Mini Travel Guide to Barbados
Hello everyone and welcome back to my blog!
With today’s post, we’ll be taking a short detour from our planned investment series and I’ll tell you about my trip that I made recently. You see, ever since I was little, I’ve always liked the idea of travelling around the world, seeing the sights and experiencing faraway cultures. And I’m happy to say that my wanderlust hasn’t left me as I’ve grown older. Yes, I’ve got a whole lot of responsibilities on my hands, and I’ve got to keep track of a lot of things, but my business has given me the opportunity to travel around the world and visit the places that I’ve always wanted to.
So, 15th of July we headed to Barbados. And yes, I know that it’s a very expensive place to go on vacation, but it’s also really beautiful and well worth the price if you ask me! If you’ve never been there before, I’d recommend you go see it — you won’t be disappointed! But, I’ve also got more personal reasons for my visit. My partner — Michael — has family there. Even though his parents grew up in London, they were originally born in Barbados. They still have their house there and they’re renting it out to tourists during the busy seasons. We have visited the country four times in the past 8 years and I’ve always had a blast.
Best known for its beaches and gorgeous scenery, Barbados is one of the most popular travel locations across the Caribbean region. Long, scorching-hot sunny days and cool evenings await you in this tiny island country. Or at least during the right season, they do. During certain times of the year, the weather can be straight-up inhospitable, with very frequent rainfalls and hurricane winds.
There’s a good reason why visitors flock to Barbados from across the globe. Not only does it boast some of the best beaches and scenery in the entire Caribbean region, but it also sees around 3000 hours of sunshine each year. That said, there is a rainy season and there’s a big distinction between the high and low seasons, so it’s a good idea to plan your vacation around the kind of weather you prefer.
As you know, I’m a firm believer in doing your homework. And, even though I’ve already been in Barbados before, I still took the time to do some research before we left. Yes, Barbados is a really small place (you can go across the entire country in just a day!) and yes, the locals are very outgoing and friendly, but there are a couple of things that might catch you off-guard (like the prices of things, for example). Since I love travelling so much, I’ve got my very own preparation checklist that I go through before heading out. Below, I’ve listed most of the main points (there’s actually a lot more to it, but I don’t want to bore you with the details — there’s enough things on it to fill an entire article!):
- Dress appropriately — you want to bring the right type of clothing along, or you’re in for a bad time!
- Internet and connectivity — Take a look at the connectivity options (Internet and phone calls) — start using VPN — check the link in the resource sector at the end of the blog.
- Money — whether you should exchange your money before you leave or on-site
- Hotels — where are you staying and why
What clothes to bring when travelling to Barbados
In Barbados, it’s really hot and for most of the year. You’ll want to bring light-coloured (darker colours attract and absorb heat so stay away from them), hot weather clothes — linen and cotton are good fabric choices. Additionally, if you’re interested in hitting the beaches (and let’s be honest — most tourists go to Barbados mainly for that) you’ll want to pack a couple of swimsuits and flip-flops.
Most of the tourists you see, will be wearing shorts, khakis, light dresses and casual clothing during the days and something a tad classier for the evenings. Barbados is very lively at night and offers you choices when it comes to restaurants and nightclubs.
Depending on the season (more on that — later), you’ll also want to pack some raincoats — it tends to rain pretty often in Barbados.
This being said, you don’t need to bring your entire wardrobe just to feel prepared. Even though I’ve already been in Barbados multiple times already, I still managed to overdo it and brought way more clothes that what I needed. As long as you grab a few pairs of shorts and some shirts, you’ll do just fine!
Don’t leave your habits behind!
Going on vacation allows you to take a break from your daily life, but there are some things that you simply can’t leave behind. During the entire trip, I didn’t buy a single plastic bottle, throw-away coffee cup or straw — I simply took my reusable alternatives along! I had my coffee mug, stainless steel straws, bamboo cutlery and cotton bags with me the whole time and I kept my entire trip as clean as possible. After our flight, I was approached by one of the attendants. She was very impressed by my choice of cutlery on the plane (I had refused their plastic utensils since I wanted to use my bamboo set) and we had a quick chat about eco-friendliness.
