I Just Spent 4 Days in Barbados—Here's How the Country Is Keeping People Safe

Promenade at marina of Bridgetown, Barbados.
NAPA74 / Getty Images

With winter rapidly approaching, I've been longing for summer—a time when I didn't have to bundle up in a scarf and thick pair of gloves any time I wanted to go outside and outdoor dining didn't cause my fingers and toes to go numb. And while I can't turn back the clocks (save for Daylight Saving Time), I've clung onto my favorite time of year the best way I know how: planning a trip to the Caribbean island of Barbados.

Open to international tourism since July 2020, Barbados has had a more challenging time battling COVID-19 than other islands in the Caribbean. On Oct. 4, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designated Barbados a "Level 4: Very High" COVID-19 risk, with daily cases shooting up from 85 mid-September to 205 the first week of October. On Nov. 1, there were 348 daily new confirmed cases on the island (18,023 confirmed since March 2020), with 43 percent of residents fully vaccinated and eight percent partially vaccinated against the virus.

Despite these numbers, Barbados has had stringent COVID regulations in place, only recently allowing vaccinated travelers to forego the previously mandated quarantine. Before Barbados had lifted its quarantine requirement at the beginning of October, I visited to see how the island was keeping both its residents and visitors safe (and yes, to escape New York City's chilly temps). While some of the precautions I had to take are no longer required of vaccinated travelers, many still are; here's what you need to know if you're planning a trip to Barbados.

Pre-Flight Preparation

To enter Barbados, all travelers ages 5 and up—irrespective of vaccination status—must present a negative COVID-19 PCR test result. The test must be taken by a healthcare provider within three days of arrival; I went to a free mobile testing site in Brooklyn, but if there are limited testing options in your area and you have $265 to spare, Barbados has partnered with StageZero Life Sciences to offer at-home testing for would-be U.S. and Canadian travelers.

All travelers entering the country must download the BIMSafe app, which allows you to upload your test results upon receipt, see the latest COVID statistics and local protocols, and, if you need to quarantine, perform health self-assessments.

Visitors also need to fill out an immigration and customs form available 72 hours before departure and must be completed 24 hours before arrival. You can locate the form via the BIMSafe app or an online portal. The form asks for such info as your passport number, length of stay in Barbados, and accommodation type. You can fill it out before receiving your PCR test results, then upload them to the portal when they come in. After submitting the form, I was e-mailed a PDF receipt with my BIMSafe QR code, which I needed to show when landing in Barbados.

Flight and Landing

I flew JetBlue from John F. Kennedy International to Grantley Adams International Airport. I had to go to their help desk for check-in, where the attendant asked for receipts of my immigration and customs forms and negative test results. (For those of you who don't have a printer, JetBlue accepts digital versions of both!)

Before departure, I signed up for VIP Fast Track with concierge service Platinum Services Ltd., which enabled me to get through the airport's health checkpoint, immigration and customs, and baggage claim in under 30 minutes. Because I went before the new quarantine rules were implemented, I—along with every other vaccinated traveler entering the country—had to take either a rapid or standard PCR test upon landing. We were also handed waterproof, electronic tracking bracelets connected to the BIMSafe app and signaled our location to the authorities during the mandatory quarantine period.

As of Oct. 27, however, only fully vaccinated travelers who have been randomly selected will be required to take a Rapid Antigen test at the airport. Otherwise, they are free to leave and explore the island after getting their vaccination card and pre-departure PCR test results (or BIMSafe QR code) validated. Travelers whose pre-departure tests are deemed invalid will be required to take a COVID-19 PCR test at either the airport or an approved facility. Meanwhile, unvaccinated people must put on a tracking bracelet before being driven by a specially designated transportation provider to a pre-approved quarantine hotel; you can see the complete list of approved accommodation and transportation providers on the Barbados Tourism Board website.

Rum Vault at Colony Club

Courtesy of Colony Club by Elegant Hotels

Experience on the Ground

Since I had traveled to the island before Barbados had updated its quarantine requirements, I waited for the results of my antigen test at Colony Club, one of the country's pre-approved quarantine hotels. Because I was vaccinated, I could move freely around the property, including a trip to the Rum Vault for a four-course dinner paired with rum cocktails.

I got my negative results back the morning after our trip, at which point I was able to take off the tracking bracelet and enjoy unrestricted access to the island.

In addition to its entry requirements, Barbados has strict COVID guidelines. Face masks are required in all public spaces, whether indoors or out, and there is a nightly curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Hand sanitizing stations could be found at every entrance to every establishment, from the airport to the hotels, and often we were greeted by a staff member asking us to pump some into our hands.

The three resorts I stayed at—Colony Club, Waves Hotel & Spa, and Treasure Beach—had additional protocols. Plexiglass protective guards were installed at each front desk, scheduled housekeeping was the norm, and the breakfast buffets were modified; each morning, we'd queue up cafeteria-style, with hotel staff dishing out anything we wanted to try.

Despite (or maybe because of) these restrictions, I felt safer and more relaxed in Barbados than I have in certain parts of the U.S. Even with the curfew in place, I didn't feel limited in any way—each of the hotels I visited had on-site bars and restaurants open past curfew. I also felt reassured knowing all the measures everyone visiting the island had taken to get there. While I urge caution visiting right now in light of the recent uptick in cases, my experience shows that there are ways to do it safely.

Article Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "COVID-19 in Barbados." Retrieved on October 21, 2021.

  2. Our World in Data. "Barbados: Coronavirus Pandemic Country Profile." Retrieved on November 1, 2021.

  3. Our World in Data. "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Vaccinations." Retrieved on November 1, 2021.

  4. Barbados Ministry of Tourism. "Barbados Travel Protocols." October 27, 2021.