An independent British colony, the name Barbados comes from « Los Barbados », name given to the island in 1536 by the Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campo because of the bearded fig trees growing at the time. Barbados has kept its colonial heritage and British traditions. Because of the inhabitants’ renowned hospitality, tourism has been flourishing in Barbados for over a century, so the island’s tourist facilities are far better developed and maintained than on other Caribbean islands. As a tourist, you will still discover a world of contrast as the fascinating history of Barbados meets the rich modern island. A large range of resorts offering south or all inclusive vacation packages is available to tourists. Most vacationers stay on the island west coast, overlooking the Caribbean sea, but wherever you decide to lodge, Barbados’ way of life and joie de vivre as well as the locals’ warm welcome will make this vacation unique.
One of the world’s smallest countries, Barbados has a population of 258 000 inhabitants on an area of 168 square miles (21 miles long by a maximum width of 14 miles). Canadian citizens can enter Barbados with only a birth certificate or citizenship card and a recent photo ID card but we strongly advise you to have your passport at all times during the trip. Also, a return or open ticket may be required.
Barbados’ tropical climate guarantees you warm weather, with averages of 24oC in the winter months and 29,5oC during the summer. In Barbados, the rainy season starts in June and ends in September. If you want to enjoy your Barbados’ vacation, avoid September, as it is the rainiest month. Known for its wholesome climate, Barbados has been a spa tourist’s favorite destination since the 18th century. The Bathsheba and Cattlewash Spa centres, on the east coast, are world-renowned.
The island’s fauna and flora, including insects and animals as well as all food and drinks present no particular risk to the tourist on vacation. You can enjoy fresh drinkable water everywhere on the island but we still recommend you drink bottled water when you visit the South. Barbados’ Queen Elizabeth Hospital is one of the Caribbean’s best hospitals.
At all times, you are required to wear decent attire and mostly, have a tactful and quiet demeanor. As always in the South, wear light clothing but not too light as monokinis are forbidden on beaches. A suit and tie may be required to dine in some restaurants.
Rum, shell jewelry and shells (A Bajan tradition started in the 18thcentury is the Sailor’s Valentine which is an assembly of small shells inside an octagonal wooden jewelry box) are the perfect keepsakes to bring back from your Barbados’s vacation. If you prefer larger souvenirs, you can also find wooden sculpted objects, baskets, potteries and paintings.
In Barbados, the legal holidays are: New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, First of May (Labor Day), the first Monday of October, Christmas and Boxing Day. The island’s largest festival is Crop Over Festival, a celebration of the sugar cane’s harvest, which was Barbados primary resource for a long time. For 5 weeks, this festival takes the whole island by storm and you will certainly enjoy the parades with their colorful floats and bright colored costumes from the South. You can also attend the Paint It Jazz Festival if you want to listen to the world’s best jazz musicians.
Barbados offers tourists some local delicacies. During your vacation, be sure to try the flying fish; it is so popular and prepared in so many different ways that it has become the island’s national symbol. Also, do not hesitate to taste the sea urchin (from September to December), the green sea turtle’s steak, the sea dace, the gilt-head sea bream and the lobster taken directly from the coral reef. As a side dish, you will probably have Coo-Coo, a dish of mashed corn that accompanies all dishes, from the flying fish to black pudding, pig’s head, Jug-Jug (mashed peas), pepperbot (a pork stew) and piglet’s roast. For local fruits, you have your choice of mangos, papayas, avocados, sour sops, coconuts, bananas, and cherries and, surprisingly for the Caribbean, apples. If you are looking for exotic vegetables, try the yam or the okra. If you need a drink to wash all of this food down, do not miss your chance to try the traditional Barbados’ rum, one of the world’s best as the first rum distillery was founded in Barbados. Bajans drink their rum on the rocks, with soda or tonic water or mixed in a punch. If you are not in the mood for rum, you can also have a fruit punch or Maby, a bittersweet drink made from boiled barks.
The traditional British influences can be seen everywhere in Barbados, from the Members of Parliament’s white wigs to the statue of Nelson on Trafalgar’s Square as well as in the towns and streets’ names and in the architecture of Bridgetown and Speightown, Barbados’ two primary cities.
In Bridgetown, a stroll through the Caribbean’s « Little England » will show you that very influence in the island’s government official buildings. The city’s museums reveal the long history of Barbados and the Barbados National Trust Estate displays Barbados’ rich legacy and the lush natural environment. The historical Bridgetown Synagogue was built circa 1627, shortly after the first wave of British colonist founded the city and following the massive exile of Brazilian Jews from Recife, and is most probably the first synagogue established in the New World (North America and Caribbean). In the cemetery, you can find tombstones dating back to 1630. During your vacation in Barbados, do not forget to visit the chattel houses: these small homes are scattered throughout the countryside.
In St. Michael, visit the Tyrol Cot Heritage Village and the Victorian decor with mahogany furniture of the Tyrol Cot Mansion, this historical village’s largest building. Built in 1854 in coral and stone, the house’s architecture incorporates a dash of Caribbean influences to the Palladian style.
In St. Thomas, go on a electric train tour of the beautiful Harrison’s Caves, where you will be astounded by a spectacular 12 meters high underground waterfall supplying the lagoon and the magnificent view of the prehistorical arches and geological formations fully highlighted by colored lights.
In St. James, at the modern sugar factory, visit the Sir Frank Huston Sugar Museum to discover the refurbished equipment of some of the island’s old plantations.
In St. Andrew, the 250 years old Morgan Lewis Windmill, an old sugar cane mill, is an important landmark for that era and also offers a spectacular view.