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The Caribbean's easternmost island, and a tiny one at that, Barbados makes up for its distance and size with an enthusiastic gearing towards tourism that deservedly attracts many visitors. The island's vibrant artistic culture reflects the Bajans' rhythmic approach to life. Perhaps it is this rhythm (undoubtedly carried over from African traditions) which draws so many to the island: a holiday to Barbados is not supposed to just be a relaxing time by the beach; it is meant to reinvigorate and rekindle fires of passion. An exciting night life, ideal opportunities for water sports and beautiful beaches: the Barbados formula is simple, yet successful.
The first indigenous people are thought to be Amerindians who arrived from Venezuela around approximately 350-400 B.C. The Arawak people were the second wave of migrants, arriving from South America around 800. In the thirteenth century, the Caribs arrived from South America in the third wave, displacing both the Arawak and the Salodoid-Barrancoid culture. For the next few centuries, the Caribs - like the Arawak and the Salodoid-Barrancoid - lived in isolation on the island.
The Portuguese briefly claimed Barbados from the mid-1500s to the 1600s, and may have seized the Caribs on Barbados and used them as slave labour. Other Caribs are believed to have fled to neighbouring islands. Apart from possibly displacing the Caribs, the Portuguese left little impact and by the 1610s left for South America, leaving the island almost uninhabited.
British sailors who landed on Barbados in 1625 arrived at the site of present-day Holetown. The British then took possession of Barbados in the name of James I. From the arrival of the first British settlers in 1627–1628 until independence in 1966, Barbados was under uninterrupted British governance (and was the only Caribbean island that did not change hands during the colonial period). Nevertheless, Barbados always enjoyed a large measure of local autonomy. Its House of Assembly began meeting in 1639.
With the Federation dissolved, Barbados had reverted to its former status, that of a self-governing colony. The island negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with the United Kingdom in June 1966. After years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados finally became an independent state on 30 November 1966, with Errol Barrow its first Prime Minister. Upon independence Barbados maintained historical linkages with Britain by establishing membership to the Commonwealth of Nations grouping, a year later Barbados' International linkages were expanded by obtaining membership to the United Nations and the Organization of American States.
Barbados is located at 13°10' north of the equator, and 59°32' west. As the easternmost isle of the Lesser Antilles in the West Indies, Barbados lies 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and Caribbean Sea. The closes neighbouring islands include Martinique, and Saint Lucia to the northwest, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the west, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela to the southwest, and Guyana to the southeast. Barbados' total land area is 430 km2, and it has a coastline of 97 kilometre length. The physical characteristics of Barbados are its lowlands or gently sloping, terraced plains, separated by rolling hills that generally parallel the coasts. Elevations in the interior range from 180 to 240 metres above sea level. Mount Hillaby is the highest point at 340 metres above sea level.
Most of the small streams are in Scotland District. The rest of the island has few surface streams; nevertheless, rainwater saturates the soil to produce underground channels such as the famous Coles Cave.
The island of Barbados has eleven parishes which can be sensibly divided into four regions:
The Barbados Wildlife Reserve is a zoo opposite Farley Hill in the central parts of Barbados. There are that lead to a mahogany forest of green monkeys, red-footed turtles and a caiman pond. Other creatures that may be spotted include brocket deer, iguanas and agoutis. The monkeys are most lively during their afternoon feed. You can also also go to a small aviary with macaws and cockatoos, as well as some caged parrots, and uncaged peacocks and pelicans. To add, there is an orchid display and an iguana sanctuary.
Probably the best known attraction on Barbados is the Harrison's Cave. Here, you can travel deep beneath the earth and explore the wonders of nature. You will hear the streams and see the glassy pools. You will be amazed by all the different shapes and sizes of the stalactites and stalagmites. Check the Harrison's Cave website for more information about your options.
On many islands in the Caribbean Friday is fishday and there is no better place to experience this than on Barbados. Oistins on the southern coast is the place to be on Friday nights for the fish fry. This is a market where you can buy fresh fish cooked according to local recipes. Locals stay there late and dance until the early hours of the morning.
