Barbados is a beautiful island that has amazing hospitality, food, culture and of course weather. It was great to experience every coast the island has to offer and all the walking tours; but I do wish I had more time to relax and really enjoy myself on spring break. Since my college program basically planned this entire trip, I didn’t get to really experience the Barbadian nightlife. But, I wanted to share tips that are good to know before visiting Barbados:
A taxi driver, named Orlando, drove us around the entire duration of our trip. So, I can’t speak much on any modes of transportation around the island. I did however see that there were buses throughout the island. If you can, I would recommend hiring a driving service after spending time with Orlando. Orlando is a local who knew everything about his country and gave us information and hidden gems we wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. For instance, on the last day we were driving to the east coast when we passed by a sugar cane field; Orlando stopped to explain to us that Barbados sugar plantations are one of the islands main sources of income. While Orlando was talking, two of the men working in the field offered us sugar canes, which we of course accepted. I would say renting a car is a good option, but you’ll have to drive on the left side of the road, instead of the right.
Food & Drink:
Barbados was a trip with a lot of firsts. I tried coconut water straight from the coconut for the first time and actually liked it. And even spiked it with Barbadian rum. I’ve always had bad reactions with artificial coconut, so it was reassuring to know that I liked fresh coconut water. I tried sugar cane and had breadfruit chips! Bajans make sure you’re well fed and don’t skimp on serving you large portions.
Barbados accepts American currency, so you don’t have to worry about taking out Barbadian dollars prior to going. If you go to a store and hand them American currency, they’ll give you change back in Barbadian dollars. Since my university paid for my lunch, dinner, plane tickets, accommodations and transportation I didn’t have to pay for much besides my own alcoholic beverages, breakfast and souvenirs. So, I can’t attest to how much it costs to pay for everything in Barbados.
If you see someone selling jewelry or other good around beaches make sure you know how to negotiate. Those vendors will try to haggle you to make you pay more than needed.
Interacting with Bajans:
You’ll experience a level of hospitality that is uncanny to anything you’ve experienced in the states. Every day you’ll come across a Bajan that says, “good morning”, “enjoy your meal”, etc. Orlando was an amazing representation of what Bajans have to offer; each person I encountered greeted me with smiles, warmth and patience.
I was also frequently asked if I wanted my drink with, or before, my meal at restaurants. I’m not sure why that’s not asked in the states, but it needs to be! I find myself drinking most, if not all, of my drink before my food arrives; then I’m awkwardly full and can’t finish my food. And the students I met at the University of West Indies and Barbados Community College were all so passionate, intelligent and funny. They made the tours engaging and were eager to ask us questions about education and politics in the states.
Orlando informed us that Barbados is in a lot of debt. At one point, the economy depended heavily on the sugarcane industry but now that is fairly nonexistent. Because of these factors, Barbados now depends heavily on tourists to drive their economy. So you’ll almost rarely hear of a mugging, or other crimes, involving tourists because the government puts a lot of emphasis on tourism. Orlando also told me that Bajans get harsh punishments if they do commit a crime against a tourist.
- Make sure to visit every side of the island if you can. Every coast you visit in Barbados is different, and unique, from the other coasts.
- Take as many tours as possible! Barbados’s history is so rich that you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t learn about it. Slavery is a huge part of Bajan history, so definitely learn as much as possible while you’re there.