Welcome to my Barbados naked series. Here I will provide you with details of things to see and do on the island and recommend restaurants, bars and excursions that I have either experienced myself or had guests tell me just how good they really are. I hope that you find the information useful for your trip or research of the island and would be very pleased if you feel you could add anything to my information. If you do please do drop me a line at [email protected] and we’ll look to add it to our ‘Barbados Naked’ feature for future readers. Please enjoy reading the articles which I will be posting weekly. The series starts this week with an introduction to Barbados, the main tourist knowledge points, some history and facts and figures.
Next week we’ll find out about restaurants and food on the island. I’ll be supplying details of the best restaurants in each town and district and giving you a flavour (if you’ll pardon the pun!) of what they offer. I’ll also detail some of the local dishes that you should try and while there.
Then comes activites. Barbados really does make the most of it’s weather. There are lots of activities to get engaged in from relaxing on the beach to the more energetic pursuits such as diving, watersports and or course golf.
Excursions follows that with a guide on what to do and when. This guide gives you all you need to know to actually ‘do it yourself’, so standby for a full breakdown of the island with contact details for excursion providers and tour operators.
You really can’t go all the way to Barbados and not sample the nightlife now can you!! Well click through during week 5 of my Naked Barbados series to find out which are hot and which are not. From beach bars to the high life of the West Coast this instalment has it all. Barbados naked it most certainly is!!
I have previously completed the top ten beaches in Barbados. Tune in to week six for an indepth look at the best beaches. I’ll be reviewing nearly all of them on the island so you can feast your eyes on those that the tourists don’t know about.
Week seven provides a calendar of events for 2009. Make sure you don’t miss a thning with an indepth study of all that there is going on in 2009.
And we finish in week eight. A whistlestop tour of all that is Naked Barbados!! I’ll round off my series for those specialist trips, getting married? Then tune in, fancy a nature trail? Then click through… it’s all here in this last ‘round up’ week.
So with no time to waste here is my opening piece. Please enjoy!!
Barbados is well connected to Britain and North America, and currently has a limited service from Continental Europe. With so many incoming flights it acts as a hub to other islands within the South Eastern Caribbean. This makes the island an excellent island hopping base if you intend on visiting other islands. VIPvillas.com can organise separate stays in luxury villas on more than one Caribbean island for you.
The following airlines serve Barbados:
British Airways from Gatwick
Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick and Manchester
Caribbean Airlines (former BWIA) from Gatwick using British Airways codeshare
BMI from Manchester.
Martinair from Amsterdam
Condor from Frankfurt
US Airways from Philadelphia
American Airlines from New York & Miami
Air Jamaica from New York (JFK)
Delta Air Lines from Atlanta.
Air Canada from Toronto
Caribbean Airlines (former BWIA), Air Jamaica, LIAT, and American Eagle, which have flights across the Caribbean. Flights to the Grenadines are served by SVG air, TIA 2000 and Mustique Airways – the three airlines also operate together as Grenadines Airways.
One very useful fact to know is that there are a number of flights from Barbados to the Grenadines, both as day tours and as transfers, that are known as ‘shared charters’. Practically speaking they run every day, but because they are run by charter airlines, rather than scheduled companies, they are not listed on the international computer systems. See below for the airlines that offer shared charter to the Grenadines.
Caribbean Airlines (former BWIA)
Trans Island Air/TIA 2000
Day trips to other islands:
Fly to Union Island and join a Catamaran for a day sail, with snorkelling and swimming stops in Mayreau, Tobago Keys and Palm Island. $640 including lunch and drinks.
One day air tours to the Grenadines, St Lucia, St Vincent and Young Island, and Grenada.
If you would like to charter a plane, then they are available through:
St Barth Commuter
A local airline based in St Barths, which offers scheduled flights from there to St Martin/St Maarten and Caribbean private aircraft charters to islands all over the Eastern Caribbean. They have a fleet of five twin-engine planes and five specially trained (STOL) pilots with permission to land in St Barths.
A local Caribbean airline that offers charters to the Grenadines from around the region, often from Barbados, but also from St Lucia and Grenada, even from as far as Puerto Rico. SVG Air has around a dozen 5-19-seater planes and also offers island hopping and air ambulance services.