So, check the resource sector for Ecobravo details, where I bought all my reusable items from.
Internet and connectivity
You’ll be able to find Wi-Fi in most hotels, bars and restaurants across Barbados.
At the hotel we stayed in, the connection was very fast, but not all that stable. I found that I had to wake up early in the morning (while most of the other guests were still asleep) if I wanted to use the Internet reliably. I don’t have a problem with waking up early — I usually wake up at 5 am when I’m at home — but I’d much rather spend my mornings at the beach instead of being stuck in the hotel. When I had to do my weekly investment check-ups and read through my emails, I had to stick around the reception for a whole hour (that’s where the best signal was).
How much money do you really need in Barbados?
Things in Barbados can be quite pricey, so plan accordingly. Depending on where you stay and whether you want to partake in the vibrant nightlife, you might need to bring a significant sum along with you. There are plenty of banks to exchange your GBP for local currency, just keep your passport handy and be prepared to wait in line for a few minutes.
I used my Sainsbury’s travel card for most of the transactions. If you stay at an all-inclusive place, you won’t really need that much money. If you plan on travelling around, checking some clubs out or buying clothes and souvenirs, on the other hand, you’ll want to bring some cash along.
If you end up having to cook your own food, that can also quickly add up — the local grocery stores are a lot more expensive than the ones back in the UK.
As of April 2019, the Barbados government has also implemented a tourist tax for all visitors. Depending on where you’re staying, you’ll need to make a small payment before you leave (it is around $10 per night per room). It’s not much, but it is something to keep in mind.
When you should visit Barbados?
When planning a vacation in Barbados timing is everything
As I already mentioned above, Barbados is known for its fickle, tropical weather. One moment it can be all sunshine and sea breeze, the next — a flood of biblical proportions can rain down upon you. Luckily, the showers are usually quick to pass and then you’re back to a sunny sky, without a cloud in sight.
The period between July and November is generally referred to as the low season for Barbados. During the summer months, the air is very hot and humid, but it also tends to rain. A lot. So, if you’re going to visit during the summer, make sure to bring enough raincoats and be prepared to deal with the sudden downpours. The September-November period is the worst — the winds are the strongest and even the locals avoid going out if they can help it at all. As a tourist, you definitely want to avoid these months, unless you plan on spending your entire vacation confined in your hotel room.
The other period (the high season) covers the months from December to mid-May There’s a lot less humidity in the air, the rain is infrequent and you’re pretty much guaranteed perfect beach weather. Keep in mind, however, that the prices are also higher during this time of the year.
Where to stay in Barbados?
Well, I’m not really a travel guide, but I’ve stayed in a couple of hotels so far and I’m going to share my experience with you here. However, I’d suggest that you book a hotel on the West coast, as that’s where the better beaches and calmer sea is.
Mango Bay — the hotel that we stayed in during our last trip, is what I’d suggest for family vacations. Not only are the prices quite reasonable, but they also come with a nice buffet option. This being said, there is one thing that you need to remember when it comes to Barbados and buffets — they’ve got a slightly different approach to the whole idea. Not only are their portions generally smaller than what you’ll get in most other places, but they don’t have a 7-days-long all-inclusive service.
Generally, I’m used to all-inclusive buffets that provide service all week-round. The ones in Mango Bay, however, only do that for two days per week — on Wednesday and on Saturday. Initially, I found that quite off-putting. After giving it a thought, however, I realised that their approach isn’t all that bad!
Starter portions tend to be very small and, while this feels a bit unusual at first, it is really the superior option. This way, the staff are not only avoiding wasting food, but they can also give you a more personalised service. Besides, there’s nothing stopping you from ordering all starters!
If you’re looking for a more refined experience, you could try Sandpiper. It’s a small, privately owned hotel, found within walking distance of Mango Bay (it takes about 5 minutes to walk between the two buildings). And while it is quite a bit more expensive, the service there is on a whole different level. We had the pleasure of staying in Sandpiper on one occasion previously and we really enjoyed our stay.
The staff are very polite and excellent at what they do. The same can be said for the entire building as a whole — the garden is much more refined and well-taken care of, the rooms are better situated and everything is filled with greenery.
