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A Comprehensive (And Free) Barbados Travel Guide

March 1, 2016

Barbados, fringed by azure seas and talcum powder-white beaches, is truly a gorgeous tropical destination that can put you into a state of euphoria in a lot of different ways. Not only does it have a smashing nightlife scene and a UNESCO World Heritage capital, but Barbados also has a welcoming and proud populace as well as a beautiful interior speckled with gardens. Plus, its lovely east coast offers fabulous swells to intrepid travelers who are extremely fond of surfing. To top it all off, Barbados has a beautiful array of beach resorts that range from grand to humble.

Want to travel to Barbados, but don’t know where to start? Here’s a detailed travel guide that will help you plan a trip to Barbados with ease.

Why visit Barbados?

When people hear of Barbados, the thing first thing that usually pops into mind is an image of a quintessential Caribbean beach.  Sure, the island’s white sands have been luring sun-seeking travelers for decades, but there’s really more to Barbados than a sunny spot where you can stretch out and unwind on a steamer chair.  As far as I’m concerned, it is an island with a cultural history that is just as rich as its beaches and landscape.

Barbados is also one of the most sought-after and developed islands in the Caribbean. While it was discovered by the Spanish, Barbados would eventually become a British colony, and still has plenty of cultural remnants from their regime today. The commonwealth is split into 11 parishes, and only two without the striking coastline wrapping around the country.

The island’s interior is as breathtaking and lush as its coastline, dotted with wildlife, botanic gardens and large plantations. What’s more, it has the most deluxe properties for every square mile in the Caribbean.  Trust me, Barbados travel certainly won’t disappoint anyone who’s looking for an adventurous trip or simply a peaceful getaway.

 

Currency used in Barbados

The currency used in this tropical destination is the Barbados Dollar, or BBD.  Check out Money Converter to find out the real-time currency of BBD.  US currency is also widely accepted across the island, and most restaurants and stores accept major credit cards. Most hotels and other types of lodging within the island also accept these forms of payment.

Coins for Barbados are issued at 5, 10 and 25 cents as well as 1 dollar. The banknotes, on the other hand, are issued in the following denominations – 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollars.

How to get in

Visa requirements

Citizens of the counties listed below won’t need visas to enter this Caribbean paradise:

AlbaniaGambiaNauruTonga
Antigua and BarbudaGeorgiaNetherlandsTrinidad and Tobago
ArmeniaGermanyNew ZealandTunisia
AustraliaGhanaNicaraguaTurkey
AlbaniaGreeceNigeriaTurkmenistan
Antigua and BarbudaGrenadaNorwayTuvalu
ArmeniaHungaryPalauUganda
AustraliaIcelandPanamaUkraine
AustriaIrelandPapua New GuineaUnited Kingdom
AzerbaijanIsraelPeruUnited States
BahamasItalyPolandUruguay
BangladeshJamaicaPortugalUzbekistan
BelarusJapanRomaniaVanuatu
BelgiumKazakhstanRussiaVenezuela
BelizeKenyaSaint Kitts and Nevis Zambia
BotswanaKiribatiSaint Lucia 
BrazilKyrgyzstanSaint Vincent and the Grenadines 
BruneiLatviaSamoa 
BulgariaLesothoSeychelles 
CanadaLiechtensteinSierra Leone 
ChileLithuaniaSingapore 
ColombiaLuxembourgSlovakia 
Costa RicaRepublic of MacedoniaSlovenia 
CroatiaMalawiSolomon Islands 
CubaMalaysiaSouth Africa 
CyprusMaldivesSpain 
Czech RepublicMaliSri Lanka 
DenmarkMaltaSuriname 
DominicaMarshall IslandsSwaziland 
EritreaMauritaniaSweden 
EstoniaMauritiusSwitzerland 
FijiMexicoTajikistan 
FinlandFederated States of MicronesiaTanzania 
FranceMoldova Zimbabwe 

The visa form must include a couple of passport-size photos. The visa costs BD$60 for each multiple entry and BD$50 for a single entry. You can get your visa from a consulate or embassy of Barbados.

By airplane

Sir Grantley Adams International Airport, or also known as BGI, is the only designated entry port for people departing and arriving by air in Barbados. Operating as a major entry point to the Eastern Caribbean, this international airport connects Barbados to the United States (New York, Miami and Dallas), Canada, and United Kingdom. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have tons of flights to Barbados, while American Airlines is the United States’ dominant carrier. Both Westjet Fly and Air Canada offer flights for people who are traveling from Canada.

