Barbados

Destination Location

Barbados
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Overview

One of the most distinguishing features of Barbados is its relatively flat terrain. It's the region's only non-volcanic land mass. But once you're here, you'll soon discover Barbadian life is far from flat. From the rugged beauty of its rocky eastern shoreline, to the calm, serene waters of its "Platinum Coast," Barbados packs plenty of punch into 430 sq. km of Caribbean paradise.

While the island's 350-plus churches are filled to the brim come Sunday morning, Barbadians still know how to have a good time, as evidenced by a thriving nightlife scene and a full calendar of festivals.

Steeped in English tradition while embracing its historic past, Barbados is often characterized by the welcoming warmth of its proud and confident people. The island's rich heritage is complemented by its international flair and sophistication – a combination that makes it one of the most diverse destinations in the Caribbean.

Accommodations here are as diverse as the choice of island experiences. From the elegant surroundings of the most popular luxury properties in the Caribbean to family-oriented properties and romantic retreats, you're bound to find a space perfect for you, nestled by the turquoise coves of Barbados' west coast. But Barbados' appeal goes far beyond its golden attributes of sea, sand and sun. The island serves as a beacon for history buffs, adventure-seekers and those simply looking for the peace and tranquility of a Caribbean vacation.

Barbados is a fantastic destination for:

  • beaches
  • nightlife
  • shopping and dining

Airport served by: BGI

Destination basics

Barbados enjoys a moderate tropical climate, with generally sunny skies and average daytime highs of 24 to 30 C. Bright, sunny days are tempered by prevailing northeast trade winds that help to offset the heat by day, while providing slightly cooler temperatures at night.

Here, the dry season lasts from January through June, giving way to summer rainfalls. (Barbados receives 1,200 mm on average a year). However, even in the rainy season, showers are often followed by the return of sunshine. And while hurricane season officially runs from June through October, they rarely affect Barbados. The island is 161 km outside of the traditional hurricane belt.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Barbados

No event captures the true essence of Barbadian culture better than the annual Crop Over Festival, rooted in the days of 18th-century slavery. Crop Over marked the end of each year’s sugar cane harvest, when masters and slaves would both indulge in a colourful celebration of dance, rum and a hearty meal of rice and peas, salt fish, cassava and “pudding and souse” (a dish made of pork and sweet potato).

Today, Crop Over Festival celebrates the culture of a proud and independent nation, played out over a month of carnival-style events that kick off on the first Saturday in July. The celebrations of food and drink, arts and crafts, fetes and calypso tents continue until the first Monday in August, when costumed partygoers take to the streets to compete in the annual Kadooment Parade.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to settle on the island in the 1500s. They called the island Los Barbados, in reference to its abundance of "bearded" fig trees (barbudo is Portuguese for bearded). However, the Portuguese soon hauled anchor, never to return, mainly due to the island's lack of natural resources.

English explorers arrived on Barbados in 1625 and began the only colonization Barbados has ever known. The island soon grew into one of the world's largest sugar producers. By the time slavery was abolished in 1834, the island's population was predominantly of African descent, as it remains today.

Since gaining independence from the U.K. in 1966, Barbados has grown into a model of political and social development, while maintaining strong ties to the traditions and institutions of the British system (Queen Elizabeth II remains its Head of State). And nowhere is the island's social development more evident than in the groups of smartly dressed, uniformed schoolchildren en route to schools, forming part of a nation that boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world.

Today, the island's resident population of more than 257,000 includes a skilled labour force of over 126,000. Free education has contributed to a large middle class, significantly diminishing the gap between rich and poor. As a result, Barbados ranked third in 1996 in terms of quality of life, according to the United Nations Development Index.

Barbadians are primarily Christian, encompassing more than 100 denominations who worship at more than 350 churches across the island. Interestingly, close to many churches and greatly outnumbering them, local rum shops serve as gathering points for Barbadians to talk about the politics of the day over a nip of one of the island's finest products.

While tourism has become the island's bread and butter, sugar and rum remain staples of the Barbadian economy, linking the island's past to its present in a very measurable way. The island's fishing industry is also an important way of life for generations of seafaring Barbadians.

From Christian values and calypso music, to its parliamentary system and polo grounds, a balanced mix of indigenous culture and colonial influences have helped shape the unique character of modern-day Barbadian life.

