Barbados is quickly becoming a hotspot for digital nomads with a new remote work visa, fast Wi-Fi, and Caribbean island weather.
I've been living in Barbados for the last three months as a digital nomad. I was looking for a safe place to escape the lockdowns and winter season in Canada and had a friend living in Barbados who raved about the nightlife, golden beaches, and general atmosphere. Tropical island dreams easily persuaded me to book a one-way ticket from Toronto to Bridgetown.
QUICK SUMMARY- Cost of Living In Barbados
I never expected to work remotely on a Caribbean island, but Barbados quickly became one of my favorite countries. It's easy to make friends, stay active, and enjoy a high standard of living for a reasonable cost. Not to mention the gorgeous weather and beaches! Before coming here, I lived in Toronto, where the cost of living is about 25% lower.
The local currency is the Bajan Dollar (BBD), although US Dollar (USD) is widely accepted. At the time of this writing, the exchange rate is 1 USD to 2 BBD, and 1 BBD converts to 0.42 Euros.
What Is The Cost Of Living In Barbados?
Rent a catamaran with a group of friends for 140 BBD/70 USD per person.
|Total Monthly Expense||$2497|
|COST PER MONTH|
|Rent- Furnished one-bedroom apartment south coast||1050|
|Water/Sewer/Management/Electricity/High Speed Internet||INCLUDED|
|Maid Service 1 time per Week||INCLUDED|
|Cell Phone- 7 GB Internet Per Month||35|
|Total Housing Expense||1085|
|Home Cooked Meals 15 times per week||325|
|Budget Meal- Roti 2 times per Week||57|
|Beachside Takeout 2 times per Week||109|
|Mid-Priced Restaurant 4 times per Week||152|
|Total Food Expense||642|
|Yoga 2 times per Week||109|
|Water Sports (surfing, diving, excursions)||200|
|Night Out Drinks With Friends- 5 times per Week||252|
|Bus - Everyday||150|
|Total Transportation Expense||150|
|Travel Health Insurance||40|
|Health Care Expense||40|
|Personal Care (Shampoo, etc.) & Household Items (Soap, etc.)||20|
|Total Personal Care and Misc Expense||20|
|Exchange Rate to $1 USD to Bajan Dollar (BBD)||2.0|
My Budget In The Wealthiest Country In The Caribbean
My living costs in Barbados is cheaper than I thought it would be. While it's known for its high-end luxury beach resorts, there are plenty of ways to visit Barbados on a budget - especially if you stay long term.
Although I came here as a solo traveler, I quickly made friends and have a very active social life. I go out with my friends almost every night, whether it's out for dinner at a restaurant or a bar for live music. I eat out 4-6 times a week.
I spend most of my time by the water, whether that's swimming, snorkeling, diving, surfing, or just relaxing by the beach. I often go on day trips with my friends around the island, but you can drive the whole thing in about 3 hours, so overnight stays aren't common!
On average, I spend 5000 BBD/2500 USD per month living here in a one-bedroom apartment, enjoying a very active social life. There are people I know who spend that on housing costs alone, but if you don't need to live in a private villa, it's easy to keep costs low.
HOW DOES COST OF LIVING IN LIVING IN BARBADOS COMPARE TO OTHER CITIES?
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What Kind of Lifestyle Can I Afford On $2500 Per Month?
Caribbean countries do not have the low-cost reputation of the Philippines, Vietnam, or Mexico. Expats are unlikely to be drawn to the cost of living in Barbados. But the quality of life in this island paradise is worth the trade-off.
Check out the cost of living comparison of this island nation to a medium-cost city (Portland) in the US. Even living on an "expensive" Caribbean island, you still find several geoarbitrage opportunities.
The Top 4 essential living expenses in the US are housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. These 4 expenses make up 68% of the average costs in larger cities.
