Driving Tips : A How-To Guide For Tourists

If you're travelling to Barbados and want to make the best of your driving in Barbados experience, this is the guide for you.

Farmer driving a tractor on a rural road in Barbados with ocean view

Whether it’s a 3-day city break or a well earned relaxing vacation, renting your car to get around Barbados allows for flexible days off to match your holiday mood.

In this guide, we’ll share important driving tips about exploring the island safely. 

Learn how much it should cost, how to stay safe, the requirements to drive, how to get a visitor’s permit, driving directions, and road trip insights from the locals of Barbados

Car rental companies

Car rentals are available at many locations throughout the island of Barbados. Grantley Adams International Airport is one of the most popular spots to see a range of car rental agencies.

Drive Barbados car rental company has been serving valued clients since 2000

Note: all car rental agencies will require an valid international drivers licence for visitors to hire a rental vehicle.

Car rental costs

The rental price varies depending on the type of car and the delivery location.

The average daily price for renting a vehicle which includes VAT, Excess waiver and permits, is:

  • compact sedan US$100
  • Kia Picanto’s hatchback is $80 a day,
  • SUVs Rav 4 cost over $140/day.

Several companies provide more affordable rates. If you’re concerned about the cost, ask them first.

Road traffic regulations to drive a rented vehicle in Barbados

If you have a valid driver license in your own country, then, you are permitted to drive in Barbados as well.

Having said that, when you are renting a car in Barbados, there are different requirements, for example: obtain a driver permit or get a medical certificate from a local doctor if you are 70+ years of age.

Another distinction for hired cars in Barbados is that they can be easily recognized because they have a letter ‘H’ sign on their licence plates.

What documents are required to drive in Barbados?

Here is a list of crucial Driving a rental vehicle requirements:

1. Age Restrictions: How old should you be to hire a car in Barbados?

The minimum age to hire a car in Barbados is 21. Besides that, The Barbados Licensing Authority requires all motorists to have held their licence for at least one year.

Keep in mind that you need two years of driving experience to rent a car, and some car rental companies require five years.

The automobile insurance will increase for drivers under 25 – many companies require you to be over 21

couple inside the car looking at Map

At Drive Barbados rent a car, we offer car rentals to senior citizens and young motorist. We offer senior car rental discounts because one shouldn’t be obligated based on their age to rent a vehicle. However, we abide by the minimum 21 years requirement and have an 80 years rental age cap.

2. Have a Valid Driver’s Licence of Origin

corner side of UK Driving Licence

To rent or drive a vehicle in Barbados, you need a valid licence issued by your country of residence with driving experience of at least 2 to 5 years

3. Obtain a local visitor driving permit

Upon arrival, foreign tourists will need to acquire a local driving permit to drive on the island.

You can obtain a visitors permit from the Barbados Licensing Authority offices or an authorized car rental company such as Drive Barbados.

Blank visitor's registration certificate with a pen on top

Obtain a temporary Barbados driving permit if you are 70+

Elderly citizens aged 70 or over can contact our car rental company for further information.

Medical Certificate of Fitness to Drive in Barbados

Above image is a sample medical certificate from a Barbados general practitioner, this is needed for elderly citizens to drive when visiting the island.

You can expect to pay around US$40 doctors fee, but the costs depend on the doctor. The medical examination is straightforward process and takes only a short time.

The physician will check your eyesight, heart and blood pressure. You can also have your driving capacity assessed in the consulting room.

Renting a car in Barbados is no different than in other countries.

However, because of the required medical certificate, you may not be able to hire immediately after arrival. Instead, you may have to hire a cab to go to your hotel and undergo the medical examination the following day.

This way, you obtain your visitor driver’s permit for driving in Barbados in a matter of hours.

4. Have a Credit Card with Your Name

doctor examines patient for Medical Checkup

When hiring a car to drive in Barbados, a car rental company will ask you to have a valid credit or debit card under the same name as the renter.

A credit card usually is a requirement by most vehicle hire companies in Barbados as it can also used as part of a proof of identity.

Do keep in mind that some car rental agencies may ask you to make a cash deposit instead of using your credit/debit card.

Credit cards we accept: Visa Mastercard Discover AMEX

Barbados Driving Permit Fees

Two driver’s permits are valid for two months and one for one year. Your International driving licence 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 licence valid for up to one year.

Extra driver for US$3.00 per day. But before you pay, know that the renter’s spouse is exempt from additional rental charges.

Where can you get a visitors permit in Barbados?

You can obtain a permit from Barbados Licensing Authority offices around the island.:

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.

Skip the hassle and inconvenience of queueing up at a government office ask our team for a driving permit.

When we meet you at the airport, we will also be able to present you with your temporary Barbados driver’s licence at the same time.

What types of vehicles can you get?

You can obtain permits for Mini-moke cars, motorcars, pick-ups, minivans, or motorcycles.

Drive Barbados rental vehicle parked on rural road with scenic green landscape

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

Although you can still get a Barbados permit when there are negative entries on your driving record.

