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Driving in Barbados: A How-to Guide for Tourists

If you’re traveling to Barbados and want to make the best of your driving experience, this is the guide for you. Whether it’s a 3 day city break or a much long relaxing  vacation, renting a car and driving around Barbados gives your days off the flexibility to match your holiday spirit.

In this guide we’ll share with you everything you need to know about how to drive in Barbados, what are your best options to explore the island, how much should it cost you, how to stay safe, requirements to drive, how to get a permit, directions, distance and tips from the locals!

So, how easy is it to drive in Barbados?


driving in barbados

Requirements to drive a rented car in Barbados

Every country has its own rules and regulations. When it comes to car rental, you will find that requirements differ as well. In Barbados, you can easily recognize a hire car  because they all have a  ‘H’ on their license plating.

Make sure you meet all of them as vehicle hire in Barbados opens up the whole beautiful island for you to explore, and will also give you the independence to enjoy your time here.

Here is a list of important requirements that let you to hire a car:

  1. Meet the minimum driving age
  2. Have a Valid Driver’s License
  3. Obtain a Barbados driving license

1. Driving age: How old should you be to hire a car in Barbados?

The minimum age to hire a car in Barbados is 21 years.  Besides that, The Barbados Licensing Authority requires all motorists to have held your license for at least 1 year.  

Keep in mind that you need a driving experience of at least 2 years to rent a car, and that some companies require 5 years.

If you are 25 or younger, your automobile insurance will get more expensive – most car hire companies need you to be at least 23 to drive.

If you are 70 years of age or older, you must first obtain a medical certificate issued by a doctor based in Barbados, that shows you are fit to drive.

seniors driving in barbados

At Drive Barbados, we offer car rentals to both senior drivers and young motorist, and we do run senior car rental discounts because age should be a limitation on renting cars. However, we do abide by the minimum 21 years requirement and have an 80 years rental age cap.

2. What documents do you need to drive in Barbados?

Drivers must carry a valid driver’s licence, a Barbados driver’s license, registration documents and insurance documents at all times while driving.

Have a Valid Driver’s License

drivers license barbados

In order to rent or drive a vehicle in Barbados, you’ll need to have a valid driver’s license from your country of origin & a valid credit or debit card.

Obtain a locally issued Barbados Drivers license permit

Upon arrival to Barbados you must purchase a locally issued driving permit to be able to legally drive on the island if you are not a permanent resident.

You can obtain a driver’s permit from the Barbados Licensing Authority Offices, or through an authorized car hire company like Drive Barbados.

barbados drivers permit

The cost is US$5 for two months, or US$50 for a full year. You can also enlist an extra driver for US$3.00 per day. But before you pay up, know that the renter’s spouse is exempt from additional rental charges and can drive the hire car for free.

Getting a temporary driving permit if you are 70+ years old

If you are 70+ years old, or over, and want to obtain a visitors driver’s permit in Barbados, bring a valid driver’s license issued in your country and contact your car rental company. They should be able to help you obtain your medical certificate by putting you in touch with a qualified local doctor.

The cost of the examination varies depending on the doctor, but you can expect to pay around US$40. The medical examination is straightforward and takes only a short time to complete. Your eyesight will be checked, as well as your heart and blood pressure. Your capacity to drive may also be assessed, using simple tests in the consulting room.

medical examination driving in barbados

The process of renting a car in Barbados when you are 70+ years old is not much different from the same process in other countries. However, because of the required medical certificate, you may not be able to hire a vehicle immediately after your landing at the airport.

Instead, you may have to hire a taxi to take you and your luggage to your hotel and then undergo the medical examination on the following day. This way, you can obtain your permit for driving in Barbados in a matter of hours.

Own a Credit Card with Your Name on It

To hire a car in Barbados, most companies will ask you to have a valid credit or debit card under your name. This is a general requirement at most rental companies. However, some might still ask you to make a cash deposit instead of using your card.

credit card driving in barbados

It doesn’t matter if you’re planning to drive or hire an old or a new vehicle. The rules are exactly the same: you need a permit as well as a current driving license from your home country.  So if you’re visiting Barbados, make sure you pack your driving license!

How to get a local driving permit in Barbados

As a visitor, you can obtain a local driving permit in Barbados if you check the following:

  • a valid driver’s license issued in your country of residence
  • a driving experience of at least 2 to 5 years

Barbados Driving Permit Fees

The permits are not expensive, especially if you’re just staying for a few weeks.

There are two driver’s permits which are valid for up to 2 months or to last a year. Your driving license must be valid during these periods.

The cost of the Visitor’s driving permits is as follows:

  • US$5 fee for a visitor’s driving permit valid for two months
  • US$50 fee for a visitor’s driver’s license valid for up to one year.

