Practical Information

11th McGill-INRIA-Victoria Workshop on Computational Geometry
Bellairs Research Institute of McGill University
Barbados, West Indies
February 5 -- 11 , 2012

The workshop officially starts on Sunday, February 5th at 9am.  Participants are welcome to arrive on Saturday February  4th.
Circumstances changes from one year to the next, so some of this may not be accurate for this year. Suggestions for updates are always welcome.

More information can be found on the Bellairs web site

General Information

Time change

Barbados is 1 hour ahead of Montreal time.

Telephone numbers

The telephone in the visitor's area is area code +1-246-422-2034. From North America, you call Barbados just as you would call someplace in Canada or the US. It is area code 246. From outside North America, note that the country code for North America is +1 -- giving 1-246-422-2034. The office telephone (working hours) is +1-246-422-2087. The fax number in the office is +1-246-422-0692. You can make collect or credit card calls from the visitor's phone.

For long distance calls, you can buy a Barbados phone card, which can be used in public telephones displaying the phone card sign. One such telephone is located near the bus stop at the Sunset Crest shopping plaza, a 15 minute walk from Bellairs. (Calls to Europe are roughly 10 Barbados dollars for 3 minutes. So get the other person to call.) Try Cave Shephard, and the convenience store in the Texaco gas/petrol station. Also, you can also buy, for Bbdos$20, a Barbadian calling card. You read the number over the phone to the operator, and it works like a debit card.

UPDATE : It seems that phone cards are falling out of favor and that many people are using their
cell phones (whether from Europe or North America).  There are expensive but may nevertheless
be cheaper than the credit card or phone card approach.

Your own telephone company's telephone card might or might not be useable. Typically 800 numbers are not available in Barbados, or at least, not from the telephone in the vistors' area at Bellairs. If you have a Barbadian calling card, you might be able to reach your 800 number by using it at the Bellairs telephone, to reach the number that gets you access. Read: long distance calls are not impossible, but they aren't easy, either.


Bellairs Research Institute,
Holetown, St. James,
Barbados, West Indies

Electricity in Barbados is 110 volts/50 cycles. Standard plugs are as in Canada and the US (2 flat blades with or without a round grounding pin.)


 There is a good wireless internet connection and a charge of US$15/week for use of the computing services. There are also a few PCs in a small room to the left of the entrance to the administration building (located to the east of the accommodation buildings, closer to the road. ) There is a printer although this is a slow process, and there is a page charge.

Travel documents

 US and Canadian citizens do not need a visa to travel to Barbados. Please check with a Barbados tourism board or a travel agent if you are not a US or Canadian citizen. In any case, you'll need something like a passport or a driver's license. Check with a Barbados tourism website, e.g.,

The ambiance

Please remember (in addition to your bathing suit): 1) This is small, informal workshop. We will be living in close quarters, cooking breakfast together, working together for a week. The facilities are not run as a hotel. There is no main desk lobby area, coffee shop, laundry service, etc. Your towels must last all week. Payment: By credit cards, travellers' cheques, US, Canadian, or Barbados dollars. Keep your expectations low as to services and workshop organization. Suggestions and initiatives are very welcome.

2) There is _almost_ nothing that can go wrong. It's hard to imagine not having a pleasant and productive time. Barbados is a small (10miles x 20 miles) island of reserved, friendly people. They are proud of their tourist industry. At the shopping centre a 15 minute walk south from Bellairs, there are banks with machines that will take a standard variety of bank cards; there's a post office, a grocery store, a pharmacy, even cappucino, Cuban cigars and various specialty items for tourists. Anything you leave behind, you will be able to buy there, plus t-shirts, post cards, sunscreen, etc. Many shops take credit cards. Note that duty free shops such as Cave Shephard require your passport in order to sell you something, or at least, to offer you the duty free rate. Thy duty free rate is something like 50% of the price for residents.


There's only one airport. (Bridgetown is the capitol city, Grantley Adams is the name of the airport). After going through customs and getting your bags (this may take a while), go outside and get a taxi. Tell the driver you want to go to Bellairs Research Institute in Holetown, St. James. Explain this is between the Folkestone Park and the Coral Reef Club in Holetown. Bellairs shares a fence with the park. It is the first property to the north of the park, on the beach side of the road. As you will be coming north from the airport, you will pass the park, then turn left into Bellairs. It's a tiny driveway. There may be a sign that says "Coral Reef Club Goods Delivery". Nothing about Bellairs. No big lighted sign. Your driver will find it without much trouble. The fare will be about US$30. If it's a van for several people and their bags, it will be more, about Barbados $80. (1 Barbados dollar is .50 US) You can pay in US dollars or Barbados dollars.

