How to move to
Find A Job
The beautiful island of Barbados is an enticing prospect for expats seeking work. Due to the popularity of the island as a destination, competition for employment is quite stiff, but a range of jobs are to be found, including many in the tourism and hospitality sectors – the island is a popular tourist destination, too.
The island’s official language is English, so if this is your native tongue, you are off to a good start in seeking employment here. We will look at some of your options and the legal requirements below.
Applying for a work permit here is not a simple process. Your employer will need to put an application in for you. For a short term work permit, up to 11 months, you will need to supply the following documents:
• a detailed cover letter from your potential employer
• C-3 Application form (in duplicate)
• 4 passport-sized photos
• Certificate of Character from the police of each country in which you have lived for at least 6 months in the past 3 years (if you are coming from the UK, this will be a DBS check within the last 3 months)
• a copy of the bio-data page of your passport
If you wish to apply for a longer term work permit, for up to 3 years, you will need to supply the above and in addition you will need to send in:
• C1/C2 work permit forms
• a medical form including external X-rays
• 2 character references
• evidence of your qualifications
• a detailed cover letter from your potential employer outlining the nature of the business, the period of time in which you will be employed, your category of employment and the reason for the request
If you are planning to set up your own business, you may also be asked for proof of any investment funds and a copy of your Articles of Incorporation.
Employers will need to show the government that they are trying to hire locals, particularly young people since the island’s youth unemployment rate is currently high, so in the case of applications for long term permits, they must prove that no-one else can do a prospective job as well as yourself.
There are a wide range of job vacancies in Barbados and educational standards on the island, which follows a British model of education, are high. The island does not therefore suffer from significant skills shortages. It has a high rate of youth unemployment, and thus a lot of casual vacancies are given to locals.
Working hours usually run from 35 – 40 hours per week, typically 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. and there are 12 national holidays.
The Barbados minimum wage is currently BBD$6.25 (USD$3.13) per hour.
The average gross salary in Barbados is currently estimated to be BBD$67,086 (USD$33,543) with an average net salary of BBD$52,132 (USD$26,066).
Note that short term work in Barbados is often seasonal and casual work may be hard to find due to the emphasis on providing employment to locals.
If you are working in the country and become pregnant, you will be eligible for paid maternity leave, currently set at 3 months (local organisations have been calling for this to be extended, however). There have also been calls for fathers to have 2 weeks of paid paternity leave.
The Employment Rights Act of Barbados also stipulates rates of redundancy packages for longer term employees.
Your spouse will be able to work if they have a separate work permit. If you bring your spouse with you on your own visa, you may find that they have a right to reside but not to work and must thus apply for their own work permit.
It is possible to make speculative applications: your best advice is to obtain short term accommodation on the island and start applying for work as soon as you arrive. Make sure you have enough funds to support you in the interim, as short term work can be difficult to find.
There are job fairs, both local and international, which relate to Barbados: check on Google for details. ‘JOBS - Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean’ also have a Facebook page which highlights vacancies and there are a number of online sites which feature vacancies across the Caribbean. You can also check the local press.
Applying For A Job
A standard single page CV and covering letter should be sufficient. Barbados has a number of local employment agencies and they will be able to advise you on any specific issues with regard to formatting.
Employment discrimination laws seek to prevent discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, physical disability, and age by employers. However, note that currently, the legislation covering discrimination law in Barbados is not as yet up to speed with some other developed nations.
Employers are not prohibited from discriminating against LGBT employees and this may also arise at the interview stage. LGBT rights groups are currently campaigning for a greater degree of understanding under law in Barbados.
Qualifications And Training
The need for qualifications will depend on the sector in which you are planning to work, but some professions require a range of qualifications which are analogous to those held in the UK. If you intend to work in nursing, for example, you will need a degree in General Nursing or an Associate Degree in Nursing and an RN Licence from the Barbados Nursing Council, as well as relevant experience.
Similarly, if you plan to teach in one of Barbados’ international schools, you will need a teaching qualification. A TEFL certificate is not a big advantage here, however, as the country’s official language is English.
