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The Ultimate Guide to Barbados
This is an extensive island guide that will inform you of all the things you may want to know about our beautiful island Barbados.
GETTING TO BARBADOS
Getting to Barbados is no problem! There are several major airlines that fly regularly scheduled services into Barbados from North America, Europe and South America. The major airlines that come to Barbados from the United States are American Airlines, Air Canada, Virgin Atlantic Airways, West Jet, and Jet Blue. There are also several cruise lines that include Barbados in their destination itinerary. Please visit their respective websites for further information.
There are often good deals on charters coming out of Europe and North America, primarily during the winter months.
Regardless of which airline you choose, you will land at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) on the southern tip of the island. Barbados boasts not only one of the longest runways in the region, but also one of the most modern airport facilities in the eastern Caribbean. The airport is open 24 hours a day.
*TIP: No vaccinations are necessary for entry into Barbados or returning home from Barbados.
IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS
When making your travel plans, ensure you have a valid passport and return ticket. On arrival you will pass through immigration and customs where you will be asked to provide information regarding your local accommodation and the length of your stay. Visas are not required for North Americans, Europeans or persons from Commonwealth countries; however, it is wise to check with the nearest consulate or your travel agent on visa requirements for citizens of other countries, as the list changes regularly.
Once you have retrieved your bags you will pass through customs. The Customs officer may ask you to open your luggage for inspection, which is not unusual. Most often officials will send you on your way after a quick look once you have nothing to declare. *TIP: Freelance Red Caps are available at the baggage carousel to assist you with your luggage if required, for a small fee.
ITEMS NOT PERMITTED ENTRY INTO THE ISLAND
Perishable goods including plant matter, fruits and certain other items are not permitted without prior authorization. Due to quarantine requirements, pets and other live animals are not allowed without prior permission and most must first come from England, as Barbados is a Rabies-free country. Also NOTE: Civilians are not permitted to wear Army Fatigue.
DUTY FREE SHOPPING ON ARRIVAL
Barbados' Grantley Adams Int'l Airport has a small but well stocked in-bound duty free shop that offers liqueurs, cigarettes, cigars, perfumes and chocolates. The in-bound shop, located just off from immigration in the luggage claims area, offers very competitive prices. Barbados’ customs allows each adult over the age of 18 years a limit of 200 cigarettes (one carton) or 50 cigars and one liter of spirits. Duty Free shopping is also available at many stores around the island upon presentation of your passport and return ticket at the point of purchase.
TOURISM INFORMATION BOOTH
Upon arrival, if you have any questions about your stay, you are welcome to enquire at the Tourism Authority booth which is located at the arrivals hall entrance just before immigration. There is also a phone at the booth if you need to make a call.
From gorgeous villas with a breathtaking beachfront views to all inclusive 5 star hotels. With a vast range of holiday rentals and packages, you are sure to find an amazing place to stay in Barbados which suits both your preferences and your budget.
TAXIS AND CAR RENTALS
Once you exit the arrivals hall, a fleet of taxis awaits. There are pre-set prices to specific areas and hotels and a maximum of five people can ride in a taxi for the same price. However, we advise that you ascertain the price and agree on it before you leave the airport. There are also taxi stands located strategically in Bridgetown and along the west and south coast roads. Remember, we drive on the left-hand side of the road in Barbados. So for those of you who are accustomed to driving on the right, you may want to mentally prepare yourself for a change. There are also a number of car rental companies on the island where you can hire anything from a Mercedes car to a Jeep, van or mini-moke. We recommend Top Class Car Rentals and you can book your car in advance online and save 15% off regular rates.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Barbados enjoys a balmy climate most of the time, boasting approximately 3 000 hours of sunlight each year. Average temperatures run from 84 to 88 F (29-31 C) during the day and about 75 to 70 F (24-26 C) at night. There are cooling trade winds which keep temperatures pleasant throughout most of the year.
As a general rule in Barbados the rainy season, also known as the ‘hurricane season’ starts in June and ends in November, with the highest concentration of rainfall usually occurring between August and October. However, keep in mind that Barbados has been fortunate enough not to have experienced a full force hurricane since' Hurricane Janet' in 1955. We do however, pay close attention to weather advisories, which are taken seriously by government offices, businesses and residents.
Dry season is from December to June when the sun shines an average of 12 hrs per day with the odd scattered shower to cool things off.
