Downtown Nassau on a Shoestring Budget

Going downtown and doing other things around the downtown area are some fun, short, quick and easy things that, if you’re trying to get the full experience of Nassau and learn about some of the history of the Bahamas, you should definitely do. The Bahamas are, after all, more than just amazingly clear blue water and beautiful beaches, there is an interesting history to the area as well. In an attempt to make this easier to both read and write…I shall use bullet points…

1. Local Buses: Obviously this isn’t an attraction or something that you need to see, BUT, this is the way you get to said attractions so bear with me. The local bus system is amazing, and cheap, and super super easy to use. To be entirely honest, I only ever used two ‘numbers’ of busses, the number 10 and the number 12, but I’m pretty sure they can get you just about everywhere. The number 12 bus gets you all the way to the airport; now that being said, just maybe remember to tell the bus driver thats where you’re going. I almost made a terrible mistake of assuming he would guess that’s where I was going since I had my giant backpack with me along with my smaller backpack and my purse. I mean…maybe it looked functional, but seeing as how I barely managed to get on the bus without nailing the lady sitting in front of me with one of my bags, I don’t see why he would have thought I was simply going for a light day out. Anyway, moral of the story…he didn’t assume I was going to the airport, someone just happened to be getting ON the bus at the airport and as he was about to pull away I decided to maybe ask if that’s where I should get off if I was going to the airport…spoiler alert, he said yes. I paid and jumped off and then realized I had to walk down a road to the airport, as per Bahamian standard…no sidewalk. Anyway, the number 10 bus brought us into town from where our hostel was located. All you had to do was stand on the side of the road, and when you see a bus coming down the street, with the number you’re looking for, wave them down. Boom, done. The drivers own their own busses, so some are air conditioned, some aren’t, some have a door that closes, some don’t, it’s awesome, personally I liked the crappy old busses a little more, it adds to the experience.

The price to ride the bus to town was $1.25, so amazingly cheap. Here’s a few pointers though, try to have exact change, and if you don’t, tell the driver what you’ll need change for when you get on the bus. However, you don’t pay until you’re getting off the bus, I’m assuming the further you go the more it costs, seeing as how the airport cost me $2.50 instead of $1.25. Also….you kinda just yell out to the bus driver that you want him to stop when you get to your stop. There are actual bus stops, but I found that the only time they really stick to only stopping at the bus stops is when they’re in actual downtown, and I’m using my smart brain to assume that’s in order to keep from backing up the already pretty bad traffic. ALSO, the busses stop around 6 pm, so unfortunately, if you want to have dinner downtown you’ll have to take a taxi back (remember to barter the price before getting in though). Also, everything closes at 4 or 5 anyway, so usually the bus service will work perfectly fine, unless, as I said, you want to do dinner downtown.

2. The Caves: Now that we talked about the busses and ‘downtown’, let’s talk about something I didn’t take the bus to and which is in the actual opposite direction of downtown, just to keep y’all on your toes.

Ricki, Jenn, and Sherri had all mentioned “The Caves” to me, but lets be honest, I hadn’t done any research about this trip, I simply bought a ticket and got a hostel bed and expected to sunbathe for ten days?

So yeah, I had no idea what they were talking about, but I did a solid job of pretending to. Anyway, one afternoon we decided to walk to the caves; we used our google devices and they told us it would be about a 45 minute walk, but we were on vacation, we had nowhere to be at any specific time, so we decided yes.

After about 10 minutes, the sidewalk disappeared, classic. Walking along the road was nothing short of entirely entertaining though, we were constantly running back and forth across the street when it looked better to be walking on the other side, along with having our moments of peeking around foliage that came out all the way to the road, waiting for all of the cars to pass so we could walk around.

Now, the caves themselves were small, but awesome.

I didn’t realize at first that you could go all the way down into them until Ricki wandered down and out of sight; don’t worry everyone, she was safe, just the bravest of us so she was the first to go in. The three of us slowly tested the waters, wandering down after her, it was awesome!

There were tons of bats and it was a decent sized room, we explored as much as we could and took as many pictures as we could, but obviously there’s only a point to which you can get photos in a dark cave with a three year old iPhone.

Those little black dots are bats by the way. Very exciting… I know. Then of course I proceeded to make everyone take some seriously cheesy tourist pics with me,

Classic. We definitely stayed for as long as I think we could have stayed, and it didn’t end up being more than 45 minutes at the actual caves, short and sweet.

3. The Queen’s Staircase: This was one of the more humbling and awe inspiring things to see downtown, and people really don’t realize that. Ricki and I had actually attempted to find the Queen’s Staircase once before, turns out though that we went in the exact opposite directions and ended up on West Hill Street next to Graycliff and the magical wine place as spoken about before.

