Last Updated on May 6, 2021
Are you planning a vacation to Barbados? Lucky you! You’ve definitely chosen one of the best places to visit in the Caribbean, if not the entire world!
Barbados is known for its gorgeous beaches, mouthwatering food, and inviting people. Despite the fact that this amazing Caribbean island has just 166 square miles of land, it is packed with things to do. If you’re like me and you don’t want to lay on the beach all day and every day of your vacation, there’s plenty of adventurous things for you to do here.
If you plan on taking a vacation to Barbados, you’ll likely have a few questions before your visit. When should you visit? What should you pack? What activities should you do? Lucky for you, I wrote this mega Barbados travel guide that has everything that you need to know!
Listen, I’m not even going to beat around the bush — I’ve traveled all over the Caribbean and Barbados is my favorite island in the region. I know you’ll fall in love with it too and that’s why I want to give you as much detail as possible. Warning — this post is fairly lengthy so feel free to skip around to the sections that apply to you. Have fun on your trip!
Basic Barbados Travel Tips
Why Plan a Vacation to Barbados
I vividly remember sitting at my cubicle at my horrid 8-5 job thinking to myself how badly I needed to escape for a bit and take a vacation somewhere.
Later that night, Amos and I started looking for the most budget-friendly international getaways and found reasonable flights to Barbados. We didn’t know anything about the island, but we said “heck yeah” anyway. That’s the story of how we ended up vacationing in Barbados.
I honestly didn’t expect much. Sure, the photos of the beaches looked gorgeous. But, I didn’t really know anything else about the island. I researched some basic do’s and don’ts and arrived blindly. Long story short, I was pleasantly surprised and I’m constantly pestering Amos to take me back.
Barbados is one of the most beautiful Caribbean islands and not just in terms of physical beauty. The locals (known as Bajans) are warm and welcoming and they’re truly delighted to see foreigners loving their home. Plus, the food is refreshing and delicious. It’s an island that’s full of life and charm.
All in all, it’s the perfect place for a beachy, off-the-grid vacation. It’s the quintessential Caribbean escape! Barbados is the perfect place to go if you want to melt all of your worries away. And, it’s one of the best honeymoon destinations in the Caribbean.
How to Get to Barbados
There are direct flights to Barbados from Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Caribbean. You’ll fly in and out of Grantley Adams International Airport in Christ Church. Alternatively, you can visit Barbados on a cruise and the cruise terminal is located in Bridgetown.
Visa Requirements for Barbados
In order to visit Barbados, you need to have a valid passport and a return ticket home. Several countries don’t require a visa to visit Barbados. For Americans, a tourist visa is not required for stays under six months.
To check if you need a visa, you can visit this website. I highly recommend double-checking entry requirements from your country before booking your flights and hotels.
Best Time to Visit Barbados
There’s not really a right or wrong time to visit Barbados. It all depends on the experience you’re looking for.
In terms of weather, Barbados has a mild climate all year round and the temperature very rarely drops below 70 degrees.
There are two main seasons in Barbados: the wet season and the dry season. Wet season runs from June to November, and dry season runs from December to May. If you don’t want to get caught in the rain, the best time for you to take a vacation to Barbados is from December to May.
We visited in August during the wet season and it didn’t rain all that much. There were brief periods throughout the day where it would rain for a few minutes. Then, it would stop and the sun came out again. Overall, the rain never put a damper on our plans. The rain was actually pleasant because it cooled things off.
Consequently, the low season is during the wet season. Accommodation prices are more affordable and you’ll have a more laid-back experience without all of the tourists. You don’t have to worry about all of the best spots being taken on the beach and resorts being sold out. I’m a huge fan of traveling during the low season and I’m willing to compromise perfect weather for a more relaxed vibe and cheaper prices.
Driving in Barbados
One of the best ways to get around the island is by renting a car. But, you’ll need a visitor driving permit if you want to drive in Barbados. You can get it through your car rental agency or by a licensing authority in Barbados. For more information on obtaining your driving permit, visit this website.
Remember that you’ll be driving on the left side of the road. Also, always remain alert and aware when driving in Barbados. The roads can be windy and a lot of people drive without their lights on after sunset.
Public Transportation in Barbados
If you don’t want to brave the roads of Barbados yourself, you can get around easily via public transportation. Keep in mind that the taxis aren’t metered and you’ll need to negotiate a rate before getting into the car. I made the mistake once of not asking for the price beforehand and I was taken advantage of.
Also, Uber doesn’t exist in Barbados. But, there are some similar apps. They’re pretty expensive though and we didn’t use any.
