Barbados on a budget

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When you think of Barbados, your mind skips to images of pure sandy coasts, cocktails and, even, superstar Rihanna. Barbados is a sizable island in the eastern Caribbean with a population of over 275,000. Though it is officially an Atlantic island, Barbados is considered part of the Caribbean, where it is ranked as a leading tourist destination. After all, it is a haven where unforgettable holidays and culinary delights mingle among tropical greenery, turquoise waters and an ongoing heat wave.

It may seem unbelievable, but ‘Budget Barbados’ is no longer an oxymoron. I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful paradise island recently: here are a few recommendations that do not have to break the bank.

Barbados' main industry is tourism. (Image taken from horizonssandylane.com)
Barbados’ main industry is tourism. (Image taken from horizonssandylane.com)

Where to stay

Guests have described the South Gap Hotel as ‘reasonable, safe, clean and comfortable.’ It has a relaxed and informal setting, yet everything on its doorstep. The hotel has its own pool, bar and restaurant. The Saint Lawrence Gap, renown for its dining and nightlife, is nearby. Enjoy a walk down Dover Beach or sit in one of the 34 rooms which all have oceanfront balconies. The hotel appears chic, yet is so wonderfully priced.

A little on the small side, Rio Guest House in the parish of Saint Lawrence has nine rooms. It is excellent for backpackers on a budget. Rooms are informal, yet fresh-looking and shared kitchens and bathrooms are available. It is well known that going self-catered will save you a great amount. The very reasonably priced guesthouse has a peaceful setting, but is only a minute away from the beach and local nightlife.

It may be unrealistic to picture ourselves poolside, rubbing shoulders with Simon Cowell, but the world-famous Sandy Lane resort cannot go without a mention. The five-star hotel is situated in a prime location on the West coast, yet still boasts a peacefully secluded setting. The resort has three world-renowned golf courses, a wide choice of dining and bars, a spa, and, crucially, a magnificent beachfront location where a long list of watersports are available. Guests do not want to leave and explore the island!

Coming back down to earth, Gemini House is a much more affordable option, which allows you to enjoy the celeb-ridden island reasonably. Branded the ‘best little B&B in Barbados,’ the quaint and comfortable guesthouse is located in the parish of Christ Church. It is on the southernmost end of the island, where the rough Atlantic meets the Caribbean Sea. It is a surfers’ paradise, but it is not far from calmer waters and Bridgetown, the capital. Unwind with other nearby activities including fishing, snorkeling and horse-riding.

What to do

On holiday, sightseeing and new experiences are in order. If possible, I recommend discovering the island’s parishes for yourself- what could be cheaper than exploring on your own two feet? If not, there are plenty of tour vehicles that take tourists around the island. One way you are sure to save money is by making use of the cheap and reliable bus network.

Key spots include Cove Bay and Little Bay, found in lovely and secluded areas on the East coast. Many tourists assume it is private land and miss the opportunity to visit. Both places, a short drive from one another, have beautiful views of the ferocious Atlantic Ocean and are completely admission-free.

Gorgeous greenery heading towards Cove Bay, a must-see.

As for landmarks, a notable one is Harrison’s Cave. The natural beauty of these underground caverns is considered among the finest showcases of this world. It definitely deserves a visit. Moreover, if you’re interested in discovering some Bajan history, visit St. Nicholas Abbey. It is one of the oldest plantation houses in the Caribbean, with gorgeous grounds and its rum and sugar museum houses historical artefacts. Both of these experiences charge a small fee for a worthwhile visit.

Finally, the island, especially the West coast, is surrounded by beautiful blue waters and soft sandy beaches. Watersports such as jet skiing, waterskiing, surfing and diving are must-dos. A boat trip is also highly recommended: you can enjoy the sailing, swim with turtles and snorkel over shipwrecks, all while touring the island’s perimeter. Sailing options come in all shapes and sizes, from large party yachts to smaller catamarans. What’s more, there is usually a chance to barter with the locals to knock down the price of that once-in-a-lifetime experience. And, if you fancy a dryer day, pop over to one of the golf courses or cricket pitches. Most clubs have irresistible deals for holiday goers.

View from a catamaran in the Caribbean Sea. Below, the dark patch is a shipwreck.
View from a catamaran in the Caribbean Sea. Below, the dark patch is a shipwreck.

Hungry? Thirsty?

Your appetite may waver in the constant heat, but there are plenty of quality restaurants that may tickle your fancy. For instance, there is Drift Ocean Terrace Lounge. Sophisticated yet relaxed, it overlooks the West coast and serves a light menu. There is also an extensive bar where you can enjoy spicy rum punch all evening.

On the other hand, if you require something more casual, head down to the beach and pay a visit to Mullins. You might want to get a sun lounger on the beach before you head up to the restaurant, which overlooks a shore filled with water activities. Or, save a few dollars for lunch by relaxing on the sand with your own towel. The restaurant’s energized atmosphere and the sunny breeze compliments its reasonably priced all-day menu.

The view from a table at Mullins, a must-visit beach restaurant.
The view from a table at Mullins, a must-visit beach restaurant.

Note, drinking locally will save you money: Banks beer and Mount Gay Rum are cheaply priced in shops. Sampling street food rather than booking a table at a restaurant is also a bargain, not to mention a cultural lesson.

As for nightlife, there is a broad choice, from ‘dinner shows’ to open-air nightclubs. Local bands as well as international music are played. Finally, if there is one place that stands out in the evening, the Saint Laurence Gap is the place to go.

Ready to go?

During the Easter holidays, Barbados has perfect weather. July is the island’s wettest month, but it is probably the best time to visit, as you can experience the sugarcane harvest period and its festivals. It is advisable to avoid the Christmas period unless you wish to fork out for peak prices. Lastly, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have direct and frequent flights from London, Manchester and Edinburgh. Be sure to pick up some Bajan dollars first!

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