Apply For A Visa/Permit
There is a lot of paperwork involved in moving to Barbados and it will take time as well as costing you money. In order to stay in Barbados you will need a visa. Temporary permits are available for visitors and last up to six months. If you wish to stay longer than this then it will be necessary to obtain another visa which must be in duplicate and accompanied by 2 passport sized photographs. The fees payable for this vary as there are single and multiple access visas available.
In order to work in Barbados you will need a work permit. Work is usually reserved for native Barbadians unless there are no applicants with the necessary skills for the position. It is advisable to apply for permits before arriving on the island because of the time involved in getting them issued. The average wait for a work permit is 6 – 8 weeks, while study permits can take up to 6 weeks. A visitor permit takes an average of 2 weeks to be issued.
Permits can be obtained from Consulates. The cost of applying for a work permit is US$100 and obtaining the relevant permissions to work will cost US$400. Whilst staying on the island it will be necessary to provide evidence that you are able to support yourself.
Once the 6 month visa has expired it is necessary to apply for an extension which can be done at the immigration department. This requires a valid passport, a passport-sized photograph and the relevant application fee. Without a valid permit you are not permitted to enter employment during your stay.
When applying for residency it is necessary to have a police certificate from either your home town or if you have been in Barbados for 6 months from the police there. Those already on the island you will need a passport, birth certificate and the relevant fee. Those who are not yet in Barbados will need proof of name and address, valid passport and a set of fingerprints which have been officially obtained. There is also a small fee.
People travelling on British passports need to ensure that the passports have at least six months to run so it may be necessary to renew them early. Information on all aspects of emigrating to Barbados can be found on the Barbados Government web site as well as expat sites which are able to deal with a number of frequently asked questions regarding day to day living.
Get Health Insurance
Many expats take out private medical insurance, even if this is not a requirement of residence, because healthcare is expensive in their destination country or because certain treatments and procedures are not available.
When taking out health insurance, be sure to check factors such as the annual and lifetime policy limits, whether there are any exclusions which are likely to affect you, whether you are limited to treatment from specific types of healthcare providers, and whether the policy covers emergency evacuation for medical treatment.
Too frequently, potential buyers of health insurance look only for the lowest cost of premiums before really considering the specific benefits and areas of cover they may actually need. Some plans are cheaper for a reason. Often they include large voluntary deductibles on any claim you might make in the future and may severely cap the benefits received under the plan. Clients should define their needs first, establish the particular area of cover they need, then determine their annual healthcare insurance budget. Only then should they look to premium comparisons, last of all.
Do not buy a plan without studying the policy wording carefully. If in doubt, ask, and only when completely satisfied complete all application forms fully, to the best of your ability.
Important questions to ask the insurance provider:
1. Does the plan allow for cooling off periods, cancellation and then repayment of premium in full?
2. Does the plan offer "Moratorium" or is it "Full underwriting" and do you need to have a medical examination before joining?
3. Does the insurer offer a 24 hour help line, 7 days a week, available from anywhere in the world (freephone)? Most insurers now offer this facility.
4. Are pre-existing conditions excluded when joining and if so, for how long are such conditions excluded?
5. Are all and any nationalities accepted or are there restrictions which apply to local nationals? Some insurers will only take expatriates abroad and not local nationals into an overseas plan.
6. Does the plan allow you to continue cover unbroken through your lifetime? In most cases insurers will continue to offer existing clients cover year on year, irrespective of age or claims history, although premium rates charged can increase dramatically with age.
7. Does the insurer allow for any doctor or consultant or hospital within the plan? Are there any restrictions in this respect? Most international plans do not place restrictions on either hospitals or doctors, but almost all demand that their help lines are called first, prior to approval of any inpatient care.
8. Does the insurer provide for the direct settlement of bills presented by hospitals worldwide, regardless of location (or do you have to pay first)?
9. What are the insurers procedures for outpatient claims? Do these require any pre-authorization or if stated in the plan can you just pay and claim? How long before you get money back from the insurer? 14 days? 28 days?.
Save On Health Insurance
Compare quotes from leading international health insurance providers
Rent Or Buy Property
There are a variety of properties available for rent on the island of Barbados, but first you will need to decide which area you would like to live in. You will find beautiful beaches wherever you choose. There are pros and cons for each area, which you will learn more about below. The properties available to you will depend upon your budget.