The permit can be issued only from Barbados Licensing Authority offices around the island.

Where can you get a permit in Barbados?

The Barbados Licensing Authority has offices at:

  • The Pine, St. Michael – Tel: 4364920
  • Oistins, Christ Church – Tel: 4282960
  • Speightstown, St. Peter – Tel: 4320119

 

The offices are open Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 3.00 pm. Make sure you also check the whole list of Barbados Licensing Authority Offices at many different locations!

If you want to skip the hassle and inconvenience of having to queue up in a government office, you can ask our team to take care of getting a Barbados driving permit for you. This means that when we meet you at the airport or sea port, we will not only have your car ready and waiting for you, but we will also be able to present you with your temporary driver’s license at the same time.

What types of vehicles permit can you get?

You can obtain permits for Mini-moke cars, motorcars, vans, or motorcycles.

mini moke barbados

My driving record isn’t clean. Can I still get a permit or hire a car?

You can still get a license permit with a few negative entries on your record. However, different car rental companies have different rules regarding the leasing of a motor vehicle to drivers that do not have perfect driving records.

Rental companies might not allow you to drive their cars if in the past you have the following violations:

  • Driving without a valid license
  • Driving under the influence
  • Running away from the site of an accident
  • Participant in an accident
  • Violations of seat belt laws
  • Reckless driving

As you can see, getting a license to drive on Barbados roads is possible, but it’s not a default you can take as a guarantee. To make the most of this, you should also get familiar with, and always respect the traffic laws, especially road usage signs and the Barbados Highway code.

Keep reading to find out more about the traffic laws!

How is driving & getting around Barbados?

Barbados will give you some of the best and most scenic parts of a Caribbean island. It’s not mountainous, so you can go around Barbados in one day in your hire car. Most of the roads are in very good condition but watch out for potholes when you get out into the countryside.

beach in barbados

Follow our advice and you’ll drive hassle-free in the city:

What side of the road do you drive on in Barbados?

When driving in Barbados, drive on the left-hand side of the road, like you would in the UK.

If you’re not confident for left side driving, then take your time and practice it before finally driving on the roads.

As you can see from the picture below, with Rihanna & Oprah in a mini moke in Barbados, Rihanna is driving and the driver’s wheel is on the right.

rihanna driving in barbados

Driving Rules & Traffic Regulations in Barbados

When hiring a car in Barbados, it’s important to know the road rules and regulations, as they will most likely be different to those that you’re used to. We encourage you to get a copy of the Highway Code Booklet to familiarize yourself with the rules of driving in Barbados. You can get this booklet from any of The Barbados Licensing Authority locations, or ask your rental company to offer you one.

Other important driving rules & road directions include:

  • Roundabouts: Always give way to the motor vehicles approaching from the right of you, on a roundabout. The roads and the roundabouts can be confusing, but be careful to look for traffic lights and signals, give way to the vehicles on your right when approaching roundabouts.
  • Wear the seatbelts. It’s mandatory for both the driver and the passengers.
  • Don’t text or talk on your phone  while driving, unless you’re using your phone on hands-free mode. Keep your eyes on the road. According to BRSA, distracted driving is one of the major causes of accidents on Barbados roads today besides speeding and un-calculated overtaking.
  • Always use headlamps between:
    • 1830 hrs. – 0500 hrs.     January to April
    • 1900 hrs. – 0500 hrs.     May to August
    • 1800 hrs. – 0500 hrs.     September to December
  • Follow traffic lights & signals. If a driver flashes his headlights at you at an intersection this means that you can go ahead. Bajan drivers don’t use a lot of hand signals – usually for slowing down or pointing in the way they will go ( left or right)
    hand signals in barbados
    hand signals in barbados 2
  • If a driver of a car honks their horn it is usually to say “hi” or a polite form of “thank you” for giving way.
  • Keep left. Always think “left” when making turns or onto a straight road, except when you intend to overtake, or turn right, or when you have to pass stationary cars or pedestrians.
  • Get the hang of “rotary” driving (navigating large scale circular one-way junctions) before you get on the highway.
  • The highways in Barbados connect the north to the south. There are secondary arterial highways that run from east to west. You will find highway rotary connections at each leg of the highway.
  • Local highways have four lanes. Other roads are of the two-lane variety, with roads in the capital of Bridgetown, being one-way.
  • All hired vehicles have a license plate with the letter “H” on it, and the local Barbadian drivers are usually very accommodating and understanding when they encounter a car with an “H” number plate.
  • Rush hours. Avoid driving your vehicle during the peak rush hours, from 6:30 to 8:30 am and from 4:30 to 5:30 pm during weekdays.

How are the roads & drivers in Barbados?

Barbados has very few sidewalks so it is necessary to keep a good lookout for any pedestrians walking beside the roadways.

