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The Barbados Dollar (BBD) is pegged to the US Dollar (USD) at 2 to 1. While USD can be spent on the street in Barbados at $2 for $1 USD, in some stores/restaurants, you will receive anything between $1.95 and $1.98. The exchange rate for the Canadian Dollar, British Pound, and Euro fluctuates on a daily basis. Please visit the link below to see today's exchange rates.
N.B - The first section on the Central Bank's website under NOTES relates to changing cash. The second section under TELEGRAPHIC TRANSFER relates to making electronic transfers. The third section under DEMAND/SIGHT related to changing traveller's cheques (traveler's checks). The "Buying Rate" refers to the rate the bank will pay you. The "Selling Rate" refers to the rate the bank will sell you currency at on the day.
When coming to Barbados take USD and GBP from the UK. Don't purchase BBD in the UK as you can receive a much better rate in Barbados. If you purchase BBD in the UK the rate won't be nearly as generous and is currently around £1 to $2.81. In Barbados, you'll get about $3.01 currently for £1. If you take UK Traveller's Cheques, you'll get an even better rate. Currently it's $3.06 to £1. You can do the exchange at any of the several commercial banks on the island including CIBC First Caribbean International Bank, Republic Bank (Barbados) Ltd, First Citizen's Bank (Barbados) Ltd, Scotiabank or the RBC Royal Bank. They all have the same rates as set out by the Central Bank of Barbados.
I would recommend you get your USD from M&S Travel Money which is commission free with very competitive rates. Currently you get about $1.49 USD for £1. USD can be spent on the street in Barbados at $2 for $1 USD. However, in some stores/restaurants, you will receive anything between $1.95 and $1.98. Anywhere around $150 to $200 USD in small bills ($5s, $10s and $20s) should suffice to get you started and for tipping. Whatever USD you don't spend, you can either hold on to it for a future trip as it's a globally accepted currency, or you can sell it back to M&S.
(April 15th, 2013)
Similar advice to UK Visitors will apply. You can bring your euros and change them in the local banks for the best possible rates. Also have USD on hand.
When visiting Barbados from the USA, there is no need to visit a bank. USD is accepted everywhere around the island and as was said earlier, most establishments will give you $2 BBD to $1 USD. Just remember to keep some USD in smaller denominations such as $5s and $10s for smaller transactions and for tipping.
Canadian currency has limited acceptance on the streets. Although some supermarkets, gas stations and restaurants will accept them, it's better to go to the bank. Currently (Feb. 19, 2013 ) $1 CAD = $1.9447 BBD.
The commercial banks currently in operation on the island are as follows: CIBC First Caribbean International Bank, Republic Bank (Barbados) Ltd, First Citizen's Bank (Barbados) Ltd, Scotiabank and the RBC Royal Bank.
Banks are located in all major town centres including Speighstown, Holetown/Sunset Crest, Bridgetown, Warrens, Six Roads and Oistins. There are also banks in other important areas such as Black Rock, Hastings, Worthing and Rendevous. There is a full service Republic Bank branch at the Grantley Adams International Airport, opposite the US Airways check-in counter.
Normal banking hours are from 0800hrs until 1500hrs, Monday to Thursday and 0800hrs until 1700hrs on Fridays. There are however a few exceptions. For example, First Citizens Bank at Super Centre JBs and Super Centre Big B, both in Christ Church, are open from 1000hrs until 1900hrs Monday to Thursday, 1000hrs until 2000hrs on Friday and 1000hrs until 1500hrs on Saturdays.
ATMs and ABMs are 24hrs and are dispersed all over the island. VISA and MasterCards are accepted widely. American Express is not widely excepted on the island. (because they charge the retailer higher fees than other credit cards).
Walking with your credit/debit cards is always a good idea for emergencies and if you prefer them to cash. Just be sure to check with your bank as it relates to user fees etc.
At the Airport
There are two Bureau de Change desks at the Grantley Adams International Airport. One in arrivals and one in departures after security. They charge you a commission of $5 BBD on any transaction under $500 BBD and 1% on anything over $500 BBD. The commercial banks on the island DO NOT charge a commission.