Anyway, there’s worse things than getting lost when you don’t actually have anywhere you need to be, so we kind of gave up that day and ended up making it there a few days later with Jenn and Sherri. Now, we got there at 4 o’clock on the dot, and again, everything closes at 4 or 5; that being said, the Queen’s Staircase itself doesn’t close, but there are (unpaid/tipped) ‘workers’ at the entrances on either side who leave at 4. This means nothing if you don’t care to hear any history behind the staircase, but if you’re interested in the amazing stories and history behind the building of it, you should try to be there before 4. We were lucky enough to show up just in time; the gentleman working told us his ride had just shown up, but that he’d tell us about it. He was awesome, and actually spent almost an hour talking to us, I low-key felt bad for his ride. Whoops.

Anyway, some minor details from his (maybe inaccurate?) 45 minute history lesson…slaves were brought to the island to be tortured, and the form of torture used was making them dig through the solid limestone rock without any tools to ‘make a pathway from the fort to the docks.’ They were barely fed and barely let to sleep in order to keep them from being strong enough to retaliate. Eventually, the slaves were freed, not knowing what to do with their newfound freedom, they finished digging and built the Queen’s Staircase.

Named for Queen Victoria, they made it 66 steps, one for each year of the Queen’s reign. Fun fact, when the area was repaved, they paved over a step so it’s now only 65 steps. When you’re walking along the walkway below the steps, you’re walking over the graves of over 4,000 slaves.

It’s a very humbling experience, and more than just a pretty place to take an instagram photo (not that I don’t personally love Insta, obviously). Time for some cheese…

4. Fish Fry: I heard I had to go to the Fish Fry, uhm to be entirely honest, it wasn’t anything SUPER special. We made a last minute decision on the bus and decided to get off and it kind of seemed like we were there pretty early, because a) we were basically the only tourists there, and b) everything was just barely opening as we were walking through so, you know…that made it pretty obvious. Anyway we dove right in and immediately crossed the street to the actual restaurants, and we were immediately pounced upon by restaurant hookers. They all had the same deal basically, ‘come to our restaurant and we’ll give you a free drink, oh and wifi, and we have the best views’ (of the street?). We ended up walking along all of the restaurants and decided to just go back to the first restaurant we had come upon, couldn’t even tell you the name because it was kind of confusing. One lady sat us and asked what we wanted to drink, only one of us got a drink, and we weren’t super hungry so we just got a few things to share – conch fritters, conch salad, and fries (per Sherri).


Personally, I never knew you could eat conch? I feel quite ignorant because it’s insanely popular in the Bahamas, but yeah, no idea. The fritters were pretty good, but that’s probably just because they were basically just deep fried dough, there was the tiniest most minuscule piece of conch in them that you basically missed it even being in there.

The conch salad was not my favorite thing, it kind of just tasted like pico de gallo, only with super rubbery chunks (the conch), it woulda been tasty if they had served it with some tortilla chips. That’s just my personal opinion though, other human beings on this planet like conch salad…try it and decide for yourself.

Anyway, we went to pay and the lady who had sat us and gotten the drink came over and said we had to pay for the drink separate and it was 8 freakin dollars. What!? She’s sneaky, she said it said that on the menu but it definitely didn’t and also she was obviously a different entity than the ‘restaurant’ that we ordered the food from. This was especially clear due to the fact that we had to pay for the food separate from the drink, DON’T LIE TO ME LADY. Anyway, while we were eating the restaurant hooker who had pulled us in kept talking to us; he asked Sherri if she was single, she said no, so he asked if any of us were single, we decided to leave shortly after, but don’t worry, he chased us! We had to lie and say we were going to come back and he finally left us alone. Unfortunately, that guy was not my ticket to Bahamian residency…and I’m really not super sad about that. Check out this cart full of conch shells though…insaneeee

I was trying to get a photo before he was gone sooo, excuse the incognito mode photo and sorry to the guy who got caught in the photo. Moving on…

5. Fort Charlotte: This Fort is across the street from the Fish Fry, so we decided to wander our way across the street and up after eating and running away from Orlando (fish fry guy, had an especially creepy love for Sherri, poor girl).

It was supposed to be something like $3-5 to enter, but we ended up paying $5 and some change due to the recent(?) addition of some sort of tax in the Bahamas, so that was fun, we all sat there digging through our bags looking for change, mostly because we didn’t want to use all of our bus change, ugh the horror of having to ask for change on the bus! Anyway, we were shootin the shit with one of the tour guide ladies there and she told us she was going to give us a one question quiz when we got back, so we got scared. But, with said fire lit under our asses, we headed into the fort. Here are some fun facts for you…Fort Charlotte is the largest fort on Nassau, and is actually three different forts, Fort Stanley and Fort D’Arcy were added a few years after Charlotte was finished. Not a single cannon

