Barbados with its powdery white beaches, turquoise sea, and eternal sunshine is high on any travellers list. But, to most young travellers dismay it has a reputation for being an expensive holiday, but it doesn't have to be. In fact, to really get the most out of this little island it's best to avoid the expensive tourist hot spots and go find out the little gems that really make Barbados a great spot for travellers - not just tourists.
First and foremost, all beaches in Barbados are public and free, and I'm sure for most of your holiday thats what you had planned. And why not? There is 60 miles of world class beaches to keep you entertained.
Most tourists tend to stick to the south and west coasts. Known for their beautifully calm seas and surrounded by delicious spots to eat these areas are destination relaxation. Most tourists make the dreadful mistake of not making the effort to visit the east coast.
The east coast is everything the west coast isn't. It has dramatic shorelines, jagged cliffs and powerful waves. The east coast is nothing like the picture perfect post cards you see of Barbados, but it is by far the most beautiful coast.
Although it's not considered safe to swim here because of strong currents, there are rock pools along the beach that you can have a little dip in. If you wonder down to the famous 'Soup Bowl', you can watch world class surfers catch enormous waves.
Take the Bus
I've been coming to Barbados for years and it was only this time round that I decided to brave the bus. And you know what? I wish I had done it earlier. It's incredibly cheap - $2 (Barbadian) or $1 (US) - and really easy. There are bus stops all along the roads either saying 'to city' or 'out of city'. Here is a link to the Barbados Transport Board, where you can look up routes and schedules.
The busses are a lot of fun - and a place where you can really experience some Bajan culture. On the privately owned busses (the yellow ones and the mini vans know as ZR vans) music blasts from homemade speaker systems. The government owned busses (the blue ones) are a little more tame.
When you get on to the bus along with the driver there is usually a second guy who collects the money. So find a seat first and wait for him to come to you. If you know where you want to go but you aren't sure where to get off, just ask the driver, or the guy that collected the money where you want to go. They'll stop the bus for you at the right time.
Forget imported European beers, forget martini's say goodbye to wine and say a big massive hello to local alcohol. Bank's beer, Deputy beer and Mount Gay Rum are your new best friends. They are delicious and the cheapest drinks on every menu.
All alcohol that isn't made on the island has a heavy import tax on them making them massively expensive compared to their local counterparts. Rum was created in Barbados, and Mount Gay is the oldest rum distillery in the World, so to have a fully cultured holiday this should be your drink of choice.
To really save your money and have a good night, order a few rum punches - they are delicious and lethal (the perfect combination for a budget night out).
Swim With Turtles
Who doesn't want to swim with turtles? But paying $90 US to go on a catamaran is a bit steep. There is a way to do it for free for those in the know and that's to swim from the beach.
There are a few sweet spots where turtles hang out. On the south coast check out Worthing Beach. On the west coast, Paynes Bay, Folkestone Marine Park, and Alleynes Beach. The sea on the west coast tends to be calmer and shallower for those who are not confident swimmers.
You can buy fish scraps to feed the turtles and tempt them closer to you. If you decide to feed them make sure you drop the bait in front of them rather than waiting for them to take it out of your hand. Turtles have sharp beaks that can give you a nasty nip if you get your fingers in the way.
The Kensington Oval Cricket ground
Barbados is famous for its cricket, and there is really nothing like it. In Barbados watching the cricket is more like going to a party than watching a sport. It is not to be missed, I'm not even a cricket fan and its one of the highlights of my trip. The trick is to go and watch the 20 20 cricket, which is much more exciting and has a lively atmosphere.
The best way to save money is to get a ticket in the 'Party Stand' which will cost you around $40bbd. Although it's the cheapest stand it is by far the funnest. For years I would sit in other stands watching the party standing thinking "Damn I wish I was in VIP", little did I realise it was the cheap seats.
There's a stage with live preformances, during the day there's a pool and sun loungers by the pitch, the cheerleaders are right in front of you and there's a DJ playing some of the best Calypso music there is along with cheap food and drinks. What's not to like? The party stand is all about having a good time and evening matches are a great way to get the night started if you are thinking of going out.
Just a tip though, if you go to a day match there is no shade in the Party Stand, which means it can get hot hot hot and you might be leaving with some pretty impressive burn lines (especially if you are a factor 50 lover like me).
Website: Click here for the website.
National Trust Hikes
The National Trust Hikes are the best way to see a side to the island that most tourists don't see - the country side. You get a better feel of the island, walking through low laying farm land, climbing up steep hills and walking along dramatic coast lines. The best part is that it is absolutely free.
Although it is a lot of fun these hikers mean serious business and walk with a serious pace. There are three 'levels':
Stop 'n' Stare (easy) 6 miles
Medium 'n' Fast (medium) 9 miles
Grin 'n' Bear (challenging) 12 miles
All the hikes last roughly three hours and begin at either 6:30am or 3:30pm, there are even some moonlight walks which look like they would be great (you'll need to bring a torch to this one). Click here for their schedule and more information.
We took on the 9-mile hike at 3:30 pm based in St. Philip which is a parish in the South East of the island. Walking under the Bajan sun in the afternoon is hot, especially in the summer months which are particularly humid (but great for that all body tan, am I right?). Luckily for us, there was a fantastic breeze coming off the sea which kept us cool.
