One of the reasons why the Bahamas is such a popular travel destination for those living in the Americas is because the temperatures are always pleasant, depending on what you are used to.
Moreover, many cruise ships go to the Bahamas. They usually dock in Nassau, which is the cruise port of the Bahamas. It is also the capital of the nation, which is known for its colorful buildings.
Grand Bahama is an island with beautiful beaches and caves. Go to Freeport if you want to see the coral reefs or the Lucayan National Park. Also, you have Pig Beach where wild boars are also enjoying the beach (and like to swim too).
Finally, the Bahamas is also a popular destination for honeymoons. Love birds love the Bahamas!
What you probably do not love is paying expensive bills. Roaming with your provider in the Bahamas can be convenient but also be pricey. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy local SIM cards in the Bahamas.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in the Bahamas. Let's get started.
Telecom Providers in the Bahamas
The Bahamas has 2 telecom providers: BTC and Aliv. Both providers have 3G and 4G/LTE networks. BTC has a 2G network, while Aliv does not. For data, you would not want to use 2G because it is extremely slow.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting the Bahamas? If you want to buy a SIM card in the Bahamas, I would recommend going with Aliv because they have good coverage on the main islands while offering attractive packages.
Just like most countries in the Caribbean, you have to show your passport when buying a Bahamian SIM card.
Do note that the Bahamian Dollar (BSD) is pegged 1:1 to the US Dollar, meaning that 1 BSD is 1 USD. BTC advertises its plans without the new 12% VAT, while Aliv does include the tax in their prices. With BTC, the tax will be charged when you take action (buying a package, making a call, or sending an SMS). I have incorporated the tax to the prices where relevant, and have rounded the prices to the nearest .*5 or .*0.
There is not much more to say about the Bahamas, so let’s see what BTC and Aliv have to offer to us.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
BTC, standing for Bahamas Telecommunications Company, used to have a monopoly, until the Bahamian government decided that it was time for some competition in 2016. BTC is partially owned by the government, while the other part is owned by Liberty Global.
Because BTC was the sole operator for such a long time, their coverage is better than the one of Aliv, and BTC has more customers than Aliv. BTC claims that 99% of the population is covered by their 4G/LTE network, which sounds impressive, until you realize that the Bahamas is relatively small.
BTC SIM cards are sold for 15 BSD in BTC stores and some other stores throughout the Bahamas. If you want to use 4G/LTE, be sure to ask for a 4G SIM card, as they may give you their regular SIM card. Reload cards are sold from 5 BSD to 100 BSD, and you can also top-up online with a credit card.
To recharge with a BTC voucher, you have to dial *202# and follow the instructions. You can check your BTC credit balance by dialing *201#.
BTC has 3 different combo packs you can choose from:
- 3.95 BSD: 500 MB, unlimited on-net calls and text, and 100 minutes to Canada and the United States for 1 day (no roll-over nor auto-renew)
- 11.20 BSD: 2 GB, unlimited on-net calls and texts, and 500 minutes to Canada and the United States for 7 days
- 22.40 BSD: 15 GB, unlimited on-net calls and texts, and 1000 minutes to Canada and the United States for 15 days
All plans, including the upcoming data plans, auto-renew, and unused data roll-over to the new month. You can activate a combo pack by dialing *203#.
The following BTC data plans can be added:
- 3.35 BSD: 500 MB for 1 day
- 7.85 BSD: 1 GB for 10 days
- 14.55 BSD: 2 GB for 30 days
- 28.00 BSD: 6 GB for 30 days
- 39.20 BSD: 15 GB for 30 days
Aliv, which is pronounced as Alive, is the new kid on the block in the Bahamas. Even though they have been in business since 2016, they managed to get a market share of more than 35% within 4 years, which is kind of impressive.
However, their presence was not appreciated by all, which is BTC. The Bahamian government told BTC to allow Aliv to roam on their network until Aliv had rolled out their infrastructure. Instead of complying, BTC made things complicated for Aliv by not complying.
I am personally not a fan of this type of practice, which why I stayed away from BTC. However, Aliv is still setting up its infrastructure in remote islands (which are nor New Providence, Grand Bahama, Exuma, Bimini, Eleuthera, and Abaco), so your only option outside those islands is BTC.
Other than that, Aliv covers 99% of the population in the islands they are active on, which is neat.
It is a bit difficult to conclude whether Aliv is cheaper than BTC because Aliv does not have data-only packages (except for 1 plan). They only sell combo packs. Either way, they provide good value for the money spent.
Aliv SIM cards are sold in Aliv stores and in kiosks. Top-up cards ranging from 5 BSD to 100 BSD can also be bought in those establishments, but you can also top-up online with a credit card. To reload your card, you have to dial *202# and follow the instructions. To check your Aviv balance, you can dial *201#.
The following Aliv combo plans, called Freedom packs, are available and are valid for 7 days:
- 5 BSD: 500 MB, 50 minutes, and 50 SMS
- 10 BSD: 2 GB, 100 minutes, and 100 SMS
- 20 BSD: 4 GB, 200 minutes, and 200 SMS
- 30 BSD: unlimited data, minutes, and SMS
The Fair-use Policy for the unlimited plan(s) is set at 300 GB. If you manage to use more than 300 GB in a week (or a month – to be discussed later), your speed will either be throttled or your plan will be suspended by Aliv.