The official currency in Barbados is the Barbados Dollar (BBD). U.S. dollars, major credit cards, and travelers cheques are also widely accepted. ATMs are available, however fees may vary.

Barbados, the easternmost Caribbean Island, is trimmed with white-sand beaches and surrounded by azure waters. The interiors are blanketed with acre upon acre of sugar cane plantations, and the cane-growing season is an important part of the local culture. While cosmopolitan travelers jet off to Barbados from the UK on the Concorde for a day at the races, the local residents can still be seen toiling over a sugar cane harvest and celebrating the yearly bounty at a festival called Crop Over.

With good airline services, a wide range of accommodations and many restaurants, Barbados is a comfortable place to visit. It's a relatively flat island, coral rather than volcanic in origin, and the tourist services are very well developed. Compared to some other islands, roads are well signed and tourist sites abound. With a highly evolved Barbados National Trust, the island has created many spectacular sites and restored many old buildings to their original splendor.

The range of activities here is endless: from fabulous golf courses to great windsurfing, surfing, scuba diving, and hiking. There are several amazing caves to explore and old plantations to visit. There are also luxury villas and hotels for those who prefer higher end as well as affordable, yet comfortable accommodations for bargain hunters. In Barbados, there's something for everyone.

South Coast

While there's lots to see and do along the West Coast, the South Coast of Barbados is the livelier, more authentic and more budget-friendly alternative. The coast is lined with spectacular beaches, fringed with swaying palms and lapped by clear waters. Unlike their serene West Coast counterparts, the beaches along the South Coast alternate between calm tides and rough surf where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, attracting avid surfers alongside families, groups and couples. There are ample bars and water sports outfitters on every beach, as well as loungers for those who simply want to relax.

The South Coast boasts a distinctly Bajan character, with St Lawrence Gap the hub of its vibrant nightlife. Reggae bars and Soca clubs abound, alongside the occasional Irish pub. Beach parties are par course and rum punch flows freely. Maxwell, in comparison, is deliciously laid-back, with picture-perfect vistas of a white-sand beach and turquoise waters with a verdant fringe of leaning palms. For those traveling with family, Rockley is the place to be. It has all the usual beachside charms plus a town center riddled with pastel-hued houses in shades of mint, lemon and pink.

West Coast

Barbados' West Coast is the most developed region of the island with stunning hotels, restaurants and a vibrant nightlife to look forward to. The West Coast is a delightful blend of the native Bajan culture, British colonial charm and a cosmopolitan vibe lent by the many tourists who throng the pristine beaches. There are numerous attractions to explore, water sports to enjoy and historical enclaves to discover. Beachside resorts, luxury villas, and classy hotels are aplenty, as are fine dining restaurants alongside street vendors doling out traditional Caribbean fare.

It is here where you'll find the island nation's capital city, Bridgetown. Bridgetown is also Barbados' largest city and its historic heart. Downtown Bridgetown was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2012 and is a must visit when in Barbados. Some of the island's most popular historic and cultural attractions can be found here, including the Barbados Museum, St. Michael's Cathedral, the Chamberlain Bridge, and the Nidhe Israel Synagogue – the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Taking a tour of St. Nicholas Abbey, the island's oldest rum distillery, is also considered to be a quintessentially Barbadian experience. The West Coast is also blessed with some of Barbados' finest beaches, burnished by the golden sun and kissed by the calm waters of the Caribbean sea, perfect for a swim. Carlisle Bay boasts some of the West Coast's best beaches, its waters rife with spectacular dive sites. Attractions like Harrison's Cave, the Garrison Savannah Racetrack, the George Washington House and the Morgan Lewis Windmill are also quite intriguing.

St. James, on the other hand, is where celebrities go to unwind. The parish is rife with luxury hotels and palatial mansions, while Holetown boasts an impressive array of designer boutiques.

East Coast

Edged by the roiling waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the East Coast is the least developed; an untouched locale brimming with wild beauty. The beaches here are washed by rough tides and are unsuitable for swimming, but are a haven for surfers instead. Unhindered by typical tourist trappings, the East Coast is the place to go for secluded beaches, fantastic waves and awe-inspiring views away from the crowds that throng the West and South Coasts of Barbados.

