Home to beautiful white beaches, sugar plantations, palm trees and the best rum, Barbados is the ultimate choice for a Caribbean holiday. But for most, their experience of Barbados is thanks to the hundreds of holiday resorts that line the south and west coast, providing all-inclusive experiences and organised excursions. And unless you only want to lie in the sun on the same beach for a week, there’s definitely a better way to experience the island and that’s not via organised fun.
1. Accommodation – 14 nights for the price of 7
For the price of 1 week at a 3-4* all-inclusive resort we were able to stretch our stay to 2 weeks by booking our flights and self-catered accommodation separately. Who wouldn’t want to spend longer in paradise?
We picked a beach front 1 bed apartment in Surfers Bay on the south coast, 20 mins from Bridgetown and 5 mins from the famous Oistins Fish Fry and only another 5 mins to the busy resorts of St Lawrence Gap and Hastings. If you’re looking for the package-experience Holetown and St. Lawrence Gap have lots of restaurants, bars and shops within walking distance. However, if you’d rather live more like a local and really experience Barbados, consider the South or East coasts.
Besides bedroom, bathroom and garden we also got a decent kitchen in which we could have breakfast, prepare packed lunches (a great way of keeping costs down) and the occasional dinner. Although we did have a pretty cool beach bar serving very good dinner and rum punch just a hop-skip-jump away.
Top Tip: The Bajan’s love branded goods. We were shocked doing our first shop to find Waitrose branded goods lining the shelves- great if you love products from home, not so great on the wallet! Try and find a small independent supermarket to buy your meat, fish and condiments and look out for the fantastic road-side fruit and veg stalls for the rest.
2. Car hire – freedom to explore
One thing you’ll notice on the local roads is the numerous taxi-buses and public buses that run regularly and provide an in-expensive way to get around. But if you really want to get to know the island it’s definitely worth hiring a car (approx £300 for 2 weeks). This allowed us to go where we wanted, when we wanted, spending the morning on the east coast surfing and the afternoon on the west snorkelling. Most hotels (and cruises) will offer ‘island safari’s’ or coach tours, but having been seen the many organised trips that pass through, visitors really don’t get long to fully appreciate the sights.
Top Tip: Avoid rush-hour 8 – 9.30am and 5 – 7pm! Roads in Barbados are typically single carriageways which meet at roundabouts. If you can’t avoid travelling at these times, get acquainted with the map and travel across country. It’s not only faster but you’ll get to see more too.
3. Eating out – happy hour & mid-week deals
There are SO many restaurants to choose from in Barbados and not being all inclusive gave us the opportunity to enjoy the Bajan cuisine. Think flying fish, jerk chicken and macaroni. Yum yum!
For decent local food beach bars, rum shacks and fish markets are a great choice any time of the day. On our first night we were treated to wood-fired tuna and jerk-chicken at Oistins Fish Fry, costing approximately £15 with 4 Stag beers. Delicious!
Alternatively, if you’re looking to splash out, it’s not hard! We dined at Primo, an upmarket restaurant on the water at St Lawrence Gap. Avoiding the weekend, we were able to take advantage of their mid-week 3 course set menu for 89 BD each (approx. £40) – but the food, service and location was worth every penny.
Top tip: Look out for mid-week set meal deals – most restaurants will advertise these on their websites. The rum shacks and fish fries are great any day of the week and you can avoid the crowds too. As for drinks, stick to the amazing rum punch for a cheaper tipple.