Before You’re Taken For a Ride in Barbados, Remember These 7 Taxi Tips
As a tourist who isn’t familiar with the place he happens to be and has no car, a taxi is a most welcome sight. How many times have I been carrying a heavy load of groceries back to my holiday rental and almost wanted to kiss the taxi driver who stopped and “rescued” me?
At the same time, approaching a taxi and climbing inside is sort of scary. We’ve all heard too many bad-taxi-ride stories not to be at the minimum a little fearful for our safety in a strange driver’s hands. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve been taken aback more than once by the driver’s announcement of the fare I owe at my destination.
Taxis in Barbados are almost always a safe and reliable method of getting around the 14- by 21-mile island. However, just as cultures differ around the world, dealing with taxi drivers differs, too. In fact, taxis are a culture unto themselves anywhere you go. Here’s what you need to know in Barbados:
1. Barbados taxis are meterless. Avoid unpleasant surprises by asking the amount of your fare before you get into a taxi. Most drivers are honest; some are not. You can’t know which are which, so ask the fare to your destination before putting a foot inside the cab.
2. Be sure you’re dealing with a licensed, authentic taxi. Valid taxis have a blue license plate with a number preceded by the letter Z. Don’t confuse authentic taxis with another form of transportation in Barbados, the “route vans,” also called ZR vans because their license plates begin with those letters. These are mini-buses which function on fixed, high-density routes around the island and stop frequently for passengers.
3. Don’t bargain on the price. Bargaining is not part of the culture in Barbados. Perhaps the island is too English for haggling; Barbados was an English colony until the 1950s and didn’t gain complete independence until the late 1960s, so the sensibility is quite English. Street vendors don’t bargain, either.
4. Be clear on where you’re going, already though Barbados addresses are rarely along the lines of “123 Main Street.” More often you’ll be telling your driver that you’re going to “Mrs. Smith’s house two doors down from the fish market at Bank Hall Cross Roads.”
5. Ask your driver’s advice. Your driver can offer a wealth of information, so include him (or, very rarely, her) in conversation. English is the language of Barbados (although the accent can take getting used to). Ask your driver’s opinion of the island, where he recommends you go dancing on a Friday night, the best place for family meals on the beach, the most popular (or most secluded) beaches, etc., etc.
6. If you find a driver you particularly like, get his phone number and include his sets again. You might already want to hire him for half a day to give you a special tour of the island. (Remember to ask the price up front.) No one knows the island better than the taxi drivers and many of them have personality-plus, which will make your rides especially fun.
7. Tip your driver. Most taxi drivers in Barbados work independently, just a man and his car. Respect that this is his livelihood and remember to give a ten to 15 percent tip.
Barbados is a wonderfully safe in addition as particularly different island, with varying topography, ecosystems, and already two wildly different bodies of water surrounding it: the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Armed with knowledge of taxi culture, hop in and find out why Barbados is called “The Jewel of the Caribbean.”