Airport departure tax is Barbados $25, which is sometimes already included in the airplane ticket. Put your departure card and Bbdos$25 in your passport, as you will need to produce all three of these when you leave. There are opportunities to spend the Barbados $25 in the departure lounge if the fee is not included in your ticket.

Car rental: It's pointless to rent a car for use during the week, but if you really want to, you can find cars for rent at Sunset Crest, the shopping centre just south of Bellairs.

Buses: You can get around easily on the buses. Fare: Barbados $1.50. Exact change helps, although you may pay for more than one person at a time with bills. Do not expect to get change on a crowded bus, although you may be lucky. Buses are frequent and interesting. The small, yellow buses are privately operated and often feature reggae music. It's a lot of fun when the passengers are "into" the music. The large blue government buses provide more dignified service; look for signs and icons listing the things you are not allowed to do on a govenment bus: play music, carry big smelly fish, eat snow cones, shell peanuts, etc., etc.

Taxis: There are taxi stands close to Bellairs, across from the Sandpiper Hotel, and at Sunset Crest, where we can rent vans in small groups and be taken around to interesting places by a driver (the charge is negotiated -- something like US$40 per hour, for a 3-4 hour van tour, with entrance fees to parks and the cave extra). The cook, Gwen, has a cousin, Diane, who runs a taxi service. Traditionally, we arrange through Gwen to get Diane to drive people to the airport on the departure day. Another reputable van driver and taxi driver is Neville Archer. His name is listed in the telephone book. He has a cell phone by which his wife contacts him. He is very pleasant and reliable.


Barbados is an independent country (before the 1960's, it belonged to Britain), and so has it's own currency, the Barbadian dollar. Two Barbados dollars is worth US$0.98 . Many shops and people will take US or Canadian dollars, including some taxi drivers and beach peddlers. However, you will need some local currency, or you will be getting into complicated international finance deals involving small sums of money with the other conference participants. (E.g, we rent a van together, and everyone is to pay the driver 50 Barbadian dollars. You have 20 Barbadian dollars and 20 US dollars. If you have Euros, will someone be willing to pay for you if .... etc.) This is not the kind of math problems we want to concentrate on.

The currency exchange at the airport closes on Friday at 5pm? 6pm? However, there is a bank machine at the airport that accepts most international cards and gives local currency. To find this bank machine, go through customs, exit the airport, and follow the signs around to the right of the exit leading through some construction work. The signs are pointing the way to a bank named something like "Bank of Barbados" or "Carribean Bank". It's exact location depends on the status of the construction project, but it is typically located someplace near the ticket counters in the departure area. Also, there are automatic money machines that accept most international bank cards in the Sunset Crest shopping center near Bellairs, and they dispense local currency. The CIBC has combined with a local Carribean bank, and there is a machine in the Texaco station. There is a Scotia Bank machine on the beach side of the road, opposite the bus stop at Sunset Crest. A few minutes' walk farther south, there is a Royal Bank and a Barclay's Bank. You might consider picking up free tourist guides and maps at the airport. These are generally located at the exit from the arrivals area, just as you are going outside to the taxi pick-up area. The Toronto and Montreal airports sell Barbados dollars, unless they run out, which they sometimes do.

You'll need local cash for Saturday and Sunday dinners, since the cook may not work on weekends (restaurant dinners can be expensive -- say US$25 each), plus Saturday and Sunday lunches and snacks (say US$10 each), plus the taxi from the airport. Sometimes we send out for pizza on the weekend, from Pizazz (or is it Pizzazz?). One "ridiculous" pizza feeds 4 adults (caveat: John Iacono counts as 2 adults). Highly recommended: the flying fish pizza with plantains. Mmmm, mmm.

