The national currency is the Bajan dollar, but US dollars are accepted in almost all shops and restaurants. The exchange rate is fixed at 2 Bajan dollars for one US dollar. Remember that hotel money changers may insist on charging an additional percentage for the exchange (usually 5%).
There are many duty-free shops for visitors. Bridgetown’s main street has many jewellers, such as Colombian Emeralds and Diamonds International. The Cave Shepherd department stores’ offers a wide range of mercantile products, while Harrison’s offers gifts, leather goods and high-end cosmetics. There are also some fairly large supermarkets on the island outside Bridgetown. Smaller shops offer almost anything a visitor or resident might need. A small shopping centre on the harbour also offers decent prices and a good selection (for British rum and spirits), but Barbados products can be a little more expensive there than elsewhere on the island.
Barbados has a well-deserved reputation for producing excellent rum, for example Mount Gay. Rum distilleries are usually open for tours and usually offer samples and products for sale at prices that often match the best found elsewhere. (See also “Drinks” below)
Barbados has a wide variety of street vendors. Haggle aggressively. Do not stop until you have reached about a third of the original price.
The fine arts flourish in Barbados and many galleries and studios have weekly changing exhibitions throughout the year.
Shops selling to visitors can honestly claim to offer duty-free prices. In fact, they pay duty on imported goods before they offer them for sale. But when they sell something to you as a visitor, they ask you to sign a form that allows them to get back the duty paid. The government is working on a law that will allow sellers to get goods for visitors without paying duty.
Opening hours: In the past, almost everything was closed at weekends and visitors had to make arrangements in advance, especially if they were owners. This is no longer the case. Clothing and gift shops are open until about 4pm on Saturdays (the shops in the Sheraton Mall until 9pm); few are open on Sundays. Many of the supermarkets on the island are also open on Saturday and Sunday.
On public holidays (such as Christmas, New Year, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday) most, if not all, shops, banks and business houses are closed. However, the shops attached to the petrol stations carry basic items in limited quantities, and the shops in the deep-water port are open when cruise ships visit. There are a few small, family-run grocery shops on the island that open on holidays (or have a side door open) to serve their community.