A Shopper's Dream

The tempting worlds of crystal, jewellry,and fashion will amaze you. Imagine strolling down an avenue where window after window beckoned with luxury goods at bargain prices, where designer names were as popular as Nike shoes and consistent quality was equaled only by ease of purchase. You don't have to imagine. You just have to make your way to Bay Street in old Nassau or the International Bazaar in Freeport, Grand Bahama, pulsating examples of why The Bahamas is quickly becoming known as the duty free capital of the Caribbean. Linens, leather, china, crystal, collectibles, perfumes and fragrances, liquor and wine, watches and jewellery and more at unbeatable prices -it's enough to make a savvy shopper's credit card itch. For the Bahamas, it's pretty heady to climb to near the top of the list in the competitive world of duty free shopping.

It was only in 1992 that the government allowed certain goods to be imported duty free, reducing their cost by as much as 30% to 35%, a savings passed on to the consumer.
And it was only a matter of months ago that shopping hours and opportunities were extended when Blue Laws forbidding Sunday shopping were repealed and replaced with legislation that permitted downtown stores serving visitors to open between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Most other stores still remain closed on Sundays and food stores, which are permitted to open at 7 a.m., must lock their doors by 10 a.m.

Where The Buys Are

Where are the best buys and what kind of paperwork do you have to fill out? The answer to the second question is none. That's why duty free shopping in the Bahamas is considered hassle-free. There are no forms to fill out, no waiting for goods to be delivered to hotel room, airplane or cruise ship, no last minute scurrying and hoping that what you bought shows up in time. Just go in and make your purchase and carry it with you, or if, you prefer, have it delivered to your room or to your front door at home.

As for making the best buys, the best guarantee of the greatest savings is to comparison shop before you arrive in Nassau or Freeport. Know what you want. Whether it's a TagHeuer Sports Elegance watch that retails for $1795 plus sales tax in the States and sells for $1560 here or a dramatic Lalique cactus crystal table base that's a savlight dinner poolside at the posh Ocean Club on Paradise Island.

Leather - The Look And Feel
Of Luxury At Unbeatable Prices

When it comes to slipping into something luxurious, leather at duty free prices is hard to resist. Paloma Picasso evening bags,totes,beltsand other accessories, all with the distinctive signature X, are at least 20% less in the Bahamas than in the U.S. Paloma's snazzy evening bag, snap closure with gold chain handles, available in navy, black, ivory, black or patent leather, is $217.50 plus sales tax in the U.S., $174 in the Bahamas, translating into a savings of $54 if only 5% sales tax is included in the Stateside price. In Nassau, John Bull, Little Switzerland, Greenfire, MCM, Brass & Leather I & II, Gucci, Fendi all have sumptuous leather collections with names like Cartier, Furla, Bottega Veneta, Land and Donna Karan. The Kelly Bag, tan and black, perfect for going straight from the office to the Oak Room at the Plaza is $199 in Nassau, $260 or more Stateside, plus tax. And the other Kelly bag - Grace Kelly by Gucci - is $670 here, $875 Stateside, a savings of more than $200 on a single purse.

"It's perfectly okay to be a name dropper in Nassau," one shopper was overheard saying to another. "Don't you just love it? We're talking about Cartier and saving money at the same time!"

Old Town, New Look

Duty free shopping is better than ever in Nassau where a $1.5 million renovation project has literally painted the town pink - or the sidewalks pink anyway. Legendary Bay Street has been repaved, trees planted, attractive benches and charming lamp posts have been added. And all the sidewalks have been dug up, tossed out and replaced with pink embedded in the concrete design to add a tropical flair to a town with a unique architectural heritage. Buildings have been spruced up and facades of structures like Treasure Traders, Greenfire, Ocean Jewels and Caripelago bespeak class in a city known for its combination of colonial and island character. Balconies that for too long stood idle are now being used for outdoor dining and new establishments like Jitters above The Girls From Brazil are making a colourful addition as well as a welcome respite for shoppers in search of sustenance. There's also a renewed interest in things created in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, and shops like Island Tings and Caripelago are setting a new pace in the race to showcase the spirit and craftsmanship of island peoples. Most of their goods, like the paintings, prints and maps at Balmain Antiques, are duty free - a status granted all original art. Numerous art galleries have cropped up in Nassau, adding to the cultural flavour of the shopping experience. And a trip through the Junkanoo Expo on Prince George Wharf where costumes that take months to create are preserved after being worn for one national parade is a must.

