knowledge you need to start living the Bahamian dream at long last.