Maxwell Beach Barbados
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Maxwell Beach Barbados

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Barbados Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

430 sq km (166 sq miles).

Population

284,996 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

663 per sq km.

Capital

Bridgetown.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Dame Sandra Mason since 2021.

Head of government

Prime Minister Mia Mottley since 2018.

Electricity

110-115 volts AC, 50Hz. American-style plugs with two flat pins (with or without round grounding pin) are standard.

Fringed by white sandy beaches, sapphire seas and colourful coral reefs, Barbados is the archetypal Caribbean retreat. Off the beaten path this is not: Simon Cowell, Wayne Rooney and Will Smith are amongst the many celebs that have popularised the island, which, alas, has the a-list prices to match.

First time visitors can be forgiven for heading straight for the sand. Barbados is endowed with 113km (70 miles) of glorious beaches, which range from calm coves to surf-pounded shorelines. Most tourists flock to the Platinum Coast to the west, which is lined with luxury resorts, spa hotels, sophisticated restaurants and manicured golf courses, all lapped by the limpid Caribbean Sea.

Never played golf? Not a fan of high-end resorts? Then fear not. The altogether quieter south coast has some of the island’s best beaches, while the east coast, pummelled by the Atlantic Ocean, is less developed and attracts mainly surfers, who quench their thirsts in local rum shacks.

Although Barbados’s interior is unremarkable compared to some of its Caribbean neighbours there is much to see. And the best way to see it is by hiring a motorbike or a jeep and taking to the road, calling at crumbling sugar mills, rum distilleries and traditional churches that look like they’ve been lifted from England. Finish up in the colonial capital, Bridgetown, which, along with the nearby garrison, was awarded World Heritage Site status in 2012.

Combine these attractions with the island’s indelible laid-back vibe, its passion for rum (over 1,500 rum shops dot the island) and calypso-infused festivals, and it’s no wonder people return to Barbados time and time again.

Travel Advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:

  • advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
  • information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Barbados set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Barbados High Commission in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel company or airline for changes.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to get treatment there.

You should also read TravelHealthPro’s general COVID-19 advice for travellers.

Travel to Barbados

All COVID-19 travel restrictions and testing requirements for UK travellers have been lifted.

Passport validity requirements

Your passport should be valid for the proposed length of your stay.

Immigration and customs form

All travellers must complete the online immigration and customs form, 72 hours before arrival.

Visa requirements

British passport holders do not need a visa.

You will be told how long you can stay when you arrive. You must apply and pay for an extension of stay through the Barbados Immigration Department.

It’s illegal to overstay the entry period or to work without a work permit. You could be fined or detained if you overstay.

Children and young people

Visit the Barbados Immigration Department website for guidance on the rules for travelling to Barbados with children and young people.

Transiting through Barbados

Transiting through Barbados is allowed for travellers from the UK.

Departure tax

All passengers aged 2 years and older must pay a departure tax of 55 Barbados dollars (27.50 US dollars). Passengers travelling outside the Caribbean region pay an additional 70 US dollars per person, and those travelling within the Caribbean pay an additional 20 US dollars per person.

Most airlines include the cost within the ticket price. Check details with your airline or tour operator.

Vaccination requirements

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Barbados guide.

Depending on your circumstances, these may include a yellow fever certificate.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods that can be brought into and taken out of Barbados. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Barbados

Although there is no recent history of terrorism in Barbados, attacks cannot be ruled out.

Crime

Most visits are trouble-free, but there have been incidents of violent crime including armed robbery, sexual assaults and gang-related shootings.

There has been an increase in gang-related murders involving guns. Some incidents have taken place in populated and public areas. Remain vigilant.

Take sensible precautions to protect your personal safety:

  • make sure your accommodation is secure
  • take care when walking alone off busy main roads and taking money from ATMs
  • avoid isolated areas, including beaches, particularly after dark
  • only use licensed taxis
  • take particular care at late night street parties, especially during the festival season
  • do not carry large amounts of cash or jewellery
  • leave valuables and travel documents in a safety deposit box or secure hotel safe
  • avoid wearing gold jewellery visibly as there have been several robberies in Bridgetown and other popular tourist areas

Laws and cultural differences

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

It is illegal to possess drugs. There are severe penalties for all drug offences. Pack all luggage yourself and do not carry anything through customs for anyone else.

Laws on clothing

It is an offence for anyone, including children, to dress in camouflage clothing.

LGBT+ travellers

Local attitudes towards the LGBT+ community are mostly conservative in the Caribbean. Public displays of affection (such as hand-holding or kissing) between opposite or same-sex couples are uncommon and may attract unwanted and negative attention. See our information and advice page for the LGBT+ community before you travel.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Swimming safety

Take great care at all times when swimming. Currents can be deceptively strong, including on some of the popular beaches on the south and west coasts. Some beaches do not have lifeguards or warning flags.

Swimming is not recommended on many of the east coast beaches where currents are particularly strong. Follow local warnings.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Barbados, see information on driving abroad and safety tips.

You should drive on the left in Barbados. If you have an accident, call the police and do not move the vehicle if you have an accident.

Licences and permits

You need a Barbados driving licence to drive in Barbados. You can buy one from a car hire company or online from the Barbados Revenue Authority. You also need to travel with your UK driving licence.

Taxis

Taxis are not metered. Standard taxi fares exist for most destinations. Agree the fare in local currency with the driver before you set off. Card payment is not always accepted so ensure you carry cash with you.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Hurricanes

The hurricane season normally runs from June to November. See FCDO’s tropical hurricanes advice.

Earthquakes

Earthquakes are a potential threat and tremors are felt occasionally in the Caribbean. Follow the advice of the local authorities and guidance from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Volcanic eruptions

Check the alert level of the underwater volcano ‘Kick ‘em Jenny’, located 5 miles off the coast of Grenada. Observe any maritime exclusion zones and follow the advice of the local authorities if there is increased activity or an eruption.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 511 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Mosquito-borne diseases

UK health authorities have classified Barbados as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. Check TravelHealthPro’s Barbados guide for more information.

Dengue fever is endemic to the Caribbean and cases occur throughout the year in Barbados.

Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in Barbados.

Take steps to avoid mosquito bites.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:

  • the latest information on vaccinations and health risks in TravelHealthPro’s Barbados guide
  • where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro. The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

Healthcare facilities in Barbados

You can view a list of English-speaking doctors in Barbados.

The Barbados healthcare system is not as extensive as the UK. The main government Queen Elizabeth Hospital can cope with many types of treatment but serious cases may need emergency evacuation.

If you are unsure if a hospital visit is required, call their helpline on +1 (246) 536 4800 to speak with a healthcare professional.

Medical treatment in Barbados can be expensive.

Check private clinics’ policies on pre-payment as they may not accept medical travel insurance as payment.

COVID-19 healthcare in Barbados

Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 in TravelHealthPro’s Barbados guide.

COVID-19 enquiries should be directed to the COVID-19 Hotline on +1 (246) 536 4500.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Barbados

Ambulance: 511

Fire: 311

Police: 211

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you are abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British High Commission in Bridgetown.

You can also contact FCDO online.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.