Grantley Adams International Airport (airport code BGI, after Bridgetown, the island’s capital) is located approximately 10 miles/16km south east of Bridgetown city centre. VIPvillas.com have luxury portfolio of West Coast Villas in Barbados for you to choose from; they really are sheer luxury!
The airport has recently undergone a multi-million dollar expansion with the major phase completed in 2007. This included the construction of a new, much larger arrivals terminal which now houses 22 immigration work stations, five large luggage carousels and two duty free shops. The old arrivals hall has become part of an extended departure lounge and houses a new airside food court and retail concourse. Other facilities include a bank and postal services. Approximately four air bridges are part of the next set of improvements and there has been talk of enclosing the check-in area and installing air-conditioning.
PASSPORTS & VISAS
As a visitor to Barbados you will require a passport which is valid for at least 6 months from your date of entry, along with a valid return airline ticket. This now applies to all American and Canadian citizens, whilst British citizens are required to hold a full 10-year passport. American, Canadian, British and EU citizens do not require a visa for short stays. Other nationalities please check with the Barbados High Commission or with your travel organiser for entry requirements
The bus system in Barbados is a good one and the fleet of blue and yellow buses (BM licence plate) reaches every corner throughout the island on a regular basis. You will need exact change for the buses and they stop only at official bus stops, which are marked either ‘To City’ or ‘Out of City’ in a red and white circle. The destination is displayed over the front windscreen.
The Government service is supplemented by privately operated mini-buses (B licence plate) that are painted yellow with a blue stripe down the side, and route taxis (ZR licence) which are white with a burgundy stripe. These buses do give change, and they also play local music (somewhat loud at times) and can be hailed down anywhere on route. Destinations are usually on a sign placed in the bottom left-hand corner of the windscreen, and routes normally painted on the sides of the buses. It should be noted that ZR vans are an adventure as well as a mode of transport. They tend to stop at the drop of a hat and travel at speeds which are not for the faint hearted. But then they’ll go out of their way to drop a granny with her shopping outside her house. Avoid travelling at peak times when buses are packed to the limit. The fare to any destination is Bds$1.50 one-way. Depending on the routes, during the week buses can operate from as early as 5.30am to as late as 12.30pm.
For more information on the Government Transport Service, telephone Barbados 436 6820
Hiring a car is an excellent addition to a visit to the Caribbean, but particularly so in Barbados because there is plenty to do and because the island is surprisingly good to explore. There are some delightful beaches cut into the cliffs of the south east, which make for an excellent day out and picnic, and the Atlantic coast is wonderfully dramatic. Getting lost in the canefields is almost par for the course, so don’t worry when you do. Just stop and ask and someone is bound to help. Finally, there are all the restaurants to visit in the evening. From an island perspective, cars are a vital aspect of local life. The Bajans would prefer to drive a few hundred yards to work than to walk and so there is actually a rush hour each morning and evening. There are a staggering 1719 kms of paved road network on the island.
A local driving permit is required to drive in Barbados. This costs Bds$10 and can be obtained from the car hire company when you hire the car, or at any police station. If you are visiting during the winter season and know that you will want a car then it is advisable to book it well in advance otherwise, due to demand, it will be impossible to get hold of one. VIP villas can secure excellent car hire rates for you; better than the main car hire companies. You must have held a licence for at least two years to hire a car in Barbados, and be at least 21 years of age and under 75 years of age.
Indicative prices can be found below.
2007-08 Stoutes Car Rentals Rate Guide in US$ per day/week:
Mini Moke Auto (4str) – 61/265
Jimny Jeep (Soft top) Auto (4str) – 69/320
Terios Jeep 1500cc (Hard top) A/C Auto (5str) – 85/420
Vitara Jeep 2000cc (Hard top) A/C Auto (5str) – 95/490
Rates are in US$, subject to 15% VAT and are valid 16 Dec 2007 to 15 December 2008.
Comprehensive insurance is included in the rental rate except for a deductible of US$1,500 in case of loss, accident or damage to the vehicles – regardless of fault.
A collision damage waiver (CDW) is offered to cover this deductible at a cost of US$49/week or US$10/day. Clients are charged for the petrol in the vehicles at the time of hire, and should return the vehicles empty. Child seats and booster seats are available for hire on request. Car hire rates, CDW, petrol, and extras such as child and booster seats are subject to 15% VAT. Payment is made for the hire at the time of delivery.
