Tips For Visiting Barbados

Crane Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Barbados
Crane Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Barbados

Need some tips for visiting Barbados?

I’ve been to Barbados four times and just got back from another divine, and very lazy, vacation there. It’s one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean and definitely worth visiting. Barbados has everything a traveler could want — good food, good looks, pink sand beaches, and a relaxed vibe.

Barbados is a tiny island paradise. It’s the easternmost island in the Caribbean. The island is only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide. But it’s full of beauty and culture.

You can spend your entire vacation lounging on pristine palm-lined beaches and soaking up the sun.

If you want to go beyond the beaches, more adventurous travelers can enjoy the island’s caves, lush primate-filled forests, and rocky cliffs. Beautiful coral reefs circle a large portion of the island, so you also can snorkel, parasail, and windsurf as well.

But there are some things you need to know in advance for visiting Barbados. So I’m giving you a list of handy tips and tricks.

map of Barbados

Tips For Visiting Barbados

Here are 15+ tips and things to know when planning a visit to Barbados.

1. Getting To Barbados

From the United States, you can fly directly to Barbados through Miami, Boston, New York City (JFK), and Charlotte. Barbados’ airport is the Grantley National Airport. It’s located on the south coast in the Christ Church Parish, a central hub of Barbados.

Many tourists opt for a private transfer with St. James Travel (I always do.) You can take a taxi too.

Barbados taxis are easily identified by the letter “Z” on their license plates. As you emerge from the Arrivals Hall, let the Taxi Dispatcher know your intended destination.

the Carraige House Restaurant and pools at the Crane Resort
the Carraige House Restaurant and pools at the Crane Resort

2. Major Regions And Cities In Barbados

Barbados is divided into 11 parishes. The major cities in Barbados are Bridgetown, Holetown, Oistins, Speightstown, and St. Lawrence Gap. The capital of Barbados is Bridgetown, a busy city on the southwest coast with good duty free shopping on Broad Street.

Just south of Bridgetown is the Garrison Historic District, which became a UNESCO site in 2011. St. Lawrence Gap is a city in the south that’s chock full of great restaurants and bars.

If you want dramatic scenery, you’ll find that on the east coast. On that side of the island, the dramatic Atlantic surf crashes against steep cliffs.

promenade in Bridgetown
promenade in Bridgetown

3. Currency

The local currency is Barbados dollars (BDS$ or BBD). But you don’t need to bother to get any because US dollars are widely accepted. If you use US dollars, however, you’ll likely get change in Barbados dollars.

4. Driving in Barbados

I don’t really recommend driving in Barbados. I’ve rented a car and done it before, but there are some downsides.

The biggest issue are the potholes and damaged roads in Barbados. Last time I was there, I got a flat tire driving up the east coast. The views were beautiful, but it was a hassle waiting for a repair.

The other things that may give you pause about driving in Barbados are that you must drive on the left, British style, and there are a lot of roundabouts. The Barbadians themselves drive fairly recklessly.

Bathsheba Beach on the east coast
Bathsheba Beach on the east coast

In lieu of renting a car, you can always hire a driver. They can take you anywhere on the island you want to go. You can arrange this through your resort.

If you do opt to rent a car, you must be 25 years old and provide a valid driver’s license and an international driver’s permit. If you didn’t get an IDP in the US, you can buy a local permit from the rental car agency.

READ: Tips For Renting A Car And Driving in Europe

5. Cabs in Barbados

On my last visit, I was fairly lazy and didn’t leave the resort much with one exception: restaurants. The easiest way to get there is by cab.

The cabs in Barbados operate 24 hours per day. You can arrange a cab with your hotel concierge or just hail one in front of your hotel.

Banyon Tree in Barbados
Banyon Tree in Barbados

Cabs aren’t metered. The fees are set by the government. Fees vary depending on the size of your party and the size of the cab. Ask what the price is before you hop in.

Cabs do take credit cards. But they may not tell you that. They prefer to get US dollars.

Cabs usually charge a round trip fare. They pick you up and give you a card to call them when it’s time to head back to the resort. It’s not cheap, think US prices. But it’s a good alternative to renting a car.

Bottom Bay Beach
Bottom Bay Beach, just north of Crane Beach

6. Language

There’s no language barrier in Barbados for English speaking travelers. English is widely spoken and understood in Barbados.

7. Service Charges & Tipping

In most cases in Barbados, a service charge is included. This is particularly true at restaurants. So you don’t need to tip. But it’s a common custom to just round up if you’ve had good service.

8. Electricity

Electricity in Barbados is 110 volts, the same as the United States. So you won’t have to bring a special converter or transformer. And your phone chargers will work.

Zen restaurant at the Crane

9. Restaurants In Barbados

Barbados has an impressive restaurant scene, with some world class dining. I’ve had some amazing meals in Barbados. It’s one of the reasons I’ve chosen Barbados for a beach escape.

Most of the restaurants serve a nice combination of Mediterranean food, Caribbean food, and Asian food. Naturally, you’ll find a lot of seafood — flying fish, snapper, and mahi mahi. The restaurants aren’t cheap though. The food might seem overpriced to some.

For the best and priciest restaurants, you’ll need to make reservations in advance. Most restaurants, even the swanky ones, don’t require formal dress. But you can’t show up in beach attire either.

The best restaurants are found in Hole Town and on the south coast.

The Tides in Holetown

I can personally recommend these restaurants:

On Friday nights, you can also go to the Oistins Fish Fry. It’s a locals’ street party where you can get inexpensive fresh fish and listen to music. And the fish is just delicious.

For decades, the Cliff Restaurant was considered the best restaurant in Barbados. I’ve been and it was good with spectacular views.

