Barbados is the kind of destination I always imagined myself visiting if I ever won the lottery – that is, until I was browsing Skyscanner one day on my break at work, dreaming of escape, and saw a direct flight from Glasgow to Barbados for a mere £299 in December. At first I thought it was so cheap because the weather must be bad at that time of year, until a quick Google informed me otherwise. It was a newly launched route by Thomas Cook and by all accounts not particularly well publicised, judging by the number of empty seats on our plane out. After scouting out the accommodation on offer, some egging on by my colleague and a dash of YOLO spontaneity, I booked the flight.
I was going to Barbados! And it was to be my third solo trip.
I booked a budget friendly, basic looking but well located studio apartment in Saint Lawrence and began counting down the days. At the last minute my sister offered to come with me and at first I was ambivalent about this – nothing personal against my sister, I had just been looking forward to seeing how my newly found solo travel confidence would fare on a far flung destination instead of a short sightseeing trip. Nevertheless, I soon forgot about that and realised it would be very useful to have somebody to go to the beach with!
We arrived at the tiny Grantley Adams International airport and after about an hour’s wait at customs, were on our way to our accommodation. As soon as we arrived at the Carib Blue Apartments I had a sinking feeling. The shabby exterior wasn’t the warm, Caribbean welcome I had envisioned and our apartment was more Fawlty Towers than the basic but clean room I had been led to believe I had booked. The kitchen light didn’t work. There was no safety deposit box for our cash and passports. The ‘balcony with sea view’ overlooked the potholed car park. The wooden drawers had graffiti inside them from 1991! Nevertheless, we decided to make the best of a bad situation and just see it for what it was – a base to sleep and nothing else. I was disappointed however as I am obsessive about reading reviews and researching places before I book, and there was no indication anywhere that it was as bad as we experienced. By the time we unpacked it was dark and so we headed out to explore the main drag known as The Gap, of which we were a five minute walk away from. A five minute walk down a barely lit side street by a playing field. I suddenly realised I was very grateful that this wasn’t a solo trip.
As we explored The Gap looking for somewhere to have dinner, we passed numerous beautiful beach front hotels and sighed wistfully, wishing we were staying in one of them. The travelling and jetlag was taking its toll but we weren’t at all looking forward to spending our first night in our horrible apartment. As soon as we got back I went on to the Booking.com app (I am obsessed with this wonderful app!) to see if there were any other available hotels within our budget. The hotel gods were looking down on us as there was a ‘Secret Deal’ for Infinity on the Beach (one of the beautiful hotels we had wished we were staying in) – and it was 50% off! We looked around at our shabby apartment and the ants marching down the wall behind our beds and decided that as this was a once in a lifetime trip, we weren’t going to put up with such shoddy accommodation. We had already paid the deposit of three nights at our apartment so decided to stay for one more night and then check out, taking the hit for the other night we had paid for.
The next day we wandered down to Dover Beach and our soon to be new accommodation and took up camp on the sunloungers in front of our hotel. Not only was the beach practically empty but the beach attendants told us the wifi password for the hotel… and we could access it from our sunloungers! The dream, am I right? We enjoyed cocktails with lunch and settled into Barbados life… counting down the hours until we could check in to Infinity on the Beach (read my full review here).
This Barbados trip wasn’t going to be my usual carefully planned, jam packed itinerary type holiday. After a bit of a crazy year I was looking forward to just having a week to chill out and not have to make any decisions more complicated than what cocktail I was going to have next. Each day was a blissful routine of an early breakfast (I am not a morning person but getting up early in sunnier climes is always far more rewarding), lying on the beach sunbathing and reading, thinking about lunch, enjoying a Banks beer by the sea while watching the surfers, thinking about dinner and drinking Mudslides. As you can see, there was a lot of food and drink going on. The only thing I had pre-planned was the Silver Moon luxury catamaran tour with snorkelling, which was so wonderful it deserved its own post. I can’t mention the food without recommending Harlequins. One night while wandering The Gap we noticed this was the busiest restaurant so intrigued, decided to see if we could get a table. I tried the local Bajan speciality, flying fish followed by a pina colada cheesecake which was incredible. We enjoyed our meal so much we returned twice!
