These NON-COMMERCIAL Go-Abacos pages offer money-saving and time-saving customs and immigrations tips, travel tips, travel updates and other travel-related Abaco news. In additional to possibly saving you dollars and aggrevation, a couple of these tips may actually save your vacation!
Click here for a ready-to-print SUGGESTED PACKING LIST
Click here for Bahamas IMMIGRATION's tougher PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION requirements
Click here for Customs and Immigrations Policies and Proceedures
Click here to go to recent U.S. State Department advisories
Click here to learn about the Bahamas' innovative "People-To-People" program
Click here to learn about traveling on the Bahamas' legendary "inter-island" mailboat
Click here to learn about the new high-tek luggage scanner that DESTROYS film
Click here to learn your rights if weather causes flight schedule problems
Click here to learn how to get (and what you need to get) your U.S. Passport
Click here to see all the NEW Caribbean area AREA CODES
ON-LINE AIRFARE INFORMATION:
Click here for a listing of airlines (and toll-free numbers) which offer on-line discount programs
U.S. CITIZENS' BAHAMAS ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Important note to U.S. citizens: As of 1 December 1997, the Bahamian government's Immigration policy (see below) requires U.S. citizens to present either a valid Passport (Passport can be as much as 5 years out of date) or TWO pieces of "official" identification [acceptable "official" ID includes: notarized birth certificate (NOT an UNsealed copy), valid driver's license (with picture), or official government ID - a voter's registration card will NOT be accepted].
While this Immigration ID policy has been "on the books" for years, it is now being strictly enforced. Failure to present acceptable proof of U.S. citizenship will result in denial of admittance to The Bahamas, and a rapid return to your original point of embarkation!
Additionally, the island airlines are now mirroring The Bahamas' government's pre-flight ID requirements, and are equally stringent in their enforcement of The Bahamas' "to the letter of the law" ID requirements since The Bahamas' government levies significant fines against the responsible airline if a passenger is "delivered" to the Bahamas without "proper" ID!
Customs and Immigrations Policy
Customs and Immigration proceedures into and out of The Bahamas are relatively routine, and always conducted with courtesy. Almost all the standard Caribbean area customs regulations also apply in The Bahamas.
When entering The Bahamas, visitors must complete and sign an Immigration form which is usually supplied by the airlines. IF YOU DONT GET AN IMMIGRATION FORM FROM YOUR AIRLINE WHEN YOU CHECK IN, ASK FOR IT! A portion of this card (returned to you by the immigration official clearing you for entrance) is required to exit The Bahamas. Don't loose this TINY, "check stub size", immigration document! An oral baggage declaration is also required of all visitors.
When departing, visitors are required to pay a departure tax which is usually collected by the airlines. Children six years and under are exempt. US citizens may take up to US$600 worth of merchandise without paying tax. The next $l,000 is taxed at 10%. Certain antiques, artwork and other merchandise categories have special tax exemption limits. Gifts valued up to $50 may be mailed home duty-free. One litre of wine, liqueur or liquor and five cartons of cigarettes may be taken duty-free.
Customs Immigration clearance is available in both Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay aiports as well as Spanish Cay and Walkers Cay in northern Abaco and, yes, you may bring in whatever food you want (but not too much chicken or pork, since these products are locally produced) as long as it's a quantity you can realistically consume during the time period of your Abaco Islands' vacation.
Weather (and associated flight delays and cancellations) doesn't obligate airlines to do much of anything for its passengers.
Stranded fliers will find it easy to know their travel rights: They don't have very many.
According to a January 5, 1999 article in USAToday, Federal regulations don't require airlines to compensate passengers for something beyond the companies' control, according to Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Mosley. That includes weather.
One of the only legally mandated rights in airline travel concerns ''bumping or denied boarding due to flight overbooking,'' says Ed Perkins, the American Society of Travel Agents Consumer Advocate. Bumped passengers usually get coupons for free future flights.
Perkins says many fliers believe those rules apply any time they cannot get on a flight, ''but that's not the case.''
Airlines also must re-accommodate passengers whose flights were delayed or canceled for mechanical reasons, but that does not apply to ''acts of God'' such as blizzards, Perkins says.