The real estate areas in Barbados are typically broken down into the following coasts:
Because the East Coast is situated away from shopping malls, the Kensington Oval cricket stadium and the deep water harbour, properties there are considered to be more reasonably priced. The East Coast has its own commercial district, which includes supermarkets, shopping centres and petrol stations, making it a very convenient area to live in.
Popular neighbourhoods on the East Coast include: Ocean City, Long Bay, Crane, Bottom Bay, Belair and Kirtons.
The West Coast in Barbados is often known as the Platinum Coast, and for good reason. This side of the island has some of the softest sands and safest beaches, which explains why you will find so many luxury resorts, hotels and villas there.
Popular neighbourhoods on the West Coast include: Holetown, Sandy Lane, Royal Westmoreland, Port St. Charles and Heywoods.
Convenient for those who travel often, the South Coast offers more affordable properties than the West Coast, due to its proximity to the airport. Yet the area remains one of the nicest on the island, due to the abundance of beautiful beaches and boardwalks available.
Popular neighbourhoods on the South Coast include: Durants, Rockley, Worthing, Club Morgan, Dover, Elizabeth Park and Pine Gardens.
Size, location, proximity to amenities and additional features (such as whether the property has parking, a garden or access to a pool) all play a pivotal role in how property is priced. However, Barbados is a country with property prices for almost every budget. As a result, whether you are looking for a minimalist apartment or the ultimate luxury villa, there are many options available to you.
The most common accommodation types for long-term renters in Barbados are apartments and townhouses. Villas are also available for rent, but because of the booming tourism economy, they are not always the most affordable accommodation option. Instead, they are typically used by holiday-makers for short-term rentals.
As mentioned above, property prices vary, but to give you a rough idea of costs on the island, here are a few examples of price points for properties that are currently available for purchase:
Four-bedroom (unfurnished) house
One-bedroom (unfurnished) apartment
Three-bedroom (unfurnished) house
One-bedroom (unfurnished) apartment
Four-bedroom (unfurnished) house
Rental prices differ, and you may be able to negotiate better terms depending on how long you are planning to stay. You can expect to pay anywhere between 1,000 BBD and 13,000 BBD per month for rentals in Barbados. Here are a few examples of property rental costs across the island:
Two-bedroom (furnished) house
$4,000 BBD per month
Two-bedroom (furnished) apartment
$2,000 BBD per month
Three-bedroom (furnished) house
$9,000 BBD per month
St. Lawrence Gap
Two-bedroom (furnished) apartment
Whether you are looking to stay on the island of Barbados long- or short-term, renting is a great way to get a feel for the island and the different neighbourhoods around. But it is important to know your rights prior to renting.
Rental tenancies are generally operated under a free market regime in Barbados, and so rental prices and durations can be freely agreed. The length of time you will be able to lease a property for will depend upon the property type you are looking at, as well as your residency and visa status in Barbados. You can check out visa requirements on this government website.
There are no standard lease terms for renting a property in Barbados, but, typically, a one-year tenancy is considered long-term. There are properties available for shorter-term lets, but as these are typically used for holidaymakers, you may pay a premium price or face a stricter lease agreement.
Lease agreements vary depending upon what rules your landlord or letting agent have in place. When looking at one, you will want to ensure it has information regarding the following:
• How long the rental agreement will last, when and where rent is due, and how much the rent is
• Who is responsible for maintenance, repairs and cleaning
• Whether the landlord has a right to access (and if so, what the terms of this are; for example, if they can enter for pre-arranged visits, emergencies etc.)
• Who is responsible for utility bills, such as for gas, water and electricity, and who will pay telephone and internet bills
• Terms and conditions for ending the lease
If you are renting a furnished property, you will also want to ensure that there is an inventory of the furniture included in the agreement, with notes on the condition of the furniture. Taking photos of the furniture at the beginning of your rental agreement can help avoid problems further down the line.