*TIP: During the winter months you may want to carry a light jacket or wrap because the night air can get cool.
Everyone loves a rich, even tan. However, very few people enjoy getting a sun burn. It is recommended that sun block with a minimum SPF 30 is applied regularly to the skin to avoid burning. Even with overcast skies, there can be significant sun damage to the skin if left unprotected.
FOREIGN EXCHANGE AND MONEY MATTERS
Barbados has its own currency, which is tied to the US dollar and the value fluctuates according to market conditions. Generally $1.00 US will yield $1.98 BDS at local banks. The rate varies slightly according to the form of currency you are using (traveller's cheques, cash, wire transfers). Other currencies fluctuate against the US dollar and daily rates can be checked through any bank or local newspaper. US cash, of course local cash, and in some instances British sterling, are usually accepted when dealing with most ancillary services such as taxis and vendors. On the street the US rate of exchange is generally two Barbados dollars to one US dollar. Hotels, restaurants, department stores and duty free stores, along with most shops catering to visitors, readily accept most major credit cards. Barbados has an abundance of banks around the island with the greatest concentration being in Bridgetown. Also, many banks, petrol stations and other frequented locations now sport ATM machines. To get a credit card cash advance you will of course need a PIN #. However please note that the ATM machines dispense local currency only. If your credit card does not have a PIN # you can get cash advances through the Teller in most banks. Please note that banks generally require you to show your passport and airline ticket when converting foreign currency, especially when converting back to your home currency.
As a rule, bank hours are Monday to Thursday from 8 am to 3 pm and on Fridays from 8 am to 5 pm.
The main post office is located just on the edge of Bridgetown next to the Cheapside Market. However, each parish has a post office and in addition, many of the hotels and tourist outlets carry postcards and stamps. You will also see mailboxes set in guard walls along the roadside. These are usually deep red in colour and are cleared frequently by the postal services department.
Barbados has a variety of religious denominations and sects. The major religion is Anglican. Other principle religions include Roman Catholic, Baptist, Christian Science, Jewish, Methodist, Moravian, Muslim and Pentecostal denominations. Barbados definitely has an abundance of churches. Each parish has a parish church, usually Anglican, along with churches of other denominations. In general, Barbados has a fairly reserved population with strong family and community ties.
The electricity supply here is quite dependable. Barbados runs on 110 volts/50 cycles, which is quite unusual. However we use the North American style 2-prong plug and outlet and most 60 cycle items will work here. Many hotels provide a 220 volt outlet in the bathrooms as well.
Barbados' water supply is clean and generally in good supply, however around late April and May, drought periods can affect the flow of the water supply. Most hotels have special water storage tanks and pumps to avoid any inconvenience to their patrons during this time. The water is naturally filtered through porous coral in the underground streams and is drawn from these streams and filtered then treated. Some of our water supply is produced by desalination of seawater through our state-of the-art desalination plant. You will also find that most grocery stores stock a variety of bottled water as well.
Prior to your departure, follow the guidelines given by your travel agent for confirming your ticket back to your homeland. Most airlines in Barbados now require that you check in three hours prior to your scheduled departure.
There is a departure tax of BDS $60. Check to see if your ticket included pre-payment of the tax. If not, US cash is accepted if you are out of local currency.
Barbados having remained under British rule from its first settlement in 1627 to its Independence on November 30, 1966, profoundly affected the Barbadian culture and resulted in the British influence coursing through everyday life as well as the infrastructure of the island.
The more flamboyant African influence can also be seen in the local lifestyle and the blend of the two cultures produces an unmatched cultural fusion, which can be noted through all facets of daily living; from the foods and music to the house styles and street names. Even though English is the official 'language' on the island, the colourful local dialect remains in common usage.
Approximately 75 per cent of the island's 270 000 people are direct descendants from the African migration that took place during the late 1600s and 1700s slave trade. The remainder of the island's population consists of a blend of European (primarily British) descendants and settlers as well as small but vibrant Hindu (Indian), Muslim, Arab (Lebanese and Syrian) and Jewish communities.