The Barbados airport is 8 miles east of the island’s capital – Bridgetown.  From the airport, you can hop on a mini-bus or bus, and travel to the coast of Speightstown, Holetown and Bridgetown, for only BD$2 per person.

To score cheap flights to Barbados, check out Skyscanner or any other reliable flight search engine.

By boat

A lot of cruise ships dock in the deep water harbor of Bridgetown, which was expanded to accommodate more vessels. Their terminal has a flotilla of taxi cabs, as well as shuttle buses from or to Bridgetown’s downtown area for BD$2 per person each way.

Regions in Barbados

Barbados is, as mentioned above, has 11 parishes that can be divided sensibly into 4 regions:

Bridgetown – The capital of the island and Saint Michael Parish’s surrounding areas.

Southern Barbados – It is home to the parishes of Saint Thomas and Christ Church. It also includes Saint Lawrence Gap – a vibrant area where the Grantley Adams International Airport and Oistins are located. It is also brimming with restaurants and bars.

Western Barbados – The island’s serene Caribbean side covering the parishes of Saint Lucy, Saint Peter and Saint James. Speightstown and Holetown are its two main towns.

Central Eastern Barbados – It covers the parishes of Saint Thomas, Saint Joseph, Saint John, Saint George and Saint Andrew. The east coast is the island’s rugged Atlantic side.

When to go to

The wet seasons of Barbados starts from June and ends on November. Its dry season runs from December through May. The best time to visit Barbados is between mid-December and April, even though it is the island’s peak tourist season. Hurricanes are a rarity in Barbados since it is located on the outskirts of most hurricane paths. Still, wind and rain can be a factor during those peak times.

Getting around

Bus and mini-vans

Public buses are quiet, and are operated by the bluish Barbados Transport Board. There are also private operators like the yellow buses as well as the white private mini-vans, which are usually crowded and cramped. These rides all offer BD$2 per ride. Mini-vans and yellow buses accept US dollars and offer change. BTB buses, meanwhile, only accept BDB, and don’t give change.

Taxi

Cab drivers are pretty knowledgeable, when it comes to the best restaurants and sites in Barbados, meaning taking a taxi is absolutely a hassle-free way to travel around the island. But on the flip side, you are going to pay big bucks for their convenience, with the lofty fares set by the government. Expect to pay somewhere between BD$ 15 to 30 for a one-way ride from airport to the hotels of Saint Lawrence Gap or Bridgetown.

Car

Renting a car is arguably the best way to get around the island. Compared to other destinations in the Caribbean, the roads in Barbados are quite easy to navigate. However, roads there are narrow and winding. Nevertheless, it is the most efficient way to get around the island. If you want to give it a shot, make sure to secure a temporary permit (BD$ 10) from a rental agency. And don’t forget, driving is on the left in Barbados.

10 things to keep in mind when you visit Barbados

1. Barbados is where the sun lives

The island is just 13 degrees north of the equator, meaning it is scorching hot, and you can easily burn there.  Drink water religiously and apply sunscreen on a regular basis, to avoid heat stroke.

2. Barbados is Little Britain

Bajans – the indigenous locals in Barbados – are rather conservative in dress and attitude. Even though the island is fairly warm, don’t be surprised to see females in dresses and males wearing pants.

Barbados, although it has been independent since 1996, maintains a political system that’s pretty similar to Britain, with a democratic parliamentary government and a constitutional monarchy. Moreover, Bajan ways of life and customs are totally similar. As a matter of fact, the island is still holding tight to British traditions like horse races at Garrison Savannah and afternoon teas.

3. Drinking water

Tap water in this Caribbean destination is safe to drink.

4. Skinny dipping is a big no-no

Topless sunbathing or swimming is strictly against law on this heavenly island.

5. Language

English is the official language in this tropical hub. Communication won’t be a problem for any English speaker, as the island has an excellent literacy rate (98 percent).

6. Keep safe

Crime, like assaults on travelers, is not new in Barbados. Most crimes, though, are simple tourist swindles, and normal safety precautions should do.  Keep your eyes open for pickpockets in its capital city. Also, secure your valuables around the bustling center on Broad and Swan streets. There are some con artists who hang out at Saint Lawrence Gap’s entrance, and also around the nightlife venues on the south coast.

Roads are curvy and sidewalks are nonexistent or narrow, so be extra cautious when walking along quiet streets.

