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With images of golden beaches, tropical palm trees and fancy resorts Barbados may seem like an expensive island in the Caribbean. But there’s more than one way to travel and I’ve always been on that enjoys budget travel.
If you want to stay in 5 star resorts on gorgeous beaches, nobody would deny that. It’s what Barbados is famous for! However, despite not being a traditional budget destination that would attract the likes of backpackers, its definitely possible to visit Barbados without spending too much.
Although the Caribbean is more costly than other regions of the world, I’ll show you that you can travel to Barbados on a budget.
Before you go:
From September 2022, Barbados removed all of their COVID entry requirements. Most nationalities don’t need a visa to visit Barbados. All EU, Caribbean, and North American countries can enter visa free. Double check using the Barbados Immigration department here. Travellers need proof of funds and a return ticket however it is rarely checked. You should still check current recommendations at the time of travel for the most up to date advice.
The official currency of Barbados is the Barbados Dollar (BBD) however, US Dollars can be used almost everywhere with an official exchange rate of 2:1. Occasionally you may get an upmarket hotel that will charge an exchange rate of 1.9USD:1BBD so that they earn a bit of commission but on the streets they are very honest. Even if you pay in USD you will get your change in BBD and on buses you may not get change at all. Before arriving in Barbados, get USD as very few places outside the country have Barbados dollars.
Barbados uses the American style two flat pronged plugs but some places have sockets with the three pronged style you get in the UK. Best to take a multi-adapter to be sure.
Getting to Barbados:
Unless you’re going the ultra budget method and swimming around the Caribbean, you’ll be flying into Barbados. I flew from London and got a return flight for £270 with Tui as hand luggage only. It was an extra £70 for check in luggage. I flew in January 2022 and only booked the flight a week before.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic also fly there from the UK but check out when they have sales on to get the best fares. Miami is a popular destination from the US and there are also flights from Canada, Ireland and Netherlands.
How to Get Around Barbados:
Taxis are available from the airport and have set prices depending on where you want to go. There is a price list up in the baggage claim and you pay the desk just outside the airport. A 10 minute journey cost $31BBD.
A far cheaper way is getting a local bus. There is a bus stop outside the airport, cross the car park to the main road and it’s the small white hut. All trips on local buses, no matter the distance travelled, cost $3.50BBD. So even if you go a short distance and change onto another bus for a short distance, that would be $7BBD. Or you can travel the length of the island for $3.50 as well.
Disclaimer: when I went, I got a taxi from the airport as I didn’t have any change for the bus and none of the buses went to where I was staying. With a bit more planning it could have been possible though.
Things to do and see in Barbados
Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados but there isn’t too much to see and do there. The national museum ($20BBD per person) can be seen in a couple of hours for those wanting to get an overview of the country dating back to prehistoric times. Lower Broad Street has plenty of duty free shopping to cater to the cruise ship market and Bridgetown also contains Nidhe, the second oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.
The beaches are the main reason to come to Barbados, and for those on a budget, they’re free!. Wherever you are on the island, you won’t be far from a world class beach. Even if you aren’t staying at the 5 star resorts in the south of the island, you’ll still have access to the beaches that they occupy. The west coast has incredible beaches and amazing sunsets to go with it. An honourable mention must go to Paynes Beach where I went SUPing.
If you get bored of the resorts down south or the duty free shops for tourists in Bridgetown, head up the west coast to Speightstown where you will find a slower pace of life. This is Barbados without the tourism. Whilst there are still a few hotels and AirBnBs dotted around, the pace of life is slower, the people have more time and it feels like you are living a Bajan lifestyle. With some great bars and coffee shops on the shore you’ll find time to spend at least a day relaxing like a local.
Holetown contains boutique shops, picturesque beaches and upmarket beach bars. You’ll be minutes away from where Simon Cowell and Rihanna spend their time on the island (as everywhere advertises). If you want a taste of luxury that, whilst expensive, won’t break the bank, head to Holetown. Whilst not the cheapest option on the island, it will still give you a taste of what it would be like to flash the cash
St Lawrence Gap
If you’re staying on the south coast but want to get out of your resort, head to St Lawrence Gap where bars and restaurants entice western tourists with a picture postcard setting. It’s not cheap but some cheaper food can be found towards the eastern end.
