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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.
Via Travelers is a modern travel blog providing the best tips, hacks and intineraries to ensure you have an amazing adventure.
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Ah, Costa Rica. Verdant rainforests, picture-perfect beaches, majestic volcanoes, and unparalleled wildlife – this gorgeous Central American destination may be the closest you’ll ever get to true paradise.
Here, ecotourism is thriving. About a quarter of this rugged and rainforested country is made up of protected national parks, three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A diverse topography guarantees there’s always a spectacle to explore, whether you’re snatching views of the majestic Arenal volcano or freediving into the vibrant, coral-studded seas of the Pacific and the Caribbean.
When not gawking over natural sites, there’s still more to experience. For culture vultures, there’s a treasure trove of unique adventures here.
An intriguing mix of Spanish colonial influence and indigenous heritage creates a vibrant culture that spills over to the local’s laid-back temperament and traditional food.
If you’re paying a visit, there’s good news. Costa Rica’s relatively small size guarantees you can fit the best experiences in no more than one week.
We’ve prepared this 7-day Costa Rica itinerary for travelers who want to get the most of this Central American country, complete with tips on where to stay and what to eat. Ready to experience the Pura Vida lifestyle? Your journey begins here.
When to Travel
You can’t create the best itinerary for Costa Rica without knowing the ideal time to visit. Costa Rica enjoys a year-round tropical climate with only two seasons: dry and rainy. The best time to visit is during the dry season from mid-December to April; this period offers a lot of sunshine and very little rain.
While this season is most favorable, you’ll be hobnobbing with throngs of tourists who all want in on the great weather. Unfortunately, this is also the most expensive time to visit.
If you’re looking for time away from the crowd and cheaper options, you may want to explore the rainier season between May and November if you don’t mind getting wet.
Come during June and July and, quenched by the rain, Costa Rica’s forests burst with verdant foliage.
How to Get Around in Costa Rica
On a bus
Hopping on the bus is the most affordable way to explore the country if you’re spending just one week in Costa Rica.
You’ll find most of the country’s bus services in San Jose, Costa Rica’s capital. Interbus is the nation’s main operator with the most routes around the country. You can also ride with Gray Line (for a slightly more expensive fee) for direct services between tourist spots.
PRO TIP: Bus schedules change frequently, and some routes are so in demand that we highly advise you to book your tickets in advance.
On a car
If you’re looking for more convenience, we suggest you rent a car to explore Costa Rica. Having your own vehicle gives you the freedom to travel at your pace. Travelers who are planning to take domestic flights have the option to park their rental car at the airport as well.
PRO TIP: If you do plan to rent your own car, do note that Costa Rica’s roads aren’t in the best condition. Many of the roads you’ll take to popular destinations are actually unpaved, and you’ll encounter a lot of police checks when traveling.
There are also a plethora of local driving laws to familiarize yourself with. For example, driving faster than 90 mph, regardless of the posted speed limit, will cost you around $467 or get you thrown in jail for three years.
If you’re not too keen on taking the bus or driving by yourself, it’s possible to book transfers from one location to another on GetYourGuide. Most of these transfers are door-to-door, picking you up from your hotel and taking you to your next hotel.
For example, this private transfer can take you from Tamarindo to La Fortuna in a comfortable air-conditioned car.
Sample Costa Rica Itinerary (1-Week)
Here is a Costa Rica itinerary that you’ll want to copy.
Day 1: Touchdown San Jose
There’s no better place to begin your Costa Rica adventure than in San Jose, Costa Rica’s gritty but endearing capital. While it only makes sense as the international airport is located here, San Jose is the best gateway to other Costa Rican destinations.
While most travelers head straight for the beaches or the mountains, we suggest that you explore this city first. Apart from taking some much-needed rest from an arduous flight, San Jose is a good location to unearth some of Costa Rica’s historical secrets.
Head straight to the Museo del Oro Procolombino to see more than 1,600 artifacts of Pre-Columbian gold from 500 A.D. You’ll find two other currency-related museums near this museum: the Casa de Moneda which offers a comprehensive history of Costa Rica’s minting, and the National Coin Museum, which boasts of a collection that dates back to 1236.
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Where should you stay in San Jose?
For travelers with discriminating tastes who want to be right smack at the center of the action, you’ll want to stay in upscale Hotel Presidente San Jose City Center. This modern hotel sits 100 yards from the Plaza de la Cultura and Costa Rica’s National Theater.
Backpackers on a budget may want to spend a night at Hostel Urbano, a hip and modern hilltop hostel with spectacular views of San Jose. This is a great place to socialize with fellow travelers, and it’s only a 15-minute walk from the National Museum.
Day 2: The Arenal Volcano
This Costa Rica one week itinerary takes you right to Arenal Volcano on your second day. Hailed as one of Costa Rica’s most popular sights, this 1,670m high geothermal wonder last erupted in 2010 and has remained quiet ever since.
In the morning, take a three-hour drive to La Fortuna – the main town where you’ll base yourself. Known as the gateway to Arenal Volcano National Park, La Fortuna is one of Costa Rica’s top destinations, regularly flocked to by tourists who want to snatch the greatest views of the fabled volcano.
Once you’re here, explore the various shops, supermarkets, and restaurants. If you’re looking for just one restaurant to try, swing by Tiquicia Restaurant for their locally famous casado, a Central American delicacy made of stewed beans, meat, salad, rice, and fried plantain.