I’m actually a huge fan of busses in Barbados. We took a bus for $1 each and we went all over the island. It was clean and the driver was friendly. He pointed out a lot of the major attractions and it felt like he was giving us a private tour.
Usually, the busses have a sign with the final destination taped on the front window. If you aren’t sure about the route you’re taking, ask the driver. They’re helpful and they’ll point you in the right direction.
What to Eat in Barbados
My mouth is watering as I write this section. Bajan food is delicious and pretty simple. Sometimes, certain dishes have British, African, and Indian influences. You’ll commonly find plantains, rotis, curries, rice and peas, and more on local menus. But, the real winner is the fresh seafood.
Some authentic Bajan dishes include flying fish (the equivalent of a Sunday roast), fishcakes, cutters (a sandwich that uses fresh salt bread), Bajan macaroni pie, sea eggs (these are actually sea urchins), pigs tails (exactly what it sounds like), and much more!
If you’re up for a challenge, I highly recommend trying Bajan hot pepper sauce. This sauce is very spicy and flavorful. I dipped everything in this sauce and had a mouth-numbing yet delicious experience each time. You can even buy it at the airport to take home with you!
Currency in Barbados
The Barbados dollar (BBD) is the official currency in Barbados. Two Barbados dollars equals one U.S. dollar. This conversion rate is fixed and never fluctuates. U.S. Dollars are widely accepted, but you’ll still want to make sure that you have a few Barbados dollars on you. Most stores and restaurants accept credit cards as well.
Is Barbados Safe?
Barbados is safe to visit. We felt safe walking around the beaches and around town. However, just as you would in any unfamiliar destination, be aware of your surroundings. Keep all of your valuables close to you and avoid putting yourself out there as an easy target.
At our all-inclusive, a couple had their iPad stolen. They were in the ocean and they left their beach bag on their chairs. A kid ran off with the bag and the couple was left in despair.
The odds of you experiencing a violent crime are rare and you’re most likely only going to be a target of theft and pickpocketing if you’re not vigilant.
Barbadian Customs and Laws to Keep in Mind
Let’s do a quick history session so you understand what Barbados is like. It’s an independent British Commonwealth nation and its political system is similar to Britain’s. Their ways of life and customs are also similar.
It’s important to remember that Bajans dress pretty conservatively so you should dress accordingly.
Also, English is the official language in Barbados, but the locals also converse in the Bajan dialect.
When it comes to tipping, 10-15% is standard. But, double-check and make sure that the gratuity hasn’t already been added to your bill.
Further, don’t count on sunbathing topless or being nude on the beaches. This is illegal in Barbados.
Lastly, leave the camouflage attire at home. This is also illegal and it’s reserved only for military personnel to wear.
Where to Stay in Barbados
The accommodation options in Barbados are limitless and there’s an option for every kind of traveler. Whether you’re looking for a quieter resort or you want to be closer to the nightlife, there’s an option for you.
If it’s your first trip to Barbados, Oistins is a great area to stay in. It’s laid-back and you’ll find both locals and tourists exploring the area.
If you’re traveling with family, Speightstown might be the right area for you. It’s quieter which makes it family-friendly.
Should you want to be close to the nightlife, St. Lawrence is perfect for you. Here, you’ll find several bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.
If you’re traveling to Barbados on a budget, Bridgetown is full of options for you. This area is brimming with things to do and it has several hostels and budget-friendly hotels.
Tours in Barbados
Barbados is one of those vacation spots where you want to take as many tours as possible so you get a good feel for the area. Our days were filled with tours and we have no regrets. We got to see so and do so much. Plus, we didn’t have to plan any of it. Here are some of the best tours in Barbados that you’ll love too!
- Full-Day Tour of Bridgetown Highlights Including Harrison’s Cave, Bathsheba Beach and More
- Barbados Glass Bottom Boat Shipwreck Adventure and Beach Day
- Barbados Island Tour with Lunch and Wildlife Sanctuary
- Natural Wonders of Barbados Tour Including Harrison’s Cave
- Jetblade in Barbados
- Barbados Full-Day Coast to Coast Tour
- Barbados Harrison’s Cave and Atlantis Submarine Dive Tour
- Carlisle Bay Clear Kayak Shipwreck Tour
- Barbados Catamaran Snorkeling Cruise
- Half-Day Barbados Tour: Harrison’s Cave, Hunte’s Gardens and Bathsheba
- Elegance Catamaran Cruises sailing lunch snorkel and swim excursion
- Original Bajan Walking Food Tour
- All Barbados Tours
Quick Barbados Packing List
First and foremost, you’ll need a valid passport to go on your vacation to Barbados. If you don’t have this important travel document, you won’t be able to go on your amazing beach getaway!