DRIVING & PARKING
Driving is on the left on Barbados, don’t forget your driving licence!
Generally speaking drivers are fairly courteous and, being quite conservative, they tend to abide by the Highway Code. However do be cautious going around roundabouts, as not all drivers know which lane they ought to be in. You will also need to keep an eye out for Z vans and minibuses which stop in the middle of the road at the drop of a hat. Try to avoid going anywhere during the rush hour, when all of the major roads heading into Bridgetown, Holetown and the South Coast tend to be back-to-back with traffic (the local radio stations have traffic reports during both the morning and evening rush hours). Almost every household on the island seems to own a car, and for those that do not there are plenty of families who have more than one. Some children still walk to school, so as there are very few pavements (sidewalks) you should drive with caution during the start/finish of the school day. Take special care when going around blind corners in rural areas.
Drink driving laws are being introduced so check for new regulations.
Seat belts are compulsory and failure to wear one attracts a fine of Bds$500. The speed limit in Barbados is 37 mph/60 kph except on the highways (55 mph/80 kph) and in Bridgetown (20 mph/32 kph).
The parking fee for official car parks in Bridgetown, and at the airport, is currently Bds$1 per hour or part thereof, and $6 for the whole day. Tickets are issued on entering and payment is made on exit.
Taxis are widely available around Barbados (if you can’t find one just walk into the nearest hotel and they’ll find one for you), with taxi stands located at the airport, Bridgetown Harbour, and Bridgetown at Independence Square Lower, Broad Street and Heroes Square, South Coast at Accra Beach – Hastings Rocks, West Coast at Sunset Crest Shopping Centres 1 and 2.
Taxis are not metered. Instead the fares are fixed. However it is always a good idea to confirm the cost of your journey before setting off.
Rates by distance should not exceed Bds$2.50 per mile or Bds$1.50 per kilometre. The flat rate per hour is Bds$32, with waiting time Bds$7 per hour between 6am to 10pm, and Bds$8 per hour between 10pm and 6am.
Generally the climate in Barbados is pretty benign and there are only a couple of issues that you can encounter here that are not in Europe or the States. Check that your coverage for polio and tetanus is up to date. There is no malaria in Barbados, but there are very occasional outbreaks of dengue fever – another mosquito-borne disease which happens after considerable rain. You should take normal precautions against mosquito bites. If you are susceptible then make sure to use insect repellent during daylight hours and after sunset.
Visitors’ prescriptions can be fulfilled by local pharmacies, following consultation with a local physician.
The medical facilities in Barbados are among the best in the Caribbean. There are eight polyclinics throughout the island and two hospitals.
The general hospital is Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in Bridgetown which has 600 beds and operates a 24 hour A&E department.
There is also a modern private facility at the Bay View Hospital in St Michael which does not have an A&E Dept., however there is the FMH Emergency Medical Clinic in St Michael.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into Barbados, though you may with to check with your GP prior to travelling. There is one exception, for travellers who have come from areas infected with of Yellow Fever, where a vaccination certificate is required from travellers over one (1) year of age.
Domestic current will operate appliances designated for 115/230 volts AC, 50 Cycles, with 2-pin US style plugs and sockets.
Barbados has a pretty good telecommunications system and it has recently been deregulated so that mobile phones from abroad will work (though calls can still be pretty expensive). The networks are Cable & Wireless, Digicel and AT&T Wireless.
The international dialling code for Barbados is +1 246 followed by seven digits. When on-island simply dial the seven digits. If you are staying in a villa do check to see if the phone allows international calls, as some have debars, which will need to be lifted, and for which there is a deposit.
Internet services are available at most hotels, and some villas, plus a number of internet cafes have now opened. Cellular phones can be rented or a roaming feature can be added to your own mobile
Overseas phone calls can be made from any phone booth around the island, payment for which is by credit card or a local pre-paid calling card.
Barbados is 4 hours behind GMT and so during the winter it is four hours behind Britain and five behind the rest of Europe, and an hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the States. Barbados has no daylight saving time in the summer so the island is then five hours behind British Summer Time (six behind the rest of Europe) and on the same time as the eastern seaboard of the United States.
There are Barbados Tourism Authority information offices at the airport, between the arrivals hall before Immigration and the Departure Lounge, t 428 0937; at the Deep Water Harbour (where the cruise ships come in), t 426 1718; and at the BTA’s main office on Harbour Road, Bridgetown, t 427 2623.
