Barbados Travel Guide
Barbados, often called the “Little England” of the Caribbean, blends the finer elements of British tradition with warm island hospitality. Barbados is one of the first democracies in the New World and a regional leader in education and commerce. Explore the many beaches, rolling countryside, charming villages, old sugar mills and plantations that represent the colonial past of the island. Tour the East Coast where the Atlantic Ocean’s waves are a surfer’s paradise. Shop in the capital city or stay out late to party in the nightlife. The average annual temperature ranges from 70°F–87°F.
Easternmost of the Lesser Antilles, Barbados sits apart from its peers both geographically and culturally speaking. Though independent since 1966, Barbados was a British subject for three long and prosperous centuries; unlike other nearby isles, it was never a pawn in territorial bickering and so displays to this day the white-glove customs of a parliamentary society. Not that Barbados lacks authentic West Indian charm; far from it. Time and again, travelers remark on the festive street life, the fresh spicy food, and the inclusive warmth of their Bajan (native Barbadian) hosts.
Befitting its British ties, Barbados is a more formal (and pricey) island than most. In the best restaurants, jackets are required for dinner, and nowhere is topless or nude bathing allowed. High tea and cricket are cultural fixtures, driving is on the left, and casinos are nonexistent. Though casual outposts are hardly rare, this island is not an ideal choice for travelers who want to lounge round the clock in bikini and flip flops or dance till dawn. Nor is it ideal for those who want isolation or unspoiled wilderness, for Barbados is as populous as it is temperate and welcoming. Two hundred and fifty thousand people inhabit 300 square miles, and while much of the interior offers a serene vista of sugar fields and, to the north, rough green moors, the island’s longtime agricultural prominence entailed widespread deforestation.
Sporty travelers, however, will be thrilled with the variety of gamesmanship and recreation. Barbados boasts three fine golf courses, numerous tennis and squash courts, and, for the avid spectator, horse racing and polo. Since coral reefs hug the island on all sides, scuba and snorkeling are excellent (though marine life has not been as aggressively protected as on other islands). The underwater caves of the rugged north coast are a favorite haunt of experienced divers, while the south coast is a mecca for windsurfers, who love the heady currents of the open sea off Oistins.
Explore the capital and largest city for historical reference and even more great beaches and other activities, including the world’s oldest rum.
Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados and a city with a lot of history. When the English arrived to declare the area a British colony in the 17th century they found an abandoned Indian settlement and bridge and later gave the area the Bridgetown name. The harbor became a critical port for ships traveling across the Atlantic and was heavily protected against attack from other colonizing European powers.
Visit the Bridgetown Garrison, initially constructed starting in 1705 as a British fortification, and now an internationally protected World Heritage Site. Take a guided walking tour to appreciate the historic significance of the military, commercial and social activities of the 18th and 19th centuries in Barbados. Points of interest include St. Mary’s and St. Michael’s churches, Queen’s Park, Jewish Synagogue, Heroes Square and Parliament Building.
Walk in the footsteps of earlier world leaders by visiting the George Washington House and the Lord Nelson Monument in Heroes Square (formerly Trafalgar Square) in front of the Parliament Building.
For a lighter look at history, tour the Mount Gay Rum Factory bottling facility which claims to be the best and oldest rum in the world. It has been made in Barbados since 1703. Make reservations to enjoy taste testing on weekdays; children can participate but not drink. On Saturdays, watch thoroughbred horses race at Garrison Savannah, where horses have been running for over 150 years.
December through mid-April is the most popular time to visit the Caribbean, as travelers flee the chilly northern weather for sunny skies, white-sand beaches, and warm temperatures. To get the best rates, visit in the late spring or summer months—or get even better rates by traveling in the fall (September–October).
If you are traveling from the west coast, plan on leaving as early as 7 a.m., or take a red-eye flight to Miami, Atlanta, or New York and connect from there. Coming from New York, you can expect to travel approximately five hours, from Atlanta or Miami it can be approximately three hours and as long as eight hours from Seattle. In any case, plan on leaving early or on a red-eye flight from the West Coast.
3.5 hours from Miami
4.5 hours from New York City
Tour Barbados by boat, car, on horseback, via helicopter, even on a submarine. Smooth beaches and golf courses rim its western and southern shores. Spunky green monkeys inhabit the Barbados Wildlife Preserve; Harrison’s Cave is another don’t-miss attraction. And vast Crane Beach is rated among the world’s best sandy stretches. Flying fish, the local specialty, is scrumptious – especially when accompanied by premium Bajan rum.
Harrison’s Cave, said to be one of the wonders of the world
Mount Gay Distilleries and learn the history behind rum
While traveling in Barbados we recommend:
Private transfers at time of booking – Most private transfers include a meet-and-greet by English-speaking drivers, luggage assistance, and bottled water in modern vehicles.
A valid passport is generally required for entry into the Caribbean and return to the United States.
Some countries may also require you to present a return airline ticket.
It is the traveler’s responsibility to obtain the proper documents.
U.S. currency is accepted nearly everywhere you go in the Caribbean.
Currency can be exchanged at banks and island hotels (although for slightly more than the standard exchange rate).
Most major American and European credit cards are accepted throughout the islands.
ATMs are widely available throughout the Caribbean.
The islands that make up the Caribbean span several time zones.
Most Caribbean islands lie in the Atlantic Standard Time zone, but a few are in the Eastern Time Zone.
Many of the islands do not observe daylight savings time.