When it comes to entertainment, Barbados does not disappoint. There's everything from live music, a vibrant nightlife and performing arts, to outdoor activities and museums to explore.

Music & Nightlife
Rum shops and bars on this island paradise are more than just watering holes. Here you will hear Barbadians articulately debating the latest political issues and current affairs of the day over an alcoholic beverage of choice. This same spirit of public discourse is underscored by the local's love of music and dance and the infectious calypso rhythms of the island.

Calypso is more than just a 'jump up' carnival beat. It is a serious social commentary about the issues of life. It is the Calypsonian's form of political satire. Spend some and listen to the lyrics and you hear critiques on virtually everything from politics to male and female relationships.

The annual Crop Over festival is a five-week summer festival that promotes the best in local culture and entertainment. Some of the island's top performers such as the Mighty Gabby and Red Plastic Bag compete for several coveted prizes including Party Monarch, the Road March and the Pic-O-De-Crop Monarch. The finals of the Pic-O-De-Crop are held at the National Stadium in Waterford. The entertainers are judged not only on visual presentation but also on the lyrical content of their songs. Innuendo, humor, and skillful delivery are artistically infused into their performances to help them compete for calypso king and queen.

While the traditional Barbadian calypso is still highly regarded among the island's music lovers, the next generation of Barbadians is attracted to the up-tempo beats of party soca. Performers such as Alison Hinds, Edwin Yearwood and Rupee Clarke have excelled in this arena. This variation of calypso is faster paced, energetic, and more physically demanding in its dance requirements.

Bridgetown is more a commercial hub than an entertainment center. To uncover the true musical pulse of the island, you have to go outside of Bridgetown. The St. Michael area, the South Coast (where the popular St. Lawrence Gap is located) and the West Coast are home to some of the more popular music venues.

For late night socializing, live entertainment and DJ music, Harbour Lights, located just outside Bridgetown, is one of the top clubs amongst visitors and locals. This semi-outdoor setting offers live music on weekends and some weeknights. The cover charge includes free drinks on certain nights. And it attracts large crowds on Fridays.

Just under a quarter of a kilometer away, you will find the Boatyard with its semi-outdoor restaurant and courtyard bar. This is a famous happy hour haunt, especially with the locals. The happy hours are 6p and 10p and the second happy bell packs the place, particularly on Friday nights. Live music on weekends includes top local bands such as Square One and The Heard, and several others from the region.

The popular After Dark nightclub, also on St. Lawrence Gap, boasts one of the longest bars in the world. Here their expert bar staff will serve you virtually any alcoholic beverage of your choice with a juggling technique that is as impressive as the drink itself. You can take advantage of dancing to the sweet rhythms of calypso and reggae until the wee hours of the morning.

The annual Barbados Jazz Excursion is one of the premier jazz festivals in the Caribbean, as it attracts jazz lovers and worldwide media attention. Scores of Barbadians and visitors converge over Columbus Day Weekend to listen to some of the world's top jazz performers.

Located in Bridgetown, the Waterfront Café is one of only a few jazz cafes on the island. This stylish café overlooks the scenic Careenage where yachts are docked. This is a great place to listen to live jazz (on Saturdays) and enjoy a drink or a meal. The Waterfront Café can also offer unexpected surprises in the form of marquee guest artists such as Roy Haynes or Branford Marsalis.

Theater
Barbadian humor, often considered "wicked," abounds in Barbadian pantomime. Very different from British pantomime, it focuses on political satire and local folklore. Laff it Off is one of the more popular pantomime groups.

Over the years, more serious theaters have emerged on the local scene. This has attracted more discerning theatergoers who have an interest in literature and playwriting, which typify the local drama scene. Stage One Theatre Production, among other production companies, has brought a number of serious plays to Barbadian audiences.

Dinner Shows

The Plantation Bajan Roots & Rhythms Dinner Show is a glittering extravaganza, complete with stunning costumes and thrilling choreography, an authentic Caribbean cultural kaleidoscope featuring music, song and dance.

