Barbados is an attractive destination for visitors, thanks to its pleasant climate, beautiful scenery, and the government’s encouragement of foreign investment leading to many employment opportunities. Although Barbados has a good health system, it can be expensive, and because it is a relatively small island serious cases may require evacuation to the US or another country, making adequate insurance cover a must.
Barbados Travel Tips
We understand that foreign countries can be confusing. To help you better understand Barbados we have provided some advice on local customs, laws and general behavior.
Please be advised that the information contained below is only for reference purposes and is liable to change at any time without prior warning. Please consult with a travel professional before your trip to ensure that you have the most current data.
- You require a valid passport but no visa to enter Barbados for up to 6 months as a US, UK, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, South African, or Irish national.
- Barbados has a tropical climate, beautiful beaches, and is mostly surrounded by coral reefs, helping to make it a welcoming tourist destination. You should however take advice before exploring the seas around the island, as some wildlife can cause injuries, and there are strong currents in some places.
- Barbados has severe penalties for all drug offences.
- It is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing, use of which is reserved for the Barbados Defence Force.
- Although not illegal, topless bathing is frowned upon.
- Certain homosexual acts are illegal according to Barbadian laws.
- Do not bring meat products into Barbados from the UK.
- Crime is not a major problem in Barbados, but you should still take usual precautions, and not carry valuables or leave them on display. There have been some attacks on foreign visitors, more in recent years, including rapes. You should therefore avoid walking alone at night for example on beaches or in other isolated spots.
- People drive on the left-hand side of the road in Barbados.
- Barbados shows a strong British influence, and is sometimes referred to by its neighbours as “Little England”. Cricket is an extremely popular sport in Barbados, as in many other Caribbean countries, and it hosted the final of the 2007 Cricket world cup.
- Barbados has a high incidence of road accidents, including fatalities, for its size. Most roads are paved but, apart from the main highways, often have potholes, a frequent cause of complaint among Barbadians. In rural areas they are narrow, usually unlit, and often have pedestrians walking in the road because there are no pavements; also watch out for obscured side roads and blind corners. Road surfaces may lack grip and become slippery in wet weather. Speed limit signs are in kilometres per hour (40, 60 and 80 kph maximum) and are lower than in the UK. Road signs are poor. Indicators are used intermittently, so be particularly careful on roundabouts. In the event of an accident, leave your vehicle where it is and telephone the police.
- Barbados does not have a high risk of terrorist attacks, but there remains a global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks in public areas, especially those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
Ranked 31st in the world in 2006 according to the human development index, Barbados has a system of universal public health care provision in place, with modern facilities. Barbados’ main public hospital, and only full-service hospital, is Queen Elizabeth, which is supported by clinics elsewhere among the community; leading private hospitals include Bayview Hospital and Sandy Crest Medical Centre. For more information see our list of Barbados hospitals/doctors.
While medical standards in Barbados are generally good, medical transport can take hours to reach you and bring you to a hospital, and ambulance crews are not always authorized to administer emergency treatment en route. Minor problems requiring a visit to the emergency room can involve a wait of several hours; private clinics and physicians offer speedier service. Private medical insurance is however essential as medical treatment in Barbados can be very expensive. Bear in mind that doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, and that United States medical insurance is not always valid outside the U.S.- the U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not pay for medical treatment outside of the United States. The Queen Elizabeth hospital does however have a reciprocal arrangement for British Nationals on the NHS. Local private clinics can provide good on the spot treatment and minor surgery in some cases, and state hospitals can cope with many surgical requirements but serious cases that might require specialist treatment will mean emergency air evacuation (usually to USA), which can cost thousands of dollars, making adequate insurance essential. Please contact us for information about the products and services we can offer.
We can provide high quality Barbados expat health insurance plans that will give you the assurance that no matter what happens, anywhere in the world, you will have the care that you need. Plans that we can offer are typically guaranteed for life and globally portable, this means that even if you should relocate away from Barbados your plan will travel with you. Due to the limited availability of specialist healthcare in Barbados, owing to its small size, a medical insurance policy with an emergency evacuation benefit is advised. These plans will ensure that if you are seriously ill or injured while in Barbados, you will be transported to the nearest center of medical excellence, this ensures that you will always receive the best treatment and healthcare, no matter what the situation is.
