|Currency||Bermudian dollar (BMD)|
|Population||65 thousand (2013)|
|Electricity||120 volt / 60 hertz (Type A, Type B)|
|edit on Wikidata|
Bermuda is a self-governing British overseas territory in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Caribbean, off the coast of North America east of North Carolina. It is one of the last remnants of the British colonial empire in North America. Although it is not in the Caribbean, it shares a lot of cultural similarities with much of the English-speaking Caribbean and so is treated as such here.
Parishes and cities
Bermuda has two incorporated municipalities: one city and one town. There are also unincorporated municipalities (villages). Bermuda is divided into nine regions called parishes, listed below from west to east:
|Sandys Parish |
Composed of Ireland Island, Boaz Island, and Somerset Island, Sandys is most well-known as being the point of entry for cruise ship passengers, who arrive at the 1 . Includes the settlement of 1 Somerset Village.
|Southampton Parish |
Famous for its beaches and resorts, including much photographed pink sand of 2 Horseshoe Bay Beach
|Warwick Parish |
Includes Darrell's Island, Hawkins Island, Long Island, and Marshall's Island, as well as Warwick Camp.
|Paget Parish |
Contains several popular beaches including Coral Beach, Elbow Beach, and Grape Bay. Also home to Bermuda College, Bermuda Botanical Gardens, and Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art.
|Pembroke Parish |
Includes the capital city of 2 Hamilton.
|Devonshire Parish |
Home to many nature-based attractions, including a national park.
|Smith's Parish |
On the southern end of Harrington Sound and includes Spittal Pond Nature Reserve.
|Hamilton Parish |
It should not be confused with the city of Hamilton, is split in two by Harrington Sound and is home to 3 Flatts Village, 3 Baileys Bay, and the Bermuda Aquarium, Zoo and Museum.
|St. George's Parish |
Together with the town of 4 St. George's they stand on the eponymous island, at Bermuda's northeasternmost part. Many popular beaches are here, such as Tobacco Bay, Achille's Bay, and St. Catherine's Beach. Most visitors arriving by air land here at the L.F. Wade International Airport. On the St. George's Island is the Town of St. George, the first capital, a scenic UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the oldest continually inhabited British settlement in the New World. It boasts small winding streets with typical British Colonial architecture with fountains, gardens and squares, cobbled streets and plazas.
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.
Bermuda's island chain formed volcanically, and the exposed islands are the peaks of caldera rims on a submerged seamount. The Great Sound and Castle Harbour bays are two of the visible calderas. Over millions of years after the volcanic activity ceased, the surface of the island chain was capped in limestone deposits by calcareous algae and corals. The remainder of the coral ring is submerged to the north of the calderas. 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.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Although the island is an associate member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), it is not actually in the Caribbean Sea and due to its more northern location, has a different climate. The best time to visit Bermuda is spring to autumn, with much cooler weather in the winter months than Caribbean Sea islands. Its location does make the island vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms, with hurricane season running from June to November. Gales and strong winds are also common in winter months.
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 underground tanks for each home or property.
Bermuda was originally discovered in 1503 by Spanish explorer Juan de Bermúdez. Legatio Babylonica, published in 1511 by Peter Martyr d'Anghiera, lists "La Bermuda" among the Atlantic islands. In 1515 he returned, landing a dozen pigs and sows for any unlucky mariners who might later be stranded there.
The island 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 its convenient location between British Canada and Britain's Caribbean possessions, Bermuda became the Western Atlantic headquarters of the Royal Navy, guarding its vital shipping lanes, a strategic asset not unlike Gibraltar.
The first capital was St. George's, with its less hazardous harbour. No easy route of access wide and deep enough to allow large naval vessels to enter the Great Sound through the reef-line was known, until a proper channel was mapped by a Royal Naval hydrographer who spent twelve years charting the reefs after US independence. Following this, the Royal Naval Dockyard was built and made operational in 1809, and Hamilton became the capital of Bermuda in 1815.
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 centre 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 centre. 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. Since the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, Bermuda now has the largest population of all the British overseas territories.
The Bermuda Triangle is a trope in modern folklore, usually defined as the sea between Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico, said to be a hotspot for lost vessels. The triangle is however frequently crossed by ships and aircraft, without any statistical support for high risk of incidents.
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 B$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 $200 exemption, but visitors deemed to be carrying more than that amount will be subject to duty on the excess value.
Visitors are granted entry for not more than 6 months and usually for only 21 days. Extensions of stay are possible from the Bermuda Department of Immigration.
Since 1 March 2014, Bermuda does not issue its own visas. However, it requires that visitors who need a multiple-entry visa to transit the United Kingdom, the United States or Canada (the only countries with air links to Bermuda) present this visa upon arrival in Bermuda. For visitors who need such a visa, both the passport and the visa must be valid for at least 45 days beyond the end of their intended stay.
1 L.F. Wade International Airport (BDA IATA Bermuda International Airport), ☎ . There are daily flights from Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Newark, New York, Philadelphia, Toronto and Washington, together with less frequent flights from other US and Canadian cities. British Airways fly from London Gatwick to Bermuda.
