Barbados Expat Cost of Living – that will be the topic of today’s article.
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Barbados is an island country located in the Caribbean. Like many island countries in the Caribbean, it is known for its golden and white-sanded beaches, rich culture, exotic tropical beauty, and curious national treasures. Barbados was a British colony until she gained her independence in 1966.
For this reason, much of Barbados’ culture and customs mirror that of Britain than any of the African or Afro-European cultures present in the country. This cultural blend contributes to why Barbados remains one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the Caribbean.
But for the expat who wishes to spend a lot more time than a regular tourist, it becomes necessary to know just how much a high-quality life in Barbados would cost. Barbados is unarguably one of the most expensive places to live in the world, but this is all for a good reason.
Even though different reports on Barbados’ cost of living conflict, there is a standard range these costs fall into, and this article will give you an idea of what to expect as an expat living in Barbados. Does that sound interesting? If you answered YES, read further to know what we have unleashed for you.
As a British citizen, you do not need a visa to enter Barbados. This doesn’t mean you can stay for a long time without a visa. If you plan to stay for longer than the specified period granted you on your entry, you’ll need to apply for an extension at the Barbados Immigration Department at a specific cost. But 180 days is the longest time permissible.
If you’re a foreigner (Americans and Canadians included), you need to get an entry visa to be able to enter Barbados. Some of these visas are valid for up to six months, after which you would either apply for an extension or apply to be a legal resident.
A single entry visitor visa costs $104, while a multiple entry visitor visas cost $208. With a single entry visa, you can only enter the country once and would need a new visa to return once you leave its shores. Still, with a multiple entry visa, you can enter and leave as frequently as you’d like, with every visit limited to a certain number of days. Your visa would take at least two weeks to be processed.
If you’re worth at least $5 million or you’re a retiree who owns property in Barbados, you can simply apply for a Special Entry Permit that gives you legal residency for 10 years (if you’re below 60) or indefinitely (if you’re above 60). To apply, visit the Barbados Consulate or Embassy closest to you and get the process started.
Barbados offers a wide array of affordable and luxury housing options for expats, foreigners, and whoever’s interested. The real estate scene in Barbados features residential homes, condos, townhouses, luxury apartments, properties on the beachfront, retirement homes, houses in gated communities, tiny apartments, villas, etc.
The cost of renting or buying a house in Barbados depends largely on which area you decide to live in. Barbados real estate is spread across three coasts; the East Coast, West Coast, and the South Coast. Housing prices along these parts depend on factors like their proximity to certain amenities.
The East Coast, for example, is where you’ll find a lot more affordable accommodation because it is far from the shopping malls, the stadium, etc. This part of the island is more rugged and wild and appeals to those with a knack for adventure. Some neighborhoods in that area are Bottom Bay, Long Bay, Ocean City, etc.
The South coast houses some of the nicest neighborhoods on the island, but even though they cost more than houses on the East coast, they are affordable. Living on the South coast is great if you have to travel a lot because it’s the coast closest to the airport. Some of the most popular areas on the South coast include Rockley, Worthing, Durants, Dover, Elizabeth Park, etc.
Now, the West Coast in Barbados is the pricey, luxurious side of the country. Its nickname -Platinum Coast- is befitting because there, you’ll find some of the most luxurious beach resorts, villas, and hotels. All of the good stuff is on this side of Barbados, which is why it’s so pricey. The areas on the West coast include Oistins, Port St. Charles, Heywoods, Sandy Lane, Bridgetown, Royal Westmoreland, etc.
The typical range for a rental property in Barbados can be as low as $1,000 and as high as $10,000 per month. Like we mentioned before, the price depends on 1) the area, 2) the size of the property you wish to rent, 3) the amenities you want access to, like a swimming pool, etc.
If buying a property outright is your plan, then you should know this. As a foreigner/non-resident, you have equal property rights with citizens of Barbados, but you need to get permission from the Exchange Control Authority before buying a property. The funds must also be transferred to the Central Bank of Barbados before you can buy the property.
The process can be very time-consuming and stressful, but with the help of a good real estate agent and lawyer, you can have it all settled in three months. Prices per square foot usually start from $1,000. Some houses cost as much as $3 million in Barbados, but of course, you can get a mortgage for 50-70% with a maximum of 15 years.
The resources needed to generate power do not come in handy on this island. Therefore, don’t be alarmed when you discover that the electricity bill is higher than what you are used to. The Barbados Light and Power Company power the properties on the island, and you can even get an estimate of what your light bill would cost in certain areas before moving there.
