Today I was detained for 3 hours by immigration staff at the Barbados airport.

The more I think about it, the more bizarre the whole experience seems and I'm not entirely certain that there is in fact a law that they accused me of breaking. 

It started when I was going to passport control. The conversation with the woman at passport control went something like this:

Passport Woman: "Where are you going after Barbados?"

Me: I'm going to St. Vincent. 

Passport Woman: And after St. Vincent?

Me: Then I'm going to Grenada.

Passport Woman: And after Grenada? 

Me: Then I'm going to Trinidad.

Passport Woman: And after Trinidad?

At this point I thought the line of questioning was getting sort of weird. I don't know why it mattered where I was going once I left Barbados. I had a ticket booked to St. Vincent. I had all the details including the confirmation code. 

Eventually she asked, "Do you have a ticket to the United States?"

and I answered, "Not yet". 

I explained how I was in the middle of a trip to visit all the islands in the Lesser Antilles and how I had been going from island to island for 2 months. I was purchasing tickets as I moved because I can't schedule that far ahead given how many countries I was visiting. 

She informed me that according to Barbados law, I had to have a ticket TO MY HOME COUNTRY. 

According to the woman at passport control, I had to have a ticket to the United States, even if I wasn't planning on going back there anytime soon, didn't arrive from the US, and even if I didn't even live there!!!

I've been to a LOT of places, including a lot of island countries. I am familiar with the requirement that many countries have about showing proof of onward travel.  I understand it and I'm cool with it. That is why I booked my ticket before I arrived in Barbados. 

However, I have NEVER ever heard of any country requiring you do have a ticket back to your home country. The airline which flew me to Barbados never mentioned it, no website I visited doing research ever mentioned it, and it certainly doesn't apply to common sense. 

I was eventually taken back to an immigration officer who told me I having a ticket out of Barbados wasn't enough, that according to the law I had to have a ticket to the United States. 

I explained to him what I was doing and how no other country in the world had such a law.

Eventually he called the airline on the phone and they had to take responsibility for me being in the country incase I got arrested. I was eventually allowed to enter Barbados on the condition that I purchased my ticket from St. Vincent to Grenada immediately. Why they should care about my ticketing situation once I leave Barbados is beyond me. 

I sat for hours waiting for this to get resolved. 

While I was sitting,  it occurred to me how absurd the rule was. 

1) If you are on an around the world trip, you'd have to skip Barbados unless every ticket on the trip was booked in advance AND the final leg was back to the country where your passport is from. 

2) If you use an airport over a border, you can't fly to Barbados. Many people in  Toronto will drive to Buffalo because flights are cheaper. They couldn't fly from Buffalo to Barbados because the return flight isn't to Canada. 

3) If you live in EU, you can fly anywhere in the EU and you are home for travel purposes. According to Barbados that isn't good enough. If you are an Italian who lives near the French border, you can't fly out of Nice to get to Barbados. You can only fly from Italy. 

4) Some countries would be banned from visiting Barbados because they have no airports. Monaco, San Marino, Liechtenstein and Andorra have no airports. There is no way possible to get a plane ticket back to their country. 

(In theory, the Pope could never visit Barbados because the Vatican doesn't have an airport. He'd have to have a return flight to Italy, which is not who issued his passport and not the country of his residence.)

After 3 hours of staring at a wall, I got to my hotel and starting searching for any reference to this bizarre law. 

I can't find one. 

I can find numerous reference to "proof of onward journey", which is the norm for most countries. (do a Google search for: Barbados "onward journey" or "onward travel")

The official Barbados tourism website only says you must have a "passport and valid return ticket". ( )

It does not say where you are supposed to return to. I came from St. Lucia. Does that mean I have to return to St. Lucia???  (Also, if you come from a country that also requires a return ticket, must you bounce back and forth between those countries in an infinite loop??)

There is no mention of it on the official Barbados Ministry of Foreign Affairs website either: (

I'm left with several thoughts after this experience: 

1) If this is an actual law, it is one of the dumbest laws I've ever encountered traveling.  For all the reasons listed above, Barbados should be avoided by anyone with even slightly less than normal travel arrangements. If you are visiting multiple islands in the Caribbean, don't make Barbados part of your plans.

2) If it is a law, they need to tell people. If anyone can find a reference to the requirement of needing a ticket to your home country, not just a requirement for an onward journey, please post it in the comments. I've only seen a vague mentions of "return tickets", without reference to where you must return to.

3) If this isn't a law, then I was arbitrarily detained by people who shouldn't be working in immigration. For an island in which tourism plays such an important role in the economy, this is a horrible way to treat visitors. You never know if the person you detain will have a mouthpiece to tell people via social media cough
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