Whenever you travel to a new country it is advisable to obtain some information about your destination so that you are better prepared when you arrive. It is for this reason that we have provided a general outline of Barbados for you below.
Please be advised that this information is meant for reference purposes only, and all data contained on this page may change without prior warning. For more up to date information about Barbados, please consult a travel expert before you depart.
Official Name: Barbados
Location: A small, independent island nation just east of the Caribbean Sea in the western Atlantic and to the northwest of Venezuela, Barbados shares a fixed maritime border with Trinidad and Tobago.
Size: 431 sq km; approximately 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Climate: Tropical, with a rainy season from June to October, which is also the hurricane season. Hurricanes hit Barbados itself infrequently, on average about every 27 years.
Population: Around 282,000
Life expectancy at birth: Barbados is a developed country with a life expectancy of around 77.3 years (compared with 78.2 for the US).
Prevalence of HIV/AIDS: In 2006 it was estimated that around 2,700 adults aged 15 or over in Barbados were living with HIV, with a prevalence rate of about 1.5% of the adult population, compared with around 0.2% in the UK. Levels of HIV/AIDs in the Caribbean are second only to those of southern Africa. In Barbados, AIDS is now the second biggest killer in the 20 to 45 age group and most of the cases are heterosexual. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.
Major illnesses: Dengue Fever, common to Latin America and the Caribbean, can occur throughout the year. In 2007 there was a sharp increase in thenumber of dengue cases reported in the region, including 640 confirmed cases in Barbados. Take precautions to guard against mosquito bites. Barbados also has increasing numbers of elderly citizens and a relatively high incidence of diabetes, and sickle cell anaemia.
Ethnic Groups: black 90%, white 4%, Asian and mixed 6%.
Languages: The official language is English; most Barbadians, also known as ‘Bajans’, speak a dialect of English known as Bajan.
Religion: Protestant Christian 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other 12%), Roman Catholic 4%, none 17%, other 12%
Government: A former British colony and member of the Commonwealth, Barbados has been independent since November 30 1966. As such, the Barbadian legal system owes much to English common law and the constitution is based on the Westminster system with a Westminster style parliament, which has been in existence for 369 years and is one of the oldest in the western hemisphere. Final appeal from Barbadian courts is however no longer to the UK Privy Council, but to the Caribbean Court of Justice, based in Trinidad and Tobago and inaugurated in 2005. Capital punishment is still retained in the penal code for murder and treason (the last executions were in 1984).
Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II, as represented by current represented by Governor General Sir Clifford Straughn Husbands (since 1 June 1996)
Head of Government: Prime Minister David Thompson (since 16 January 2008)
Military: The Royal Barbados Defence Force, including a Troop Command and the Barbados Coast Guard. These are increasing their efforts to combat smuggling and other illegal activities. Military service is voluntary.
Economy: Barbados has one of the highest per capita incomes in the region. Tourism is today one of the country’s main industries, having overtaken the sugar industry in terms of importance some time in the 1990s. Growing sugar is still an important industry in Barbados, and the famous “Crop over” festival, a carnival held over 5 weeks in the summer, dates to a time when Barbados was the world’s biggest sugar producer. The festival features calypso music and dancing among many other things and culminates in the “Grand Kadooment” on the first Monday of August. The government encourages foreign investment in the island (helped by the country’s reputation for political and institutional stability) and the privatization of remaining state owned enterprises. Offshore finance and information services are important foreign exchange earners and Barbados also has a healthy light manufacturing industry. Employment has been reduced to around 7.9% in recent years, partly thanks to tourism and related industries such as construction. Barbados is linked to other Caribbean countries through its membership of the Caribbean community and the Caribbean single market and economy.
GDP: Barbados has a purchasing power parity of US $5.317 billion and an actual GDP of US $3.739 billion