However, the restaurant is under new management and is partly closed. My hotel (the Crane Resort) didn’t recommend it. Instead, they recommended The Tides for a similar ambience. I didn’t get the chance to go on this trip unfortunately.

10. Caribbean vs Atlantic Side

Mosts of the resorts are on the Caribbean side of Barbados, which is more crowded. The luxury resorts cluster around Holetown. This surf is gentler on this side of the island and hence good for snorkeling and swimming.

In contrast to the Caribbean aside, the Atlantic side of Barbados gets plenty of wild waves. This is where you should go if you want to body surf, kiteboard, or surf.

You have to be careful of rip tides. But I’ve always gone swimming (and cliff jumping) on the east coast.

Another compelling point in favor of the east coast is that it’s quite breezy because of the northeast trade winds. This means that, even if the temperature is in the 80s or 90s, you won’t feel very hot. For me, this is critical.

Bathsheba Beach
Bathsheba Beach

I can’t say I personally recommend the south coast for a stay. It’s busy with package tours and it seemed less safe. Plus, you could be bothered by the streams of vendors hawking their goods. But there are some great restaurants there worth patronizing.

In any event, because Barbados is small, you can visit both coasts on your trip. At most, it’s a 45 minute ride from coast to coast.

11. Best Beaches in Barbados

Just the name Barbados triggers thoughts of swaying palm trees on powdery white and pink sand beaches. Barbados is home to tranquil stretches of sand, perfect for swimming, and also remote beaches with rugged shores.

Sandy Lane Beach
Sandy Lane Beach

The west coast of Barbados is often referred to as the “Platinum Coast.” It’s renowned for clear warm waters that lap gently onto golden sands. The best beaches are Alleynes Beach, Brandons Beach, Sandy Lane Beach, and Reed’s Bay.

On the east coast, my favorite beach is definitely the Crane Beach. It’s a spectacular setting with waves crashing against cliffs on a sandy crescent beach.

Not far from Crane Beach is another fantastic beach, Bottom Bay Beach. Because of its remote location, you may have this pretty beach all to yourself.

You an also try Bath Beach or Bathsheba Beach (nicknamed the “Soup Bowl” for its wild waves). Because these beaches are on the Atlantic, you should expect some seaweed to wash up on the shore.

Or, find your own secret beach. There are no private beaches in Barbados, so you can investigate on your own.

the Crane Resort
the Crane Resort

12. Resorts In Barbados: Where To Stay in Barbados

You’re probably wondering where to stay in Barbados. Resorts in Barbados come in all varieties. You’ll find knock your socks off luxury resorts and more affordable options.

Most visitors stay in the luxury resorts around Hole Town on the west coast. The most legendary hotel is Sandy Lane. But you can also opt for The House, Coral Reef Club, Colony Club, Crystal Cove, or the Sandals Barbados.

On the southeast coast, the premiere hotel is the Crane Resort. This is where I usually stay. It’s more remote, but simply beautiful.

my daughter cliff jumping in Barbados
my daughter cliff jumping at Crane Beach in Barbados

13. Weather And When To Go To Barbados

In Barbados, high season is from mid-December to mid-April. I’ve found that it’s not as crowded if you go in early January, as people will have just taken holiday vacations.

Another good time to go to Barbados is from mid-April to June, when peak tourist season is over. The weather will still be great and you can save on airplane and hotel costs.

Mid-August through late November is typically the least busy time in Barbados. Some resorts and restaurants close for several weeks in September and/or October.

Temperatures are consistent throughout the year, never dropping below 70. The “rainy” season, such as it is, is from June to November. It’s more humid then as well.

historic pool at the Crane Resort
historic pool at the Crane Resort

14. Covid Requirements

Another tip you need to know is that Barbados has an extremely strict Covid policy. You can only enter the country with evidence of a negative PCR nasal pharyngeal test administered within 3 days of arrival. Since you may spend most of the day just traveling there, factor this in to your test scheduling.

Currently, you cannot enter Barbados with the more typical nasal swab test. This requirement was recently changed. Many arriving passengers hadn’t seen the change and were lined up for the proper covid test and sent to quarantine. So check the website frequently before your trip for any possible changes.

Because of this requirement, we had to book tests at a private lab and it was very expensive ($250 per person). You can’t rely on a regular pharmacy because you likely won’t get the results back within the required window. So, for the time being, you’ll have to add tests into your Barbados budget.

PCR tests are extremely sensitive. I had a friend who quarantined for 2 weeks and still tested positive with no symptoms.

Most resorts have a covid test section. You can schedule a test there one day before going back to the US. A rapid test is $50.

waves on the east coast
waves on the east coast

15. What To Do Besides Beaches

If you can pry yourself off the gorgeous beaches in Barbados, there are plenty of fun things to do. You can visit Harrison’s Cave, Animal Flower Cave, explore a rainforest, go rum tasting at St. Nicholas Abbey, golf, or visit a botanical garden.

If you want to stay near the water, you can snorkel, scuba dive, windsurf, swim with the turtles, or take a Catamaran cruise. Or, drive up the east coast for stunning scenery and stop at the Cherry Tree Hill lookout point for breathtaking views of the Atlantic. You hotel can arrange these excursions for you.

If you want to do some shopping, there are plenty of options. If you are looking to take advantage of duty free items, there are plenty of emeralds and diamonds to inspect. You can also shop for Barbados artisan crafts — leather, straw baskets, wood carvings, etc.

ceramics in Earthwork Pottery
ceramics in Earthwork Pottery

The pottery is especially pretty. Earthworks Pottery has a good reputation.

16. Island Time

Barbados is on “island time.” This means that service won’t be what you expect or are used to in the United States, even at a luxury resort. Things move slowly in Barbados. So be prepared to wait and enjoy leisurely meals.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tips for visiting Barbados. If so, pin it for later.

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