Ever wondered what England would be like with perpetual summers—Barbados is the answer.
Of all the Caribbean islands, Barbados has most retained the trappings of its colonial past. So entrenched is the English flair of the island that it is often called "Little England." Cavers will find a number of caves spread across the island to satisfy their appetite, with Harrison’s Cave being the best known. It is truly one of the world's natural wonders. The majestic stalagmites that adorn the cave’s floor are still growing. Barbadians take pride in their two baobab trees, which were apparently imported from Guinea, Africa, in 1738. One of the trees is in Queens Park, Bridgetown, and the other is on Warren’s Road, St. Michael; visitors are often seen trying to span its width -- it takes 15 adults joining with outstretched arms to cover its circumference. Nature tours allow visitors to get up close and personal to the island’s fauna and flora. A visit to Ocean Park promises to be an unforgettable experience, where the beauty of sea is displayed in all its glory.
There are beaches along most of the south and west coasts. Although some hotels make it hard to cross their property to reach the sand, there are no private beaches in Barbados. For example, just north of Speightstown there is a narrow road between Almond Beach and the Port St Charles Marina, which ends in a small car park giving access to the good beaches which front these properties. The west coast beaches are very calm, and quite narrow, beach erosion is a serious worry and the Government’s Coastal Conservation Unit is trying to sort it out. A swell can wash up lots of broken coral making it unpleasant underfoot. The south coast can be quite choppy, but there is more sand. The southeast, between the airport and East Point, has steep limestone cliffs with a series of small sandy coves with coconut trees, and waves which are big enough for surfing. Bottom Bay is currently the place to go. Be careful on the east side of the island, currents and undertow are strong in places. Don’t swim where there are warning signs, or where there are no other bathers, even on a calm day. Bathsheba, on the east coast, is quite spectacular, with wonderful views. Some hotels sell day passes for the use of their facilities: pool, showers, deck chairs, etc. Work on the new Sandals Resort at Paradise Beach has been shelved and the beach is beautifully deserted. Go to north end of Spring Gardens Highway, then up west coast road Highway 1 for about half a mile, then turn sharp left. Drive down to Batts Rock Beach, walk south to get to Paradise Beach. You can keep going along the shoreline as far as Deepwater Harbour, a nice walk, mostly beach. Near the south end of this stretch at Brandon’s Beach and accessible also from Spring Gardens Highway, is Weiser’s Beach Bar T4256450, which has beach volleyball and an afternoon happy hour (Friday happy hours 1700-1900, 2200-2300), but it can be crowded if there’s a cruise ship in. Just south of Bridgetown is Bayshore (in the old police station site on Bay St, T4352909) set up as a beach facility for cruise passengers, beach chairs US$5, lockers US$5, beach volleyball, small pool, internet café, Joe’s bar and restaurant, dinner main course US$20 and up.
The Barbados Sub Aqua Club, a branch of the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) meets at 0800 on Sunday at the Boatyard Pub (on the waterfront on Bay St, Bridgetown) . They don’t hire out equipment but if you have your own they are welcoming to members from other branches, T4216020, Rob Bates. There is a recompression chamber at St Anne’s Fort, T4278819, inform the operator of an emergency.
There is an extensive roped-off area for snorkelling at the Folkestone Underwater Park and equipment can be hired here, US$10, Monday-Saturday 0900-1700. Life jackets, diving flags, lockers and children’s equipment can also be hired.
Several turtle-watching tours are on offer as part of a day-sail to the area around Alleynes Bay and Gibbs Beach, where groups of them can be found. Individual turtles can also be found at snorkelling spots on the south coast. The hawksbill frequently nests on local beaches July to October, the leatherback occasionally in February to June. Green turtles are occasionally found in Bajan waters.