Lease agreements typically operate within monthly terms, with rental payments and deposits due upfront. Deposit prices vary, but are often priced at one or two months’ rent. This serves as security for the landlord, as a precaution against damage to the property and any non-payment of utilities during the tenancy.
If you are looking to end your tenancy agreement earlier than planned, it is important you follow the terms and conditions laid out in your contract, as breaching this may result in the forfeit of your deposit and could incur further costs.
Buying property in Barbados is exciting and, despite the common misconception that it is difficult and time-consuming, the whole process should take less than three months.
There are things that can cause exceptions to this, such as your method of financing, but on the whole, buying property in Barbados is relatively straightforward. This is because, unlike some of its neighbouring islands, Barbados does not require non-residents to acquire a license in order to purchase property.
The buying process goes like this:
Step one: begin your property search
You will find some websites above to help you with this. Or, if you prefer a more hands-on approach, you could rent a car and take a drive around the island to get a feel for the different locations and properties available. Once you have found the property you are looking for, make an offer.
Step two: engage an attorney
Once your offer has been accepted, it is time to engage the attorneys. You will need to engage a Barbadian attorney to conduct a title search, and the seller will engage an attorney to prepare the contract of sale.
Step three: pay up
To secure the property, you will need to pay a 10% to 30% deposit (depending on the terms of your mortgage), which will be held in escrow (by the seller’s attorney), until the sale of the property has completed. As a non-resident, you will also need to obtain permission from the Exchange Control Authority in order to purchase the property.
Once the above is taken care of, you will have around three to six months to pay the remaining 90% of the property costs. During this time, you will be able to get surveys and inspections done on the property to ensure it is in the condition the seller has stated it is and to assess whether it needs repairs.
It is important to be aware of the following fees:
• Transfer tax: 2.5% (paid by seller)
• Stamp duty: 1% (paid by seller)
• Legal fees: between 1.5% and 2% of the property’s sale price
• Land tax: 0.75% (capped at $300,000 BBD)
• Mortgage and interest fees: 0.5% to 2%
You may also incur surveying fees, valuation fees and administration fees. However, the cost of these vary greatly depending upon which contractors and lender you use.
Once everything has been paid and signed, you will receive the conveyance of title and the exchange date, and the property will be legally yours.
Lenders will assess you based upon income and assets to determine how much you will be able to borrow. Because of this, the terms of your mortgage may vary. Some lenders may require a 10% deposit for property purchases, whereas others may require a 30% deposit, and the same goes for repayment terms. However, mortgages for foreign nationals in Barbados tend to be amortised for up to 15 years.
Move Your Belongings
Consider if you want (or are able) to transport your belongings yourself or whether you will need the services of a removals company that deals with international moves. Unless you are travelling very light, or making a fairly short move by road, you will probably need professional help to ship your possessions. Ask for quotes from several companies first, ensuring that they visit your home to carry out a survey of your requirements. It may be worth paying extra for the removals firm to pack your possessions for you, particularly if they are going to be transported to a distant country and need special protection for the long journey. Make sure you bring to their attention anything fragile or precious that needs particularly careful wrapping and packing.
Before agreeing to a quotation, ensure that you are fully aware of exactly what is covered in the price, and that the service to be provided meets all of your requirements. For example, does the service include both packing and unpacking of your household effects? What about disassembling and reassembling of furniture? If you are planning to put anything into storage in your destination country while you find accommodation, does the price include final delivery and unpacking at your home, or will you need to arrange collection of the items? Obtain a firm estimate of the likely arrival date of your items and obtain contact details for any agents that will be dealing with the removal in your destination country. Ensure that the removals company is aware in advance of any practical considerations such as the lack of an elevator to your apartment, or likely parking problems.
If using a removals company, you may be required to take out their insurance cover for your possessions. Whether or not this is the case, ensure that you have adequate insurance for anything of actual or sentimental value that could get lost or damaged during the move. Take the time to accurately complete or check an inventory of your possessions to be moved, as this will form the basis for any insurance claim for losses or damages. Find out if insurance is included in the price quoted by the removals company, or whether you are required to pay extra for this.
The removals company should arrange any customs and importation documents on your behalf, but if you are arranging the move independently you will need to find out what documents are required and what import duties and taxes are payable (and whether you are eligible for exemption from these).
