Bermuda consists of about 138 islands and islets, with all the major islands aligned on a hook-shaped but roughly east-west axis and connected together by road bridges. Despite this complexity, Bermudans usually refer to Bermuda as "the island". In terms of terrain, the islands are comprised of low hills separated by fertile depressions, and interspersed with a complex set of waterways.
The inhabited island chain is actually the southern sector of a circular pseudo-atoll, the remainder of the coral ring being submerged or inter-tidal reefs (Bermuda, while having been formed volcanically, is not a true atoll). As a result the northern shores of inhabited islands are relatively sheltered, whilst the southern shores are exposed to the ocean swell. Consequently most of the best beaches are on the southern shore.
The best time to visit Bermuda is from Spring through to Autumn. Although the island is an associate member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), it is not actually in the Caribbean Sea and has a different climate. It is much farther north, but the warm waters of the Gulf Stream help give it a quasi-tropical atmosphere.
The islands have ample rainfall, but no rivers or freshwater lakes. As a result drinking water is collected on the roofs of all buildings (by law) and in special catchment areas, and stored in tanks under the ground for each home or property. Bermuda has a mild, humid subtropical maritime climate though gales and strong winds are common in winter. The hurricane season is from June to November.
Bermuda was first settled in 1609 by shipwrecked English colonists headed for the infant English colony of Virginia. The first industry on the islands was fruit and vegetable cultivation to supply the early American colonies. The islands took a carefully unofficial role during the American War of Independence, with much of Washington's armaments coming from a covert (and likely locally complicit) raid on the island's armoury. After US independence and during the Napoleonic wars, Great Britain found itself without access to the ports now on the US east coast. Because of this situation and Bermuda's convenient location between British Canada and Britain's Caribbean possessions, Bermuda became the principal stopover point for the British Royal Navy's Atlantic fleet, somewhat similar to Gibraltar.
The American Civil War and American Prohibition both added considerably to the island's coffers, with Bermuda forming an important focal point in running the blockades in both cases. During the Second World War, a large US air base was built on the islands and remained operational until 1995, and Bermuda served as the main intercept center for transatlantic cable messages to and from occupied Europe.
Tourist travel to Bermuda to escape North American winters first developed in Victorian times. Tourism continues to be important to the island's economy, although international business has surpassed it in recent years. Bermuda has developed into a highly successful offshore financial center. A referendum on independence was soundly defeated in 1995. For many, Bermudian independence would mean little other than the obligation to staff foreign missions and embassies around the world, which can be a strong obligation for Bermuda's small population.
The Thursday (Emancipation Day) and Friday (Somer's Day) before the first Monday in August are when Somerset and St. George play cricket, a tradition since 1901. Almost all businesses, including tourist attractions, shut down and large numbers of tents appear throughout the islands on beaches and roadsides. It's a four-day weekend, Bermuda-style. Bermudians make the most of it, sporting their team's colours, feasting and even doing some legalized gambling with their "Crown and Anchor" dice game.
Bermuda has two incorporated municipalities: one city and one town. There are also unincorporated municipalities (villages).
One of Bermuda's few taxes is its steep import duty. This varies depending on the item and the importer. Some items are tax exempt when brought in for personal use (books, educational materials). The duty on cars is fixed to their value. If the cost of the vehicle before it is landed is less than BD$ 10,000, the duty is 80%. For cars costing $10,000 or greater, before landing, the duty is 100%. The dealer must add his own profit margin on top of this. Each person arriving on the island is allowed a $100 exemption, but if a visitor is deemed to be carrying more than that amount he/she will be subject to the duty on the excess value.
There is a $25 airport tax for all passengers. Bermuda's Airport has the world's highest landing/parking fee for airlines, so the overall price for the air ticket (inc. all taxes) is considerably higher than for many Caribbean destinations.
Arriving passengers will need to pass through Immigration and Customs, and non-residents must have a return or onward ticket. Importation of narcotics and weapons (including all forms of guns) is strictly prohibited, as are any live marine animals, snakes or plants.
