(CMR) The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for those intending to visit the Bahamas. This alarming alert has sent shock waves through the travel agency over the past few days.
The “Level 2” warning places the popular destination in the same risk category as Belize, the subject of a similar crime-focused advisory, and European nations with risks of terrorism, including Germany, Spain, and France.
A release issued this week warns visitors to exercise extreme caution in the islands due to crime. Officials say the majority of the crime occurs on the islands of New Providence and Grand Bahama, home of the city of Freeport.
In addition, U.S. government personnel are not allowed to visit the Sand Trap area in Nassau.
The State Department also warns of the hazards of recreational excursions, saying that “watercraft are often not maintained, and many companies do not have safety certifications to operate in The Bahamas.”
The latest warning, dated Feb. 25, stated that “violent crime such as burglaries, armed robberies and sexual assault is common, even during the day and in tourist areas.”
Activities involving commercial recreational watercraft, including water tours, are not consistently regulated, watercraft are often not maintained, and many companies are not certified to operate in The Bahamas, the advisory said.
“Jet ski operators have been known to commit sexual assaults against tourists,”
the advisory said, as a result, U.S. government personnel are not permitted to use jet ski rentals on New Providence and Paradise islands.
The State Department offers the following advise to those who still wish to travel to the Bahamas.
Exercise caution in the area known as “Over the Hill” (south of Shirley Street) and the Fish Fry at Arawak Cay in Nassau, especially at night.
Do not answer your door at your hotel/residence unless you know who it is.
Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
Review the Crime and Safety Report for The Bahamas.
The State Department’s advisory said numerous reports have been received of tourists being robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint. U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency and medical situations.
In 2018, the U.S. and Canadian governments issued three travel warnings for The Bahamas. Those prompted Royal Caribbean to issue its own warning to passengers last year, but the cruise line later removed references to specific locations following complaints by the nation’s ministry of tourism.
Other cruise lines that go to The Bahamas from South Florida are Norwegian, Carnival, Disney Cruise Line and Bahamas Paradise. Victims of crimes in the Bahamas should call local police at 919 or 911, plus contact the U.S. Embassy at 242-322-1181.
The embassy can help victims find medical care, assist in reporting a crime to police, contact friends and relatives, provide lists of local attorneys, help arrange flights home and provide emergency loans, the State Department’s website says.
Of the six million tourists who go to the Bahamas each year, a majority are from the United States, the State Department’s website says.
The State Department’s warning to exercise increased caution is the third-most serious of four danger levels, with the most dangerous being “Do not travel” and the second-most dangerous being “Reconsider travel.” Countries travelers are advised not to go to include Haiti, Afghanistan and Venezuela while the government urges travelers to reconsider going to Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.