For anyone traveling on a budget, Barbados might not seem like the immediate choice. White sandy beaches, crystal clear ocean, and breezy palm trees are certainly idyllic, but they tend not to come cheap.
Combine this with a Caribbean climate, beachfront restaurants, and fancy cocktails and it could get really expensive. You might be interested to find out that it is possible to see Barbados on a budget. You just have to do a little planning beforehand.
These are the budget travel tips I wish I’d known before I set out on my adventure around this gem in the Caribbean Sea!
Packing Tips for Your Bajan Adventure
Depending on how you plan to see the island, your luggage is going to vary massively. Some people opt for the backpacking approach, in which case packing light is essential; others for a hotel or Airbnb, in which case, go crazy!
Whichever way you’re planning to experience Barbados, there is a selection of items that you really shouldn’t be without.
Protect Yourself From the Sun
Barbados is pretty close to the equator, which means it’s hot. Whether you’re fair-skinned or not, a hat and suncream are the two most important things to put in your suitcase. Plenty of people forget these essentials and end up being forced to spend double the money at the airport or a souvenir shop. If you’re backpacking then a foldable sunhat is an invaluable item to bring with you as it collapses down small and springs back to shape once unpacked.
Another item that will prove invaluable is a comprehensive, but handbag-sized guidebook. The Rough Guide to Barbados is small enough to slip into a pocket but still provides tons of information on places of historical interest, as well as some good restaurant recommendations.
A Word on Clothing
If you are going the backpacking route then you’ll want to be carrying as little weight as possible. Ensure you take a high quality, lightweight backpack and bring only the essentials. On some island holidays, it’s possible to get away with little more than your swimming costume. Whilst that’s perfect for the seafront in Barbados, the style of dress in towns and villages is more conservative.
Men should be sure to pack a t-shirt to cover up in towns and women should pack a light sundress for the daytime and possibly something to cover the shoulders too. Of course, the dress code is open to interpretation. There are no penalties for flashing a bit of shoulder, but it’s best to be considerate of other cultures’ values.
Another thing to note, particularly for fans of ‘army-chic’, is that emulating a police officer or member of the military in Barbados is taken very seriously. Avoid camouflage print and military-style garments, as these are the kind of items that genuinely could land you in trouble.
Where to Stay in Barbados on a Budget
So you’ve packed your bags, made your way to the island and now you need a place to stay. Barbados has more than its fair share of exclusive hotels and whilst they’re certainly luxury, they have a price tag to match. Happily for you, there are some places to stay on a budget in Barbados, you just have to know where to look.
Booking an Apartment
Airbnb is a great place if you really want to see the island on a shoestring. Whilst most hotels on the island will set you back at least $150BD per night, you can easily book yourself an Airbnb, or a privately owned apartment for $50BD per night, or even less! The real bargain apartments are generally to be found to the South of the island. If you’re lucky then you might find one on the outskirts of Bridgetown but also Oistins, Hopefield, and Saint Martins are good budget locations.
Finding a Hotel
Some people enjoy staying in a hotel whilst they travel. Whilst I’m an Airbnb convert through and through, I can see the appeal in fresh sheets every day. Then there’s the hotel bar of course! If you have your heart set on a hotel, as with the Airbnb options, the south of the island is a good place to start. Coconut Court Beach hotel offers rooms for around $150BD per night. This includes breakfast and the hotel backs onto a stunning stretch of beach. Even more affordable is the Melbourne Inn in Oistins where rooms start at $140BD.
Getting Around on the Reggae Bus
Wherever you choose to stay on the island, the chances are you’ll want to do a little exploring. The greatest tip for how to travel to Barbados on a budget is to make use of the Reggae Buses. These buses are privately operated and as such, the drivers are keen for your business and incredibly friendly and helpful. The buses drive around the island in constant loops. Depending on the direction you want to go in, make sure you’re on the correct side of the road. Then either look for the nearest stop, or hail one coming your way. Remember the yellow buses are the Reggae Buses. The blue and white ones are municipal buses and make far fewer stops and not for those hailing from the side of the road.
Each ride on the Reggae Bus is just $2BD no matter the length of your journey or your destination. If you really wanted to then you could travel all around the island on a constant loop all day and it would cost you the same as a short hop to the next bus stop. One thing to remember about these buses is that they are noisy.
Most of the buses play loud reggae music, many have comedy horns and they all encourage something of a party atmosphere. They can get a little busy, they sometimes drive a little fast, but there isn’t a cheaper or more entertaining way to get around the island.
Where to Find Cheap and Delicious Food in Barbados
After finding your apartment and getting to know the local transport, chances are you’ll be ready for something to eat. Barbados has a huge variety of restaurants which vary wildly in price. We’re here though for the ones that provide food options while on a budget in Barbados.
Oistins Fish Fry
One of my favorite Barbados eating experiences is the Oistins Fish Fry. Every Friday night the streets of Oistins come alive with hundreds of dancing people, loud music, and the smell of frying fish. Pop up stalls take over the waterfront. They sell freshly caught and fried fish, alongside all of the sides you could dream of. A huge helping of food (and usually a beer too) costs just $30BD and is more than enough for one hungry person, or perhaps even two to share. You can choose to have your fish fried, grilled, or at some stands blackened. Sides usually include macaroni pie, coleslaw, rice and peas, or fries.
