The first time I stepped barefoot on one of Barbados' west coast beaches I felt like the air had returned to my body after months of darkness. I arrived in Barbados in August 2020, after months of living in limbo existence because of the pandemic.
This tiny island nation had seen an opportunity to boost its economy during the pandemic by providing nomads like me a residence on the shores of the Caribbean. Not a bad place to wait for a global pandemic to wear out, right?
The process of applying and getting the Barbados Welcome Stamp Visa was pretty straightforward. Once I was approved, I had the right to work and live on the island for a year. Any money I made outside of the island was not taxable.
Here's your complete guide to obtaining this visa and, if you're not sure Barbados is the right choice for you, check out the end of the article where I go into detail about what you can expect from island life.
In July 2020, Barbados opened applications for its new 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp—a visa that allowed remote workers to live and work on the island. It was the first of its kind and it quickly became a success among remote workers. Here’s what you need for the application:
Provide a passport photo, a copy of the biodata page in your passport, your birth certificate. In my case, my birth certificate was in Spanish but I was not asked to provide a certified translation.
Guarantee that you will earn US$50,000 or more over the next 12 months and/or that you will have the means to support yourself (and your family if applicable) during your stay in Barbados. Although the application does not require any proof of income, and you probably can make it comfortably on the island with less, it is worth mentioning the cost of living in Barbados is similar to cities in Europe like Barcelona.
Pay the Welcome Stamp visa fee of US$2,000 for the individual application or US$3,000 for the Family Bundle. If you decide to stay after your first year and renew your Welcome Stamp, the individual fee drops to US$1,500.
When I applied in 2020, it took them 9 days to approve my request. I’ve heard the processing times have improved a lot since then. In fact, when I decided to renew my visa in 2021, it only took them one day to approve my request.
In my acceptance letter, it was specified that I had 28 days from the date of the letter to pay my visa fee. If I failed to pay I would have to apply for the visa again. I arrived on the island on the 8th of August 2020 and I did not activate the Welcome Stamp Visa immediately because, like many others, I wanted to check out the island before paying the fee. I entered Barbados on a tourist visa exception (I am a European citizen) that allowed me to be on the island for up to 3 months without the need for a visa. Nevertheless, after a week, I had fallen in love with this Caribbean island, its people, and its amazing nature. Finally, when entering Barbados with the Welcome Stamp Visa it is recommended that you have travel insurance coverage. I purchased Nomad Insurance for the entire year since I’ve been using that product for the past 3 years, and was happy with how affordable it was.
I quickly realized that deciding where to live on the island always came down to two options: South or West.
South is the most populated area on the island. You are most likely to find a good rental deal not far from the beach in this area. Most expats are based there so any parties or meetups will likely happen on that side of Barbados. However, you will also have to share your space at the beach with many more tourists and your everyday life might not be as authentically Caribbean as one would like. In fact, sometimes it feels a bit like “Bajan Shore”.
West is where all the mansions and luxury villas are located, but you can find reasonably priced rentals too. If you do, you’ll enjoy a quiet area with some of the best beaches in the whole Caribbean. Another pro of living up west? You can choose to live in places like Speightstown, a small town where you can still find a good amount of the Caribbean essence. In Speightstown, you can go from having a beer in a typical rum shop to eating an amazing locally-produced dinner in a modern Michelin-star restaurant.
Once you decide where to live, finding a community of nomads or expats won’t be hard. There are a bunch of Facebook and WhatsApp groups that are easy to join to start meeting people.
However, it is also worth noting that the best part of Barbados is not its beaches, but its people, so you will not regret getting out of your comfort zone and trying to make friends with locals. If you want to see the true Caribbean lifestyle, the Oistins fish market is a good place to start!
Besides having the chance of experiencing Barbados like a local, another advantage of hanging out with Bajans is that they can help you navigate the local dialect or Bajan English. A few things to start with:
“Cheese on bread” - An exclamation like OMG
“Wha Gine on?” - What’s going on?
“Stupse” - This is more of a sound than a word so it will likely take you some time to master it. Here’s a video so you know what I am talking about.
Food-wise, if I can be brutally honest, Barbados is not a culinary destination. Food is expensive, both in the supermarket and in restaurants, but if you know where to go eat and where to shop, the experience can be more than acceptable. The island's typical dishes are the Bajan fish cakes, macaroni pie or souse and I recommend you try them in a typical Bajan Rum Shop like Chris’ Place on the West side of the island. You also find a lot of Jamaican and Trini influence, so you can get your jerk, patties, doubles or roti fix easily.
When it comes to places to work, you have plenty in Barbados. WIFI is pretty good all over the island and most cafes have it. I recommend this article written by a local that examines the best places to work from on the island!
Although Barbados might not be for everyone, this little island with crystalline beaches and amazing people has become my home. That is why I decided to renew my Welcome Stamp Visa and I made it my home base. Its close proximity and great flight connections to the US, UK and Europe are huge advantages for me.