Flying to the Bahamas: Pre-trip Preparation

If you are ready to trade the winter weather for some warm sunshine, why not fly yourself to the Bahamas? It is easy to do, though it requires some additional pre-trip planning for the aircraft, pilot, and passengers. This two-minute video gives an overview of the process, as well a brief description of many of the items.

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NOTAM for Nassau Intl. Airport

New procedures effective July 1, 2015. Click here for details.

Flying in the Bahamas

Rick Gardner, AOPA's representative for the Bahamas, and Director of Aviation Services for Caribbean Sky Tours, joins us to discuss the benefit of having your airplane with you during your visit to the Bahamas.

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The pilot in command must have a current:


  • Each passenger must have a current passport
  • Children traveling with only one parent must have a notarized statement of approval from the absent parent stating the dates of the trip.


All U.S. registered aircraft must have:

  • A standard Airworthiness Certificate
  • A permanent registration certificate (no temporary certificates/pink slips)
  • A radio station license
  • Operating limitations information
  • Weight and Balance information
  • A life vest/flotation device for each person aboard (It’s recommended you also carry a life raft.)
  • An ID data plate
  • 12-inch registration marks
  • Transponder with Mode C
  • Aircraft with fuel tanks installed in the baggage or passenger compartments must have Form 337 on board.
  • ELT communications on the aeronautical emergency frequency 121.5 MHz and/or 406 MHz.  

Customs and Border Protection

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requires:

ICAO Flight Plan

  • Use of an ICAO flight plan is currently required if the flight will enter international airspace. While an ICAO flight plan and an FAA flight plan are similar in many ways, there are some important differences. Some items are the same on both forms: aircraft ID or tail number; aircraft type, fuel endurance, and number of people on board. New items on the ICAO flight plan include a Wake Turbulence category, and Type of Flight. The biggest change, though, is found in the equipment suffixes box, box 10. The ICAO codes used to denote the type of equipment on board the aircraft are different than the codes used by the FAA. To find out more, please view this short AOPA video.

Departing the U.S.

  • Pilots crossing the border must be in communication with ATC and on a discrete squawk code.
  • All aircraft must be on an activated IFR or Defense VFR flight plan for flying through the ADIZ
  • The first landing in the Bahamas must be at a Bahamian Customs airport of entry. Call ahead to announce your planned arrival time.

Flying in the Islands


  • For island-hopping flexibility, obtain a cruising permit at your airport of entry.
  • Flight plans are recommended for island flying, though you may need to open and close them from altitude if phones are not available.
  • VFR flying at night is prohibited except within the airport traffic areas of Freeport and Nassau.
  • Have cash for fuel purchases; while some airports do accept credit cards, others do not.

Beyond the Bahamas


  • FAA charges any foreign- or domestic-registered aircraft (via a bill to the registered owner) overflight fees for flights in U.S.-controlled airspace that neither take off nor land in the United States. An example would be a flight that departs Freeport in the Bahamas and flies to Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos, while using ATC services from Miami Center. FAA does not, however, bill any owner if the fees incurred are less than $250 per calendar month. The fee per 100 nautical miles is on the FAA's Web site.
  • If you fly from Puerto Rico to the U.S. Virgin Islands, you can fly as a domestic flight with no eAPIS, or CBP entry requirements, just fly and land. However, if you fly from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico you must clear with CBP at an international port. However, you DO NOT file an eAPIS; you file the old CBP Form 178 and request permission and an appointment.
  • AOPA has become aware of an issue regarding travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands and points south. U.S. Customs in St. Thomas says that pilots need to file an eAPIS outbound and nothing else. U.S. Customs in St. Croix says that pilots DO NOT need to file an eAPIS but DO need to go to the CBP office. U.S. Customs headquarters is aware of this discrepancy and is working with the local offices to resolve. In the meantime, it would be wise to contact the specific U.S. Customs offices you intend to use in the area by phone prior to departure or arrival, and to confirm which procedure to use.


bahamasReturning to the U.S.

