The Caribbean region holds a special place in the hearts of all beach lovers, and no matter what it takes, do plan to come here at least once a year. Any island in the Caribbean would do if you'd ask me, but right now, we're looking at the immensely beautiful Barbados.
Did You Know?Despite being among the Caribbean region's top draws when it comes to tourism, Barbados is actually an Atlantic Island.
An erstwhile colony, the British imprint is pretty evident in Barbados―the locals play a lot of cricket on the beach and love their afternoon tea. But at the same time, it is also the home of the Calypso rhythms―something which is unmistakably Bajan.
Around half a million tourists visit Barbados every year to 'get away from it all'; with the number growing by the minute. And if you aren't among them, we're here to tell you how you can, without emptying your bank account. So, here it goes.
There's no "off-season" cheapness to find here.
It's nice to clear this aspect upfront. Tropical islands will have none of your off-season discounts, because it doesn't make sense to come here anytime other than the dry winter season. The best time to be here would be from December to April. June to October is when it gets really humid, with intermittent spells of rain. This period also coincides with hurricane season, although Barbados, being just outside the principle Atlantic hurricane zone, is spared from apparent doom. But you really don't want to be here anytime except the rather pleasant dry season. This is because the rain does play spoilsport if you come here during the off-season. You will definitely find the island more affordable during these times, but think hard about whether you really wish to spend most of your time indoors when you come to a place as beautiful as Barbados.
It's super easy to get here.
The peak season from December to April sees a lot of flights coming to Barbados from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. The Grantley Adams International Airport is around 16 km from the capital, Bridgetown. Major gateways in the U.S. that have flights to Barbados are New York and Miami.
Alternatively, you could also take a cruise to Barbados, provided it suits your budget.
Getting the formalities right.
On arrival in Barbados, you need to be in possession of your passport, valid beyond six months of your date of arrival. Any other travel permits are not required. The Barbados Dollar is the official currency of the country, but U.S. Dollars are widely accepted here. And the exchange rate is permanently fixed at 1 BD$ to be equivalent to USD 0.50. Despite the U.S. dollar being accepted here, it is recommended that you deal in the local currency as far as possible, to avoid any confusion regarding the exchange rates. ATMs are widely available in Bridgetown, the capital, so withdrawing cash as per your needs is advisable.
The regulations that apply to citizens of the United States say that duty free purchases totaling up to USD 400 are permitted; duty on purchases beyond the stipulated USD 400 exemption is 10% on the next USD 1,000, and thereafter at the rate applicable.
Barbados is a fun, tropical island destination, so light clothing, both in terms of material and color are recommended. Choose clothes made of cotton or linen. Include shorts, T-shirts, tanks, khakis, sundresses, and capris. Carry some semi-formal outfits for visiting high-end restaurants that stipulate a dress code. Pack enough beachwear, but keep your snorkeling and skiing gear at home―you can easily rent it on the island.
A noteworthy point is that wearing clothing or accessories made of camouflage material is illegal in Barbados; ensure that you do not carry these items along.
Value accommodation is waiting for you.
As with all islands, Barbados has quite a few of those high-end Marriott-esque resorts that are a haven for the rich and famous. But they do not fall under the purview of our budget theme. Having said that, Barbados will surprise you with its accommodation options.
Budget travelers ought to know that private vacation rentals are often way cheaper than staying in a hotel or a guesthouse. These rentals include villas, apartments, and condos, with most of them offering the self-catering option. You can rent these spaces depending upon the size of your group, the location you desire, and of course, your budget. Plus, if you pick one that has a functional kitchen, you'll end up saving some significant dollars by cooking at home, than eating out.
But whatever you do, please ensure that you book a space that allows you a view of the blue expanse that surrounds the island. Disregard the fact that it might cost you a tad more, but the real joy of vacationing on an island is that you wake up to the sounds of the ocean every day.
Cruising around isn't necessary.
Avoid taking the public buses when you're here, as they aren't the most reliable ones in the world. Car rentals are available, but it can be a bit hard on your budget. Ideally, if you're working on a tight budget, ensure that you pick a nice spot to stay―preferably one that is close to the sea, and has activities that interest you, be it water sports or dining out. This way, you're bound to have everything you need within walking distance. Barbados is a small island, really, so the distances aren't as imposing. Plus, if you are in need of an occasional ride, you can hire a taxi. These cabs have a standard rate of around USD 30 for an hour, but the fares for common distances are predetermined.
Also, there are the licensed ZR vans that operate on the island, picking up and dropping off people at various spots. They hardly have a fixed route or schedule, but are quite zippy and cheap. Recognizable by their ZR license plate, the vans make abrupt and frequent stops to ferry as many passengers as possible―you must have guessed that these are meant only for the bravehearts.
If you're considering island hopping, LIAT and Caribbean Airlines run daily inter-Caribbean flights to most islands in the vicinity. You may also charter a private plane for the same. Yacht excursions to neighboring islands are also popular.
There are several more exclusive ideas to help you plan your holiday to Barbados. But remember that an ideal island vacation is basically spent doing nothing except being a total beach bum. So, read that book you've been wanting to finish. Get a fabulous tan. And do it all here, for free, when you're in Barbados.