Barbados

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Introduction to Barbados

Barbados is the 'Little England' of the Caribbean, but not so much so that the locals have given up rotis for kidney pies, or rum for bitter ale. Bajans, as the islanders call themselves, are as West Indian as any of their neighbours, and have tended to appropriate rather than adopt English customs.

You'll notice this the first time you check out a local cricket match, since the gentlemanly English game has a totally different rhythm here. Nonetheless, there are old stone Anglican churches in every parish, horse races on Saturdays and portraits of Queen Liz hanging on walls.

Tourism is big business on Barbados, and most visitors who come to the island are looking for that comfortable mix of the familiar peppered with just enough local flavor to feel 'exotic'. So if you're looking for a Caribbean island with plenty of amenities, watersports and nightlife, Barbados fits the bill. Travellers wanting to explore undeveloped areas and get off the beaten track should start looking for another island.

Full country name: Barbados

Area: 430 sq km

Population: 264,000

Capital City: Bridgetown

People: African (90%), English, Scottish & East Indians

Language: English

Religion: Protestant (67%), Roman Catholic (4%), none (17%), other (12%)

Government: independent state within the British Commonwealth

Head of State: Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands (representing Queen Elizabeth II)

Head of Government: Prime Minister Owen Arthur

GDP: US$2.9 billion

GDP per capita: US$11,200

Inflation: 2.6%

Major Industries: Tourism, sugar, light manufacturing, component assembly for export, agriculture, fishing.

Major Trading Partners: Caribbean Community (CARICOM), UK, US

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Traveler Facts

Visas: Visas are required for citizens from the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Pakistan, non-Commonwealth African countries and all South American countries except Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. All visitors are officially required to be in possession of an onward or return ticket.

Health risks: dengue fever (Unlike the malaria mosquito, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the dengue virus, is most active during the day, and is found mainly in urban areas, in and around human dwellings. Signs and symptoms of dengue fever include a sudden onset of high fever, headache, joint and muscle pains, nausea and vomiting. A rash of small red spots sometimes appears three to four days after the onset of fever. Severe complications do sometimes occur. You should seek medical attention as soon as possible if you think you may be infected. A blood test can indicate the possibility of the fever. There is no specific treatment. Aspirin should be avoided, as it increases the risk of haemorrhaging. There is no vaccine against dengue fever), diarrhoea (To prevent diarrhoea, avoid tap water unless it has been boiled, filtered, or chemically disinfected (e.g. with iodine tablets); only eat fresh fruits and vegetables if cooked or peeled; be wary of dairy products that might contain unpasteurised milk, and be highly selective when eating food from street vendors. If you develop diarrhoea, be sure to drink plenty of fluids, preferably an oral re-hydration solution containing lots of salt and sugar. A few loose stools donít require treatment but, if you start experiencing more than four or five stools a day, you should start taking an antibiotic (usually a quinolone drug) and an antidiarrhoeal agent (such as loperamide). If diarrhoea is bloody, or persists for more than 72 hours, or is accompanied by fever, shaking chills or severe abdominal pain you should seek medical attention), intestinal worms (These parasites are most common in rural, tropical areas. The different worms have different ways of infecting people. Some may be ingested on food such as undercooked meat (eg, tapeworms) and some enter through your skin (eg, hookworms). Infestations may not show up for some time, and although they are generally not serious, if left untreated some can cause severe health problems later. Ascaris worm is common in East Africa. Consider having a stool test when you return home to check for worm infestation and determine the appropriate treatment)

Time Zone: GMT/UTC -4

Dialling Code: 246

Electricity: 115V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

The island's top event is the Crop-Over Festival, which originated in colonial times as a celebration of the sugar cane harvest. Festivities stretch over a three-week period beginning in mid-July. There are spirited calypso competitions and fairs around the island. The festival culminates with a Carnival-like costume parade on Kadooment Day (the first Monday in August).