During our trip, we paid a couple of visits to Sandpiper. We got to enjoy their perfectly prepared and delicious meals and all in all — had a great time. If you ever get the chance to drop by, I highly recommend that you at least have a drink and a meal at the hotel — it is well worth it!
If the noise and chatter of hotels isn’t your thing, you can also rent a villa. This is an excellent (albeit pricey) option for those of you looking for a quiet family getaway, where you get to do your own thing away from other tourists. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need to do your own cooking (and cleaning), which can take a considerable amount of time. Additionally, grocery stores in Barbados aren’t cheap at all, especially for tourists.
So, in summary — Mango Bay is great for a full-on family vacation — it’s cheaper and you get to enjoy an all-inclusive service. Sandpiper is more suitable for a romantic retreat with your significant other or a special treat after a well-deserved success.
My list of Must-See places in Barbados:
- Beaches — being the number one attraction of this small island country, the Barbados beaches are truly a sight to behold.
- Nikki beach — A walled-off, privately owned swimming pool, complete with peaceful resting and sunbathing areas. Very interesting and quite expensive.
- The Wildlife Reserve — an amazing park where you can see all kinds of animals in their natural habitat. Definitely worth your time (and every penny you decide to spend there).
- The Trips — Most hotels tend to organise tourist trips. Check the reception of your chosen hotel and see if you can sign up for one.
- Harrison’s Cave
- Lime Grove — Shops and restaurants in Hole Town. It’s very near the Mango Bay Hotel. Lots of shops, nightclubs, restaurants, very expensive designer shops
- The local shops (Massy) — very interesting and quite expensive. If you’re working with a limited budget, try to bring all the necessities with you and keep shopping in the local places at a minimum. — They are very eco- friendly and use compostable bags
- Restaurants — Traditional Bajan cuisine and tasty conventional meals wait at every turn in Barbados!
And, beyond that, there are many more places to be seen that I haven’t even been to. Yet!
The beaches in Barbados are open and freely accessible at all times. And while this does sound great at first, it also comes with its own set of quirks and annoyances. Since there are no privately owned beaches and everyone gets to share the sands, there is nowhere to hide from the persistent vendors and overzealous souvenir merchants. I lost count of how many times we were presented with a “beautiful selection of hand-crafted trinkets”. I mean, I get it — they do need to make a living and lively tourism provide them with a never-ending supply of customers. But why can’t they just set up their own stands? Why do they have to keep pestering people who are obviously just trying to relax and enjoy what little free time they’ve got?
As I mentioned above, all beaches in Barbados are free and open to the public at all times. There are, however, tourists that prefer enjoying their vacation in peace, with as little outside influence and hassles as possible and there are hotels like Nikki beach, which make this possible. Nikki Beach is a privately owned location, offering tourists the ability to relax by large swimming pools and add a touch of exclusivity to their vacation. Fancy drinks, tasty meals and extremely polite staff — Nikki beach has it all. Or so we had heard, at least. It seemed like a really interesting place to experience, and so we decided to drop by. And, I have to say, it was well worth it. The entire place is spotless, the service is excellent and the food in their restaurant is top-notch.
We turned up early in the morning — around 9:30 am, without making any reservations or even checking their time tables. This resulted in us having to wait for a couple of hours until they open (we could only get in around 11:30), but once they did, we realised that it was worth the wait. While we were waiting for the place to open, some staff members came out, had a quick chat with us and provided us with towels. I had the most delicious fish soup in my life (and coming from me, that means a lot — I don’t like fish soup at all!) and topped it off with an amazing mango soufflé dessert.
We have visited Harrison’s cave on one of our previous trips to Barbados, but we really wanted to experience it again. It’s a really interesting and beautiful location, that I sadly didn’t get to truly enjoy this time. Turns out that hearing about the Thailand cave accident last year, with the children’s soccer team getting trapped in that awful flooded cave for ten whole days, had really affected me more than I realised. I just couldn’t help but imagine how horrible it would feel getting trapped in a cave like that.
But, at the end of the day, it’s not really the cave’s fault, is it? Harrison’s Cave has always been a really cool and interesting location, and since our last visit, they’ve also done some upgrades. There is now a complete tourist program for visitors, complete with a tour guide, well-versed in English and a special train track going straight to the heart of the place. There were also a lot of local souvenir shops, a couple of café places and plenty of pictures to take.
