Is it really possible to travel to Barbados on a budget?
Just prior to quitting our London lives in exchange for backpacking South East Asia, we spent 10 days in the Caribbean for my sister and brother in-laws wedding. Since we were trying to cut back on spending ahead of our big Asian adventure, we made it our mission to figure out how best to save money in Barbados. From two thrifty backpackers, here are 20 great ways of travelling to Barbados on a budget:
1. All beaches are free!
There are no private beaches in Barbados, meaning you have access to all areas – even the most exclusive Sandy Lane! This is great news for beach bums like us travelling to Barbados on a budget. The island is home to some incredibly beautiful beaches, we personally recommend Reeds Bay on the West Coast which is very secluded and great for swimming.
2. Use Air BnB
Accommodation options on the island are typically luxurious Barbados hotels. However, there are many interesting rental properties to be found on Air BnB, such as secluded hillside hideouts, cute beachside bungalows and cosy apartments.
Why stay in a resort and share facilities when you could potentially have a rum punch on your own private veranda for a fraction of the price? These places might be a little less swanky, but will come with bags more charm. Prices on Air BnB starting from $70 BBD.
3. Go self-catering
On average, things cost about twice as much in Barbados than they do back home. As of 2018 the cost of a standard meal for 2 at a restaurant will set you back around $100 BBD… Ouch! The price of food has to be one of the main cost factors when travelling to Barbados on a budget. So by choosing to stay somewhere that has its own kitchen facilities means you don’t always have to eat out and pay a premium for food.
4. Shop at Jordans
At this point you may be asking why Barbados is so expensive? One of the main reasons is because the majority of produce is imported from the US and even from the UK.
If you do go down the self-catering route, we suggest grabbing your groceries at the Jordans supermarket chain, which is where the Bajans shop. The majority of products will be more expensive than what we’re used to back home, but this is still a far cheaper alternative to eating out.
5. Bring food from home
This may sound a little extreme, but to cut our costs and to control our daily budget in Barbados, we decided to bring a lot of food from home. We packed as many non-perishable items as possible, things like porridge, crackers, cheese, dried fruits, biscuits, peanut butter, mixed nuts and protein bars. This was one of the most cost-effective ways for us to save money in Barbados.
6. Drink Mount Gay
If you are partial to a rum punch (or three) then the delicious local Mount Gay Rum is an absolute must-try! Seeing as its distilled on the island, this the best budget alcohol option in Barbados. For a good price, purchase by the bottle at local rum shacks. Our go-to shack was rustic little John Moore’s on the beach in Weston. We loved sitting amongst the locals playing steel drums and dominos while watching the sun go down.
7. Eat where the locals eat
One of the best ways of experiencing Barbados on a budget is by dining at local eateries, and there are many hidden gems to be found! If you are looking for authentic and affordable Bajan food try the Fisherman’s Pub in Speightstown – this no frills establishment has a friendly atmosphere attracting locals and tourists alike. One of our favourite joints is Just Grillin, a perfect place for something quick and easy such as jerk chicken, ribs and burgers. The food is deliciously grilled to order and their coleslaw is to die for. Another great place is Cheapside Market in Bridgetown, where vendors can be found cooking all kinds of Bajan snacks and street food.
8. Pack your snorkel
If you are a budget traveller like us, then snorkelling is a great activity (not just because it’s awesome) but also because it is usually free! Barbados is well known for its sea turtles, so be sure to check out Folkestone Marine Park and Mullins Bay where they are often spotted. Many beaches in Barbados are prone to jet ski traffic which can be dangerous to snorkellers and divers. We were strongly advised by a local jet ski company to take out an SMB (surface marker buoy) while snorkelling. Along with your own snorkel and mask, it is worth bringing one of these from home rather than paying to rent equipment. For more information, take a look at our snorkelling packing list.
9. Take beach towels
It’s possible to rent sun loungers and umbrellas on most beaches in Barbados, but if you’re not fussy about where you sit, pack some beach towels and feel the sand between your toes for free!
