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How to Travel Like a Local in Barbados

How to Travel Like a Local in Barbados

Posted by Shanelle Weir on March 21, 2014

When I say Barbados, I probably don't need to tell you about the dozens of white-sand beaches, the friendly Bajans, the rum. I could tell you that there are 70 square miles of beaches (in a country measuring only 166). I could tell you that the wordBajan comes from the British pronunciation of Barbadian which made the "d" sound more like a "j" and easily morphs to Bajan when said quickly. I could tell you that Mount Gay is the world's oldest, continually operating rum distillery (since 1703). But, I'll leave you to the guidebooks for more factoids and instead tell you what I wish someone told me before my first stay on island:

  • Taste everything: I remember the look on my dad's face when he was offereddolphin -- a common word for mahi mahi, not the Flipper variety -- at our first Oistins Fish Fry. This great mix of tourists and locals, young and old, is a collection of shacks serving up the day's catch alongside incredible sides like Mac Pie, a macaroni and cheese-type dish with the consistency of baked ziti. It's possible to get a liter of fresh coconut water served on the spot for a few dollars from streetside vendors to wash it down and grab local fruits like ackee anddunks right off the tree. The island has a ton of incredible, Zagat-rated eateries -- Cariba being my current favorite -- but it can be the most unassuming spot that serves the most impressive meal.
  • Think outside the car and cab: The price of a car hire (rental) or taxi quickly adds up. There are three types of buses in Barbados -- government-operated (blue with a yellow stripe), privately operated (yellow with a blue stripe) and, my favorite, the Zed-R. These white-and-maroon, van-sized buses with ZR license plates are known for loud music and creative driving. They'll honk, stop and even back up if they see you coming, and travel along the main South Coast roads to "Town," the capital city of Bridgetown. I'd also recommend taking one of the larger buses from the southern depot in Oistins up to the last northern stop of Speightstown, a quiet, fishing village with a completely differently flair compared to the capital. It's like a personal island tour about an hour each way, passing up the West Coast. Hop off at any time by ringing the doorbell-type buzzer -- all rides are US1, no matter how far.
  • Have a lime (but suspend all judgment in destination): Not a fruit, a limeis a party and liming is a term for hanging out. Two of my favorite spots to limeare in a parking lot (Hal's Car Park) and in a mall (Lime Bar at Limegrove) ... two nighttime destinations that wouldn't top my list stateside. Head to The Gap, another name for the popular South Coast strip of bars and restaurants, St. Lawrence Gap, or up to the West Coast for parties that often spill out onto First and Second streets in Holetown. Hang with locals at a roadside rum shop where you'll likely catch people slam uh dom (playing dominos) or maybe find yourself in a game of road tennis (with wooden paddles and a tennis ball on the street) while sipping Banks beer and making new friends, too.
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