Caribbean Itinerary: Barbados (Caribbean), St. Lucia (Caribbean), St. Kitts (Caribbean), St. Maarten (Caribbean), San Juan (Puerto Rico), St. Thomas (Caribbean)
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Caribbean Itinerary: Bridgetown (Barbados), Captain's Best (Grenadines), St. Georges (Grenada), Tobago Cays (Grenadines), St. Vincent (Caribbean), Bequia (Grenadines), Fort De France (Martinique), Beach Stop (Martinique), Marigot Bay (St. Lucia), Soufriere (St. Lucia)
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Caribbean Itinerary: Bridgetown (Barbados), Portsmouth (Dominica), Basseterre (St. Kitts), Road Town (Tortola), Samana (Dominican Republic), Grand Turk (Caribbean), Fort Lauderdale (Florida)
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Caribbean Itinerary: Bridgetown (Barbados), Bequia (Grenadines), Roseau (Dominica), Deshaies (Guadeloupe), St. Johns (Antigua), Saba (Netherlands Antilles), Prickly Pear Island (BVI), Philipsburg (St. Maarten), Jost Van Dyke (British Virgin Islands), Gustavia (St. Barts), Basseterre (St. Kitts), Terre-de-Haute (Guadeloupe), Castries (St. Lucia), Mayreau (The Grenadines)
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Barbados is famed for its easy-going calypso culture, where a strong sense of history and culture fuses with a laid-back vibe.
With music as one of its societal bedrocks, Barbados revels in a vibrant nightlife. Pristine sandy beaches and glass-clear water are hemmed with palms and vibrant flora on a backdrop of impressive 18th-century colonial streetscapes, like in the capital, Bridgetown. Land-based attractions run from lush botanical gardens and historic plantation houses to sumptuous tropical spas and first-rate golf.
From the little-developed rugged coastline of the Atlantic eastern flank to the attractive resorts of the Caribbean shoreline, Barbados offers world-class, warm waters for diving and snorkelling. Underwater caves teem with colourful fish amidst vibrant coral reefs.
Mount Hillaby, the highest point in Barbados, rises to 336m (1,102ft) in the north-central part of the island. To the west the land drops down to the sea while the east stretches to rugged upland regions. Southward, the highlands descend steeply to wide valleys. An absence of any significant lakes or rivers means Barbados relies on rainwater-fed underground streams and springs for its water supplies. A mixed terrain comprises clay, limestone and chalk covered by a thick coral layer.
Barbados’s geographic position has profoundly influenced its history and economic fortunes. Since the late 17th century the island has been a major link between Western Europe, Africa and South America. However, it is Barbados’s long association with Great Britain that has shaped the local character. Post-independence developments have done much to foster a heightened sense of cultural nationalism yet island traditions remain more Anglo-influenced than any other Caribbean island.
The Barbados Wildlife Reserve
The Barbados Wildlife Reserve’s resplendent mahogany forest is the roaming territory of green monkeys, tortoises, deer, raccoons, pelicans and otters. A walk-through aviary allows a leafy stroll with peacocks, turkeys, toucans, parrots, flamingoes, pelicans, lovebirds and macaws.
East Coast Road
Barbados’s East Coast Road, hemmed by crashing Atlantic waves, is one of the island’s most exciting drives. A rugged coastal route overlooks treacherous reefs with an inland road that weaves through rolling sugarcane to quaint plantation towns topped by church steeples.
Barbados’s rainbow of coral reefs offers a pristine watery home to seahorses, sponges and giant sand eels. Hidden caves and shipwrecks provide plenty of underwater nooks and crannies along a shoreline nested by Hawksbill Turtles.
Barbados is the birthplace of rum, and, understandably, rum is the island’s favourite tipple. A thousand rum bars offer plenty of choice while Mount Gay Rum, the oldest rum producer, on the island’s west coast offers tours - and tastings.
Cricket is the national sporting obsession. Choose from barefoot village friendlies to international and local club cups – where many of the great names of West Indian cricket are honoured, most notably Sir Garfield Sobers.
