Barbados Travel Guide

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The Barbados of today is still often referred to as the “little” England because of its long history as a British colony and its many fine examples of colonial architecture. These icons from the past, along with an infusion of English customs and culture comfortably rub shoulders with classic calypso rhythms, famous rums and a laid-back “island time” demeanour. More than 110 Km of world class palm fringed sandy beaches, washed by warm and clear turquoise waters, a wild and rugged east coast popular with surfers, countless shore-side bars and restaurants, spectacular scenery and rock formations and a warm and friendly population make Barbados one of the most romantic and naturally beautiful places on Earth.

Where is Barbados? History of Barbados
Barbados Visa Requirements Barbados-Travel-Health
What is Barbados Local Currency? What is Barbados Weather?
Culture of Barbados What Languages Are Spoken In Barbados?
Barbados Transport Options Barbados Travel Tips
Barbados Local Food Barbados Local Timezones
Barbados Dutyfree Limits

Where is Barbados?

Barbados Flag

Barbados is a tropical island of 430 square kilometres located in the western Atlantic Ocean just east of the Caribbean. It lies northeast of Venezuela, with It’s closest island neighbours being Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent & the Grenadines to the west and Trinidad and Tobago to the south. Barbados is a part of the North Atlantic submarine mountain range and is mainly composed of limestone coral with a mainly low lying landscape which rises to higher altitudes towards the central region of the island.

History of Barbados

The island’s early history dates back to around 350 AD when it was settled by people arriving by canoe from Venezuela, who were then displaced by Arawak people of South America around 800 AD. The Arawak were in turn displaced by the cannibalistic Caribs in the 13th century, who lived on the island until the mid 1500‘s when marauding Spanish conquistadors took many of the inhabitants as slaves, decimating the islands population in just a few years. The British formally settled the island in 1627 and planted extensive sugar plantations worked primarily by slaves from West Africa. Through a long process of rebellion, social and political reforms, Barbados was the first country to abolish the slave trade in 1834 and became totally independent from the UK in 1966.

Barbados Visa Requirements

Nationals and residents of many countries are able to visit Barbados for up to six months without a visa. These countries include the US, Canada, UK, Australia, NZ, and many EU countries. All travellers wishing to visit Barbados require a passport valid for at least the duration of their stay, (however its recommended to have at least six months validity), as well as an onward or return ticket. At the time of writing, if a visa is required there is a US$50 charge for a single entry visa, and US$60 for a multiple re-entry visa.

If travelling from countries infected with yellow fever a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required.

There is no departure tax in Barbados.

As entry requirements may change from time to time it is strongly advised that you check with the department of foreign affairs or your local consulate or embassy for the current requirements.

Barbados Travel Health

Barbados has no endemic diseases and is considered to be a very safe country to visit. Although visitors travelling from areas infected with yellow fever may be asked for a vaccination certificate, no other vaccinations are required for entry into the country, but prudent travellers should ensure that background inoculations and boosters are up to date.

Barbados has two main hospitals as well as numerous public and private clinics, some of which cater for emergency treatment. Even though the overall the standard of medical care is very high and accessible with many specialist areas of treatment, travellers should consider taking out medical travel insurance as any treatment will need to be paid for.

Mosquitos can be quite bothersome at dawn and dusk so adequate protection in the form of insect repellant and lightweight clothing which covers the arms and legs is recommended during these times. Although not especially common, dengue fever outbreaks do occur. Barbados is free from rabies, and there are no poisonous snakes or spiders, although visitors should stay away from the manchineel tree with its poisonous apple-like fruit and the tendency of dripping moisture from the tree to cause blistering on the skin.

Visitors to Barbados should remember that the sun can be very strong in this part of the world, so wearing a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen is recommended. The island does occasionally spectacular tropical storms and on the rare occasion, hurricanes. These natural events can cause damage, so exercising common sense and taking local advice is recommended.

Although the crime rate is comparatively low in Barbados, petty theft, pickpocketing and muggings do occur. The best prevention to becoming a victim of crime is to always be aware of your surroundings, and not take unnecessary risks, such as walking alone in deserted areas, especially at night. As always, a liberal use of common sense goes a long way towards ensuring a trouble free holiday. In case of emergency, dial: Police 211, Ambulance 511, Fire 311.

