Before you head off to Barbados, whether on business or on holiday, here are some helpful facts and things you should know so when you arrive on the island you know what to expect.
Barbados has one airport – the Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI). The airport is in the south of the island and is 16kms from Bridgetown, the capital. There is only one terminal at the airport. The airport does not have skyways, so passengers are required to exit the plane via a stairway and walk to the arrivals hall.
Barbados has a strict rule banning any form of army camouflage clothing, including hats, scarves, shorts, t-shirts, back-packs, etc. Anyone wearing such articles into the country (even children) will be asked to remove them by the Authorities.
On board the flight you will be given an Immigration/Customs Form to complete. The forms must be completed prior to entering the Arrivals Hall. Visitors are required to list the address where they will stay while in Barbados. On the reverse side of the Landing Card is a blue Customs Form to be completed and handed to the Customs Officer once you have collected your luggage.
AIRPORT MEET & GREET
Take the hassle out of your arrival experience by arranging a personal Meet and Greet service. This service includes being personally escorted through Immigration, immediate assistance with baggage retrieval, and continuing on with a further personal escort through Customs into an awaiting air-conditioned taxi.
After you have cleared Immigration you will see numerous “Red Caps.” These men and women are available to help you with your bags and will escort you through Customs to the outside. It is customary to tip the Red Caps Bds$2 (US$1) per bag, however, for extra luggage or exceptional service, an extra gratuity will not be refused.
DUTY FREE ARRIVAL PURCHASES
There is a Duty Free wine and spirits shop next to the Baggage Claim where prices can be as much as 70% below on-island retail purchases. Especially good bargains are found in vodka, gin and whiskies. There is no savings on our local rum. Each person is allowed 1 litre but insiders know they can purchase more than the 1 litre limit.
Unless you have made prior arrangements for a private taxi, upon exiting the Arrivals Hall there is a desk immediately on the left where a taxi dispatcher will direct you to the next available taxi. There are signs with the posted fares of all major island destinations but please be advised that most if not all drivers will charge extra depending on the number of passengers and the amount of luggage. We suggest you agree on a price prior to leaving the airport.
There are numerous car rental companies on the island but only a select few meet international standards. Courtesy Rent-a-Car, one of Barbados’ oldest and well known car rental companies, and Drive-a-Matic both have kiosks to the immediate left after you exit the Arrivals Hall. With a prior reservation other companies will greet you usually with a hand held sign outside the Arrivals Hall.
Barbados’ water is naturally filtered via the limestone and coral and is therefore safe to drink. Some say Barbados’ water is fit for a Queen, as Queen Elizabeth herself declared Barbados’ water delicious.
DUTY FREE SHOPPING
If you are shopping in any of the island’s many stores be sure to take your passport and Immigration Card with you as you will be required to present these documents in order to purchase certain items duty free. Alcohol and tobacco purchases cannot be taken with you but rather will be waiting for you at the Chamber of Commerce desk after you clear security in the Departure Lounge.
We drive on the left side of the road which means the steering wheel is located on the right hand side of the vehicle. For those of you who drive on the “other side of the road” please be aware and use caution and look both ways before crossing the road. Easy tip: the steering wheel should always be in the middle of the road, never on the side!
Bajans are fond of their car horns. Rarely are horns beeped in anger in Barbados but rather as a friendly hello, as a “please go ahead of me” and as a thank you. A flashing of the lights is an indication “please proceed before me”.
Our extensive road system can be quite a challenge to navigate. You can download a free SatNav map on to your Garmin and some car rental companies offer a SatNav with the vehicle rental. The bus stop signs are helpful in knowing which direction you are going in. They are either marked “To City” or “Out of City.” This is helpful if you want to go in either of those directions, but going across the country can be a bit more complicated.
Our public transportation system is fairly good, however, there is no particular schedule. The blue buses are Government owned; the yellow mini-buses and the small white ZR vans are privately owned. Unfortunately there is sporadic law enforcement of the sometimes unsafe driving practices exhibited by public transportation vehicles. Please utilise these vehicles at your own risk. Bus fares are Bds$2 /US$1 to anywhere on the island. Simply raise your hand to flag down a bus.
LOCAL DRIVER’S PERMIT
If you are hiring a vehicle the car hire company will issue you with a driver’s permit that is valid for 3 months. The cost is Bds$10 / US$5. Alternatively should you be borrowing a vehicle from a family member or friend, you can obtain your local driver’s permit from the Barbados Revenue Authority in The Pine or Holetown. They accept only Barbados dollars. Remember to bring your own driver’s permit.
BABY EQUIPMENT RENTALS
Car seats, strollers, cots, cribs, even toys, can easily be rented if you want to leave those bulky items at home to facilitate a hassle free trip to Barbados.
United States Dollars are readily accepted throughout the island at a conversion rate of $2.00 Bds equal to $1.00 US. Any other currency can be converted to Barbados Dollars in any of the island’s banks or at the bank by the airport’s Baggage Claim. Upon departure, the Barbados National Bank kiosk located in the Departure Lounge can change any remaining Barbados dollars back to your home currency. All major credit cards are accepted in Barbados, although American Express is not widely accepted.
It is not customary to tip taxi drivers, although a tip will not be refused. The average restaurant tip is 10% but check to make sure a service charge or tip has not been included on your restaurant bill. In the supermarket it is customary to give those packing your grocery bags and then take them to your car a couple of dollars. In the private villas the staff appreciate a tip at the end of your holiday and this amount is discretionary, based upon the level of service you have received. Please check with either your villa manager or booking agent for guidelines. The hotels normally automatically add a 10% service charge on to your room and food and beverage bill.