It’s possible to gallop along the beach at sundown or simply trek along inland trails. Over two-dozen horse-riding events take place on the Garrison Savannah. Polo is also played to a high level by fiercely competitive Barbadian teams.
The baby-pink sands of cliff-flanked Crane Beach, an idyllic spot that is one of the most beautiful on the island, are perfect for a stroll. Moderate, foamy waves draw a body-surfing crowd and there are plenty of shaded spots to chill out until the magical sunsets arrive.
Wahoo, dorado, barracuda, tuna and sailfish, together with mighty blue marlin and shark, all patrol Barbados’s deep sea waters. There are plenty of game fishing tournaments and inshore competitions to join or just grab a rod and head to the jetty.
The island’s rugged south and west coasts boast world-class watersports where windsurfers, jet skiers, parasailers and water skiers enjoy perfect conditions. To ride the waves head to the Soup Bowl, South Point and Rockley Beach, Barbados’s surfing mecca.
The Barbados National Trust offers free guided hikes, which last around three hours and cover distances of 8 to 22km (5 to 14 miles). They are divided into three categories: stop’n’stare, where’n’there and grin’n’bear. Moonlit walks are also held.
See Contact Addresses for further tourist information.
Rare fruit and spice trees are on display in Welchman Hall Gully’s magnificent botanic garden and an exotic array of blooms in Andromeda Gardens. Another highlight is the Flower Forest, a 20-hectare (50-acre) leafy garden rich in native plants.
Barbados’s capital, Bridgetown is the best place to see the island’s colonial history and English character. There’s a miniature of London’s Trafalgar Square (now known as National Heroes Square), which boasts a statue of Lord Nelson - without the pigeons.
Lofty Mount Hillaby, the island’s highest point at 343m (1,125ft), offers incredible panoramas across the east, west and northern coasts. Dramatic vistas also abound from St John’s Parish Church over miles of jagged coastline and moss-covered family vaults dotted with tropical flora.
The sea anemone-covered Animal Flower Cave is a cavern of coral rock and flowers. Harrison’s Cave is another jaw-dropping spectacle: a mysterious subterranean world and geological phenomenon abundant in stalactites, stalagmites, deep emerald pools and waterfall cascades.
The Jacobean St Nicholas Abbey is graced with ornate Persian arches and well-kept gardens. Although now in ruins, Farley Hill is still covered in hibiscus and poinsettias and is one of the island’s most storied plantation houses.
Chalky Mount Potteries
Barbados’s famous Chalky Mount potters are renowned for their high-quality inexpensive art. You can watch the local potters at work at the wheel fashioning centuries-old designs – a respected 300-year-old tradition.
Tyrol Cot, the grand former home of Sir Grantley Adams, the first premier of Barbados, is a stunning example of local architectural styles. Constructed in 1854, this architectural gem characterizes an interesting mixture of Palladian and tropical vernacular – beautifully restored by the Barbados National Trust.
Morgan Lewis Mill
The aged and charming Morgan Lewis Mill is one of only two of the Caribbean’s intact sugar mills, and a noteworthy example of a Dutch windmill from the days of the sugar cane planters.
See Contact Addresses for further tourist information.
A good range of restaurants offer an array of international and Bajan cuisines to suit every budget, from grilled meat joints and street-food markets to upscale diners. Replica British pubs are popular and serve genuine British bitter and stout – often with fish-and-chip bar snacks.
• Cutters (large flying fish sandwiches, often served with coucou (seasoned cornmeal topped with spiced tomatoes, onion and peppers)).
• Conkies (cornmeal blended with coconut, pumpkin, raisins, sweet potato and spices steamed in a banana leaf).
• Rice'n'peas (made from a local bean and usually flavoured with coconut).
• Sea eggs (devilled sea urchin roe).
• Souse, or Pickled Pork (brawn with tomato).
• Other local specialities include crane chubb, grilled pigtail, conch fritters, plantains and breadfruit.
• All types of rum-based cocktails including rum punch, planters punch and pina coladas.
• Top rum brands include Cockspur’s Five Star and Mount Gay (the oldest rum blend on the island).
• The local beer is Banks.
