photo by ben matthews :::

Barbados is an island in the Caribbean, northeast of Venezuela. The island is portrayed as the little England of the Caribbean because of its long association as a British colony.


Barbados has experienced several waves of human habitation. The first wave were of the Saladoid-Barrancoid group, farmers, fishermen, and ceramists who arrived by canoe from Venezuela's Orinoco Valley around 350 AD. The Arawak people were the second wave, arriving from South America around 800 AD. Arawak settlements on the island include Stroud Point, Chandler Bay, Saint Luke's Gully, and Mapp's Cave. According to accounts by descendants of the aboriginal Arawak tribes on other local islands, the original name for Barbados was Ichirouganaim. In the 13th century, the Caribs arrived from South America in the third wave, displacing both the Arawak and the Salodoid-Barrancoid. For the next few centuries, they lived in isolation on the island.

The name "Barbados" comes from a Portuguese explorer named Pedro Campos in 1536, who originally called the island Los Barbados ("The Bearded Ones"), after the appearance of the island's fig trees, whose long hanging aerial roots resembled beards. Between Campos' sighting in 1536 and 1550, Spanish conquistadors seized many Caribs on Barbados and used them as slave labor on plantations. The others fled the island, moving elsewhere.

Barbados was formally settled by the British in 1627. After several failed crops of cotton, sugarcane was introduced, and the colony established itself as a profitable plantation economy. Enslaved Africans were the primary source of labour on these plantations until 1834, when they won their freedom through several years of rebellion, supported by increasing pressure from anti-slavery movements in Britain.

The economy remained heavily dependent on sugar, rum, and molasses production through most of the 20th century. Though the shackles were removed, much of the repressive labour conditions of slavery remained on the island, until the 1930s, when the educated black middle class fought for universal adult suffrage and took the control of the country's local governance away from the British-descended local aristocracy. The country began a process of social and political reforms in the 1940s and 1950s which led to complete independence from the UK in 1966. In the 1980s, tourism and manufacturing surpassed the sugar industry in economic importance. Barbados has developed into a stable democracy with one of the highest rates of literacy in the Western Hemisphere.

Locals refer to themselves as Bajans and things Barbadian as Bajan.


The island of Barbados has eleven parishes and can be divided into roughly five parts:

  • Bridgetown, including the capital city of Barbados and surrounding areas in St. Michael Parish.

  • Central Barbados, including the parishes of St. George, St. Thomas and parts of St. Joseph, St. John, St. Lucy and St. Andrew. Harrison Cave, the site of a massive limestone cavern, is one of the major attractions of Central Barbados, as well as Barbados Wildlife Reserve and Flower Forest to name a few. Luxury activities like golf and polo are also to be found.

  • Eastern Barbados, (the East Coast) the rugged Atlantic side of the island. Crane Beach in St. Philip Parish (South-East), Bathsheba in St. Joseph Parish and Bath in St. John are some of the more popular East Coast beaches. Also includes the less traveled parishes of St. John and St. Andrew. Bathsheba is a popular area, with the island's best-known surfing spot (The Soup Bowl) and tide pools - ideal for soaking. Cattlewash is a long stretch of beach with very rough waters. Other fishing villages include: Martin's Bay and Consett Bay in St. John.

  • Western Barbados, (the West Coast) the calm, Caribbean Sea side of the island covering the parishes of St. James, St. Peter and St. Lucy. Holetown and Speightstown are the two main towns.

  • Southern Barbados, (the South Coast) the parishes of Christ Church and parts of St. Michael and St. Philip. Includes St. Lawrence Gap, a lively area full of bars and restaurants; Oistins, famous for its Friday fish fry on the beach; and Grantley Adams International Airport. Most of the budget hotels, guesthouses, and apartment are located here. Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary is located here as well.


Barbados has the following towns and cities:

  • Bridgetown - 'Capital'

  • Holetown

  • Oistins

  • Speightstown

Getting there

By plane

Sir Grantley Adams International Airport (IATA : BGI),(ICAO : TBPB) For its size, Barbados boasts a large international airport with dozens of flights arriving in the high season from the UK and Canada as well as the United States. BMI, Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have many flights to Barbados while American Airlines is the dominant carrier from the United States (Miami and New York). Air Canada and Westjet fly from Canada. The airport is 13km (8 miles) east of Bridgetown. Buses run from a stop across the road from the airport up the coast to Bridgetown, Holetown, and Speightstown, but a taxi is the most convenient way to get to your hotel on arrival.

By boat

Many cruise ships dock in the Bridgetown deep water harbour, just expanded to accommodate even more vessels. Private moorings are available around the island. Note: stiff penalties prohibit the dropping of anchors on coral reefs.