Different car rental companies have different rules regarding leasing a car to drivers with a less than perfect driver’s record.

Some car leasing companies might not allow you to hire their vehicles if you have the following violations:

  • Driving without a licence
  • Driving under the influence
  • Running away from the site of an accident
  • Participant in an accident
  • Violations of seatbelt laws
  • Reckless driving

The process of getting a driver’s licence on Barbados roads is possible. 

It is always wise to familiarize yourself with local traffic laws, especially road rules, pay careful attention to traffic signs and road markings, and learn about Barbados Highway code.

Do you need an IDP to drive in Barbados?

NO, you do not need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in Barbados. Instead, you must carry a valid driver’s licence as well as visitor permit (these are issued in Barbados for 2 month or 1 year period).

How hard is driving & getting around in Barbados?

Tourists visiting Barbados usually love the oceanic views as the island is one of the most scenic parts of the Caribbean. Since the island is not mountainous with winding roads, you can drive around the entire island of Barbados in a single day.

The main roads are well built and in very good condition. However, roads around the countryside may have potholes which must be considered when driving at night.

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

When driving in Barbados you will use the Left-Hand side of the road, like you would in the UK or Australia.

If you’re not confident about left-hand side driving, take your time and practice it before finally driving on the main roads.

As you can see from the picture below, Rihanna is behind the wheel, and the driver’s wheel is on the right.

Rihanna and Oprah inside a car smiling

Barbados Road Rules & Traffic Regulations

When hiring a car in Barbados, be sure to know the road rules and regulations.

We encourage you to get a copy of the Highway Code booklet to be familiar with the rules of driving in Barbados. Get this booklet from any of The Barbados Licensing Authority locations, or ask your rental company to offer you one.

Other Crucial Driving Tips, Rules, and Road Directions include:

  • Approach cautiously at roundabouts: Always give way to the motor vehicles approaching from the right on a roundabout. The roads and the roundabouts can be confusing but look for traffic lights and signals.
  • Wear seatbelts. It’s mandatory for both drivers and passengers.
  • Children under five years old must be seated in an appropriate child seat. Some car rental companies offer these for rent when you hire a car.
  • Don’t use your mobile phone while driving in Barbados; it’s illegal. Hands-free mode devices that use Bluetooth is permissible. 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.

Also note:

  • NO use of headset or earpiece with mobile phone whilst driving
  • No conversation on mobile phone speaker while driving

OK, breaking the LAW is the US $1000, 18 months in prison, or both.

  • Always use headlamps between:
  • 1830 hrs. – 0500 hrs. January to April and September to December
  • 1900 hrs. – 0500 hrs. May to August
  • Follow traffic lights & signals. If a driver flashes his headlights at you at an intersection, this generally 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)
diagram for intend to slow down gesture
diagram for move to right gesture
  • If a motorist honks their car horn, it is usually a friendly gesture to say “hi” or a polite form of “thank you” for giving way.
  • Keep left, always thinking “left” when making turns or onto a straight road, except when you intend to overtake or turn right.
  • Local highways have four lanes, while other roads are two-lane. Roads in Bridgetown only has one-way roads.
  • All hired vehicles have a licence plate with the letter “H”. The local Barbadian drivers are usually very accommodating and understanding when encountering a car with an “H” plate.
  • Peak Rush hours. Avoid driving from 4:30 to 8:30 am and from 4:30 to 5:30 pm on weekdays.

How are the roads & drivers in Barbados?

The local roads might be narrow and not very well marked, either by stripes in the road or signs.

Our small island coastal roads are narrow (except for the East Coast roads).

But, in general, the drivers in Barbados are patient.

GPS. The best way to navigate the roads is to hire a GPS with your car.

A local road map or two will also be helpful, and most car rental companies will have placed one in the glove box for your use.

Barbados is very small but has a lot of pavement roads so that you can get lost in a split second.

Although everybody speaks English very well, even local’s speech directions can be wrong.

Barbados speed limits

Speed limits vary on different roadways, so make sure you follow the correct speed limit. If you’re an American or British driver, you should be aware that speed limits are different for kilometres per hour.

In general, typical speed limits for the small island are:

  • Main Highway speed limit: 80 km/hr. or 50 miles/hr
  • Rural area speed limit: 60 km/hr. or 37 miles/hr
  • City/Bridgetown and Urban areas speed limit: 40 km/hr. or 20 miles/hr

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

Fines in Barbados

You are unlikely to stop unless you are doing something extremely dangerous.

speed limit signs of Barbados
Parking ticket placed under a windshield wiper on a hire car

On the rare occasion you get a parking ticket infringement. You’ll need to pay it at the nearest local police station.

Road Tolls in Barbados

There are no road tolls in Barbados.

Can you drink and drive in Barbados?

As of January 1, 2020, breathalyzer testing will be compulsory for the traveller. To ensure roads are safe for everyone.

Responsible driver will call a taxi or get a friend to drive in the event of alcoholic beverage is consumed.