Cinemas

If you are a moviegoer, you will be happy to know that there are two cinemas and one drive-in on the island. The Globe Drive-In, situated in Adam's Castle, Christ Church offers an outdoor viewing experience and usually combines new releases with older classics. They offer the latest Hollywood releases. Located in Upper Roebuck Street, Bridgetown, the Globe Cinema offers a similar selection to the Drive-In. Refreshments include old movie favorites such as hot dogs, popcorn and soft drinks. The Vista and the Globe feature daytime and nighttime movie showings.

Outdoors
Barbados is synonymous with sun-kissed beaches and clear waters, and no mention of the island is complete without an allusion to these. The beaches along the West Coast, particularly those of Carlisle Bay, are the calmest of the lot, lapped by the gemstone waters of the Caribbean Sea. Watersports outfits are aplenty, but most choose to simply lounge in the sun or swim in the shimmering sea. Just off the coast of Bridgetown are several shipwrecks that make for fantastic dive sites, teeming with colorful fish and exotic marine life. The South Coast, in comparison, is fringed with rough surf and calm waters in equal measure, while the East Coast is ravishingly wild, washed by rough surf that attracts surfers.

There's plenty to do besides as well, like exploring the labyrinthine confines of Harrison's Cave and teeing off at golf courses such as the Barbados Golf Club, Westmoreland and Sandy Lane.

Museums
While its hard to resist the siren call of the sea, Barbados has much to offer by way of cultural nourishment as well outside of its lively bars and vibrant festivals. History buffs will enjoy a visit to the Barbados Museum and its enlightening exhibits that delve into the island nation's history and culture. Sports fans, on the other hand, are likely to find the Cricket Legends of Barbados an interesting place to see. There's also the historic George Washington house where the legendary US President lived for a time, and the Concorde Experience for a high-flying adventure.

Shopping
Barbados is a haven for duty-free shopping, but also boasts a worthy collection of local shops selling authentic crafts and gorgeous souvenirs. Bridgetown is a veritable paradise for shoppers, thronged with duty-free designer boutiques by the cruise terminal, its streets replete with stalls selling handicrafts. The Colonnade Mall and Cave Shepard are two of the city's most diverse shopping destinations, although you'll find appealing options throughout.

Outside of Bridgetown, Sheraton Mall, Dome Mall and Sky Mall offer a worthy blend of local and mainstream brands, while the Limegrove Lifestyle Center is the destination for luxury goods.

Pelican Village, Earthworks Pottery and Medford Craft World are a few of the island's more favored craft warrens, however, there are plenty of stalls across St. Lawrence Gap and alongside just about every beach as well.

The choice of dining options in Barbados is practically endless. From fine dining to fast foods, the slew of restaurants is one of the most varied in the Caribbean. Here you can find seafood restaurants, steak houses, world-wide ethnic specialties, contemporary continental cuisine, lively bistros, and eateries specializing in Caribbean foods.

You'll find almost everything here, there are Italian and French restaurants, plus Bajan places that serve planter's lunches. Discover Japanese restaurants, Mediterranean options, unique breakfast venues, places for tea, and beach bars for fun and snacks. And, keeping up with the times, there is a selection of vegetarian restaurants.

Dining out in Barbados is an event and in high season, it is a good idea to make reservations in advance, or at least inquire to see if they are necessary. Many of the restaurants are quaint, intimate places and seating can be limited. Taxi service is available island-wide during dinner hours, so those who are worried about finding their way home can easily arrange for this type of transport. Some restaurants list prices in US currency, others in Barbados dollars. To convert to US, divide the Bajan dollars roughly in half. Also, it is often the custom to present the bill to diners only when they ask for it.

Many of the restaurants here have been touted by the likes of Gourmet Magazine and Bon Appetite, and chefs have received star after star in their ratings. In other words, dieting in Barbados is usually not an option.

West Coast
Beginning in Speightstown on the West Coast is Mango's—by the Sea, a delightful restaurant right on the water serving grilled lobsters and steaks with delicious homemade desserts. The historic Cobblers Cove Hotel has a exciting restaurant featuring award-winning chefs and features special buffets and live music on some nights. In St. James, The Lone Star provides seafront dining and also features a caviar and cigar lounge.

