The Ultimate Barbados Travel Guide

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A tranquil white-sand beach in Barbados with two palm trees and two boats on the horizon.

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Heading to Barbados? Whether you’re stopping by for a Barbados shore excursion, a shorter visit, or a long-term stay, this Barbados travel guide will help you make the most of your trip!

About Barbados

Barbados is a tropical island country in the West Indies is known for beautiful beaches, friendly people, and being the birthplace of rum! It’s only 21 miles by 14 miles in size, but this small island has a huge, colorful personality.

Over 280,000 people call Barbados home and the capital city is Bridgetown. Tourism is a big industry on the island and many people choose to visit Barbados for vacation, shore excursions from cruise ships, and even for longer-term stays.

Related Post: 33 Fun Facts About Barbados

rock formations in Bathsheba Barbados

Weather In Barbados

The weather in Barbados is generally hot and sunny. Barbados has a wet and a dry season. The wet season runs from June to December and the dry season runs from January to May. Year-round, temperatures range from the low 70’s (F) to the high 80’s (F).

Are There Hurricanes In Barbados?

Generally, Barbados doesn’t get hit hard by hurricanes. Because of its location in the far east of the Caribbean, Barbados often misses the worst impacts of hurricanes in the region.

Passing storms might bring heavy rainfall, but it’s been many years since a hurricane hit Barbados that caused any damage.

When To Visit Barbados

While the weather in Barbados is almost always warm and sunny, most people prefer to visit during the dry season between December and June.

If you’d like to avoid the crowds, July through October is the low season and you’ll likely see fewer people and lower prices. The winter months tend to be the most crowded since many travelers come to Barbados to escape colder temperatures back home.

Money In Barbados

The currency in Barbados is called the Barbados Dollar (BBD). One Barbados dollar is worth $0.50 USD. While there are some businesses in Barbados that only take cash, cards are widely accepted in most establishments.

Getting To Barbados

The two main ways to get to Barbados are flying or taking a cruise ship.

Flying To Barbados

There is one international airport on the island of Barbados called Grantley Adams International Airport. The airport code is BGI and it is located on the south side of the island in Christchurch.

Normally, international fights between the USA, Canada, and the United Kingdom operate frequently, sometimes even multiple times per day. Flights from other destinations in Europe, South America, and the Caribbean are also usually available.

With increased travel restrictions in 2020, these flights are less common but still available.

Here are the estimated flight times to Barbados from major airports:

  • Miami to Barbados Flight Time: 3 hours, 35 minutes
  • New York to Barbados Flight Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes
  • Toronto to Barbados Flight Time: 5 hours, 15 minutes
  • London to Barbados Flight Time: 8 hours, 55 minutes

Check flight prices to Barbados on SkyScanner.

Taking A Cruise To Barbados

Many cruise lines offer cruise itineraries to Barbados. While you’ll have less time in Barbados than if you came for a traditional holiday, cruising to Barbados can be a great way to get a taste of the island and see other spots in the Caribbean.

Find Barbados cruises with popular cruise lines below:

It’s also possible to take a cruise that departs from Barbados and uses Bridgetown as its port of call. This is a good option if you’d like to see more of the island before sailing off to other Caribbean islands. You can see a list of cruises departing from Barbados here.

Also, make sure to check out the best Barbados cruise excursions in this post!

view looking out of animal flower cave barbados travel guide

Where To Stay In Barbados

There are many excellent places to stay in Barbados and because the island is so small, you can easily travel around different parts of the island quickly. When deciding where to stay, consider these popular areas!

West Coast: Also called the Platinum Coast with calm, turquoise beaches, most luxurious area of the island. See best west coast hotels.

South Coast: Great beaches for swimming and surfing, budget-friendly options available.

East Coast: Rugged beauty, best for experienced surfers and people who want to “get away from it all,” water is often too rough to swim. See best east coast hotels.

