Florida

Florida

image: Boulevard Hotel in MiamiThe word Florida invokes images of Mickey Mouse and the rampant fairy tale castles of Disney World, but this state has so much more to offer than overrated theme parks. In fact, Florida has so many facets to it, that exploration is virtually endless. Whether nature is your fancy, like the vast, sprawling gardens, towering, lush forests, and breathtaking beaches, or a cultural excursion to a theatre, museum or live music venue, you will be able to find it all in dynamic Florida.

The Bahamas are made up of over seven hundred islands, a vast majority of them uninhabited. Of the twenty-four populated islands, about seventeen receive many tourists each year, with the capital city Nassau being the hardest hit. However, all of the islands boast their own history and culture due to the unique placement of the Bahamas off the south coast of Florida. This meant they were used extensively by explorers, invaders, colonizers, and merchants, all leaving behind their indelible marks on the landscape and making the Bahamas a truly marvellous place to discover.

Cash

The local currency in Florida is the US Dollar, with the Euro and the dollar generally being of a similar value.

The local currency in the Bahamas is the Bahamian Dollar (B$1). It is equivalent to the US dollar and either form of currency is acceptable to use.

For up to date currency information, check the Currency Converter.

People

Florida

The vast majority of people in Florida do not consist, as is often expected, predominantly of senior citizens who’ve flocked to the warmer climate in order to set up retirement communities. Florida, in fact, has quite a reputation for being multi-cultural. From Native American Indianswho fled to Florida to escape invading colonizers to Cuban refugees who reached America’s shores in search of political freedom, the diversity of Florida’s ethnic groups makes this state the most culturally unique. Latin Americans, Greeks, Asians, British, Anglo and African Americans, and more all live and work harmoniously in the state of Florida.

Bahamas

Of the over 300,000 people that inhabit the islands of the Bahamas, the majority are predominantly descendants of West Africa from where their ancestors were originally brought over as slaves. The white residents descend from English owned Bermuda as well as the southern states of America. The Bahamian people in are often described as helpful, friendly, long living (many reach the age of 100 plus) and embracing of all who travel to her islands.

Travel

Florida

Florida unfortunately lacks a convenient public transportation system, so it is advisable to hire a car to get around most parts of the state. Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains are available for longer journeys at quite reasonable rates. When driving, American road rules apply, so always remember to drive on right side.

Bahamas

Ferries are commonly used to shuttle passengers to and from the many Bahamian islands. Prices and schedules vary. It is also possible to rent scooters and bicycles from tourist offices to allow for local exploration on the main islands. Hiring a car can be done relatively cheaply, but be aware that British road rules apply in the Bahamas, so driving on the left side is required.

Food

You can find any kind of international food in Florida and the Bahamas. For example, within the bustling cities of Florida, it is not unusual to have Chinese, Thai, Italian, Cuban, and Spanish restaurants all on offer in a single area.

Both the Bahamas and Florida are located on or near the ocean, so naturally seafood dishes are not only abundant but fresh as well. In fact, most local Bahamians work in the seafood business, and they take great pride in the varieties of morsels they obtain from the sea. It is not unusual to be offered boiled fish and grits for breakfast, crab and rice for lunch, and various dishes made from the tender conch mollusk for dinner. For dessert, it is typical to find guava duff, a delicious pastry created by folding the exotic fruit into dough which is then boiled and served with a sweet sauce.

Language

English is the predominant language of Florida and the Bahamas and you should have little difficulty communicating if comfortable with the language. However, in Florida, like any place in the world with much cultural diversity, you may encounter groups of immigrants who will not speak English very well, if at all.

In the Bahamas, there is a noticeable dialect that has carried over from a mixture of British English, East African, and local island dialects. While the people will be speaking English, there are often used phrases and pronunciations of words that may not be wholly familiar to the untrained ear. It’s just one more thing that makes the culture so unique and fascinating.

Climate

Throughout the majority of the year, Florida and the Bahamas maintain warm temperatures between 70-75F degrees (21-32C). The further North you head in Florida, the cooler it gets, so expect mild temperature drops in those regions. Higher temperatures, around 80-85F (26-29C) are typically found from June through August.

The hurricane season is from June through November and can affect both areas, but with sophisticated technology and tracking devices, warnings are typically issued well in advance. Rain is not uncommon, especially in Florida, where it may be a clear sunny day one minute, sprinkle unexpectedly for two minutes, and then clear back up immediately.

Dress

As it is warm the majority of the time in both Florida and the Bahamas, it is best to bring summer clothing and beachwear to wear while visiting. However, evenings from December through February tend to be cooler, so a light jacket or sweater is also recommended. Beach clothing is fine for the beach, but be aware that many restaurants and clubs require jackets for men and strictly no sandals or swimming costumes. If heading into forests or nature preserves, it is best to dress appropriately for the differences in terrain.

Health

Although heath problems are unlikely in either area, the heat should never be underestimated. Sunscreen with a high SPF level and plenty of drinking water on hand are essential. Water is safe to drink and abundant and bottled water can be purchased from any local shop.

Visas

Before October 26th, 2004, visitors to the US will need to obtain a ‘Machine Readable Passport’ (MRP) which contain two different typeface lines containing background information. The Biometric Passport will also be available, but if a MRP has already been obtained, that will suffice for entrance. Anyone without a MRP will need a Biometric Passport if travelling on or after October 26th, 2004.To enter the Bahamas, citizens from countries other than the US and Canada require a passport as above and in some cases an additional valid Bahamas visa. Those visiting from Britain, the EU or Australia will not need a visa, but those travelling from other countries are advised to investigate the entry requirements through their local embassies.When travelling to either area, be sure to have all ticketing materials on hand, including a copy of your return ticket, and know your destination in advance to allow for less time spent at customs. You may also need to prove sufficient amounts of funds for the entire time spent abroad.

Guide by Gianna De Salvo

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