The local roads can also be a bit narrow and not very well marked, either by stripes in the road or by signs.  Most of the main roads are in pretty good condition, but you might encounter some potholes along the way. Our little island our coastal roads are narrow (except for the East Coast roads).

In general, the drivers in Barbados are patient. Any Bajan driver will be able to spot you as a tourist by the H on your rental’s license plate, and that can earn you even more patience and courtesy from other drivers.

GPS. The best way to navigate the roads is to hire a GPS system with your car. A local road map or two will also be useful and most car rental companies will have placed one in the glove box for your use. A GPS will be really valuable to have with you. Barbados is very small, but has a lot of pavement roads so you can get  lost in a split second. Although everybody speaks English very well, even local directions can be wrong.

What is the speed limit in Barbados?

Speed limits vary on different roadways, so make sure you check that you are following the correct speed limit.  If you’re an American or British driver, be aware that speed limits are measured in kilometers/hr, rather than miles/hr. For reference, 1 kilometre = 0.62 miles.

The usual, typical speed limits for motor vehicles are:

  • 80 km/hr. Or 50 miles/hr on main highways
  • 60 km/hr. Or 37 miles/hr in rural areas
  • 40 km/hr.  Or  20 miles/hr in City areas/Bridgetown  

speed road signs in Barbados

Safety camera warning devices have limited usage as there are no fixed speed cameras and you’ll rarely discover any mobile speed traps. Always check the signs to be sure you’re not exceeding the limit.

Fines in Barbados

Driving rules are very relaxed in Barbados. Unless you are doing something extremely dangerous, it’s unlikely you will get stopped.

O the rare occasion when that happens though, a ticket will be issued and you’ll need to pay it at the nearest police station.

Road Tolls in Barbados

Luckily, there are no tolls in Barbados.

Can you drink and drive in Barbados?

This will most likely surprise you, but there is no legal alcohol limit for driving. The Barbados Police has no breathalizer laws.

However, it’s highly advisable that you do not drink & drive. Barbados is indeed the country where the best Rum is made, however make sure you respect the same alcohol limits you would also respect at home.

drinking and driving in barbados

Despite the fact that there is no drink-drive limit, it is never a good idea nor acceptable to drink and drive. Driving while under the influence is discouraged by locals as well. Just as you wouldn’t drink and drive in your home country, Barbados should be no exception.

Parking rules in Barbados

There are plenty designated parking areas (look for the “P” parking sign) that are well lit and maintained, so would be the safest place to park your vehicle.

Make sure you don’t park your car in a “No Parking” zone, as you will be fined. There are many parking locations such as outdoor parking lots and indoor parking garages in Bridgetown, where a minimal fee will be charged. On-street parking is not recommended as the parking spots are usually very small and the parking laws are enforced.

When parking your vehicle always take your valuables with you and never park in dark areas or under trees which are dropping fruit.

Airport parking fee

If you consider airport parking, you should note that rental companies based at GAIA Airport are, on average, 30% more expensive than local firms due to the high costs of operating out of the airport.

The minimum stay fee is US$0.50 for half an hour, and US$0.50 per half hour thereafter. However, there is a capped limit of US$6.00 per day.

The airport parking facilities have 24-hour security which greatly eliminates the risk of theft and/or damage to your vehicle, whether is a rental car or your own personal transportation.

Parking options

King George Memorial Park

– A 10 minutes’ drive from the airport, is a refreshing alternative. There is free parking for visitors, so if you’re quite early for your departure it’s a beautiful spot to relax before your flight.

– Location: Jezreel, Work Hall,

– Positioned in St. Philip Parish, 1.9 miles north of Diamond Valley

How much does it cost to drive: Fuel options & costs

The price of 95 octane unleaded is around US$1.50, with diesel a little cheaper. You’ll find many petrol stations, especially as the island is only 21 miles long.

Fuel costs on rentals

There are three possibilities when it comes to the fuel options of rental cars in Barbados.

  • Customers may purchase a full tank of petrol at the time of delivery and can be returned empty
  • Vehicles are generally returned with a full tank of gas, accompanied by the receipt which testifies that the vehicle was filled up with fuel. If you don’t deliver the automobile with a full tank, you’ll have to pay for its complete refill, along with a US$12.50 fee administration charge.
  • Another option is to pay a fixed price of US$30.00 upon delivery for a quarter tank of gas and return the rental empty.

The option you choose is up to you and the rental company’s policy, so make sure to talk it through with them!

Petrol Stations in Barbados

Petrol stations are plentiful in and around Bridgetown, along the main highways of the West and South Coasts, and in most country towns.  Most stations are open all hours and days of the week.

drinking and driving in barbados

Is it safe to drive in Barbados?