Total Average Per Month
Save 22% on Major Monthly Expenses
Quality of Life On An Island Country
Expat life in Barbados has so many possibilities. Most digital nomads work during the weekday mornings into the early afternoon. Co-working is popular. There are several beautiful beachfront cafes and restaurants where you can set up your office and enjoy the sunshine.
One of the best parts about Barbados is how easy it is to live an active lifestyle here. The best waves in the Caribbean draw a massive surf community here. If you've got a flexible schedule, you can incorporate a couple of hours of surf into your workday every day! Yoga is another popular activity here, with group classes for all levels happening regularly. To enhance your zen, you can attend classes by the beach overlooking the ocean waves.
Always make time to watch the magnificent sunsets in Barbados at the end of the day. Happy hour drink specials are a tradition, and most nomads meet up after the workday to enjoy a drink while the sun goes down. Even on weekdays, there is usually live music happening at one of the bars. Weekends are even busier on the island, with multiple events at the various bars and nightclubs around the island.
You can join tons of group activities, whether it's a hiking group, a dive club, or a cricket game. Beach clubs are a popular place to spend the weekend, and many people rent out catamarans to spend the day on the turquoise water!
Barbados is a small island, so you will quickly get to know the other foreigners living here as well as the locals. After a few weeks, you'll start to run into people you know, making Barbados quickly feel like home.
What are Rental Prices Like In Barbados?
I live in a one-bedroom apartment in Oistins, a popular neighborhood on the south coast of Barbados. It's a suite under a house with a solarium, a small kitchen, a bedroom with a king-sized bed, and a massive bathroom with double sinks. It's on a quiet cul-de-sac about 5 minutes from the main road where I can get the bus anywhere, and 15 minutes to Dover beach. It's fully furnished and comes with all utilities included as well as a weekly cleaning service. My rent is 2100 BBD/1,050 USD.
What Is The Best Area To Live For Expats?
Oistins is one of the best areas to live for expats looking for nightlife. The town, located on the south coast of the country, is home to beautiful beaches, surfable waves, and a lively bar and restaurant scene.
Other popular neighborhoods to live on the south coast are Worthing, Silver Sands, and Hastings. The price range for a one-bedroom apartment on the south coast is between 1600-3200 BBD/800-1600 USD per month.
The west coast is another popular area to live, but has the highest cost housing, and fewest nightlife options. However, the stunning beaches and luxury villas, Holetown and Speightstown, are hard to beat.
Hardcore surfers swear the best surf in Barbados is on the more isolated east coast of the country. The quiet town of Bathsheba attracts wave hunters or retirees looking for a slower pace of life. The landscapes and views are stunning on the east coast, but you'll need a car to escape the seclusion.
Best Way To Find Housing
I found my apartment by posting in a Barbados Expat Facebook group. There are also specific housing groups on Facebook you can browse. Many people first find their apartment on Airbnb, then negotiate with the owner directly for a decent cost reduction. You can also join Whatsapp groups where expats and digital nomads sometimes post if they are looking for roommates or subletters.
INSIDER TIP : You can save a lot of money on accommodation if you are renting longer-term, especially if you are willing to sign a lease. Due to Covid-19, many people I know have been getting great deals on luxurious accommodations.
What Is The Cost of Food In Barbados?
The Caribbean sea provides a daily supply of fresh eats to grill. Photo Credit
My monthly costs for food runs about 400 BBD/700 USD living in Barbados. I eat at least three meals a day and often snack in-between! I'm a pescatarian and eat out 4-6 times a week. I usually make breakfast and lunch at home but often eat out while working in cafes or going out to dinner with friends.
Food prices when eating out varies a lot depending on where you go. You can get a delicious roti for a budget meal for just 13 BBD/6.50 USD at De Roti Shop. A basic meal from an inexpensive restaurant by the beach will cost you 20-30 BBD/10-15 USD. Oistins fish fry is one of the most popular places to eat out, especially on Fridays, so you can expect to pay 30-40 BBD/15-20 USD.
