Getting Around in ZR Vans in Barbados
Getting Around In True Island Style!
Want to travel around Barbados at a fraction of the cost? Well then, why not try hopping aboard our infamous ZR vans – the only way to move around the island in true Bajan style.
The ZR vans are white minivans with a horizontal maroon stripe down the side. They also have the letters ‘ZR’ on the license plate.
These vans are privately owned vehicles and run according to specific routes island-wide. The minivans are numbered one through eleven – each number indicating a different travel route.
The ZR Experience …
To catch one, you’ll need to wait at one of the bus-stops dotted all over the island, and when you see the ZR with the route number you want, hold out your hand to indicate you would like to get on board. Sometimes the van will not stop for you, only if it is too full and cannot fit any more passengers.
You can also go to either the main ‘van stand’ on the outskirts of town. There is also a second van stand near the main Post Office in Bridgetown. ZR vans run from each of the particular van stands, but ask around, and someone will surely guide to which one you need.
Tip: If you see a ZR on the road you’d like to board and you’re not at a bus stop, usually you can hold out your hand, and they will stop for you. Just be mindful of relying on doing this in heavy traffic, as the van may not decide to stop for you.
Generally, the ZR vans have both a driver and a conductor. The conductor collects your fare money and tries to make sure you can quickly get in and out of the van at your appointed stop.
Some ZR vans have the driver only. In this instance, you pay the driver your fare money as you exit the van. If the van is packed with people, it’s no problem to get off and pay the driver through the passenger window at the front, rather than trying to squeeze up through a full van to give the driver your fare money.
The fare is BBD 3.50 one way, or you can pay USD 1.75 one way. It is preferred you have the exact change when traveling on the ZR’s, or at least close to it, if at all possible. This means the van can continue on its journey and uphold the reputation of being one of the quickest ways to travel the island, without the driver or conductor having to sort through change.
Hint: Ask at your accommodation front desk which route number you are on, or which route number will take you to the particular location you wish to go to on the island.
Otherwise, you can always ask the driver or conductor if their particular route passes where you would like to go. Everyone is pretty friendly in Barbados, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding the appropriate ZR to meet your travel needs – ask around.
At times, the roads seem to be full of ZR vans, which, more often than not makes them the most reliable form of public transport on the island.
Additionally, although there is no set timetable for these vans, the ZR’s run more frequently than the buses, and until much later at night.
ZR’s usually start running from around 6 am until approximately 11.30 pm / 12 midnight. To be on the safe side, you should get an earlier ZR on a weeknight as the later vans run few and far between, so you may need to wait for a little while to catch one at this time.
As you can see, it is never difficult to hop on a ZR van and head out and about when seeking to get around in Barbados. Sometimes, the driver will even drop you at your destination, also if it is not an official bus stop.
Note: Much like the minibusses, drivers and conductors pile people in the vans in an attempt to make more money. Often passengers are asked to ‘double up’ which means sitting on people’s laps to squeeze in as many people as possible.
If you are prone to claustrophobia and do not enjoy loud music (most drivers love to play their tunes as they drive – anything from gospel to reggae), we would suggest you do not take a ZR as things can get rather tight and loud during peak travel times.
It all might sound a little hectic, but give them a try. What a great cultural experience these truly Bajan ZRs are and one you’re sure to remember for a long time to come!
By: Brett Callaghan