Make sure that you set aside the important documents you will need for the journey, such as passports and air tickets, and keep these easily accessible in your hand luggage.
Save On Moving Costs
Compare quotes from leading international moving companies
Register For Healthcare
QUICK LINK: Barbados health insurance
The phone number to call for an ambulance in the case of a medical emergency is 511 but it is important to be aware that you may have to wait some time for it to arrive. There are two main hospitals on the island.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is quite large and has a good range of services and specialties. Treatment is not free and it is necessary to either have medical insurance or ensure that you have sufficient money with you when you go as treatment will have to be paid for before you are dealt with. Bayview hospital is a private facility which although small also deals with a lot of different types of illnesses as well as having a very busy maternity unit. Again, the fees can either be covered by insurance or paid in cash by the patient or their family. There are also some smaller clinics and many doctors on the island. There is also a psychiatric hospital.
Medical insurance is important and it is well worth checking before you arrive in Barbados that your insurance will cover any expenses incurred. Before travelling to Barbados it is necessary to have been vaccinated against yellow fever and to have a certificate of proof. Travellers should also routinely have been vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria and tetanus. Another problem could be dengue fever and it is wise to protect yourself with a mosquito repellent containing Deet.
Normal hygiene procedures should be enough to keep you healthy in Barbados but there are some dangers such as the sea urchins in the sand that can cause intense pain and would leave you needing medical treatment. It is advisable to be careful when catching fish and eating them unless you know what you are doing, as some fish can cause health problems. The water can be a problem for people with delicate stomachs as the chlorination process required to comply with the WHO regulations can cause stomach upsets. Visitors are advised to stick to bottled water.
It would seem that if you need a doctor or dentist then you just find one and visit them. As you have to pay it may be a good idea to ask for advice from workmates or friends and keep trying until you find medical practitioners that you trust. Barbados’ health care has been rated as 31 out of 151 countries in the world.
Open A Bank Account
A bank account is essential if you are living and working in Barbados. Opening an account with one of the many banks available is relatively easy. Expats will need to take along two different types of ID and one of these must be a passport. The other can be a driver’s license or copy of visa documentation. There is always a small amount that must be deposited in the account when it is opened, but this amount will vary from bank to bank and it is worth shopping around to find out the differences between the accounts.
This applies to both current accounts and savings accounts. Current account holders will be issued with a debit card and a cheque book. Debit cards can be used in most ATMs, although it is worth checking to find out if your bank charges for using the ATM of another bank. Most machines will also take cards that have been issued in your home country, but you are likely to be charged for this too. It is also possible for a person with a foreign issued card to withdraw money inside the bank.
Savings account holders will be issued with a book and a card. There are several different savings options available and the most popular is a basic savings account which offers a lot more interest than a current account. These allow users to withdraw funds as they need, but there are also fixed term accounts which limit withdrawals but may offer a little more interest. Other financial services that banks can offer include advice on pensions and investments if you are looking to deposit your money long term or remain in the country for at least several years. Most branches will have advisors that can assist with these and all other enquiries.
Credit facilities can be made available if needed, though if you have not been in the country very long you may have to have a face to face meeting with your bank manager to request the facility and if you have no proof of income it is likely to be declined. Taking the time to build a good credit rating and a good relationship with your bank is likely to work in your favour.
Banks in Barbados are generally open between 8 am and 3 pm from Monday to Thursday, although are open 8 am to 5 pm on a Friday. Some banks do have longer opening hours on different days and different branches of the same bank may have different hours. This will depend greatly on their exact location and the local demand. There are two branches of the Mutual Bank of the Caribbean that open until 7 pm in the evening and are open until 2 pm on a Saturday. Most banks will also have a customer service department that can be contacted by telephone and these may have additional working hours to the branch’s opening times.
Online banking facilities are offered by most banks and these are ideal for those who cannot regularly get to the branch. Bills can be paid by cheque, direct debit or standing orders and deposits to the account can be made by cheque, cash or bank transfer. Most banks are able to handle international transfers of funds although these will incur charges for the transfer and the currency conversion. These charges will vary from bank to bank.