Barbados has a hot and humid tropical climate with average daytime temperatures between 28 °C and 30 °C and average nights around 23 °C. Most rain falls between June and October with a change of hurricanes from August onwards. Therefore, the drier (and slightly cooler) December to April period is the best time to visit weatherwise. Unfortunately prices rise sharply during this period and the months of November and May still have good weather. So budgetwise these latter months may be a good option as well.
The Sir Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) is located in Christ Church, Barbados and serves as a gateway to many Caribbean islands and places further away in North America and Europe. Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) has a second hub here (after Antigua) with flights throughout the Caribbean between Barbados and the Dominican Republic. The island is served well by many airlines from Canada and the United States and especially from the United Kingdom with at least 5 or 6 airlines flying there directly from London, Manchester and Birmingham. Direct flights include those from Frankfurt and Milan as well.
There has been talk about new high speed ferries from Barbados to islands like Saint Lucia, Grenada and Saint Vincent, but up until now they stay rumours. From October 2009, BEDY Ocean Lines, should had started operating a ferry for residents only, connecting Barbados with Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent. The start of the schedule is however delayed. As of May 2011, there is no ferry service from Barbados to any of the neighbouuring islands (and not likely to be anytime soon).
As the island is small enough to get around by land, there are no flights, except the odd helicopter transfer.
Barbados is easy to get around by car, roads are ok (some potholes), especially the main ones. Driving is on the left and you need to be 21 years old. There are no big international chains, but rather local companies only. There are enough of them though at the airport, bigger hotels and in Bridgetown so shop around. You need to buy a temporary driving permit as well, accompanied with your own (inter)national driver's licence and a few dollars.
Unlike many other Caribbean islands, Barbados has a well maintained reliable and cheap bus system. Basically you'll have a choice of government-operated public buses, which have the most extensive routes. These cover most of the island and there are flat rates for all journeys. Routes are fixed. And there are privately operated minibus systems and route taxis. Both can be flagged down almost anywhere and drop you off anywhere you like as well. Minibuses are a bit faster than regular buses. Taxis have fixed prices but arrange the price before you leave. Sometimes you can arrange a tour with the driver for a price per hour.
No regular services, just tours to go out snorkelling, diving or fishing.
Citizens of the following countries will not need visas to enter Barbados: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Eritrea, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Republic of Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Federated States of Micronesia, Moldova, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
People need to apply for one at the nearest embassy or consulate.
The form for a visa must include 2 passport size photographs. The visa costs BDS$50 for single entry and BDS$60 for multiple entry. You can obtain your visa from an embassy or consulate of Barbados.
See also Money Matters
Barbados has it's own currency, the Barbados Dollar, which comes in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 cents, $1 (coins) and $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 (banknotes). Since July 5, 1975, the Barbados dollar has been pegged to the US dollar at US$1 = Bds$2. The US$ is widely expected on the island, but use small denominations. Your change will be given back to you in Barbados currency (by law).
Bellairs Research Institute is a teaching and research facility operated by Montreal's McGill University focusing on marine biology and environmental studies.
The official language on Barbados is English. The written English will be "the Queens English" which means words are spelled (spelt) as they would be in England, not in the USA. So for example favour instead of favor, tyre instead of tire etc.
Bajan is an officially recognised regional language. The Bajan dialect can be heard around the island and while not commonly used in business or politics, you will often hear good Bajan sayings spoken in dialect when someone is riled up and speaking. The dialect is much like the Gullah Dialect spoken on the coast of South Carolina (considering that many people from Barbados went to South Carolina in the early days of the United States, this basically means that the Gullah Dialect comes from the Bajan Dialect).
Bajan cuisine is a strange mix of spicy, flavorful treats along with traditional English fayre. So be prepared for meals where fiery stews sit side-by-side with beans on toast.
Visitors seeking fast food will probably be disappointed; the burger chains of the US failed miserably upon introduction to Barbados (Bajans eat nearly no beef). However, chicken and fish sandwiches are wildly popular, so KFC and Chefette are ubiquitous.
Barbados offers everything from inexpensive guest houses with bed and breakfast from under US $40 daily for a single in the summer to luxury accommodations at some of the world's best hotels at $1,600 in the prime season.
