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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.
Barbados is divided into 11 regions, known as "parishes", a term that is the by-product of Barbados' Anglican heritage.
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.
Nationals of the following countries require visas. Other nationals do not need a visa:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Bahrain, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Comoros, Cote d'Ivoire, Jordan, Cambodia, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Macau, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Qatar, Rwanda, San Marino, Sao Tome & Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Togo, United Arab Emirates, Vatican City, Vietnam,Yemen, Serbia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
People need to apply for one at the nearest embassy or consulate.
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).
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).
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
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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Although I am a US Citizen, I have lived in Barbados since Dec 1992. I have been in the Travel Industry for over 20years, both in the US and Barbados. I am an Executive Cruise and Travel Consultant and want to make your stay in Barbados, the Best is Can Be.
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In my profile, I mentioned Barbados as one of my favorite places... because my sister lives there and works as a cruise consultant, and I've visited. It's a beautiful island in the southern Caribbean - I recommend it as a vacation get-a-way. If you want more info, write to me and I'll pass on your questions to my sister.
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I am a travel agent and have been designated a Barbados Specialist by the Barbados Tourist Board.
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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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