Haggling over prices is not common in Barbados. The only place it is really acceptable is at souvenir stands and markets.
Dangers & Annoyances
Crime, including assaults on tourists, is not unknown on Barbados. Most crimes, however, are simple tourist scams – normal precautions should suffice.
Beware of pickpockets in Bridgetown – keep your valuables secure around the bustling center on Swan and Broad Sts. There are some slick hustlers who hang out at the entrance to St Lawrence Gap and also around south-coast nightlife venues. Steer clear unless you want to invest in someone’s habit.
Sidewalks are narrow or nonexistent and roads are curvy, so use caution even while walking along quiet streets.
Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish are occasionally encountered in Bajan waters (although they are large, slow and usually easy to spot), and poisonous manchineel trees grow along some beaches.
Truth be told, the greatest risk is a bad sunburn.
110V, 50Hz. US-style two-pin plugs are used; you may find the occasional UK-style three-pin sockets as well.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Entry & Exit Formalities
Regulations about what you can bring into Barbados are fairly standard, apart from the prohibition on importing rum and foreign matches. Note that camouflage clothing is also a prohibited import.
Nearly all visitors will enter the country through Grantley Adams International Airport or Bridgetown’s cruise-ship terminal. All foreigners entering Barbados should be in possession of a valid passport and a return or onward ticket. Although it’s not often enforced, officers may ask for proof that you have a ticket back to your country of origin or residence. So if you are island hopping, show that you intend to eventually return home, and if you live outside the country of your passport, have your residency permit with you.
Cruise-ship passengers who stay less than 24 hours are not required to carry a valid passport.
Visas are not required for citizens of the US, Canada and most European and Commonwealth countries.
- Transport Commuters will cram onto a minibus rather than wait for the next ride – don't take offense if your personal space is suddenly split in half.
- Greetings Upon entering a room or vehicle a greeting such as 'good morning' or 'good afternoon' is expected. When meeting a Bajan for the first time, a handshake is appropriate, regardless of gender.
- Speaking Despite being an outgoing place, Bajans prefer to maintain a soft tone in conversation.
- Timekeeping Bajans are notoriously late for everything – if you really need something at a set time, be very explicit about it.
Barbados is a conservative and religious place that is generally opposed to homosexuality. That said, there are a few openly gay Bajan couples, although they still tend to be discreet.
Gay visitors to Barbados will need to be judicious outside of international resorts, and especially in smaller, more traditional towns, but are unlikely to run into any major problems.
There are a few internet places in Bridgetown. Wi-fi is common at hotels and many have a computer that guests can use. It's also increasingly common for bars and restaurants to have free wi-fi networks for customers.
Barbados is an ordered place and the local police force is friendly but professional. It is highly unlikely that you'll be shaken down or approached for a bribe by law enforcement.
The island has a British legal system. If you find yourself in legal difficulties you have the right to legal representation and are eligible for legal aid if you can't afford to pay for private services.
- Newspapers Barbados has two daily newspapers, the Barbados Advocate and the Daily Nation. Some UK papers are sold in touristy areas for those who need a dose of Middle England.
- TV The government-owned TV station CBC broadcasts on Channel 8.
- Radio Local radio is on FM 92.9, 94.7 and 98.1 or AM 900. There’s soca music on FM 95.3, gospel on FM 102.1 and the BBC on FM 92.1.
You’ll certainly want some Barbadian dollars on hand, but larger payments can be made in US dollars, frequently with a major credit card. Hotels and guesthouses quote rates in US dollars (as do many dive shops and some restaurants), although you can use either US or Bajan currency to settle the account.
The exchange rate is fixed at B$2 to US$1.
A tip of 10% to 15% is standard in restaurants (often added to the bill), and 10% in hotels (usually added to the bill). A 10% tip is the norm in taxis.
The following are standard business hours across the island. Some bars stay open 24 hours. Note that much is closed on Sunday.