After a few days on the beach we grew restless and decided we needed to see more of the island. Unfortunately, as it was high season and we had left it too late to book any tours, there wasn’t much available but we got lucky with Island Safari 4×4 Jeep Adventure Tour who had availability for the following day. In the meantime, we decided to explore the bustling capital of Bridgetown, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and took an entertaining bus ride with the locals into the city. There wasn’t a great deal to do once we had seen the Parliament Buildings and Independence Arch and in all honesty the shopping wasn’t great. There were some beautiful old colonial buildings however and it was interesting to see a different side to Barbados.
The following day our 4×4 Jeep picked us up from our hotel and we began our tour of the island. Our itinerary was as follows:
- Visit the Lion at Gun Hill, Edge Cliff, Bathsheba’s dramatic Atlantic breakers and rock formations
- Rugged terrain and exciting off-roading in Joe’s River Forest
- Picturesque Cove Bay
- Little Bay’s window to the world
Followed by a Bajan buffet lunch at a hotel en route and lots of opportunities to take photos. For me the highlight was Little Bay with its rugged, dramatic coastline, only accessible by 4×4. I braved the strong wind that day and stood on the high cliff edge, taking photo after photo of the waves battering the rocks below.
Why I’m Glad I Wasn’t Solo
- As much as I have enjoyed my solo trips so far, I realised a beach holiday for me personally, is different. It was nice having my sister there to hang out with on the beach (and to look after my stuff when I fell asleep, which happened frequently!).
- Barbados didn’t feel like the kind of place I would have felt comfortable eating out alone in. I didn’t see any solo travellers when we were there and it was mostly older couples or families.
- The street harassment. For me, this was the biggest issue. On our first night we were harassed by men we passed in the street, trying to get our attention by shouting at us, even when we were halfway down the street. I have encountered this in every country I have visited, including the one I live in and I know how to deal with it (ignore). However, they were relentless. And there were a lot of men in groups which was very intimidating – particularly when we had to walk up the side street to our horrible apartment in the dark. We got harassed on the beach – the beach sellers I can handle, but the men disturbing me when I’m eating lunch, asking if I want a boyfriend and offering themselves? Not so much. On our last night, we were walking though The Gap and pretty much every man we passed on the street stared at us, tried to talk to us, or made comments. The final straw was when a group of men walking towards me made hey baby comments while a car slowed down alongside us so the passenger could make sexual comments about my body, in full view of people sitting in restaurants. It wasn’t funny or flattering, it was humiliating. Honestly, I long for the day when women can walk around and not feel like public property or wish themselves invisible. If I had been alone and experienced that kind of harassment, I probably would have felt so intimidated I wouldn’t have wanted to leave my hotel. Funnily enough, on the occasions we were walking behind an older couple who looked like they could be our parents, we didn’t experience any harassment…
Lessons I Learned From Barbados
- From now on I’m going to spend a bit more on accommodation as I’ve realised that it is vital that I feel safe somewhere, especially for future solo trips.
- I will always make sure there is a safety deposit box in my room!
- Solo beach holidays aren’t for me.
- I was terrified at first – but snorkelling is really fun and I’d love to do it again!
What You Need To Know
- Thomas Cook fly direct from Glasgow to Barbados but at the time of writing it now costs upwards of £494 return – or – fly direct from Manchester from £269 return. Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest time to fly.
- 5 nights at Infinity on The Beach would’ve cost £792 but thanks to Booking.com Secret Deal we paid £396
- Barbados is expensive – think London prices for eating out
- You can pay in either Barbados Dollars or US Dollars but you will always receive change in Barbados currency
- Barbados high season is also the dry season and this runs from December to April
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