Barbados holidays

Experience Barbados

Best Places to Visit

Bridgetown, the spirited capital of Barbados, is brimming with wonderful architecture and historical sites from its colonial past that have ensured its recent selection as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The capital is famous for the production of rum. Any stroll through town should include a stop at one of the many rum shops. These are found in the main retail hubs such as Broad Street or Swan Street - ideal as a treat at any time of day, or to invest in a bottle to take home as a souvenir or gift for a loved one.

Excursions to the central and eastern areas of Barbados reveal more of its unique history, with old plantation houses, deserted sugar mills and abandoned rum distilleries. Pounded by Atlantic waves, Bathsheba's Soup Bowl is a surfing hotspot, while those who prefer secluded beach walks will enjoy the eastern shoreline of Barbados and its calm conditions.

To the island's south, Saint Lawrence Gap is a vibrant resort area with restaurants, bars and nightclubs set adjacent to powdery sand beaches. The charming fishing village of Oistins offers a more traditional experience of Barbados, with the striking coastlines of Miami and Enterprise beaches nearby.

Holetown is located on the west coast and is the island's original settlement point. This is where the annual Holetown Festival commemorates the first landing on Barbados by English merchants; a celebration many British tourists might like to be a part of too. A little further north is Speightstown, the second most populous area on Barbados. It features a new luxury marina and growing market area that offers fresh seafood and fruit - all symbols of progress and new development, despite the perception of Barbados as a sleepy tourist hotspot with one foot in the past.

Barbados is synonymous with white sand beaches and the best of these sandy stretches include: Rockley Beach, the famous Sandy Lane Beach and Crane Beach, the latter considered one of the world's top beaches.

Rediscovered in 1976 after 200 years, Harrison's Cave is a natural wonder found in the centre of Barbados, where visitors will be awestruck by centuries-old stalagmites and stalactites, as well as underground streams and waterfalls. Together, these all help to make it one of the best places to visit away from the coastline, still with plenty of water in amongst the rocky forms.

Top Landmarks

Founded on colonial enterprise, Barbados is dominated by landmarks that reflect this rich history. Saint Ann's Garrison is a beautifully maintained heritage site in Bridgetown that dates back to the early 18th century.

Also within the historic area of Garrison lies the stunning parade ground where the celebrated Garrison Savannah Turf Club has been home to the sport of horse racing since the mid-18th century.

Other notable points of interest in the Garrison area include the Barbados Museum and George Washington House, a restored plantation residence where the American leader briefly stayed in 1751.

National Heroes Square is overlooked by a bronze statue of Lord Nelson and is home to the National Heroes Gallery that honours people who have influenced the history of Barbados.

Barbados also lays claim to one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere. The Nidhe Israel Synagogue, located in Bridgetown, incorporates a visitor's museum.

A beautiful example of colonial architecture is St Nicholas Abbey, in the parish of St Peter. This rare Jacobean estate house which once operated as a sugar plantation and later as a rum distillery is central to Barbados' former grandeur. As part of the tour, you can watch a 1935 movie reel showing the working mill and Bridgetown at the time.

Horticulturists will no doubt agree that Andromeda Botanic Gardens has one of the finest collections of exotic plants in the region and is well worth the trip to the east coast of Barbados.

Entertainment

Barbados is rich in entertainment, from fashionable beach bars to party cruises that are infused with the spirit of calypso, soca (from Trinidad) and reggae. On the south coast, St Lawrence Gap bristles with excellent beachfront restaurants and nightlife to the extent that it is known as the 'hip strip' – a name for an area that continues to delight tourists looking for a more vibrant experience during their stay.

Bridgetown is the only city on Barbados and as its capital and cultural centre, it offers a great selection of traditional and international venues. At the heart of Bridgetown's nightlife is Baxter's Road, where visitors and locals alike congregate for fun and liberal doses of Bajan rum.

Most of the tourist areas on Barbados are abundant in bars and nightclubs that throb with Caribbean soul, but there are other entertainment alternatives that don't necessarily involve late nights and alcohol.

If you are fortunate enough to be in Barbados when a cricket match is scheduled, then you will be bowled over by the party atmosphere and friendliness of supporters at the iconic Kensington Oval in Bridgetown - an English tradition that has translated perfectly into the warmer climate enjoyed in Barbados.

Between July and August, Barbados is immersed in the Crop Over Festival, which was originally established to celebrate the end of the sugar cane harvest. During the festival, tourists delight in live music, cultural events and carnivals, and this makes the peak summer period an especially excellent time to pay the destination a visit.

Dining Out

Traditional Bajan or Barbadian food is distinctly Caribbean, but unique due to influences from other cultures through the years. Barbados cuisine is a melting pot that simmers with African, English, Spanish and French contributions to the ingredients and cooking processes.

With Barbados an island nation, seafood is fundamental to many recipes. The national dish is a blend of cornmeal, okra peppers and a hot sauce known as cou cou, served with steamed or fried flying fish. This concoction can also be added as a filling to a sandwich of salt bread, a delicacy which is commonly referred to as a 'cutter'.

A misconception about Bajan food is that it is rich with heat and spice. However, although this may be the case for other Caribbean cuisine, it is not true for the food of Barbados. If you desire a little more spice in your life, then try a pepperpot, a pork stew steeped in a spicy brown sauce.