Barbados apartments and apartment hotels offer the comfort of a hotel room combined with the convenience of your own cooking facilities. Most are located on/near the beach and are especially suitable for families.
There is a wide selection of luxury villas and cottages available for rent throughout Barbados. Many of these villas and cottages are located on or near the beach.
Privately owned vacation rentals are often rented at much lower costs than hotel or resort rooms. There is a wide selection of these holiday properties available throughout Barbados and many are located on or near the beach. Vacation properties range from beach houses to condos and apartments.
Generally, more expensive resorts are on the west coast north of Bridgetown, simpler guesthouses are available along the southern coast and only a few housing options available in Bridgetown itself.
Barbados has some of the purest water in the world that can be drunk straight from the tap. Cruise ship employees are often seen stocking up on their water supplies while docked at the island.
Rum and rum drinks are featured at every bar. Perhaps the most famous domestic brand offered is Mount Gay Rum, which is very delicious. Modest cost tours of the distillery are available on weekdays. They offer samples of all their rums, also sold at attractive prices.
Small establishments called rum shops can be found all over Barbados. They are where local citizens (95% men) meet to catch up on the local news. Drop in, and you can easily have a conversation with a real Barbadian.
Beer and wine is easy to find as well. Banks beer is Barbados' own beer and very good. Tours of the Banks brewery are also available. While the tour itself is very hot and only moderately interesting an unlimited amount of beer is provided to those waiting for the tour to begin. Try to show up a few hours early and take advantage of a very good deal.there are also tours of the three rum refineries which are informative.
10 Saints is the first craft beer to be brewed in Barbados. This unique lager is aged for 90 days in Mount Gay 'Special Reserve' Rum casks, combining the rum heritage of the island with a refreshing lager to produce a truly 'Bajan' beer. It is available at bars and shops, throughout the island.
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Barbados. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Barbados) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Barbados. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Although it is generally a safe place to travel, there has been a steep incline of crime. It is wise for tourists to avoid certain high-risk activities like walking on secluded beaches, day or night, and walking in unfamiliar residential neighborhoods or secluded areas away from main roads. Tourists, particularly women, should always stay in groups.
The most common kinds of crimes against tourists include taxi fraud, robbery, and shortchanging; however, rape and assaults are becoming more common. Most Bajans are by nature friendly, especially in the earlier part of the tourist season (November and December).
A special area of concern for visitors to Barbados is drugs. The country's strict antidrug policy is made apparent to visitors coming through Customs. In practice, however, Europeans and Americans in Barbados are offered marijuana or even cocaine frequently. Sellers will often roam the beaches selling aloe vera or other such innocuous goods as a pretense to begin a conversation about "ganja," "smoke" or "bad habits." As a result, many hotels and resorts now ban the use of aloe vera under the pretense that it "stains the towels."
Regardless of one's inclination to use drugs, it is not advisable to accept these offers. Marijuana is considered bad and is not accepted by Bajan police. While Bajan police are not frequently encountered, they prosecute drug crimes easily.
Care should also be taken going into the sea. Many people underestimate just how powerful the currents can be and rip tides have claimed lives over the years. Always look out for warning flags.Also a good rule of thumb is to bathe where you see people that is a good indicator of the safety. Do not go out deep (beyond your ability to touch the sea bed) unless you are a strong swimmer.The west coast has calmer waters than the south coast of christ church which gets progressively rougher as you go east of oistins.
Homosexual acts between consenting adults are punishable by life imprisonment in Barbados.
Camouflage clothing is forbidden for non-military personnel in Barbados.
There are several small internet cafes located around the island as well as connections offered by the larger resort hotels.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Barbados is: 1-246
To make an international call from Barbados, the code is: 011
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I have worked in the travel industry since 1986 starting out in the hotel industry, switched to the airline industry for 5 years, moved back to the hotel industry for 5 years and then with a with a top UK tour operator company with a local office in Barbados. I now run my own travel related company in Barbados. Any questions about the travel industry in Barbados from places to stay and things to see and do I can provide some information which may be useful to travellers.
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