The south coast is good for windsurfing and kitesurfing. The centre of the action for windsurfers is Silver Rock. There is a two-mile stretch of reef providing excellent waves for wave sailors and a lagoon for those who are less confident. The best place to learn to windsurf is in the Sandy Beach area inside the lagoon, while outside the reef you can sometimes get good wave sailing. On the north coast the waves can be very big at Cow Pens and Red Backs. Access is not easy as there is only a very small each from which to launch yourself. The International Funboard Challenge is held in March. The Barbados Windsurfing World Cup is in January. The Waterman Festival, in late January and early February, is a professional international event where you can see lots of acrobatics. Contact the Barbados Windsurfing Association (Silver Sands, T4287277) . Kitesurfing is best done further east near the airport, at Long Beach, where the wind is side on shore. The wind is best from November to July. When the wind is light and windsurfers can’t go out, then the area between Silver Sands Resort and Silver Rock Resort is good for beginners. The Casuarina Beach is also good as the wind is a bit stronger here and funnels down the coast. The best surfing is on the east coast at the Soup Bowl, Bathsheba, which has the most consistent break. The best time is August to November when you get perfect barrelling waves. Experienced surfers also like Duppies on the north coast, where you have a long paddle out and there is a lot of current, but the waves are really big. The south coast is good for beginners and for boogie boarding. There is a good break at Brandons, while the west coast has some good spots with good access, often best when there are no waves on the east coast. Sandy Lane, Tropicana, Gibbs and Maycocks are all worth trying. The Barbados International Surfing Championship is held at the Soup Bowl, Bathsheba, in late November. Contact the Barbados Surfing Association (Roger Miller, T4265837) .
Visitors from North America, Western Europe, Commonwealth African countries, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil need a passport but no visa. Visitors from most other countries are usually granted a short stay on arrival, and tourist visas are not necessary. You must have a ticket back to your country of origin as well as an onward ticket to be allowed in. Immigration officers do check. You will also need an accommodation address on arrival, they do not check your reservation but if you say you do not know where you will be staying, you will be sent to the back of the queue. State the maximum period you intend to stay on arrival. Overstaying is not recommended if you wish to re-enter Barbados at a later date. Extending your stay is possible by applying to the Chief Immigration Officer (Immigration Department, Careenage House on the Wharf in Bridgetown (T4261011, 0830-1630 Mon-Fri), US$12.50) ; take your passport and return ticket; it’s a time consuming procedure.
Barbados rum is probably the best in the English-speaking Caribbean, unless of course you come from Jamaica, or Guyana or… It is worth paying a bit extra for a good brand such as VSOP or Old Gold, or for Sugar Cane Brandy, unless you are going to drink it with Coca Cola. A rum and cream liqueur, Crisma, is popular in cocktails or on the rocks. Falernum is sweet, sometimes slightly alcoholic, with a hint of vanilla. Corn and oil is rum and falernum. Often refreshing Mauby is bitter, and made from tree bark. Sorrel is a bright-red Christmas drink made with hibiscus sepals and spices; very good with white rum. Banks beer has Bajan Light and other beers. Water quality is excellent, coming mostly from deep coral limestone wells.
Fresh fish is excellent. The main fish season is December-May, when there is less risk of stormy weather at sea. Flying fish are the national emblem and a speciality with two or three to a plate. Dolphin fish (dorado, not the mammal, and now usually called mahi mahi on restaurant menus as in the USA) and kingfish are larger steak-fish. Snapper is excellent. Sea eggs are the roe of the white sea urchin, and are delicious but not often available. Fresh fish is sold at the fish markets in Oistins, Bridgetown and elsewhere in the late afternoon and evening, when the fishermen come in with their catch. Oistins lively Friday evening fish fry on the south coast is the place to eat the freshest of fish, or for something quieter, try Half Moon Fort in the north. Cou-cou is a filling starchy dish made from breadfruit or corn meal. Jug-jug is a Christmas speciality made from guinea corn and supposedly descended from the haggis of the poor white settlers. Pudding and souse is a huge dish of pickled breadfruit, black pudding and pork.
Feb The Holetown Festival (contact Alfred Pragnell, T4356264), commemorating the first settlers’ landing in Feb 1627.
Mar The Holders Season is a popular festival started in 1992 with a season of opera, Shakespeare, cabaret with international performers and sporting events such as cricket, golf and polo. Performances are beautifully staged outdoors at Holders, an old plantation house overlooking the polo field. Take a picnic and an umbrella, tickets US$15-90. T4326385, http://www.holders.net.
Mar/Apr Good Fri and Easter Mon. The Oistins Fish Festival, held around Easter, celebrates the signing of the Charter of Barbados and the history of this fishing town with three days of competitions, parades and demonstrations of fishing and cooking skills. A big street party goes on late into the night and lots of fried fish and fish cakes are consumed.
28 Apr National Heroes Day.
Late Apr Congaline Street Festival finishing with a Mayday jump-up in the streets from Garrison Savanna to Spring Garden. Bajan and other Caribbean music. Contact the National Cultural Foundation, T4240909.
May Gospel Fest (contact Adrian Agard, T4307300) and the Celtic Festival, music, dance and sports.
1 May Labour Day.
May/Jun Whit Mon, 7 weeks after Easter.
