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 travel the island in true Bajan style.
The ZR vans are white mini vans 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 vans 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, simply 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, or there’s a second van stand near the main Post Office in town. Certain vans run from each of the particular van stands, but just ask around and someone will surely guide to which one you need to go to.
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 makes sure you can easily get in and out of the van at your appointed stop.
Having said that, some ZR vans simply have the driver. 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 just to give the driver your fare money.
The fare is $2.00 BBD one way, or you can pay $1 USD one way. It is preferred you have the correct change when travelling on the ZRs, or at least close to it, if at all possible. This just 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 get to. Everyone is pretty friendly in Barbados, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding the appropriate ZR to meet your travel needs – just 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 ZRs actually run more frequently than the buses, and until much later at night.
ZRs normally start running from around 6am until approximately 11.30pm / 12 midnight, but it’s better to be on the safe side and get an earlier ZR on a weeknight as the later vans run more few and far between so you may need to wait a little 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, even if it is not an official bus stop.
Note: Much like the mini buses, 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 in order 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