Barbados holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
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.
While the Barbadian or Bajan dollar is the official currency of Barbados, it is pegged to the US dollar at a fixed rate. This monetary 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 certain places. 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.
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. Stays of up to 28 days are the norm, but the duration of stay can be extended with permission from the authorities.
Barbados has a tropical monsoon climate and as such, it is divided by the rainy and dry seasons that run from June to November and December to May, respectively. Temperatures rarely fall below 21oC or climb beyond 31oC, thanks to cooling northeasterly trade winds, making this Caribbean island an ideal destination to visit at any time of year. Heavy rains during the summer are sporadic and generally welcomed by locals and tourists alike as a respite from the high temperatures.
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. From here, the Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) service operates routes to 21 other Caribbean destinations.
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 from London Heathrow during December. Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways increase flight frequency to Barbados from December to April, while also adding Birmingham, Glasgow and East Midlands to their lists of UK departure airports. A flight from London to Barbados takes approximately 7 hours, 30 minutes.
The Barbados high season, which embraces the period of 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. A bus service is available from the airport to the main urban areas, but most arrivals find a taxi the most convenient way to reach their accommodation.
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.
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.
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. However, many visitors to Barbados take in nearby islands with budget LIAT connections to fulfil their Caribbean dream itinerary.
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. White minivans with ’ZR’ as part of their licence plate are another cramped private option, but both private choices offer change and take US dollars, whereas the public service takes exact fares only in the local currency.
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 to negotiate. Many visitors choose to rent small convertible buggies called mokes that are typically cheaper than normal saloon cars.
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 so a stroll through town should include a stop at one of the many rum shops that can be found off the main retail hubs such as Broad Street or Swan Street.
Excursions to the central and eastern areas of Barbados reveal more of its distinctive history, with old plantation houses, deserted sugar mills and abandoned rum distilleries. Pounded by Atlantic waves, Bathsheba’s Soup Bowl beckons surfing enthusiasts, while those who prefer secluded beach walks will enjoy the eastern shoreline of Barbados.
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 little further north is Speightstown, the second most populous area on Barbados. It features a new luxury marina and growing market area offering fresh seafood and fruit.
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.
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 Garrison Historic Area 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 Revolutionary 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.
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, underground streams and waterfalls.
Barbados heaves with entertainment options, 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 is known as the ’hip strip’.
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 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.
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.
Traditional Bajan or Barbadian food is distinctly Caribbean, but unique due to influences from other cultures through the years. Barbados cuisine is literally a melting pot that simmers with African, English, Spanish and French contributions to the ingredients and cooking processes.
With Barbados being an island nation, seafood is fundamental to many recipes and indeed, the national dish is a blend of cornmeal, okra peppers and a hot sauce known as cou cou, and is 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 eye-wateringly spicy. However, although this may be the case for other Caribbean cuisine, it is not true for Barbados fare. 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.
To help wash down the Bajan delicacies, the water in Barbados is believed to be exceptionally pure. If it is too bland then the local rum is the next best choice. Mount Gay Rum from Barbados is the local base for punches and pina coladas.
Visitors to Barbados are undoubtedly spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches. Facing the calm Caribbean Sea to the south and west of the island are the island’s most popular destinations, where the dazzling white sands of Rockley, Miami and Sandy Lane beaches attract sun and sea worshippers throughout the year. Head east to Bathsheba or north to North Point and challenge the rougher Atlantic conditions with your surfboard if the other beaches are too sedate.
The mere mention of Barbados invokes images of honeymooners walking along the beach or couples dining in the Caribbean moonlight, while those planning a wedding couldn’t ask for a more romantic backdrop than all that Barbados has to offer. Private yacht charters and horseback riding can enhance any romantic break here.
Barbados is perfectly endowed for family holidays, with its soft sands and the safe swimming waters of the Caribbean Sea, which are also ideal for snorkelling. A trip to Paynes Bay gives children and parents alike the chance to swim with and feed fish to hawksbill turtles. The Barbados Wildlife Reserve allows the family to walk among mahogany trees and a forest that is home to monkeys, deer and iguanas.
An experience not to be missed is a submarine journey to the Caribbean Sea bed aboard the Atlantis. With the vessel reaching depths of 150 feet, you will have breathtaking views of coral reefs and ancient shipwrecks. If you are looking for more energetic pursuits, there is always deep sea fishing, surfing or kite-surfing. With no need for any extra gear other than good footwear, it is possible to hike across the Bajan landscape for special memories of the island.