Jul-Aug Crop Over, parades and calypso competitions over the weekend leading up to Kadooment Day (the first Mon in Aug), and calypso ‘tents’ (mostly indoors though) for several weeks beforehand. The celebrations begin with the ceremonial delivery of the last canes on a brightly coloured dray cart pulled by mules, which are blessed. There is a toast to the sugar workers and the crowning of the King and Queen of the crop (the champion cutterpilers). The bands and costumes have improved but are a pale imitation of what Trinidad has to offer. However, even Trinidadians now take Barbadian soca and calypso seriously and talk of the Bajan invasion. The big crowd is on the Spring Garden Highway outside Bridgetown Mon afternoon, which has roadside music and places selling drinks for 2 weeks before Kadooment. Next to the highway there is Festival village, an area for open-air parties with live music, small entry fee. Baxters Rd Mall runs for a couple of weekends beforehand; the road is closed off for fried fish, music and beer. For information contact the National Cultural Foundation, T4240909, http://barbados.org/cropover.htm.
1 Aug Emancipation Day.
First Mon in Aug Kadooment Day.
Oct Blowin’ in de Windies, a youth jazz festival with school bands from the UK, North and South America participating in performances and workshops.
Nov NIFCA, the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts is a more serious affair, with plays, concerts and exhibitions in the 4 weeks before Independence Day.
30 Nov Independence Day. Several events are held throughout the month commemorating Barbados’ independence from Britain in 1966.
The island is fairly small but it can take a surprisingly long time to travel as the rural roads are narrow and winding. The Adams Barrow Cummins highway runs from the airport to a point between Brighton and Prospect, north of Bridgetown. This road skirts the east edge of the capital, giving access by various roads into the city. Minibuses and route taxis run around the capital, cheaply and efficiently, but are terribly slow in rush hour. You can get a bus or taxi from the airport to Bridgetown. The highway and roads into Bridgetown get jammed morning and afternoon; the city centre is worst in the middle of the day.
Taxis are expensive. There are plenty at the airport, main hotels, and in Bridgetown. There are standard fares, displayed just outside ‘arrivals’ at the airport, and are also listed in the Visitor and the Sunseeker. You may have to bargain hard for tours by taxi but always agree a fare in advance. They will sometimes try to exceed the official rate per hour of US$16.
Buses Flat fare of B$1.50 (B$1 for schoolchildren in uniform) per journey anywhere on the island, so if you change buses you pay again. Almost all the routes radiate in and out of Bridgetown, so cross-country journeys are time-consuming if you are staying outside the city centre. However, travelling by bus can be fun. There are some circuits which work quite well; for example: 1) any south coast bus to Oistins, then cross country College Savannah bus to the east coast, then direct bus back to Bridgetown; 2) any west coast bus to Speightstown, then bus back to Bathsheba on the east coast, then direct bus back to Bridgetown. Out of town bus stops are marked simply ‘To City’ or ‘Out of City’. For the south coast ask for Silver Sands route.
GeoCenter publish a Holiday Map, 1:60,000 scale Bridgetown inset, 1:7,500, the Garrison, the west coast and the south coast with sites of tourist interest marked. Insight do the same map in a laminated edition. Esso distributes a road map with the free Barbados in a Nutshell booklet (advertising), with Bridgetown, west and south coast insets with hotels marked.
Barbados’ popularity as a tourist destination has resulted in good transport connections with many flights from Europe and North and South America. The Grantley Adams International Airport is 16 km from Bridgetown, near the resorts on the south coast and connected to the west coast beaches by the ABC Highway which bypasses the capital. Cruise ships call at Bridgetown and some passengers choose to start or break their journey here, but otherwise there is no passenger shipping. Easy Cruise, http://www.easycruise.com, started cruising the islands from Barbados in the 2005/2006 winter season, allowing you to get on and off the ship anywhere along the route as long as you stay on board at least two nights.
Telephone Calls from a pay phone cost 25 cents for 3 mins. Otherwise local calls are free. Many business places will allow you to use their telephone for local calls. International calls can be made from most hotels or (more cheaply) from Cable & Wireless (Wildey). Faxes can also be sent from and received at Cable & Wireless’s office by members of the public. Cable & Wireless has a public office on the Wharf in Bridgetown for international calls and fax. Phone cards are available for Bds$10, 20 and 40 from airport arrivals duty-free shop, cruise terminal, phone company offices, and long list of other outlets; a cheaper way of making overseas calls than using hotel services, and can be used in most of the English-speaking Caribbean except Trinidad, Jamaica, Guyana, Bahamas. There are several cellphone rental companies. Roaming is possible with 800 Mhz analogue or digital TDMA phones, but is costly.