The airport is situated in St. George's Parish, adjacent to Castle Harbor, and nearer St George's than Hamilton (though no part of Bermuda is far from any other). If you are arriving on an inclusive tour, then your tour operator will probably have arranged onward transportation to your hotel by private bus. The airport is well served by local public buses, but unfortunately these will not accept luggage.
Taxis are available at the airport; depending on time of arrival and destination they may cost up to $50. Rates to and from the airport are set and posted. Hire cars are not available (see 'Get around' below).
One plus for visitors arriving from the US is that customs and immigration clearance is done in Bermuda prior to boarding your flight home. This allows for easy domestic connections on arrival in the US.
Bermuda receives many visits from cruise ships during the summer months, with most ships operating from the ports of Baltimore, Boston, Bayonne, New York, Norfolk, Miami/Ft Lauderdale, and Philadelphia on the eastern seaboard of the United States.
The same immigration and customs rules apply as for arrival by air (above).
There are three different locations cruise ships may stop at in Bermuda, and some vessels visit more than one of these in a single cruise:
Bermuda is a favorite, if challenging destination for off-shore yacht crews. Crossing from the US mainland or the Azores can take up to 3 weeks in the notorious calm of summer. The rest of the year there might be too much wind: nor'easters to hurricanes. Another hazard: lots of floating debris from sunken ships and the hurricanes of the the last few years. Within a 200 nm radius from Bermuda collisions with solid objects are frequent and often deadly.
Yachts have to clear in Bermuda Customs and Immigration at St George. Only bargain left in the islands: bring your own boat and anchor, moor or dock for free in all the islands' coves for up to 6 months. Check in is only $15.-/pp ($10 cheaper than by air).
There is no car rental available in the island. However, the other Bermuda transportation modes are excellent and more than make up for any such void.
The islands benefit from an excellent and frequent bus service, which connects all parts of the islands to Hamilton. The buses are air conditioned and used equally by locals and visitors. When catching a bus look out for the pink and blue painted poles which denote bus stops; pink indicates buses heading into Hamilton; blue heading out from Hamilton. Note that buses will not accept passengers with significant luggage.
There are also passenger ferries which ply the waters of Hamilton Harbour and the Great Sound, and are a great way of getting to Somerset and the Dockyard. There is also a ferry service between the Dockyard and St. George. Transportation passes valid on both buses and ferries are available for unlimited use for periods of 1 to 31 days and cost $12-$55. A one-way bus or ferry trip costs $4. Ask the bus driver for a transfer if you must connect to another line.
Schedules for bus and ferry can be found here .
Taxis are another easy way of getting around the islands. They are available at taxi stands on Front St. in Hamilton, at the major hotels or by phone. All taxis are fitted with a meter and charge $4 for first mile plus $1.40 for each subsequent mile. If not in Hamilton, you can always flag one down on a major road or call to have one pick you up.
With many services in Bermuda, but especially with taxis (though not with buses and ferries, which are very punctual), there is a concept of "Bermuda Time," which basically means, "When we get to it." You may find that, when calling for a taxi to pick you up, they may not be as prompt as you would like. This may mean waiting an extra ten minutes, but remember that Bermuda is not at all fast-paced like a city, it is much more laid back and relaxed here. So relax; you're on Bermuda time. Enjoy the views while you wait.
Until the arrival of the US military during the second world war, cars were entirely banned from the islands. Even now hire cars are banned, and only residents are permitted to own cars. Motorized bicycles or mopeds are available for hire and heavily used by locals and tourists as well. If you wish to use mopeds, rentals are very common, regulated and priced competitively, but beware: "Road Rash" is a very common affliction affecting many tourists. Note that travel is on the left side of the road (opposite to U.S. travel).
More information available from:
There are surprisingly large number of excellent sightseeing places in this 21-square mile tiny island.
