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Barbados, Caribbean paradise and millionaire’s playground isn’t out of reach to those on a budget. There are very good reasons why this picturesque outpost in the West Indies is so popular. It has perfect beaches, tropical weather, a safe, chilled vibe, surfing and scuba diving as well as excellent food and world-class hotels. Its popularity is what makes it affordable, as airlines compete for business, as do providers of accommodation, so there’s always cost effective options.
Accommodation costs often make take up the largest part of travelers’ budgets. Indeed it is possible to pay thousands of US dollars a night as Barbados has some of the most exclusive hotels in the Caribbean. However, there are great budget options too. Look for apartment rentals and guesthouses rather than hotels, and it is possible to get a fully equipped unit with kitchen for US$6o per night. It means giving up room service and direct access to the beach, but there are some delightful, friendly local properties on offer.
Getting around couldn’t be easier or safer than in Barbados. Public buses have a fixed fare of approximately US$1 to any destination. Barbados is one of the Caribbean’s safest destinations, so travelling by public transport is a great way to get around. It’s also a great way to get to meet the locals, known as Bajans—there’s nothing like sharing a local bus to get a feel for a place. Otherwise there are the usual taxis and car rentals places, and most hotels will arrange an airport transfer (or boat) if the thought of catching a bus on arrival is a bit too much.
Barbados has some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean, but there’s a price to be paid for such experiences. However, it is perfectly possible to eat well on a budget. If in a self-catering apartment, the supermarkets are reasonably priced if you avoid expensive imports. The local markets are great for picking up fresh fish at very reasonable prices. Not everyone wants to spend their vacation cooking, and fortunately there are affordable places to eat out. Try one of the many roadside vendors, who produce consistently good food. The regular Friday fish-fries are a real local institution and a great social occasion—approx US$15 per person for a big plate of fresh fish and a beer.
Barbados won’t leave you short of things to do—the island has been welcoming visitors since the British first arrived in 1625.
George Washington, first president of the U.S., visited the island back in 1751 when he was 19. Today, it is possible to visit the house he stayed in as it is a National Trust heritage site. It is also possible to tour the old British forts that made such an impression on the future general. At his Presidential inauguration, Washington requested Bajan rum. Take a tour of the Mount Gay Rum distillery for as little as US$15 per person, or pay a bit more for a tasting experience.
The National Trust operates a number of heritage sites, such as the Nidhe Israel Museum, which offers affordable and informative outings. Of course, the ultimate budget experience is to simply sit on one of the outstanding beaches and swim in the beautiful Caribbean sea—Mullins is one of the best on the island and is adjacent to the distinctly high-end Royal Westmoreland resort.
For sports fans, head to the Kensington Oval to watch a world class cricket match. Cricket is a national obsession, and Barbados has produced some of the world’s best players. Advance tickets to watch England play the West Indies in 2017 can be had for less than US$100. Local matches cost a fraction of that to watch and are the best way to become immersed in the island’s culture.
Finally, we can’t talk about Barbados without discussing watersports—there are many snorkeling beaches on the island where it is possible to swim with turtles. A bit further up the price scale there is also excellent scuba diving on offer.
Travelers on a budget will love Barbados. This beautiful, friendly island has so much to offer that one trip won’t be enough.