We were anchored at Chub Cay a few weeks ago after spending five months in The Exumas
and Eleuthera. While in The Bahamas we used a smartphone, an iPad
, and an aircard, all with Batelco SIM cards at $30 a month for 1 GB. We found that the iPad
worked great in almost all locations, even when not near a Batelco tower. For example I was online with the iPad while crossing from Georgetown
to Long Island
. At Chub we had a very good connection on the iPad while anchored. There was no other wifi available either free or for sale
. Data on a smartphone also works well, but we preferred to use the iPad. Incidentally, Chris Parker just started making his webcast available on the iPad for subscribers.
If you have an iPad 3 you can use it as a hotspot for all your devices, although speeds tend to slow down when going through the hotspot. You can't use the wifi-only iPad models as you must put a Batelco SIM card in it. Unlike cell phones, the iPad is not locked, so no problem going back to your US provider when you return to the States. You just take out the Batelco card and put your US provider's card back in. An unlocked aircard works OK in most locations, but a smartphone and iPad have faster connections. In many places you can buy wifi, but it's usually expensive and you need a good wifi extender to get the signal on your boat. Many restaurants have free wifi if you eat or drink there. Occasionally you'll see a wifi called Clear Channel, which is free and seems to be a public wifi for Bahamians and tourists. There are very few non-encrypted wifi's and of course not safe to use. Our unlocked smartphone ($79 at Batelco) worked as a hotspot and tethered, but oddly it worked as a hotspot with our Dell computer, the iPad, and an iPhone
, but not with our Mac computer. So, if you have a Mac, check that it picks up the hotspot signal before you buy a Batelco smartphone if you want to use it for a hotspot. The smartphone model we have is a Dash Blu, very popular at the Batelco stores.
Overall, wifi coverage has improved greatly over the past few years in The Bahamas. My recommendation for the fastest most reliable service
would be an iPad. Often you can get the data cards on sale
for $20 or less for 1 GB. If you go over a GB before the month is up they slow you down but rarely cut you off. I was online every day for extended periods of time and only went over the 1 GB one month. Of course I didn't stream anything or use Skype. The only problem we had with Internet speed was at Staniel Cay, even in the Batelco office. There we bought time on Exuma Wifi, which worked great. In the Exuma Land and Sea Park there is no phone or Internet signal. Everywhere else the iPad connection was fast. Once you get the SIM card it is easy to put another GB on either online or through a phone connection. You don't need to go back to a Batelco. Just buy a few data cards and use them as needed or to add time online you can use a credit card.
I made a phone call back to the US every night for five months (had to call an autistic daughter) and the only time I didn't have a phone signal was in Warderick Wells. I did have a weak one in Cambridge Cay which allowed me to make the call. Wherever I had a voice signal I had a data signal and that was everywhere between Bimini
and Long Island
as we'll as Eleuthera.
When you return to the States if you have a Batelco phone, you can add $5 to the voice or data every three months to keep the same number and SIM card. If you go back in six months, you will need to buy a new SIM card with a new number because they will give your old number to someone else if it's not kept active.