Main Sightseeing Attractions :
The principal language spoken is English, although many Bermudians have a strong accent. Bermuda has a unique accent as it's not really similar to any other Caribbean country. Most people claim it resembles the Southern U.S. in some cases. Portuguese is the second most widely spoken language.
Go to one of Bermuda's lovely pink sandy beaches:
Bermuda has many golf courses and driving ranges spread out along its length.
Bermuda Railway Trail
The bed of the former Bermuda Railway which was dismantled in 1948 after 17 years of service. Many sections still exist as a public walking trail stretching from St. George Town in the east end, through Pembroke Parish near the City of Hamilton and on toward Somerset Village in the west end. Many station houses, trestle footings and railway ties can be found. It offers spectacular views of the island and waters along its length.
Bermuda has many examples of large fortifications and smaller batteries spread throughout the island which were built between 1612 after first settlement and manned until 1957. For its small size the island had approximately 100 fortifications built. Many have been restored, primarily the larger ones, and are open to the public with dioramas and displays. Many have their original cannons in place. Some lie on outlying islands and islets and can only be accessed via boat, or have been incorporated into private properties and resorts. Some of those which can be accessed are:
Bermuda's currency is the Bermudian dollar (BMD or B$), which is divided into 100 cents. It comes in all the same denominations as US currency, except for a more widely used dollar coin and a two dollar bill. The currency is directly tied to US currency, so USD $1 always equals BMD $1, and US dollars are accepted everywhere in Bermuda at par. Bermudian dollars are not, however, accepted in the United States.
Bermuda can be expensive. Because of Bermuda's steep import tax, all goods sold in stores that come from off the island carry a significant markup. When buying groceries or other (non-souvenir) items of that nature, be aware that the best prices are usually away from the more "touristy" areas. For example, one cup of yogurt might cost about $1.60 at a grocery store near hotels; it will cost 25% less at a grocery store further from the tourist attractions, and only 10 cents more than in the United States. When buying these sort of things, go to where the locals go.
A nice assortment of stores exists in Hamilton, especially on Front Street. The area can be explored easily by foot. Front Street, is one of the main shopping streets, and is facing the harbor. In recent years, two of the largest and oldest department stores on Front Street have closed. However, A.S. Coopers, first established in 1897, remains.
Shopping can also be found in the easily walked town of St George as well as in Dockyard, which has a small shopping mall. Smaller stores can be found throughout the island offering a variety of goods.
Two relatively unique Bermudian dishes are salted codfish, boiled with potatoes, the traditional Sunday breakfast, and Hoppin' John, a simple dish of boiled rice and black-eyed peas. Shark hash was made, fish cakes were traditional on Fridays, hotcross buns at Easter, and cassava or farine pies at Christmas. With the high-end tourist market, great effort has been expended by hotel and restaurant chefs in developing an ostensibly 'traditional Bermudian cuisine', although this has usually meant adapting other cuisines, from West Indian to Californian, in line with the expectations of visiting clientele. Most pubs serve a typical British Pub fare, although the number of these establishments has diminished as premises are lost to development, or establishments are redeveloped to target the tourist market (note the loss of the Ram's Head, the White Heron, the Rum Runner, and the Cock and Feather (redeveloped into the Pickled Onion, with a nouveau menu)). On the other hand, over the same period Bermuda gained its first and only Irish pub, Flannagan's. While lobster and other seafoods are often featured on the menu, virtually everything is imported from the US or Canada. Although this shows in the price of even casual dining and groceries, it should be noted that locally produced foodstuffs are typically less varied, poorer quality, produced in smaller quantities, and more expensive. Most bananas, for instance, will have a 'Chiquita' sticker, and are larger than those grown locally (which do have the advantage of ripening on the plant).
Restaurants and Dining Options
Restaurants can be found all over the island, with the largest concentration in the city of Hamilton and St George town. Also, there are several at some of the hotels which are outstanding, although pricey. At Elbow Beach Hotel, Cafe lido is excellent, and Southampton Fairmont Waterlot Inn, although sometimes crowded and noisy, has excellent dining.
