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Things to Know Before You Go to Barbados
Before you go to Barbados, here are some helpful facts and things you should know, so when you arrive on the island, you know what to expect.
Barbados has one airport – the Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI). The airport is in the south of the island and is 16 km from Bridgetown, the capital. There is only one terminal at the airport. The airport has no skyways, so passengers must exit the plane by stairs and walk to the arrivals hall.
Barbados has a strict rule prohibiting any form of military camouflage clothing, including hats, scarves, shorts, shirts, backpacks, etc. Anyone carrying such articles into the country (even children) will be asked to remove them by the Authorities. .
On the flight you will receive an Immigration/Customs Form to complete. The forms must be filled out before entering the Arrivals Hall. Visitors must list the address where they will be staying while in Barbados. On the back of the Boarding Card is a blue Customs Form that must be completed and handed to the Customs Officer after you have collected your luggage.
AIRPORT MEET & GREET
Take the hassle out of your arrival experience by arranging a personal Meet and Greet. This service includes being personally escorted through Immigration, immediate assistance with baggage retrieval, and proceeding through Customs into a waiting air-conditioned taxi.
Once you’ve cleared Immigration you’ll see a lot of “Red Heads.” These men and women are available to help you with your bags and will escort you through Customs to the outside. It is customary to give the Red Caps Bds $2 (US$1) per bag, however, for extra packaging or exceptional service, an additional bonus will not be refused.
FREE ARRIVAL PURCHASES
There is a Duty Free wine and spirits shop next to the Baggage Claim where prices can be as much as 70% below on-island retail purchases. Particularly good bargains can be found in vodka, gin and whiskies. There are no savings on our local rum. Each person is allowed 1 liter, but insiders know they can buy more than the 1 liter limit.
Unless you have made prior arrangements for a private taxi, after exiting the Arrivals Hall there is a desk immediately to the left where a taxi dispatcher will direct you to the next available taxi. There are signs with the posted rates of all major island destinations, but please be advised that most if not all drivers will charge extra depending on the number of passengers and the amount of luggage. We suggest you agree on a price before leaving the airport.
There are many car rental companies on the island, but only a select few meet international standards. Courtesy Rent-a-Car, one of Barbados’ oldest and best-known car rental companies, and Drive-a-Matic both have kiosks immediately to the left after you exit the Arrivals Hall. With advance booking other companies will usually greet you with a hand sign outside the Arrivals Hall.
Barbados’ water is naturally filtered by limestone and coral and is therefore safe to drink. Some say Barbados water is fit for a queen, as Queen Elizabeth herself declared Barbados water delicious.
If you shop in one of the many stores on the island, be sure to bring your passport and Immigration Card with you, as you will need to present these documents to purchase certain items duty free. Alcohol and tobacco purchases cannot be brought with you but will instead be waiting for you at the Chamber of Commerce desk after you clear security in the Departure Lounge.
We drive on the left side of the road, which means that the steering wheel is located on the right side of the vehicle. For those of you driving on the “other side of the road” please be aware and use caution and look both ways before crossing the road. Easy tip: the steering wheel should always be in the middle of the road, never to the side!
Bajans like their car horns. Horns are rarely beeped in anger in Barbados but rather as a friendly greeting, as a “please move forward” and as a thank you. Flashing of the lights is a “please proceed ahead of me” indication.
Our extensive road system can be quite challenging to navigate. You can download a free SatNav map to your Garmin and some car rental companies offer SatNav with the vehicle rental. The bus stop signs are helpful to know which direction you are going. They are either marked “To City” or “Out of City.” This is helpful if you want to go in any of those directions, but going across the country can be a bit more complicated.
Our public transport system is quite good, however there is no particular timetable. The blue buses are government owned; the yellow minibuses and the small white ZR vans are privately owned. Unfortunately there is sporadic enforcement of the sometimes unsafe driving practices exhibited by public transport vehicles. Please use these vehicles at your own risk. Bus fares are Bds$2 /US$1 to anywhere on the island. Simply raise your hand to flag down a bus.
LOCAL driver’s license
If you hire a vehicle, the car rental company will give you a driver’s license that is valid for 3 months. The cost is Bds$10/US$5. Alternatively if you are borrowing a vehicle from a family member or friend, you can obtain your local driver’s license from any police station. They only accept Barbadian dollars. Remember to bring your own driver’s license.
RENTAL OF BABY EQUIPMENT
Car seats, strollers, cribs, cribs, even toys can be easily rented if you want to leave those bulky items at home to facilitate a hassle-free trip to Barbados.
US Dollars are readily accepted throughout the island with a conversion rate of $2.00 Bds equal to $1.00 US. Any other currency can be converted to Barbadian Dollars at any of the island’s banks or at the airport’s Baggage Claim bank. Upon departure, the Barbados National Bank kiosk located in the Departure Lounge can exchange any remaining Barbados dollars back to your home currency. All major credit cards are accepted in Barbados, although American Express is not widely accepted.
It is not customary to tip taxi drivers, although a tip will not be refused. The average restaurant tip is 10%, but check that a service charge or tip is not included in your restaurant bill. In the supermarket it is customary to give those who pack your grocery bags and then carry them to your car a few dollars. In the private villas the staff appreciate a tip at the end of your holiday and this amount is voluntary, based on the level of service you received. Please check with either your villa manager or booker for guidelines. The hotels usually automatically add a 10% fee to your room and food and beverage.
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