Barbados
 
Introduction
 
Barbados, known as the pearl of the Caribbean, is the eastern-most Caribbean island. The island is a pear-shaped, 20-mile (32km) stretch of soft coral (formed over one million years ago), which is permeated by water. Over centuries this has formed fascinating underground caverns.  
The highest point is Mount Hillaby which rises to 336m (1,102ft) in the north-central part of the island. To the west the land drops down to the sea while the east stretches to rugged upland regions. To the south the highlands descend steeply to wide valleys. There is an absence of significant lakes or rivers on Barbados which means the island must rely on rainwater-fed underground streams and springs for its water supplies.  
At one time Barbados was seen as a holiday destination that was only afforded to the rich. Today, although there are a number of top class hotels on the island, it also caters for the less well-off traveller. With accommodation ranging from basic beach huts to five-star luxury, practically anyone can enjoy this stunning island. And because the best entertainment is the islands sand and sea, there is no need to spend a fortune to enjoy your stay.
The island’s capital, Bridgetown in the parish of St Michael (the island is divided into 11 parishes), is situated on the stunning Caribbean coast on the west of the island. It is an area with a vibrant nightlife, pristine sandy beaches and glass-clear waters. Palms and verdant vegetation abound amid an impressive backdrop of 18th-century colonial streetscapes.
The more rugged eastern Atlantic coastline creates stunning coves and the wilder waters are great for surfing if a little too dangerous for swimming. However Barbados also has many land-based attractions too such as lush botanical gardens and historic plantation houses to sumptuous tropical spas and first-rate golf.
Enjoying 340 days of sunshine a year, Barbados is one of the most desirable holiday destinations in the world.
The currency in Barbados is the Barbados Dollar (BD$) which is linked to the US Dollar. You will also find that US Dollars are widely accepted on the island. Commercial Banks offer the best rates of foreign currency exchange.
 
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are all widely accepted in the major resorts but you should always have a supply of cash with you especially when eating out. ATMs are widely available and traveller’s cheques are accepted by banks and most hotels. You should take them in US Dollars or sterling to avoid additional exchange rate charges.

 

See & Do

For many people, the main attractions in Barbados are the beaches – and there are quite a number to choose from. The beaches on the north of the island aren’t easily accessible and as a result have no facilities. Those on the east coast are quite dangerous for swimming but great for surfing. The best beaches for swimming are on the south and west coasts.
The south beaches are mainly calm bays which are perfect for swimming. They are fully equipped with amenities such as restaurants, shops, showers etc. For wind surfing, kite surfing and snorkelling some of the best beaches are Long Beach, Silver Rock or Silver Sands. Miami Beach is very popular with families as it has plenty of amenities. If you are in to surfing, Freights Bay, and for body surfers, Accra Beach is a must. Other popular beaches around the Bridgetown area are Hastings Rock, Coconut Court Beach, Drill Hall Beach, Carlisle Bay and Brownes Beach.
The west coast beaches are calm with clear water ideal for swimming and snorkelling. This stunning area is known as the Gold Coast or Platinum Coast. However one word of warning, stay away from the poisonous manchinnel trees (usually marked with a red ring around the trunk) and the yellow-green apples that are found on west coast beaches. The leaves, branches and fruit can cause severe blistering.
Other activities and places of interest include:
  • Andromeda Gardens in Bathsheba
  • Atlantis Submarine – explore the coral reefs without getting wet
  • Barbados Museum
  • Bajan Roots & Rhythms - Performed at the Plantation Theatre House, Christchurch
  • Golf
  • Bridgetown
  • Christchurch
  • Harrison’s Limestone Caves
  • Mount Gay Run Visitor’s Centre & Distillery
  • The Sir Frank Hutson Sugar Museum & Factory
  • Welchman Hall Gully
  • St Peter’s Wildlife Reserve
  • Sunbury Plantation
 