For a meal at a mid-range restaurant by the beach, you'll pay 40-50 BBD/20-25 USD. There are some very high-end restaurants in Barbados, but I generally avoid high-priced meals. My most expensive meal was a 3-course special for 160 BBD/80 USD.
Barbados imports a lot of its food and has high import taxes, so you have to be very careful and look at the food prices when you're grocery shopping. For example, imported ice cream might be 10 BBD/20 USD, while a local supermarket brand might be 10 BBD/5 USD!
You can find reasonable prices for locally grown fruit and veggies shopping at a local market. A local bag of lettuce will only set you back about 2 BBD/1 USD. A week's worth of groceries for myself is about 150 BBD/75 USD.
What Is Your Monthly Entertainment Budget?
Entertainment and Sports
My total entertainment budget per month is 1120 BBD/560 USD, but I have a very active social life.
What Does Transportation Cost?
Buses pass roughly every 5 minutes and cost $1.75 Photo Credit
Barbados is walkable, but high temperatures and limited sidewalks mean that at some point, you'll probably opt for another form of transport.
I get around the south coast of Barbados by walking or taking public busses. The busses only cost 3.50 BBD/1.75 USD per ride and pass by every 5 minutes on the main road where most businesses are. There are also larger busses that go to the west coast that cost the same. I often catch rides with friends who have cars. Because so many expats and digital nomads live near each other, carpooling is very common.
If I were to rent a car, it would add a lot to my budget. Many of my friends rent cars and say it is about 1100 BBD/550 USD per month. Some days, I rent a car for 100 BBD/50 USD per day to explore around the island. Parking is free almost everywhere on the island. Gas is around 3.50 BBD/1.75 USD per liter but lasts a long time as the distances are short.
Barbados does not have Uber or Grab, but taxis commonplace. I've only gotten a taxi a handful of times which cost around 40 BBD/20 USD for a 15-minute ride. Since I rely on public transport and don't rent a car, my transportation budget is only about 300 BBD/150 USD a month.
The Grantley Adams International airport, also known as Bridgetown Airport (BGI), has non-stop flights to 14 countries for traveling abroad.
Other Miscellaneous Costs
Since roaming is so expensive using a Canadian SIM, I purchased a local one for 20 BBD/10 USD. I top it up with a monthly 7GB plan for 70 BBD/35 USD.
Cleaning maids are relatively common and affordable in Barbados. My apartment rent includes the price of one weekly cleaning.
It's common for groups of friends to rent out villas and split the cost between them, making them affordable. The villas here are often luxurious and come with outdoor pools and hot tubs. I have friends who are sharing a gorgeous villa for just 2200 BBD /1100 USD each.
Massages, spa services, and similar luxuries cost the same as the US.
INSIDER TIP : Customs, Duties, and Import Taxes- Barbados has very high import taxes on most things, especially electronic items, and cars. If you were to buy a new iPhone and send it here, you would pay almost the same in import fees as the phone cost! I recommend buying everything you need before moving to the country and avoid importing things.
Important Information About Moving To Barbados
Living In Barbados
While relatively new, the digital nomad community in Barbados is strong and growing every day. If you are new to the island, you can join several Facebook groups and WhatsApp groups to find out what's going on. The Bajan Nomad Social group also runs regular meetups.
Another great way to meet people is through outdoor activities - I made my first few friends during a surf lesson. Connecting with locals is easy as Bajans are so friendly. Just head to the beach or a bar, and I'm sure you'll find someone to talk to - everyone is very laid-back in Barbados!
Barbados has a wet and dry season, which coincides with the low and high seasons for tourists. Most visitors book their holidays in the cool, drier months that run from December to May – so this when prices for accommodation and flights will be highest. If you can visit during the low-season from May to October, you'll find much better deals.
As a retirement destination, 3-6 months is ideal for Barbados to save money. You won't have to worry about paying for the welcome stamp but can enjoy discounts on accommodation by signing a longer-term lease vs. paying month-to-month.
