The Bahamas. You’ve been packed for days, it just makes it seem like you are leaving sooner if your shiny, silver suitcase is standing ready in your bedroom closet, waiting to be wheeled out of your house, carefully placed in a taxi’s trunk and then shepherded to the airport – at last.
You did have to unzip your suitcase sidekick last night – briefly – when Amazon delivered the book you’ve been dying to read, in the eleventh hour, but now you have everything you need for a week in sublime sun and turquoise water.
Including your passport, right? No? You do need your passport to fly from America into the Bahamas. Absolutely.
But I’ve entered the Bahamas without a passport
You may be shaking your head right now, visually remembering showing your driver’s license to a friendly guy at a port of entry in the Bahamas … and your memory is likely accurate.
Americans who are entering the Bahamas do not require a passport, just a government ID with a photo, but when you return to America via an airport, you need your passport to re-enter.
Naturally, because of the Bahama’s laws, many American travellers to this idyllic place believe that they can leave their passport tucked in a safe place in their home, but this is not the case.
Yes, we said “via an airport” for a reason
If you are entering the Bahamas by boat, and returning to America by boat, you need a passport, a passport card or another ID that complies with the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative: You can find that list here.
What is a passport card?
As you can see, the passport card is nifty: wallet-sized and protected against water damage. It is also less expensive than a full passport.
The American passport and the American passport card are not equal: The passport card is valid for entry and exit from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Canada and Mexico – if you are not travelling by air.
Important fact: The Bahamas are considered as part of the Caribbean when it comes to passport regulations. (Whew.)
Where does the enhanced driver’s license come in?
There are currently 4 states that offer enhanced driver’s licenses with microchip technology: Washington, Vermont, New York, Michigan and Minnesota. You can only use enhanced driver’s licenses to enter and leave America by land or sea – not by air.
In the proverbial nutshell:
- If you are flying into the Bahamas and flying back to America, you require a passport.
- If you are entering the Bahamas by boat, and returning by boat, you can use a passport or a passport card. A passport card cannot be used for international air travel.
- If you are entering the Bahamas by boat, and returning by boat, you can use an enhanced driver’s license, which are currently available only to residents of Washington, Vermont, New York, Michigan and Minnesota.
- If you are entering the Bahamas by boat, and returning by boat, you can use identification approved by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative: You can find that list
And one more thing…
America offers the Global Entry program to low-risk travellers. What are the advantages of being approved by this program?
- You can use a kiosk at airports to re-enter America, avoiding all lines and zooming to the luggage kiosk ahead of the crowd. (Nice!)
How do you become a pre-approved global traveller?
- You need to apply online, which includes an in-person interview.
- There is a one-time 100-dollar fee to become a global traveller.
You should know that not all airports have Global Entry kiosks: For a list of airports that currently have Global Entry kiosks visit this link.