On Monday, you will be able to cash traveller's checks at the banks at Sunset Crest shopping plaza. The cash machines at the shopping plaza are available on the weekend. Dinner is at 6:30pm, but is available Mon-Fri. and possibly on Sat. Late arrivals can find a pizza/sandwich place a 10 minute walk away. Late late arrivals -- let the organizers know if we should save leftovers for you in the kitchen.


Upon arrival, check for a message next to the telephone or on the blackboard or whiteboard in the patio area for messages for the group.


For your room assignment, also check the patio area for a list. The "E" rooms are in the east block (away from the beach); the "W" rooms are in the west block (closer to the beach by a few metres). (This is where the workshop will take place, around the dining table in the patio area, or on the picnic tables under the patio extendsion. We have a blackboard propped against the wall, and some chalk. Hopefully, there is chalk.) When you get out of the taxi, look around for the main lighted area. That will be the dining area. It's only a semi-enclosed patio, so it's easy to find. Seabourne house is the house on beach past the complex of low buildings.


The workshop officially begins 9am, Sunday morning this year. Each day will typically have two sessions, 9 to noon, and after-dinner to whenever.


In general, Barbados is expensive. Everything is imported except the beer, rum, and sugar. You can buy sunscreen, film, etc., there, but at fairly high prices compared to the US or Canada. So bring those things with you that you would mind paying a high price for. A very rough estimate of expenses in US dollars: $300 for 7 nights' room and breakfast (roughly US$30 each night) plus and 5 nights' dinners (US$20 each) at Bellairs; $50 for 2 nights' dinners away from Bellairs; $70 for 7 days' lunches away from Bellairs; $50 for taxis; $50 for souvenirs, entertainment, postcards, phone charges, etc. Roughly US$500 total for expenses excluding airfare. A popular pre-dinner group activity is watching for the green flash on the beach-front terrace of the luxury hotel next door to Bellairs, the Coral Reef Club. Sunset is around 6:05pm. A Perrier at the Coral Reef Club is Barbados $6.25. Pina colladas are Bbdos$12.50.

Bill payment

Try to settle your bill a day or two before leaving, since many people may be leaving around the same time, and it takes a while.... Most people are not in a rush in Barbados.

Food and beverages

Beer/rum supplies: Sometimes we pool our resources to buy a stock of beer/rum/refreshments. Sometimes groups prefer taking turns making contributions to the group welfare, sometimes groups like to keep careful accounts of who owes what. You know how it is. We'll see what kind of group we are when we get there. Experience over the years is that if someone contributes a bottle of rum, some limes, and some peanuts to the table in the evening, it will be consumed, no problem.

Breakfast: Bellairs no longer supplies breakfast. Breakfast items of a rudimentary nature will be provided in the visitor's kitchen. The workshop organizers (and/or other volunteers) will do the shopping and collect some money at the end of the week to cover costs. Fix it yourself, clean up after yourself. Label any items you store in the fridge or on the counter that are not intended for general comsumption. Dispose of these items at the end of the workshop. Beer bottles may be returned for a deposit. Otherwise, there is no general recycling of plastic, glass, metal, and paper.

Kitchen rules: We are expected to clean up our own dishes. Glasses and cups should be retrieved from rooms. The cook washes the dinner dishes, but appreciates help carrying out plates and then clearing the table. Return dishes to the cook's kitchen, not the visitor's section.

Material for breakfast will be Raisin Bran, Wheatabix, corn flakes, white and brown bread, eggs and cheese, margarine, guava jelly. Hopefully some fruit. Look under the plastic basket on the counter in the kitchen. The purpose for hiding the fruit under a plastic basket is to keep the birds from eating the bananas. They are quite bold and fly into the kitchen when someone leaves the screen door open. The birds also scavenge for cereal, sugar, and bread, so please keep these items closed. We make our own breakfast. If you are good at making coffee, omelettes or french toast for a crowd, whoever is sitting at the table will be happy .... There is a "cold room" down the hall, where extra kitchen supplies are stored. Beer may be placed in the fridge there. Look in the cold room for extra supplies of milk, fruit juice, etc. It is important to check the night before that these items are unfrozen and in adequate supply for the next morning and have been moved to the visitor's kitchen. Eating the supplied breakfast is not mandatory; you can opt out. If you are a baby under the age of 2, you may want to take care of some of your own breakfast supplies since the workshop organizers have no idea what babies eat.

