by Andy Parr and DefinitiveCaribbean.com
Welcome to my Barbados naked series. This series of articles provides you with details of things to see and do on the island and recommends 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 to the island. Please enjoy reading the articles which I will be posting weekly. The series starts this week with an introduction to Barbados. Next week we will 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. We also have a free report that you can download by going online to our website. Details at the bottom of this report.
Week two will bring ‘Activites’. 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.
Week three will be ‘Excursions’ with a guide on what to do and when. This guide gives you all you need to know to actually ‘do it yourself’, a full breakdown of the island with contact details for excursion providers.
You really can’t go all the way to Barbados and not sample the nightlife now can you!! Well click 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!!
Week six has an in-depth 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.
And we finish in week eight. A whistle stop tour of all that is Naked Barbados!! I’ll round off my series with specialist trips to the island.
So with no time to waste here is my opening piece.
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:
UK: British Airways from Gatwick Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick and Manchester Caribbean Airlines (former BWIA) from Gatwick using British Airways codeshare BMI from Manchester.
Europe: Martinair from Amsterdam Condor from Frankfurt
USA: US Airways from Philadelphia American Airlines from New York & Miami Air Jamaica from New York (JFK) Delta Air Lines from Atlanta.
Canada: Air Canada from Toronto
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.
LIAT Caribbean Airlines (former BWIA) Air Jamaica SVG Air Mustique Airways Trans Island Air/TIA 2000
Day trips to other islands: Grenadines Discoveries 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.
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.
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
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. Finally, there are all the restaurants to visit in the 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. VIPvillas 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.
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.
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.
The medical facilities in Barbados are among the best in the Caribbean. There are eight polyclinics throughout the island and two hospitals.
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.
The international dialling code for Barbados is +1 246 followed by seven digits. 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.
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.
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 luxury 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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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!!
Andy Parr is a very experienced traveller who has extensive knowledge of the Caribbean and Greek Islands. Read him and go!
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