(of 42) was ever fired in an act of aggression,

and while there were great views of the surrounding area,

we didn’t really see how this fort in particular was very useful in defense, seeing as how it was so far away from the port…and it also didn’t seem to have any outer walls? There was a moat,

that I’m pretty sure was never filled from what I diligently read while attempting to study for my test, and honestly, you could climb up on to the roof from one side of the fort with absolutely no problem. There were some cool areas down below,

which is where they kept munitions, even though the damp conditions ruined most of them…it really seemed like this place wasn’t very logistically useful. And we learned later on, when we were talking to our friend at the Queen’s Staircase, that the fort was actually built as a front for the general (can’t remember his name…sorry) to steal money. Smart dude. Anyway, there were a LOT of plaques and such with wicked long paragraphs full of information on them and we eventually got distracted with taking photos and wandering around the mazes down below, that we gave up on reading the information. We were all scared to fail our quiz though so when we were finally leaving we snuck past the tour guide lady like the real life adults that we are. From there (and the fish fry since it is obviously right across the street), it’s a decently short walk to downtown, which is awfully convenient.

6. Straw Market: located right downtown, this is the best place to test your abilities to stay strong in the face of needless spending.

If there’s one thing I learned while I was in Cambodia, its that when a full grown woman trying to sell me cheap trinkets starts crying, I crack and give her money. So that’s good. That being said, I have learned, do not make eye contact and keep saying no. And you need to learn to scan everything QUICKLY, because if you stop to look, they will pounce.

Do not stop unless you plan on buying! Well…I mean you can, it’s just harder to get away. OR, take a page out of my book and just throw your friends to the wolves; a shopkeeper starts talking to you and you don’t actually want to buy anything? Point and your friend who’s obviously stronger than you and go, “She’s looking for something” and then run before they get the chance to turn back towards you. Works every time.

Anyway, if I’m being honest, the straw market is really just the same stuff multiplied, you can spend your time walking down every single aisle if you want, but it’s basically all the same cheap stuff. The coolest section, in my opinion, is the woodworking; you can actually see them making stuff right in front of you, it’s actually super cool, and that’s definitely worth a slow walk through. Unfortunately I never got a photo of the woodworking, like I said, if you stopped for too long they’d try to get you to buy something. That’s why all of my photos are A LITTLE blurry, I was taking them on the go. Otherwise, spend some time in there, get your cheap souvenirs, and then feel perfectly happy leaving, knowing you at least saw it.

7. Lukka Kairi Restaurant: I visited this restaurant twice while in Nassau, and I would have gone back more if it was closer to my hostel and I didn’t have to worry about the bus system quitting on me at 6. This place was awesome. They have ‘traditional’ Bahamian food with a ‘modern twist’.

(Parmesan and aioli crusted broccoli). So tasty. Also they have grits though? I figured that was a play at making themselves more friendly to all of the southern visitors they get from the cruise ships. Anyway, along with the very tasty food, their walls are painted with beautiful historical murals,

and it’s open with ‘bar-like’ seating which faces out to the harbor. We didn’t drink the two times we went because one of the times was the middle of the day and we didn’t feel like day-drinking, and the other time was after wine and lite vibes and we all knew that it would not be good to continue drinking. If you’re not drinking alcohol, do make sure to ask if what you’re drinking has free refills, because it probably doesn’t and then you’ll spend $8 on iced tea….not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, or that I’m bitter about it. But, if you get the chance, go eat here! It’s super tasty, good vibes, huge bar if that’s what you’re lookin for, good views, fun employees, good times.

8. Day trips to other islands: This is actually not something I did because it was insanely expensive for my liking for the most part. However, that being said, there were a handful of people staying at the hostel who did do day trips out to the Exumas or Harbor island, and they all said it was COMPLETELY worth it. Harbor island is a little cheaper, it’s only about $120 at the cheapest for a day trip, however, it is a 3 hour ferry trip one way, so 6 hours of your day will be spent on the ferry, which is the only reason I did end up opting out of that one. You can pay more for more amenities, but yeah, that’s the cheapest option, and Harbor Island is home to the pink sand beach which is awesome, I hear. The Exumas are extremely expensive to get to for a day trip and for activities such as swimming with the pigs and playing with the iguanas. But, again, everyone who did it at the hostel LOVED it. The beaches there are apparently even more beautiful and amazing than in Nassau, and swimming with the pigs sounded like a hard thing to pass up. However, it is about $250-$300 at the cheapest to get out there. Partially because you’ll be flying for a day trip; as much as I wanted to go, I wasn’t willing to part with $300, no matter how amazing all of the stories sounded.

Otherwise, y’all know how I feel about places like the Hillside House for Lite Vibes and West Hill Street for tasty cheap wine and the Graycliff manor (check out the National Art Gallery while you’re on West Hill Street! It’s another cheap and quick, but interesting thing to do). And if you don’t, that means you didn’t read my last blog! Shame! Go check it out, it’s full of mildly embarrassing stories and photos.

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