Advantages great fun
Disadvantages avoid 3pm to 5pm
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
Barbados is about 30 miles long and 16miles across, not very big at all, and with a total population just less than 300,000, most of whom are in close proximity to Bridgetown, the capital. Our hotel was located on a beautiful South Coast beach at Silver Sands some 10miles or so, and a good 20 minute ride (at quieter times of day), from Bridgetown.The welcome talk from the local Virgin Holidays representative, a delightful Bajan lady, was pretty standard…various in-hotel domestic arrangements, a fair bit of information about the island itself, the inevitable opportunity to book excursions and activities that we could get involved in at quite the cheapest discounted rates, and advice on getting about.
Railways the island doesn't have…well to be honest it did have one line (about 14 miles long) from Bridgetown to the Atlantic coast at Bathsheba, opened in the 1880's, but closed in the 1930's.So the principal options were car hire, taxi, or bus.We decided against hiring a car on this occasion.
Taxi's were amongst our reps transport 'OK's' but with the proviso that the price must be determined with the driver before the journey commenced. Taxis in Barbados frankly were not cheap despite government determined fare schedules. Taxis did not have meters fitted, and it was normal for drivers to charge premiums over and above the fare schedule rates. Bridgetown by taxi worked out to at least £10(B$40) each way. Maybe we're not very good at bargaining!Finally the bus option. At the outset it should be said that all buses (of whatever colour…more of that anon) charged a flat rate maximum of Barbados$ 1.50, that is per trip, whatever the distance involved. (In June the exchange rate was 4B$ to the £).Travel anywhere on the island for 75p!
Public transport option offered by the BLUE buses of the Barbados Transport Board were recommended by the rep. Well yes if you could find one. We were told that we could catch the blue bus at a stop outside the church, next to the rum shop (a common juxtaposition in Barbados apparently !)just 200yards from the hotel. Certainly there was a stop, quaint, wooden, lollipop shaped, bearing the words "bus stop" on a red outer circle and" Into the City" on a white inner background.But there weren't any buses! And we waited a good while! We learned- in conversation with a Bajan lady at the main bus station in Bridgetown, again waiting for another BTB bus that never came - that the locals regularly wait at these stops more in hope than expectation of a bus coming along. As the Bajan's would have it 'there's a fairly regular schedule, but you may want to allow for "island time".
The two remaining bus options were provided by private operators. The smaller bright YELLOW buses were also recommended to us.These would best be described as smaller than the BTB vehicles,but larger than what we would regard as minibus size in the UK.
We never did see any of these close to the hotel,but approaching Bridgetown more of them there were to be seen.It is quite likely that this distribution was a reflection of simple economics…more potential customers closer to town.We never had the chance to use one of these buses.
These are the 'reggae (mini) buses'! Otherwise known as ZR's (license plate letters!) the buses are WHITE some with a maroon stripe down the side. It transpired we were on Route 11. There were loads of them about … the service was more frequent, more regular, and ran later at night.Any trip on a reggae bus is nothing if not memorable. Our driver was an extremely relaxed fellow, smoking a thin cigarette throughout, sporting beard, dreadlocks, and a colourful knitted wooly rasta hat. Our fellow passengers, all locals, generated a great atmosphere as we went along ,chatting away, hopping on and off the bus. Quite a contrast to the sullen faces that so often populate our own buses nowadays. Everyone seemed to know someone else…loud friendly greetings and good humour everywhere.
The driver used his distinctive musical horn frequently to attract prospective customers as he approached stops, official and unofficial. Our speed could be described as leisurely…certainly neither too fast nor unsafe. As we got closer to Bridgetown the bus filled up, with the numbers being accommodated by ingenious folding seats. A corollary of this was that if a passenger from the back of the bus wished to get off, then several others had to get off too so that they could get past. Seating capacity is 20 and we found it difficult to envisage the rumoured 40 passengers in one of these vehicles at peak times. We were not asked to double up, but this does happen apparently with people sitting on each other's knees. Again it was difficult to envisage where exactly those knees would be put!The whole trip the bus was filled with loud reggae music from the impressive sound system (we believe the boom box was somewhere behind our seat).If Bob Marley is for you then so is the ZR bus, with the bonus that you can still hear the music two hours after you get off!
The hotel barbeque chef provided some additional insights. The buses are best avoided at peak times between 3 and 5pm, when drivers will go faster and pack in more bodies to boost their income. The police generally pull buses over when they appear too crowded, but more likely because the music is too loud!A not to be missed experience if you proceed with just a little caution and commonsense…and all for 75pence the trip!
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Release Date: 2009-03-02, Audio CD, Prestige
Availability: Usually dispatched within 24 hours
Release Date: 2009-03-02, Audio CD, Prestige
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Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 business days