You can also install solar panels to power your home like many households in Barbados already do. Water is, of course, supplied by the Barbados Water Authority. Although the water is treated to be suitable for drinking, many expats prefer to drink bottled water.
The National Petroleum Corporation will also supply natural gas. At the end of the month, the total of these bills would range between $100 – $130. Your internet, cable, and mobile telephone services would cost around $25.
Unlike most places, food can get very expensive in Barbados, even when you want to stick to homemade dishes. This is because a good majority of the food items are imported from other countries, and upon their entry into Barbados, they are heavily taxed. A particular product you buy in the U.S. is usually almost three times its original price when it gets to Barbados.
Regardless, there are certain stores where you can buy food at lower prices. If there’s one thing Barbados has an abundance of, it’s the fish. So, if you enjoy eating fish, you can get them at low prices in a local fish market.
Because Barbados caters to thousands of tourists every year and food is one of the ways people like to experience new places, eating out can get very expensive. Restaurants in the city’s center and those that cater to main tourists sell costly food. Even fast food is expensive. Nevertheless, there are local restaurants that serve local cultural delicacies. Because they cater to a more localized audience, food can be bought at lower prices.
Barbados boasts of one of the best healthcare systems in the Caribbean. Despite its small population and high population density, the healthcare policies and provisions are on par with some of the best ones worldwide.
As an expat, your healthcare priority, once you move to Barbados, is to sign up for international health insurance. It does not matter how young or healthy you think you are; signing up will only do you good. Private healthcare can be costly, and if you do not have insurance, you might find yourself paying thousands of Barbados dollars for a mere migraine.
As research disclosed, 65% of the healthcare facilities belong to the public health sector while the remaining 35% are private. While the government has made public healthcare significantly cheaper than their private partners, it’ll still cost a ton.
If you suffer from a chronic illness, there is also a way you can save drug money when you’re in Barbados. The initiative is called the Barbados Drug Service, where those suffering from chronic illnesses are entitled to free medicine. Apart from the issues your health insurance can cover, a few minor health concerns that need urgent attention may surface.
For example, a regular cold medicine like Tylenol, coldrex, etc., can be gotten for 10%. 12 doses of antibiotics (a box) cost $16. A visit to a private doctor could cost you a few dollars too. Just get your health insurance, and you’ll be just great.
Leisure and Entertainment
Barbados is not one of the best tourist destinations in the world for only its beaches. There are so many recreational activities you could engage in that would keep you entertained and relaxed.
Barbados has a bustling nightlife and party scene. A lot of these parties and clubs are free to enter. Beer is one of the cheapest commodities in Barbados, so you’ll have plenty to drink (if you’re into that). If you want something a bit fancier and put together, you can go out on dinner dates.
While a regular night out in the local pub can cost you $20, dinner at an Italian, Chinese, or other high-end restaurant might cost you anything from $100 to $300. You can buy tickets to the movies too for nothing over $20.
If playing sports is your way of relaxing, this small island has you covered too. Barbados is called the sporting capital of the country because of the different activities you can engage in. You can go bowling, cycling, go-karting, horse riding, horse racing, hiking, walking, etc. You can team up with other expats or new friends to play golf, polo, tennis, and even rugby.
Watersports like body surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, paddleboarding, and many more are not left out. As a tourist, you might need to employ a guide to help you experience these things, but if you decide to stay for the long term, you can experience them at your own pace. Some of these activities come at zero cost, while certain others could cost you a few hundreds of dollars.
For more inexpensive enjoyment, you can go sightseeing, reveling in Bridgetown’s museums and enchanting botanical gardens. You will find several caves you can also explore on your own. Do note that even if you’re without a professional guide, you might still be charged a small entrance fee to access these places.
One thing you should keep in mind while spending on your entertainment is that you can find true relaxation by simply walking and letting the breeze wash over you. Unless it’s something that means something to you, there’s no need to splurge your budget on just the fun times.
If it’s not locally sourced, it is expensive. Like we mentioned earlier, most things are imported from outside the country, and the government places an insane amount of tax on it. If you’re coming from a place like the United States, it might be a bad idea to leave all your toiletries, makeup, accessories, clothes, and personal effects shopping till you get to Barbados. That would be a terrible move because although you’ll find the same quality of products here, they’ll be sold three to five times the original price.