Outside Barbados you will find BTA offices in the following places:
Britain: 263 Tottenham Court Road, London W1 P 7LA, t 020 7636 9448, [email protected]
Canada: 105 Adelaide St West, Suite 1010, Toronto, Ontario M5H 1P9, t (416) 214 9880, toll free 1800 268 9122, [email protected]
USA: 800 Second Ave, New York NY 10017, t (212) 986 6516, [email protected]; 3440 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1215, Los Angeles, CA 90010, t (213) 380 2198, [email protected]; 150 Alhambra Circle Suite 1000, Coral Gables, Florida 33134, t (305) 442 7471, [email protected]
DEPARTURE TAX & TAXES
Departure tax is no longer payable at the airline check-in desk as it should be included in the cost of your airline ticket – please check your ticket to confirm this. This tax (passenger service charge) is payable by all passengers leaving the island (exempt for stays under 24 hours) and over the age of 12 years. The amount increased to Bds$55/US$27.50 on 1st February 2007.
Hotel and villa accommodation incurs a 7.5% government room tax and a service charge in Barbados, which is normally added to your bill (unless you are staying in an all-inclusive hotel). It can make quite a difference to the eventual price of your holiday, so if you are booking direct make sure you calculate it in when pricing up your trip.
A 15% VAT applies to most services including car hire, tourist attractions, restaurants, retail (apart from Duty Free items), excursions etc, but this is usually included in the published price, except for car hire rates, which are usually quoted excluding VAT so you’ll need to add it.
Barbados boasts that it has 3000 hours of sunshine each year. Certainly even within the Caribbean it has an excellent climate. Temperatures vary by just a few degrees across the year and because it is surrounded by sea the island rarely gets too hot, except occasionally in summer, particularly if it is still. Generally though, there is a breeze to take the edge off the heat. The best time to visit is in the winter, when the northern hemisphere is at its coldest in February, though this is of course the high season and the most expensive time.
The rainiest time of year is over the late summer months between August and late October. Often the sun comes back out after a shower, but occasionally a blanket of cloud will spin off a weather system in the northern hemisphere and may cover the island with cloud for a few days.
Barbados lies just on the edge of the hurricane belt, but has not been seriously affected in recent years.
Most of the water in Barbados is artesian water, rainwater that has soaked into the limestone structure of the land. Generally it is drinkable from the tap and tastes good, but in restaurants you will be offered a choice of bottled or local water. However, with so much pressure on existing groundwater supplies in recent years, a desalination (the largest in the Caribbean) facility is now in operation, which provides water for 20% of the island’s population, currently within the Spring Garden Highway area where the plant is located. Sandy Lane Hotel also has a desalination system.
Piped water was introduced to Bridgetown in 1861, and to commemorate the event an ornamental fountain, made in Britain, was erected in 1865 in what is now Heroes Square.
In general children are well received in Barbados, but some of the smarter hotels have an age restriction policy at certain times of year, especially during February and March. Others offer special children’s programmes. Most villas are well geared up for children too. It is easy to find babysitters and they cost approximately Bds$20 per hour, plus transport home.
There is not an abundance of playgrounds in Barbados at the moment, however six of the Chefette fast food outlets now have Kids Zones (air-conditioned at Rockley) and each playground has slides, cars and rides and other activities and also cater for parties. Pizzaz pizza restaurant in Sunset Crest in Holetown on the West Coast also has its own playground.
Apart from frolicking in the sea and building sand castles, there are a number of child friendly activities available on island: the Barbados Museum has a dedicated children’s gallery with an exhibition called ‘yesterdays children’ in the Kidd Gallery, Folkstone Marine Park near Holetown is a recreational underwater park with a snorkelling trail, an interpretive centre and museum with marine displays and a saltwater aquarium, there is also a picnic area, tennis and basketball courts and a playground. The Barbados Wildlife Reserve is popular with children for the animals on view, as is Atlantis Submarine and Harrison’s Cave. The Barbados Golf Academy has an 18 hole mini course with special rates for 14yrs and under. There is a Drive-in Cinema near the Sheraton Centre, which also has an indoor cinema. Farley Hill National Park has a picnic and play area. See later instalments of Naked Barbados for further Child friendly activities in Barbados.