Get around

Driving is on the left. The bus system is extensive, cheap, and fast - if you're headed to somewhere on the main route - but a car (or mini-moke) is the only way to see many of the out-of-the-way sights. Many of the drivers will hold a bus for you if they see you're from out of town reflecting the typical welcoming spirit. Buses are run by the Barbados Transport Board (blue color) and are quiet. Private operators include the yellow buses, which play very loud music, and private mini-vans (white color), which are usually cramped and crowded. The two privately run means of transport are often driven very fast and recklessly. All charge the same fare (BD$1.50). Yellow buses and minivans offer change and even accept US dollars. BTB buses only accept local currency and do not give change.

There are also more than enough taxis to take you wherever you need to go on the island for reasonable prices. They do not use meters and it is best to negotiate the price before you get in. However, most taxi drivers are honest and you are unlikely to be overcharged. Be sure to ask the management of the hotel or friendly locals what the going rate is for a cab ride to your destination.

Renting a car is a little on the expensive side. If you are driving, be aware that the roads on the island are generally quite narrow, with the exception of the ABC highway. The highway also has several long sections towards the west coast that is under large scale construction to expand the road to accommodate additional lanes. It is advisable to be extra cautious as many roads on the island have sharp turns, steep inclines, and are generally quite bumpy, although most are paved. Many of these proclaimed highways do not have sidewalks, so there can be pedestrians on the street sharing the road. Many bus stops are also on the side of roads where there are no sidewalks. Additionally, beware of impromptu passing lanes as slow drivers are often passed by others behind them when on two lane roads.

At most all of the local car rental agencies, a full Collision Damage Waiver policy is automatically included with the rental, except for any damage incurred to the car tires, a testament to the poor condition of the smaller roads and tendency of foreign drivers to miscalculate driving lanes and hit curbs.

Mopeds and bikes can also be rented to explore sites that aren't easily reached by cars. This isn't highly recommended however due to the poor condition of many of the secondary and residential roads. Except for the main highway, all the other roads provide a hazardous journey to the moped or bike rider due to no sidewalks, frequent pot holes, sharp corners and speeding local buses.

Another fun way to get around is to rent a moke available from any number of local car rental agencies.


The official language in Barbados is English. Bajan (occasionally called Barbadian Creole or Barbadian Dialect), is an English-based creole language spoken by locals. Bajan uses a mixture of West African idioms and expressions along with British English to produce a unique Barbadian/West Indian vocabulary and speech pattern. There are a few African words interspersed with the dialect. Communication will not be a problem for any English speaker as Barbados has one of the highest literacy rates in the Western Hemisphere of around 99.9 percent.


The west coast holds numerous deluxe resorts, and it and the interior highlands have several historical sites with picturesque views. Numerous web sites offer details.

Things to do


The local currency is the Bajan dollar, but US dollars are accepted just about everywhere in shops and restaurants. The exchange rate is fixed at 1.98 Bajan dollars to the US Dollar but almost everyone uses US$1 = BD$2. Keep in mind that exchangers in hotels may insist on taking an additional percentage of the exchange (typically 5%).

Many "duty free" shops cater to visitors, e.g., from cruise ships. Bridgetown's main street hosts numerous jewelers. At least one department store in Bridgetown (Cave Shepherd) offers a wide range of mercantile. Many others offer virtually everything a visitor or resident might need. A small mall at the harbor also offers decent prices and selection (e.g., to cruise ship passengers), though goods produced in Barbados may be slightly more expensive there than elsewhere on the island.

Barbados has a well-deserved reputation for producing excellent rum, e.g., Mount Gay. Rum distilleries are usually open for tours, and typically offer samples and product for sale at prices often equal to the best found anywhere else. (See also "Drink" below)

Barbados has a great variety of street vendors. Haggle aggressively. Don't stop until you're at about a third of the original price.

The fine Arts flourish in Barbados and many galleries and studios have shows on all year round which change every few weeks. Details of monthly arts happenings may be viewed on , which creates a page showing events, workshops and opening receptions.

See also the note about "Weekend Shut Down" at the end of the "Eat" section below.


(Individual listings can be found in the Barbados articles.)

Do flying fish fly?

Yes and no. Flying fish can break through the surface of the water and fly distances of up to 100 yards at about 30 miles per hour, but they do not actually fly the same way as birds, because birds vibrate their wings during flight. Instead, the flying fish gets its power and speed from its tail fin, which it moves from side to side with powerful strokes.