A great tip for saving a considerable chunk of shopping money will be to bring everything you believe you’ll need into the country. Do not hesitate to pack bags filled with clothes, shoes, personal effects, and even toiletries when you’re relocating. You should only seek to replace these things when you run out.
Apart from buying things costlier than they should, some expats have also complained about not having the selection and availability opportunities they would typically have in other places. So, if there is something you really like back at home, bring it in its dozens to Barbados.
Since Barbados was colonized by the British, their education system followed the British model. For the expats still pursuing education, international schools are the best option because they make transitioning easy. Instruction and evaluation are also presented mainly in the English language.
Now, Barbados’ schools provide the highest quality of learning, but it comes at a very high cost. Even the local schools are considered expensive, but if it’s any consolation, the system is of the highest quality—tuition rates for elementary and secondary school range between $1,500 – $7,000 per term.
It might help you to know that Barbados is 98% literate.
Like most island countries, a car might be an unnecessary expense. It’s a small country, and unless you want to go on a ride somewhere far, you can walk anywhere. Many expats prefer to leave their cars parked in their homes while taking public buses to their destinations. Public transport will get you anywhere you need to go conveniently, in and out of the city center.
One trip usually costs under $2, regardless of the distance. Carpooling is also commonplace in the expat community because they live not too far from each other. So, if you need to be somewhere in the city, chances are there’s someone with a car going in that direction. If you cannot import your car from your home country or purchase a new one, you can rent a car.
Many tourists do this, but for an expat who plans on staying for a long time, it might not be feasible. Renting a car costs between $500 to $600 per month. You can also rent for one day if there’s somewhere essential you need to be, and it usually costs about $50 per day.
There are no e-hailing services in Barbados yet, but there are traditional cabs that would drive you anywhere you need to be for a fair price, usually starting from $20. If you don’t move around too much, you can spend a little over $150 every month on transportation. If you need to move a lot, you might want to consider investing in a four-wheeled vehicle.
As a single person living in a modest rented apartment in Barbados, you can live on $1,500.
Without paying rent, a family of four could conveniently live on $5,000 every month. On average, the cost of living in Barbados is 34% higher than that of the United States.
Many expats, especially retirees, move to Barbados, intending to live on their savings. Through smart budgeting, a lot of these retirees make it work. Some of them also receive their pensions from outside Barbados, and this is sufficient to live on.
There is another set of people who permanently reside in Barbados – they are called the digital nomad community. During the pandemic, the government of Barbados initiated a program designed to welcome remote workers from all over the world to live and work in Barbados for 12 months.
The Barbados Welcome Stamp visa opened the doors for a community of remote workers contributing to the economy. If you work remotely already, you can move your business to Barbados and continue to fund the lifestyle you can afford. If it interests you, you can pick up a few interests in Barbados that could quickly turn into side hustles and reduce the financial burden.
Barbados is ripe with investment opportunities. You can take advantage of this to grow your income and earn your keep. Tourism is a great money maker, and you can eat out of that pie if you know your way around it.
If you have any experience running a business, you can put that knowledge to work by starting a business. Look around your immediate community and find a problem that you could solve for people. Barbados is very supportive, and governmental policies are designed to favor small and local businesses. So, don’t hesitate to start something up.
Note: As a non-national, you cannot work in Barbados unless you have a work permit, and the Barbados Immigration Service grants these permits.
Living in Barbados on a Budget
Although life in Barbados can get very expensive, especially when you’re not earning enough to take good care of yourself and your household, there are a few ways you could cut back on some expenses and save some money. Here are some little tips and tricks to help you live that high-quality life on a budget.
You can save a lot of money (as much as $400) on your flight costs if you book them early. It can get costly if you wait till the last minute.
You might have to reinvent your palette, so it stops craving your homemade dishes and start adjusting to the local food in Barbados. Anything that has to be imported into Barbados will be expensive. To save money, eat more local food and cook them yourself too.
There is a lot of room to live a luxurious life in Barbados truly, but if you’re living on a budget (with no constant source of financial reprieve), then you’ll need to set your priorities right and choose practicality. This means choosing home-cooked food to eat out, taking public buses instead of renting a car every day or hiring a driver to take you around town, and so on.
For all the incredible beauty, entertainment, and wonder that living in Barbados has to offer; it is no wonder that the cost of living is above average. Overall, it’s a great move if you believe you can afford it. You’ll definitely get more than your money’s worth as soon as you see your quality of life improving.