About Barbados (BB)
The former British colony and independent commonwealth of Barbados (BB) is situated in the Caribbean Sea, roughly 800 km (480 mi) northeast of Venezuela. Its variable history of occupation has resulted in a vibrant, multi-cultural atmosphere, but Barbados still maintains an overwhelmingly British vibe, with afternoon tea and cricket matches a part of daily life.
In fact, Barbados is one of few Caribbean destinations that does not lean too heavily on tourism for sustenance; sugarcane production, international finance, and manufacturing represent the largest chunks of its GDP, and therefore, its people have a relatively high standard of living. Nevertheless, Barbados is popular with beach-going tourists and history buffs interested in South American migration and post-colonial British architecture. Situated outside the Atlantic hurricane belt, Barbados has a year-round tropical climate and a slightly mountainous topography, the result of extinct volcanic activity.
Barbados has a fairly adequate bus and minibus system, but it’s not designed for tourism. Therefore, visitors will have good reason to rent a car in Barbados. Driving in Barbados, however, is somewhat of a gritty affair, with narrow roads, steep inclines, potholes, and sharp turns. There’s one major route that spans the southeastern side of island, the ABC Highway (aka Tom Adams Highway), which is in fairly decent shape.
Otherwise, prepare for somewhat of a bumpy ride on “highways”. Sidewalks are exceedingly rare in Barbados, so you have to be careful about pedestrians, as well as buses, which frequently stop to let passengers on and off — mostly without warning. Road signs are not particularly helpful and most foreign drivers will get disoriented in a hurry without GPS. Fortunately, locals are quite friendly and more than happy to help with directions.
Choosing your car
Cheap car rentals in Barbados are supplied by the big name brands: National, Avis, Sixt, Europcar, Thrifty, and Hertz. Choose from minicars, economy hatchbacks, compact, standard, and fullsize 4-door sedans, SUVs, estate wagons, 7-12 seater minivans, and premium, luxury, and specialty vehicles.
Tips and advice
The vast majority of action in Barbados takes place around Bridgetown on the southwest coast. The northeast coast is less developed and considerably less hectic.
The main roads in Bridgetown have asphalt curbs that tend to get overlooked by first-time visitors, and frequently cause tire damage. Be aware that the standard Collision/Loss Damage Waiver (CDW/LDW) doesn’t cover tires or wheels on car hire in Barbados.
Foreigners are advised to avoid inland residential areas and deserted beaches. Although crime in Barbados isn’t a major concern, those two areas are high-risk, especially at night.
“Bajan” is the term for local citizens. The majority of Bajans are quite pleasant and friendly. However, you must beware of a local that’s a little too friendly. Drug dealers are common around the resorts and beaches. Although police presence isn’t obvious, be advised that undercover cops are known to pose as friendly hawkers, offering marijuana or cocaine to tourists.
Fuel stations are highly concentrated in Bridgetown, and scarce everywhere else. For example, there is exactly one petrol station in the northern parish of St. Lucy.
Car rentals in Barbados will most likely have signs of wear and tear. The roads and local driving habits make short work of new cars. Do a thorough inspection of your car hire and make sure you get a copy of the assessment before taking possession of the vehicle.