Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean islands, and an island that offers so much more than warm weather and sandy beaches. Barbados has that in abundance — the West Coast may be one of the longest and most perfect stretchs of white sandy beaches you will ever experience — but the Bajan culture is what makes this island unique.
There’s a flavour to life here that is hard to define but it’s irresistible, kind of a marriage of Barbadian ease and British polish. Barbados was under British rule for 340 years, obtaining its independence in 1966. There’s plenty of five star resorts and luxury hotels, but there’s also small and personal places to stay that will fit the budget traveler’s wallet. The culinary scene is amazing, a fusion of British, international and island tastes, available from white linen tables in elegant restaurants, to simple wooden tables on the beach. The people are friendly and courteous, with a lightness of heart that is catching. There’s plenty of history, many activities. And of course there is always the beach life, the sun, the warm blue water.
The blue water of the Caribbean is a big draw for visitors and Barbados offers the added benefit of choice — there’s the calm water and miles of clean white beaches on the West Coast, or the more aggressive surf, so alluring for surfers, on the Atlantic side of the island.
There’s rum ,of course. Barbados rum is potent and famous, and a visit to the famous Mount Gay Visitors Centre lets a visitor enjoy a taste of the island ‘s special blends, while learning how run and sugar cane influenced the history of the island.
I have a special weakness for the food on Barbados. Stop in to a Chefette, a uniquely Barbadian fast food outlet ( there is no McDonald’s on the island!) for fried chicken or roti. Beach cafes offer ‘cutters’ a delicious fish sandwich, and seafood is spectacular, fresh and varied. There is also serious gourmet dining. The island has long encouraged their chefs to reach for the heights in the culinary world. The Barbados Food and Rum Festival held in November is a perfect time to taste all the Bajan flavours.
Art is abundant here. Local artists have been supported and encouraged and the local art scene is vibrant. Galleries around the island show local artists’ work. A work of original art from the island makes the best souvenir.
There are craft markets where you can pick up locally made handicrafts, like woven placemats, colourful textiles, clothing and jewelry. Historic spots, like George Washington House, tell you the island’s story. For active visitors, there’s all the water sports to enjoy, and for those who like a late night, the night life in Barbados is full of local music, swinging little bars and lots of rum.
Barbados is a safe island and the people are friendly and welcoming. And there is the continual presence of the warm water and sunshine.
Barbados for Families: Come Out to Play … Snorkel, spelunk, swim, surf, submarine dive and more in Barbados
Barbados is beautiful all year round, but at its best during late fall, winter, and early spring.
How much time have you got? And what is your budget? Barbados is one of the more expensive islands, though there are less expensive ways to visit than staying in major resorts. Many snowbirds come for months at a time, renting long term villas and condos. Most visitors choose to stay for a minimum of a week.
December-April is the busiest season, when hotel rates are at their peak. April-June, October-December are the shoulder seasons, when prices are more reasonable and the weather is ideal. June to October is the time when tropical storms and hurricanes can hit. But Barbados is rarely troubled by severe storms and the temperatures year-round hover between mid-70- mid 80 degrees.
Barbados is in the Eastern Caribbean Time Zone. For the current time, check here.
While Barbados is a beach getaway destination, it is also a bit more formal than some other islands, perhaps because of its long association with Britain. Beachware should be kept for the beach, not worn to dinner or to lunch in the better restaurants. Camoflage clothing is actually outlawed, and topless bathing or nude bathing is not encouraged. Be prepared to dress up a bit for dining out, but relax and wear your favourite swimwear on the beaches.
Barbados operates on the Barbadian dollar but the US dollar is pretty well universally accepted, as are major credit cards.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, season, and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $25 per person
$$ => Tickets $25-50 per person
$$$ => Tickets $50-100 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $100-250 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $250 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $15-30 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $30 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $50 per person
$$ => Tickets $50-100 per person
$$$ => Tickets $100 per person
Most of the major airlines fly in to Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados, but the flights will probably be more expensive than flights to some other islands, partly because it is farther away and because it is a more expensive and popular destination. Taxis are quite affordable. For taxi fares from the airport, check here. Local buses are inexpensive, efficient and well run though you will need the correct change to take a ride. It is also a great way to see the island and to meet people. It is easy to rent a mini-moke, a car, or a van for touring the island but, remember – they drive on the left hand side as they do in Britain. If you think this will be a problem, it might be better to arrange a car with a driver.
Good travel and health insurance is always a wise idea when you travel. Make sure all is up to date before you travel.
Bajan dollar =.50 US
Major credit cards are recognized at most places all over the island, other than small private businesses. ATMS are easy to find and numerous.
