- Wild east, chilled west
- Coast life
- Cricket on the beach, cocktails at sunset
On Barbados – arguably the most charismatic of Caribbean islands – you’ll live like the locals do, eat with them, chill with them and most definitely party with them.
Get lost in the middle of the island and you’ll be set back on the right track by friendly residents before you can say ‘SatNav’. Drive around for an hour or two and you’ll pass cricket matches with players turned out in full whites, locals chilling outside wooden shops and bars with painted Banks beer slogans and, on Sundays, churchgoers walking to prayer in their Sunday best, babies in finest bib and tucker. The south and west sides boast the usual gorgeous tropical-beach scenes; the east is an unexpected surfer’s paradise – wild and untouched, with white sand and natural rock formations.
Head down to 2nd Street in Holetown on a Sunday night and follow the crowds to hear some Bajan beats. You might catch some local karaoke performers in action; they’ll love it if you sing them a song in return. There are always festivals and live bands to discover; keep your ear to the ground and let the locals guide you.
- You’ll be able to grab a taxi on the main restaurant streets in Holetown and in the south of the island, but it’s safer to call a driver or firm you’re familiar with. Your hotel will give you a good contact when you arrive – you’ll probably have the same driver for the entirety of your stay.
- Tipping culture
- Around 10 to 15 per cent is expected.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Shops are open at fairly standard times Monday to Friday, and until 3.30pm on Saturdays. Most banks close at the weekend, except the Mutual Bank (two branches open until 2pm on Saturdays), and the Caribbean Commercial Bank (until 1pm). Dining, you’ll have the best time if you book for 8.30pm–9pm. Clubs get busy from 10pm.
- Packing tips
- Pretty summer clothes for the evening; an alarm clock to wake you for turtle-watching at 4am or to head over to the east coast for sunrise; trainers/goggles to run/swim off all the great food.
- Recommended reads
- Mr Nice by Howard Marks; Pig Tails ’n’ Breadfruit: a Culinary Memoir by Austin Clarke.
- All your West Indian favourites, such as rice and peas, great fresh fish and seafood, and spicy chicken or shrimp curries – delicious at the little food stand you’ll see at the side of the road in St James. To drink, it’s Banks beer and Mount Gay rum – the reserve is so good you can drink it on the rocks. Do check dress codes before you head out to eat – some stipulate no vest tops or shorts for men and so on.
- The Barbadian dollar (BB$).
- Time zone
- Atlantic Standard Time zone, so GMT -5 hours.
- Dialling codes
- The international dialling code is +1 246.
- Do go/don't go
- The weather is great all year round. December to Easter is the height of the season; when it’s scorching in July and August, you can get great deals.
Don't go home without...
A bottle of Mount Gay Reserve.