Light Casual Clothes
Barbados is known for its year-round warm weather. This means that light, casual clothes are essential. Shorts, tank tops, t-shirts, sundresses, and rompers are all great options.
Light, Rainproof Jacket
If you happen to plan your vacation to Barbados during the wet season, you’ll need a light, rainproof jacket for sure. But even if you decide to visit during the dry season, you’ll want to pack one, just in case.
More Formal Clothes for Fancy Dinners
Many resorts and restaurants try to enforce some sort of dress code. After all, they don’t want people showing up to their classy restaurants in beachwear. So, consider packing a couple of formal outfits with you on your vacation to Barbados.
There’s a very good chance that you’ll spend a huge portion of your time in Barbados on the beach. That means that you’ll need a few swimsuits for your island vacation. And, a cover-up is a good idea too.
If you plan on getting in the ocean, you’ll definitely want to bring reef-safe sunscreen. The sun’s rays are quite strong in Barbados, and many unprepared visitors get burned. While you certainly can buy sunscreen while on the island, be prepared to pay a pretty penny for it.
By packing reef-safe sunscreen in particular, you’ll help to keep the marine life in Barbados happy and healthy. Traditional sunscreen has many harmful chemicals, but reef-safe sunscreen does not. It’s an easy switch that’s better for both you and the environment.
Best Things to Do in Barbados
Surf at Bathsheba Beach
Bathsheba Beach is known as one of the best beaches on the island, especially for surfers. The most popular surfing spot at Bathsheba Beach is known as the Soup Bowl, where waves regularly reach up to fifteen feet high!
Even if you’re not much of a surfer, a trip to Bathsheba Beach is definitely worth it. You can watch the surfers shred the waves, do a little suntanning, and admire the eye-catching rock formations.
It is important to note that, due to the large waves and jagged rocks, Bathsheba Beach is not safe for swimming.
Swim at Carlisle Bay
If you are looking to do some swimming during your vacation to Barbados, Carlisle Bay is a great option. Situated on the island’s south shore, the water is much calmer than it is around the rest of the island.
Not only is Carlisle Bay a great swimming area, but it’s also a great snorkeling spot! This lovely bay is home to six shipwrecks, which now serve as natural marine life habitats. So strap on your snorkel mask and keep an eye out for colorful fish, beautiful starfish, rock lobsters, and even a few friendly turtles!
As if that weren’t enough, there are more things you can do at this awesome Barbadian beach. Since Carlisle Bay is a popular beach, you can rent gear for just about every water sport you have in mind. You can kayak, jet ski, and even horseback ride to your heart’s content.
Or Find a Secret Beach Instead
While Bathsheba Beach and Carlisle Beach are both absolutely gorgeous, they’re often packed with people. If you’d like to claim a little slice of paradise all for yourself, you should consider finding a secret beach! Finding secret beaches was actually one of my favorite things to do in Barbados
All of the beaches in Barbados are public property, so you don’t have to worry about trespassing. If you see an empty, sandy shore, you can enjoy it for as long as you’d like.
Take a Stroll on the Barbados Boardwalk
This one-mile-long beachfront boardwalk is undoubtedly one of the most amazing walks in Barbados. The Barbados Boardwalk connects Accra Beach to Camelot Beach. And while both of those beaches are worth a visit, you’ll also get to see some amazing sights along the way.
First and foremost, you’ll get to revel in the breathtaking turquoise ocean. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might even get to see crabs scuttling and turtles swimming nearby!
On the opposite side of the boardwalk (the side farther from the ocean), there are other interesting things to see as well. You can pick up a drink from one of the rum stands, smell the blooming cassia flowers, and admire the lovely palm trees.
As the capital of Barbados, you’ll inevitably make your way to Bridgetown at some point during your getaway. This capital city is a cool mix of historical landmarks and local culture.
As you wander around Bridgetown, you’ll pass neo-Gothic buildings, bustling rum bars, towering memorial statues, and friendly fishermen. The best way to experience Bridgetown is by simply strolling around and stopping at any place that catches your eye.
Wander Around Speightstown
While Bridgetown is a preserved historic city, Speightstown gives you a better idea of how the locals actually live in Barbados. You can watch the fisherman, purchase some fresh fruit from local vendors, and enjoy some delicious ice cream.
And if you’re a history buff, you’ll love a visit to Speightstown. The Museum of Barbados and the Arlington House Museum are two great places to learn all about the history of this lovely Caribbean island.