Oistins fish fry
THE place to be on a Friday night. Although it has become more costly since the pandemic, a meal here will set you back $30-60BBD for fresh fish cooked in a traditional way. Although the cost has reportedly gone up since the pandemic, this is a true taste of Barbados as a place where locals and tourists hang out together, sipping on rum punches to the pounding beat of reggae music
The Barbados Wildlife Reserve
For $30BBD ($15USD) you can enter one of the few wildlife areas on the island. Known for its Green Monkeys that were used to develop the polio vaccine, it also contains tortoises, chickens and deer roaming freely in the 4 acre reserve. You can get a bus rom Speightstown for $3.50BBD each way or a taxi will be around $20BBD.
I managed to get an hour SUPing at sunset with a rum punch and dinner included for $50USD. Whilst I thought it was pricey to start with, I soon realised that it was worth every penny. For more info on one of the best things I did in Barbados, head to their Instagram page.
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Scuba diving is expensive in most places around the world. In Barbados you can get it for $100 for one dive if you’re already qualified. Far from cheap, it is excellent diving if your budget allows.
Eating and Drinking
Food is expensive on the island as most items are imported. In supermarkets, you may find American produce such as Hersheys and British Cadburys next to each other.
Some restaurants can be affordable but take into consideration that they will add on 10% service charge onto the final bill. There are also high end restaurants charging $50-80BBD per dish.
Shopping in a supermarket makes things slightly cheaper if you keep things basic. I spent $38BBD on chicken, rice, seasoning and veg which fed two people for two meals.
Another option would be to have street food. I had a fish patty for $3BBD and a “double”, fried dough with curried chickpeas, for $2 however this isn’t the healthiest choice!
Alcohol is cheap compared to the food prices with the local Banks beer costing as low as $4BBD for a bottle.
Budget Accommodation in Barbados
With some resorts costing upwards of £300 per night (!), it may seem like budget accommodation in Barbados is impossible to find.
The key to finding cheap accommodation in Barbados is to be flexible. There are options in hotels that are just a short walk from a beach instead of being on the beachfront. Take advantage of long stay discounts on AirBnB which usually kick in after 7 days and if booked more than 3 months in advance.
AirBnB and guesthouse options on Booking.com can be found for £40-50 per night around Oistins and St Lawrence in the south and Speightstown in the north.
It may also be possible to negotiate with hosts on AirBnB if you are staying for a longer period of time or staying in low season.
Best places to work from in Barbados:
As I work when I travel, I always need to be aware of the best places to work. Coffee shops and coworking spaces are my back up if I can’t work from home. I worked at all the places listed below if that is what you need.
With reggae music playing and views over the sea there isn’t much to dislike about Surfers Cafe near Oistins. The wifi is excellent and coffee reasonably priced.
De Office Bar & Restaurant, Bridgetown
If all else fails find a pub. I wouldn’t recommend it for an entire day but the good wifi, great sandwiches and cold beer make this an option if you’re in a pinch for a couple of hours in the capital.
Fishermans Pub, Speightstown
Local food served in a local way overlooking the sea. What’s not to like?
The Orange Street Grocer, Speightstown
Probably my favourite place in Barbados. With books to swap on the walls, a laidback vibe, friendly staff and excellent wifi this is a great place to work. Right on the coast with access to a walk up and down to local beaches, I spent a lot of time here. However, the price of coffee does add up after a while….
The only true co-working space on the island, Nhome at (Coral bay) is a good place work for the day. Also offering a co living arrangement, it has fast wifi, unlimited tea and coffee and views to die for. Although it is advertised as $20USD per day, make sure you pay in BBD to avoid their hefty exchange rate fees.
Note: For a more extensive list, please check out this site here!
How to Travel Barbados on a Budget
Barbados may seem like an exclusive tropical paradise, it can be travelled on a budget. Food and drink are expensive and accommodation isn’t the cheapest so an all inclusive resort may be a better option for some, but that isn’t to say it can’t be done.
All in all, I spent £1000 travelling to Barbados for 2 weeks. This includes flights, accommodation, tickets to watch England v West Indies in the cricket and all food, drinks and activities as well. It may have been slightly more if I wasn’t working as I would have had more time for activities, however I did spend a lot on co-working spaces whilst working. If you want to book super budget accommodation in Bridgetown, the cost can definitely be lowered.
Barbados can be an expensive destination if you choose to stay in 5 star resorts and sip cocktails by the pool all day. But, as always, if you choose to travel like a local, the costs can be considerably less. This isn’t to say Barbados is a budget destination but you don’t have to break the bank to visit this incredible Caribbean island.
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.