In April 2021, we travelled as a digital nomad couple from the U.K to Barbados. In this article, I share all you need to know if you’re looking into heading to Barbados. And if you’re a digital nomad/ remote worker or aspiring to live the digital nomad lifestyle, read on.
Prior to heading to Barbados in the Carribean, we had considered other digital nomad programmes in the hope to find our next nest. However, things had not worked out. The pandemic doesn’t help in that regard either! In fact, it makes travel a bit trickier and even impossible to certain countries.
Our birth country (Mauritius) had recently extended its lockdown and thus, no flights there are available. It was on our list in the worst case scenario, for in case we don’t have anywhere else to go after our stay in England.
We’d already spent two of the U.K’s national lockdowns in England, and we knew it was time to move on. Fortunately, with the rise of remote work due to the current times, several options opened up. Great for us digital nomads constantly on the move!
Why Barbados is a great option for digital nomads
Barbados, located in the Caribbean region whose economy relies heavily on tourism had a massive blow to this significant economic activity when travel was limited to essential purposes. As a response, the Barbadian government launched a 12 month Welcome Stamp digital nomad scheme to attract a different demographic to the island.
It’s easy to see why. Digital nomads can be remote, location-independent, and do not need to work in the country to earn a living. They work mostly online. Having them over would boost the economy without taking any of the jobs from locals. Win-win-win situation.
For my husband and I – both digital nomads – Barbados is a great option in this Covid era. We had a considerable amount of cold weather and were ready for warmer shores! We were also keen to settle somewhere on a longer basis given the situation with Covid-19. Barbados therefore became super attractive for us.
We hail from a tropical island ourselves, and so we knew it wouldn’t be much of a culture shock. The sunshine, tropical fruits, friendly laidback people, and sandy beaches, we wanted that! Barbados being pro digital nomads was also encouraging at a time when travel has become restrictive and limited. We felt it would be a good base to ‘settle’ for a while. With their 12 month Welcome Stamp visa for digital nomads, this would make working remotely legal and official. Thus, avoiding any complications or unknown when it comes to taxes, and other things – such peace of mind!
U.K to Barbados – Getting There
This was the stressful bit because currently the ability to travel hinges on a negative Covid-19 PCR test and the Fit to Fly Certificate and many factors could ‘make or break’ our trip.
Naturally we had some questions. Is travel considered essential for us digital nomads? What if our PCR test results comes back positive, then will we be able to move our flight dates? Should we book the test first then wait for the results before we book our flights? If we do manage to fly, and we get our second PCR test and test positive, do we lose our accommodation money? What documentation is required. Is the PCR test painful?
If you have similar questions, welcome here.
We’ve recently completed our trip from England to Barbados (April 2021), and I’m happy to share everything we had to go through so you have an idea what to expect. I had searched for other vlogs or info prior to our trip but had to piece information bits together and do my own research. That’s why I’m compiling all of this here so that you can find all you need* in one place.
Travel requirements for Barbados – all you need to know
Documents and other things to prepare*
- Negative Covid-19 PCR Test – You need to have a valid negative Covid-19 PCR test to be eligible to travel. Book your flights, then calculate the day you need to do the PCR test. Make sure you check the refund or booking policy with the airline. Most of them are flexible these days. Your test needs to be by an accredited or certified laboratory (e.g UKAS ISO 15189). Self samples, rapid tests like nasal swaps or saliva, or home test kits done by yourself will be considered invalid – your sample needs to be taken by a trained health practitioner. This will need to be a nasopharyngeal swab (nose and throat – we had the health practitioner take samples from both nostrils, and at the back of throat).
- Flight tickets – Virgin Atlantic and British Airways both fly to Barbados from London. We opted for Virgin Atlantic for their choice of hot meals after we learned that BA had limited meals (sandwiches & biscuits) due to covid. We’ve previously experienced this type of meal from our flight on BA from Albania to London and weren’t keen for a repeat. If you’re on the Welcome Stamp visa, you won’t need to show proof of onward travel, just your electronic visa.
- Declaration of International Travel – it’s a document where you specify a legally permitted reason to travel. (At the time of writing this post, under current lockdown restrictions, residents of the U.K are only allowed to travel for legally permitted reasons).
- PCR test results – this is a document issued from the laboratory that tested your sample that show your results. You’ll need to submit the test results electronically to the Barbados government website (see further down).
- Fit to Fly Certificate – it’s a recognised document that states that you’re fit to travel after obtaining the test results for your negative PCR-test results. It’s only related to being fit to fly during Covid, not for any other purposes (e.g related to disability, injury etc). You’ll need to submit this electronically to the Barbados government website (see further down).
- (If non-U.K resident) Exceptional Assurance Letter confirmation from Home Office – this is only if you’re a foreigner who resided in the U.K. In our case, we are Mauritian citizens who got stranded there during the U.K lockdowns and therefore we had to apply for exceptional assurance from Home Office.