10. Try out your negotiation skills
Unlike other island cultures, haggling isn’t really the ‘done thing’ in Barbados. However, it is likely that you will be approached by one of the many ‘beach boys’ looking to sell you something while you relax in the sun. Whether it is a piece of jewellery, an aloe vera massage, or a go on one of their jet ski’s, this is where you can put your bargaining skills to the test! The boys are really hoping to make a buck or two from you, so never settle for the first price quoted. Nick even managed to wangle a free ‘taster’ ride on a jet ski before committing.
11. Get on the reggae bus
Probably some of our most memorable moments (and a great way of keeping control of our daily budget in Barbados) was travelling on the public buses. As the nickname implies ‘the reggae bus’ involves good tunes, fast rides and a fun way to observe everyday Bajan life. This public means of transport costs just $1 BBD and will take you to pretty much anywhere on the island, all day everyday day.
12. Check out carnival
There is possibly no better way of experiencing the vibrant Caribbean culture than by attending Carnival, and each island has their own sense of style. Every August Barbados lights up its streets with their version called ‘Crop Over’ which is the traditional harvest festival. Expect colourful parades, elaborate outfits and calypso music. Join the crowd and get in on the action!
13. Go for a picnic in the park
Why not soak up the atmosphere of this exotic Caribbean island and take a picnic to the tropical hideaway of Welchman Hall Gully with its exotic walkways, secluded seating and monkeys in the jungle. Alternatively, try out the tranquility of Hunte’s Botanical Gardens and its diverse range of plant species, classical music and complimentary glass of rum punch!
14. Visit the Animal Flower Cave
For travellers wishing to explore the sights of Barbados on a budget, the Animal Flower Cave is a fun and affordable thing to do. Situated in Northpoint, this natural cave made of hard coral has a hidden pool of water which we found perfect for dipping and cooling off. Enjoy epic ocean views from inside the cave and over the cliffs above. Prices are $20 BBD for adults and $10 BBD for children, including a guide.
15. Explore the island by bike
We really believe that travelling by scooter or motorbike is one of the best ways to explore a country. Of course renting a bike in Barbados is never going to be as cheap as getting the bus, but it’s certainly less expensive than renting a car or taking a taxi. The main roads are in good condition and its almost impossible to get lost!
16. Beware of service charges
As a budget traveller there is nothing worse than being hit with an unexpected fee. Unfortunately it is all too easy to get stung in Barbs, as most restaurants add on a 10% service charge to your bill without even telling you. One of the best ways of saving money in Barbados is by being aware of these. If you’re not sure, ask at your restaurant of choice before committing to dining.
17. Take a pre-paid card
To avoid overseas charges on your bank card, load up a pre-paid card like Monzo and enjoy the benefits.
18. Try a street-side roti
These delicious meat parcels are not just a Caribbean delicacy, but they are also a perfect budget Barbados food to snack on. You can find lots of roti ‘lunch vans’ dotted along the road and on beaches around the island. Check out The Gazebo or St. Lawrence Gap. Don’t leave Barbs without trying one!
19. Book your flights early
Airlines such as BA and Virgin offer early bird deals on flights to Barbados from London for as little as £350 return, so plan ahead and book your tickets well in advance.
20. Travel in low season
Planning a trip during low season is one of the best ways of saving money when travelling to Barbados. Accommodation is generally less expensive and more widely available, plus flights can be significantly cheaper. Thankfully Barbados sits just outside of the hurricane belt, so even though low season sees more wind and rain there is definitely less risk of bad weather than other Caribbean islands.
Spending less in Barbados
Barbados stands out as probably one of the most expensive places we have ever travelled to, but with a few tweaks we were able to enjoy the island without completely blowing our budget. What we gained from keeping our daily expenditure to the bare minimum, was a more authentic experience as we got the chance to hang out in local places and soak up more of the islands colourful culture.
We hope you found our 20 ways of travelling to Barbados on a budget useful. What quirky methods do you use to save money while travelling? Feel free to share with us in the comments below 🙂