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Trip Report Barbados Trip Report

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I want to say Thank You to all of you who contributed information and ideas here to help my planning of our first trip to Barbados. I especially want to thank Lois Swanson and Bajangirl who steered me away from several mistakes. In the spirit of information sharing, here is my trip report that may help the next person.

Travel Dates: Dec 27, 2008 to Jan 5, 2009. This is clearly the most expensive time of year to travel but it was the only thing that fit around Christmas and university schedules.

Travel Group: a family of 5; the 3 ‘kids’ are in university and ages are 23, 21, and 18

Accommodations: Plum Tree Club at Rockley Golf Course, Worthing, Christchurch. We had a 2 bedroom apartment with my boys sharing one bedroom and my daughter on the pull-out couch in the living room. The kitchen was very good for us; we ate all breakfasts, some lunches, and three dinners in the apartment. Pool and other facilities at Plum Tree Club were all good; free shuttle to the beach was handy. Location was good, very quiet, and also near lots of action, i.e. St. Lawrence Gap.

Car Rental: For 7 or our 9 days in Barbados we rented a car from Drive-a-Matic. In this country, a mid-sized 5 passenger car is a Toyota Yaris. (Automatic, 4 door, 1.3 litre engine, air conditioning). This was a good size for the narrow roads but small in the back seat for 3 adults. I guess I liked the car because we did manage to drive 647 Km in the week.

Things and Places that we liked:
- Harrison’s Cave is on everybody’s must-see list and now I would agree. We tried to go on a Tuesday, and they were closed Mondays and Tuesdays right now for construction of a new visitor’s center. We tried again to go on New Year’s Day, but they were full. Finally made it on Jan 2 and I am glad we persisted.
- Bathsheba, on the east coast. This place is fantastically beautiful and we enjoyed it in spite of a few showers blowing through while we were there. There are several restaurant s there and we had a nice lunch at the Bonito Bar.
- Rockley Beach. Free parking, easy access, nice water, nice waves, nice sand with only a few rocks, some people around but not crowded. There are lunch places in the parking lot and across the street. Drinks were very good at the Kan’ei Bar which offers walk up service from the beach. My son was offered drugs once by a person on the beach, but a simple No ended the issue without incident or hassle.
- Bottom Bay Beach, in the south east corner. A fairly small beach, very picturesque, accessible by stairs, great sand, very few people around, no swimming because of undertow, but the kids had a blast playing in the surf.
- Oistens Fish Fry. This is one of those things you just have to experience at least once. It has all the class of a county fair and it is a long way from posh. We visited one Friday evening to see the crowd, but we were there too early (9:30) and there was not much happening. We went back on Saturday for supper and there was a much smaller crowd.
- Old Year’s Day (New Year’s Eve) in St. Lawrence Gap for my kids. For $25 US for a bracelet, they had access to 6 bars and enjoyed the whole street experience.
- Bridgetown, Swan Street for shopping. This place was fun and fit my stereotype image of Caribbean shopping. This street is just a couple of blocks from the more famous Broad Street.
- Earthworks Pottery was nice and we picked up several gifts while there. The cafe next door at the On the Wall Art Gallery was good for our afternoon snack.
- Driving :-) The roads are narrow, and signs are absolutely terrible. Other drivers are patient, friendly, and helpful. The free tourist maps are quite good and we did not get lost ... much.
- Banks Beer, locally brewed, readily available, reasonable cost, and quite tasty.
- Mount Gay Rum, locally made, readily available, low cost, and really quite tasty, especially in a rum punch.

Other Things and Places:
- Bridgetown was fine, but did not interest us much. Some areas were very touristy, i.e. Broad Street and the waterfront.
- We had two short visits to Holetown, but had trouble finding the places the interested us. There are clearly some up-scale hotels / resorts that cater to a crowd much richer than we are.
- We only saw a little of Speightstown and my guess is that it would be worth more time on another trip.

Things that surprised us:
- Weather: How could it be so nice so much of the time? The temperature varied from 23 to 29 everyday. It never felt cool or too hot, in spite of quite high humidity. Of course, it was -12 Celsius when we left our home in eastern Canada.
- Coffee, or rather, the lack of coffee: This country does not have a culture of coffee like Canada or the US, very few coffee shops, and when you do order coffee in a restaurant, it is often instant coffee. We had to make our own coffee at the apartment to satisfy the needs.
- No Bugs: When we saw the windows had no screens, we were worried. In fact, one window in our apartment had no glass, just shutters, which was quite common. The good news is that there were no bugs of any significance anywhere we went on the island.
- Friendliness of the people: We live in a small, friendly city so we came with high expectations. Everyone we met in Barbados was just great.
- TV: Satellite TV at the apartment included the usual run of US channels, and CBC from Toronto. There was no weather network so we found it hard to get a forecast, but then again, the weather did not change much.
- Casual atmosphere: We expected some places would be more formal. I dressed in short pants and a polo shirt everywhere we went and always felt to be appropriately dressed.
- Lack of British influence: From our reading, we expected to see more British traditions, like we saw when visiting there a few years ago, but this was not the case. No British beer, no British pubs, seldom saw afternoon tea, etc. I think the part of Canada where we live have more elements of British legacy than Barbados.

Good Restaurant Experiences (all prices in US$):
- Bellini’s, St. Lawrence Gap, dinner for 5 (4 pasta dishes and one pizza, 1 drink, tax and service) $137
- Harlequin, St. Lawrence Gap, dinner for 2 (Red snapper and coconut shrimp, 1 drink, one dessert, tax and service) $72
- Ackee Tree, Hastings, dinner for 5 (Indian curry dishes, 3 drinks, tax and service) $100
- The Ship Inn, St. Lawrence Gap, dinner for 5 (Flying fish and Sailor’s Chicken, 5 drinks, 1 dessert, tax and service) $114
- Just Grillin’, Worthing, dinner for 5 (fish sandwiches and salads, 3 drinks, tax and service) $58
- Mama Mia’s Deli, Hastings, lunch for 2 (panini and salad, 2 drinks, tax and service) $28
- Bonito Bar and Restaurant, Bathsheba, lunch for 5 (chicken and salads, 1 drink, tax and service) $54
- Uncle Georges, Oisten Fish Fry, dinner for 5 (tuna, swordfish, marlin all the same price) $62.50

What some things cost (all prices in US$):
- Service charge / tip / gratuity – seems to be 10%, added to the bill in about half the restaurants.
- Unleaded gas - $0.95 per litre
- Banks Beer, 6 pack - $6.15, in a bar around $2.50
- Mount Gay Rum, 750 ml - $7.95, in a rum punch around $5
- Potato Chips - $4.60
- Loaf of Bread - $2.40
- Sliced ham for sandwiches– $5.25
- Cheese, 8 oz - $4.95
- Fresh whole chicken - $9.00
- Dozen eggs - $3.50
- Breakfast cereal - $5.50

All in all, we had a great trip. We have travelled a fair amount, but this was our first trip to the Caribbean, so we lack a direct comparison to other Caribbean choices. We feel we visited a foreign country, not a resort, and that is what we set out to do.

We found Barbados to be an expensive country to visit. Partially, it was a “sticker shock” as prices in local currency seem so high, partially it is a reflection of the exchange rate for the Canadian dollar. ($0.70 CAD = $1 BDS at the time of our trip), and partially it was because we were travelling at the most expensive time of year (A week later, the same apartment would have been 29% cheaper). We did a lot of research on prices before we left home and still found that prices we paid were often higher than we expected.

We will go to Barbados again and we would recommend it to other travellers without hesitation.

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