Want to go to Barbados? But how can you get there, and when to go is best, the budget for travelling?
Barbados is in the Lesser Antilles group of Caribbean islands. It is 21 miles long and a maximum of 14 miles wide. There are more than 60 beaches. The clock is four hours behind GMT, so there is less chance of jet lag.
The currency is the Barbados dollar, although US dollars are accepted in many shops and restaurants. No visa is required for UK nationals.
The official language is English, though you will hear locals chatting in Bajan, an English-based creole language.
British Airways flies up to 13 times each week from London Gatwick direct to Barbados with departures mid-morning or lunchtime, returning home overnight. On board BA offers complimentary drinks and fine foods by world-renowned chefs.
The entertainment is immense with hundreds of hours of films, television, audio books ang games. Plus flexible baggage allowances mean you can take as much or as little as you like.
BA also offers complete holiday packages, which will always save you money. Transfer times to your hotel vary from 10 to 45 minutes.
Taxis are readily available in Bridgetown, the capital, and in main towns. Agree a fare in advance. Blue public buses are cheap (BD$2 per journey), as are the yellow, privately owned minivan (“reggae”) buses.
There are several reliable car rental companies and driving is on the left.
Barbados enjoys an idyllic year- round climate. On average, there are more than eight hours of sunshine per day, with temperatures rarely dropping below 21C (70F), even at night, or rising above 32C.
The weather is most stable from December to May, with the lowest humidity. From June to November there is more rain but usually in short showers. Reliable trade winds mean even the hotter days remain comfortable. The sea temperature is 26C to 29C all year round.
Barbados has a wide range of hotels to choose from, catering for all budgets. On the west coast you will find exquisite five-star properties on the edge of perfect beaches. Some are part of renowned hotel groups and others are locally owned.
The south coast has a mix of boutique hotels, rustic inns, all-inclusives and simpler properties for those who prefer self-catering. The wild east coast has just a few hideaway hotels and guest houses. Rental villas are ideal for larger families or small groups.
The clear blue sea offers sailing, snorkelling with turtles, surfing, kayaking, paddleboarding, windsurfing, game fishing, jetskiing, diving (there are several shipwrecks) and even submarine trip. A bonus is that all beaches have public access.
On land you can play golf on one of the six courses, take a train through caves, hike in the rainforest, cycle along country lanes, ride a horse, try a Segway, join an off-road safari, visit botanical gardens and see the animals in the wildlife reserve.
Lovers of history can admire the colonial architecture in Bridgetown, and visit the garrison, handsome old plantation houses, the home where George Washington lived, a 17th-century synagogue and many traditional churches.
Barbados has a packed annual programme of sporting and cultural events that you can watch or join in.
Cricket, football, hockey, rugby, motorsport, golf, swimming and polo attract competitors from around the world. Horseracing meetings are held at the historic Garrison Savannah, while international cricket matches are played at the world-class Kensington Oval.
Crop Over is Barbados’ own form of carnival, while the Food and Rum festival showcases the talents of celebrity chefs. As for music, there are festivals for reggae, jazz, gospel and opera.
Dining and drinking
Barbados has more places to eat than a typical large city.
Many visitors do like to splash out at one of the glamorous beachside restaurants, where the food is as divine as the setting. Expect to pay at least £50 per head, but you will not regret the occasion.
At the other end of the scale, food from stalls or rum shops is great value. Fishcakes, “cutter” sandwiches, barbecued pork and rotis (curried meat in flatbread) are all popular.
A filling meal of fried flying fish with cou-cou and okra can cost as little as £6.
In between, there are many local restaurants serving Caribbean classics, with costs similar to those in the UK, and you can also find Asian cuisine. A service charge of 10 to 15 per cent is usually added to the bill in a restaurant.
Rum is the national drink, and rum punch and cocktails can be found everywhere. The local beer is excellent too.
A bonus for visitors is that you can buy designer goods and fine jewellery at tax-free prices – a significant saving
on British retailers. Broad Street in the capital Bridgetown has lots of choices, as does the mall at Holetown.
Local handicrafts make great gifts. There are a number of craft centres where you can sometimes see the wares being made, such as pottery, wood or glass ornaments, paintings and tablemats.
A popular purchase for visitors is a local bottle of rum.