  • Return your immigration tourist card and cruising permit
  • Pay a $29 per passenger departure tax
  • File an activated IFR or Defense VFR flight plan for flying through the ADIZ with ADCUS (advise customs) in the remarks section
  • Call U.S. CBP at least one hour and no more than 23 hours before your planned U.S. arrival time.  (Do not rely only on ADCUS – call to verify CBP has your flight plan).
  • File an eAPIS arrival manifest (if you filed eAPIS reports for both legs of your trip before you left the U.S., you do not have to file again).
  • If you are arriving in southern Florida, plan to land at one of the following eight U.S. CBP airport of entry after crossing the U.S. border. Be on time – a little late is better than early.
    • Key West International Airport, (KEYW)
    • Tamiami Airport, Miami (KTMB)
    • Miami International Airport General Aviation Center (KMIA)
    • Opa Locka Airport, Miami (KOPF)
    • Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (KFXE)
    • Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International-General Aviation Facility (KFLL)
    • Palm Beach International Airport, West Palm Beach (KPBI)
    • Saint Lucie County Airport, Fort Pierce (KFPR)

Tips, Trips, and Opinions

This section of information offers opinions, tips, and trips from members of AOPA's International Alliance, which is a group of international service providers who are very familiar with operations in the Bahamas and who can share their information here.

This content reflects the opinions of the providers, including occasional operational tips and experiences. Some of the perspectives expressed here may not reflect AOPA's position, but they bring a valuable viewpoint members should be aware of when traveling internationally. Questions or concerns should be directed to the information providers, whose names are hyperlinked below for easy access.

Tips (and Updates)

040414: From Rick Gardner, Caribbean Sky Tours

One of our members experienced an unusual situation while flying IFR in the Bahamas. We had to do a fair amount of research to get to the bottom of it. The bottom line is that all IAP’s in the Bahamas, with the exception of Nassau and Freeport are NOT AUTHORIZED. We felt that this should be shared with AOPA members as Miami Center was not even aware of this. We have forwarded recommendations to Bahamas Civil Aviation as posted in the forum and have sent the NOTAM to Miami Center as well. Click here to link to the post.

022814: From Thierry Pouille, Air Journey.

I just returned from the Bahamas this past week-end with the Bahamas Treasure Hunt. We received excellent service and I can attest that the $50.00 arrival fee is compensated by the ongoing promotion from the Bahamas Tourist office with a $150.00 credit per plane. Details at:


These are upcoming private aviation trips to the Bahamas sponsored or escorted by an international service provider.

Baja Bush Pilots. Explore Cuba. Date TBD.
The date and itinerary is still to be determined however, we will meet in Miami where we will take a charter flight into Habana where we will be spending seven days exploring Cuba as well as discussing with Cuban officials the requirements and safety procedures for Cuban overflights. In addition, we will be visiting a small airport near Habana where a small aircraft museum has been created showing the history of flight in Cuba. 

Opinions and Experiences

These are solely the opinions or experiences of the ones to whom they are attributed. Occasionally, you may see conflicting opinions or differing experiences.

San Salvador Island BahamasTrip to San Salvador Islands, Bahamas

By Craig Peyton: Bahamas Aviator
Photo courtesy of Craig Peyton

The JPI 830 was getting my full attention as I headed offshore near KPMP climbing to 7,500. The IO360 had just been overhauled with about 8 hours so far. With about 450 overwater miles to go, watching the CHT temps rise and fall during engine break in was a bit nerve-racking. The Mooney was headed southeast to San Salavador Island, the furthest east you can fly in the Bahamas. It's out there, and you start to feel a little lonely by the time Cat Island is on your tail. The ever changing engine temps had me thinking about the legendary service record of my Lycoming engine...which I hoped to uphold this fine morning.

My mission was to shoot video for Riding Rock Resort, an inviting, well run family business. Customs was easy, but please note there is a new fee in place. You now pay a $50 “processing fee” when you enter the country, filling out the usual C7A form. On leaving you pay the $25 per person departure tax. That made the total customs cost for my solo trip $75.

Read the whole article here.

Member List: AOPA's International Alliance

Air Journey: Escorted flying journeys to destinations around the world. Travel in a small group on a pre-arranged itinerary, or customize a trip.

Bahamas Aviator: Bahamas flying and resort information for private pilots.

Bahamas and Caribbean Pilots Guide:  Publish guide books for pilots: The 2014 Bahamas Pilot's Guide and 2014 Caribbean Pilot's Guide.

Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.  The official travel site of the Islands of the Bahamas.

Baja Bush Pilots: A membership organization providing information, resources, and escorted flights for private pilots in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Canadian Owners and Pilots Association: A membership organization that protects personal aviation and promotes it as a valued, integral and sustainable part of the Canadian Community.

Caribbean Sky Tours: A membership association providing information, resources, and escorted flights to Mexico, Central America, the Bahamas, and the Caribbean.

Pilot Getaways: Pilot Getaways is the bimonthly travel magazine for pilots and their families, focusing on fun flying to destinations from backcountry strips to exclusive fly-in resorts.