Visitors must have a passport valid for 6 months after the date of entry and adequate unused pages for stamps. Even though you may not always get asked for it, all travellers need to be able to produce a return or onward ticket, proof that they can support themselves during their stay (a credit card will suffice), and an address at which they will be staying (the hotel on your 1st night should be enough).
Most visitors do not need a visa (including citizens of the US, UK, EU, most Commonwealth countries, South Africa and the Caribbean), although the length of stay permitted varies from 28 days to 6 months. Those in transit or visiting from a cruise ship for less than 24hrs don’t need visas either, even if they are from countries that would otherwise require one. For full details and how to apply for a visa, see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade website.
Extending your initial entry stamp is possible by applying to the Chief Immigration Officer Immigration Department, Careenage House on the Wharf in Bridgetown. Additionally, Barbados (like much of the Caribbean) has introduced a remote working visa called the Barbados 12 Month Welcome Stamp.
Getting there and away
Barbados’ popularity as a tourist destination means regular flights from Europe and North America and you can often pick up good-value deals on package holidays; combining flights with a hotel can often work out cheaper than booking each separately and airport-to-hotel transfers are usually included.
Barbados is also the hub of the Eastern Caribbean region and has good connections for some island-hopping by air. Grantley Adams International Airport is 16 km east of Bridgetown, near the resorts on the south coast and connected to the west coast beaches by the Adams Barrow Cummins (ABC) Highway which bypasses the capital. Flights to Barbados are heavily booked in high season (mid-December to mid-April), especially at Christmas and Easter, and also for Crop Over (June-early August).
The scheduled carriers to Barbados from the UK are British Airways, who fly daily from London Heathrow and three times a week from London Gatwick, and Virgin Atlantic who fly daily from London Heathrow and three times a week from Manchester.
There are no ferry services between Barbados and the other Caribbean islands. Cruise ships call at the Bridgetown Cruise Terminal which has capacity for six vessels at a time, and some passengers choose to start, finish or break their cruise in Barbados.
At only 34 km long and 22 km wide, the island is fairly small and the terrain is relatively flat, so nowhere takes too long to get to and there’s a good choice of transport options. However, away from the main highways on the south and west coasts, the interior rural roads are narrow, winding and poorly signposted, but Barbadians are more than happy to point you in the right direction if you ask.
Having your own car, if only for a couple days, is highly recommended to get to attractions and restaurants and it’s a great way to carry around beach gear and picnics for impromptu stops. The network of minor roads criss-crossing the island can be a little confusing and there are plenty of ways to get lost, but Barbados is an enjoyable destination for a bit of a ramble in the interior, distances aren’t great, and it won’t take long to find the right road again.
There are three types of public buses on Barbados and they are cheap, frequent and crowded. Almost all routes radiate in and out of Bridgetown, so while cross-country journeys may be time-consuming, travelling by bus is very easy and can be a lot of fun and a great way to meet Bajan people. On most routes, the first buses depart around 0500 and run until at least 2100; on the more popular routes they run until 2400. Look out for the red, white and black bus-stop signs at the side of the road; out-of-town bus stops are marked simply ‘To City’ or ‘Out of City’. Some of them have shelters with a bench, and solar USB-charging points for phones, but you rarely have to wait too long for a bus on the busier routes.
The large public buses belonging to the government’s Transport Board are hard to miss, and are painted blue with striped yellow sides. The flat fare is B$3.50 per journey anywhere on the island, so if you change buses you pay again. The drivers do not give change so exact fare is required; if you are boarding at a terminal, you can get change from the cashier (0700-2200). The routes cover just about every corner of the island and usefully service many of the tourist attractions.