What is Barbados Local Currency?

The currency in Barbados is the Bajan dollar the value of which is fixed to the US dollar at $1.98 Bajan dollars (BBD) to US$1. Banknotes are available in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50,and 100 Bajan dollars, while coins come in 1, 5, 10 and 25 cent pieces. There is also a BBD$1 coin. US dollars and Bajan dollars are freely interchangeable on a one to one basis and most businesses on the island are happy to accept US dollars. ATM’s are plentiful and easy to find in Barbados, so for most debit card holders withdrawing cash should present no problems. Major credit cards are widely accepted in almost all establishment on the island, and travellers cheques can be cashed in banks and many hotels.

Barbados levies a 15% VAT tax on most items and services which is generally included in advertised prices. Hotel accommodation attracts a rate of 7.5% VAT and will often add an additional 10% service charge.

What is Barbados’s Weather?

The currency in Barbados is the Bajan dollar the value of which is fixed to the US dollar at $1.98 Bajan dollars (BBD) to US$1. Banknotes are available in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50,and 100 Bajan dollars, while coins come in 1, 5, 10 and 25 cent pieces. There is also a BBD$1 coin. US dollars and Bajan dollars are freely interchangeable on a one to one basis and most businesses on the island are happy to accept US dollars. ATM’s are plentiful and easy to find in Barbados, so for most debit card holders withdrawing cash should present no problems. Major credit cards are widely accepted in almost all establishment on the island, and travellers cheques can be cashed in banks and many hotels.

Barbados levies a 15% VAT tax on most items and services which is generally included in advertised prices. Hotel accommodation attracts a rate of 7.5% VAT and will often add an additional 10% service charge.

Culture of Barbados

Like many Caribbean islands, the culture, art music and traditions of Barbados have been heavily influenced by the West African slaves brought in to work the plantations hundreds of years ago. Added to this heritage is the overwhelmingly strong infusion of British colonial culture and religion which has resulted in a unique, colourful and successful blend of many seemingly disparate elements. Much like the weather, the locals possess a warm and sunny disposition and display a readiness to welcome and help visitors to their island paradise. Another cultural passion adopted from the English is the game of Cricket which seems to be played and followed with enthusiasm by young and old at almost any opportunity.

Music and celebration are a major part of Bajan life, with the sounds of calypso and reggae providing a fun and festive backdrop to fine dining and romantic days and nights.

Most countries around the world have their own customs when it comes to tipping and gratuities, and Barbados is no exception. Many restaurants and hotels now include a service charge with the bill, but if this not the case, it is customary to add 10-15% for a meal, depending on the standard of service. Bartenders usually receive $1 or more per round of drinks, chambermaids $2 per day, porters and bellhops around $1 per bag, and taxi drivers about 10% of the fare. Unlike other parts of the world, haggling is not customary in Barbados, although in some instances politely asking for a better price may bring a favourable result.

With its strong British roots, it’s not surprising that the predominant religion in Barbados is Christianity, with nearly 70% of the population belonging to the Anglican church as well as the Church of England and other Protestant churches. Catholicism and other forms of Christianity are also represented, as well as smaller Hindu, Muslim and Jewish minority groups.

Despite their fun-loving nature, Barbadians tend to be polite, family oriented and fairly conservative. Even though many people spend a lot of time on the beach, visitors are expected to dress more decorously when away from the beach. Saying hello and good-bye – even when entering a shop, is the local way, so learning and using some of these customs can go a long way to earning respect

What Languages Are Spoken In Barbados?

The official and most widely used language of Barbados is English, although an English-based Creole language often called Bajan or Barbadian is used by some locals. Barbados has one of the highest literacy rates in the world (99.9%), so verbal communication should not present any problems for the English speaking visitor.