The art, craft and literary works produced on the island as well as many of the foods and figures of speech are clear examples of the African influence. The main local festival known as ' Crop Over', reflects specific elements of Bajan life. From the late 1600's until the late 1800's the primary driving force of the economy and lifestyle was the sugar crop. This agricultural mainstay culminated in the 'Crop Over' celebration at the end of the harvest. The 'Crop Over' carnival- type celebration takes place during the first week of August each year, when a number of different groups don brightly coloured costumes to represent their bands. These groups congregate at the National Stadium where the celebration starts, then they continue celebrating (jumping up) through the streets of St. Michael with onlookers happily participating. This is also a national holiday and signifies the celebration that was initiated by plantation workers for having successfully completed the sugar cane harvest.
The other prime economic influence is, of course, the tourism industry.
Barbados is the easternmost Caribbean island, some 1 600 miles southeast of Miami, Florida. It is relatively flat compared to its neighbours of volcanic origin and is one of the few coral-capped islands in the region. Barbados is approximately 166 square miles in size.
Even though Barbados lacks the peaked volcanic landscape seen in the nearby islands, it has a unique charm all its own. The bustling capital of Bridgetown provides all that relates to the city. Here you will find banks, corporate centres, department stores and local vendors all contributing to the unique architecture that is Bridgetown. While just a few miles away you can experience the countryside of soft rolling hills, lush green valleys and meandering roads. As you drive through the countryside you experience miles of sugarcane fields whose gentle sway is interrupted only by the colourful rows of chattel houses. Of course, nothing can compare to the beautiful stretches of sandy beaches with their gently lapping waves.
Located near the centre of the island and just west of the Scotland district you will find Mount Hillaby, the highest point in Barbados reaching 1 100 feet above sea level. The Scotland District is a rugged area which comprises about one sixth of the island and is known for its spikes and ridges and lovely views.
In the outlying areas you will find urban centres such as Oistins, a fishing village well known to be frequented by locals and visitors alike for the fresh fish, especially on a Friday night. Along the west coast moving northwards is Holetown in St. James. Here you will find a number of shopping centres, eateries, cafes and other facilities including vacation rental properties just walking distance from the beach or on the beach.
A little further north in St. Peter you will find Speightstown, which is a true blend of old and new. Modern shops sit between old time balconied wooden buildings. This fishing village has recently been given a face lift but still has reminders of its bygone days.
The west coast which runs from Bridgetown to St. Peter (known as the Caribbean<span style="text-decoration: line-through;"> side</span> sea) is lined with lovely white sand beaches and gently lapping waters of clear aqua blue, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, deep sea diving or just soaking. The far north and entire east coast (known as the Atlantic side) is rugged with hearty waves crashing against the seascape. This coast is not really suited for recreational swimming, however surfers have been known to frequent these waters at their own risk. There is the popular surfing competition Soup Bowl, which draws surfers and visitors from all over the world to witness this intense and exhilarating competition.
ABOUT THE PEOPLE
- Barbados has a resident population of approximately 270,000
- There is a labour force of skilled, well-educated and motivated individuals, with productivity levels equal to or higher than those in North America or Europe.
- The educational system is based on the British education model and has produced a 99% literacy rate - one of the highest in the world.
The government of Barbados is one of the most stable in the Caribbean with a representative government since 1939 and having had independence since 1966. The judicial, political and administrative institutions are closely modeled on the British system. All political parties are committed to the rule of law and supportive of the free enterprise system.
The investment laws are clear and modern with no restrictions on foreign ownership of business enterprises. The government actively encourages foreign investment in both the industrial and hospitality sectors and usually offers responses promptly.
Barbados has an excellent infrastructure with electric power, roads, telecommunications and technological advances as well as an airport and seaport equivalent to those in industrialized countries. Barbados also has private health care facilities comparable to those in First World countries.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT SERVICES
Barbados is able to provide the investor with a wide range of banking and other financial services. There is a world class pool of legal and accounting professionals and most of the well-known international accounting firms are represented here.
Barbados boasts three privately owned state-of-the-art emergency clinics; FMH Emergency Medical Clinic located in Belleville, St. Michael, and Sandy Crest Medical Centre in Sunset Crest, St. James both offer 24 hour service. There is also Coverley Medical Centre located in The Villages at Coverley, Christ Church which also offers laboratory, radiology (X-ray) and pharmacy services.
There are also two hospitals with fully equipped operating theatres. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is owned and operated by the Barbados Government and has full in-patient care facilities.
There are numerous private offices and clinics with well qualified medical and dental specialists located throughout the island.