Barbados is generally a safe place to travel, according to the U.S. State Department, with great beaches, fine rum, beautiful resorts, excellent dining, and the energetic nightlife of St. Lawrence Gap; however, there are certain perils travelers need to be aware. As with travel to any unfamiliar destination, foreign or otherwise, precautions need to be taken in order to ensure personal safety with minimal negative outcomes.
Like in most places, crime and drugs are present in Barbados. Travelers, though, are not usually victims of violent crime and generally enjoy better security than local residents. Most hotels, resorts, and other businesses catering to tourists operate in walled compounds monitored by private security staff.
On the other hand, high-traffic business areas commonly frequented by tourists are targeted for opportunistic street crimes like purse-snatching and pickpocketing. And when crimes against visitors do occur, they're often not reported by the local media out of concerns over possible backlash against the all-important tourism industry.
Many tourists in Barbados complain about being harassed by people selling narcotics, which are illegal in the country. Drug-related violence, however, is usually confined to drug dealers and their associates, especially in more populated tourist areas that also tend to higher level security.
By Caribbean standards, the Royal Barbados Police Force is a professional group, although response time is slower than that expected in the United States. Police stations, outposts, and patrols tend to be heavier in areas frequented by tourists.
To avoid crime, travelers are advised to:
- In general, undertake travel outside of tourist areas with caution, especially at night, due to the prevalence of unmarked and unlit roads. When traveling outside of tourist areas, do not travel alone and be sure to have a way of getting in contact with your hotel, a cab service, your travel companions, etc.
- Be vigilant when using public telephones or ATM machines, especially those located near roadsides or in secluded areas. Try not to ever have your back facing towards any possible perpetrators.
- As in many U.S. metropolitan areas, avoid wearing expensive jewelry, carrying expensive objects, or carrying large amounts of cash.
- While at the beach, safeguard valuables. Although hotels and resorts are generally safe, loss of unattended items is possible. Because you are at risk bringing expensive or valuable items out of the hotel, and the hotel itself is not 100% guaranteed safety, it is often best to leave these kinds of items at home.
- Lock valuables in room safes when possible to guard against possible hotel burglaries in less reputable hotels.
- Keep doors and windows locked especially at night. Burglaries of residences are generally achieved by exploiting a vulnerability such as unlocked doors and windows, substandard door and window grills, and poor or non-existent outdoor lighting.
Main roads in Barbados are generally adequate, but conditions worsen markedly on smaller, interior roads, which are often narrow, have poor visibility, and are typically not marked clearly except by informal signs at road junctions.
Hurricanes, like 2010's Hurricane Tomas, occasionally hit Barbados. Earthquakes also can occur, and the proximity of the Kick 'em Jenny volcano near Grenada puts Barbados under some risk of tsunami. Be sure to know the emergency plan at whatever residence you are staying in, whether it's a hotel, resort, or private rental.
In the event of a medical emergency, seek help at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown. For other illnesses and injuries, try the FMH Emergency Medical Clinic in St. Michael Parish or the Sandy Crest Medical Clinic in St. James.
For more details, read the Barbados Crime and Safety Report published annually by the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.