The population of Barbados is around 281,200 (2021).


English is the official language of Barbados and used for communications, administration and public services. The majority of the population also speak Bajan, an English-based creole, which is heavily influenced by West Africa.


Barbados’ population is predominantly black (92.4%) or mixed (3.1%), while 2.7% of the population is white and 1.3% South Asian. The remainder of the population includes East Asians and Middle Easterners.


Christianity is the dominant religion in Barbados, with 95% of the population practicing the religion. Other religions include Anglican, Protestant, Jehovah’s Witness, Hinduism, Judaism and Baha'i.

National Holiday

Barbados’ National Day is November 30th, which is a public holiday to celebrate and commemorate the island’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1966.

Holiday Calendar

1st January: New Year's Day  

21st January: Errol Barrow Day

Friday before Easter Sunday: Good Friday

Monday after Easter Sunday: Easter Monday 

28th April: National Heroes’ Day  

1st May: Labour Day

29th May: Whit Monday

1st August: Emancipation Day

7th August: Kadooment Day

30th November: Independence Day

25th December: Christmas Day 

26th December: Boxing Day


Artefacts and evidence indicate settlement on Barbados as early as 1623 BC. The first indigenous people to arrive on the island were Amerindians from Venezuela in around 500 AD, who paddled along the narrow sea channel that connects the country to the Caribbean. These Arawak settlers named the island Ichirouganaim and were agricultural people, growing cotton, cassava, corn, peanuts, guava and papayas. In 1200, the Arawaks were conquered by the Caribs, before the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century and named the island Barbados (Bearded Ones), either for the bearded fig trees or bearded men. Frequent slave-raiding missions by the Spanish Empire during this period led to a massive decline in the Amerindian population, and by the mid-16th century European explorers had largely abandoned their claims to Barbados.

The first English ship reached the island in 1625 and England was the first European nation to form a lasting settlement here from 1627, when a ship landed with 80 Englishmen and 10 Africans onboard. The colony quickly grew to become the third major English settlement in the Americas, thanks to its prime eastern location. This early period of settlement was defined by struggles in establishing a profitable crop to export, which ended in the 1640s when the Dutch enabled the colonists to begin producing sugar cane. The result of this was The Sugar Revolution, which had immense social and economic consequences for Barbados. While the elite were aiming to maximise profits with sugar production, this relied on large amounts of slave labour and increasing wealth brought consolidation of political power for a planter elite. Barbadian society became a plantocracy, with white planters controlling the economy and government institutions. A number of natural disasters also occurred during this period, including the locust plague of 1663, the Bridgetown fire and a major hurricane in 1667. Drought in 1668 ruined some sugar plantations, while excessive rain in 1669 caused financial problems due to ruined crops. Investment in sugar production continued, however by 1720, Barbados had been surpassed by the Leeward Islands and Jamaica as a major force within the sugar industry.

Slavery was abolished in 1834, however sugar remained a major export and elite planters were able to maintain their political power. By the 1930s, the social and political pressures from below had grown and the spread of socialist ideology, as well as the Black nationalist movement of the Jamaican leader Marcus Garvey, had created conditions for a labour revolt. In response, the British government dispatched the West Indies Royal Commission (Moyne Commission) in 1938, to report on social and economic conditions in the British West Indies. They endorsed some of the political and social reforms that were promoted by the leaders of the new mass organizations, particularly the full legalisation of trade unions and the extension of the political franchise. The introduction of these reforms during the 1940s provided a base for mass political organisations, which in turn were able to curtail the elite’s political power. Black political leaders gained ascendancy by 1944, universal adult suffrage was adopted in 1950 and full internal self-government was achieved in 1961.

Barbados gained independence from England on 30th November 1966, becoming a member of the Commonwealth. In 1968 Errol Barrow, who served as prime minister from 1966-76 and 1986-87, helped form the Caribbean Free Trade Association, which became the Caribbean Community and Common Market (Caricom) in 1973. Throughout the post-independence period, Barbados has had one of the most stable political systems in the English-speaking Caribbean. The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) led the country into independence and continued in office until 1976. Subsequently, in free and fair elections held at regular intervals, the DLP and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) have alternated in leading the government. In November 2021, Barbados became a republic, replacing the British Monarch as its head of state with the country’s newly elected president, Dame Sandra Mason.


The political system in Barbados is dominated by two main parties, the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party. The judiciary of Barbados is independent of the executive and the legislature. Jurisprudence is based on English common law.


The atmosphere of Barbados is generally laid-back, however the island has long-held Christian values and is highly religious, so be aware of dressing more modestly. Swimwear shouldn’t be worn away from the beach and it’s appropriate to cover when entering churches or eating at restaurants. In terms of tipping, a service charge of 10-15% is often added to the bill in restaurants but extra is appreciated if you are satisfied with your service.


Barbados offers some diverse shopping experiences, with everything from local craft markets to international designer brands. Bridgetown, the island’s capital, is home to a number of department stores and duty free shops, with the best selection found on Broad Street. For authentic souvenirs and artisan wares, head to Bridgetown’s Cheapside Market, or try Hastings Farmers Market for fresh fruit and veg.

Food & Drink

Barbados is passionate about good food and this is particularly seen during its annual Food and Rum festival, which celebrates all types of Bajan cuisine. In general, the flavours here represent a fusion of African, Portuguese, Indian, Irish, Creole, Indigenous and British influences. Fresh fish is a stand-out of many dishes, with tuna, swordfish, mahi-mahi and flying fish commonly found across the island. Other popular dishes include ‘pudding and souse’ (mashed sweet potatoes and pork), cutters (Caribbean salt bread, filled with crispy fish and served with pickles, salad, cheese and a fried egg) and jug jug (a casserole made from pork, beef, corn, onions and hot peppers). Wash all this down with some rum from the Mount Gay distillery, the oldest commercial rum distillery in the world.

Contact one of our Barbados specialists