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November 5, 2021

Getting around Barbados

Transportation has improved in Barbados over the years. It's certainly not as cheap as it used to be when a bus ride anywhere in the island used to cost USD 13 cents. Now that very same bus ride costs USD $1.75. The price of progress I guess.

So what is the price of progress? Back when bus fares were cheap the buses were very unreliable and you had no idea when the bus would actually arrive or if you would even fit in when it did arrive. Sure there were schedules but there was always something that might happen to delay your bus.

Then they were the taxi men who would spend all day playing dominoes and it didn't even seem like they were interested in taking you unless of course you were leaving a nightclub or restaurant, at which point they swooped down like vultures, and with no meters, it was anyone's guess what the price might be.

Fast forward to today, there are many super easy ways to get around the island without much stress.

See below for the options:

Barbados by bus

The most affordable way to move around the island is still the bus but now there are 3 different types of buses which you can take depending on where you are going. The fee is BBD $3.50 on all of them regardless of distance. On well travelled routes all types will be available but when going to more rural areas only the government sponsored blue bus will be available.

ZR Van

ZR van

ZRs, also known as music buses, are modified 14 passenger vans owned by private companies. They are so many of them that it is by far the most accessible form of public transportation if you are travelling in the area they serve.

The original seats have usually been taken out, and new ones are brought in to maximize seating. I’ve traveled in ZRs with over 30 people packed into one.

The “mate” who collects the money from passengers is a master of human Tetris. They always seem to find new innovative ways to cram more people inside to maximize profits. (There was even an event at UWI Sports Day called “Pack a ZR!”)

These buses are well known for blasting Bajan music, zooming down roads at racing speeds, and stopping wherever people ask (as compared to at bus stops) even though getting off a bus anywhere other than a bus stop is illegal.

They can be identified as white vans with a maroon stripe. The ZRs usually take shorter routes along the South and West Coasts are more commonly seen driving through residential neighborhoods.

Usually there is a doorbell to press to signal to the ZR driver that you want to disembark. The horns that these buses use sound like squeaky brakes!

While I would not recommend the ZRs if you are severely claustrophobic or prone to motion sickness, I think that they are a blast and everyone visiting Barbados should experience them!


  • A true Bajan experience
  • Pick up and drop off anywhere (do not need to wait at a bus stop)
  • Often able to provide change for up to $50 Barbados if you do not have small change for bus fare
  • Accepts US dollars as fare payment


  • Does not have posted schedules or routes
  • Can be very claustrophobic
  • Predominantly travel on the south and west coasts

Barbados Bus

Barbados Government bus

These buses, which are blue in color, require exact change in Barbadian currency or the new Travel Smart card which offers trips at discount for bulk purchases. So be aware that if you present a bigger bill for payment, you will not get change.

The Travel Smart Cards are available from the Fairchild Street & Princess Alice Terminal and are sold in trips of 10, 14, 20 or 28 resulting in a BBD $3.00 fare instead of the normal BBD $3.50.

These buses do have a schedule posted online but I still wouldn't rely on it. As far as I know, progress here has not been apparent. On the other hand you can catch a blue bus to go anywhere on the island with free transfers from one bus to another. Just don't forget to ask for the transfer. In contrast, the Minibuses and ZRs are mostly only available in heavily populated areas on the south and west coasts.

To get off these buses you should make sure you determine what other people are doing to get off. Some buses have a black string attached to the ceiling and some have a red “stop” buttons that sometimes don't work. If you can't determine the best course of action perhaps it's best to talk to bus driver otherwise you may miss your intended destination.

Recently there have been improvements to the fleet, with 33 electric buses deployed, with all the necessary infrastructure to support them. Barbados, being at risk of rising sea levels, is taking climate change seriously. So if you too are on board with saving the environment then these buses are probably the most eco friendly mode of transportation on the island.


  • They will get you anywhere on the island
  • Schedules and routes are available and posted online
  • Eco friendly electrical buses in service


  • Exact change required
  • No US dollars accepted as payment
  • Only pick up/drop off at bus stops

Barbados Yellow Bus

Private minibus

Minibuses are predominantly yellow and there are quite a variety of Minibuses. Some are in great condition, and others are completely falling apart. You never know what you’re going to get until you get on the bus.

While these buses run the occasional secluded route, I most frequently see them traveling from Bridgetown (the capital of Barbados also known as B-Town) in the south to Speightstown (SP-Town) in the north.

While the Minibuses often accept bills larger than $2 Bajan, they do not always, so it is a good idea to try and have exact change when getting on these buses.

Unlike the ZRs, the Minibuses do in fact pick up and drop off people predominantly at bus stops. Particularly during rush hour these buses get very full but seldom decline entry to new passengers. While locals are accustomed to this, I have seen tourists have panic attacks due to the capacity of the bus.

Finally, in order to get on these buses you must gesture to the bus driver to stop by holding your arm out at a bus stop. If you simply wait at a bus stop and do not flag the bus down, they will not stop for you. In order to get off these buses, there are usually doorbells on the sides of the bus; however, sometimes you must press a lump in a black strip that lines the ceiling. (I assure you, that will make much more sense if you are on the bus!)


