Barbados 101

In centuries past, some Caribbean islands were theaters for European rivalries, colonized by different governments and exposed to new rulers, languages and customs depending on the country in power. Unlike these islands, Barbados remained under uninterrupted British rule for more than 300 years (an independence treaty wasn’t negotiated until 1966). Not surprisingly the Anglo imprint is still felt today. Bajans (it rhymes with Cajuns) speak with a slight English accent; cricket games, polo matches and horse races are primary pastimes; and an overall sense of decorum—made easier by the high standard of living (the Caribbean’s highest) and lack of casinos—prevails.


  • Currency: The Barbados dollar, which is permanently fixed at about fifty cents to the U.S. dollar, though the dollar is accepted almost everywhere (some places even list their prices in U.S. dollars). The rate with the British pound is not fixed and can fluctuate widely.
  • Language: English. Bajan also has a slight British accent to it.
  • Time: Barbados follows Eastern standard time (but not daylight saving time) from November through March, so it’s an hour ahead of New York during those months and the same time the rest of the year.

When to Go

The high season runs from December until April, and a particularly fashionable crowd comes for the Christmas holidays as well as the annual performing-arts festival Holders Season, which starts in late February or early March and lasts for about three weeks. On the cooler Atlantic side, the more humid summer months can still be quite pleasant (as well as drastically cheaper).

Getting Around

Bajans drive on the left-hand side of the road, and many visitors, especially the Brits, tend to rent cars when they come to the island, though beware of narrow roads and speeding buses. If you plan to travel between the two coasts (it’s about a 45 minute to one hour drive each way), renting a car is the way to go—a one-way cab ride between the coasts costs can be costly, and you'll want the freedom to stop along the way. Cabs in general, though, are abundant, and the fares are a set rate. Avoid buses, as they’re often crowded and service can be unreliable.

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