Liquor Savings There's plenty to raise your glass to - and your spirits with - when it comes to taking home a taste of the tropics. Three companies produce rum liqueurs that are sinfully delicious and remarkably low-priced, making them sure winners for Christmas or other presents, even for yourself. Butler & Sands, owner of Todhunter Distilleries, produces Ron Ricardo liqueurs in mango, coconut, pineapple and banana flavours at $10.95 each for the litre size bottle. Burns House produces Old Nassau liqueurs in banana, coconut and pineapple flavours for $11.75 for a 40 oz. bottle. Bacardi produces the 11-ingredient fruity Nassau Royale which sells for $11.95 a litre. All are good on ice, mixed with cream or coffee or dripped over ice cream for a dessert that tastes like it took hours to make.

The best liquor buys are in the litre size bottles which are duty free. Compare these for a sample of savings: Absolut Vodka, $21.60 Stateside, $10.50 Bahamas; Bacardi $14.00 U.S., $8.20 here; Johnny Walker Red label $25.45 U.S., $13.95 here, Mount Gay Eclipse rum $20 U.S., $11.67 here, Romana Sambuca $31 U.S., $18.48 Bahamas.

Americans who have been out of the country for 48 hours or more are allowed to take home two litres of liquor each, one of which should have been bottled in the Bahamas or the Caribbean. Larger quantities may be taken, but a small tax may be assessed while clearing U.S. Customs at the airport in Nassau or Freeport. Many visitors find spirits savings so substantial they gladly pay the extra tax.

China, Crystal & Collectables

From the sentimental Spanish-made Lladro figurines to classic Rosenthal or Royal Copenhagen china designed for royalty, the selection of china, crystal and collectibles is vast - and vastly under U. S . and European prices. If the cactus Lalique table base at $63,000 was just slightly out of reach, Lalique's popular Bacchantes vase that sells for $2620 here is nearly $600 more at U. S. retail. Something a little more reasonable but just as collectible? Swarovski, the Austrian firm that creates leaded crystal that sparkles and changes with each new cast of light, offers its oyster with pearl for $140 in the Bahamas, $180 in the U.S., plus tax and the sparkling baby lovebirds, are $145 here, $185 U.S. Wedgwood, Lenox, Waterford, Baccarat, Rosenthal and Royal Copenhagen all run between 20% and 35% less than in the U.S. and with orders that are drop-shipped, that is, ordered and paid for in the Bahamas with shipment directly from European factory to the consumer's home, an additional 15% savings is possible. On orders of $500 or more, most companies pick up freight charges and U.S. tax payable, if any. Treasure Traders and Little Switzerland both handle bridal registries and accept china and crystal orders by telephone.

Jewellery & Watches

From the fun and novel Beach Treasures collection of dolphins, starfish, conch and other marine life replicated in gold to the most stunning and highly intricate Carrera y Carrera pieces created by the sculptor himself, jewellery appreciators will appreciate the selection and quality of jewels in Nassau. Take Carrera's Romeo & Juliet design - and how could you not - with a $500 savings on earrings alone, $1786 in the Bahamas, $2286 Stateside, plus tax. Or the Nerita ring by Lalique with intricately worked ribbons of satin finish and transparent crystal at $183 Bahamian, $228.75 U.S., or Cartier's rolling ring, with a more than $100 savings on an item that comes in at under four figures and catches all eyes. Nassau and Freeport jewellers are watch specialists and all watches from internationally licenced dealers lining the streets of Nassau and Freeport come with international warranties.