Travel in Barbados poses no health risk to the average visitor provided sensible precautions are taken. Make sure you have sufficient medical travel insurance, get a dental check, know your own blood group and, if you suffer from allergies, diabetes or epilepsy, add your emergency information to the lock screen of your mobile phone or obtain a Medic Alert bracelet. If you wear glasses, take a copy of your prescription.
All travellers should get fully vaccinated for Covid-19 before travel, and a yellow fever inoculation certificate must be produced on arrival if you have arrived within 5 days of leaving an area in Africa or South America affected with yellow fever.
There are minor mosquito-borne disease risks in the Caribbean region; dengue fever, chikungunya virus (also known as chik V), and Zika (ZIKV) virus. Although the risk of contracting any of these is very low, it is always a good idea to protect yourself against mosquitoes; try to wear clothes that cover arms and legs at dusk and dawn (when mosquitoes are most active) and use effective mosquito repellent. Rooms with a/c or fans also help ward off mosquitoes at night.
Some form of diarrhoea or intestinal upset may affect some holidaymakers. The standard advice is always to wash your hands before eating and to be careful with drinking water and ice. Tap water is generally very good, but if in any doubt buy bottled water. Food can also pose a problem; be wary of salads if you don’t know whether they have been washed or not. Symptoms should be relatively short lived. Adults can use an antidiarrhoeal medication to control the symptoms but only for up to 24 hrs. In addition, keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and eat bland foods. Rehydration sachets mixed with water are a useful way to keep well hydrated and should always be used when treating children and the elderly. If symptoms persist, consult a doctor.
The 2 main hospitals on the island, both in Bridgetown, offer all services including 24-hr A&E departments and helicopter air ambulances. There are a number of other medical centres and clinics and the larger hotels have doctors on call. In the event of a diving emergency, the Barbados hyperbaric chamber is at the Barbados Defence Force Headquarters, St Ann’s Fort, Bridgetown.
Most visits to Barbados are trouble-free, but there are isolated incidents of crime, including armed robbery, theft from vehicles and sexual assault. But Barbadians are, as a rule, exceptionally friendly, honest and ready to help, and most visitors will not experience any issues and will have a safe and enjoyable stay.
The general common-sense rules apply to prevent petty theft: don’t exhibit anything valuable and keep wallets and purses out of sight; do not leave your possessions unattended on the beach; use a hotel safe to store valuables, lock doors as noisy fans and a/c can provide cover for sneak thieves; don’t leave items on balconies when you go out; at night, avoid deserted areas, including the beaches, and always take taxis. If hiring a car, don’t stop if you’re flagged down by pedestrians, keep valuables out of sight and lock car doors when driving.
If you are offered drugs on the beach, in a rum shop or at a party, do not be tempted to dabble; all are illegal and law does not allow for ‘personal possession’. Larger amounts of marijuana or any amount of cocaine will get you charged with trafficking and penalties are very severe.
Both the airport and Bridgetown Cruise Terminal have good accessibility for wheelchairs but they are not accommodated on public road transport and the towns have very uneven pavements. However, modern resorts and hotels have rooms with disabled facilities and many of the sites are accessible; for example, Nidhe Israel Synagogue and Museum, Mount Gay Rum Tour, the electric train at Harrison’s Cave, and South Coast Boardwalk. To watch cricket at Kensington Oval, all stands have ramped access and staff will assist. It’s easy enough to tour the island in a taxi (a larger minivan for wheelchair storage), in a rented vehicle or by boat, and local people will do their very best to help.
Technically same-sex relationships are illegal but laws are rarely enforced and currently under review. Barbados held its first Pride Week in 2018 raising awareness and acceptance. There’s a relaxed attitude in the tourism industry, although public displays of affection are ill-advised.