Other delicious traditional treats that will appeal to most visitors include 'rice and peas', conkies (cornmeal, coconut, pumpkin and sweet potato) and fried plantains (similar to bananas).

Travellers to Barbados can expect an eclectic range of eateries, from street stalls at the Oistins Fish Fry market to the cosmopolitan restaurants in Saint James.

Need to know

Language

The official language of Barbados is English, but this is usually reserved for use in formal situations such as business, media and tourism. Natives of the island tend to speak an English-based Creole language specific to Barbados when communicating with each other; this is known as Bajan. As an outside visitor, you're unlikely to understand much Bajan at normal conversational speed, but residents are used to switching to a speed that is bearable for English speaking tourists.

Currency

While the Barbadian or Bajan Dollar is the official currency of Barbados, it is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate. This financial relationship means that the US dollar is widely accepted in many restaurants and retail outlets. It is also possible to spend British pounds sterling in some locations. Exchanging money is best done in banks where the best rates and small fees prevail. ATMs are reliable and widespread, with major credit cards accepted throughout the island. You're likely to get more for your money by exchanging it in advance, rather than asking a retailer to accept payment in pounds or US dollars.

Visas

Visitors from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and most EU countries require only a passport, a return ticket and an accommodation address to enter Barbados. Unlike restrictions applied by many other countries, passports need only be valid for the intended duration of stay in Barbados, and not for any fixed period beyond your return date - just beware of your passport expiring if your departure from Barbados is delayed by more than a day. Stays of up to 28 days are the norm, but the duration of stay can be extended with permission from the authorities.

Climate

Barbados has a tropical monsoon climate and as such, it is divided into the rainy and dry seasons that run from June to November and December to May, respectively. Temperatures rarely fall below 21°C or climb beyond 31°C, thanks to cooling north-easterly trade winds, making this Caribbean island an ideal destination to visit at any time of year. Heavy rains during the summer are sporadic and welcomed by locals and tourists alike as a respite from the high temperatures.

Main Airports

Scheduled and high season charter flights from the US, Canada and the UK comprise the majority of inbound air traffic to Barbados. Situated just nine miles (15kms) from the Barbados capital, Bridgetown, Sir Grantley Adams International Airport is the main air arrival point.

Flight Options

With such strong links to North America and the UK, Barbados is primarily served by air carriers Air Canada, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, JetBlue and American Airlines. It is possible to depart from the UK from London Gatwick and Manchester all year round or London Heathrow during December. A flight from London to Barbados takes approximately 7 hours, 30 minutes.

Travel Advice

The Barbados high season, which embraces the period from December to April, is when reasonable fares on charter flights can be obtained if booked in advance. Those travellers prepared to travel in October or November may find cheaper deals at the expense of a few rain showers.

Other Transport Options

Transport into Barbados is limited to air or sea travel, and many visitors choose boats or cruise liners to reach this island and other Caribbean islands. Bridgetown has a deep water harbour that welcomes over 450,000 cruise ship passengers annually, either for a brief port of call or a short break. Transatlantic cruises take between two weeks and a month, with various routes available with the likes of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and P&O Cruises.

Getting Around

A decent road network extends throughout Barbados, giving both public and private bus firms access to all parts of the island. Visitors, however, tend to use taxis or car hire, while the more adventurous can try a moke (a cross between a dune buggy and a go-kart) or don safety helmets and explore the island's more inaccessible areas by bike or motorcycle.

Bus

Travelling along the main highways and roads of Barbados is swift and economical by bus. The Barbados Transport Board provides comfortable and quiet public bus services, with buses identifiable by their blue colour, while private firms use yellow coloured vehicles which are usually more crowded.

Car

Dozens of car hire companies can be found on Barbados, but none are associated with the globally recognised, big names in car hire. They are small, independent businesses that generally deliver on request, but can be comparatively more expensive than in Europe and the US. Although paved, Barbados roads are uneven and can be difficult for inexperienced drivers.

Air

Barbados has an area of just 166 square miles so flights within the island are limited to expensive sightseeing tours or commutes between resorts and the airport by helicopter.

MAP

BARBADOS`S WEATHER TODAY

Mostly cloudy °C

AVERAGE TEMPERATURE (°C)

  • 29

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  • 29

    F

  • 29

    M

  • 30

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  • 30

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  • 30

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  • 30

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  • 31

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  • 30

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  • 29

    D

MONTHS

AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

  • 135

    J

  • 100

    F

  • 106

    M

  • 112

    A

  • 163

    M

  • 198

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  • 199

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  • 233

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MONTHS

FACTS

  1. After the native inhabitants, Barbados was first discovered in the late 1400s by the Spanish, and later by the Portuguese in 1536.
  2. However, it was only in 1625 that the British claimed the island, and the first British colony was established two years later - it is still sometimes called Little England despite gaining its independence in 1966.
  3. The name originally translated as 'the Bearded Ones', and nobody is sure if this refers to the 'bearded' appearance of local fig trees.

FACTS

  1. After the native inhabitants, Barbados was first discovered in the late 1400s by the Spanish, and later by the Portuguese in 1536.
  2. However, it was only in 1625 that the British claimed the island, and the first British colony was established two years later - it is still sometimes called Little England despite gaining its independence in 1966.
  3. The name originally translated as 'the Bearded Ones', and nobody is sure if this refers to the 'bearded' appearance of local fig trees.

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