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, pummelled 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).
284,996 (UN estimate 2016).
663 per sq km.
President Dame Sandra Mason since 2021.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley since 2018.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Barbados on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Barbados.
Be prepared for your plans to change
Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Barbados
Everyone should comply with the measures put in place in Barbados to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Details of these measures can be found at the Barbados Government Information Service website and/or Facebook page.
The Government’s COVID-19 protocols may be subject to change at short notice and you should therefore review these regularly.
In moving around Barbados, although mask wearing is now optional, many still follow social distancing protocols.
Masks are mandatory on public transport, in health and education facilities, but optional elsewhere. Regular washing of hands is encouraged and you may be expected to be asked to clean your hands using hand sanitizer on entering a building.
If you require a pre-departure test to satisfy the arrival requirements of the country you are travelling to after Barbados, information can be obtained by phoning (+1246) 628 4150 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
Help and support
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Most visits are trouble-free, but there have been incidents of violent crime including armed robbery, sexual assaults and gang-related shootings.
Since 2019 there has been an increase in the murder rate, primarily gang related and involving guns. Some incidents have taken place in populated and public areas. You should remain vigilant at all times and in all locations.
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. Take care when walking alone off the busy main roads and when withdrawing money from ATMs. 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. Alternatively you can purchase this online via https://www.gov.bb/Visit-Barbados/visitorpermitapplication. 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.
You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes lists of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices – IATA Operational Safety Audit and IATA Standard Safety Assessment. These lists aren’t exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation has carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Barbados.
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.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Barbados, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
This page has information on travelling to Barbados.
This page reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British Citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in Barbados set and enforce entry rules. If you’re unsure how Barbados’ entry requirements apply to you, contact its UK embassy, high commission or consulate.
Entry to Barbados
Effective midnight Thursday September 22 2022, Barbados has discontinued all COVID-19 related travel protocols. All COVID-19 travel restrictions for UK travellers to Barbados have been lifted, and there are no testing requirements for entering Barbados whether you are vaccinated or unvaccinated.
All travellers need to complete online Immigration and Customs forms found at https://travelform.gov.bb/ 72 hours prior to arrival.
If you’re fully vaccinated
Entry requirements for Barbados are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
If you’re not fully vaccinated
Entry requirements for Barbados are the same for all travellers, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
Children and young people
There are no specific requirements for children and young people.
If you’re transiting through Barbados
Transiting is when you pass through one country on the way to your final destination.Transiting through Barbados is permitted for travellers from the UK in line with the entry requirements set out above.
Check your passport and travel documents before you travel
You should check with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required.
British passport holders don’t need a visa to visit Barbados.
On entry, you will normally be granted a specified period to stay. If you wish to stay longer, you must apply and pay for an extension of stay through the Barbados Immigration Department.
It’s an offence to overstay the entry period or to work without a work permit.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Barbados.
A departure tax of BDS$55 (US$27.50) applies for all passengers over 2 years old leaving Barbados. From 1 October 2018, an additional fee has been added. Passengers flying outside of the Caribbean region pay US$70 per person, and those flying within the Caribbean pay US$35 per person. Most airlines include the cost within the ticket price. If in doubt, you should check with your airline or tour operator.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
There are severe penalties for all drug offences. Pack all luggage yourself and don’t carry anything through customs for anyone else.
It’s an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing.
Local attitudes towards the LGBT community are mostly conservative throughout the Caribbean. Public displays of affection (such as hand-holding or kissing) between opposite or same-sex couples are uncommon. Certain homosexual acts are illegal. LGBT travellers should be mindful of local attitudes and be aware that public displays of affection may attract unwanted and negative attention. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
If you have a health condition, or you are pregnant, you may need specialist healthcare abroad. Check whether your destination country can provide the healthcare you may need and ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for unexpected medical evacuation or local treatment.
See the Coronavirus travel health and Healthcare sections in the Coronavirus page for COVID-19 health information.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Local medical care
The Barbados health care system is not as extensive as the UK and, in light of COVID pressures, is facing additional stretch and pressure. Consequently, patients may experience some additional delays to treatment and service times. All visitors should ensure they have suitable travel and medical insurance, including where necessary to cover the costs of emergency repatriation.
Due to COVID, the health care system in Barbados discourages hospital walk in visitors in all but the most acute/emergency circumstances, and ask wherever possible for patients to call a local helpline in advance. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital helpline helps triage non-emergency cases before they reach Accident and Emergency, and to ensure patients go to the most appropriate place for medical treatment. If you are unsure whether the situation is an emergency and whether a hospital visit is required, you can call the Queen Elizabeth Hospital helpline on +1(246) 536 4800 to speak with a health care professional. Enquires connected to COVID-19 should be directed to the COVID-19 Hotline which is +1(246) 536 4500.
The UK-Barbados reciprocal healthcare agreement terminated with effect from 1 October 2016. For more information see the NHS Choices website. Medical treatment in Barbados can be expensive. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 511 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment. Before choosing to be treated at a private facility, you should check their policies on pre-payment. Private clinics may not accept medical travel insurance as payment for treatment.
The main government hospital can cope with many types of treatment but serious cases may mean emergency evacuation.
UK health authorities have classified Barbados as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Dengue fever is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean and can occur throughout the year. There is currently a spike in dengue cases.
The hurricane season normally runs from June to November. You should follow and monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Centre and follow the advice of local authorities, including any evacuation orders.
See our Tropical Cyclones page for advice about how to prepare effectively and what to do if you’re likely to be affected by a hurricane or tropical cyclone.
Earthquakes are a potential threat and tremors are felt occasionally in the Caribbean, In the event of an earthquake, you should follow the advice of the local authorities. To learn more about what to do before, during and after an earthquake, visit the website of the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.
You should monitor the alert level of the underwater volcano ‘Kick’em Jenny’, located 5 miles off the coast of Grenada. Observe any maritime exclusion zones and follow the advice of the local authorities in the event of increased activity or an eruption.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry, or contact us on Twitter or Facebook. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.