Hiking for the best views
There are a number of ways to explore Arenal National Park, from ziplining across the forest canopy to whitewater rafting or canyoning. Do note that the Arenal Volcano itself isn’t accessible to the public but you may access areas where you can get the best views.
This live tour guides you throughout the best experiences in Arenal, including reaching the best panoramic viewpoints in La Fortuna and a relaxing dip in a natural hot spring resort. The tour includes a hot lunch and multiple sightings of wildlife.
Where should you stay in La Fortuna?
As a popular tourist destination, you’ll find multiple lodging options in La Fortuna. For those looking for luxurious comforts, spend the night at The Springs Resort & Spa – arguably the region’s most popular hotel.
This accommodation offers guests access to private hot springs and gorgeous unobstructed views of the Arenal Volcano.
Penny-pinchers can stay at Arenal Backpackers Resort, a trendy five-star hostel with a mix of private rooms, dorms, and safari tents. The hostel’s open setting makes it a great location to hobnob with fellow adventurers.
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Day 3: Sloths, Soaking, and Spectacular Views
This one week Costa Rica itinerary offers an action-packed third day with ziplining, wildlife tripping, and a relaxing dip in well known hot spring. Start your day early with a canopy tour for the best views of the Arenal Volcano and Lake Arenal.
This zipline canopy tour allows you to soar above rainforest canopies in any of the 9 available ziplines with some of the longest cables in Costa Rica. It also offers breathtaking views of the rainforest from an observation point.
If you’re looking for a more wild-life oriented excursion, walk the Bogarin Trail for sightings of adorable sloths, toucans, parrots, frogs, bats, and caimans.
Travelers looking to rejuvenate after an adventure-filled day will find respite and in many of La Fortuna’s hot springs. You’ll find that a lot of resorts and hotels with private hot springs in the area, and although day passes for these establishments are expensive, you’ll have the area all to yourself.
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Day 4: Exploring Monteverde
Get another early start for a ride to Monteverde, a region that extends all throughout the slopes of the Cordillera de Tilaran and studded with farms, nature reserves, and villages.
Here, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is the main attraction, but you’ll see various other natural sights from small family farms to the expansive Children’s Eternal Rainforest. The three-hour drive to Monteverde is a bumpy one, so we suggest getting around with a 4WD.
You’ll be staying in Santa Elena, the region’s biggest population center. If you arrive there by noon, you can explore the many vegan restos and charming cafes that dot the area.
Once you’re done eating to your heart’s content, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the region. Get an authentic farm experience with this tour of a sustainable farm in Monteverde. You’ll learn about the benefits of sustainable farming, get up close and personal with farm animals, try your hand at milking a cow, and taste delicious Costa Rican cheese.
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Where should you stay in Monteverde?
For families looking for an authentic jungle experience, the Monteverde Country Lodge situated close to the cloud forest is a great choice. This lodge boasts of rustic cabin-style rooms, lush gardens, an indoor pool, and a hot tub, among others.
Caso Campo Verde is light on the pocket but heavy on the little luxuries. Just a 10-minute drive from Santa Elena, this lodge offers great views of the cloud forest and delicious traditional breakfasts and dinners.
Day 5: The Hanging Bridges
We’re not done with Monteverde just yet. Begin day five with a thrilling walk above Monteverde Cloud Reserve’s hanging bridges – one of the best things to do in Costa Rica. Monteverde Sky Adventures Park is just a 10-minute drive from downtown Monteverde and offers guided tours of the area.
The two-hour hike through the cloud forest will leave you hanging from a series of suspension bridges, offering spectacular views of the forest canopy below.
For wildlife, take a night hike at the Curi Cancha Reserve to see various birds, reptiles, and an assemblage of arachnids.
Day 6: Catch the Waves
For the penultimate day, this Costa Rica itinerary offers what all water lovers are looking for – a beach excursion unlike any other.
Just three hours west of Monteverde is Tamarindo, arguably the most famous beach in Costa Rica for its great swells, nightlife, and restaurants. During the peak season the beach can get very crowded, so take this into account if you’re looking for something more intimate (tip: there are less crowded beaches south of Tamarindo).
Laze by the beach, book a surfing lesson, go deep-sea diving, or sports fishing for marlin, sailfish, snapper, tuna, or dorado. Once the sun sets, it’s time to party.
Here, clubs, bars, and lounges offer live music, dance nights, and DJs. Check out Pacifico Bar for their reggae night, Crazy Monkey for some splendid salsa dancing, and El Garito for underground house music.
Where should you stay in Tamarindo?
For upscale living, head straight to Tamarindo Diria Beach Resort, a four-star resort with three swimming pools and a variety of restaurants. This hotel offers great access to the beach.
For an eco-friendly option, spend a night at Drift Away Eco Lodge in Playa Avellanas – a 20-minute drive from Tamarindo beach. Verdant and quiet, this intimate lodge offers only eight rooms and four private villas.
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Day 7: Go Sunset Sailing
Your last day in Costa Rica should be spent relaxing, admiring the best views, and just taking in the best the country has to offer.
Get an early start for a one-hour drive off to Diamante Eco Adventure Park for more chances to zipline and tour the canopy. You’ll see a plethora of wildlife here, including toucans, butterflies, jaguars, and even more sloths.
Once you’re done, it’s finally time to relax. Go on a sailing adventure on a 24-foot catamaran with a chance to swim and snorkel on this sunset tour. Here, you’ll get the chance to spy on turtles, whales, dolphins, and manta rays while enjoying an open bar on board.
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