  • Flying fish -- the icon of the islands is found on coins, bills, and menus. Flying fish is usually served lightly breaded and fried, with a yellow sauce. Be warned: this yellow sauce consists of VERY hot Scotch Bonnet peppers with onions in a mustard sauce.

  • Pepperpot -- a dish of long tradition and great pride among the Bajans, it is a pork stew in a spicy dark brown sauce. Don't miss this.

  • Try "cutters," a local sandwich. Varieties include flying fish cutters, ham cutters and the popular "bread and two."

  • Visitors seeking fast food will probably be disappointed; the titanic burger chains of the US failed miserably upon introduction to Barbados (Bajans eat nearly no beef). However, chicken and fish sandwiches are wildly popular, so KFC and Chefette are ubiquitous.

  • Bajan cuisine is a strange mix of spicy, flavorful treats along with bland traditional English fayre. So be prepared for meals where fiery stews sit side-by-side with beans on toast.

  • Every Friday night the place to be is the town of Oistins (on the south coast) for the "fish fry". This is a market where you can buy fresh fish cooked according to local recipes. Locals stay there late and dance until the early hours of the morning. This is now the second most popular tourist attraction on the island, after Harrison's Cave.

  • There are many fine restaurants on the island with the top two being The Cliff (on the west coast) and The Restaurant at South Sea (on the south coast). Both are quite expensive, but serve beautiful food and a wonderful dining experience, overlooking the sea. Still, you can find many hidden gems if you look hard enough. Waterfront Cafe on the Careenage is an excellent place to sample Bajan Cuisine while sipping the local Banks Beer or a spicy Rum Punch.

  • Fish cakes, BBQ pig tails, fresh coconut, and roasted peanuts are offered by the many street vendors.

Weekend shut down! Everything shuts down on the weekend so plan ahead especially if you are self-catering. Most stores are open till noon on Saturday and then nothing opens till Monday morning. On holiday weekends (Good Friday, national holidays, etc.) that fall on or close to a weekend stores may be closed for three or four days at a stretch. Convenience stores attached to gas stations may stay open but don't assume they will be.


Barbados has some of the purest water in the world that can be drunk straight from the tap. Cruise ship employees are often seen stocking up on their water supplies while docked at the island.

Rum and rum drinks are featured at every bar. Perhaps the most famous domestic brand offered is Mount Gay Rum, which is very delicious. Modest cost tours of the Mount Gay Rum distillery are available, and they offer samples of all their rums...also sold at attractive prices.

Small establishments called rum shops can be found all over Barbados. They are where local citizens (95% men) meet to catch up on the local news. Drop in and you can easily have a conversation with a real Barbadian.

Beer and wine is easy to find as well. Banks beer is Barbados' own beer and very good. Tours of the Banks brewery are also available. While the tour itself is very hot and only moderately interesting an unlimited amount of beer is provided to those waiting for the tour to begin. Try to show up a few hours early and take advantage of a very good deal.


Barbados offers everything from inexpensive guest houses with bed and breakfast from under $40 U.S daily for a single in the summer to luxury accommodations at some of the world's best hotels at $1,600 in the prime season.

Barbados apartments and apartment hotels offer the comfort of a hotel room combined with the convenience of your own cooking facilities. Most are located on/near the beach and are especially suitable for families.

There is a wide selection of luxury villas and cottages available for rent throughout Barbados. Many of these villas and cottages are located on or near the beach.

Privately owned vacation rentals are often rented at much lower costs than hotel or resort rooms. There is a wide selection of these holiday properties available throughout Barbados and many are located on or near the beach. Vacation properties range from beach houses to condos and apartments.

  • Bajan Breeze Guest House , Hart's Gap, Christ Church, Cell: (246) 269 9851 karen@bajanbreeze.com. Beautiful guesthouse rooms US $49 with private bath in a newly renovated home. 2-minute walk to beaches. Convenient to dining, shops, nightlife, transport, and attractions.

  • Gurland House, -Luxury Villa Sandy Lane Estate, St James, West Coast. Gurland House is a 4/5 Bedroom Luxury villa situated on the old 9 hole Sandy Lane Golf Course. Included: All Bedrooms have ensuite, Dining Area, Central Cortyard, Lounge, Pool, Fully fitted Kitchen. House has also its own private Cabana located on the Sandy Lane Estate Beach , info@barbadoscaribbean.net.

  • Hilton Barbados .Needham's Point St Michael, Bridgetown. Tel: 1-246-426-0200.

  • Sandy Lane Hotel, Luxury hotel which was a former sugar plantation. This hotel is at the top end of the luxury budget.

