Barbados Jazz Festival 2010

Jazz on the Hill, Barbados 2010They came; they saw; the place was packed. The final day of the 17th Barbados Jazz Festival, known also as the Jazz on the Hill, took place at Farley Hill National Park on Sunday, 17 January 2010. We arrived early and claimed seats a few rows back from the centre stage and it was just as well, as people kept on arriving all through the afternoon.

Due to start at 1 PM, things were up and running within half an hour. Local artist Alex M kicked off proceedings. Although perfectly acceptable, after an hour and a half of his warmup act, I was beginning to find him a bit dull.

Arturo Tappin works the crowd at the Barbados Jazz Festival 2010
Arturo Tappin works the crowd

After a short break it was on to local jazz artist Arturo Tappin. With his trademark hat and locks down to his knees he worked that saxophone, coming into the crowd for his penultimate number and leaving everyone entertained and uplifted. Next, he introduced Marisa Lindsay who belted out some songs with a power that could have used some restraint. That duo was popular with the crowd. Canada’s Warren Hill was next — we could have stood to hear a bit more of his smooth sax sounds.

And then, when it was dark, around 7:30 PM, came moment we had been waiting for — Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds was on stage. The crowd sang loudly, screamed his name and enjoyed a polished performance of just a few of the hundreds of songs he has written for himself and others. It was a fitting culmination to the event, and so mesmerising that people continued to stand in the rain at the end of the event to hear him sing (and this is very unusual in Barbados). It was a great day out.

Buying a car in Barbados

The e-mail exchange with the dealer in Barbados led me to a number of conclusions that meant the purchase of a car in the Caribbean was going to be very different to the purchase of a car in England.

The e-mail exchange with the dealer in Barbados led me to a number of conclusions that meant the purchase of a car in the Caribbean was going to be very different to the purchase of a car in England.

Firstly, I was used to people responding to e-mails either within the hour or at the very worst, within a day, preferably the same day. This dealer took eight days to reply to my e-mail so my immediate reaction was that they didn’t want my business. Only later did I find out that getting a reply by e-mail was in fact, a bonus. As we were living over 4000 miles away it was essential that anyone we dealt with had to be efficient with e-mail, but no doubt any discussion on the subject proposed a sensible question “if you’re buying something as expensive as a car, surely you’d want to deal direct with the dealer, in their showroom?”

Second, I later found out that while the island was relatively small the number of new car dealers was also small. Instead of a dealer for each brand, some dealers offer multiple brands. For example, the company I was dealing with, McEnearney at Wildey, offered Ford, Kia, Mazda, Daihatsu and Audi.

Third, I was learning to speak in a different language. I had asked about a car that was fully loaded. In England I would have asked what extras were included as almost everything comes as an optional extra. Fully loaded meant that it had everything you could want; you also didn’t get an option because the cars they brought into the country were all fully loaded.

I was also to find out on my first visit to the dealer that the bonnet is now called the hood, the boot was now called the trunk and instead of putting petrol into the car I now had to find a gas station.

Fourth, I had for some years been driving cars with automatic gearboxes. I found them easier to drive and to be honest it made for a lazier drive. Modern automatic gearboxes are excellent and behave just like a manual gearbox and you can drive without persistently needing to push up-and-down on the clutch pedal. In Barbados, like the United States, cars only came as an automatic, there was no option to purchase a manual gear box version.

The fifth learning curve was brought home to me again recently, when I inquired about updating the car we eventually did buy. I inquired about a model that didn’t appear in the dealer’s showroom. They told me it would take months perhaps over six months to get the model I wanted if they were to import it for me. What they really meant was that they wanted to sell me a car from thier stock because they would only import from time to time and they wouldn’t set up to import an individual car for me. They’d wait to put together a bigger order which would only occur when they sold most of the stock they currently have in the showroom. This means, of course, you rarely get a choice of color. The choice is down to take it or leave it.

Taking your own car to Barbados

I’d lived in England where the cost of buying a new car was always a very expensive venture, but I was to find the purchase of a new car in Barbados would prove to be way beyond expensive.

I’d lived in England where the cost of buying a new car was always a very expensive venture, but I was to find the purchase of a new car in Barbados would prove to be way beyond expensive. In the UK I was driving a Kia Shuma.

There was nothing particularly grand about the car, it took me from A to B, relatively cheaply and provided the level of comfort that I required, namely electric windows, automatic gearbox and a decent hi-fi. My current model was four years old. In making inquiries with the customs Department in Barbados, they told me I couldn’t bring in the car tax free from the UK as the two requirements for cars coming in tax free were:

a) it had to be less than four years old and

b) it must have completed less than 50,000 km.

My car failed on both counts, but only just. I was to find that dealing with bureaucracy in Barbados was a definite line. Don’t even try to cross it and the answer is ‘no.’ The cost of this new Kia model was around £8000. The same car in the United States was around $8000, at the exchange rate then of $1.5 to the pound, this meant that the car was available for £5,300.