Banks 8am–3pm Monday to Friday
Shops 9am–5pm Monday to Friday, to 1pm Saturday (in tourist areas to 8pm Monday to Saturday)
Barbados has a modern and efficient postal service. You'll find post offices in all major towns. You can send mail by either regular or express service.
In addition to those observed throughout the region, Barbados has the following public holidays:
Errol Barrow Day January 21
Heroes’ Day April 28
Labor Day May 1
Emancipation Day August 1
Kadooment Day First Monday in August
UN Day First Monday in October
Independence Day November 30
Bajans are not big smokers. Legally, smoking is prohibited in public places. In effect this means in enclosed spaces. It's permitted to smoke in non-enclosed spaces, including beaches and parks.
Almost all hotels and resorts prohibit smoking in rooms and enclosed places, but most allow it on room balconies and patios. Some resorts only permit smoking in designated outdoor smoking areas.
Taxes & Refunds
Barbados applies a VAT of 17.5% on most goods. The rate is 7.5% for hotel rooms.
Visitors are not eligible to reclaim VAT paid during their trip to Barbados.
Barbados’ country code is 1; the area code is 246. To call any other country with a country code of 1 (most of North America and the Caribbean), just dial 1 and the 10-digit number. For other countries, dial the international access code 011 + country code + number.
GSM cell phones are compatible with local SIM cards. There is also 3G service. The main operators are Digicel (www.digicelgroup.com/bb) and Flow (www.discoverflow.co/barbados).
Atlantic Standard Time (GMT/UTC minus four hours).
You'll find public toilets in Bridgetown and some bigger towns. You'll also find toilets and changing rooms at many popular beaches on the west and southwest coasts.
The free annual Ins & Outs of Barbados (www.insandoutsofbarbados.com) is encyclopedic, filled with watch ads and so large that your holiday will be over if you drop it on your toe.
Traditional tourist offices are not common in Barbados. There are information desks in the airport and cruise-ship terminal, but outside of Bridgetown you're on your own. Fortunately locals are usually very willing to help and point you in the right direction.
Travel with Children
Barbados is generally a family-friendly destination. A number of resorts have organized children’s activities or in-house day care and babysitting.
Most beaches are safe for children to play on and many of the southern and western beaches are calm enough for younger swimmers. The east-coast surf is too powerful for novice swimmers of any age.
Older kids enjoy surfing lessons.
Barbados has quite a large charity and non-governmental sector, some of which accept volunteers. Many are local organizations that don't arrange placements from overseas – you'll have to organize your own trip and accommodations.
The two main sectors for volunteers are community and environmental projects, particularly in marine conservation.
One organization that regularly needs volunteers is the Hope Sanctuary animal shelter (www.thehopesanctuarybarbados.com) in St John.
Weights & Measures
Barbados uses the metric system, though many islanders still give directions in feet and miles and sell produce by the pound.
In order to work in Barbados, foreign nationals need to apply for a work permit from the Immigration Department in Bridgetown. Permits are available for short-term (11 months) and long-term (three years) positions.
In order to obtain a long-term permit the company offering the job needs to demonstrate that the position has been advertised in Barbados and no local applicant is able to fill it.
Applications for permits cost US$300 and upon approval a permit fee of around US$750 is payable – which makes it a poor investment if you're just going to wait tables. Permits are tied to one particular job and are not transferable.
Positions vacant are advertised in Barbados' main newspapers.
Barbados is one of the better-equipped destinations in the eastern Caribbean for travelers with disabilities, though it still has some way to go.
Many areas still have uneven sidewalks, or don't have any at all. Furthermore, public transport is generally not conditioned for wheelchair access.
The excellent Barbados Council for the Disabled (http://barbadosdisabled.org.bb) is working with local businesses to make them accessible through the 'Fully Accessible Barbados' program. They provide a number of services to travelers, including beach wheelchairs, accessible transportation and travel-planning assistance.