This got even longer than I thought it would, so TL/DR: Flew from Raleigh-Durham to the Bahamas via Fort Lauderdale Executive. Bought the AOPA Bahamas guide book thing and it explained requirements pretty well, but there were still some surprises along the way. Just like everything I've experienced so far in aviation, if you are upfront about what you know and don't know, what you did and didn't do, everyone along the way wants things to go smoothly and will help you out. If you want to fly somewhere / do something, the best thing to do is call the FBO and ask them what to do. Hello all, I recently returned from my first international trip, to the Bahamas. I thought I'd write up the aviation experience from the perspective of a first-timer (i.e., my own) in case anyone else is considering it. At the end a few details of the non-aviation part, and I'll reply here later once I have a blog post with pictures of the non-aviation part ready. Background: This was kind of a "make-up honeymoon" after a covid wedding about a year ago. My wife loves the beach, I love new flying adventures, so we thought we'd give it a go. Plan was for 4 nights in Exumas, 5 nights in Nassau, possibly an out-island trip or two, and possibly one night in Bimini at the end of the trip. Our home base is RDU, flying a Cessna 182H (3-person partnership) with long-range tanks (78 gallons usable). I have 550ish hours, and plenty of experience VFR (usually without flight plans, with flight following on most cross-countries) and IFR, as well as lots of time in / around the Washington DC ADIZ and FRZ (mostly VFR, occasionally IFR). General prep from the US side: The basic checklist you can find just about anywhere: annual user fee decal from Customs and Border Patrol, eAPIS declaration including plane details and crew/passenger manifest for each flight leaving or entering the USA, and a flight plan (DVFR or IFR) for any flight that crosses the US border ADIZ. A few unexpected details on this: - CBP sticker: Somehow the CBP payment website was malfunctioning when I tried to apply for the sticker. I could prepare the whole order, but when it came time to pay ($30/calendar year), the website would malfunction ("access denied") independent of browser, device, etc. This was a little concerning at the time (4-6 weeks before departure) because I'd heard it can take a while to get the sticker after submission. After several days and several phone calls with no luck in fixing the web issue, one of the reps said "we can email you a form to fax back to us" (of course they can -- it's the government). I paid the fee that way and had the decal about a week later (much faster turn-around than expected). - eAPIS registration: Was told the first-time eAPIS registration could also take several days to a week or two, so was expecting a long registration process followed by a wait. In reality, all of the sign-up stuff seemed automated (no delays at all) and after submitting my first trip manifest, it was "approved" within half an hour or so. - Flight plan: Went DVFR. I'll get to details later, which I still don't fully understand and would appreciate comments from the more experienced people here. Survival prep: I'm no authority on this, but will tell you what I did anyway. - Life jackets: Requirement is one life jacket per person. Didn't want to skimp, and hope to use these again in the future, so went with Switlik constant wear jackets from Sporty's. ("X-Back Basic" $350 for me because pockets, "Aviator" $260 for my wife. If I had more adult passengers, I might go with the belt-worn type ~$100). No complaints on comfort for several hours of wear. - Life raft: Not required, but recommended. After making a few phone calls, arranged a 4-person, non-TSO raft rental through Inflatables International. Per their email, rate is $395 for 7 days. Russ from Inflatables International dropped this off at our Florida FBO (Fort Lauderdale Executive Jet Center) and picked it up after we left it there for him at the end of the trip. He called us when it was there, and replied to email promptly when I sent one after dropping it back off. If we wind up doing this more regularly, we'll probably buy one (~$1500) but happy to do it this way as a trial. Didn't have to open/use it, but instructions seemed clear. - EPIRB: Strong recommendation. Can either get Garmin InReach type devices ($350-450ish) which include various forms of breadcrumbs, satellite messaging, etc., and require battery charging and a subscription, or ACR ResQLink type products ($300-350ish) which don't require charging or a subscription, last about 5 years, and have no features other than the big one -- send an SOS signal to local SAR. We opted for the latter, because generally we weren't going anywhere without cell service, and didn't want to worry about keeping the battery charged or paying for a subscription. - First aid / land survival: Primary goal was to be prepared for the trip itself (minor injuries etc) and if we got in a situation where we flew to a deserted out island and the plane wouldn't start and we were stuck for a night. Updated the first aid kit, which for me is a little on the "too complete" side (focus on small cuts and scrapes, larger cuts / sutures / splints / QuickClot, allergic reactions, gastrointestinal distress) and put together a basic overnight survival kit (space blankets and disposable bivy sacs, a few ways to make fire, chemical light sticks, compass/mirror, rope, duct tape). Threw all of that in a dry bag with enough buoyancy to float. In retrospect, should have added (was on my list, but didn't make the time to grab before I left) topical itch stuff -- diphenhydramine and/or hydrocortisone cream -- as it gets buggy. General prep from the Bahamas side: The Bahamas is very welcoming to private pilots. Fuel prices are high, as you'd expect, but aside from that fees are comparable to mid-sized US airports ($15-20 ramp fee is typical at the fancier FBOs), and service is very friendly / useful. The AOPA book has most of the details, but briefly: - For covid, there is a "Bahamas Health Visa" that has to be completed online before arrival. You enter your name, passport number, and covid details. If you're vaccinated, you need to upload a picture of your vaccination card (but also bring the original with you even though nobody will tell you to, because customs or hotels might ask for it). If not, you need a negative covid test within a couple of days before arrival in Bahamas, and another negative test after 5 days in country. - You have to arrive at an "Airport of Entry" during customs hours (or else be prepared for a wait) and ideally bring several filled-out copies of a "Cruising Permit", which is a special version of a flight manifest for private pilots who want to fly inter-island. Customs will take 2-3 copies and a $50 processing fee (handled by the FBO), give you one copy stamped, and that's your permission to fly within the Bahamas. Sort of. - You also fill out a landing card per passenger on arrival. You return your copy of the Cruising Permit and landing cards to customs when you leave, along with a $29/person departure tax that the FBO will handle for you.