There is a $50 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 (including 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. Importing narcotics and weapons (including all forms of guns) is strictly prohibited, as is importing any live marine animals, snakes or plants.
The airport is adjacent to Castle Harbor, in St. George's Parish, 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 $100. 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, Charleston, 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:
- Hamilton. Cruise ships berth here alongside Front Street, one of the main streets of Bermuda's capital. Passengers here have access to the shops and restaurants of Hamilton, and can reach the rest of the islands using the bus and ferry systems described in 'Get About' below.
- Saint George's. Cruise ships berth near the main square of the small town and historic former capital. Passengers can reach Hamilton and Flatts Village directly by bus, and other locations by changing in Hamilton.
- The historic Royal Naval Dockyard at the entrance to the Great Sound, beyond Somerset Village in Sandys Parish. Only here can the largest of cruise ships dock. Passengers can reach Hamilton directly by bus or ferry, and other locations by changing there.
Bermuda is a favourite, if challenging destination for offshore 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 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. The only bargain left in the islands is to 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).
The islands benefit from a good bus service, which connects all parts of the islands to Hamilton. The bus is the cheapest way to get around, and it can be a good idea to use it, but it has some negative sides. The timetable is not always respected and, especially outside of Hamilton, Bermudians will often wait 15 or even 30 minutes at the bus stop (don't blame them, if they say the bus will come in a moment: time is relative in such a beautiful place)! Bus drivers are well educated, however the first time you catch a bus, you will be scared by the fact that buses will regularly hit the leaves of palms and other plants (as they travel very very close to the side of the street) and by the speed reached in some streets, despite the official speed limit. Bus frequency is very good in some areas, but this is only until about 6PM; afterwards it is impossible to reach many parts of the islands by bus. The buses are air-conditioned and used equally by locals and visitors. If you plan to use the bus, it will be much more convenient if you buy a multiple-day travel pass in a post office in St. George's or Hamilton. 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. Buses will not accept passengers with a lot of luggage, thus they are not a recommended means of transportation from or to the airport. More information available from:
- Department of Public Transportation, ☎ . Operators of the bus service.
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's. 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. If embarking from a cruise ship at the Dockyard the ferry is the most cost effective way to get to Hamilton. If you wish to visit St. George's by ferry, do this on a day your cruise ship does not embark from Bermuda.
- Sea Express, ☎ . (operators of the ferry service).
There are also bus and ferry schedules.
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 $6.40 for first mile plus $2.25 for each subsequent mile; or $8.00 for the first mile for 5-6 passenger taxi and $2.80 for each additional mile, for travel between 6AM and midnight. 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." You may find that when you call 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 many cities, it is much more laid back and relaxed here. So relax; you are on Bermuda time. Enjoy the views while you wait.
- Bermuda Taxi Radio Cabs, ☎ .
- Bermuda Taxi Association, ☎ .
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. The rule of the road is to drive on the left side of the road, Commonwealth-style.
- Elbow Beach Cycles, ☎ . scooter rental, cycle rental, moped hire.
- Oleander Cycles, ☎ . Cycle rental.
There is a surprisingly large number of excellent sightseeing places in this 21-square mile tiny island.
The old limestone storage buildings, keep and fortress of the 1 National Museum of Bermuda have been wisely redeveloped by the Bermuda Government into a tourist attraction and shopping centre. The Bermuda National Trust care for a number of buildings including a museum at the 2 Globe Hotel. 3 Gibbs Hill Lighthouse is one of the oldest cast iron structures in the world, first lit on May 1, 1846.
Close together at the same address, 5 Crystal Caves and Fantasy Caves are quite different from each other, both reported as amazing sights. There are a number of nature reserves including 6 Spittal Pond.
Bermuda has approximately 100 examples of large fortifications and smaller batteries spread throughout the island, built between 1612 and 1957. Many have been restored, primarily the larger ones, and are open to the public, with dioramas, displays and 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.
Bermuda has many golf courses and driving ranges spread out along its length.
Hike along the bed of the former Bermuda Railway, dismantled in 1948 after 17 years of service, and reinvented as the Bermuda Railway Trail, a public walking trail stretching from St. George's through Pembroke Parish near Hamilton and on toward Somerset Village in the west end. There are many station houses, trestle footings, railway ties and spectacular views of land and water along its length.
You can go to one of Bermuda's lovely pink sandy beaches to swim, including Horseshoe Bay Beach, Elbow Beach, Tobacco Bay, and St. Catherine’s Bay.
- Cup Match 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.
Exchange rates for U.S. dollars
As of 02 January 2019:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
Bermuda's currency is the Bermudian dollar (International currency code BMD) symbolised as $ (sometimes also 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 two dollar bill. The currency is directly tied to US currency, so one US dollar always equals one Bermudian dollar 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 yoghurt 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 sorts of things, go to where the locals go.
A nice assortment of stores exists in Hamilton, especially on Front Street facing the harbour, one of the main shopping streets, easily explored on foot. A.S. Coopers, a shop first established in 1897, remains in business.