ATM machines can be found outside most banks and in the main shopping areas, although some parts of the island will have fewer machines due to the lower population and lack of demand. ATM machines do have withdrawal limits and your own limit will be set by the bank and based on your own personal circumstances.
Foreign banks such as Citibank have a presence in the country and it is always worth checking with your current bank to see if they can help you to set up an account in the country before you arrive. You are still subject to the same procedures, but this can save you time when you first get there. Not all banks will be able to do this for you but at the very least they can offer advice.
There are many ways of sending money from one country to another. As always, expats can save themselves a lot of trouble and expense if they do a little research and shop around for the best deal.
International Bank Transfers
For most expats, currency transfer involves transferring small to medium sized amounts regularly from an existing bank account back home into a new overseas bank account in the local currency. These may be pension payments, benefits, or any other form of income.
Your home bank will usually be glad to oblige. You can set up facilities with them "on demand" whereby you fax or call them on the phone, provide a secret code or two, tell them the amount in question, and they will transfer it to your new bank, automatically converting it into the relevant local currency. Some banks also allow you to make international payments online. Whatever method you choose, transfers normally take between 3-7 days although 1-2 day transfers are often available but be prepared to pay more for these.
You can also set up regular transactions that are processed automatically on a fixed day of each month. Many state pensions and benefits can be paid directly into your new bank abroad without going through your home bank at all. Some private pension organisations may also offer the same facility.
When you first set up a transfer of funds abroad, the sending bank or institution will ask you for various codes that identify the destination bank. Often they will ask for IBAN (International Bank Account Number), BIC (Bank Identifier Code) or SWIFT codes but don?t panic - your new bank will give these to you and they may even already be listed in your new chequebook or bank statements.
As far as charges are concerned, you will probably be required to pay a flat fee per transaction. Additionally a percentage fee is often charged for the currency conversion itself. You may also find that your receiving bank charges you for receiving the transfer. Charges vary by bank but can quickly add up - ask your bank(s) for an indication of the fees involved.
As a general rule, transferring larger sums less frequently usually works out cheaper than transferring smaller amounts more often. However, if you need to transfer regular amounts of at least a few hundred pounds/dollars or need to make a larger one-off payment (e.g. for a house purchase) you should consider the services of a currency broker.
Cash Machine/ATM Withdrawals
Thanks to modern technology, most people abroad can go to a cash machine/ATM and withdraw local currency funds directly from their home bank account. This is a useful option to have for expats but exercise caution - many banks make hefty charges for using this type of facility. You may also find that withdrawal limits are in place (as a security measure) even if you significant funds in your account back home.
You can also use VISA or Mastercard credit cards to obtain cash in this fashion and if you pay the amount off quickly and avoid interest charges then fine - but once again credit card charges for cash withdrawals can be high. Check the rates carefully.
Currency brokers (also called foreign exchange brokers) offer significant advantages over traditional banks. Firstly, brokers will often be able to offer you a better rate than your bank. Secondly, the entire process is more transparent - many banks require you to accept the exchange rate available on the day they process your transaction, whatever and whenever that may be, but a specialist broker will offer greater flexibility, even allowing you to specify the rate you want in advance.
Currency brokers are smaller companies than major banks so always check their background carefully. Ask existing expats for their own experiences and recommendations before choosing a firm to handle your own foreign exchange requirements.
A good broker will discuss all the options with you and enable you to make the best decision for your circumstances. Using a broker will typically off the following advantages:
1) Currency brokers generally provide superior exchange rates to the high street banks. The currency brokers have access to the interbank rate and do not have the high costs that the banks have. This means that they can usually offer better exchange rates.
2) Use of a free Market Watch/Order Service: This allows you to tell your currency broker your target or budget exchange rate and they will ring you if that exchange rate level is reached. As the rate moves every few seconds, currency brokers can act as your eyes and ears on the market.
3) Ability to fix the exchange rate in advance using a Forward Contract. If you know you need to convert/move funds in the future but don?t yet have the money you can reserve a rate in advance using a Forward Contract. During this period, you are exposed to exchange rate movements and therefore, a forward contract is ideal if, for example, you have agreed to buy a house and want to fix the rate now but will not be making payment for a couple of months.
