Barbados Travel Guide
Barbados has long been a top Caribbean destination thanks to its year round comfortable temperatures, invigorating culture, top beaches & scuba diving, and inviting locals. Now, with their world-class handling of the Covid pandemic and programs like the 12 month remote work visa, Barbados is a leader in the Caribbean in efforts to reopen to tourists and digital nomads.
Although technically in the Atlantic, Barbados is the most easterly Caribbean island nation separated from the Windward Islands cluster of Dominica, Grenada, Martinique, St Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Barbados offers everything one expects in a Caribbean getaway including white sand beaches, crystal clear turquoise waters, fresh seafood, and so much more. Uncover why Barbados is a must visit destination and everything you need to know for your time on the island.
Is it Safe to Travel to Barbados During Covid?
In general Barbados is a very safe destination and a great choice for solo travelers. Since the onset of the Covid pandemic Barbados has had a world class response and set the standard for other Caribbean island nations on how to safely handle reopening to tourists. Cases have been kept to an absolute minimum with wide spread and accessible testing available for all. They have virtually eliminated community transmission with prevention methods including mask wearing, contact tracing, and social distancing all strictly enforced. Barbados is one of our top destinations for digital nomads during Covid and after experiencing it first hand we felt completely safe.
There’s no bad time of year to visit Barbados. The island nation boasts warm and sunny weather year round. The trade winds constantly blow to keep the temperature from getting exceptionally hot and helps cool the evenings during winter. Expect average temperatures throughout the year between the high 70s and mid 80s. The dry season is January to June with the rain picking up through late summer and into fall, however, rain showers are always short bursts followed by sunny skies. The rain clouds are gone just as quickly as they appeared and within no time the ground is dry again. Keep an umbrella in your daypack or be prepared to dip into a bar for 20 minutes when the rain comes but otherwise, it's no reason to avoid visiting during this time of year. June to October is hurricane season in the Caribbean, although they very rarely come close, the last time Barbados was directly hit was in 1955. Tropical storms during this period do hit the island so there could be a day or two with grey skies and heavy rains.
What to Pack for Barbados
If tropical casual is a style it's perfect for Barbados. Prioritize lightweight, breathable clothing. You can comfortably live in flip flops and shorts but don't hesitate to pack some nicer clothes for special occasions or dinners, like long pants, a linen shirt, and shoes. Anything you consider beachwear will be perfectly suited.
A great daypack is a must, for days at the beach, on a boat, or exploring the hotspots around the island. Something in the 15-20 liter range is a great option so you can squeeze a towel and change of clothes in. Load it with an insulated water bottle, a dry bag to protect your valuables, and a beach hat and you’ll be all set. During our recent trip to the island we relied on the Chrome Industries Packable Daypack, it was lightweight to carry around all day and handled getting wet and sandy on our beach visits.
Your primary bag won’t make a significant difference so use whatever luggage you're most comfortable with, a roller, duffel, or backpack will all work. You won't be bouncing between destinations, constantly packing and unpacking, and you aren't likely to be walking any further with it than the terminal to a taxi.
Getting to Barbados
Flights are regular and frequent from many US hub cities so there are plenty of opportunities to find cheap flights. Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) is the only international arrival point for tourists by air. Located in the southern end of the island, the airport is typically a 30-60 minute drive to the main accommodation locations across the south and west coasts.
Taxis are the most common and efficient method of getting from the airport to your accommodations. They can be booked in advance through your hotel or Airbnb host, or you can take an authorized taxi from the airport. The authorized ones have standardized rates based on the parish you’re going to, they’re well displayed at the taxi stand so there won’t be any surprises. Expect to pay more for a pre-arranged taxi. Once you’re settled in and want to get out exploring taxis again are a common and efficient way of getting around. You can always arrange one in advance, just ask your host or hotel staff.
Car rental services are plentiful, both at the airport and arranged through you accommodations or privately. Many travelers opt for a car rental to explore the island. If you plan to move around a lot it's probably a good bet - just remember they drive on the other side of the road!
There is bus service to and from the airport but it's not frequent and likely hard to time when you’re just arriving. However, once you’re settled, the bus service works great across the country. There are three options, which at first seems confusing but in practice works out great. The public buses are blue with a yellow stripe. Private buses are yellow with blue stripes and slightly smaller. The ZR’s are white vans that seat about 10 people. All of these options work, however we always opted for the buses over the crowded ZRs. The price is the exact same regardless of the service; $3.50 BDS. Exact fare is required on the public business, the private ones will give you change.
Bus stops are well marked and the direction of travel is indicated by either in or out of the city (the city being the capital, Bridgetown). Buses run up and down the west coast where the majority of locals and travelers are based, with some buses stretching around the island to the north and east coasts.
All the buses will have a sign in the dash showing their destination but never hesitate to double check with the driver or attendant to make sure they’re going where you want, they’ll always be willing to help. Buses are extremely frequent and unless you’re going to an out of the way destination it's rare to wait more than a couple minutes for one, plus it's by far the most affordable way to get around.
Where to Stay in Barbados
The main areas to stay are along the south and west coasts. This is where all the action is; beaches, restaurants, and nightlife. There are hotels scattered along the coast ranging from upscale all-inclusives to more casual room only. Airbnb and apartment rentals are plentiful both on the water and short drives or walks to the coast, but of course expect to pay much more for oceanfront. Apartment or villa rentals can be arranged in advance through property management services, both for short and long term stays.
You can find a town or area to stay in that suits every travel style, regardless what type of accommodation you’re staying in.
Holetown or Speightstown are great choices for smaller town feels (although Holetown is known as a more upscale and expensive location). For a more laid back experience look at these smaller areas north of Bridgetown. You’ll have everything needed nearby, but might have a longer drive to some of the other things to do.