  • Sea Breeze Hotel , excellent mid range (price wise) four star hotel which has a swimming pool and beautiful beach front. Sea Breeze is conveniently located close to the airport on the Maxwell Coast Road and specialises in weddings and afternoon tea.

  • Studio Apartment at Rockley Golf and Country Club , 619 Bushy Park - This spacious studio sleeps 4, has a fully equipped kitchenette, A/C, 2 double beds, a communal pool and patio with a wonderful view of the golf course. In 10 minutes, walk to beaches, restaurants, shopping, supermarkets and more.

  • Sunset Blue Villa , 20 Halcyon Heights, St. James. A luxury villa and apartment located near Holetown in the parish of St. James. Ten minute walking distance to beaches, restaurants, and shops. Features wireless broadband internet access.

  • 1 Bedroom Apartment at Rockley Golf and Country Club , 611 Bushy Park - This 1 bedroom apartment sleeps 4, has a fully equipped kitchen, A/C in bedroom, 1 queen bed in bedroom and double sofabed in the living room, open-concept living/dining area with ceiling fan, a communal pool and a wonderful view of the golf course. In 10 minutes, walk to beaches, restaurants, shopping, supermarkets and more.


  • Bellairs Research Institute is a teaching and research facility operated by Montreal's McGill University focusing on marine biology and environmental studies.

  • Barbados Hospitality Institute operates the The Hotel Pommarine

  • Barbados Community College

  • The University of the West Indies - Cave Hill Campus

Stay safe

Although generally a safe place to travel, there has been a steep incline of crime in 2008. It is wise for tourists to avoid certain high risk activities. Such activities include walking on secluded beaches, day or night, and walking in unfamiliar residential neighborhoods or secluded areas away from main roads. Tourists, particularly women, should always stay in groups.

The most common kinds of crimes against tourists include taxi fraud, robbery, and shortchanging; however, rape and assaults are becoming more common. Most Bajans are by nature friendly, especially in the earlier part of the tourist season (November and December).

A special area of concern for visitors to Barbados is drugs. The country's strict anti-drug policy is made apparent to visitors coming through Customs. In practice, however, Europeans and Americans in Barbados can be offered marijuana or even cocaine frequently. Sellers will often roam the beaches selling aloe vera or other such innocuous goods as a pretense to begin a conversation about "ganja," "smoke" or "bad habits." As a result, many hotels and resorts now ban the use of aloe vera under the pretense that it "stains the towels." Regardless of one's inclination to using these drugs, it is not advisable to accept these offers. Marijuana is considered bad and is not accepted by Bajan police. While Bajan police are not frequently encountered, they prosecute drug crimes with great prejudice.

Care should also be taken going into the sea. Many people underestimate just how powerful the currents can be and rip tides have claimed lives over the years. Always look out for warning flags.

Stay healthy

Beware of the sun, Barbados is only 13 degrees off of the equator and you can get sun burnt very easily. It is very important to keep your water intake high. Drink plenty of water or bring an umbrella to shade yourself against the sun, which is commonly done in the country.

During nightfall, it is advisable to put on bug spray, as mosquitoes are often a nuisance to anyone staying outdoors for prolonged periods. This is most prevalent while eating at outdoor restaurants.


Despite, or maybe because of the tropical climate, Bajans tend to dress conservatively when not on the beach. A bikini probably won't be appreciated in town and certainly not in church.

Barbadians are particularly sensitive to manners and saying good morning to people even strangers goes a long way to earning their respect.

When meeting a Barbadian, try not to discuss politics, and racial issuses. Talk is also important because Barbadians when speaking in Creole or (Bajan) as it is called, tend to speak fairly fast with their words.

The use of the "N" word is an extreme NO, but when talking to friends, words such a "B" which is short for "Bro", and "Dawg" are used to describe or refer to a friend, initially these words should not be used unless you know the person well.

Barbadians are mostly fun loving, and love to go out and have fun, this is noted by the large number of young people found in the clubs and on the Southern Coast of the island. Try not to stare at persons without good cause. If you happen to bounce into someone in a club, you should immediately apologise to the person.

Keep in mind that Barbadians are very protective of family and insults to a person's family are taken with high seriousness, this also relates to their views on issues such as homosexuality; even though most Barbadians do not agree with the practice, your rights are still respected.


There are several small internet cafes located around the island as well as connections offered by the larger resort hotels.

Contact & location

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English - Barbadian dollar (BBD)
Area431 sq km
Electricity115V/50Hz (North American plug)
Governmentparliamentary democracy
Population279,912 (July 2006 est.)
ReligionProtestant 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other 12%), Roman Catholic 4%, none 17%, other 12%