7. Bring an insect repellent

Mosquitoes and insects are a serious nuisance at night, so make sure to bring some effective insect repellent. (As of this writing, pregnant women are advised to avoid exposure to mosquito bites in Barbados due to the widespread of Zika virus across the Caribbean and Americas.)

8. Time zone in Barbados

9. Electricity

110 Volts, 50 HZ with American-style plugs. 

10. Online access

The local government is planning to cover the entire island of Barbados with WiFi access, from rum shops to bus stop. As of now, most of the WiFi coverage is on the south and west coasts of the island because the majority of Barbados’s population works and lives in these areas. Furthermore, most of the hotels and accommodations are nestled in the south and west.

Most Barbados hotels, guesthouses, apartments and hotels provide free WiFi coverage to their guests. Likewise, some offer desktop computers with internet access for those are visiting Barbados without their phone, tablet or laptop. As far as your roaming options, be sure to check out with your local carrier before leaving your turf.

Things to do in Barbados

With plenty of sporting events, historic homes and golf courses, Barbados is, without a shadow of a doubt, a great vacation spot for active people. Of course, this Caribbean island is very prolific in beach-time fun as well. Surfing junkies flock to the waves of Soup Bowl near Bathshena Beach, while neophytes opt for driving or surfing lessons in Bridgetown. Shopaholics will find their bliss with the duty-free bargains everywhere on the island, but party animals will enjoy the energetic after-dark festivities in Oistin Bay and Bridgetown.

  • See the Botanical Garden
  • Watch a Cricket game
  • Visit Mount Gay Rum Distillery Ltd.
  • Scuba diving
  • Wreck diving in Carlisle Bay
  • Spend a day at Crane Beach
  • Nightclubbing at beach bars like Harbor Lights
  • Atlantis Submarine Tours
  • Catarman Cruises
  • Swing by Barbados Wildlife Reserve
  • Visit Gun Hill Signal Station
  • Explore the Animal Flower Cave
  • Soak in the amazing scenery in Foul Bay
  • Be a part of the Crop Over Festival
  • Sip some coconut water, and watch the exciting races at Garrison Savannah
  • Experience the electric vibe of Oistins Fish Fry
  • Relax at Bottom Bay
  • Surfing at Soup Bowl
  • Watch the local potters at work at Chalky Mount Potteries
  • Snap photos its magnificent colonial architecture
  • Horseback riding
  • Water sports
  • Barbados food and drinks

    Dining out on this island is a bit pricier, when compared to other Caribbean destinations. Expect to pay around 20 USD in mid-range restaurant on this tropical island. There’s a diverse selection of food available, with everything from Bajan delicacies in street markets like Oistins to international cuisine served in world-renowned restaurants like The Cliff.

    Food specialties

  • Souse – Brawn or pickled pork with tomato
  • Sea eggs –Sea urchin
  • Rice and peas – It is made from a local bean and flavored usually with coconut
  • Conkies – Cornmeal mixed with spices, sweet potato, raisins, pumpkin and coconut steamed perfectly in a banana rice leaf
  • Cutters – Sandwiches of large flying fish, served often with coucou, which is a seasoned cornmeal paired with spiced peppers, onion and tomatoes
  • Regional Drinks

  • Falermun – Made of almond essence, lime, sugar and rum
  • The local beer in Barbados is Banks
  • Top rum brands on the island are Mount Gay and Cockspur’s Five Star
  • All kinds of rum-based cocktails, including pina coladas, planters punch and rum punch
  • Where to stay

    Bed and Breakfast

    There are small and cozy guest houses throughout the island, specifically along the west and south coasts. There are a few located on the east coast well, with most of them offering self-catering facilities.

    Camping

    Unfortunately, camping isn’t allowed in Barbados, expect for the organized trips.

    Hotels

    Many of the island’s luxury hotels are located on western Platinum Coast, which is known for its white and pristine beaches. Popular Barbados hotels include Tamarind Cove, Cobblers Cove and Sandy Lane Hotel. In addition, excellent spa facilities are available in most properties.

    More and more boutique hotels are springing up in Barbados as well. Most of the affordable options can be found on the southwest coast. There are limited hotel options, for those who are staying on the east coast of the island.

    Other kinds of accommodations

    There are plenty of modern complexes, villas, cottages and apartments on the northwest coast of the island. On the east coast, there are also Older Bajan buildings for rent.

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    Ashley Thompson
    A fun size lass born in rock and roll who dreams to become a rock star, or a world traveler, or both.

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