Many restaurants include service charges so check the bill before adding a tip. I usually leave 20% these days, but it is a personal thing, and it depends on the quality of your experience, too. Taxis, tours, housekeeping staff – if the service is good, leave a tip.
It is a small island, but driving can be a challenge. There are tall cane fields that, in the centre of the island, can obscure your view. And they drive on the left here. But renting your own car to get around is one of the best ways to see the parts of the island that are out of the normal tourist circle.
Most major airlines fly into Grantley Adams International Airport.
Find specific flights here.
Taxis are quite affordable. Local buses are inexpensive, efficient and well run though you will need the correct change to take a ride. It is also a great way to see the island and to meet people. It is easy to rent a mini-moke, a car, or a van for touring the island but, remember – they drive on the left hand side as they do in Britain. If you think this will be a problem, it might be better to arrange a car with a driver. Major resorts and hotels will arrange pick-ups and drivers.
Most rental car agencies offer unlimited mileage, free delivery and pick up, and other “tidbits” which range from baby seats to road maps. However, there are certain legalities involved in the hiring process, and you do need to have a valid driver’s license to get a visitor’s permit to drive here. These permits are issued by the car rental agencies or the Barbados Licensing Authority for BDS$10.00. Once you’ve got a permit, you can drive for two months from the date of issue. When you hit the road, remember that that Barbadians drive on the left, speed limits vary, and seatbelts are compulsory.
For information about Customs and rules, check here.
An island in the Atlantic about 300 mi (483 km) north of Venezuela, Barbados is only 21 mi long (34 km) and 14 mi across (23 km) at its widest point. It is circled by fine beaches and narrow coastal plains. The highest point is Mount Hillaby (1,105 ft; 337 m) in the north-central area.
Barbados was under British rule for 334 years and obtained its independence in 1966. First inhabited by the Amerindians, then Arawaks, then Caribes, then the Portuguese, it was definitively colonized by the British in 1627. Tobaco, cotton, sugar and slaves were the major exports. ( slavery was abolished in the British Empire in 1834. ) The islands population, in 2014 was 289,680. Bridgetown is the capital, with a population of 122,000 (2011). The island has a very high literacy rate -99%!-, is predominantly protestant, and remains a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.
Polo, cricket and afternoon tea are of paramount importance in Barbados. Things move a bit more slowly than in North American culture, – island time.
Barbados is a fairly staid island, where nude bathing, too casual dress and public intoxication are frowned upon. The people are almost unerringly polite and helpful.
Of all the Caribbean Islands, Barbados is the culinary high spot. The restaurants, the attention to local ingredients and the preservation of indiginous flavours – all combine to produce an island-wide standard of excellence.
Prostestants make up the largest religious group, but other christian groups, and the Rastafarians, make up a siginificant part of the population.
English and Bajan.
(‘Bajan’ means Barbadian, or characteristic of Barbados — for a quick tutorial on some Bajan words from Rihanna, check here).
To Hell or Barbados by Sean O’Callaghan Sugar in the Blood by Andrea Stuart.
A History of West Indies Cricket. Written by Jamaican PM Michael Manley who died without completing it. It was completed by Bajan Donna Simmonds.
The Civilised Island, Barbados: a Social History, 1750-1816, Karl S Watson
Pigtails ‘n Breadfruit: Rituals of Slave Food, by Austin Clarke.
Luv Bajan Style, by Don Kline
The Platinum Coast by Lynne Pemberton
The Price of Freedom by Donna Every
The King is Dead by Martin Hughes
FIREFLY by Malcolm Harding
In The Castle of My Skin by George Laaming
There is an active and vibrant art culture in Barbados. The Frangipani Gallery is just one of the many places you can see the products of island artists.
The Tamarind Seed, Julie Andrews, Omar Sharif
500 Years Later
Hit for Six ( a cricket movie)
Island in the Sun, James Mason, Harry Belafonte
Rihanna is perhaps the most famous Bajan today in the music industry. Popular music includes calypso, spouge, contemporary folk and world music. Barbados is an important Caribbean centre for Jazz. Tuk bands are Barbadian musical ensembles, consisting of a bow-fiddle or pennywhistle flute, kittle triangle and a snare and double-headed bass drum. The kittle and bass drum provide the rhythm, while the flute gives the melody. The drums are light-weight so they can be carried easily, and are made by both rural villagers and drummers using cured sheepskin and goatskin. Tuk bands are based on the British military’s regimental bands, which played for many years for special occasions, like visiting royalty and coronations.
Banana Boat Song (Day-O) Harry Belafonte
Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot – Barbados Merrymen
Diamonds – Rihanna
Kingston Town, – UB40
Cool for the Summer – Demi Lovato
If It’s Lovin’ that You Want – Rihanna
Temperature – Sean Paul