Shopping can also be found in the easily walked town of St George's and in the Dockyard, which has a small shopping mall. Smaller stores can be found throughout the island, offering a variety of goods.
Although shopping may seem relatively expensive in Bermuda, there are some ways to save money. The Island Pass offers exclusive deals at over 60 locations. It can be purchased for $ 20 at the Visitors Information Centres in Hamilton, the Dockyard, or St. George's.
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 in recent years as premises are lost to development, or establishments are redeveloped to target the tourist market.
While lobster and other seafoods are often featured on the menu, virtually everything is imported from the US or Canada. This shows in the price of even casual dining and groceries: locally produced foodstuffs are typically less varied, of 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).
Local specialities include:
- Salted codfish, boiled with potatoes. The traditional Sunday breakfast.
- Hoppin' John. Boiled rice and black-eyed peas.
- Cassava pie. Farine is an alternate base. Traditionally eaten at Christmas, but becoming more commonly found in local markets year-round.
- Bay grape jelly. Bay grapes were introduced as a windbreak. Although, like Suriname cherries and loquats, they are found throughout Bermuda and produce edible fruit, none of these plants are cultivated for agriculture, and their fruits are normally eaten from the tree, primarily by school children.
- Bermuda bananas, which are smaller and sweeter than others, are often eaten on Sunday mornings with codfish and potatoes.
- Fish is a common feature on restaurant menus across the island: local tuna, wahoo, and rockfish.
- Fish chowder, seasoned with sherry pepper sauce and dark rum, is a local favourite.
- Shark hash
- Fish cakes. Traditionally eaten on Fridays.
- Hot cross buns are an Easter favourite.
Restaurants and dining options
Restaurants can be found all over the island, with the largest concentration in Hamilton and St George's. 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.
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.
The Pickled Onion was formerly a British-style pub called the Cock and Feather
Bermuda's first and only Irish pub is Flannagan's.
Bermuda has two popular drinks:
- Rum Swizzle is a rum cocktail made of Demerera Rum (amber rum) and Jamaican Rum (dark rum) along with an assortment of citrus juices. Sometimes brandy is added to the mixture as well. It is quite a strong drink. According to local lore, it was named after the Swizzle Inn (although swizzle is a term that originated in England, possibly in the 18th century), where it is said to have been developed.
- Dark n' Stormy is a highball of Gosling's Black Seal, a dark blend of local rums, mixed with Barritt's Bermuda Stone Ginger Beer.
Both drinks are comparatively very sweet.
Accommodations in Bermuda are typically quite expensive. However, there are excellent options available.
There is also a wide variety of B&B style accommodations and smaller guest-room hotels (with kitchenettes).
Additionally, some businesses offer private homes, apartments and studios for short term rent.
The exorbitant cost of accommodation and airfares has had a negative effect on tourism, which is shrinking by more than 25% every year. Local government therefore hopes for more budget airlines to come to the island; for example, JetBlue flights have become available. Cruise ships are scapegoated for the decline in hotel stays. Compared to Caribbean destinations, Bermuda is at least twice to five times as expensive for a similar product.
- Bermuda College, Stonington Av, South Rd, Paget PG04, ☎ , fax: . Bermuda's lone college
- Warwick Academy, Saltus Grammar School, and the Bermuda High School for Girls are some of the few private high schools located on the island.
About 20% of the Bermuda populations are expatriates working in the legal and finance industry. The country has very strict work permit conditions. Bermudians have been implementing policies devoted to making sure that the native-born population is included in economic prosperity and professional opportunities instead of foreign workers. Laws are in place to encourage the hiring of qualified Bermudians. The Bermuda government issues work permits for 1-3 years, that can be extended at the government's discretion. Every time you renew your work permit, your employer must advertise for a Bermudian to take your job instead, adding to the uncertainty. Your work permit is tied to your employer, and only full-time work is allowed. Citizens of the United Kingdom and the European Union do not enjoy any exception at all to these rules.
Permanent residency does not exist for foreigners, and only by marrying a Bermudian and residing there for 10 years can you be eligible for citizenship.
The official and main spoken language is English, although many Bermudians have a unique accent not really similar to any other Caribbean country. It may resemble the Southern US accent in some cases. The spelling used in the country is based on UK English. Portuguese is the second most widely spoken language, a result of immigration from the Portuguese Atlantic Islands over the last 100 years, in particular the Azores.
Violent crime is becoming increasingly problematic in Bermuda but is still very rare compared to other destinations in the Caribbean. Most crime is petty like robbery. Using common sense and similar precautions that 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.
Homosexuality is seen as taboo in public in Bermuda, even if it is allowed by law in private. The local LGBT community exists on a more low-key scale than elsewhere, and there are no LGBT specific venues.
Note that Bermuda has no right to concealed weapons except for government officers.
Bermuda can get very hot during the day, so 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 American standards. 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 East Coast of the US. There is no government-funded National Health Service.
It is considered good manners when greeting someone, a shop assistant or the Premier, to say "good morning", "good afternoon" or "good evening" and to do the same when leaving them. 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 and ask.