Read more about places to stay in Barbados:

Bridgetown, West/South Coast Barbados

Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados and the largest city on the island. If you’re traveling to Barbados on a cruise, this is where you’ll disembark. Bridgetown is known for good restaurants, easy access to boating activities, and the stunning Carlisle Bay and Brownes Beach areas.

Holetown, West Coast

Located on the famous west coast of Barbados is the luxurious Holetown neighborhood. Holetown is home to some impressive beach-front villas and incredibly calm water, making this an ideal location for anyone who wants a high-end escape.

Speightstown, West Coast

On the northwest corner of the island you’ll find the 400-year-old port town of Speightstown, Barbados. Speightstown is the second largest town in Barbados and is rich with history. 

Some of the first settlements in Barbados were located in the Speightstown area and this can be seen in the colonial architecture. History buffs who want a slower pace of life should consider staying in Speightstown.

St. Lawrence Gap, South Coast

St. Lawrence Gap is a lively area of Barbados and home to dozens of top bars, restaurants, and nightlife venues. If you’re looking for a party, The Gap is where you want to be. You’ll also have no shortage of beautiful white-sand beaches in this south coast neighborhood.

Oistins, South Coast

Oistins is a small fishing village on the south coast of Barbados. The atmosphere is laid back and there are incredible beaches, great surf, and a memorable night market on Fridays. If you’re looking for a quieter stay with a more local feel, Oistins is a great option.

Read more in this Oistins Travel Guide

South Point, South Coast

South Point is another surfers paradise! With easy access to Freights Bay, South Point, Silver Sands and Surfers Point, watersports enthusiasts will have no shortage of beaches to choose from. 

For the most part, South Point is a residential area with stylish apartments and villas on every corner. This is a great place to stay if you want peaceful, beachfront living without the price tag of the platinum (West) coast. 

St. Philip, South/East Coast

St. Philip is the parish in the southeastern corner of Barbados. With Atlantic Ocean views, sandy beaches, and plenty of historical spots to explore, St. Philip is a good choice for a quieter holiday in Barbados. 

Read more in this St. Philip Barbados travel guide.

Bathsheba, East Coast

Bathsheba is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Barbados and is located on the rugged east coast. Here, the landscape is more wild and the waves are perfect for advanced surfers. 

The pace of life is slower here. While you won’t have as many amenities as you would on other parts of the island, Bathsheba makes up for it in impressive nature and a peaceful atmosphere. 

  • Top Things To Do In Bathsheba: Surf Soup Bowl (advanced surfers only), Andromeda Botanical Gardens, Bath Beach, Dinner and Drinks at Round House
  • Places To Stay In Bathsheba: Eco Lifestyle and Lodge, Round House Inn

Getting Around Barbados

Even though Barbados is a tiny island, you’ll still need a way to get around. Some areas have sidewalks but in general, Barbados is not a particularly walkable destination. For that reason, it’s best to learn the public transportation options or rent a car.

Renting A Car

While you don’t need a car to enjoy your stay in Barbados, it’s nice to have one. Especially if you’re traveling with a large group or would like to do more off-the-beaten-path exploring, having a rental car can make your trip to Barbados more enjoyable. 

Popular Rental Car Companies on Barbados

  • Drive-A-Matic: Popular rental car company in the Caribbean, they pick up and drop off the car for you
  • Sixt Rent A Car: Available at the Barbados airport and hear Holetown
  • Stoutes Car Rental: This family-run rental car service in Barbados has vehicles for short-term and long-term rental

ZR Taxi Van

One of the best ways to get around Barbados is with Route Taxi vans, also called ZR (zed-R) vans. These vans are communal taxis that run on a set route throughout the day. You can identify these vehicles because they are white with a red stripe down the side and they have ZR in the license plate. 

The ZR taxis charge a flat rate of $3.50 Barbados (cash only) per person, per ride, regardless of how far you go. 

These vans cover most of the island and are the best low-cost way to get where you need to go. The vans typically run from around sunrise until midnight. Drivers are friendly and helpful. If you don’t know if a van is going to your destination, just ask before getting in. 

See the different routes here. 