In February, the Holetown Festival celebrates the 1627 arrival of the first English settlers on Barbados. Holetown's week-long festivities include street fairs, a music festival at the historic parish church and a road race. The Oistins Fish Festival, held over Easter weekend, commemorates the signing of the Charter of Barbados. It's a seaside event focusing on boat races, fish-boning competitions, local foods, crafts and dancing. The National Independence Festival of Creative Arts, held throughout November, features talent contests in dance, drama and singing. Performances by the finalists are held on Independence Day (30 November).

There are also a handful of international sporting events, including the Barbados Windsurfing World Cup, held at Silver Sands in January, and the Caribbean Surfing Championship, held in early November at Bathsheba.

Public Holidays

1 January - New Year's Day

21 January - Errol Barrow Day

March or April - Good Friday, Easter Monday

28 April - Heroes Day

1 May - Labour Day

Eighth Monday after Easter - Whit-Monday

1 August - Emancipation Day

First Monday in August - Kadooment Day

First Monday in October - United Nations Day

30 November - Independence Day

25 December - Christmas Day

26 December - Boxing Day

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Best time to Visit

The best time to go to Barbados is during the cooler, drier months of late winter and early spring (February to May). Keep in mind that this is also the peak tourist season when prices are higher and places most crowded.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Barbados Dollar

Meals

Budget: B$5-20

Mid-range: B$20-30

High: B$30-50

Deluxe: B$50+

Lodging

Budget: B$40-100

Mid-range: B$100-250

High: B$250-300

Deluxe: B$300+

Comfortable travel on Barbados can easily cost USD250 a day. A moderate budget will fall in the USD100-200 a day range if you hire a car occasionally and don't party too hard. Budget travelers can get by on between US$50 and US$75 a day if they confine themselves to public transport.

You'll want some Barbados dollars for incidentals, but most larger payments can be made in US dollars or with a credit card. Hotels and guesthouses quote rates in US dollars, although you can use either US or Barbadian currency to settle the account. Most restaurants, hotels and shops accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards, and a few also accept the Discover Card. Banks are easy to find in the larger towns and major tourist areas. Most hotels add a 10% service charge.

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Attractions

Bridgetown

The capital of Barbados is a busy commercial city set on Carlisle Bay. It's short on must-see sights but certainly worth a saunter. It's an architectural mishmash of modern and colonial, with side streets leading off into residential neighbourhoods sprinkled with rum shops and chattel houses.

True to the island's British heritage, there are obelisks, gothic parliament buildings, and a large Anglican cathedral. More surprising is Bridgetown's distinctive 19th-century synagogue; the first synagogue on this site was built in the 1600s, when Barbados had a Jewish population of more than 300.

Holetown

Founded in the 1620s, Holetown is the oldest town in Barbados, but you'd hardly know it from its modern appearance. Now a major cog in the island's tourism machine, you can still absorb some of the town's history at the 19th-century St James Church.

Folkestone Park fronts a narrow beach where you can picnic, snorkel (there's a sunken barge nearby) when the water is calm or surf when the waves are up. What's more, there's a marine museum in the park with exhibits on fishing and boat building.

Sam Lord's Castle

This limestone coral mansion has an interesting, albeit embellished, history. The mansion was constructed by Sam Lord who, according to legend, hung 'wrecker' lanterns off the point to lure ships onto Cobbler's Reef. The ships thought they were entering a safe harbour, and when they crashed on the reef Lord purportedly went down to collect the cargo.

Although there's little doubt that Lord was a scoundrel, most historians discount the lantern story as folklore. Lord's former home looks like a stately residence rather than a castle and contains a modest collection of paintings and antique furnishings.

St Lawrence

Along the southwest coast of Barbados, there's a cluster of small, low-key towns with excellent beaches and much of the island's low to mid-range accommodations. St Lawrence, about 15km (9mi) southeast of Bridgetown, is Mr Popular, offering plenty of opportunities to chow down or party down.

Dover Beach, the town strand, has powdery white sand. A few minutes' walk west along the beach at low tide brings you to the towns of Worthing and Hastings, which have interesting local crafts and lovely pristine beaches.

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Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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