Newspapers The Advocate, also publishes The Sunday Advocate and Sun Seeker. The Nation (also publishes Sunday on Saturday, Sunday Sun, The Visitor and Barbados Business Authority Mon, US$0.50). Broad Street Journal is a free business weekly. Radio CBC Radio, medium wave 900 kHz; Starcom Gospel, medium wave 790 kHz; BBS, FM 90.7 MHz; Love FM, FM 104.1 MHz; Radio Liberty, FM 98.1 MHz, FAITH 102 FM. Television One terrestrial channel, CBC, mostly US imports. Also multi-choice TV with 30 channels and satellite-based DirecTV with 70 channels in several languages.
The Barbados dollar, pegged at B$2.00 for US$1.00. Many tourist establishments quote prices in US dollars; if you are not careful a hotel room may end up costing twice as much as you bargained for. Banks will only change the US dollar, Canadian dollar, EC dollar, sterling and euro.
The airport is modern and well equipped. There is a helpful Tourism Authority office, Barbados National Bank (bureau de change in the Arrivals and Departure areas is open from 0800-2400), a post office, car hire agencies and quite a wide range of shops including an Inbound Duty-Free Shop (very useful, saves carrying heavy bottles on the plane).
Across the car park there are two lively rum shops; the shop in the gas station is open when terminal shops are closed, selling food, papers, etc. Taxis stop just outside customs. Check the notice board on the left as you come out of arrivals, as it gives the official taxi fares. Talk to the dispatcher if necessary. Drivers may attempt to charge more if you haven’t checked. There is a bus stop just across the car park, with buses running along the south coast to Bridgetown, or (over the road) to the Crane and Sam Lord’s Castle.
Tourist information Barbados Tourism Authority (main office Harbour Rd, Bridgetown, T4272623, http://www.barbados.org; also offices at the deepwater harbour, T4261718, and the airport, T4280937) . Two good sources of information are Visitor and the Sun Seeker, published fortnightly and distributed free. Sun Seeker has an amazing listing of every possible club and society. Also lists where to worship, entertainment and daily events. Signature is a free magazine with articles on culture, profiles, environment, business, etc. Sporting Barbados, http://www.sportingbarbados.com, is another free glossy, with useful information. Ins and Outs of Barbados, http://www.insandouts-barbados.com, is published annually, a free glossy with lots of historical articles and useful year-round calendar, distributed by the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (4th Av Belleville, St Michael, T4265041, firstname.lastname@example.org) .
Take normal precautions against theft, which has risen in recent years. Do not leave your things unattended on the beach, shut windows and lock patio doors at night. There are some areas of Bridgetown, such as Nelson Street, you would not want to walk round late at night. Baxters Road is generally quite safe although it attracts cocaine addicts (paros). Take care along deserted beaches (avoid at night; there have been machete attacks); watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers in tourist areas and people who wash cars unasked and then demand US$5. Police have patrols on beaches and plain clothes officers around some rural tourist attractions.
Italy, c/o G & A Martinengo, Via F.lli Ruffini 9, 20123 Milano, T02 4802 2768, Barbados@martinengo.it.
UK, 263 Tottenham Court Rd, London W1P 0LA, T020-76369448/9, email@example.com.
USA New York, NY, T212-9866516/8 or toll-free 800-2219831, firstname.lastname@example.org; Coral Gables, FL, T305-4427471, email@example.com; Los Angeles, CA, T213-380 2198/9, toll free 800-2219831, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hi All, Just wanted to share my recent experience in Barbados.
I have been to the Caribbean but most of the time i stayed in Big Resorts that would tell you what to do where to do it and when to eat and where to eat.
This time i opted for a more laid back experience by Booking a Boutique Hotel.
I arrived in Paynes bay ready to check into the St James Hotel and it turns out i wasn't the only one who was ready, the entire staff was there to greet me with a very friendly attitude and smiling faces.
Let me just say The St James Hotel is a great value for your money, the rooms have evrything you need and then some (satelite TV, wifi, fully equipped kitchens ....etc) I managed to get a discount since the hotel is relatively unknown still!
Overall it was a great experience that i would recommend to families with children, couples who want a romantic escape or even solo travelers such as myself.All the best on your travels, if you would like to look into the St James Hotel here is where i got started. www.the-stjames.com