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Every day is a celebration in Barbados, but this year even more so as the country marks its 50th year of independence from the British in November. And while the tiny 21-by-14–mile Caribbean paradise is best known for its crystal-blue waters and as birthplace of megastar Rihanna, it’s also got plenty of history and culture to soak up, especially with the anniversary looming. Right now is the perfect time to immerse yourself in all things Bajan, as the locals are known, and here’s how to do it.

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1. Cricket anyone?

The Turtle Beach Resort in Dover, Christ Church, Barbados, on the South Coast, makes it easy to make like a Barbadian. Take part in the national pastime with a game of cricket on the beach. It’s similar to baseball, but different enough to be a bit confusing until you get the hang of it. Realize the competition will be stiff: Many of the resort’s visitors are from England and elsewhere in Europe, and have a familiarity advantage. But go for it. Even if you’re a rookie and fall down a few times, it’s good fun.

2. Connect with the culture

Get steeped in the culture. Learn to playsteel panor be ready to wow your friends back home by learning to cook Bajan pastries. Ezra’s Pastry School will show you how to make Bajan treats with local ingredients. Or “Slam uh dom,” which just means to play dominoes. You can even take a class to learn to speak the Bajan dialect and you might get schooled on sayings like, ‘De higher de money climb, de more ‘e show ‘e tail. Translation: the more you show off, the more your faults are brought to the open. Still influenced by European culture, you’ll find bocce ball and croquet here to keep you busy, as well.

3. Jump up, jump up!

Learn how to wine (gyrate your waist and hips) with calypso dancing lessons. After working up a sweat, refresh yourself with the local brew Banks beer or the resort’s signature cocktail, the Spring Turtle — the latter’s made with the oldest rum anywhere, Barbados’ own Mount Gay Distilleries, and shaken with melon liqueur and pineapple juice.

4. Feast on local favorites

While the three restaurants on the resort serve a variety of fare, you’ll cheat yourself if you don’t overindulge in local favorites like fried flying fish, macaroni pie, rice ‘n’ peas, curry lamb, roti, grilled fish with pickled cucumber, roast pork, and plenty more. In the evenings, enjoy steel band, reggae or other island centric music. No trip to Barbados is complete without a Friday night at Oistins Fish Fry in Oistins Bay Garden. They serve up fish, fish and more fish – flying fish, lobster, marlin, mahi-mahi, among others, fried or grilled, more down home good eats than you ever should feast on in one night. The vibe is super laid back and the music lively —  think Bob Marley, calypso, CropOver soca hits, ora live band. Then walk the pier and catch the sunset, watch the folks throwing down the dominoes, join in the line dancing and karaoke, or shop for arts and crafts.

5. Hop on the $1 van

Make like a local and hop on the $1 van for the 20 minute ride to Bridgetown. You’ll get a chance to strike up a conversation, or just bob along to the beat of the lively reggae music playing in the van as you take in the sights of the island, a mix of old and new. Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados, is the epicenter, with its eclectic mix of rag-tag, shanty-style vendors hawking everything from homegrown vegetables, fruits, underwear, toiletries, cleaning products, clothes, purses. Imagine these in contrast to the retailers on Broad Street like Cave Shepherd, the largest department store in the Caribbean, which boasts a large selection of duty-free upscale brands and products.



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6. Go west

Do check out the West Coast, also called the “Platinum Coast” because it is a haven for celebrities, million dollar homes, and the legendary Sandy Lane resort where Tiger Woods got married.

A popular spot for regular folks is the Crystal Cove Resort in St. James, Barbados. The all-inclusive has its on Bajan indoctrination program of sorts. They can set you up to see a polo match, take a tour of the Mount Gay Rum Distillery, take in the sights at the Holders Farmers Market that showcases only local products, and the Harbour Lights Dinner Show & Beach Extravaganza, featuring steel pan and other live bands, Carnival dancers, barbecue and free drinks. Crystal Cove is a cool place to stay, with its three lagoon-style swimming pools and beautiful, calm, uncrowded beach.

7. Know the history

While the island nation is celebrating its 50th year of freedom, the Barbados story started, long, long ago. Just about anyone you talk to will spout out history like they’ve been studying for a test. Impress people with what you know. Bone up by hitting the Barbados Museum and tour the Garrison Historic Area.At this point, a “big-up” to you as you can now call yourself a Bajan at heart.

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Tagged: Caribbean

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Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl Nance-Nash

Sheryl is a writer and editor, specializing in travel, personal finance, business and career topics. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Newsday, Money,,,, Upscale Magazine, Essence, Black Enterprise and others.

One thought on “Barbados like a local: Be a Bajan in 7 easy steps”

  1. Sheryl,

    First trip to Barbado’s… Staying on the West side of the island near Holetown… Wondering about transportation? Do you recomment a renting a car for the week or utilize local transportation?

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