Adventure Beach at The Boatyard has kayaks, pedal boats, glass bottom boats, ocean trampolines, a floating rock climbing ice-berg, beach volley ball and snorkelling. Accra Beach in the Rockley area is another popular beach spot and is good for boogie boarding with boards for hire. Batts Rock on the West Coast (close to Calabaza Restaurant) has good swimming and snorkeling, plus a small children’s playground with slides, swings and see-saws. There is a parking area, picnic benches, shower and changing facilities, and drinks machine.
Barbados has excellent facilities for corporate clients in all types of group, incentive and corporate travel and events. The island has good international and regional air links, making it easy to get to. Where accommodation is concerned, some of the VIPvillas larger villas can make ideal settings for smaller groups. Especially those that come staffed with chefs.
For meeting facilities outside of the featured properties note:
Sherbourne Conference Centre, St Michael, t 467 8200
Multi-level conference and event facility with 164,000sq ft of meeting and exhibition space, for trade shows, conferences and special events of up to 1200 persons, seated theatre style in the largest room. Eleven meeting rooms, five break-out rooms, two foyers and two dining rooms, mass media facilities and state of the art telecommunications equipment, infrared Simultaneous Interpretation System
Frank Collymore Hall, Central Bank Building, Bridgetown
The Grande Salle, at 61’x 29′, can be used for exhibitions, art showings and meetings, with five large & eleven small screens. The Meeting Room seats 70 and is equipped with presentation and projection equipment.
WHAT TO PACK
Consider the following items when packing for a trip to Barbados:
Adequate sun protection, high factor sun cream, sunglasses, hat/cap and a lightweight beach-shirt/blouse/t-shirt; suitable beach and walking shoes; mosquito repellent containing DEET suitable for use all day; cream for insect bites. Also consider and adapter plug, film and batteries for camera; toiletries; beach mat/towel; preferred brand of coffee/tea; small torch.
Clothes – lightweight cotton clothing, with elegant/casual attire for evenings. Note that most good restaurants and top hotels require that men wear long trousers and shirts in the evenings, not shorts, flip-flops or t-shirts. During the festive season people tend to dress up and a few of the more exclusive establishments may request jacket and tie. Women may wish to pack a lightweight wrap or jacket during the winter months, as the evenings (Jan/Feb) sometimes feel cool after the heat of the day.
You should be aware that it is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing in Barbados. It is also an offence to bring in meat products from the UK.
International and local commercial banks operating in Barbados include the Bank of Nova Scotia/Scotia Bank, Barbados National Bank, First Caribbean Bank, Caribbean Commercial Bank, Royal Bank of Canada and The Mutual Bank. The Central Bank of Barbados has been in operation since 1973. The island also offers offshore banking and insurance services.
Bank opening hours are Mon-Thurs 8am to 3pm and Fri 8am to 5pm. Most banks are closed on the weekend, but the Mutual Bank has two branches that open until 7pm on Fridays and until 2pm on Saturdays, and the Caribbean Commercial Bank opens from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. ATMs are located across the island, including the airport, harbour, some petrol stations and shopping malls. Note that ATMs will only give out Barbados Dollars (not US Dollars) and some charge for overseas cash transactions.
Banks require customers to show their passports when cashing traveller’s cheques. You will need to show a transaction slip as well if you wish to convert Barbadian dollars back to your home currency.
The currency of Barbados is the Barbados dollar (Bds), which is fixed to the US dollar at a rate of US$1.00 = Bds$1.98 (some street/beach vendors may do a straight 2 for 1). All prices on island are quoted in Barbados dollars, with the exception of hotel rates which are in US only, and duty free items where the local Bds$ price is shown alongside US dollar price. US dollars (notes only) are accepted throughout the island, however you will often find that the rate of exchange will not be as favourable in hotels, supermarkets and large stores as that in the bank.
Most of the major credit cards (including debit cards) are accepted anywhere that deals with tourists on a regular basis. Do not expect local bars or small local restaurants to accept them (if in doubt double check in advance), but you will find that the larger supermarkets often do. It is worth noting that certain credit cards may attract an additional charge.
Next week I’m covering restaurants and food on the island so make sure you click through to read it. I will detail specific restaurants and include contact details for them so put that together with the taxi numbers and you’re on your way!!