We were certain of this one fact - applying for visas was such a hassle! Then we found out we didn't require a visa to go to Barbados! Woohoo.
We looked up holiday deals and found a reasonably priced one for September - British Airways Flights to and fro + hotel for 7 nights at a pretty decent 3 star resort called 'All Seasons Resort'. We discussed the financial implications - Yep we could afford it.
So even though this was in February, we had booked a holiday 6 months in advance. It also helped that we only had to pay a deposit on booking, and pay the balance 6 weeks before the trip.
September is arguably not the best time to be in Barbados as most of the tourist carnivals happen June - August. Who cares? Not I said Kachee. Not I said Tee.
Tip: Be flexible on your dates especially if it's just a vacation.
I got back to work and requested for my holiday days.
Tip: It’s helpful to give decent notice to your employers so they make proper arrangements for your absence
Holiday approved at work: What next? Wake up everyday and wait for September. We actually ended up going on another trip before September. But hopefully, that's a blog post for another day.
September eventually came. Bags packed; Airport bound. We drove to Gatwick Airport and parked the car there.
I think the thought of flying always gets me into a mood. Slight fear? I'm conquering that as I wrote here.
Flight was normal, ok not really normal.
First off, we got bumped to Premium Economy cabin because it was a full flight. Champagne was served, newspapers were provided, and we used proper stainless steel cutlery as opposed to plastic. I think those were the major differences from the Economy cabin. Oh and longer leg room.
Secondly, Jollof rice was served.
Thirdly, the Nigerian movie "30 Days in Atlanta" was showing. It was actually a really funny movie. You should watch it.
Arrived at Grantley Adams International Airport, and we were happily welcomed by the heatwave. We went through immigration and our passports were stamped. Really really we didn't require a visa. I almost felt like the immigration people would realise they had made a mistake and run after us asking for a visa. Our happiness turned to sadness when we realised our bags did not arrive with us.
Tip: Always put at least a day's clothes and essentials in your hand luggage.
The Airline promised to get the bags to us the next day and gave both of us a voucher of £35 to purchase essentials, and a promise to potentially refund our money if we reasonably spent more than that amount and provided receipts.
To be honest, without your bags there's very little you can do. I think we just settled into our flat, walked around for a bit, got a few items and just chilled by the pool. Any photo of me in the blue stripped shirt above is obviously pre-arrival of our suitcases.
I loved loved our apartment, at the resort in St. James Town. We had to pay US$15 a night for air-conditioning though. But it was so hot, we needed it. I particularly loved the fact that unlike a hotel, this was self catering and had a kitchen. We maximised this opportunity. Tee is not such a food trying person, so he sticks to rice and the regulars. i.e. more rice. I also like lots of chilli in my food. So we went to the local mall, stocked our fridge and cooked quite a bit at home - we grilled a whole chicken, made pasta, plantain, omelettes etc.
It really did feel like home with a living room, dining room and a separate ensuite bed room. A newly married couple (with a child or two perhaps) could live there pretty conveniently. There must have been about 50 bungalows in the resort. They initially booked us into one of the garden facing apartments, but we asked for an 'upgrade' to a pool facing one.
Tip: Ask for upgrades no matter how little Don't be Shy.
I liked the fact that it felt very much like home. I know I've said that before. This is just for emphasis.
ps: If you are into rum, Tee absolutely absolutely recommends you buy the Mount Gay rum from Barbados. Apparently, it's awesome.
Unfortunately I can't remember what we did each day. But here are the highlights generally:
Beach day, All day :
The beaches are amazing - clear clear blue. We attended Mass and the Priest who has now lived in Barbados for about 27 years, noted that he relocated from the UK. You can't blame him can you?. Right behind the Church, was a beach, and after Mass we decided to walk on the shores all the way to our hotel - just via the beach. It was all fun and games until we got to a huge rock and literally had to carefully make our way over it - there was no other way. I was almost going to cry, because the waves began to rise and approach us. We made it through safely, and stopped occasionally at the bars on the shores, to have a quick drink, and relax our legs.
Obviously there's also lots of water activities - jet skiing, surfing, snorkelling. We were just too scared to try any of this. Tee actually said "what if something happens now we'll say we were jet-skiing". Lol. Definitely the over-cautious African parent in him.
Holiday Country: Seriously! It feels like everyone there is just having a vacation. Even the citizens. Banks close early, people take long lunches, no one is a hurry. One time we went into a store and the sign said 'Gone Tanning'. Public Transport is awesome - all the reviews we read noted that we should just ditch the cabs and use the buses. And that's true. It's pretty much like the Lagos yellow buses, but everyone feels really safe in them. And they are fun too - with loud Caribbean music playing and quite a number of people in dreadlocks. Interestingly, I don't think I heard much of Rihanna's songs. I thought it'll be playing at every corner. You know she's from Barbados yeah?
The Wildlife Reserve: We didn't do a lot of 'touristy' stuff because we are couch potatoes and basically we just wanted to chill. But we visited the Wildlife Reserve. Basically the animals are allowed to roam free in their natural habitat which has been re-created. I think there are over 400 tortoises in there, and they just kept mating. Seriously. It almost grossed me out. We were there while the tortoise and monkeys were being fed and it was quite an interesting sight. I was pretty (and surprisingly) sad that the birds were in cages though - like they had been inhibited from what they were created to do. There were also a few deers and snakes and a crocodile.
Rum Punch and Rice and Peas: Pretty synonymous with the Island. Available everywhere and affordable. The rum punch was really peppery, and you could see the specks of chilli floating on top.
Oistins Fish Festival: Everyone talks about it and it's apparently supposed to be such a hit. It's supposed to be an open air fish festival with all kinds of fish being grilled over fire, served with chips or rice, and then live music performances - they played a few Nigerian songs. Unfortunately it all kind of fell flat to me. But it's definitely something to check out.
Restaurants and Malls: The two major shopping centres are Cave Shepherd and Limegrove Shopping Mall. I window shopped at the stores, and even though it's tax free shopping, the Louis Vuitton store was more expensive than the London price. Not sure anyone really comes to Barbados to engage in a shopping spree. They come for the beaches, the sun and the golf courses.
Other Interesting Facts:
- All the Bus stops in Barbados have female names.
- The Barbados Beer is called Banks - Tee says it's drinkable.
- The major fast food chain in Barbados is Chefette - Had this at the airport and I think their burger and meat pie are quite good.
At the end of seven days, I think I was ready to leave - kind of. Although I wasn't sure I was going to be able to because, Tee had already let me know that I may just have to live in Barbados permanently as I may not be allowed to leave for the UK, since I forgot my residency card at home!. At the airport, the immigration lady definitely put some fear in me and said that the Hubs may have to go back to the UK without me. Thankfully, that didn't happen!
Tip: Always always check you have all your travel documents before you leave for your journey.
In summary, Barbados was amazing, and the great thing about it is that you can suit your holiday to fit your budget. Obviously there are some really really really expensive resorts with lush golf courses. But there are also loads of pretty affordable ones which still give a good experience.
Hope you enjoyed this. Have you been? Will you consider it?
Apologies for the really shabby pictures - we forgot our camera at home, and half the time our phone batteries were dead. Plus having a blog was not really in the plan as at then, and to be honest our photography skills kind of suck.
Final Tip: Don't forget your camera at home.
pS: There are about 44 countries that are visa free for Nigerians including Seychelles, Mauritius, Dominican, and Maldives. You can see the full list here.