• Falernum (rum, sugar, lime and almond essence).
• Mauby (non alcoholic, made from the boiled, strained and sweetened bark of a local tree), tastes like an extremely potent sarsaparilla.
Legal drinking age: 18.
Tipping: Allow for 10 to 15% in restaurants, round-up taxi fares and tip porters at around a dollar a bag.
West Indians love to party, be it in a nightclub, disco, bar or simply on the beach. Entertainment is everywhere, from limbo dancing, fire eaters, steel bands and live music. Most bands play calypso and reggae, but a few play excellent R'n'B. There is usually a small cover charge. As in all Caribbean countries, swinging nightspots tend to come and go with seasons. Twilight boat cruises with live entertainment, free-flowing rum and local food are very popular; most sail twice daily. Caribbean-style dinner shows are also well attended and typically feature steel pans and dancing men on stilts, BBQ food and free drinks until the early hours.
As a trading hub since the early 1600s, Barbados has a long history of commerce and boasts excellent links with merchandisers throughout the Caribbean. High quality, inexpensive goods and first-class service await shoppers and Barbados is the eastern Caribbean’s tax-free haven. Umpteen chichi boutiques and funky street stalls are found along the coast. Bridgetown is the shopping epicentre and boasts major Caribbean chains as well as local crafts. Local specialities range from rum, straw goods, painted silk prints (batik) and woodcrafts with black coral and shell jewellery especially popular buys.
Shopping hours: Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sat 0830-1600 (supermarkets are open longer on Saturdays).
Constant sea breezes cool Barbados’s balmy, tropical climate but the island is still sunnier and drier than the other islands. During the so-called wet season (July to November), some brief rain showers are likely. Average sunshine hours per day are eight to 10 from November to March and eight to nine from April to October. Tropical storms and hurricanes may occur between June and November.
Lightweight cottons are advised; beachwear is not worn in towns.
A good network of roads covers the entire island, but many are unpaved and covered in potholes (except for the main highway). Traffic drives on the left. Road safety is a national concern, especially after dark.
Bus: Buses are frequent and provide comprehensive, cheap coverage of the island charging a flat rate for all journeys. They are crowded during rush hours, but easy to catch – just hail one down. Choose from Transport Board Buses, minibuses and ZRs (minivans). Each is signed ‘To city’ into Bridgetown or ‘Out of city’ if heading in the other direction. All pass through the city hub.
Moped hire: Scooter hire is available - you’ll need to pay a small deposit and to wear a helmet, as required by law.
Taxi: Taxis are unmetered but charge fares regulated by the government. Check the rate before travel – it can be in US Dollars as well Barbados Dollars. Special deals apply for a full-day hire.
Minivans: Licensed minivans, identifiable by their ‘ZR’ licence plates, operate around the island and can be flagged down. There are no fixed schedules, but service is frequent. Rates are the same as for buses, although minivans tend to be quicker – but can be a tight squeeze.
Car hire: Anything from a Mini Moke to a limousine may be hired at the airport, at offices in Bridgetown and at main hotels. Petrol is comparatively cheap.
Regulations: Speed limits are 40, 60 and 80kph (25, 37 and 50mph).
Documentation: A Barbados driving permit is required. This can be obtained from car hire companies, the Ministry of Transport, the airport or some police stations. A valid national licence or International Driving Permit and a small registration fee are required.
Bridgetown has a local bus network and taxis are available.
Barbados Dollar (BBD; symbol BD$) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of BD$100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 2. Coins are in denominations of BD$1, and 25, 10, 5 and 1 cents.
The Barbados Dollar is tied to the US Dollar.
Commercial banks offer the best rates of exchange. The Barbados National Bank and a range of international banks each have an office in Bridgetown with branches in Hastings, Holetown, Speightstown and Worthing.
American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa are accepted in the resorts, but cash is preferred for customs duty payment. ATMs are widely available.
Accepted by all banks and most hotels. Opt for traveller's cheques in US Dollars or Pounds Sterling to avoid additional charges.
Generally Mon-Thurs 0800-1500, Fri 0800-1700.
Passport valid for six months required by all nationals. Visas are not required.
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