Lizzy Spit: A Backpackers guide to… Barbados

Lizzyspit is currently on a three month travelling expedition. First stop, the Caribbean, before heading to LA, New Zealand and Australia.

Here’s the low down on her first destination, Barbados.

Lizzy Spit: A Backpackers guide to Barbados

When you think of Barbados, it’s unlikely the first thing you think is ‘what a great backpacking destination – I must go right away’. The sunny little island is littered with luxury resorts, golf courses, and spas – particularly further up the west coast – making it the ideal destination for the ‘typical holidaymaker’.

Once you pass the hustle and bustle of Island’s capital Bridgetown, you will see a different premier hotel every step of the way to the neighbouring western towns, Holetown, and Speightstown.

Ditch the sun-lounger, lazing by the pool, and ditch the all day 2for1 cocktails. The island has a lot to offer the humble traveller, especially the ones trying to stick to a tight a budget. You just have to know where to look.

Steeped in rich history, Barbados is a little tropical island boasting a modest population of 250,000. The once British colony formed in 1627, when English settlers arrived, was ‘set free’ only 45 years ago.

It has since turned into one of the most profitable independent islands in the western hemisphere. It’s sugar cane, and rum industries are big business, with products such as Mount Gay Rum, being shipped and sold globally. There is also an incredibly alive, and booming tourist industry.

So what can this little island offer someone who wants more than your typical sun, sea and sand type holiday?

Backpackers guide to BarbadosBarbados is truly lush. It’s botanical landscape is blooming with tropical flowering forests, exotic secluded beaches, and provides a wonderful, safe environment for birds, green monkeys, and other sacred wildlife. The warm, cooling sea is bursting with life, fish, turtles and stingray bask in the shallows.

Each parish, named after a saint, is your own personal gateway into Bajan life. Chattels (traditional Bajan housing – think little wooden shacks) are painted in bright colours and line the pot-hole ridden roads. Every time you pass, you can guarantee a ‘Hello!’ or a friendly wave from the people cooling down under the eve of their modest porch.

On a Sunday, the sound of gospel singing fills the air as it escapes the doors of the many, many churches, old and new, across the Island.

To experience this, all you need is a map, a good pair of walking shoes (note to self, climbing down a cliff in flip flops is never a good idea!) and a clear plan of where you want to go.

If your budget can stretch to a car, then I highly recommend it, even if it’s just for a couple of days in order to reach the places you might not take the bus to. Petrol is relatively cheap (one of the only things), and it really does give you that extra bit of freedom to visit the more secluded places, a way from those pesky ‘wow-wee’ type of tourists.

If not, there is a readily available, inexpensive transport system, that allows you access to the majority of the island. Taking your map, a packed lunch, and plenty of water, and just seeing where you end up, really is part of the beauty of it.

Accommodation for those on a budget is relatively easy to find, particularly on the East, and Southern parts of the Island. A good, basic self-contained apartment is the way forward if you intend to explore every nook and cranny of the island during your stay. You’ve got a place to sleep, eat and shower – and that’s all you really need.

Many are set within a private tropical garden, and are reasonably priced according to their amenities. But, for everyone of these, there are the ominous looking ones down dusty side streets, tucked away out of sight, so be sure to read the reviews on-line before you book.

You find your way in Barbados through word of mouth. There are many regular European holidaymakers turned Bajan residents, who’ve set up B&B’s, apartments etc…so booking with them, can avoid any unpleasant surprises!

Try the Cherry Tree apartments in St Lawrence Gap, at only £35 per night, you’ve got a fully equipped kitchen, bathroom and comfortable bedroom. There’s a private garden, with cute little tortoises crawling about and lovely little birds, that sit on your window sills.

There is a drawback to the island, and that is the price. Money is what makes it go round – and it seems that everyone is out to sell something. While some of the more historic attractions are free to visit (eg: Coddrington College, the oldest Theological Institute in the Western Hemisphere), you’ll find the things that you normally take for granted, can be the things that blow your budget. You can end up paying something like $20BD (8 quid) for a melon, or for a pack of 4 yoghurt, so knowing where to shop is vital.

Shopping at the local fish markets, or visiting the vans parked up on the road offering home grown fruit and veg, is a great way to get more bang for your buck. Try and steer clear of the convenience stores, all the prices are marked up beyond belief. You’ll come away feeling only one thing, ripped off.

A Backpackers guide to Barbados

If you want to eat out, and if you want a taste of traditional bajan culture, visit the Oistins fish fry on a Friday night. Located in the south of the Island, the fry takes place on the dock, coming alive just after 7. Friendly locals and tourists alike flock to the fry for a good few glasses of local rum, and some of the freshest fish you’ll ever taste.

Sample the dolphin fish, or fresh swordfish with a plate of rice, beans, salad, macaroni and potatoes. Plentiful and cheap, the food, alcohol and electric atmosphere, make the perfect Friday night.

Music is played continuously through the night, jungle and reggae beats coming from every possible speaker. Street entertainers dance and sing, while tourists get the chance to wander through the craft markets and watch the locals revel in highly competitive games of dominos and checkers. They slam their dominos down with venom – who knew it was such an exciting game?

Barbados is a beautiful, friendly place steeped in English colonial history. Exploring places you might normally shy away from can make for incredibly special and private moments.

Don’t sleep in, don’t stay in the same place, don’t sit still for a moment, that’s how to approach this wonderful Island – unless of course, it’s to sip an ice cold rum, as you watch an awe-inspiring sunset.

Next stop Tobago.