Bridgetown, Barbados Report of what it's like to live there - 08/18/19
Personal Experiences from Bridgetown, Barbados
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, previously lived in Asia and Europe.
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?
East Coast of the US and there are multiple daily flights to Miami and NYC. Note, though, flights can be as expensive round trip to the US as to London.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is incredible! There’s a big variance in housing at this post, from large condos with ocean views, to duplexes in a gated community, to single family homes near the beach. Housing is definitely a highlight of this post. Most colleagues’ commutes are between 10-25 minutes and traffic isn’t an issue.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are EXPENSIVE here and you quickly learn why there’s a high COLA! Using the DPO to order your pantry non-perishables, cleaning and paper products will save your budget. Anticipate perishable items just costing more than ‘normal’ in the US. Grocery stores do look like small US stores and have pretty much everything (imported).
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can use DPO to get anything shipped relatively quick; order Amazon on Monday and have it by Friday. Note, though, Amazon Pantry doesn’t ship to DPOs, so you’ll need to order non-Amazon Pantry items only.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Restaurants are expensive and easily two to three times more expensive than an average meal in the US. There is a delivery app here, but by the time you get your food delivered the food will be cold.
Most people enjoy the plentiful restaurants located along the beaches, with great sunset views.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We’ve only seen geckos and the occasional mosquito. This post doesn’t seem to have pest issues at all.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
There’s very few people with hired housekeepers or nannies. They’re expensive, quality isn’t necessarily at a US level, and laws about expensive bonuses and paying into tax system for them. I think most of us just don’t see it as a good use of our money for the sub-quality results. Luckily it’s not a dusty or polluted place, so keeping your house clean is easier than other places.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Gyms are expensive and smaller/more basic than what you’ll find in US (memberships several hundred dollars per month). The Embassy does have an adequate gym that’s free for staff and eligible family members to use.
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?
Credit cards are widely accepted and haven’t had any issues. We don’t use ATMs outside of the Embassy due to skimmer issues.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
English is the language of Barbados, so all services are widely available in English.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
No local language issues since they speak English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Fairly difficult. There’s a lot of hills around, sidewalks aren’t consistent, buildings don’t have ADA-equivalent requirements, housing has stairs throughout (rare to find a one level house).
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
You definitely need your own vehicle here! Taxis are unmetered and very expensive.
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?
Any vehicle would be fine.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
The Embassy will have your basic set up when you move in, but you’ll pay for it and once you determine which package level you want you can upgrade. All the telecom is at a US comparable level.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring your unlocked phone and either get a local SIM from FLOW or bring a US one. Monthly charges are comparable or slightly lower than US rates.
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?
No quarantine required. However, due to how Barbados facilitates pet importations, no pets can come into the country in cabin. Americans Airlines out of Miami is your only option (JetBlue doesn’t fly an aircraft model to Barbados that has a pressurized cargo for pet transport). It’s a cumbersome process, including temp restrictions being a major headache, but doable.
Departing Barbados with a pet is much easier, especially if your pet is eligible to fly in cabin based on size. Your pet can depart Barbados in cabin; you just need to coordinate with American.
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?
Spouses either telecommute or many don’t work. There’s several EFM jobs advertised at the Embassy, but the actual hiring process seems substandard and slow. I've heard that many EFMs have expressed frustration about applying for jobs and nothing coming from the process (& these jobs staying open or going to a local hire at some point).
Luckily it’s a beautiful place to not work and many spouses take advantage of the year round sunny warm weather.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Animal shelters are most common option.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business attire at the Embassy. Outside of work anything goes and vacation wear is most common.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Just using common sense is the best advice and as a female don’t be out on beach after dark alone, don’t carry a bunch of cash/cards on you when out, use the security gates installed by Embassy. We’ve never felt unsafe, but also use common sense.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care for basic needs is fine in the Embassy med unit. Out in the island medical care is subpar and discouraged beyond dental work. Most people get medevaced to Miami for more serious issues.
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 one of the highlights of this post! Bright blue skies during the day and clear starry skies at night are the norm. Those who complain about occasional crop burning being ‘pollution’ most likely have never lived in Asia or other actual polluted parts of the world.
There’s no seasonal disorder issues, as it’s sunny year round.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Maybe only issue might be if allergic to certain plants since there’s no dormant season. Otherwise, pretty comparable to the US.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Not at all; it's sunny year round.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Every day the temps are basically the same year round: mid-80s during the day, low-70s during the night.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There’s two options for international schools here, but only one if you’ve got teens. The one without options for teens has a religious component to its daily instruction, so if that bothers you keep it in mind. The other school has equivalent of K-12 and is a British IB school. Class sizes tend to be 8-18 kids, uniforms are mandatory, and after school activity options. The bulk of families have their kids there.
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, plenty of water-based activities, in addition to other sport options, such as basketball, tennis and soccer.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The Embassy is mid-sized and diverse. Due to the ease of life here, people tend to spread out and socialize with people who live near them or have similar interests.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
The beach is the obvious answer, but also some have joined a scuba diving club, hiking clubs, volunteering at one of the animal shelters, church groups, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it’s a good post for either singles or families.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
It depends on how much effort you put into establishing local friendships.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I don’t have personal experience with this, but have seen LGBT colleagues treated differently. Homosexuality is not legal here and there’s definitely a local negative vibe/opinion about being gay.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
The majority of people in Barbados are black, so if you’re not and your accent is American they’ll automatically assume you’re a tourist or work for the Embassy. There’s a fairly large cadre of expat British and Europeans here as well.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The beaches, exploring other non-beach parts of the island, enjoying the slower and easier lifestyle.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Harrison’s Cave, Animal Flower Cave, Carlisle Bay, jump on a local flight to other close islands for a long weekend.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
No, most souvenirs are bought in southern Florida and sold here as ‘local’. Spend your money instead on experiences.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The sunshine, beaches and fun times with friends!
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How expensive flights to other places would be.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen and beach clothes.