Make sure you give yourself time to look around after dinner. There are many stands that sell handmade trinkets and souvenirs, as well as two large music stages. Make a beeline for the stages if you want to dance off your dinner.
If fish isn’t your thing, then there’s chicken to be had in most food shacks and restaurants, but one place that you might find really special is PEG farm. Food cost in Barbados can be prohibitively expensive, especially if you’re looking for organic food which is served in a beautiful setting, so PEG farm is quite the rarity. Set in the lands of the Easy Hall Plantation in St Joseph, PEG farm focuses on sustainable, biodynamic farming.
You can sit in a totally open wooden structure overlooking the gardens and farmlands and enjoy a delicious meal with ingredients sourced entirely from the farmland. PEG farm raises its own animals, including pigs, chickens, and cows. If you want to experience true free-range meat then you can choose to eat in the cafe or to buy some meat from the farm shop. Despite the unparalleled welfare of the animals and the exceptional quality of the meat, the farm shop is actually less expensive than supermarkets. Don’t be put off by the opulence of the setting, treat yourself to a gourmet experience on a sensible budget.
Try a Flying Fish Cutter
There’s hot debate over whereabouts on the island serves the best fish cutter, but two eateries regularly end out on top. Those are Cutters of Crane Beach and Cuz’s Fish Stand just by Bridgetown. The big difference between the two is cost, Cutters offers a more luxury experience and the price tag, although by no means astronomical does reflect that. Cuz’s is literally a shack on the beach and their prices are more affordable.
If you’ve no need for a seat and aren’t afraid of a lengthy queue then Cuz’s Fish Shack is the place to go. Locals and tourists alike clamor to get their hands on one of Cuz’s flying fish cutters, sold from his shack on the beach at Needhams Point (right by the Barbados Hilton). He uses salt bread, Bajan hot sauce, and exceedingly fresh fish to produce a fish sandwich like almost no other. These sandwiches are just $17BD for two, with a beer so perfect for those keen to eat in Barbados on a budget.
Those who prefer a seat in the sun, a well-kept garden and a glass of possibly the island’s best rum punch should visit Cutters. This restaurant-come-deli serves up delicious food, alongside a strong, sweet and perfectly spiced rum punch. The setting is beautiful, the staff are incredibly prompt, especially by Barbados standards and they’re not too far from the airport, so convenient for the beginning and end of your visit.
How to Experience the Best of the Island on a Budget
There are plenty of expensive ways to experience Barbados, usually organized by hotels at exorbitant prices. The best way to experience all of the free things to do in Barbados is to venture out by yourself. Hotels provide taxis and a basic lunch when you go out with them, but this costs a lot of extra money. Money that you really needn’t spend!
Under the Sea
One of the most memorable experiences for anyone who’s visited Barbados is exploring the oceans. The reefs and wrecks around Barbados are plentiful and are teeming with underwater life. You can find plentiful sea life by hopping into the ocean at any point along the West coast. It’s important to remember that unlike the East side, the West side of the island is sheltered from the waves and currents of the Atlantic Ocean. The currents in the East can be deceptively strong. Only those who are very confident in the water should swim here. On the West side, you are far more sheltered and should be able to swim with absolute safety.
Finding Green Sea Turtles and Manta Rays
If you’d like to see a little more than just fish then you have a couple of options. Barbados is famous for its Green Sea Turtles and also Manta Rays. Although boat trip organizers tell you it’s impossible to find turtles on your own, with a little patience it’s achievable. It’s entirely your decision which route you choose. Looking for them on your own takes a little more time, but it’s free and incredibly rewarding. If you choose to take a boat trip then you’ll be guaranteed to see turtles and rays. The downside is you’ll be sharing the experience with at least a dozen other tourists.
Those who want to seek out the turtles on their own should look around Moon Town and Batt’s Rock. Snorkel close to the shallow algae-covered rocks. You can often find turtles munching on algae here. If you don’t get lucky, the beaches along this coast are beautiful, so there’s always a silver lining. Those who choose to take a boat tour should consider a half-day tour. You’ll get all of the excitement of swimming around a wreck and seeing the rays and turtles, but for a lesser cost than the full day tours.
Unusual Animals in the Sea
One animal that you might not expect to find in the Caribbean waters is a horse! Generally speaking, you won’t find one, but if you head to Pebble Bay very early in the morning then you might just get to see the racehorses from the Garrison Savannah racetrack venturing out for their daily swim.
Around 5 am, or just as the sun comes up, the stablehands bring the horses across the road. Once they reach the sea you can watch them swim right out around the anchored boats. This method of exercise is easy on the horses’ joints and allows tired muscles to recover more quickly.
Whether you’re a horse lover or not, this is an experience not to be missed. It’s truly magical and also perfect for those seeing Barbados on a budget, as it’s totally free!
Visiting Hunte’s Gardens
One experience that costs a little money, but is more than worth the outlay is a visit to Hunte’s Gardens. Many hotels offer this as an extra to your stay and it often costs as much as $100BD per person. Instead, catch the Reggae Bus and guide yourself around the gardens. This way costs just $30BD and you experience exactly the same thing. Incredibly the owner of these gardens, Anthony Hunte, built the whole area single-handedly. They are home to many indigenous and rare species, a real treat for horticulturists and ‘commoners’ alike.
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