  • Larger than ZRs
  • Frequently run along the west coast (sometimes three will pass by within a five-minute period)
  • Accept $1 US as fare payment


  • Very full during rush hour
  • Do not always have change for bills larger than $2 Barbados
  • Do not have posted schedules or routes
  • Predominantly travel on the south and west coasts


Taxis operate 24/7 in Barbados. I have found that the trickiest part of getting one via phone is to describe where exactly you are. As a local you know, or should know, the landmarks but rather than saying 123 Labyrinth drive you will, more than likely, have to put someone on the phone who knows where you are and can describe your location in s terminology that the driver understands.

As such if you're at a hotel the best bet is to get the concierge to call one for you.

If you're staying at Shoreshire villa you're in luck and there's a cab stand on the street out in front.

So if you're out and about you can attempt to hail a cab but in a tourist area or in town there usually are cab stands or the cab drivers will be actively looking to solicit your business.

There is no metering in Barbados cabs. Rates are fixed for set routes and regulated by government. Mostly cabs are safe and fair but always get a price before you get very far in the cab. Tell them where you're going and ask how much it will cost. This serves two purposes. First you make sure he actually knows how to get where you are going (or that you can describe where you are going) and then secondly so you won't be surprised by the fare.

There are also bigger vans that serve as taxis. The ZR vans mentioned up above are not taxis. A van that is a taxi, while it may look the same, will have a "ZM" license plate vs a "ZR" plate. The rates for these bigger vans are usually slightly higher because they accomodate more people and luggage.

Next gen ride share app

There is now a ride share app in Barbados similar to lyft and uber but it only provisions service from the same registered taxis mentioned above. The Pick Up Barbados app is a modern solution looking to provide convenience to both the customer and the taxi providers but they take a large percentage for providing the service. In a small country like Barbados, you wonder if in most of the common circumstances, if it wouldn't be easier to just find a taxi near you. Taxi drivers don't actually make much money in Barbados so every little bit counts for them. With finding a cab driver, I honestly have had more problems with multiple taxi drivers asking me if I need a taxi when, at the moment, I don't actually need one.

Renting a car

If you're staying at Shoreshire villa, although there is a free parking spot, you really don't need a car since everything, other than a real supermarket, is fairly close by. You won't need a car to go to the beach since you're on the beach and you won't need it to go to restaurants or bars because most are within walking distance.

But you won't really see the full Barbados without a car though. They are just too many places to see and spontaneous places to stop along the way. Also if you're island touring you will feel more relaxed most likely since you will be setting your own schedule. With a car you have the freedom to really become immersed and start to live like a local.

Renting a car is pretty reasonable if you stick to the local rental car companies rather than the big name international brands. It will cost you about USD $35 for a car and about USD $65 for a jeep. Prices however vary depending on what is available and what your requirements are. Here are the things you need to know:

There are many car rental agencies

Drive-A-Matic and Stoutes are 2 local agencies that I know of but a search on google with give you a ton of options to choose between. I recommend that you book before you arrive on the island if you're coming in the high season because sometimes it's hard to find a car to rent if it's particularly busy.

You need a permit

You can get a visitor's permit directly from all car rental companies, from the Barbados Licensing Authority or any police station (but last time I tried at the airport police station they said they don't do that anymore). You obviously need to have a valid driver’s license in order to get a visitor’s permit. They cost around BDS$10.00 and it will allow you to drive legally for two months.

We drive on the left

Just like in England we drive on the left and the cars have the steering wheel on the other side of the car than the cars sold in the US. It's not that complicated to switch over from what you're used to. Just remember that the driver of the car sits in the middle of the road and should get hit first in any accident. (The accident part is a joke! Please don't get into any accidents in Barbados.). Also you must wear a seatbelt. It's the law.


Parking rules are generally lax on the island except in Bridgetown where, there, you are sure to get a ticket if you don't park in one of the paid parking lots. Usually in St. Lawrence gap you will see many cars parked on the actual side walk at night and they don't usually get tickets unless they are blatantly obstructing traffic.

You may want to get internet service on your phone for navigation

Over the years the mapping apps for Barbados have improved. I've found I can get directions to most places by putting in a destination and Waze or Google Maps will lead me there.

Rental Car Insurance

You need to make sure that you're covered in the event of an accident. Cars are 3 times the price of what you would pay for the equivalent car in USA. I'm not a lawyer so I'm not going to advise you on what insurance best covers you but you may want to hear the options provided by the rental car company and opt for the collision damage waiver insurance.

Renting a bike or scooter

I wouldn't say that they are quality road bikes for rent in Barbados so if you are a serious cycler you may have to bring your own. Also keep in mind that there are no bike lanes.

In dover, not too far from Shoreshire villa there is a rental place called Bike Carribean. You can read up what they offer here or search on google for other options.

If you want to rent a scooter you also need a permit. They don't have the new type of tiny electric scooter you see zipping around city streets in foreign lands as far as I have seen. Basically a scooter here is a moped or a vespa. They also do have segways for rent but those are more of a novelty rather than a way to get around.

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I grew up in Barbados and now reside in Boston primarily working as a software developer. I'm also a licensed real estate professional so I know what it takes to be a trusted responsive short term rental host. Hopefully i've hired the best on premise staff who have thought of everything, but I myself am always only a phone call away. Being a local (we go back frequently) I know all the things to do, when to do them and I can get you in contact with the right people to facilitate it. My wife, who is russian, and I love nice restaurants and drinks as well so we can point you to our favorite places to go. You can expect a reasonable and timely response from me should you need any assistance. Enjoy your vacation!

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Category: Barbados, Holiday Ideas

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