The international dialling code for Barbados is +1 441. The international access code to dial outside of Bermuda is 011, followed by the destination country code. For calls to the US and Canada, simply dial the area code and number. Public telephones are widely available in the capital Bridgetown and the larger towns, and can usually be found it petrol stations in other areas. Most phones accept both coins and phone cards which can be purchased at most stores. Barbados operates a GSM based cell network, and mobile phones have become almost ubiquitous over the last few years with many stores offering phone rentals at reasonable prices. Accessing the internet shouldn’t pose a problem whilst in Barbados. There are numerous internet cafes on the island and most of the hotels offer some kind of broadband access often with room-based DSL or WiFi connections.

Barbados Transport Options

The only international airport on Barbados is the Sir Grantly Adams International Airport which is located 13Km from the capital Bridgetown. This large airport services flights too and from the US, Canada and the UK. There are no internal flights within Barbados.

There are many unique sights and locations on the small island of Barbados and finding your way around is fairly easy and stress free. By far the cheapest and perhaps the safest way of getting around the island is by bus. Buses range from small, privately owned vans, to publicly run minibuses and larger vehicles. A single cheap flat rate fare is valid for all destinations on the island and services generally run between 6am and midnight. Buses can get a little crowded at peak tourist times and local rush hours as this is the preferred mode of transport for many locals, including school children. Traffic moves on the left in Barbados as it does in the UK and Australia, but many of the roads are narrow and winding, with the traffic in Bridgetown often becoming congested. The are a number of car rental operations on the island which normally offer the fun little “Minimoke” vehicles, but compared to the US, car rentals tend to be quite expensive. Mopeds and bikes can also be hired at many locations, and whilst a moped can offer access to many out of the way places, driving or riding on the island can intimidate the uninitiated. Driving conditions range from a little tricky to dangerous, as many of the roads are shared by pedestrians owing to the lack of sidewalks, and in many places buses can take up most of the road. When hiring a vehicle it is a requirement to obtain a Barbados driving license for a small fee. This is easily done by presenting a valid national or international driving license.

Barbados Travel Tips

One oddity of Barbados is it’s prohibition on camouflage material; either in clothing or accessories such as handbags. Camouflage is strictly for the military and it is an offence for civilians to wear it or import it. When stocking up on your duty free allowance on the way to Barbados, keep in mind that non Barbados Rums are not allowed.

Barbados Local Food

The traditional cuisine in Barbados offers an intriguing blend of often spicy local fare based on fish, chicken and pork alongside English favourites such as fish and chips and baked beans. Eating from the many street side stalls is a wonderful and inexpensive way of sampling many of the local delicacies such as crumbed and fried flying fish, grilled pig tail, conch fritters and pepperpot, a local pork stew served in a spicy sauce. Other Caribbean and Creole foods include peas rice and dishes based on breadfruit, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and coconut bread.

There are many mid-priced eateries throughout the island offering relaxed dining at reasonable prices. If you really feel like splashing out, there are several top class restaurants on the island which serve very good international cuisine in truly magnificent settings. With local tastes favouring fish and chicken rather than beef, local American style hamburger food can be hard to find, whilst KFC is popular.

The water in Barbados is considered to be very pure, with tap water being a rare pleasure to drink. Local alcoholic drinks are often rum based and are a speciality of the island, but be careful as they can be quite potent. The local Rum is called Mount Gay Rum, whilst the local beer is Banks Beer – both of which are considered to be of very good taste and quality.

Barbados Local Timezones

Barbados is in the Atlantic Standard time zone and is four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT -4). Barbados does not operate Daylight Saving Time.


In Barbados, electricity is supplied at 115 volts / 50 cycles. Most power outlets accept the two pin US type plug. If your electrical equipment is of a different voltage or phase, a power convertor will be required and possibly a plug adapter as well. Many hotels are able to supply this equipment to guests.

Barbados Dutyfree Limits

Visitors to Barbados are permitted to bring the following items into the country without incurring duty: 1 litre of potable spirits or wine (but not rum), 200 cigarettes (one carton) or 100 cigars or 50 cigars and cigarettes not exceeding 230 grammes in aggregate.

All articles in excess of this exemption are subject to the relevant duty and tax.

Prohibited and restricted items include plants, fruits and vegetables, which must be declare on arrival. It is illegal to wear or import camouflage in Barbados.

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