72 hours in paradise – Barbados style

“In the sun I will come to see Barbados”  sung early eighties Australian band, The Models and thirty years on, it attracts Aussies and other Commonwealth expats like never before.

This southern Caribbean paradise of Barbados is part of a chain of islands known in the cricketing world as the West Indies, with Jamaica just to its east. And it’s a combination of the sun, it’s commonwealth ties and promise of crystal blue waters that makes it feel a whole lot like home.

For a long time, Barbados was both a tax haven and a playground of eighties excess. Serviced by British airways Concords flying direct, pop stars would frolic with page three models on the decks of catamarans served by poor local servants – and this heritage is immediately apparent from the moment you leave the airport where one of the last Concords is mothballed as a museum piece in a giant glass hanger.

The disparate gap between rich and poor is as openly on display as the aging supersonic jet as our cab roars past dilapidated shanties and farmhouses that are just barely distinguishable from ruins. A balmy humidity makes the air thick and hard to breathe as the sun beats down on the corrugated roofs.

The presence of major satellite channel dishes on each roof hints that maybe the interiors are more comfortable than the exterior would suggest. Yes, it is a country with a large gap between the 1%ers and the rest, but they live a good life and the price of living here is much cheaper than where we’ve previously visited.

Once you get to the coast, you soon see what keeps people coming back. This is tropical perfection. It’s humid, green, the waters are flawless, and the pace is super relaxed. We have plenty of exploring to do and only three days, so here’s a summary and click through for more details.

WHAT you need to know before you go to Barbados

  1. Barbados has a complete ban on camouflage clothing of any nature. If you possess, shirts, headbands, jackets, shorts and even running shoes with camo, leave it at home.
  2. The dollar goes a lot further. Everything is cheaper – particularly food and booze. Live it up.
  3. Don’t expect Ubers, just catch a ZR bus from along the nearest main road.
  4. It feels more British than American. Despite its location, more of the Bajan culture is associated to its British roots, from religion to sports to entertainment.
  5. It is hot. All year round. Dress accordingly.

WHERE we went

With three days on the ground, we were able to see a decent portion of the island. We mixed the essentials with a few local excursions that gave us a taste for the area. If you get a chance, ride the ZR buses, go to a cricket match and join in a local party – it’s where Barbados comes alive.

Oistin’s Fish Fry

Fresh off the boat seafood, barbecues everywhere, grill smoke, monkeys, beer, rum punch and loud dubby dance hall – this is a must-experience or try one of the smaller local parish frys for a change of pace.

Bridgetown

The capital is colorful but edgy, lacking the charm of the smaller townships and beach communities.

A cruise (including snorkeling with turtles)

This is the closest we have ever got to Duran Duran-level 80s excess, with bottomless bar tab, flying fish, snorkeling with sea turtles and then dancing on the deck of the catamaran.

Harrison’s Caves

This is one of those excursions that isn’t really worth the journey apart from the fact you get to enjoy the countryside of cane fields, banana plantations and old ruined windmills. The caves are small and the formations aren’t on the level of other major cave systems we’ve visited.

Mount Gay Visitor’s Center

Jess’s dad is obsessed with Mount Gay. It was our duty to pay homage to his favorite drop, served to us by the Caribbean’s best bar guy (he had all the trophies to prove it).

WHERE we stayed 

We picked up a cheap stay at Worthing Beach in an AirBNB above the Guangdong Chinese Restaurant. The family have two very large rooms available and it’s a two-minute walk to a slice of paradise. Plus we were minutes from St. Lawrence Gap.

WHAT we ate 

We were on a seafood diet. They live on fresh seafood and salads here, plus beans and rice and an unhealthy amount of KFC which is surprisingly popular. Expect to see all kinds of seafood – including dolphin, so know what you’re ordering or are prepared to eat before making a call. We also drank buckets of Banks beer as it was cheaper than water.

HOW we got there

We flew Delta from Newark via Atlanta to Bridgetown for $330. Not a bad low-budget escape when you’re flying almost to South America. We negotiated a cab from the airport for the equivalent of $25 – pretty standard.

HOW we got around 

They are loud, smelly, obnoxious and $2 a ride anywhere. When you hear the air horn, hail! ZR Vans are the default bus service between beaches. There’s no seat belts, no road rules, no air and nothing but good vibes as you’re blasted by ragga and dance hall tracks, while swerving left and right, playing corners with the strangers you’re sharing the adventure with. If you have to order a cab, they don’t run by meter. You will need to negotiate before you get in. The drivers will highball so be prepared to haggle. If you’re going into the middle of the island, there are some bus services that are cheap, but equally uncomfortable.

WHY would we go back?

The weather, the food, the water – it’s beautiful and it’s the perfect escape from a northern winter.

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