Savings from currency brokers can vary from between 1 and 4 per cent on the exchange rate alone, and specialists do not typically charge any fees for transmitting the funds abroad, unlike banks which often levy expensive fees or charges. If you are emigrating and transferring a large sum of money - such as the proceeds of a property - a foreign exchange company could potentially save you thousands.
Save On Money Transfers
Compare quotes from leading foreign exchange currency brokers
Learn The Language
Situated at the Eastern extreme of the Caribbean archipelago, north of mainland Venezuela, the island of Barbados is an independent British Commonwealth nation, with a population of some 300,000, 90% of whom are of African descent. Many Britons, Americans and Canadians have also chosen to live in Barbados, making up a fairly sizeable expat community.
Barbados has a well-developed and mixed economy, mainly through tourism and a growing offshore banking and finance sector. Barbados has a relatively high per capita income, but in the recent past it has been highly susceptible to world economic issues, leading to several recessions, and significant poverty in some areas, as income from tourism has fluctuated.
The official language in Barbados is British English, spoken by the majority of the population. Additionally, in common with most Caribbean islands with a British history, Barbadians have developed their own style of ‘Creole English’. Bajan is spoken widely throughout the island.
Expats need to be aware that the strong and lyrical West Indian accent, and the associated slang, which varies considerably from island to island, can take some getting used to, but it is part of the rich culture of the region.
If English is not your native tongue, then learning or improving it will naturally help you to communicate and settle better, and it will be vital in the workplace. It is preferable to possess a level of confidence and proficiency in English before you arrive.
You may need to consider an online English course, or attending an international school. This is especially important if you need occupation-specific proficiency, for example in banking, finance, or medical English.
There are many courses in English available on the internet catering for all levels. Some will be free to a certain level. There are also several international language schools in Barbados with a wide variety of courses in English to help you when you arrive.
All daily commerce and general conversation on the island will be in English, but then these daily interactions will improve your level of proficiency fairly quickly, as you will essentially be immersed in the language and culture. You should also be able to find locals willing to coach you or encourage you by engaging in conversation over a coffee or a beer.
You may also wish to explore the idea of learning Spanish, which is the third largest language per capita in the world, spoken by almost half a billion people worldwide. The Caribbean is flanked by many Spanish speaking countries, and some facility in the language will help you if you wish to visit them.
There are many excellent Spanish language courses available on the internet, some free (if you don’t mind the advertising). There are also a number of Spanish learning opportunities, particularly in the capital, Bridgetown, and plenty more in Latin America.
If you learn some basic words and phrases in Spanish, then you will be able to get by. However, linguistic experts recommend an immersive learning experience as the quickest and most reliable method to acquire or consolidate a new language. If you need to improve your English, for example, this should be a matter of going about and engaging with the local population, reading English books or newspapers, and watching English-language TV or films without subtitles.
Similarly for learning or improving your Spanish, immersing yourself in Spanish language television and newspapers is a good plan. Expat learners report that teaching standards are generally very good. There are also a few locals who offer private coaching, particularly in Bridgetown.
For conversation or practice, rely on your own knowledge and a good phrasebook rather than digital translation: although the islands have a good standard of internet connection, the wifi is sometimes slow and you may not be able to access your phone at all times.
There are employment opportunities in Barbados too, ranging from nannies to specialist UN positions, and especially in the tourist industry, where experienced and qualified watersports specialists may be required seasonally with private clubs. A high standard of English will be expected. Specialist jobs may be also available in the banking sector.
Teaching English in Barbados is another possibility. There are several international schools, and contracts can be anything from six months upwards. These teaching jobs are available to anyone with a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree and a TEFL certificate. Please note that it is always easier to get work in international education if you have at least a certificate in either TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages).
Most language teaching jobs would be in the capital, Bridgetown. Rates of pay vary considerably, and if you are intending to stay long-term you need to factor in the cost of living, and your own desired lifestyle.
If you intend to teach English in Barbados, it is preferable to have experience in teaching schemes such as the Cambridge English exams or IELTS (International English Language Testing System): the English test for study, migration or work. Some teaching experience in the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will also be helpful. This assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to graduate management programs, such as the MBA.