Coffee/tea: Instant coffee and tea is provided. Often people bring their own favorite teas or coffees. Helping to make coffee for the group is always appreciated. Bring your favourite gourmet coffee beans to share -- the coffee supplied by Bellairs is not the best. A coffee bean grinder and drip coffee maker are available in the visitor's kitchen. If most people bring a bag of beans, we'll enjoy good coffee for the week. The cups tend to be a bit in short supply so if you're looking for a final resting place for that tacky souvenir mug, bring it along.

Meals: Restaurant meals are expensive, but there are a couple of beach snack food places that are reasonable. We will go there a LOT for lunches. Also, the tiny little rum shacks often have sandwiches (ham and cheese/ fish) to take away at inexpensive prices. (The ham and cheese are very good in Bbdos. Also the bread.) We'll have dinners at Bellairs (possibly going out one night in addition to Saturday and Sunday); lunches we'll have down the road -- or find your own provisions at the grocery store in the Sunset Crest shopping plaza (now open on Sunday afternoons). Favourite spots include: Chefette (a local chain serving rotis, chicken, veggie burgers, pre-boxed salads fast-food service style, with picnic tables on a covered deck by the sea); Surfside (a sports bar behind the post office opposite Sunset Crest -- noisy when there's a cricket or soccer match on, slow, but pleasantly located under the palms on the beach); Pizzazz (a pizza place also serving sandwiches, but the metal roof over the dining patio area can get hot, even with the fans on); DeGroots (immediately across the street from Bellairs -- it has rotis, is pleasant, but not exactly fast). If for some reason you do NOT want dinner at Bellairs with the rest of the group, please let me know before 11am that day, so I can tell the cook -- otherwise your bill will include these dinner charges.

Fruit: there are fruit/vegetable stand(s) on the other side of the shopping center from Bellairs, and on the way from Bellairs to Sunset Crest. Or you can buy fruit at the grocery. Don't eat the fruit of strange trees. We almost lost the guy whose curiosity tempted him to try the (poisonous) fruit of the manzanel tree on the beach.

THEFT the _almost_ above 

In recent years, there has been a growing problem with theft from rooms. This is not caused by the Institute's loyal employees of many years, but rather by  determined, swift, and invisible outsiders and/or former security guards. Do NOT LEAVE YOUR ROOM UNLOCKED while you are sleeping, or while you are showering, or while you are stepping outside even for a minute. The Institute has no way to reimburse your losses. The thieves are apparently after CASH, not credit cards, passports, laptops, etc. However, this may have changed since last year. It's probably all right to bring a laptop, but please understand that the risk is yours. Do not leave items on the window sills. There have been incidents where the screens were cut and items were stolen.

Two participants at our 2002 workshop had their money emptied from their wallets. Do not bring valuables. You might consider keeping your passport, tickets, etc. in the office safe, starting on Monday (although personally, I rarely do this -- it's inconvenient for duty free shopping).

There is a security guard from 21h to 6h and a safe for your valuables.


There are some small ones, especially at night, and especially under the table and in the shower. They do not generally carry diseases, and they only itch most people a little bit. However, cases of Dengue fever have been reported in Barbados. Generally, it makes you sick with something like the flu; occasionally, it is fatal. As a general rule, the problem is in dense urban areas, and the kind of mosquito that transmits the disease is active during the day, 2 hours after sunrise, and 2 hours before sunset -- i.e., around 8am and 4pm or so, so to be on the safe side, do wear your mosquito repellent especially at these times. In your room, you may find a small plastic object that plugs into the wall. You put a small, blue "fish" tablet onto the metal plate of the object, and ensure that it is plugged in. This helps repel mosquitos. Replace the fish tablet every day or so, when the table turns white. The fish tablets should be supplied to your room. They are inclosed in foil wrappers and should be left on your night table or desk. Even better is to turn on the fan at night, and lie in the breeze. This year, there were mosquito nets above the beds. You might want to bring some repellent (although this can be bought there). Mainly, the mosquitos hide under the dining table and bite us in the evening problem sessions. They also lie in wait in the showers, so you'll want to do everything you can to keep the floors in the bathrooms dry. For more information on Dengue fever see

Please let the staff know if you see standing pools of water in which mosquitos may breed.