Fliers are used to seeing delayed passengers get coupons for meals or free hotel rooms, but that is not required in the case of weather delays, American Airlines spokesman John Hotard says.
Most decisions are made on a flight-by-flight basis, Hotard says.
To encourage supervisors to be generous, fliers should tell the airline employee if they are a member of the elite level of its frequent flier program, according to Miami travel lawyer Donald Pevsner.
Airline officials give this hint: use the phrase ''distressed passenger'' or ''distressed traveler,'' which will often get you a discounted rate at a hotel, Perkins says.
All representatives of the major airlines said they would rebook passengers where they could and would waive the fees they usually charge for rebooking a flight.
Rules covering claims for lost or damaged baggage still apply. Most airlines say they will be lenient on rules requiring passengers to make a claim within a certain number of hours or days after their flights arrive.
American's Hotard said the airline was turning away air cargo on some flights, so it could use the aircraft hold space to get delayed baggage to passenger destinations.
All in all, travelers are at the mercy of the elements and of the airlines. ''If the airlines do something nice, it's for marketing reasons or the goodness of their hearts,'' says Consumer Reports Travel Letter Editor Laurie Berger.
By David Field, USA TODAY
What you need and how to get your Passport
NOTE: AS EXPECTED, the State Dept. and the Dept. of Homeland Security proposed to extend by a year, to Dec. 31, 2006, the start date for a rule requiring a valid passport for re-entry to the U.S. for Americans returning by air and sea to or from the Caribbean and Bermuda, Central and South America, Mexico and Canada. Likewise, the start date for the same policy for those crossing U.S. land borders was pushed back to Dec. 31, 2007. The deadline for comment on the proposed rules is Oct. 31. To comment, visit www.epa.gov/feddocket and include Regulatory Information Number 1651-AA66 or www.regulations.gov and include RIN1400-AC10.
May 26, 1998 (CNN) -- A passport is a traveler's identification abroad. The document also serves as a request from one government to another to provide safe passage for the traveler. And for most anywhere you want to go outside of your home country, you'll need one.
A country's department of state or ministry of foreign affairs generally handles passport applications and issuance. In the United States, citizens apply at regional passport agencies or at designated post offices or clerks of court.
The U.S. Department of State advises applying for a passport several months before your trip, though sometimes the turn-around is just a matter of weeks. It depends on how busy the passport office is, so apply early.
How to apply for a passport
Apply in person the first time out -- and bring proper I.D. and money to pay the fee.
Here's the short list of what you need (you must have ALL five items):
- Proof of citizenship
- Proof of identity
- Two identical photographs
- Money to pay your fee
- Your social security number
Proving citizenship - bring along one of these documents:
- previous U.S. passport
- certified birth certificate
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad
- naturalization certificate
- certificate of citizenship
- If none of those are available, the applicant needs a "Letter of No Record" from the state that searched unsuccessfully for such records, and some other documentation that the applicant was born in the United States. That could include:
- baptismal certificate
- hospital birth certificate
- census record
- certificate of circumcision
- early school record
- family Bible record
- doctor's record of post-natal care
- Voter registration cards and army discharge papers are not acceptable
Proving identity - to prove to the passport officials that you are who you say you are, pack up one of the following documents:
- previous U.S. passport
- naturalization certificate
- certificate of citizenship
- current, valid driver's licence
- city, state, or federal government ID
- military ID
- work ID (must be currently employed with the company)
- student ID (must be currently enrolled)
- Merchant Marines card (Seamen's or Z card)
- pilot or flight attendant ID Social Security cards are not acceptable as identification.
- If none of these are available, bring along someone who has known you for at least two years, is a U.S. citizen, and DOES have valid ID. That person must complete a form (DSP-71) vouching for your identity. You must also bring along some form of signature ID such as a Social Security card, credit card, bank card, etc.
- Children under age 13 are not required to apply in person, but a child's parent or legal guardian must show proper ID to complete the application process.
Picture me - YOU bring the pictures for the passport. This means you can snap the shutter yourself, or you can go to one of those places that advertises passport photos. Two photos will run you about 10 bucks.