Barbados Bus

There are two types of public buses that run on the island: yellow Mini-busses and larger blue busses. The bus fare is $3.50 Barbados or $1.75 USD. You’ll need cash in the local currency to ride the bus.

You can use the Moovit App to find the shortest route between destinations in Barbados.

  • See the Mini-Bus routes here
  • See the Blue Bus Routes here

Private Taxi

Private Taxis are available in Barbados but they come with an expensive price tag. Usually, taxis in Barbados don’t have meters and the price is decided before the ride begins. Make sure to ask your driver what the fare will be upfront to avoid confusion.

Best Things To Do In Barbados

You definitely won’t run out of things to do in Barbados! Adventure-lovers and beach-enthusiasts alike will enjoy the variety of activities Barbados has to offer.

Barbados Beaches

Barbados is known for having incredible beaches and so much of the island has beach access that you could practically walk all the way around the island! Whether you’re looking for a place to relax in the sun, go for a swim, snorkel the reef, or try water sports like surfing, Barbados beaches are the place to do it!

Just cruising by for a day? This post covers the best beaches that are close to the Barbados cruise port.

Read more about the best beaches in Barbados here!

Snorkeling in Barbados

With a vibrant reef and large sea turtle population, Snorkeling is a popular thing to do in Barbados! The West Coast and occasionally the South Coast have calm waters with high visibility for snorkeling and enjoying the wildlife.

One of the best places to snorkel in Barbados is Carlisle Bay because there are several shipwrecks within a short swim or boat ride from the shore. Check out the best Barbados snorkeling tours here!

Take a Barbados Catamaran Tour

Everyone should take a catamaran tour at least once during their visit to Barbados! Most companies offer lunchtime snorkeling tours and romantic sunset tours, as well as all-inclusive food and drinks. Learn more about the best Catamarans in Barbados in this post!

Surfing in Barbados

Barbados is a great place for beginners and advanced surfers! If you want to learn to surf, Freights Bay has gentle waves and calm conditions for beginners. Take a surfing lesson with Barbados School of Surf if you’re a first-timer, or rent a board if you want to go out independently.

You can read more about Barbados surfing in the posts below.

St. Nicholas Abbey

St. Nicholas Abbey is a historical plantation estate located in the northern central part of the island. Here, you can ride a restored steam engine to Cherry Tree Hill lookout point, explore the Great House, and sample rum at the St. Nicholas Abbey rum distillery.

Learn more about visiting St. Nicholas Abbey here.

Visit Mt. Gay Rum Distillery

Barbados is the home of rum, so of course, you have to visit a rum distillery while in Barbados! Mount Gay Rum is a popular distillery to visit and they offer tours, rum tastings, mixology lessons.

Learn about Visiting Mount Gay Rum Distillery here.

Explore Sam Lord’s Castle

On the southeastern coast of Barbados, you’ll find the remains of a mansion estate belonging to a famous Bajan buccaneer, Sam Lord.

Once a stunning home filled with historical artifacts, this property was turned into a hotel and later fell into disarray. Unfortunately in 2010, the home burned down, leaving just a skeleton behind.

Now, visitors can see the ruins and walk along coastal cliffs at the Sam Lord’s Castle viewpoint.

Learn more about Sam Lord’s Castle here.

Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry

On Friday Nights, the fishing village of Oistins is the place to be! Try some of the best seafood on the island and experience the festive atmosphere at the Oistins Fish Fry.

This event is casual and widely-attended by locals and visitors alike. Take some time to wander through the stalls and try some of the best traditional foods on the island, prepared with love! There is usually live entertainment later in the evening too.

Explore Harrison’s Cave

Harrison’s Cave is located in the center of the island and is the perfect place to learn about history, geology, and the power of mother nature. Ride through the beautiful cave system on a tram and see impressive stalagmites and caverns.

Watch the Sunset in Barbados

One of the highlights of any Barbados vacation is getting to watch the sunset over the ocean. Pull up a beach chair or head to a beach-front restaurant to watch the sky change colors and unwind after an exciting day.