I sent an e-mail off to the local Kia dealer in Barbados. It read:

I am relocating to Barbados soon. Please can you give me a guide as to the cost of a Kia Shuma, 1.5 fully loaded? I need to know only the approximate cost including tax. I do want a new model. How much extra for automatic? How much notice do I need to give you for delivery? Many thanks

It took eight days to get a reply by e-mail from the dealer, but at least they did reply:

The cost of a Kia Shuma fully loaded automatic is approximately, $51,000.00 BDS. No manual transmission is available. Vehicles are available according to our stock as we import direct from Kia in Korea. Please advise us of your arrival date. Kind Regards

At that time the exchange rate was about three Barbados dollars to the pound. That equates to around £17,000 for same car. That meant the same car was going to cost me over twice what it would’ve cost in the UK and three times what it would cost in the United States. My initial reaction involved a lot of cursing, but on investigating deeper I found that cars imported into Barbados suffer an import duty of between 100 and 250%.

This moving into Barbados idea was to become an expensive decision, financially.

Barbados transport – buses

Getting around Barbados by bus isn’t a difficult exercise, but it can be quite an experience. Buses are regular and plentiful, unless you live out in the country. This is because the main bus systems are based on two routes; to the city and out of the city, rather than across the country.

Getting around Barbados by bus isn’t a difficult exercise, but it can be quite an experience. Buses are regular and plentiful, unless you live out in the country. This is because the main bus systems are based on two routes; to the city and out of the city, rather than across the country.

The bus stops are helpfully designed so you’ll know which direction you’re heading; they’re marked either ‘To City’ or ‘Out of City.’ This is great if you want to go either of those directions, but going across the country can involve some journeys going in to main towns to be able to go back out to another part of the country.

ZR vans (people carriers) seat around twelve people and run (literally) up and down the major routes of the country. They cost BDS$1.50 a journey however far you’re going and you pay the conductor as you leave. If you’re driving behind one they signal right when they’re stopping on the left, to prevent cars from overtaking when they’re full. Then they drive faster than the road allows to deliver their paying guests to their destination to be able to take someone else on board, unless they’re half empty, then they drive like they’re in a funeral procession; slow and even slower, which makes them just as difficult to pass. They’re looking for customers to fill up with, to make the owner’s journey worthwhile.

Often the driver and the owner are different people with the driver, in reality, renting the vehicle. Whoever accesses the ZR vans can learn, at full volume, the latest in local music and from around the islands. They don’t limit the songs to those suitable for the over eighteens.

The good news about the ZR vans (pronounced ZedR) is that they often take routes that the larger buses miss out or don’t frequent as often. They appear to be available at all times you’d want one.

Two other choices of buses are available. The mostly yellow buses with blue strips also cost $1.50, less for children and nothing for school children on their way to school or back home again, provided they’re wearing their school uniform. You take a seat and a conductor will come and collect your money.

The mostly blue buses are the government run transport buses. They have a money deposit slot near the front as you board; a receipt is then issued by the machine. They don’t give change, so beware to have the right money available.

The yellow and blue buses also drive quite fast, often faster than you’d prefer. Feel free to tell the driver, but there’s a chance he won’t agree with you.

We had an experience a few years back that needs sharing. We boarded what we thought was the right bus at the bus station, for our journey. Times tables and accuracy of those that exist are quite difficult to find. Unfortunately, when we thought the bus was going to turn off to the village we wanted, it, in fact, went another way to another village. When the bus reached its destination we were both still sat there. The driver asked us where we had wanted to go. We told him. To our great delight, he then took us to where we originally wanted to go. No-where in the world have I heard of this happening. He may have thought we were tourists and did us a favor, we don’t know. He may have just had a happy day. It may be something that routinely happens, but I wouldn’t expect it again!

The Search Begins – From The Ground Up

One of our aims on Barbados Caribbean Travel is to share our story of moving to Barbados and showing how you could do it too. While we were planning the move, I wrote a few articles as a sort of chronicle, and that's how the From The Ground Up series was born. Here's how we began our search:

Most self-builders pick out a convenient plot, within easy reach of home and where they can keep track of what the construction workers are doing. But we like a challenge and decided to build our dream property some 4,000 miles away from the UK – in Barbados.

Barbados sky
That clear blue sky was reason enough to move to Barbados

Early Thoughts

We'd previously flirted with the idea of a first floor flat in Gran Canaria, overlooking an amoeba shaped pool and with views to die for. But we'd been married in Barbados in August 2000 and a repeat visit to the island in March 2002 confirmed the choice. With an average temperature of 28C, 12 hours of sunshine a day and cool sea breezes year round, the climate was perfect. Add to that the convenience of the language – English – and an old-fashioned courtesy rarely seen on this side of the Atlantic and we couldn’t think of a nicer location to move to.

The island is a haven for the rich and famous, but our budget wasn’t quite in their league. So how could we conduct a property search in Barbados from Nottingham? No celebrity estate agents for us; in order to save as much of the budget as possible for the purchase and build, we'd have to do most of the legwork ourselves. That decided, we started where all great researchers begin these days – on the Internet. Continue reading “The Search Begins – From The Ground Up”