Barbados travel guide
Fringed by white sandy beaches, sapphire seas and colourful coral reefs, Barbados is the archetypal Caribbean retreat. Off the beaten path this is not: Simon Cowell, Wayne Rooney and Will Smith are amongst the many celebs that have popularised the island, which, alas, has the a-list prices to match.
First time visitors can be forgiven for heading straight for the sand. Barbados is endowed with 113km (70 miles) of glorious beaches, which range from calm coves to surf-pounded shorelines. Most tourists flock to the Platinum Coast to the west, which is lined with luxury resorts, spa hotels, sophisticated restaurants and manicured golf courses, all lapped by the limpid Caribbean Sea.
Never played golf? Not a fan of high-end resorts? Then fear not. The altogether quieter south coast has some of the island’s best beaches, while the east coast, pummeled by the Atlantic Ocean, is less developed and attracts mainly surfers, who quench their thirsts in local rum shacks.
Although Barbados’s interior is unremarkable compared to some of its Caribbean neighbours there is much to see. And the best way to see it is by hiring a motorbike or a jeep and taking to the road, calling at crumbling sugar mills, rum distilleries and traditional churches that look like they’ve been lifted from England. Finish up in the colonial capital, Bridgetown, which, along with the nearby garrison, was awarded World Heritage Site status in 2012.
Combine these attractions with the island’s indelible laid-back vibe, its passion for rum (over 1,500 rum shops dot the island) and calypso-infused festivals, and it’s no wonder people return to Barbados time and time again.
430 sq km (166 sq miles).
285,006 (UN estimate 2016).
675.8 per sq km.
HM Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor-General Elliott Belgrave since 2012.
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart since 2010.
110-115 volts AC, 50Hz. American-style plugs with two flat pins (with or without round grounding pin) are standard.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Most visits are trouble-free, but there have been incidents of violent crime including armed robbery and sexual assaults.
You should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as you would in the UK and make sure your accommodation is secure. This also applies if you are staying on a yacht. Be vigilant at all times. Take care when walking alone off the busy main roads and avoid isolated areas, including beaches, particularly after dark.
Only use licensed taxis and take particular care at late night street parties, especially during the festival season.
Don’t carry large amounts of cash or jewellery. If possible, leave valuables and travel documents in a safety deposit box or hotel safe. You should check that the hotel safe is securely fixed before using it to store your items.
The local police have advised residents and visitors against wearing visible gold jewellery due to a spate of robberies particularly in Bridgetown and other popular tourist areas.
Driving is on the left. To drive on the island you must get a local temporary driving licence. The car hire companies will usually help with this. You must present a valid UK driving licence.
Take care when driving on the roads as there can be potholes and speed bumps.
Observe the speed limits. You should take extra care on minor roads and in rural areas where there are narrow roads and blind corners. Pedestrians often walk on the roads and indicators are not always used.
Take extra care when driving at night as some roads are unlit. Road signs and hazards may not be easily visible.
Don’t stop if you’re flagged down by pedestrians. Keep car doors locked when driving. Don’t place personal belongings and valuables where they can be easily reached and consider putting everything in the boot of the car or on the floor of the back seat.
In the event of an accident, call the police and don’t move the vehicle.
Taxis aren’t metered. Standard taxi fares exist for most destinations. Agree the fare in local currency with the driver before you set off. You can often pay in US dollars as well as Barbados dollars.
Public transport is available and cheaper. Minibus drivers might drive above the speed limit.
Take great care at all times when swimming. Currents can be deceptively strong, including on some of the popular beaches on the south and west coasts. Some beaches don’t have lifeguards and/or warning flags and drownings have occurred.
Swimming isn’t recommended on many of the east coast beaches where currents are particularly strong. You should monitor all beaches carefully and obey any local warnings.