One of the best things about planning your vacation in Barbados is the safe scenic place with sightseeing opportunities for both young and old visitors, with friendly locals and clean ocean breeze that’s is always near. Follow our tips and tricks and make sure you stay safe while visiting:

However, getting around safely and comfortably is not guaranteed just because you hire a car; it demands your effort and vigilence from you, as a road user, to avoid undesired incidents and accidents.

Barbados is a safe place to drive around in, but still, just like any country on earth, there are forces of nature you have to protect yourself against.

Here is a list of things to keep in mind for staying safe on the roads

Driving at night – The most pressing danger is night driving. Many roads do not have pavements, so pedestrians usually walk on the side of the road where they’re difficult to see. Roads are generally quite narrow and buses and vans go much closer and faster than you might expect.

Plan  your trip – Before getting into your car, be sure you know where you are headed and the route to your destination. Even when you just want to sight see around town or wish to discover new places in the new locale, you should gather some information using maps or asking locals.

Crime areas – Stay away from known crime areas. In most countries and cities, information on areas you should not go to is readily available from the police or your travel contacts. If you must ask for directions, use your common sense and be thoughtful  as to who the advice comes from.   

Boscobelle Toll Gang –  Although not really a ‘gang’, there are few individuals around the Boscobelle area that may flag down hired vehicles and ask for money. Be cautious and do not stop if flagged down by civilians.

Park in a well lit area – Cars should be parked in a well-lit area, especially where P sign is stated. If you park car in some other area, then you may be liable to get a Parking Ticket.

Avoid potholes – Most roads in Barbados are in very good conditions, but there is always a pothole or two to watch out for especially on the countryside roads. When driving at night, you will need to be extra vigilant because most roads do not have sidewalks (pavements), hence pedestrians have to share the road with cars.

Never leave valuables in the car – Because of the potential for car theft, you should never leave valuables in an unattended vehicle and always park in well lit areas.  Keep you valuables locked in the glove compartment and not somewhere straying eyes will notice. Do not leave your car windows or doors opened, keep them locked while unattended, and do not carry large amounts of cash

Defensive Driving – Be a defensive driver. Stay safe on the road by being alert about the wrong driving moves by other drivers. Stay alert and maintain distance from other vehicles while driving. It is strongly advised not to use mobile phones.

Don’t pick up hitchhikers

Protect from the sun – It gets hot in Barbados! You’ll most likely want to soak up all of the rays you can, but this could lead to sunburn and heatstroke. If you are visiting from a country with a cooler climate, make sure that your vehicle has working air conditioning. If you opt for a convertible Mini Moke, avoid the temptation of leaving the roof down when the sun is at its hottest.

Pedestrians – There are many roads that do not have pavements, so pedestrians will often walk on the road and this requires extra attention on your part so that everyone is kept safe

Potholes – Although the majority of Barbados’ roads are in good conditions, there are potholes on the road that can be easily overlooked at night. Paying extra attention while driving around these types of roads will allow you to enjoy your driving experience. Since rural areas offer great country scenes and nature experiences, you may find yourself driving into blind turns or sharp corners in these rural country roads, being alert about the way in which the roads curve are highly advisable.

Driving distances in Barbados

How many miles around is Barbados?

Don’t underestimate how big Barbados is in square miles. With 34 kilometres (21 miles) in length & up to 23 km (14 mi) in width, the island’s total square miles cover an area of 432 km2 (167 sq mi).

How long to drive around and across Barbados?

Depends if you want to stop off every now and then (which we would recommend) take in some of the fab scenery. With some breaks, driving from coast to coast can take you between 4 – 6 hours. Bare in mind is this going around the island completely coast to coast, and not inland.

This also depends how fast you drive and how many times you get lost!

Here are some examples for driving from coast to coast:

  • Bridgetown to Speightstown – 19kms (25mins)
  • GAIA airport to Bridgetown – 18kms (30mins)
  • GAIA airport to Bathsheba – 25kms (35mins)

See more ideas on what are where to drive and the best places to visit in Barbados!

What to do in case of a car accident or emergency in Barbados?

If you have an accident while driving, stay safe by calling the rental car company right away and do not accept responsibility for the accident, even if you are clearly at fault.

Get your car off the road if possible, so it doesn’t get in the way of other traffic.

These are the telephone numbers you should keep close while traveling in Barbados:

  • Police – 211
  • Ambulance – 511
  • Fire Service – 311

Lights on emergency vehicles are blue and red; do not be fooled to stopping by white flashing lights stopping.

If in need, consult our list of hospitals in Barbados.

Closing thoughts

Some people leave everything until the last minute. Whatever might be your reasons, this is an easy way to start your vacation badly.

Make sure you book your car  in advance, follow our driving advice and have fun while you get to know the beautiful Barbados!

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