There are endless things to see and do in Barbados. With its stunning beaches, otherworldly caves, demanding golf courses, renowned restaurants and rich heritage, its no wonder the island is one of the most popular destinations in the Caribbean. However, there are a few cautions, caveats and conditions to keep in mind when visiting this vacation paradise. Here are 19 things NOT to do in Barbados.
1. Don’t Wear Camouflage
That military pattern may be on-trend in the world of fashion, but you’d better leave any camouflage-wear at home if you’re Barbados bound. It’s actually illegal for anyone but the Barbados Defense Force to don this style here. Even toddlers in cute pink camo shorts are prohibited. Seriously. Visitors have had contraband camouflage clothing confiscated at the airport and have been denied entry at some attractions for this unwitting offense. You may not be arrested if you’re caught in an army fatigue bikini, but you may be asked to change.
2. Don’t Touch the Manchineel Fruit
Those big shady trees with the little green apples look inviting and harmless enough, but manchineels are toxic. You don’t want to touch any fruit on the ground, or even sit under the boughs during a rain shower. These trees contain a milky sap that can blister the skin on contact and cause blindness if rubbed in the eye. In fact, the Caribs used to use this on their poison arrows. Many manchineel trees on Barbados beaches have a warning sign on them or are painted with a red ring, but not all.
3. Don’t Sit Under a Ripe Coconut Tree
It may be an urban legend that falling coconuts kill 150 people each year (stats are hard to confirm), but its better to be safe than sorry. Considering a ripe coconut can weigh over 4 lbs and palm trees can rise 100 ft, the impact of coconut to cranium can indeed be fatal. Look up before you take a siesta underneath a swaying palm that’s ripe with these potential bowling ball missiles.
4. Don’t Swim on the East Coast
The rugged East Coast of Barbados is a spectacular unspoiled coastline you have to experience. The windswept beach from Cattlewash to Bathsheba offers some of the best views in the region. However, the pounding surf has some dangerous currents and rip tides that make swimming ill-advised here. Expert surfers may frolic in the Soup Bowl, but the average tourist should keep out of these waves. Paddle up to your ankles and poke around the tide pools if you’d like, but save your immersive ocean swims for the safer south and west coast beaches, some of which have lifeguards on duty.
5. Don’t Get Too Close to the Monkeys
Everybody loves the green monkeys of Barbados. Spotting them at the Wildlife Reserve or in a gulley at the side of the road is always a thrill. They’re even known to make themselves at home in some hotel grounds. However tame, curious and friendly they may seem, it’s best to keep a bit of distance between you. Mama monkeys will get protective of their babies, and others can be a bit aggressive when it comes to their food. Don’t fear the monkeys, but respect that they are wild animals and give them some space.
6. Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Rum Punch
This classic Caribbean cocktail is poetically made with “one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak.” Whatever is in it, it sure lives up to its “punch” moniker. Maybe its the combination with the hot sun, or the fact it tastes so good going down you lose count of how many you’ve consumed. Take it easy, or you will definitely feel a backlash from a Bajan rum punch bender the next day.
7. Don’t Sunbathe Topless
This isn’t the French riviera or Miami’s South Beach. Barbados is a modest country where “clothing optional” isn’t an option. Public nudism is actually against the law here, so don’t try to sneak a full tan job while out by the pool. Furthermore, the locals prefer you to keep beachwear at the pool or beach. Don’t go strolling around town or expect to sit at a non-beach restaurant in your trunks or bikini top. Cover up appropriately, please.
8. Don’t Stroll the Beaches at Night
There’s nothing more romantic than a moonlight walk along a peaceful beach, and many people do this in Barbados without incident. However, this relatively safe island is not immune to the occasional mugging. Don’t set yourself up as a target. Common sense practices like don’t walk around deserted areas at night should be adhered to here just like anywhere else.
9. Don’t Disturb Nesting Sea Turtles
Barbados is blessed with hawksbill, leatherback, green and occasionally loggerhead turtles. It’s a “wow” moment to swim with these magnificent creatures in the tropical turquoise waters. However, if you happen to spot one nesting on the shore, don’t mess with this delicate process. Report your sighting to the Barbados Sea Turtle Project 24 hour turtle hotline at 230-0142. There are fines and prison sentences for people who disturb or endanger any turtle nest or remove eggs from from it. From mid-July through to mid-October, you can arrange to observe a hatchling release if you’d like (highly recommended). Barbados is doing a remarkable job protecting these endangered turtles. Since monitoring and conservation programs began in the 1980s, the number of nesting hawksbills has risen from 30 to 500 each year.