Learn more about the best sunset spots in Barbados!

Foods To Try In Barbados

Speaking of traditional foods, you won’t want to miss these popular local dishes.

Roti: A roti is a thin wrap, similar to a tortilla or flatbread, that is served filled with curried vegetables or meats. Potatoes, chickpeas, and meat are all common fillings for this quick but tasty grab-and-go meal.

Buljol: A buljol is a type of salad made with chopped meat or vegetables and served with Fry Bake (or fried bread)

Cutter: A cutter is a type of sandwich served on local salt bread. Cutters can come with fish, meat, egg, and other toppings and are usually eaten for lunch. Head to the Cutters restaurant in St. Philip for an excellent homemade cutter!

Fresh Fish: There is no shortage of fresh fish and seafood in Barbados. One of the best places to try wildly fresh fish is at the Oistins Fish Fry on Friday nights.

Rum Punch: Barbados is the birthplace of rum, and their signature rum drink? Rum punch! This fruity, spiced drink is stronger than it seems, so proceed with caution. Try it at any bar on the island.

Discover some of the best restaurants in Barbados in this guide, and the best places for breakfast in Barbados in this post.

Health and Safety in Barbados

In general, Barbados is a very safe country to visit. Crime is infrequent and usually non-violent. There isn’t much dangerous wildlife in Barbados, but use caution when swimming, snorkeling, and diving since some lionfish, stonefish, and other stinging sea creatures can be found here.

In general, you should take normal travel precautions when visiting.

Can I Drink The Water In Barbados?

Yes, it is safe to drink tap water in Barbados. The tap water here is high in calcium so you might notice a white residue inside your kettle or coffee maker.

Health Care In Barbados

Barbados has great health care! In fact, Barbados offers universal health care for all its citizens. If you’re sick or injured in Barbados, you can visit a clinic or pharmacy to get the care you need.

When traveling, it’s always a good idea to purchase a travel medical insurance plan in case the unexpected happens.

What Are The Emergency Numbers In Barbados?

If you need police, medical, or fire assistance, you can use the following numbers to get help.

  • Police – 211
  • Ambulance – 511
  • Fire Department – 311

Digital Nomad Tips

In 2020, Barbados introduced their Welcome Stamp program which allows people to work remotely from the island for one year.

Digital Nomads love calling Barbados home because the internet on the island is exceptionally fast. Barbados also is in a similar time zone to North America, making it easy for those working remotely for a job back home.

Coworking opportunities are somewhat limited but seem to be on the rise. In the meantime, most digital nomads choose to work from one of the many cafes or coffee shops around the island.

You can learn more about traveling to Barbados as a digital nomad in this post.

What to Pack For Barbados

When packing for Barbados, remember you’ll be in a tropical country with warm temperatures day and night. Swimwear, warm-weather clothes, and sun protection are a must.

If you’re traveling during the rainy season, it’s helpful to bring an umbrella or raincoat in case you get caught in a storm.

In general, the style in Barbados is casual and laid-back. While there are some nicer restaurants and venues where dressing up is required, in most places, relaxed clothing is totally acceptable.

If you have them, these items are helpful to bring to Barbados

  • Snorkel gear, goggles, fins
  • Long-sleeve shirt with sun protection
  • Reef-safe sun screen
  • Strong bug-spray
  • Sunglasses
  • Flip Flops or comfortable walking sandals
  • Sun hat or baseball cap
  • Beach coverup or wrap
  • Light-airy clothing (avoid dark colors to stay cooler)
  • Backpack or beach bag that you don’t mind getting sandy
  • Reusable shopping bag (Barbados is trying to cut down on plastic waste)
  • Re-fillable water bottle
  • Contact Solution (if you use it, this is harder to find on the island)

Barbados Travel Guide Final Thoughts

Barbados is an awesome place to travel if you’re looking for relaxed vibes, pristine beaches, and plenty of fun watersports to keep you busy. The island has a contagious, joyful energy that will keep you coming back again and again.

More Barbados Travel Guides

ultimate barbados travel guide