Last but certainly not least, you won’t want to miss out on the Speightstown Esplanade. Bordered by rum shacks and pristine beaches, this esplanade is postcard-worthy.
Go Underground to Explore Harrison’s Cave
One of the coolest things to do during your vacation to Barbados is to explore Harrison’s Cave. Although most Barbados sites allow you to soak up the sun, Harrison’s Cave offers something a little different.
This limestone cave has all of the cave geological features you learned about in school, including stalactites and stalagmites. It also includes an expansive stream system that winds its way through the cave.
I highly recommend taking the electric tram tour during your trip to Harrison’s Cave. By doing so, you’ll be able to learn all about the science and history behind this awesome natural wonder.
Stroll Around the Andromeda Botanic Gardens
Within the six acres that make up the Andromeda Botanic Gardens, there are over 500 species of plants for you to see. This particular garden was created by Iris Bannochie, a world-renowned horticulturist who received many awards for her work with Barbados’ fauna. Thanks to Iris Bannochie’s hard work, the Andromeda Botanic Garden is widely believed to be the best garden in Barbados.
You can easily spend a couple of hours wandering through the blooming flowers and swaying trees. And you’re not the only one who will be enjoying this natural oasis. You might see some butterflies, hummingbirds, and even a monkey or two enjoying the Andromeda Botanic Garden as well.
Stop and Smell the Flowers at Hunte’s Garden
But the Andromeda Botanic Garden isn’t the only noteworthy garden in Barbados. There’s also Hunte’s Garden.
This lovely garden is home to hundreds of amazing plant species. You can simply follow the clear path to all of the best things to see in Hunte’s Garden. And like the Andromeda Botanic Gardens, there are a few animals that like to enjoy the thriving flora as well.
If you’d like, you can even pack a lunch to enjoy amidst the beautiful greenery.
Spend Friday Night at Oistins Fish Fry
Oistins Fish Fry is undoubtedly the best place to be in Barbados every Friday night. This street party is filled with fantastic food, fun music, and friendly people.
First, let’s talk about the food. Oistins Fish Fry actually started due to the Catholic tradition of not eating meat on Fridays. So instead, almost all of the food at Oistins Fish Fry is, well, fish. You can get everything from mahi-mahi (which is sometimes called “dolphin”) to swordfish to lobster to shrimp. And if seafood really isn’t your thing, you can now order chicken and pork dishes as well.
Then, there’s the fun music. With reggaeton and samba music blasting through the speakers, Oistins Fish Fry boasts quite an exciting atmosphere.
And while the food and the music are great, it’s really the people that make Oistins Fish Fry the great weekly event that it is. Both locals and visitors alike dance, eat, and have an amazing time.
If you miss Oistins Fish Fry on Friday, it’s also open on Saturday. But Friday is when Oistins Fish Fry is the liveliest.
Sip Some Rum at St. Nicholas Abbey
There are a few different rum distilleries in Barbados, including Mount Gay Distillery and West Indies Rum, but St. Nicholas Abbey has a unique historical twist to it.
First, despite what its name implies, St. Nicholas Abbey was actually never a church. Rather, it has always been a sugarcane plantation house – at least up until 1947. As such, St. Nicholas Abbey has a comprehensive sugarcane and rum museum.
St. Nicholas Abbey has found another way to have its rum stand out from the competition. While many Bajan distilleries create their rum in large batches, St. Nicholas Abbey is committed to creating the rum in traditional small batches.
I definitely recommend taking a tour during your trip to St. Nicholas Abbey. You can learn all about the building’s history, discover the rum-making process, and even try a few samples of rum yourself. And, just in case you were wondering, the sugar cane that is used to make the rum is brought from a nearby sugar factory (since St. Nicholas Abbey is no longer a functioning sugarcane plantation house).
Experience Crop Over Festival
If you happen to be in town during the Crop Over Festival, you need to experience this cultural and historical festivity.
The roots of the Crop Over Festival are actually quite interesting. It started in 1687 as a way for sugarcane workers to celebrate the end of the sugar season. These workers pulled all their carts together like a little parade, officially creating the Crop Over Festival.
Today, the Crop Over Festival is a little different. With good food, live music, fun costumes, and thousands of partiers, the Crop Over Festival has a Carnivale-esque feel. In the past, major Caribbean musicians, including Rihanna, have performed at this lively event.
The Crop Over Festival takes place for three months over the course of the summer. It usually culminates in August with Grand Kadooment Day. This grand finale of the Crop Over Festival takes place on Mighty Grynner Highway, where you can watch the exciting Grand Kadooment Day parade.
What are you most looking forward to doing on your vacation to Barbados? Let me know in the comments below!
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