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Barbados: What to Know Before You Go

By now you’re ready for flying fish dishes, late night parties, white sands and some Mount Gay Rum cocktails—but before you head to Barbados make sure you’ve got the basics covered about this little island with a lot to offer:

The Island: Barbados is exactly 166 square miles, split into eleven parishes. If you dedicate a full day to it, a road-trip along the entire coastline is one of the best things you can do while on the island. While the West and Southern Coasts, facing the Caribbean Sea, tend to be more metropolitan, you can find complete solace on the North and East Coasts of the island, cradled by the Atlantic Ocean.

Language & Culture: As Barbados gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, ‘British’ English is the primary language, and if you listen carefully you will pick up local Bajan Creole (a la Jamaican Patois) in no time! There are also a high concentration of British nationals living and working on the island.

Currency: The national currency is the Barbadian, or Bajan dollar. At press time, the exchange rates are as follows:
1 BBD = $2 US
1 BBD = £3.25 GBP
1 BBD = €2.6 EUR

So what does that mean for you? Expect most things to be reasonably priced, however remember that you will pay extra for all imported items from the US and Europe. Most shops will gladly take your US and British currency as is, but make sure you are fast with your math when paying. And, as with all modern countries all major credit cards are accepted island-wide.

Safety: From our experience, Barbados is pretty safe and it’s easy to feel comfortable getting around and travelling alone or with a group. We’ve spent time in both tourist heavy and local neighborhoods and found that Bajan locals tend to be pretty helpful and honest if you need assistance. But as a rule anywhere, bring your passport to clear customs at the airport but carry a copy of your passport as you trot around the island, stay alert during the evening hours and don’t carry a bank’s worth of cash on your person.

Time Difference: Depending on the time of year (including November), Barbados is one hour ahead of US Eastern Standard Time.

Connectivity: Wireless hotspots abound around the island and all major hoteliers offer Internet connectivity. The major cell carriers are Lime and Digicell, so check with your local wireless provider to see their rates and connection options before you go. Most electrical outlets are compatible with American plugs, but bring an outlet convertor if you’re coming from the U.K. or the U.S. just in case.

Transportation: Live in London? Barbados is nothing new to you. Live in New York? Get ready to learn “right hand” driving! If you aren’t interested in renting a car, cabs are available but are a little expensive on average. Consider hiring a particular cab driver to drive you exclusively during your stay or get on the bus! The public transportation system is simple and cheap, at 2 BBD per ride — and if you’re lucky, your bus will be playing Mavado.

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