There are numerous other fine restaurants in the St. James area, among them the Coral Reef Club, the Sandpiper, the Club House Restaurant at Royal Westmoreland, and the Ile de France. In nearby Holetown, there's Sakura Restaurant, serving Japanese cuisine, and Olive's Bar & Bistro, which is located in an old Bajan building. There's also the Townhouse Restaurant and Bar, Angry Annie's for drinks and/or dinner, and Ragamuffins, located in an old wooden chattel house. Another notable spot in the area is La Terra, which has a seaside restaurant and nightclub.

In Bridgetown, there are several excellent places, including The Waterfront Café, which serves flying fish and other local dishes in addition to providing jazz music, and the South Deck at Carlisle Bay, where the yachting set hang out.

South Coast
Along the South Coast, and particularly in lively St. Lawrence Gap, there are dozens of places to eat. David's Place in St. Lawrence Gap focuses on plenty of fresh fish. Eat amid the twinkling lights strung along the waterfront at Pisces or enjoy the colorful ambiance at the highly-rated Harlequin Restaurant, where you can see the moonlight glisten on the sea. There's also The Garden Terrace Restaurant at the Southern Palms Beach Club, which has many West Indian dishes.

The St. James Parish has a bounty of restaurants like The Cliff, which is appropriately perched above the oceanfront. The Restaurant at Sandy Lane is located at the well-known Sandy Lane Golf Course, with its renowned Sunday buffet. There's evening entertainment as well as good food at Treasure Beach in Paynes Bay.

Located in a grand plantation home is the Bagatelle Great House in St. Thomas, where the Caribbean Art Gallery is housed, and the food is well recommended. Il Tempio Italian Restaurant & Beach Bar has been touted by Pavarotti himself, and is excellent for a romantic dinner.

Barbados

Country:Barbados

Barbados by the Numbers
Population: 285,006
Elevation: 0 meters - 340 meters / 0 feet - 1115 feet at its highest point.
Average Annual Precipitation: 10.65 centimeters / 4.2 inches
Average January Temperature: 26°C / 79°F
Average July Temperature: 27°C / 81°F

Quick Facts
Electricity: 120 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT -4; Atlantic Standard Time (AST)

Country Dialing Code: +246

Area Code: None

Did You Know?
When Barbados was first settled by the British in 1627, the island was almost completely covered in thick jungle with a large wild pig population.

Barbados has the third oldest Parliament in the entire world.

Orientation
Barbados is the easternmost island of the Lesser Antilles in the Atlantic Ocean. The island is approximately 161 kilometers (100 miles) east of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and 483 kilometers (300 miles) north of Venezuela.

Barbados is the easternmost island in the Lesser Antilles and is situated approximately 100 km east of the Windward Islands. The island's relatively flat composition is due to its origin as a continental island, formed by ocean sediments and overlaid by coral and limestone, as opposed to being formed by volcanic activity. At its highest point in the central highlands, Mount Hillaby rises only 340 metres above sea level.

While there are no natural lakes or minerals found here, Barbados' limestone surface and coral base combine to provide farmable land for crops such as sugar cane, cassava, yams, breadfruit and cotton. The coral base serves as one of nature's most-effective drainage systems, effectively protecting the island from floods in the aftermath of torrential rains.

The 430-sq.-km island stretches 34 km from north to south and is 23 km at its widest point. Barbados is also blessed with 97 km of coastline, contrasted between the rough, rocky shores of the east coast and the tranquil, mirror-like waters of the resort-laden west coast.

Although the contrasting coastlines are often attributed to the rough Atlantic versus the calm Caribbean Sea, Barbados is actually surrounded by the former, approximately 100 km east of the actual Caribbean.

With a breathtaking location beside the white sandy beaches of Carlisle Bay, Bridgetown is the capital and the only city of Barbados. Boasting one of the most sophisticated ports in the Caribbean with excellent duty-free shopping, this bustling, modern city is also the main tourist hub on the island.

Barbados means bearded. The island got its name because of the mossy plants that hang from the trees. Founded in 1628 by a tiny group of British settlers, Bridgetown is home to approximately 40 percent of the island's population (some 100,000 people). The early settlers, finding an Amerindian wooden bridge across the water, named the area Indian River Bridge.

Bordered by Carlisle Bay, the capital city proved economically important to the early British settlers. From the seventeenth century onwards, trading in sugar and using slaves as their labor force, the town's merchants thrived and grew their fortunes, building grand warehouses along the waterfront. Most of the great buildings of these "golden years," however, were destroyed in a series of fires and hurricanes. Today there is only a handful that predates the last great fire of 1860.

