Bridgetown, Barbados Report of what it's like to live there - 03/03/13

Personal Experiences from Bridgetown, Barbados

Bridgetown, Barbados 03/03/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Florida (3-4 hours to Miami).

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3. How long have you lived here?

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

(The contributor is affiliated with the U.S. Government and has been living in Bridgetown for two years, a second expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is mixed: townhouses for entry-level people on the west and south coast, and houses spread around the island for the rest. Most commutes are 20-25 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

In DC our grocery bill was around $100 per week. In Barbados it's around $175-200. The COLA makes up for it. No problems with availability as long as you are flexible with brand and price.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food (KFC, Chefette, Burger King) costs $8-10 usd for a meal with drink. Restaurants are very pricey and not of amazing quality. A nice place will cost at least $50 (US) per person with one glass of wine.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Just what one would expect in a warm climate: ants, small lizards, and worm-type things. The island does have an African snail infestation (since they do not have natural predators) but nothing a little salt can' take care of.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Our neighborhood has a small gym, as does the U.S. Embassy. There are also private gyms on the island.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

This is still a big cash economy, but ATMs are available, and most medium-size (and up) stores take credit cards.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

TV quality is not very good, and (weirdly) some of the channels have programs in English but commercials in Spanish. I think we paid about $100 /month for the big package.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Handicapped parking spaces are rare, if any. Many buildings are not accessible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No trains. Buses are available, but I have yet to see a published schedule. Taxis are safe, but it is best to get a recommendation, as prices and reliability vary.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We have a small, locally purchased car (Suzuki Swift), which is fine, but a little more ground clearance for the potholes would have been better. I would not recommend bringing a luxury or hard-to-find-parts-for car (Volvo, Volkswagen, etc.). If you are allowed to purchase duty-free, you can resell fairly easily.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

They just upgraded our internet to 9-10 Mbps. (US$100/month)

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

That policy has changed within the last two years, so I am not sure.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I am not aware of any expats currently working on the local economy.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Crimes of opportunity do happen, but notthing more than in any US city. We are in a fenced in neighborhood and had our vehicle stolen, but this is by far the exception and not the rule.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is sketchy at best. Be sure to return to the US for anything serious. To give you an idea, several people we know (adults and kids) have had simple broken bones misdiagnosed.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is good.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The climate is fantastic. Sure, it can get hot, but it's not intolerable; just follow the locals and grab an umbrella for some shade.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

Good, as long as you don't get bored easily and you do leave your desire for efficiency at home. If you need to be entertained by others, Barbados is not for you.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

We're homebodies, but there is definitely a nightlife scene, as well as organized parties almost weekly.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes for all. However, since there are not a lot of things to do, people must be content entertaining themselves (beaches, sports, nature, books, etc.).

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not very good. To give you an idea, in the Caribbean there are still may places where being gay is illegal.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not more than anywhere else.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Rum shops, beaches, beautiful scenery, more beaches....

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hiking, hashes, beach activities (surfing, kiting, scuba, snorkle, etc), rum shops, nightlife, fish fryes, some music festivals and concerts, horse racing, watch polo matches, and boating.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Rum!

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The weather is phenomenal! Even during the "rainy season" it is not bad. Warm, but not untolerably hot all year. Florida definitely has more seasons.

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11. Can you save money?

Not really.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

sweaters, expectations about efficiency, and the idea that money is a motivating factor for employees or a business.

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3. But don't forget your:

sunblock, video games, hiking boots, and surfboards.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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