Instant Expert: Barbados
Barbados is often considered to be the ultimate Caribbean island, with white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters – not to mention that chilled-out vibe, thanks in no small part to its legendary rum punch. But it’s also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a top foodie scene, and, more surprisingly, a colony of green monkeys. Read on to find out more…
Barbados at a Glance
Official language: English
Currency: Barbadian dollar
Flying time from the UK: 9 hours
Timezone: GMT -4
Visas: No visa required for British citizens
Tipping: Customary in Barbados, and a gratuity of between 10% and 17%, whenever good service has been provided, is reasonable
10 Things You Need to Know About Barbados
1. Following the establishment of the first English settlement at Holetown in 1627, Barbados remained a British colony for more than 300 years, until it achieved independence.
2. Bridgetown, the capital’s 17th-century Garrison area, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. You can explore remnants of Barbados’ colonial past, including forts, officers’ quarters, guard houses and an underground tunnel system. It’s also home to the 17th-century Nidhe Israel Synagogue (below), the oldest in the western hemisphere.
3. Barbados is home to a colony of green monkeys. Not native to the island, they are thought to have come from Senegal and the Gambia in west Africa roughly 350 years ago.
4. President George Washington only left the US mainland once – to sail to Barbados, where he wrote in his diary that he was "perfectly ravished" by the beauty of the island. Today, you can visit the house where he stayed, now a museum, and you can also have “Dinner with George” in the room where young George once dined.
5. Barbados has a strong claim to being the birthplace of rum. The juice of sugar cane was fermented into home brew long before 17th-century European settlers arrived, but the first properly commercial rum venture dates back to 1703, when the Mount Gay distillery – said to be the oldest in the world – was set up.
6. Bajan folk eat “dolphin” prepared in any style (baked, grilled, cooked or fried) – but don’t be alarmed, that’s just the local name for a brightly coloured fish otherwise known as mahi-mahi or dorado. All of the local fish dishes are exceptional, but we love the fried flying fish (try saying that quickly), served in huge saltbread sandwiches.
7. Barbados was one of only four destinations with a scheduled Concorde service; the others being Paris, New York and London. One of the supersonic Concorde aircrafts was retired on the island and is now an interactive museum.
8. The grapefruit is said to have been created on the island, by combining a pomelo and a sweet orange tree. Some say the union occurred naturally, a “Garden of Eden” story that earned the grapefruit its original name of “forbidden fruit”. Others say a certain Captain Shaddock brought pomelo seeds from Jamaica and purposely cross-pollinated them.
9. Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean islands, which means that it has near-guaranteed year-round warm weather in the region of 25-30°C.
10. The island is made up of more than 85% coral limestone, so its water is among some of the purest in the world. This natural filter also showcases Barbados’s coral reefs and 70 miles of white-sand beaches at their best.
When to Visit Barbados
Winter is the most popular time to visit Barbados due to the holiday season and high temperatures; however May is often considered to be ideal as well, both in terms of good weather and value for money. Generally the months from January to May are the driest, with the least humidity, while the Caribbean hurricane season runs from June to November.
Barbados is Best For…
Beach lovers. Barbados is just 21 miles long and 14 miles wide, but it has over 70 miles of palm-fringed white sand along its coastline.
Foodies. The country is often described as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, as well as the birthplace of rum.
Divers. There are plenty of dive sites to choose from, including Carlisle Bay, which has 200 reported wrecks. You might even see Hawksbill turtles swimming around the coral reefs.
Culture vultures. The island is dotted with reminders of its colonial past, but summer in particular sees a jam-packed calendar of events.
Night owls. Bajan people love a good party, like the Friday Night Fish Fry in Oistins. Fuelled by spicy fish dishes, rice and peas, and rum punch, islanders and tourists dance to Caribbean beats until the early hours.
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