Driving in Barbados

We rented a car in Barbados for the first time the other week. I haven’t driven on the left side of the road since about 35 years ago, on a trip to England! Scott has only driven in the States.

It’s not that the steering wheel is on the other side— it’s that the wipers go on every time you try to signal!

We survived, but there are definitely unique challenges to driving here! We travelled to the Eco Lodge on the west coast— 28 km by the map, but it took us over an hour to get there.

I found the following on Facebook and it was too good not to share— although all my previous posts have been my original writing, after reading this I would likely have plagiarized it, unwittingly! So here is the original, somewhat shortened. I would give credit to the author, a local rally driver, I hear, but have been unable to find out his name.

This is the main road on the East Coast

“The following is an advisory on Barbadian drivers and driving habits to assist our visitors who come from First World countries where roads and motor vehicles are used as designed and intended.

“As a general overview, it is important to understand that many of our road users have no particular place to go nor any particular time to get there… At all times understand that your road purpose is of no consequence to other road users in Barbados so expect no consideration.

  1. Rentals: these are specifically marked with a white reg. plate and blue sign-writing with an ‘H’ prefix. In many cases, visitors have come from automotive cultures and would be familiar with RHD vehicles but sometimes they will be Yanks. You’ll usually know this within thirty seconds of your encounter based on vehicle behavior and can react appropriately by overtaking and avoiding. Tip: Yanks and Canucks usually make their wimminfolk drive so if you see an adult male in the passenger seat and a woman driving, assume the worst.
  2. Indicators: most Bajans consider these an unnecessary automotive accessory. Do not expect the courtesy. If you see a Bajan car with a flashing indicator, assume the driver accidentally engaged it.
  3. Roundabouts: The Barbados gov’t adopted this very effective traffic management system decades ago; and then promptly decided it didn’t work well enough in its original form so modified it for stupid people. You will find that the universally-accepted system of choosing your entry lane based on your intended exit lane does not apply here. Bajan drivers will use the left lanes for right exits, change lanes on roundabouts and cross over lanes to effect their exit. Also expect drivers to stop at the entrance to a roundabout like at a junction, even in the absence of no oncoming traffic. They might also set off into the roundabout and then stop. Honestly.
  4. Stops: again, rely on your telepathic powers to avoid cars which stop suddenly in the road for no apparent reason. Neither should you expect them to pull over to the side of the road. Instead, imagine them hitting an invisible wall.
  5. Overtaking: Bajans are not very adept at executing this simple driving practice. Consequently you will experience long queues of traffic held up by slow-moving obstacles as simple as a cyclist or domestic animal. You might think; ‘maybe they see an impediment I can’t?’. Some self-doubt regarding overtaking opportunities might creep into your mind but I assure you, just get on with it.
  6. Slow lane / fast lane: there is no lane discipline on the few sections of multi-lane road in Barbados. Consequently you can expect: undertaking, cars driving next to each other impeding the progress of long queues of traffic, commercial vehicles in the right lane and everything else you might imagine in a post-apocalyptic world without rules or regulation.
  7. Minibusses: specifically white ones with maroon stripes operated for national transport. They are supposed to stop only at bus stops but, in fact, will stop anywhere to pick up passengers, including on roundabouts (I shit you not).
  8. Rear-view mirrors: in this regard, Bajans have adopted a strict Rastafarian doctrine; ‘Forward ever, backward never!’ Interior rear-view mirrors are often used to suspend various driving impediments but rarely used for spatial awareness and never for reversing.
  9. Horns: ‘Taking a horn’ in Barbados has non-automotive connotations, however car horns here are used for various social reasons like getting the attention of familiar pedestrian or automotive road users or may signal some other instantaneous glee. In very few cases are they used to signal alarm to other road users and should be ignored by visitors. Feel free to use yours for no good reason, however.
  10. Rain: Imagine you are on an African Safari Tour, in an open vehicle enjoying the surrounding wildlife, when a full-grown lion leaps into the vehicle and starts chewing off the head of the person sitting in front of you. The panic, paralysis and defecation you would experience is what Bajan drivers suffer when it rains. If there is any time Bajans will use their hazard lights, this is it! But they will engage the hazard lights while they are still in motion, albeit not much motion. Do not, however expect them to use their driving lights. 1 – 6 of the above practices will be multiplied by ten. There is not much you can do about it except turn up your radio very loud and cry.
The rain is easing up…

“Best of luck to you all!”

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