The Commonwealth of the Bahamas, or simply the Bahamas, is an island country in the Atlantic Ocean consisting of 700+ islets, islands and cays. Lying north of Cuba and Haiti and southeast off the coast of Florida, the Bahamas retains Queen Elizabeth II as its governing monarch but has been an independent Commonwealth since 1973.
The Bahamas is the third wealthiest country in the Americas (behind the U.S and Canada), relying mostly on finance and tourism to fuel its economy. Its capital is Nassau, the largest Bahamian city (pop. 250,000), where many of the islands' finance and banking centers are located. In addition to beaches, fishing, shopping and scuba diving, tourists frequently visit the Bahamas to gamble in several casinos scattered over the main islands.
Once heavily dependent on fishing and agriculture, the Bahamian economy now enjoys a diversified economy based on international shipping and the tourist industry.
The Bahamas have a tropical savannah climate maintained by a warm Gulf Stream and its low elevation in the Atlantic Ocean. With only a 10 degree difference separating the warmest and coolest months, the Bahamas has one of the most consistently sunny, balmy climates in the world. Summer is usually the wettest season, with late summer and early fall the time when hurricanes and tropical storms pose a danger to the Islands.
English is the official language of the Bahamas but many Bahamians speak English with a distinct Bahamian Dialect that is sometimes difficult to understand.
Students visiting the outer islands of the Bahamas will find shops full of handicrafts, palm frond baskets, plaited bags and hags and the always popular "voodoo" dolls which are sold as novelty items.
On New Year's and Boxing Day, Nassau hosts the Junkanoo, a traditional street parade featuring Bahamian art, music and dance. Restaurants offer Bahamian cuisine that reflect an interesting mixture of African, European and Caribbean influences.
Cost of living
Imported goods (non-seafood consumables, clothes and cars) are typically more expensive then locally produced goods but dental and medical care costs less for those uninsured than it does in Europe and the U.S. Students with limited budgets need to avoid "tourist" traps where the price of items are almost always double what they would normally cost when sold in another venue.