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Barbados travel guide

About Barbados

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.

Key facts

Area:

430 sq km (166 sq miles).

Population:

284,996 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

663 per sq km.

Capital:

Bridgetown.

Government:

Republic.

Head of state:

President Dame Sandra Mason since 2021.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Mia Mottley since 2018.

Travel Advice

Hurricane Beryl

A major hurricane impacted the Caribbean from 1 July, causing disruption to some services. Airports have reopened and are operating as usual. You should follow and monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Center and follow the advice of local authorities, including any evacuation orders. See Extreme weather and natural disasters.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you: 

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

About FCDO travel advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Follow and contact FCDO travel on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

This information is for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK. It is based on the UK government’s understanding of the current rules for the most common types of travel. 

The authorities in Barbados set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Barbados High Commission in the UK:

1 Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3N

Phone: 020 7299 7150
Fax: 020 7323 6872
Email: london@foreign.gov.bb

COVID-19 rules

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Barbados.

Passport validity requirements

Your passport must be valid for the planned length of your stay.

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.  

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen. 

Visa requirements

You do not need a visa to visit Barbados.

You will be told how long you can stay when you arrive. If you want to extend your stay, you must apply and pay for an extension through the Barbados Immigration Department.

It’s illegal to overstay or work without a work permit. The Barbados authorities could fine or detain you if you overstay.

Immigration and customs form

All travellers must fill in an immigration and customs form online before they arrive.

Children and young people

Check the rules for travelling with children and young people to Barbados from the Barbados Immigration Department.

Departure tax  

All passengers aged 2 years and older must pay a departure tax of 55 Barbados dollars (27.50 US dollars). Passengers travelling outside the Caribbean region pay an additional 70 US dollars per person, and those travelling within the Caribbean pay an additional 20 US dollars per person.

Most airlines include the cost within the ticket price. Check details with your airline or tour operator.

Vaccine requirements

To enter Barbados, you must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination if you’re coming from a country listed as a transmission risk.

For full details about medical entry requirements and recommended vaccinations, see TravelHealthPro’s Barbados guide.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods that can be brought into and taken out of Barbados. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Barbados

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Barbados, attacks cannot be ruled out.

Crime

There have been incidents of violent crime, including:

  • armed robbery
  • sexual assault
  • gang-related shootings

There has been an increase in gang-related murders involving guns. Some incidents have taken place in populated and public areas.

Take sensible precautions to protect your personal safety:

  • make sure your accommodation is secure
  • take care when walking alone off busy main roads and taking money from ATMs
  • avoid isolated areas, including beaches, particularly after dark
  • only use licensed taxis
  • take particular care at late-night street parties, especially during the festival season
  • do not carry large amounts of cash or wear expensive-looking jewellery
  • leave valuables and travel documents in a safety deposit box or secure hotel safe

Laws and cultural differences

Illegal drugs penalties

It is illegal to possess drugs. There are severe penalties for all drug offences. Pack your luggage yourself and do not carry anything through customs for anyone else.

Camouflage clothing

It is illegal for anyone, including children, to wear camouflage clothing.

LGBT+ travellers

In the Caribbean, attitudes towards the LGBT+ community are mostly conservative. It is uncommon for opposite or same-sex couples to show affection in public, for example, holding hands or kissing. Doing this may attract unwanted and negative attention. Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Swimming safety

Always take great care when swimming. Currents can be deceptively strong, including on some of the popular beaches on the south and west coasts. Some beaches do not have lifeguards or warning flags.

Swimming is not recommended on many of the east-coast beaches where currents are particularly strong. Follow local warnings.

See water safety on holiday from the Royal Life Saving Society.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Barbados, see information on driving abroad and Barbados driving tips.

You must get a Barbados driving licence to drive in Barbados. You can buy one from a car hire company or online from the Barbados Revenue Authority. You must also carry your UK driving licence.

Driving is on the left. If you have an accident, call the police and do not move the vehicle.

Taxis

Taxis do not have meters. There are standard fares for most destinations. Agree the fare in Barbados dollars with the driver before you set off. Drivers do not always accept card payments, so carry cash with you.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards

Hurricanes

The hurricane season normally runs from June to November. Monitor local news and check World Meteorological Organization weather reports for Barbados and the National Hurricane Center.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes are a potential risk in Barbados, and there are occasional tremors. Follow the advice of the local authorities.

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

Volcanic eruptions

Check 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 if there is increased activity or an eruption.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 511 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance or medical assistance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccine recommendations and health risks 

At least 8 weeks before your trip:  

See what health risks you’ll face in Barbados, including:  

  • Zika virus
  • dengue
  • chikungunya

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

Healthcare in Barbados

The Barbados healthcare system is not as extensive as the UK. Queen Elizabeth Hospital can cope with many types of treatment, but serious cases may need emergency evacuation. You can call the hospital helpline to speak with a healthcare professional.

Medical treatment in Barbados can be expensive. Check private clinics’ prepayment policies, as they may not accept medical travel insurance as payment.

FCDO has a list of medical providers in Barbados.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Barbados

Ambulance: 511

Fire: 311

Police: 211

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

You can also contact FCDO online.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you are in Barbados and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British High Commission in Bridgetown.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating in Barbados on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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