The most affordable way to get around Barbados!
ZR buses, also known as Zed-R Buses, are one of the easiest and most affordable ways to get around some of the main points in Barbados. When I first arrived, I found that they had many options to get around. However, I also found that the rentals and taxis weren’t the most budget-friendly, and that the government-run buses weren’t exactly reliable.
After spending nearly 3 hours in a sweltering hot terminal, hopelessly waiting for one of the government-run buses (and terrified of what the actual destination would be like)… we decided to suck it up and figure out how the heck the ZR buses work. There is almost no information about these things online, so we walked over to the ZR-Bus terminal in Bridgetown to figure it out for ourselves. The terminal is about as hectic as the buses themselves, but don’t be overwhelmed – the Bajans are extremely friendly people who will have no problem helping you find your way.
What Exactly is a ZR Bus?
ZR Buses are a quintessential part of the Barbados experience. They are privately owned, large, white vans with a maroon stripe across the vehicle that use this strange part-taxi, part-bus system. On the hood of the car is a large number, denoting which route it takes. They don’t really have a reliable timetable, but instead spend the entire day driving back and forth along their routes. Usually there are multiple vans driving along a route at any given time, so you’re never stuck waiting more than a few minutes for one!
These “buses” have a bit of a reputation. They will jam you in these things like you’re in a clown car. Seriously, be prepared for the possibility that you’ll be sharing one of these things with 15+ other people (and it gets sweaty, it’s hot in Barbados!). The buses are also well known for blasting their radios, gaudy decorations, and borderline reckless driving. No… not all of the drivers are bad, but I’d be lying if I said that these things can be just a little bit terrifying. Despite the chaos, they’re fast, easy, and efficient.
How to Take the ZR Bus
ZR Bus Routes and Maps
First things first, figure out your route and which direction that you are headed. The best online resource for this that I could find is through BeepBus, this website and app is a little rough around the edges, but has routes and stops clearly marked!
I unfortunately couldn’t find any sort of map listing all of the available ZR bus routes. This was so frustrating when I had a general idea of where I needed to go but had no idea of what options I had! So I made this rough map below! Keep in mind that I just made this myself so these routes are subject to errors and changes, but I promise I did my best… and I figure it’s better than nothing!
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Because these buses are privately run, there is extremely limited information available on the routes. Don’t be afraid to ask locals for help if you need it. They are super friendly and will absolutely assist in any way they can!
Riding the ZR Bus
Once you know where you want to go, there are two ways that you can hop on one of these buses.
1. At the terminals
The first is to head to one of the three ZR-Bus “Terminals”. Like any terminal for transit, this is a central point for many of the buses. Find the line of buses coordinating to your desired route number and wait in line for your turn to hop on the next available bus!
- Constitution River Terminal
- Bridgetown Cheapside Terminal
- Speightstown Terminal
2. At the Bus Stops
Your next option is to find one of the many bus stops around town. There are TONS of stops around the island. They are marked by round red and white signs that say either “to city” or “out of city”. The city refers to Bridgetown, so look for “out of city” if you’re heading in a direction away from Bridgetown or “to city” if you’re heading in a direction towards it! If you’re unsure of the route, ask the driver or literally anyone around town.
Most buses will go out of their way to stop for you even if you’re not waving for them, so don’t be afraid to wave them along if it isn’t your desired bus route. Also, if you’re not near a stop and the road isn’t too busy, you can also try to wave down the bus you want to take! They will likely make the stop for you!
Once you have found the correct bus to take, the fare is a flat $3.50BBD ($1.25USD). Each time you hop on a Z-bus, you will pay this fare. There are no transfer or return rates! The Z-buses do not require you to pay your fare in exact change and have do change available, although it does help them out if you try to use smaller bills. Typically the drivers have an assistant who will collect this fare from you during your ride, but if the driver is working alone that day pay them at their window at the end of your ride.
The ZR Buses tend to start running at around 6am and stop operations for the day at around 12am. If you’re trying to head home for the night, I recommend leaving a little bit early from wherever you are headed so you’re not stuck with a taxi fare. This is especially true you’re further away from the center of town!
As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t really a solid timetable for the ZR Buses. They spend all day driving back and forth along their designated routes. There are typically multiple ZR buses along a route so you usually won’t be waiting too long for one to come along. If you need to be somewhere at a designated time I recommend leaving earlier or hiring a taxi instead.
The ZR-Buses sound a little bit more intimidating than they actually are. Just hop on and you’ll get the hang of it in no time! They are noisy and hectic, but I wish more places utilized this method of transit. If trains aren’t available, these are the next best thing.
Ride etiquette is simple… and again, the people of Barbados are the nicest people ever. So don’t worry about too much. Try to sit further from the door if your destination is far and closer if you’re only going a stop or two! Also ready to move around a few times, keep any bags on your lap, and be nimble. Everyone has to work together when getting people on and off the bus and they do it quickly and efficiently!