Bridgetown is one of the oldest cities in the Caribbean. Its rich history identifies it as the origin of colonial trading activity during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The controversial statue of Admiral Nelson erected in 1813, some twenty-seven years before the London monument, reflects the importance of Barbados as the "jewel in the crown" of British colonialism during the Imperial Age. The statue has recently been the subject of national controversy and debate as it is thought to link Barbados too closely with its colonial heritage. First Nelson was turned around 180 degrees so that he no longer looked down Broad Street, the main shopping hub. Now there are plans to remove the statue altogether until a suitable home can be found. There is little irony in the fact that it was erected in the heart of the city's major crossroads, Trafalgar Square. Signaling the increasing awareness of Barbadian national heroes and the cultural identity of the island's people, Trafalgar Square was renamed National Heroes Square in 1999.

Compared to other Caribbean islands, violent political struggles and slave rebellions do not occupy a major part of Barbados history. However, Bridgetown became the focus of the Afro-Barbadian struggle for political and economic freedom in the first half of the twentieth century. On the evening of July 26th, 1937, meetings were held and attended by crowds in the Lower Green and Golden Square to protest against the deportation of their "shepherd" Clement Payne, a political activist. After the meetings, the crowds became uncontrollable. They roamed Bridgetown, smashing electric street lamps and the windscreens of motor cars. The police eventually restored order. Independence from the island's planters, however, didn't come until 1949.

The architecture of Bridgetown today is an interesting blend of attractive, balconied colonial buildings, warehouses, modern department stores, brash office blocks and small chattel houses. Compared to other parts of the island, the residential dwellings located in the city are more crudely constructed from timber and corrugated aluminum and generally house the poorer citizens of the island. Though tucked away from the ultra-modern, sophisticated, and tourist-oriented commercial activity of the city, New Orleans, (also known as "De Orleans"), Pondside, and Green Fields are the distressed districts where the poor live. However, starting in the mid-1990s, efforts have been made by the present Owen Arthur administration to develop Bridgetown's residential districts under its Urban Development Commission. Poverty Alleviation programs have also raised the quality of life for the peoples of Bridgeton.

A picturesque center of activity is the Careenage, a berthing area for many sleek yachts and a pebble's throw from the House of Assembly. Established by Governor Henry Hawley, the House of Assembly has stood as a symbol of the island's unbroken tradition of parliamentary government and democratic traditions since 1639.

A number of the island's leading buildings of religious significance are within a five minutes' walk of the Careenage, including St. Michael's Cathedral and the Jewish Synagogue, both still standing on the sites of their mid-seventeenth century original locations. St. Michael's Cathedral has a fine set of inscriptions and a single-hand clock. The first building was consecrated in 1665 but destroyed by a hurricane in 1780. The present cathedral is long and broad with a balcony. It has a fine vaulted ceiling and some tombs (1675) were built into the porch. Completed in 1789, it suffered hurricane damage in 1831. The original synagogue was one of the two earliest in the Western Hemisphere while the present building is an early 19th century structure. Jews fleeing Recife, Brazil built the synagogue in the late 1660s. They learned that Oliver Cromwell had extended freedom of worship for Jews and were granted permission to settle in Barbados. Recently painstakingly restored, it is now used for religious services again and is open to visitors. Today, 16 families support it.

Just north of the city lies Tyrol Cot, an unusual nineteenth century house that was home to two of the island's leading post-war politicians, Sir Grantley Adams and his son Tom Adams. Heritage Village sells arts and crafts, and there's also a chattel-house museum, gardens and a restaurant located on the grounds of the house. One of Barbados's national treasures, the property is managed and maintained by the Barbados National Trust. Southeast of this location is the historic Garrison Savannah, where the British Empire maintained its Caribbean military headquarters from 1780 to 1905. It is an evocative place; the huge grassy savanna, today a racecourse and public park, was once the army's parade ground. The ranks of brightly colored buildings around its edge were all used for military purposes; a couple of them now house the Barbados Museum and the Barbados Gallery of Art, both of which deserve a visit for those who have an interest in the island's history and culture.

