Deaf Travel15th December 2015

Deaf Friendly Barbados Ensures Repeat Visits

A beautiful island with charming people, the island has much to offer deaf travellers

by Raymond Lee, Deaf Traveller

Barbados is the most easterly of all Caribbean islands and because of that it tends to miss the chaotic seasons of storms and hurricanes. My wife and I have just completed our 6th holiday in Barbados, and we are planning for our 7th trip to this beautiful island in November 2016 when it will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of independence on 30 November.

While the majority of the Caribbean islands tend to lean towards being Americanized, or “Yankeed” as some would quip, Barbados retains its Britishness, even to the point of including afternoon tea as a part of hotel catering packages. Our first two visits were on an all-inclusive package holiday, but when we got to know the country and the people better, we chose apartment holidays and this gives us the time and freedom to travel around in a hired car. Such liberty enables us to immerse ourselves in the Bajan way of life and culture; the people are warm, wonderfully helpful and very friendly to deaf people. Every other Bajan (as the people of Barbados are known) we meet, seems to have a deaf cousin! We observe from our regular visits that the Bajans tend to pay more attention when communicating with the Deaf, unlike the British who tend to say “Sorry” and then back off. Everywhere we go, be it on the beach, in the remote countryside or in pubs and restaurants, we have yet to meet a single Bajan who did not make an effort to communicate with us. They are simply wonderful people. Also, unlike most other Caribbean countries, Barbados is very safe to walk about at night time.

The climate is almost constant throughout the year and it is tropical - hot and wet. Even when a heavy downpour suddenly soaks everyone by surprise, it usually last for about 5 minutes and that is it. And one becomes very dry within 10 minutes! Temperatures sizzle around the 30°C mark and the midday sun can be blisteringly hot. Beaches are beautiful and the sands white. The sea is azure blue and very clear. The waters are warm to swim in, even on a cloudy day.

Holidaying in Barbados gives one a choice of varying one’s situation –  time on the beach, strolling in the forest, lounging by the poolside, admiring the botanical gardens and town visits, all of which are much more interesting than any European resorts. Attractions are in abundance and varied: there are sunset cruises, party ships, snorkelling trips, swimming with turtles and beach games. More than that, one can go on island safari tours to various parts of Barbados, which is only 21 miles long and 14 miles wide. Museums, Plantation Houses, Tropical Gardens, Wildlife Reservation where the Barbadian Green Monkey interact with visitors and roam freely in groups and other numerous places of interest never let the tourists down and they are always well worth the visit.

Car hire is expensive in Barbados, but for the keen tourist it is essential to explore the island at one’s own pace and leisure. Using a car can take one to some unreachable and hidden places high on the hills of central Barbados. However, roads are not like that of Britain. Potholes and cracks in the road are common features in the interior of the island, and for that reason it is not recommended that one hires a small car. Not all roads are well signposted, especially when one encounters a T-junction or a fork. Wrong turnings are quite common and this leads to one straying out of the way of the planned destination. However, as my wife also agrees, getting lost in Barbados is a part of the fun! A good tip to those who are lost is to look for bus stop signs and follow them. There are two signs; “Out of City” and “Into City”, where one can follow the road to civilisation!

Another advantage of visiting Barbados is its proximity to other islands. For the adventurous tourists like us, visiting other islands can be arranged with local travel agencies. On our most recent trip, we visited St Vincent and Bequia. We arranged a 3-day, 2-night trip, staying at Cobblestone Hotel in St Vincent and took in a tour of St Vincent along with a ferry and tour of the beautiful island of Bequia. The flight from Barbados to St Vincent was only 30 minutes each way! Before that, we had a similar 3-day, 2-night visit to St Lucia which was only 40 minutes away from Barbados by air. Other nearby islands such as Antigua, Grenada, Tobago and Trinidad are easily reached and we shall be making these trips on our next visit to Barbados.

We fly with British Airways – chosen because of its reliability and great service and attention to the Deaf. Once the fare has been paid for the flight to Barbados, Deaf passengers are given free seat reservations and they choose where they want to sit. This is done online. Flying from Gatwick with BA, one can use early check-in and drop off their luggage 24 hours before flying. That way, one misses the long queues at the check-in the following day and you can go straight to security. Deaf passengers also get priority boarding no matter the ticket class status.

Is Barbados a good holiday destination for Deaf tourists? The answer is a resounding YES. It is highly recommended, but our advice is - do not get stuck with an all-inclusive package, lest one will miss out experiencing all that the island can offer. The magic that Barbados holds on my wife and I which makes us visit it regularly is its charm, and we both agree that that charm is the people of Barbados. Wherever one walks, a passing Bajan will greet you with a smile and “Good morning” or “Good afternoon.” On occasions such as New Year’s Day or Christmas Day, they will bid you “Happy New Year” or “Happy Christmas.” And they say that in a most endearing and charming way – and if only Britain had such people, it would be a better country.

Article by Raymond Lee, Deaf Traveller

posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Deaf Travel

15th December 2015