- Warning: If you shoot it yourself, there are size restrictions. Passport photos MUST be 2x2 inches square, and the image size from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head should fall between 1 inch and 1.36 (three eighth's) inches. The background must be white or off-white.
- Vending machine photos are not accepted.
- Look normal. If you regularly wear glasses, wear 'em in the photograph (no, not sunglasses). Same for hearing devices, wigs and the like. NO HATS.
Costs and payment;
- $60 for those 16 and up (valid for 10 years)
- $40 for those under 16 (valid for five years)
- $35 extra if you are going for an expedited passport (see below)
- You can pay with a check or money order made out to "Passport Services"
- Passport agencies and the post office will take cash as well
Bring your Social Security number:
Technically, you don't need a social security number to get a passport -- but the Internal Revenue Service does need it for you to get a passport. Huh? Well, the IRS routinely gets the scoop on taxpayers (or evaders) through Passport Services, and has a code requiring passport applicants to supply a social security number for reference.
Bottom line: bring yer digits.
The Inter-Island Mailboat -- A Travel Adventure
Fabled in both song and story, The Bahamas Mailboat is a uniquely Bahamian method of inter-island transportation. Inexpensive ($40-$65 one way from Nassau, depending on your destination) and very laid-back, the mailboats which service the Out Islands were, at one time, just about the only way for the outlying islands to get, well, mail.
Today, these sturdy, shallow-draft boats look a lot more like small freighters, which, in fact, they actually are. Carrying everything from a family returning to Cat Island for a reunion to a crate of squawking chickens for Andros and medicines for sick flamingos in Great Inagua, the mailboats serve as the "trucks", "busses", "trains" and "taxis" of the Bahamas' inter-island waterways. Residents of the Out Islands stoically endure hurricanes, water shortages, electrical and phone outages ... but when " ... da mailboat don't be comin'", Out Islanders become a bit distressed. Fortunately, the mailboat is extraordinarily dependable and will only miss its schedule as a result of major mechanical failure or "don't-even-think-about-it" sea conditions. Travel accomodations on the mailboats are truly Spartan, but the people you'll meet and the sites you'll see are absolutely exceptional!
If you've got a bit of E. Hemmingway in your genes, or have an unrequited love of discovering the unexpected, you might want to spend a day or three on one of The Bahamas' mailboats. For schedules and costs from Potter's Cay (Nassau), please call 242-393-1064.
The People-To-People Encounter - A Cultural Adventure
Experience the real Bahamas from the viewpoint of a Bahamas resident! Composed almost entirely of Bahamian volunteers who'd like you to see the see their islands "like a native", the Ministry of Tourism's unique "People-To-People" program matches your interests with those of a participating Bahamian family. Depending on your interests, you may return for your vacation with a decidedly different point of view on Bahamian politics, significantly expanded knowledge of Bahamian culture and history, a mind full of memories of the gracious hospitality of your Bahamian hosts, or a note book full of great new recipes to try out on your friends "back home".
Whatever your interests are, give the Ministry's program coordinators a call. To register, call the People-To-People Unit, Ministry of Tourism, (242) 326-5371, 328-7810, or 326-9772. To read a story from the Edmonton Sun about a typical People-To-People experience, please click HERE.
New baggage security scanners tough on photographers - they can destroy film
By Richard Williamson
A high-tech baggage scanner that can detect invisible explosives is making Denver International Airport safer from terrorism.
But professional photographers say the CTX 5000 and United Airlines' carry-on crackdown will make traveling on assignment more difficult than ever.
Unlike the X-ray machines that scan carry-on bags, the new CTX 5000 used to examine checked baggage can destroy film. British nature filmmaker David Attenborough lost five weeks of work when his film was sent through one of the scanners in Manchester, England, last February.
Webmaster note: this advisory was posted 6 December 1998. Although the use of this scanner is currently NOT wide-spread, it MAY be adopted by many of the major international air hubs in the forseeable future. We advise you to ask your airline reservation person about the use of this scanner since it evidently DESTROYS rather than "possibly fogs" film!