Underwater dangers

scraping against coral, stepping on sea urchins (ouch!), becoming addicted to snorkeling and scuba diving, being pulled out to sea on your rented windsurfer by off shore breezes, being swept away by the undertow (usually there isn't one, but sometimes, there is). Red flags on the beaches warn of dangerous conditions and should be respected.

Living quarters

These are not fancy. Each room will have as many as 3 people in it; each person will get a narrow bed with a thin mattress. Your 2 towels are for the entire week. Do not take them to the beach (you might want to bring your own towel for the beach).


When you arrive, you should find your room key either in your room, or in the patio areas. Assuming the participants in the previous workshops remembered to return their keys at the end of the week, there should be a key for each participant. Some but not all keys come enhanced with keys to the cold room and/or the computer room and/or the visitor's kitchen. Also, there are keys to these rooms for general use, hidden away in the telephone book next to the phone in the visitor's area. Please keep the computer room and the cold room locked at all times, to prevent theft; please keep the visitor's kitchen locked when nobody is around (e.g., when you go to bed, if you are the last one up, please check that everything is locked up). You will make yourself very unpopular if you forget to return keys to the phone book and lock everybody else out of the kitchen or the computer room.


The bathrooms and showers are down the hall. Some rooms have bathrooms, but these may not have hot water. The plumbing is quite slow and sometimes needs encouragement; it has a difficult time swallowing items that would go down with ease in, say, Canada. Please try to keep the floor in the shared shower/bath areas dry, as water attracts the mosquitos.


Please wash the sand off your feet at the outdoor pipe outside the dining area or at the outdoor pipe at the beach end of the East dorm when coming from the beach. You might want to take off your shoes and leave them outside next to your room if they have picked up a lot of sand. Otherwise, your room will silt up quickly.


Usually very nice -- temp.s in the 80's F, 25 C. Usually sunny, but sometimes cool with brief showers. It has been known to rain all week. You might consider bringing a brolly (to ensure that it won't rain) and a light jacket.


Barbados is very close to the equator. Light skinned people burn very quickly.

Possible things to take

sunscreen, hat, sun glasses, camera, lap top, bathing suit, snorkel, fins, extra towel for the beach (the one in your room is for the entire week), shampoo, ear plugs (an employee of the park next door uses a leaf blower every morning, early, and it is not a quiet leaf blower; also, there are often noisy parties in the park on Saturday night; also, live music venues can be loud), a couple of pads of paper (not provided at Bellairs), pencils, coloured pens, ticket, travel documents, possibly a light sweater or sweat shirt (occasionally, it's cool), small umbrella or rain jacket (occasionally there's a 15 min. shower), beach or shower sandles, something to wear to a restaurant other than t-shirt and cut-off jeans (nothing fancy -- it's just that some places don't like jeans and beach wear and won't let you in if you are a guy wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and ragged cut-offs and shower sandals, say), running shoes if you're a jogger, mosquito repellent, copies of papers for reference or to pass around, overheads if you'd like to give a talk. If you are thinking of bringing a laptop, or "schleptop", remember that security is minimal. Don't leave it lying around while you are at the beach.


Some are within walking distance; usually we work on Sunday morning, but this can be rearranged to Sunday afternoon if anyone wishes to attend services, as was the case once back in 1994.

Computer use fee

If you use the Bellairs internet connection or computers, you can expect a small fee (something like US$15) when you check out.

Photo copies/printing

There is a photocopier. Log any copies you make and pay at check-out time. Barbados 15 cents per page, the same as for printing from the printer (if you succeeded in doing that).


There are limited laundry facilities we can use for a charge at check-out time. These are located at the extreme east end of the East block, on the side wall facing the administration building. However, they cannot be used during the day, when the maids are using them. Large numbers of people using these would straing the system, but in principle, it is possible to do a laundry.


If you'd like to give a talk, please let us know in advance. Usually the overhead projector works, but you might be using the blackboard instead. There is both an overhead projector and a data project (for power point presentations). The data projector is kept locked away in the office, so to use it on the weekend or evening, we must make arrangements ahead of time. The first session on Sunday morning will begin with a discussion of what problems we'd like to work on for the week. Think about suggesting some problems that you'd like to see the group tackle. That's about it.


Oh, one more thing: do NOT, please, do NOT, leave Bellairs with your room key in your pocket! As just demonstrated, it is very easy to forget the key.