Managing Health Care in Barbados
Although universal healthcare is free to residents here, it's expensive for foreigners. Expats should purchase private health insurance to cover emergency medical care and private hospital visits. I caught dengue fever and had to have a home doctor come to see me several times, which cost almost 2000 BBD/1000 USD in total! Thankfully I had travel health insurance coverage to reimburse me. I use SafetyWing, which is an insurance provider for digital nomads that works on a subscription basis. It costs 80 BBD/40 USD a month.
Will I Have To Pay Taxes Living In Barbados?
If you are considered both resident and domiciled in Barbados, the country taxes your worldwide income. Barbados may consider you a tax resident if:
- You stay in Barbados more than 182 days in a calendar year or
- If you have permanent accommodation in the country and let the Revenue Commissioner know of your intent to live in Barbados for at least two consecutive years.
Domicile is a question of intent, and long-term residence does not necessarily determine domicile.
Personal income tax rates are between 12.5% and 28.5%.
Barbados has no capital gains tax.
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What Is Not Included In The Monthly Budget? Taxes!
Barbados has a double taxation treaty with the US. To understand how to minimize your expat tax liability, speak with a tax accountant for details. Nomadic FIRE has partnered with Expat Tax Specialists offering a FREE 30-minute consultation.
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What Are The Visa Requirements For Barbados?
Citizens from Caribbean countries (CARICOM), the UK, Canadians, and the United States can stay in Barbados for six months on a regular tourist visa for no fee (you will have to extend at the immigration office after 3-months).
Visitors from other countries can check the visa requirements here.
If you want to stay longer in Barbados than a regular tourist visa allows, you can apply for the 'Barbados Welcome Stamp.' Remote workers with incomes over $50,000 per year can apply for the welcome stamp, colloquially dubbed the Digital Nomad Visa, to live and work on the island for up 12 months.
The Barbados Welcome Stamp has a simplified application that does not need an immigration attorney to submit. The visa costs 4,000 BBD/2,000 USD for a single person or 6,000 BBD/3,000 USD for families and takes less than 10 minutes to apply on the website. Your visa application starts processing in 48 hours, and you should hear a decision in roughly five business days.
EDITOR'S NOTE : Special Entry and Reside Permit (SERP) - Barbados is not just for digital nomads. Retirees have options to become potential residents, as well.
Passive Income Program- Early Retirees over 50 years old who purchase real estate in the country worth at least $150,000 and have "sufficient means" to support themselves can apply for Immigrant Status. Sufficient means does not have a published amount, but you need to prove you will not need government aid.
Investment Program- If you can invest at least $2,000,000 into the country
High Net Worth Program- If you have a net worth over $5,000,000, first, we need to become friends; second, you qualify for a lifetime permit for Barbados.
My net worth is only short by about four million, so the passive income program seems a little more doable for me. Anyone else interested in the programs should contact the Barbados Immigration Department for details. Immigration administers the Special Entry and Reside Program, while Invest Barbados can guide you through the application process.
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Final Thoughts: Living in Barbados
I absolutely love island life in Barbados. There was an immediate improvement in my mental health and quality of life moving here.
Living in a tropical paradise, meeting like-minded people, and being outdoors in the sunshine every day will make anyone happier.
And overall, the cost of living is cheaper than I ever expected it to be living in the Caribbean. The only thing I'd do differently is getting here sooner!
I have traveled to over 40 countries to give you the best ways to save, invest, and live overseas for less cost than in the US. After five years of traveling, my list of places to live keeps getting longer. To give you more information on the best places to live abroad, I partner with experts from the expat community.
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EXPAT CONTRIBUTION BY: Lora
Lora is a solo female adventure travel blogger living nomadically around the world. Raised on a rock in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, she has a deep love for nature and wildlife. Lora has traveled to over 58 countries and is on a quest to visit them all, seeking out the best adventures each one has to offer. For more outdoor adventure travel inspiration, visit her blog at Explore with Lora.