The parish of Christ Church makes up the south coast where there are plenty of great areas to stay in when you want to be near the excitement and things to do.
To be closer to the nightlife look at areas in or around St. Lawrence Gap. It's more densely developed here so there’s more tourists and activities suited towards them.
Hastings is another popular area with a beautiful coastal boardwalk and one of the best ‘beach town’ vibes.
The capital city of Bridgetown is the commercial and historic hub of the country and though you might visit for various activities it's not a common place to stay. The beach access locations and great restaurants are all north and south of Bridgetown along the coast.
For something more secluded check out the east coast, just remember the water is rougher and the beaches are coarser. But if you’re looking for peace & quiet or surfing, this is the best area to choose.
Top 10 Things to do in Barbados
Check out these 10 can’t miss activities during your time in Barbados.
Snorkeling/ Scuba Diving
Barbados has beautiful dive spots scattered across the west coast and they proudly boast many of the best wreck dives in the Caribbean. With so many wrecks in relatively shallow water, amateur and experienced divers alike can explore them. Some wrecks in Carlyle Bay are so shallow you swim alongside them while snorkeling! There are protected areas just off many beaches that are great to snorkel at, don’t be surprised passing a turtle at your local beach!
One of the most popular activities in Barbados is taking a catamaran tour. And for good reason, 5 hours on turquoise water along the beautiful coast, with drinks and meals, and plenty of swim spots is a great way to spend a day. There are many tour operators and the option to go with a public group or privately, either in the morning with lunch included or in the evening with dinner.
We don’t need to tell you to go to the beach on your island visit but don't settle for just one! From the famous pink sand Crane Beach to secluded ones scattered along the west coast, you could hit a different beach every day on your trip and still just scratch the surface. All beaches are public in Barbados and generally easily accessible so don't hesitate to explore and find your perfect sandy spot to spend a day.
Oistins Fish Fry
Seafood doesn't get better in the Caribbean than Oistins. Most popular on Friday nights when the party is getting started with live music but equally enjoyable weeknights if you're after an incredible meal.
Bars, restaurants, and nightlife abound in this lively neighborhood. Book reservations for dinner if you’re going on the weekend.
Two caves in Barbados consistently make the list for top things to do on the island; Flower Cave on the north point and Harrison's Cave in the center of the island. Both are dramatic and worth a visit. Don't miss out on the breadfruit tacos at Flower Cave’s restaurant (trust us!).
While you might not feel like taking a break from the beautiful white sand beaches and calm water of the west coast you should absolutely venture out to the east coast at least once. The change in landscape is staggering with smooth shores and calm waters being replaced with jagged cliffs and rolling waves. The surfers flock to this side of the island but even if you wont be getting on a board its worth exploring.
Seafood and rum, what more do you need? There’s no shortage of mouthwatering restaurants across the island. Catch of the day is always a great bet and the famous flying fish sandwiches (known as cutters) will consistently leave you wanting more, especially if you can find a local shop making them.
Cruise up and down the boardwalk in beautiful Hastings. Pop into shops, restaurants, and bars along the way and soak in the beach town feel of this area. When you need a break simply find a sandy area and hit the water.
The incredible sunsets never grow old along Barbados’ west coast and with a tasty cocktail in hand you’ll be at the pinnacle of island life. Waterfront bars and restaurants are dotted along the coast so time a visit to catch the sunset, just remember that it sets earlier than you might be used to - around 5:30 in the winter and 6:30 in summer. La Cabane at Batts Rock Beach is highly recommended.
Digital Nomads in Barbados
Thinking of working & traveling while in paradise? You’re in luck, Barbados is a top destination for digital nomads in the Caribbean, particularly with their new welcome stamp remote worker Barbados visa program. You can check out our personal experience of living and working from Barbados in our digital nomad during Covid blog.
The cost of living in Barbados is high, and there’s no way around that, so covering your travel costs by working during your time here is a great idea. Living expenses are higher on average than at home, even when taking measures to limit spending like cooking your own meals and cutting back on paid activities. If you can stomach the high cost of living, all the other factors that make a great digital nomad destination are available.
Wifi and phone service are never a concern so you’ll always be connected. There’s virtually nowhere on the island where you can’t get a strong cell signal and adequate wifi is the norm.
Barbados is easy to get to and easy to leave if you need to get back to the US. If you’re using your time in Barbados to explore other parts of the Caribbean, the BGI airport is one of the main connection points for regional flights. Although flights aren’t cheap, there will be plenty of options for island hopping when you have time to explore.
Even before Barbados issued the welcome stamp remote worker visa there was a great digital nomad and expat community on the island, but now it's really taken off. You’ll meet solo and couple travelers living in Barbados long term at bars, dive shops, and at your local beach. It won't take much effort to find a community and there are online groups to help with some introductions.
Barbados is in Atlantic time and does not practice daylight saving so half the year they’re equal to Eastern time, the other half, its plus one hour. This makes it very easy to work east coast hours and will give many the unique opportunity of working one hour ahead - perfect for morning swims before work!
If a tropical island getaway is on your radar Barbados will absolutely fit the bill. Thanks to their strong handling of the Covid pandemic it's one of the few places in the world you can feel incredibly safe visiting, knowing all necessary protocols have been implemented to keep locals and tourists safe.
Bajans are warm and welcoming, and with an economy so reliant on tourism you’ll see their appreciation coming through in every interaction. Barbados truly has it all; beaches, nightlife, food, diving, outdoor activities, history, and culture. Soak up some sun and switch to island mode in this tropical paradise.
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