You can also get one of Aliv’s Liberty plans, which are valid for 30 days:
- 50 BSD: 10 GB, 500 minutes, and 500 SMS
- 90 BSD: 18 GB, 900 minutes, and 900 SMS
- 120 BSD: unlimited data, minutes, and SMS
All of Aliv’s Freedom and Liberty plans allow you to make calls or send SMS to Canada and the United States with your allowances. All plans auto-renew if there is enough credit.
As mentioned earlier, Aliv does have 1 data-only plan, which is advertised for mobile hotspots. Still, you can use it on your phone too. The Mifi plan comes with unlimited data for 30 days for 75 BSD.
You can activate any Aliv plan with the myALIV app, online, or by dialing 611.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in the Bahamas
I have discussed the relevant providers in the Bahamas in this article because using a Bahamian SIM card would be much cheaper than roaming with your provider… in most cases. However, buying a local SIM card is not the only way to stay connected in the Bahamas. You can buy an international SIM card, use a mobile hotspot, or use free WIFI connections. Below, I will discuss the alternative options to use your phone in the Bahamas.
Roaming in the Bahamas with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is Digicel Haiti, then you would be roaming with Digicel Haiti in the Bahamas.
The issue with roaming is that it can be expensive. There have been many horror stories where people had to pay thousands in roaming fees when coming back from their holidays, which is just a shame, in my opinion. However, roaming does not always have to be expensive, especially when visiting a neighboring country.
Many providers offer roaming plans. Some allow you to roam for free in the Bahamas, while others would offer you a roaming bundle with a set number of minutes, SMS, and data. Finally, several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee.
As you can see, there are many options out there, so be sure to explore the roaming options your provider has. Conveniently for you, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers (and many more to come) and discussed everything you need to know about roaming with your provider. If you are lucky, you may not even have to buy a SIM card in the Bahamas and can roam for free there.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
One thing I would not recommend doing is to Roam As You Go. Just like prepaid cards where you can buy bundles or Pay As You Go (as in, charged per minute, SMS, or MB), Roaming As You Go can be insanely expensive (that is how people get expensive roaming bills). So far, there are a handful of providers I have reviewed that offer affordable Roam As You Go rates. But generally, avoid it. Get a roaming plan if you can or buy a SIM in the Bahamas.
Using an International SIM Card in the Bahamas
International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.
The number of international SIM card providers is too many to count, but international SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. A few providers I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.
They allow people to call you at one number instead of five in case you are exploring multiple countries in one trip. Moreover, you do not have to deal with multiple SIM cards you will never use again. In short, international SIM cards have been made for the international traveler in mind.
Although this sounds fabulous, international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in the Bahamas. Some international SIM card providers charge ridiculous fees (sometimes, even more than roaming with your provider), while others offer awful service. It is, therefore, important to go with a reputable company so that you do not have to deal with surprised when traveling around the world.
On the other hand, international SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Many countries in the Caribbean require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
Using Portable Hotspots (Pocket WIFI) in the Bahamas
Portable hotspots, also referred to mobile hotspots or pocket WIFI, are routers small enough to bring with you everywhere you go. They are portable, battery-powered wireless routers that allow you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Just like with the number of international SIM card providers, there are so many mobile hotspots out there that it is challenging to keep track of them all. Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
The first time I used a portable hotspot was when I was in Bangkok, Thailand, with my dad. He uses the Dutch telecom provider called KPN, which does not let you roam for free in Thailand. I was with 3 Denmark (3 Danmark), which also did not allow me to roam for free. The router was offered for free by our Airbnb host. Let me tell you how convenient that thing was!
I do not remember the exact brand router we used, but we could connect our phones to it, explore Bangkok, and upload highlights of our trip on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp without the need of connecting to unsecure and slow connections in Thailand.
That is why I often recommend those who are traveling in groups or with families to consider getting a pocket WIFI device so that each individual does not need to buy a local SIM card and data packages. In some countries, the cost of getting a local SIM card or packages is so low that it is not even worth getting a mobile hotspot. In others, it could save you money.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
Connecting to Free WIFI Networks in the Bahamas
Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected in the Bahamas which is using free WIFI networks.
Using WIFI networks should not cost you any money (unless you are connecting to premium hotspots), which is why it is a popular option for travelers. Go to a local café, buy a coffee, connect to their WIFI, and post your pictures to Facebook or Instagram. Straightforward, right? Well, let’s see if that is indeed the case.
First, you need to find hotspots. In some regions, they are readily available. In others, you cannot find any, require you to give your personal details (for commercial purposes), are restricted for those who are a subscriber of an operator’s, or are so slow that you wished you never connected to them.
In the case of the Bahamas, you can find quite some hotspots throughout the islands.
Public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription now or learn more about NordVPN.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in the Bahamas
Getting a SIM card from Aliv would do you well when considering a Bahamian SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards like OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots like Skyroam, Vision Global Wireless, and Travelwifi will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in the Caribbean? Check out my Caribbean SIM card buying guide covering the other Caribbean destinations, such as Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French West Indies, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin (French) & Sint Maarten (Dutch), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago, and Turks and Caicos. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for The Bahamas
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to the Bahamas. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to the Bahamas drop.
Book Your Accommodation for the Bahamas
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in the Bahamas. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Bahamian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for the Bahamas
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in the Bahamas, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to the local currency for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!