Shopping
Barbados is a haven for duty free shopping. The main shopping street is Broad Street in Bridgetown. Here you’ll find numerous stores, department stores, designer labels, and fabulous jewellery as well fast food outlets and cafés. It is home to the island’s largest department store, Cave Shepherd and the Dacostas Mall, Little Switzerland and Mall 34 to name but a few.
The Cruise Ship Terminal has numerous gift shops and just a short distance out of the city (just off Princess Alice Highway) is Pelican Village, an excellent shopping centre selling local crafts.
On the south coast of the island you could visit the Sheraton Centre in Christchurch or the Quayside Centre opposite Accra Beach. If you are on the west coast the best shopping is to be had at the Sunset Crest Shopping Centre in Holetown and the Chattle House Village, an exclusive boutique selling designer clothing.
Handcrafts are everywhere in Barbados and make excellent souvenirs – bright pottery, carved wooden utensils, mahogany ornaments, basked and raffia work and of course, rum.
Food & Drink
As you would expect, menus in Barbados heavily feature fresh local vegetables, fruits and seafood. You will also find a great selection of African, English, Spanish, Indian and French food.
The most popular fish are dorado (flying fish, often referred to as “dolphin” on menus) and red snapper.
Food in Barbados is frequently eaten on the go. Snacks such as roti (thin pastry pockets filled with shrimp, curry or meat) are popular for lunch. Unlike other countries, evening meals are eaten relatively early with many restaurants closing at 10 or 11 pm.
There are numerous specialities for you to try including:
  • Cou cou – made from either cornmeal and okra prepared together in a mash potato style, or breadfruit and green bananas with steamed flying fish.
  • Souse & pudding – pickled pork with hot peppers
  • Cohobblopot or Pepperpot – spicy meat and okra stew
  • Peas’n’rice – peas cooked with rice and flavoured with coconut
  • Sea Urchin (sea eggs) – prepared in breadcrumb batter, devilled with a unique Barbadian paste
  • Conkies – sweet cake made from coconut, cornmeal, pumpkin, raisins, sugar, sweet potato and spices steamed on a banana leaf
There are numerous restaurants across the island but below is just a selection of some of the best you might like to try:
  • Aqua Restaurant and Lounge, Hastings
  • Balcony, Broad Street, Bridgetown
  • Bellini’s Trattoria, St Lawrence Gap
  • Bonito Bar & Restaurant, Bathsheba
  • Boucan Wine Bar & Restaurant, Hastings
  • Carib Beach Bar, Worthing
  • Cobblers Cove Restaurant, Speightstown
  • David’s Place, St Lawrence Main Road
  • Lantern’s by the Sea, Maxwell Coast Road
  • Sharkey’s Bay, The Boatyard
If you want to sample a traditional Barbadian tipple with your meal try the Mount Gay Rum or Banks, a local brand of beer (a pilsner style lager). If you want something non alcoholic you can try Mauby (made from a bark spice), Sorrel (juice from a locally grown fruit enriched with sugar and cinnamon spice), fresh fruit juice or coconut water.
Entertainment
When it comes to music and entertainment, you will be spoilt for choice in Barbados. There are numerous clubs, bars and shows available for your entertainment. The Beach Extravaganza at Harbour Lights Beach Front Club (Bridgetown) and Bajan Roots and Rhythms at The Plantation Theatre (Christchurch) are a must.
As for clubs, below is a selection of venues around the island:
West Coast (especially 1st and 2nd Street, Holetown):
  • Lexy’s Piano Bar
  • Olive’s Bar & Restaurant
  • Oasis Bar
  • Ragamuffins
 
South Coast (in and around Bridgetown):
  • Waterfront Café
  • Limelite Café
  • Harbour Master (party boat)
  • The Boatyard
  • Harbour Lights
  • Mojo
  • Club Extreme
 
West Coast:
  • Blue Monkey
  • Scarlet’s
 
St Lawrence Gap:
  • The Whistling Frog
  • Reggae Lounge
  • The Ship Inn
  • McBrides
 
There are also a number of events that take place throughout the year. Below is just a selection of what is on:
  • January – Barbados Jazz Festival; Barbados Wind Festival; Cool Jazz
  • February – Holetown Festival; Agrofest
  • March – Sandy Land Gold Cup Festival; Holder’s Section
  • April – Oistins Fish Festival; Bridgetown Film Festival; Barbados Reggae Festival
  • May – Celtic Festival; Barbados Gospelfest
  • June-July – Barbados Cropover Festival
  • September-November – National Independent Festival of Creative Arts
  • October – Taste of Barbados Festival; Blowin in the Windies Youth Jazz Festival; Barbados National Surfing Championships
  • November – Virgin Atlantic Music Festival Barbados
Excursions
The island of Barbados is relatively small therefore it is possible to explore the whole island during your stay if you wish to. The see & do section lists several attractions and beaches you can explore during your stay. For details of boat trips etc., your hotel should be able to provide you with details of local tour operators.
Health & Safety
There are no vaccinations required prior to travelling to Barbados, however a vaccination for Hepatitis A is recommended. It is always advisable to check with your GP before travelling for updated information.
The tap water is safe to drink. Sun burn and dehydration are common amongst tourists therefore you are advised to cover up in the sun and wear a high factor sun cream. Also ensure you always have a bottle of water with you when out and about.
Healthcare facilities are very good. The island has one main hospital in Bridgetown. All medical treatment must be paid for so it is essential you take out comprehensive travel insurance.
Barbados is a very safe island however instances of petty theft do occur. You are therefore advised to take the usual precautions with your valuables when out in tourist areas and never leave your belongings unattended on the beach.
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