Chilled bottle of wine with two glasses on a beachfront with a serene ocean backdrop

Under the amendments to the Barbados Road Act, a violation by a driver of having Blood Alcohol Concentration limit above 0.08. If a person for the first time is convicted, they can face up to two years in jail or pay a $5,000 fine or two-year sentence or both.

Driving while under the influence is discouraged by locals as well.

Barbados is known as the country where the best Rum is made. This surely doesn’t mean it should be consumed before driving.

Parking Information

Park your car in well-lit areas, except where the parking sign is stated, making them the safest place to park your vehicle.

Don’t park your car in a “No Parking” zone. You may get a parking ticket

They are many parking locations available, including outdoor lots and garages. Where will charge a minimal fee.

Drives should not rely upon on-street parking as the parking spots are small and have strict parking laws.

Because of the potential for car theft, do not leave valuables in an unattended vehicle and always park in well-lit areas.

NO Parking Sign

Airport parking fees

BGI Airport parking fee receipt and membership card on car seat

The minimum stay fee is US$1.00 for half an hour and US$1.50 per half hour after that. However, there’s a cap of $12.00 per day.

The airport parking facilities have 24-hour security, eliminating the risk of theft or damage to your vehicle, whether a rental car or your transportation.

Parking options

King George Memorial Park is 10 minutes away from the airport, a refreshing alternative. There is free parking for visitors, so if you’re pretty 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?

The price of unleaded 95 octanes is around $1.50, with diesel a little cheaper.

Petrol stations are plentiful in and around Bridgetown, along the main highways of the West and South Coasts, and in most country towns, where the island is only 21 miles long.

Most stations are open round the clock and every day.

There are three different fuel options for car rentals in Barbados.

  • Customers may purchase a full tank of petrol at delivery and can be returned empty.
  • Vehicles generally returned with a full gas tank, accompanied by the receipt, which testifies to fill the vehicle with fuel. Suppose you don’t deliver the automobile with a full tank. In that case, you’ll have to pay for its refilling, along with a US$12.50 fee administration charge.
  • Another option is to pay a fixed price of US$30.00 on delivery for a quarter tank and return the rental empty. Talk with the rental car company about your choice before booking.

Is it safe to drive in Barbados?

One of the best things about planning your vacation in Barbados is the safe, scenic place. Friendly locals and a clean ocean breeze are always near for young and old visitors.

Follow our tips and tricks and make sure you stay safe while visiting:

To avoid accidents and unwanted incidents, you must use your effort and vigilance as a road user when hiring a car.

Barbados is a safe place to drive, but like any country on earth, you still have to watch out for forces of nature.

  • Night driving requires extra attention because many roads do not have sidewalks (pavements). You must be aware of where the pedestrians are walking on the side of the road.
  • Roads are generally relatively narrow, and buses go much closer and faster than you expect.
  • Plan your trip – Before getting into your car, you know where you are going and the route to your destination.
  • Even if you just want to see new places and visit the sights around town, asking locals is a good way of getting there.
  • Stay away from known crime areas. In most countries and cities, information on areas to avoid is readily available from the police or travel contacts.
  • If you must ask for directions, use your common sense and be thoughtful about who is giving them to you.
  • Boscobelle Toll Gang – Although not a ‘gang’, individuals around the Boscobelle area may flag down hired vehicles and ask for money.
  • Keep your car windows and doors locked when unattended, and don’t carry a lot of Cash.
  • Be a defensive driver. Stay safe on the road by watching for other drivers’ mistakes.
  • Stay alert and maintain distance from other transport while driving.
  • Don’t pick up hitchhikers.
  • Protect from the sun – It gets hot in Barbados. It could lead to sunburn and heatstroke.
  • If you visit from a cooler climate, make sure your vehicle has working air conditioning.
  • If you have a convertible Mini Moke, avoid the temptation of leaving the roof down when the sun is at its hottest.
  • Rural areas offer great country scenes and nature experiences. You may find yourself driving into blind turns or sharp corners on these rural country roads. Being alert about how the road’s curve is highly advisable.
  • Caution using Turn Signals: The hardest part was getting used to the turn signals on the other side of the steering wheel.

Driving distances in Barbados

Map of Barbados with a highlighted route for an island road trip

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. This small island total square miles cover an area of 432 km2 (167 sq mi).

It depends if you want to stop off and take in some of the fabulous scenery.

Driving from coast to coast can take you between 4 – 6 hours with some breaks. Bear in mind this is going around the island completely coast to coast, and not most inland parishes.

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

Here are some examples of 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 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 and do not accept responsibility even if you are at fault.

Emergency services numbers you should keep close while travelling in Barbados:

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

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

Closing thoughts

You will no doubt love your visit to our island. Great hotels, fine food and visually stunning oceans.

Although most people carefully plan their trip to Barbados, hiring a vehicle is often left until they arrive in Barbados. We strongly advice our valued future customers to book their car rental in advance and enjoy a hassle free holiday with essential driving tips included .