The Wildlife resort
This has got to be my favourite location in all of Barbados. I loved seeing it during our last trip and I was really happy to be back. It’s a wonderful place where tourists get to see and experience bits and pieces of the local wildlife in peace. The best part about it is that, unlike in the zoos back at home, the animals are allowed to run free! There’s no ugly, cramped cages, no chains or other limitations put on the wildlife. The only caged animals were some snakes and a couple of parrots. It’s truly an amazing place to visit, both for children and adults. Naturally, there were a lot of couples with children — all kids seem to love animals. If only most of us didn’t forget our appreciation for nature as we grew older, we’d live in a much different (and much better) world!
If you’re planning on bringing your children to Barbados with you, you’ll definitely want to check the Wildlife resort out — you’ll get to see a ton of animals in their (almost) natural habitat, your kids will have a blast, and you’ll be able to enjoy a tasty meal in a gorgeous environment. There are few sandwich and coffee places in the resort and, from what we gathered, they’ve all got tasty stuff for sale.
What I really liked about the place is that the animals are allowed to roam freely within their space and interact with each other. They live together, eat together and take care of each other. At 2 pm, when the staff gives them food, we got to see this in action. There were barely any wasted bits — the monkeys received a couple of watermelons and, after they were done with the fleshy parts (monkeys eat the same parts of watermelons that we do and leave the skin behind), the skin was then picked up by the turtles who promptly cleaned up any remains! I’ve included a couple of pictures below.
Where to eat?
One of the best restaurants that we had the pleasure of eating at in Barbados was Tide. The view and overall atmosphere were great, the service was brilliant and they had an excellent range of well-prepared meals along with some really interesting specialities that you won’t see anywhere else. We weren’t feeling too adventurous at the time, however, so we just had chicken (which they serve in coconut shells), risotto and some soup.
Another great place is the Cliff restaurant — an extremely expensive diner with an absolutely gorgeous view and a fine range of choice meals that we ate at during our previous visit 2 years ago.
If you find yourself craving fast food while in Barbados, you can always drop by Chefette’s. Exclusive to Barbados, they’ve got a couple of places all around the island and they have some of the best roti (a meat and veggies combo, similar to the Greek gyros) in the country!
When you’re in the mood for fish, Oistins Friday night Fish Fry is a local (and apparently — an Internet) favourite. Situated in the southern part of the island, Oistins is a flourishing fishing village with a rich history and a unique atmosphere. Every Friday night, locals and visitors alike get together to enjoy freshly cooked fish, great music and traditional Bajan dishes.
Trips and Tours
I highly recommend that you look into possible tours, organised by your hotel — just check your reception and see if you can’t get yourself into one of the many excursions and trips around the island. Not only will you get to see the sights, but you’ll also learn a lot about the local wildlife and history — the tour guides in Barbados are very knowledgeable about their country. And even though we found the tour option quite late, we still managed to get into one and we had a wonderful experience.
We had the pleasure of visiting the Wildlife Resort with a tour guide who told us all about the monkey situation in the country. Even though Barbados is famous for its green monkeys, they actually aren’t native to the place. About 350 years ago, they were brought to the country from Western Africa and happened to really like the local climate (much to the despair of local farmers). You see, green monkeys are very crafty little creatures, and they’ve got a burning passion for devouring pretty much any fruit or veggies they can get their hands on. This created a love-hate (well, mostly hate) relationship between them and the locals, as the monkeys would often steal from farmers. For many years, farmers would capture and sell, or straight-up hunt the green monkeys in an attempt to protect their crops. This lead to a rapid decline in the monkey population throughout the country, until the government felt pressed to take action. Today, capturing, hunting or harming the green monkeys in any way is completely illegal.
Well, would you look at that — we seem to be all out of time for today! Join me again next time, when we’ll continue with our green living series, and talk about how to stay happy, healthy and eco-friendly while on the move and
And what about you — have you ever been to Barbados? Would you like to visit? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below — I love hearing from you!
Until next time — stay green and motivated!