Drawn by clear turquoise waters and miles of white-sand beaches, around seven million travelers visit the Bahamas each year, but a new warning about increased violence on the island nation has raised alarm over the safety of visiting there.
On Jan. 24, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, issued a security alert advising U.S. citizens “to be aware that 18 murders have occurred in Nassau since the beginning of 2024. Murders have occurred at all hours including in broad daylight on the streets.”
The startling announcement, unusual for the Bahamas, prompted a jump in the level of vigilance the U.S. government advises travelers to take when visiting the country. On Jan. 26, the State Department issued a travel advisory increasing the Bahamas’ security risk assessment from Level 1 (“Exercise normal precautions”) to Level 2 (“Exercise increased caution”).
Many tourism-reliant countries, including Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, currently have Level 2 warnings, and most travelers experience safe and enjoyable vacations. The tourism industry in the Bahamas contributes around 70 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, and employs half the country’s work force.
Here’s what you need to know about the security alert and traveling to the Bahamas.
What prompted the alert in the Bahamas?
According to the State Department, “retaliatory gang violence has been the primary motive in 2024 murders,” and it is primarily affecting the local population, particularly on New Providence and Grand Bahama islands, where the cities of Nassau and Freeport are. The warnings mention that the violent crime has been occurring in both tourist and nontourist areas.
What does Level 2 mean?
To help advise Americans traveling to particular countries, the State Department employs a scale from 1 to 4 to indicate the local security situation, starting with the safest, Level 1. The levels can vary within a country, with certain areas considered a greater security risk than others.
According to the department’s website, Level 2 means, “Exercise increased caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security.”
Many parts of the world are under Level 2 advisory, for reasons ranging from street crime to concerns over terrorism. The majority of visitors to those countries do not experience any danger — many are not even aware of the heightened risk indicated by the levels.
Level 3, by contrast,…