St. Philip is mostly flat, so we mainly stuck to walking through farmland and small villages which had some very curious children wondering why we were there. That is until we got to Mount Pleasant - which we have renamed Mount Unpleasant. Although it was a steep and sweaty climb, the top has beautiful panoramic views of Saint Philip stretching as far as the shore line.
Unfortunately for the blog I didn't take any photo's up there because it began to tip it down with rain, the soak through to the underwear kind of rain, but we were very excited about the rain coming to cool us off - especially after taking on Mount Unpleasant.
The sun started to set as we marched on the last leg of our hike, well behind the bulk of the pack and without a clue where we were supposed to be going we started to wonder whether we may be left behind and lost in the Bajan country side for the night. What we hadn't realised is two seasoned hikers were lingering a few paces behind us to make sure we got to the end safely. I can't tell you the wave of relief that came over us when we realised.
On our last stretch we stumbled across a little rum shop and quickly dashed in, bought bottles of banks beers for everyone, drank it as quickly as we could and carried on our way. Without a doubt the most refreshing beer I have ever had. And an absolutely fantastic way to spend an afternoon.
Website: Click here for their website.
Where to eat on a budget:
Barbados has an absolutely exquisite fine dining scene but what Bajans do best is simple food. From classic island styled grilled fish to trendy cafes its got it all, and best of all, it's within your budget!
Experience food like a real Bajan and get down to Oistins on a Friday night. Oistins main draw is its incredible food. Simple grilled or fried fish cooked right in front of you with all the frills - macaroni pie, rice and peas, coleslaw, all the good stuff. But Oistins is more than just a place to eat - its a full on sensory experience.
There are two music venues, one which plays primarily old timey Caribbean music while (usually older) couples dance in the square. I love this part of Oistins because it feels so different to the rest of it. The dancers, who are often close to my grandparents age, dance in an almost ballroom-esque way and boy do they have some sass as they twirl around. Especially the men who love to use their hips. Whoever I'm with has to try pretty hard to pull me away from this section.
There is another music venue that has a stage which plays calypso music and sometimes there's a live band. This is definitely the party section of the market.
Location: Click here for Location on Google Maps.
Castaways has become a firm favourite among locals - and a restaurant packed with locals is a great sign that thats where you should be eating too. For one, nearly every table has an absolutely stunning view overlooking little bobbing fishing boats on the tranquil bay, which feels like Caribbean perfection.
Not to mention the food is excellent, reasonable and on a Saturday is probably one of the cheapest eats on the whole island. You can get portions that will fill you up from $15-$20 Barbadian Dollars. There is nothing budget about this restaurant other than its prices.
Every Saturday the hold an event called "Souce Beach Saturdays". Pudding and Souce is classic local dish that foodies need to tuck in to to experience traditional Bajan food. Pudding and Souse is essentially is baked sweet potato with a sweet and spicy flavour, and pork topped with pickled cucumber. Definitely a little different but a great taste of Caribbean culture.
If Pudding and Souse is a bit out there for you, then not to worry they carry on serving their normal lunch menu.
Website: Click here for their website.
Cuz's Fish Shack
Cuz's fish shack is the perfect example of what Bajan's do well. Low key, simple, fresh and unthinkably delicious. It is exactly what the names suggests, a shack on the side of Pebbles Beach that serves grilled fish cutters (sandwiches). If you're not from the Caribbean then you haven't tasted anything like it.
An absolute favourite among locals and visitors alike, expect a little bit of a queue but a long queue means great food!
The Artsplash Centre
The Art Splash Centre is a cafe and gallery which makes it a cute spot to stop in for breakfast, lunch or just a little snack. Priding themselves on delicious, healthy and locally sourced food there are no wrong choices when you choose from the menu.
There is a fantastic range of smoothies, juices and food to choose from - and honestly I wanted it all! We ended up going for the pancakes, smoked salmon bagel and I had a little but surprisingly filling banana smoothie.
For those of you who struggle to find fantastic gluten free food whilst abroad both the pancakes and waffles are gluten free! Even if you aren't gluten intolerant I would highly recommend the pancakes.
Every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday morning there is also a farmers market that surrounds the Art Splash Centre which is great for any little homemade souvenirs or local produce you might want.
Website: Click here for their website.
Although this may not look that appealing (I clearly haven't mastered the art of rib photography) I can guarantee its delicious - so good we went twice in two nights. Just Grillin has enormous portion sizes that will fill any appetite, great grilled food with the option of two sides and all for the right price.
It is a very relaxed atmosphere, anything smarter than jeans and you are overdressed for this chilled little spot. Their barbecue sauce, which they make in house is so loved by the people that eat here that they begged the restaurant to bottle and sell it. Which it now does! Even if you aren't in the mood to eat out their barbecue sauce is a great little gift for any barbecue connoisseur's at home.
Website: Click here for their website.
There you have it, a guide to get the most out of Barbados on a budget! If you have any suggestions leave them in the comments to help out other travellers! And don't forget to pack a toothbrush.