- Travel Insurance for Covid – you will need to prove that you have travel insurance cover for Covid. This is important in the event you contract the virus and need healthcare. We use this one and highly recommend it as it covers Covid: Safetywing. Try the calculator below for a quick quote.
Between 72 hours to 24 hours prior to travel*
- Immigration and Customs form – fill this online by heading to this website. You’ll be asked to upload your PCR test results in JPEG (image format). Fill in the other details on that form, that part is self explanatory and related to your personal details.
- Receipts from Immigration and Customs Form – once you’ve filled in that form, you’ll receive receipts with QR codes + travel codes which you need to print or save to your mobile device. We filled in only one form as a married couple.
- Download and install the BIMSafe app on your mobile phone. This is mandatory and has been recently introduced in Feb 2021 for monitoring and tracking each visitor.
- Travel codes – head to the BIMSafe app, click on Menu > My Account > Travellers > Add Traveller. Do that for every traveller – if you have a spouse or other dependent.
Other things you may wish to bring*
- A digital thermometer – you’ll be required to record your temperature twice daily during quarantine.
- Universal travel adaptor – here’s the one we use. We ensured to have all of our gear, and anything we need knowing we’d not be able to leave our rooms. It made sense for us to get what we need from the U.K rather than in Barbados as 1) we’re not familiar with the shops there 2) we aren’t sure if we’d get what we wanted at a reasonable price, seeing that most goods are imported and custom duties can be quite high.
Arriving at Bridgetown, Barbados
At the airport in Barbados*
I was prepared psychologically and physically to go through a long wait, and braced myself for the numerous health checks. I had even readied myself mentally to endure a rapid antigen blood test, which I’d heard from another traveller but wasn’t asked to do.
Quarantine/ Monitoring Consent Form – a declaration issued by the Barbados Ministry of Health and Wellness. Before we got off the plane, a flight attendant handed us a form which was for consent to quarantine. We filled that in, and waited to show this to the officials once we were inside Grantley Adams International Airport.
Here’s what happened when we disembarked the plane:
Upon landing, there was an airport shuttle bus waiting for the passengers of our flight. It took us on a less than 1 minute trip from the tarmac to just outside the airport arrival terminal. There we were met by an Airport Concierge who tied a red bracelet (red for travellers from high-risk countries) to our left wrist and asked us to line up in a single file. So I had to stand behind my husband even if we were together. I suppose it was because it made it easier for them to spot if each passenger has a wristband bracelet?
Personally, the way they handled this I thought it was a lovely touch – the bracelet read: ” Welcome to Barbados, stay safe at your hotel“.
We had our valid negative Covid-19 PCR test results and certificate to present to the first health screening. Then we were required to have our temperature scanned upon entering the airport premises.
The next person we met for another screening scanned our QR code from our BIMSafe app and added some information to our profile.
We were then given a BIMSafe state-of-the-art electronic bracelet with a tracker. It’s waterproof and tamper resistant, and can be measured to fit any wrist sizes. Even with my small wrist, it fit well and it’s light enough that it isn’t much of an inconvenience. This helps to monitor and track our location and is mandatory as of Feb 2021 for anyone visiting Barbados.
The officials linked our BIMSafe bracelet to the app and instructed us to monitor and capture our temperature twice daily during specific time brackets.
Once we were done with the screenings, we reached the Immigrations Office where we were asked for our Welcome Stamp electronic visa.
There was another check after this where we had our QR code scanned.
Another person from the Ministry of Health and Wellness then met us to ask for our Health Check Monitoring Form (the one we were given in the plane). After that, we proceeded to another counter where we were provided more details and instructions about our mandatory quarantine and how to take & record our temperature each day.
The quarantine can be done at approved villas or hotels as appointed by the government of Barbados. You can browse through the list here.
We are currently in quarantine at our resort of choice, and then we will undergo our second PCR test after 5 days of quarantine. Should the results be negative Covid-19, we will then be allowed to leave our room. I am so looking forward to enjoying freedom again, but in the meantime, we’re relishing the hospitality of the Bajans, and we’re in love with the local birds and sunrise from our balcony each morning.
Was it worth the trip and all of the documentation? A million times yes. Despite how stressful it has been to gather all this information and go through the steps, I do not regret travelling to Barbados and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
As goes the saying about Barbados, it’s not an island you visit once, but if you visit, you’ll feel compelled to visit again!
*Disclaimer: please note that the above is based on my personal experience as a digital nomad from our recent trip taken in April 2021 as Mauritian citizens flying from the U.K (where we’d been stranded during the lockdowns) to Barbados. The travel requirements are subject to change and therefore it is advisable that you treat this article merely for educational and informational purposes, and not as official travel guidelines. Do consult your embassy in your region or the travel requirements that are updated regularly on Barbados Travel Protocols or write them at travelprotocols (at) visitbarbados (dot) org. [email address written as such to prevent spam and bots].