10. Don’t Forget the Mosquito Repellent
Biting mosquitoes are more than just a pest down here. The female aedes aegypti mosquito can infect you with dengue fever, chikungunya and zika. These may cause rashes, headaches, fatigue, joint and muscle pain and fever and can have lingering effects that last for months. No need to panic about this, but you do need to protect yourself day and night from these blood-suckers. Use plenty of repellent – even if you’re indoors. The only other biting critter you have to watch out for in Barbados is the centipede, which can deliver a nasty sting.
11. Don’t Light a Fire on the Beach
As tempting as it may be to sing “Kumbaya” around a campfire on the beach, toasted marshmallows and all, it’s really not permitted in Barbados. You do occasionally see locals doing it for special events (a January Christmas tree burning at Surfer’s Bay is popular) but this is mostly on out-of-the-way beaches where the authorities turn a blind eye. Best not to collect drift wood and light a match on the beach outside your hotel, though. You might be able to enjoy a tourist bonfire at the Hilton or Harbour Lights, or see the fishermen fanning the flames on the sands at Oistins.
12. Don’t Step on a Sea Urchin
Barbados is not as plagued with sea urchins as some of its neighboring islands, but you do occasionally spot them around reefy areas and rocks close to shore. Step on one of those spiky spines and you’ll know it. These needles are not venomous and will eventually dissolve, but they can cause an infection. If they are clearly protruding from your skin, you can try to remove it. Otherwise, leave it alone. You might want to wear aqua-shoes if you’re wading in areas that may have lurking sea urchins – or worse, stone fish. Better yet, don’t step along reefs at all as they are quite a delicate ecosystem.
13. Don’t Dive or Snorkel Without a Marker
Some Barbados beaches have a lot of boat, jet ski and water sport action on them. Even kayaks and paddleboards are becoming plentiful in some bays. Anyone swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving away from the shore should do so with an inflatable marker that is clearly visible to all types of watercraft. That way you can explore the turtles, fish and wrecks without worrying about being invisible to the traffic hazards above.
14. Don’t Bring A Lot of Leather
The hot, humid, tropical climate of Barbados can do a number on leather shoes, belts and bags. If you’re on an extended stay and your store your beloved buttersoft skins in a dark closet, you may find them flaking or covered in mold when you take them out to wear them. You can get away with it on a short stay, but if you’re here for a long time just know that those Manolos won’t last.
15. Don’t Forget, They Drive on the Left
Like their British colonial forefathers, Barbadians drive on the left hand side of the road. American, Canadian and other “right side” tourists might need a day to acclimatize to this when renting a car for their trip. Also, look both ways when crossing the road as your instincts might be a bit off.
16. Don’t Expect Things to Run on Time
Like most of the Caribbean and other tropical locales, Barbados eases along at a slow, relaxed “island time” pace. Even the average Bajan’s walking speed is a snail-like plod and drivers sometimes stop on a one-lane roadway to have a casual chat with a passing car. There’s no sense of urgency here, so things might not run promptly like clockwork. This can be frustrating for type-A personalities who have high-efficiency expectations. The best advice is to just go with the flow and not stress about it. It might do you good to slow down yourself – at least while you’re on vacation.
17. Don’t Flaunt Your Homosexuality
If you happen to be gay, you might want to be discrete about it when in Barbados. We’re not saying go back in the closet, but be aware that homosexual acts are actually illegal in Barbados. There are archaic anti-buggery laws still on the books. Granted, this is rarely enforced, but the prevailing “Christian” attitude here is to be less than accepting of the LGBT community. Of course, there are gay people in Barbados and gay tourists come here all the time. Just don’t be particularly overt about it and it shouldn’t be an issue.
18. Don’t Do Drugs
Some tourists assume laid-back islands like Barbados are pretty lax about weed and other drugs. It’s certainly not hard to find a friendly vendor to hook you up with anything from aloe vera to cocaine. However, be aware that Barbados drug laws are stiff. Fines and jail time for possession and use of illicit drugs are enforced against tourists and locals alike, if caught. It’s not worth it.
19. Don’t Be Complacent About Safety
Barbados has a good reputation for being a safe, relatively crime-free island – and it is for the most part. That being said, petty opportunistic pick-pocketings and muggings do happen, and visitors should take all common-sense precautions to protect themselves, just like anywhere else. Secure your valuables, lock your doors, don’t walk alone in isolated areas (especially at night) and keep an eye on your belongings at the beach. It’s easy to relax on some of these rules when you’re in vacation mode, especially as the vast majority of Bajans seem so friendly and trustworthy. But tourists can be easy targets, so you’d be wise to keep vigilant.
Do you know of any other things NOT to do in Barbados to add to the list?