You may also find work more easily if you are experienced in teaching English for particular sectors, such as tourism and hospitality or medical English.
Choose A School
The Barbadian government places a very high emphasis on improving education standards for its entire population. Around 4% of GDP in Barbados is spent on its education system, which is widely accepted to be best practice, borne out by the fact that the literacy rate on the island has increased to over 99% - one of the highest in the world. There is also an independently funded private sector and several international education institutions.
School attendance in Barbados is compulsory and free for all Barbadian children aged 5 – 16, and there are nursery facilities – again some government-funded. The education system is organised and controlled by the Ministry of Education.
The Barbados national curriculum seeks to provide education for all students, and access to education has been improved through extensive support programs. Meals are free at primary level. Textbooks are provided free, and transport and uniform grants and bursaries ensure all children can attend secondary school. At tertiary level there are awards and grants to allow children to continue their education. The emphasis more recently has turned to improving the quality of the education Barbadian children receive.
The education system in Barbados should be very familiar to UK citizens, being based entirely on the British model and taught in English. The school year begins in September and ends with exams in June, and the day starts at 08:30 and ends at 15:00. Primary education culminates at age 11, when children sit the 11-plus. Secondary education continues to age 16, when they sit the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) exams – the equivalent of British O Levels.
Those who decide not to continue in school after age 16 can enrol with the Samuel Jackson Prescod Polytechnic to gain a vocational qualification for a wide range of jobs.
Those who remain in school after their CXCs will be aimed at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Certificate, equivalent to British A Levels, to be taken at age 18, and many will subsequently choose to go on to college or university.
In the public sector, there are several nurseries and pre-schools, over 70 primary schools, and 23 secondary schools in Barbados. These are augmented by private establishments at all levels, many of which are also at least partially government subsidised.
Special needs children are also extremely well catered for on the island, with over ten different schools.
Additionally, homeschooling is another possible option, made legal in 1997. There are many underlying reasons why parents choose to homeschool, but the procedure in Barbados is relatively simple if you choose this route. You must apply in good time, registering your decision to homeschool with the Ministry of Education, and full educational plans which adhere to Ministry standards must then be agreed with the local education authorities.
Home educated children are still expected to sit the Common Entrance Exam (11 plus), but can continue in home education thereafter if agreed with the Ministry. Extra-curricular activities, such as sports, are also the responsibility of the parent. Home visits and regular reporting will be carried out to ensure your child is being homeschooled adequately.
Whilst teaching in the state system is generally of a high standard, many expats will be looking at facilities at private and international schools to provide a potentially better fit for their circumstances.
Private school curricula will adhere closely to Ministry of Education requirements, but differ in emphasis, especially faith-based schools. The overall emphasis is on a well-rounded, multicultural, and multilingual education.
Top private and international schools in Barbados include several in St Michael:
• Lockerbie College Cambridge International (customised curricula, IB, Barbados, Canadian, US, UK)
• St Gabriel’s (Anglican)
• Ursuline Convent
And elsewhere on the island -
• Alexandra School, St Peter
• Codrington, St John, which offers the full IBDP program
Fees and extra-curricular activities will vary considerably, and need to be ascertained with the individual school. You should always look at the small print as many schools require capital fund payments for structural and material improvements on top of tuition fees.
Further education opportunities in Barbados are provided through universities and a number of colleges for vocational training, including nursing, tourism management, IT, and education.
These facilities include:
• University of West Indies, Cave Hill
• The American University of Barbados (Medicine)
• American University of Integrated Science
• The Barbados Institute of Management and Productivity
• Washington University of Barbados
• Erdiston Teachers’ Training College
• Barbados Community College
• Samuel Jackson Prescod Polytechnic
UWI has a large campus in Bridgetown offering degrees up to PhD in Arts & Humanities, Business & Social Sciences, Language & Cultural, Science & Technology.
The likelihood is that many Barbadian and international students will want to continue their higher education elsewhere. The system in general is set up for their academic achievements to be recognised, and to enable them to fit in wherever they go in the world.