Vehicular Fun in the Bahamas

Adventures with Kris – Because we took a vacation and we had lots of fun adventures! Tonight, I’d like to share the vehicular fun. I knew I would most likely be the one driving so I had my daughter look up in advance which side of the road they drive on in the Bahamas. She confirmed they do drive on the left. Guess I’ll figure it out!
When we flew into Nassau, the rental car was just like the cars here in the US. The steering wheel and everything was on the left. I had a momentary wondering if maybe they really do drive on the right side, but I learned really quickly that they do in fact drive on the left! Bahamians do not believe in stop lights – They just do circles everywhere. Roundabout, take the second exit, in half a mile, take the second exit at the roundabout… to drive straight down the road! Then we found a sign that said “Z next 2 miles”… Oh, and the sign with the two cars on it means, “Dangerous curve, no overtaking.” I managed to keep up with where I was despite the lack of understandable signs, and I did great in Nassau driving on the left. Well. Almost.
So we decided to eat lunch, and we followed signs to a steakhouse. The signs pointed down a street that I did not realize was actually a DIVIDED street. I turned on the street, careful to stay to the left, and I looked ahead to realize this was a one-way street – left traffic was on the other side of the median. Oops. I flipped a U and tried again on the other side of the median.
Our plane was delayed and we got to Exuma after the rental car place closed. They sent me an email saying that my name was on the dash of my car, and the key was under the driver’s floor mat. My daughter and I ran all over the parking lot to find the car with my name on it was at the very front. Of course. Excitedly, I opened the driver’s door and pulled up the floor mat. Nothing. Oh no. Please let’s not have another problem today, pretty please. My daughter checked the driver’s floor mat also, because a second set of eyes is always good! Then I walked around, praying we would find the keys. I told her maybe they put them on the passenger side – I opened the passenger door and was relieved to see a little lump under the floor mat. I quickly pulled up the keys and told my daughter I found them. Whew. I’m not sure why they put them on the other side, but they sure did give me quite a scare considering all the problems we’d had up to that point. Then I walked back around the car and hopped in the driver’s seat while my daughter walked around to the passenger side…. except when I went to put the key in the ignition, there was nothing there. No steering wheel, no pedals, no ignition…. It was all on the other side of the car. You’re kidding me!! Apparently, they DID put the keys under the driver’s mat. Now with both of us crawling around the front seats, how did NEITHER of us notice the lack of pedals, steering wheel, etc on the driver’s side? And how did NEITHER of us notice it on the passenger side even after I ducked under the steering wheel to get the keys from under the floor mat and carefully placed the mat back under the pedals?! SERIOUSLY? Am I THAT dense?!
Okay, now let me tell you about this backwards car. The ignition is on the right side, by the door. The gear shift is in the center – you shift gear with your left hand. When you’re driving and you want to turn, the windshield wipers come on. For days, I used windshield wipers as turn signals. I finally got it through my incredibly thick head that the turn signal is on the RIGHT side with the RIGHT hand. Yes, this old dog CAN learn new tricks!
This might also be the time to mention the speed limit signs say 30 mph. The car? It doesn’t show MPH, it only gives KPH. In digital form (not the little circle thing that has both like we do here – no, that would be FAR too easy for someone to figure out how fast they’re going). So while I’m driving, the car says 45 kph, and the sign says 30 mph. NO idea what the conversion is, and I didn’t have international phone service so I couldn’t just look it up. Nope, that would have been too easy, too. So I spent the whole time guesstimating 30 mph and hoping I wouldn’t get stopped for speeding!
I got it figured out though, and we didn’t have any major problems…. except that one time I hit a pothole. And thunk, thunk, thunk…. Ugh. Flat tire. I pulled over, and by the time we got the trunk open, a kind man stopped and said, “I’ll get this for you!” He made quick work of it, and he suggested I avoid the potholes. LOL Yeah, I figured that out. Thanks. I know to avoid potholes, and I was trying – but perception from the wrong side of the car when everything is backwards just isn’t quite the same.
OH, we were trying to go meet our tour guide for the first tour. All I knew was “the port” so we were directed to Berreterre. We drove all the way up there just to find out we were at the WRONG dock. We were supposed to be in George Town. The guys were hilarious as they were looking at us in disbelief and telling us we were TWENTY-TWO MILES from our destination! That is apparently a MASSIVE distance for them. Of course, I was all, “Oh, okay. No problem then, let’s go!” “It’s TWENTY TWO MILES!!” “Okay, thank you!” “Man, you’ve got a LONG WAY to go!”… I was laughing, 22 miles is nothing, but I’m from Texas. 22 miles is over half their island. Yeah, I can see why it was such a big deal!
So we headed over to George Town. Have I mentioned yet that I didn’t have a map? We’d planned to get one at the airport or the car place, but it was all closed when we arrived. Yes, even the airport – we never went through a building. We got off the plane, grabbed our bags from the cart, and walked through a chain-link fence. I was doing the best I could to navigate and was using the photographic memory of a map I’d looked at days before and had NOT intended to try to memorize. It worked for the most part, but…. in town became complicated. I drove into George Town, but we didn’t know where the dock was. Then we saw it! I did a quick U-turn and headed back to the dock. The car behind me blocked the road and put his hands up like, “What are you doing?!” I was careful to stay to the left, I had no idea what his problem was.
That’s the day we met up with Captain CJ and his crew. Captain CJ told us all the pertinent information we needed to know. Like that all the streets going around towns are ONE WAY. There’s not a single sign, you just have to KNOW it’s a one-way street. Seriously!! Well, that’s why the car was acting all weird that I turned around then…. But I learned that lesson and never went backwards in George Town again! We circled around if we needed to go backwards – which is what they all do anyway. Circles everywhere! By the time we left though, I was a pro at Exuma. I’ve driven from the northern point at Berreterre to the southern point beyond Williamstown. And I didn’t go the wrong way in any cities anymore!
The very last day, I stopped at the gas station to fill up the car in George Town. There was a car in front of me so I circled around him and went to the pump on the other side. They don’t have self serve, someone pumps the gas for you. The man who was pumping gas told me I was going the wrong way in the gas station. What? There’s a wrong way in the gas station now too? Yes, you go in and pull out the same direction as traffic. And if you go backwards, they tell you about it because you’re messing up the flow of traffic. Who knew?! Hah, it does make perfect sense though, doesn’t it?
Everyone there is incredibly nice though, and the horns are used for communication. Regularly. You hear “beep beep” from a car telling another car to go ahead, and the other car goes “beep” to say thanks, and then you hear “beep” again from the first car! Lots of beeps – if those guys came to Dallas, they’d be shot! It was strange adjusting to all the honking, but once we realized it was ALL friendly communication, it was really kind of neat. 🙂
Coming back home proved another set of adjustments. Remember how I said the wipers were on the left, and the blinkers were on the right in the car on Exuma? Remember how I said I adjusted and got it down? Now let me tell you about my car here….
My blinker is on the left…. and my gear shift is on the right. Just let that sink in for a little bit.