Remember that with most restaurants, the closer you are to the cruise ship docks, the more expensive the menu will be. Most cruise ship passengers have a short time in which to experience Bermuda, and if they don't eat on the ship, most will be reluctant to leave the town to eat. The restaurants in proximity to the cruise ship docks in, say, St. George's can be as much as three times as expensive as a comparable one in, say, Somerset Village.
Local specialties include:
Bermuda has two popular drinks:
Both drinks are comparatively very sweet.
Accommodations in Bermuda are typically quite expensive. However there are excellent options available
There are many exclusive and four star accommodations such as:
There are also a wide variety of B&B style accommodations and smaller guestroom hotels (with kitchenettes) such as:
Additionally, some businesses offer private homes, apartments and studios for short term rent such as Bermuda Accommodations Inc. www.bermudarentals.com, Phone: 416-232-2243
The exorbitant cost of accommodation and airfares has had a negative effect on tourism, which is shrinking by >25% every year. Local government therefore hopes for more budget airlines to come to the island (now only USA3000 from Baltimore and some JetBlue Flights are available. Cruise ships are scape-goated for the decline in hotel stays. Compared to Caribbean destinations Bermuda is at least twice to five times as expensive for a similar product.
Bermudians have been successful in implementing policies devoted to making sure the native-born (primarily black) population is not excluded from economic prosperity and professional opportunities, in favor of foreign workers (primarily white). Laws are in place to encourage the hiring of qualified Bermudians and to building a future in which it is the rule, rather than the exception, for native-born Bermudians to be professionally trained and promoted, and for young Bermudians to see a future in which they can hold places of leadership and progress within their own country.
Many Caribbean nations have faced the challenge of rising "emergency" emigration as native-born populations are being shut out of upper-level professional opportunities through the importation of foreign workers. This is a practice which many see as a reversal of hard-won struggles against the racial discrimination and slavery-born caste systems of the past, and has resulted in striking decreases in the quality of life for these nations and the rise of widespread social problems.
Because of a small population, economic prosperity and an early-response, Bermuda has been able to (comparatively) stem the tide of such problems and maintain a higher standard of living for all of its people, rather than cultivate a pervasive racial caste system of tourists and foreign workers, served and entertained by native-born blacks who provide 'color and culture' but without an equal footing in society.
Violent crime is becoming increasingly problematic in Bermuda, but is still very rare compared to other destinations in the Caribbean. Most of the time it's only petty crimes like robbery. Using common sense and similar precautions one would take at home is usually sufficient enough to deter most thieves.
Mopeds are very frequent targets for theft; make sure that you properly lock up any rented moped when leaving them unattended. Also rented mopeds have a tendency to get into accidents due to the sometimes narrow roads as well as driving on the left hand side, which may take getting used to. Using common sense and keeping calm in the traffic, which can appear quite close helps.
Also note that homosexuality is seen as taboo in public in Bermuda, although allowed by law in private. The local gay community exists on a more low-key scale than elsewhere, with no gay specific venues at this time.
Also note that Bermuda has no right to conealed weapons unless you are a government officer
Although it should go without saying, Bermuda can get very hot during the day, meaning a bottle of water is very handy for those venturing more than a short distance from their hotels.
Health care in Bermuda is incredibly expensive, and is roughly at the standard of expense found on the USA. There is one hospital on the island, the King Edward VII Memorial, with emergency services, including a decompression chamber. Air Ambulance service is available to additional medical services on the US east coast. There is no government funded National Health Service.
It is considered good manners when greeting someone, whether it be a shop assistant or the Premier, to give them a 'Good Morning' / 'Afternoon' / 'Evening', and to do the same when leaving them. Try to avoid any political/ideological/religious discussions, unless you know the person very well.
Most Bermudians are very accommodating when it comes to helping out or answering any questions a visitor may have. Just stop someone on the street or pop into any shop/store and ask.