During the economic depression of the 1930s, unemployment escalated, living conditions deteriorated and riots broke out. To counteract the turmoil, the British Colonial Welfare and Development Office was established, to provide sizeable sums of money for Barbados and other Caribbean colonies. To ward off the growing political unrest, the British reluctantly gave black reformers a role in the political process. One of those reformers, Grantley Adams, became the first premier of Barbados a decade later and was eventually knighted by the queen.

Barbados gained self-government in 1961 and full independence in 1966. The head of the government is the Prime Minister. The legislative body is the Parliament. It is made up of the House of Assembly, which is elected by a popular vote system, and the Senate, which is appointed by the government. Barbados is a member of the British Commonwealth, and they recognize the British monarch, represented by the governor-general, as the head of state.

By the 1970s Barbados gained greater popularity and by the early 1990s visitors not only traveled to the island during the traditional ‘high' or winter season, but also during the less trafficked period of July through August, mainly due to the island's extremely well promoted festival, Crop Over. Today, over a million visitors come to Barbados each year, half of which are cruise ship passengers.

If you're worried about getting lost in Barbados, don't be. The entire island is only 34 km long by 23 km wide. If you're renting a vehicle, please note that people here drive on the left side. Traffic circles are also common. Local drivers are pretty laid back and extremely accommodating to visitors when it comes to driving on their roads. Rental vehicles can be identified by the "H" posted on the vehicle.

If you're not comfortable renting, the Transport Board of the Barbados operates public buses. With a fare of only BBD$1.50 to anywhere on the island, buses also provide an economical option. Taxicabs are also available for hire. Check with your hotel concierge for taxi recommendations.

As with all international destinations, you will need a Canadian passport for travel to Barbados. You will also need proof of a return ticket – so keep your WestJet tickets or proof of purchase readily available in your carry-on. To expedite your entrance into the country, fill in the immigration forms given to you while onboard the plane and have them ready for local officials.

You'll soon arrive in Grantley Adams International Airport – a modern building located on the southern coast in Christ Church Parish. Once you retrieve your bags, look for a St. James Travel and Tours representative holding a WestJet Vacations sign.

The airport is centrally located, so you'll get to nearly any hotel in under an hour. If you're visiting the south or east coasts, expect to arrive at your destination in just 15 short minutes. The drive to the west coast takes about 45 minutes, and the drive to Bridgetown is approximately 30 minutes.

There is a departure tax in the Bahamas which is conveniently covered in the cost of your WestJet airfare.

Vaccinations

Be sure your routine vaccinations are up to date. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria, typhoid and tetanus are commonly recommended. Mosquito repellant is also suggested, especially when visiting swampy or low lying areas. Make an appointment at your local health clinic for additional information.

Barbados uses the North American standard plug, however some properties have only two-pronged receptacles in the room rather than three-pronged receptacles.

Immediately clear is the island's embrace of British tradition, from cricket matches and polo fields, to English place names such as Trafalgar Square, Brighton, Ashbury and many more. Thanks to a literacy rate ranked amongst the highest in the world and bolstered by a sophisticated infrastructure (including island-wide Wi-Fi availability), Barbados proudly defines itself as an "island that works."

Barbados has all the sought-after characteristics of a top-rated Caribbean destination – including emerald seas and white-powder beaches. But the island is equally rich in its historic and cultural attractions.

While the island's breathtaking Platinum Coast is reason enough for many to visit, Barbados' portfolio of enticing features extends far beyond the beaches. Championship golf, world-class spas, international sporting events, eco-tourism and more combine with the island's natural features, making Barbados a truly unique destination.

Barbados' diverse array of accommodation ranges from upscale resorts catering to the rich and famous to privately owned coastal properties offering unique settings. The island is also home to a handful of branded hotels and all-inclusive properties, providing a vacation experience for every desire and budget.

Barbados also claims the title of epicurean capital of the Caribbean, with more restaurants per square mile than any other destination in the region. The culinary talents of experienced local and international chefs can be tasted in the wide selection of international cuisine offered across the island, including mouth-watering West Indian staples cooked up to perfection.

A highlight of the events calendar is November's annual Food & Wine and Rum Festival – a terrific way to experience the many flavours of Barbados.

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