After two years of mediocre Pandemic vacations, my soul was appreciative but craving more. I decided to check a life-long dream off my bucket list and temporarily relocate to Barbados for four months of bliss and a deep culture dive.
Not only did I experience all of the island’s beauty, but by the end of my trip, I coined Barbados “The New York Of The Caribbean.” In addition to its beautiful beaches, nature, and friendly people, I discovered tons of activities, weekly events, and themed restaurant nights that welcomed large turnouts. And the best part! Barbados is one of the few islands where you’ll commonly find tourists mixing with locals, so there’s no need to seek out the local scene. You’re bound to run into it!
Although this is one of my best life experiences, there were a few things I wish I had known before moving to Barbados. With Crop Over around the corner (July 29th, 2022) and the 12 Month Welcome Stamp visa bringing in more ex-pats than ever, I thought my fellow travelers could benefit from these essential tips.
LEAVE YOUR CAMO AT HOME
It’s illegal to wear ANY form of camouflage on the island. This print is reserved strictly for the Barbados Defence Force and makes it easy to identify them. Technically, you could be fined or jailed for this offense, but thankfully, many of my friends received a simple warning to hide the item or have it confiscated. It’s not worth the risk, so I recommend leaving all camo clothing and accessories home.
GROCERIES ARE EXPENSIVE
Groceries are pricey, but here’s a hack! Ditch the US/UK brands and buy local. Unsure of which brands to buy? Here’s my strategy: As I shopped the grocery aisles, I asked locals for their recommendations and many were happy to assist. Another option is to buy fruits and vegetables from street vendors.
THERE'S NO UBER
I’ll keep this short. Book your cabs 1-2 days early and choose accommodations located on popular roads, so you can quickly catch a ZR van (Think Brooklyn dollar van). If you’re planning to rely on city buses, be prepared for massive delays. Thankfully, the ZR vans run quite often and cost around $1.75 US. I recommend renting a car to travel the island freely as most ZR vans stop running in the evening, leaving cabs as your best option (Reminder: Those must be booked in advance). Bonus tip for my drivers! Research the driving rules because those roundabouts can be tricky.
RESERVATIONS ARE A MUST
While restaurants are abundant on the island, no one wants their plans canceled at the last minute, especially if you’ve been salivating for a delicious meal. Most restaurants require reservations, especially on popular nights, so go ahead and book the reservation two days in advance or as soon as you’ve confirmed your plans.
MOST RESTAURANTS HAVE A POPULAR NIGHT
Speaking of restaurants, they have regular nights and then they have themed nights that usually feature a live band/DJ and an even larger turnout. This is a great way to meet people or reunite with new friends. You can often call the restaurant or check their Instagram to find the popular nights. Though the IG images are often underwhelming, don’t let that deter you. Ask locals for a second opinion and know that the crowd gets thicker as the evening progresses. Here’s a quick cheat sheet for some popular nights: Mojos on Wednesdays and Outpost Beach Bar and Lounge on Sundays. For weekends, the famous St.Lawrence Gap (A strip of restaurants and lounges on the south coast) or 1st and 2nd street (A strip of restaurants and lounges on the west coast). It’s best to grab a late dinner and then venue hop after 12am.
LADIES, BRING YOUR HEELS!
Remember how I coined Barbados “The New York of the Caribbean”? If you wouldn’t leave your heels home for a NY trip, don’t do it for Barbados. Trust me. There’ll be many opportunities to look fly, especially if you mix with the Black locals and attend fetes or special events. Bajans go all out when it comes to event attire, so make sure you’re prepared to show up and show out.
Salutations are customary here. In Barbados, it’s rude to ignore someone’s “Good morning.” This is very different from the Northern part of the US, but the everyday greetings added to the island’s warmth and beauty.
TIPPING ISN'T REQUIRED
Tips are, conveniently, included within each bill and listed as a service charge. This service charge is then divvied up by the entire staff, which is excellent for non-customer-facing employees who don’t traditionally receive tips. If you’re interested in giving your waiter an additional tip for stellar service, I recommend placing cash directly in their hand to assure that the person receives the entire tip.
MAKE FRIENDS BEFORE YOUR TRIP
This is for my ex-pats who plan to take advantage of the 12 Month Welcome Stamp. If you’re looking to make friends, I recommend joining the Barbados Blackpats group on Facebook. It is an excellent resource that also helped me navigate Barbados and discover new events. I suggest joining before your trip and directly contacting anyone you click with for a meet-up.
TALK TO THE LOCALS
You’d be surprised how easy life becomes once you chat with, befriend and get advice from Bajans. After my first week, this became my motto, and I asked locals for recommendations on everything: Where to go? What to do? What to order? And what time and day to arrive somewhere? It helped enhance my experience and make it that much more enjoyable.
Looking for more Barbados travel tips? Check out my vlog series on Youtube! https://bit.ly/ChazInBarbados