When I first moved to an island, I had no idea how much of my shopping would be done off the side of the road rather than inside a shop. As you drive around Barbados, you need to keep your purse with you as there is always a shopping opportunity within arm’s reach of your car window. There are many items that you can purchase on the side of the road on my rock, whether it be a small neighborhood road or even along the main highway. A lot of goods for sale are often on offer just before a roundabout, ensuring that you have a nice delay as the purchaser in front of you stops for a newspaper and a chat. It’s a good lesson in patience when the car in front of you stops to make a purchase if you keep in mind that it’s only a matter of moments when the tables may be turned, with you being the one holding up traffic whilst making your purchases.
Here are my Top 10 Island Roadside Shopping Finds in Barbados:
1. Coconut water
There is nothing quite like fresh coconut water and the best is not purchased in the supermarkets but along the main highway. Piles of green coconuts are delivered to machete-wielding men who have a tiny stand and an umbrella to keep them cool in the hot sun. With a flash of the knife, the coconuts are expertly trimmed and the delicious coconut water is poured into plastic vessels for you to purchase. It almost becomes a coconut water drive-in! You pull up with your car, place your order, and bottles of coconut water are passed to you. Much better for you than any fast food drive-in elsewhere, in my opinion.
There are many hand-made signs along the roads offering “Crabs for sale” accompanied by a telephone number. I often giggle to myself at the idea that of course that is where you would purchase a fresh crab opposed to the fish market. Lo and behold, one day I did see a man with a box of crabs on the edge of a roundabout, dangling a crab in the air by its legs.
3. Fruit Juices
There are many fruit juice vendors on the island. These fruit juices are freshly squeezed and made out of local fruits too. If you want a fresh soursop juice, you look for a vendor on the roadside. There have been occasions when I’ve been sitting in the doctor’s waiting room or a government office only to hear the cries of “Fresh fruit juice anyone?” from a traveling seller with his cooler full of juices. Around the island, some fruit juice sellers will have their certain spots. There is one by a local supermarket who has his cool box by the side of the road, waving the bottles of delicious juice to temp you as you drive by.
There are a couple of vans on the main highway who sell trays of eggs. Normally you are alerted to their presence ahead by a hand-made road sign. The vans are parked up on the hard shoulder, so it’s easy for you to pull over and purchase a tray of 30 large eggs. They are normally larger than the supermarket and fairly priced. There was one Christmas when the island ran out of eggs. A lot of baking occurs during the festive season and the demand for eggs outweighed the supply. Needless to say, I spent part of an afternoon driving up and down the highways looking for the egg van in desperation!
As you are approaching a roundabout, there will often be a few men waving bags of local fruit in season. Whether it be mangos or ackees, they will walk amongst the cars, offering a tasty treat. Melons are also something that can be purchased out of the back of a van on the side of the road.
The selling of vegetables roadside is a bit more organized than the fruit sellers. You will find mini stalls underneath an umbrella with a small selection of local vegetables displayed on a small bench. This is often a good way to support your local farmer. Although you will find a seasonal variation with people selling vegetables that they have grown in their own gardens too.
There is usually only the one brand of newspaper for sale at various points along the road. The sellers wave their papers to oncoming cars and it’s a common stop off point for some drivers to pick up their morning news.
If you have a hankering for some barbecued husks of corn, then head off to the main highway near Warrens. Everyday there will be a man with his van who cooks large heads of corn on a makeshift barbecue made out of an old drum/barrel.
9. Random Items from a Cooler
This man deserves a special mention, as I particularly admire his entrepreneurial spirit! He has a key spot just before a junction off the main road where traffic is naturally slow at the end of the day. He has a large cooler and a small stand, selling drinks, juices, nuts, and fruit. It’s perfect to take the edge off your appetite as you are crawling home in traffic. As the traffic is slow, you are not holding anyone up as you peruse his nuts and fruit.
There are many stalls outside bars and by the side of the road selling loaves of bread and bread rolls. They pop up every evening and I can only assume it’s to catch anyone on the way home who don’t want to endure the challenge of the supermarket just for a couple of rolls.
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Do you do your shopping roadside on your rock? What is your favorite item to purchase on the island streets?