Barbados is generally a safe place to travel, according to the U.S. State Department, but there are certain natural and social perils that travelers need to be aware of. As with travel to any destination that one is not familiar with, foreign or otherwise, there are precautions that need to be taken in order to ensure personal safety and guarantee a safe trip with minimal negative outcomes. By all means, enjoy Barbados' great beaches, fine rum, beautiful resorts, excellent dining, and the energetic nightlife of St.
Lawrence Gap -- but don't abandon all caution just because you're on vacation.
Like most places, there is crime and drugs in Barbados. Travelers are usually not the 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 pocket picking. And when crime against visitors does occur, it's 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 U.S. Police stations, outposts, and patrols tend to be heavier in areas frequented by tourists.
To avoid crime, travelers are advised:
- In general, travel outside of tourist areas should be undertaken 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, wearing expensive jewelry, carrying expensive objects, or carrying large amounts of cash should be avoided.
- While at the beach, visitors should 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.
- Hotel burglaries may occur in less reputable hotels, and all valuables should be locked in room safes when possible.
- 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 often are narrow, have poor visibility, and typically are not be 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 a hotel, resort, private rental, etc.
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, see the Barbados Crime and Safety Report published annually by the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.