Just a two-hour flight from most East Coast U.S. cities, Bermuda is one quick getaway that feels worlds away. Tranquil and prosperous, this island nation of pastel houses and manicured gardens also displays a deep British heritage with crisp colonial architecture. A comfortable climate provides year-round opportunities for outdoor recreation on pink-sand beaches, at championship golf courses, and in cerulean waters. Add excellent, varied shopping and dining, and it’s easy to see why this small-in-size country looms large on many itineraries.
Flying time to Bermuda from most East Coast cities is about 2 hours; from Toronto, 3 hours; and 7 hours from London Gatwick.
Most flights arrive around noon, making for particularly long waits to get through immigration; however, British Airways flights and a couple of American Airlines flights from New York arrive in the evening.
At many airports outside Bermuda travelers with only carry-on luggage can bypass the airline’s front desk and check in at the gate. But in Bermuda everyone checks in at the airline’s front desk. U.S. customs has a desk here, too, so you won’t have to clear customs at home when you land. Passengers returning to Britain or Canada will need to clear customs and immigration on arrival.
Bermuda’s gateway is L.F. Wade International Airport (BDA), formerly Bermuda International Airport, on the East End of the island. It’s approximately 9 miles from Hamilton (30-minute cab ride), 13 miles from Southampton (40-minute cab ride), and 17 miles from Somerset (50 minutes by cab). The town of St. George’s is about a 15-minute cab ride from the airport.
Taxis, available outside the arrivals gate, are the usual and most convenient way to leave the airport. The approximate fare (not including tip) to Hamilton is $35; to St. George’s, $15; to south-shore hotels, $45; and to Sandys (Somerset), $50. A surcharge of $1 is added for each piece of luggage stored in the trunk or on the roof. Fares are 25%–50% higher between midnight and 6 am and all day on Sunday and public holidays. Fifteen percent is an acceptable tip.
Bermuda Triangle Tours provides transportation to hotels and guesthouses aboard air-conditioned 6- to 15-seat vans and buses. Reservations are recommended. Prices are $35 per person to Hamilton or $40 per person to Southampton, so for most people, a taxi is the cheaper option.
Nonstop service to Bermuda is available year-round on major airlines from Atlanta, Boston, Newark (NJ), New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Toronto, Miami, and London, and seasonally from Charlotte and Washington, D.C.
Fares from New York City may be found for less than $300 on some of the budget airlines, but the average price is closer to $500 and can be as high as $800 in peak season, whereas fares from Toronto are typically about $400. Fares from Gatwick vary from $900 in low season to $1,300 in high season on British Airways. Flight regularity and price are subject to rapid change, and airlines recommend that travelers check their websites for up-to-the-minute information.
The Bermuda Ministry of Transport maintains excellent, frequent, and on-time ferry service from Hamilton to Paget and Warwick (the pink line), Somerset and the Dockyard in the West End (the blue line), Rockaway in Southampton (the green line), and, weekdays in summer only, the Dockyard and St. George’s (the orange line).
A one-way adult fare to Paget or Warwick is $3.50; to Somerset, the Dockyard, or St. George’s, $5.00. The last departures are from Hamilton at 8:30 pm from mid-April through mid-November, 7 pm from mid-November through mid-April. Sunday ferry service is limited and ends around 6 pm. You can bring a bicycle on board free of charge, but you’ll pay $4.50 extra to take a motor scooter to Somerset or the Dockyard. Discounted one-, two-, three-, four-, and seven-day passes are available for use on both ferries and buses. They cost $19, $31.50, $44, $48.50, and $62, respectively. Monthly passes are also available. The helpful ferry operators can answer questions about routes and schedules and can even help get your bike on board. Schedules are published online, posted at each landing, and also available at the Ferry Terminal, Central Bus Terminal, Visitors Information Centres, and most hotels.
Bermuda’s pink and blue buses travel the island from east to west. To find a bus stop outside Hamilton, look for either a stone shelter or a pink or blue pole. For buses heading to Hamilton, the pole is pink; for those traveling away from Hamilton, the pole is blue. Remember to wait on the proper side of the road. Driving in Bermuda is on the left. Bus drivers will not make change, so purchase tickets or discounted tokens or carry plenty of coins.
In addition to public buses, private minibuses serve St. George’s. The minibus fare depends on the destination, but you won’t pay more than $5 or $6. Minibuses, which you can flag down, drop you wherever you want to go in this parish. They operate daily from about 7:30 am to 11 pm. Smoking is not permitted on buses.
Bermuda is divided into 14 bus zones, each about 2 miles long. Within the first three zones, the rate is $3.50 (coins only). For longer distances, the fare is $5. If you plan to travel by public transportation often, buy a booklet of tickets (15 14-zone tickets for $37.50, or 15 three-zone tickets for $25). You can also buy a few tokens, which, unlike tickets, are sold individually. In addition to tickets and tokens, there are one-, two-, three-, four-, and seven-day adult passes ($19, $31.50, $44, $48.50, and $62, respectively). Monthly passes are also available. All bus passes are good for ferry service and are available at the central bus terminal. Tickets and passes are also sold at many hotels and guesthouses.
Hamilton buses arrive and depart from the Central Bus Terminal. An office here is open weekdays from 7:15 am to 7 pm, Saturday from 8 am to 6:30 pm, and Sunday and holidays from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm; it’s the only place to buy money-saving tokens.
Buses run about every 15 minutes, except on Sunday, when they usually come every half hour or hour, depending on the route. Bus schedules, which also contain ferry timetables, are available at the bus terminal in Hamilton and at many hotels. The timetable also offers an itinerary for a do-it-yourself, one-day sightseeing tour by bus and ferry. Upon request, the driver will be happy to tell you when you’ve reached your stop. Be sure to greet the bus driver when boarding—it’s considered rude in Bermuda to ask a bus driver a question, such as the fare or details on your destination, without first greeting him or her.
Hop on Hop Off Bus St. George’s. For $6 you can ride the bus around nine different St. George’s sites including the main town and the beaches and forts. The bus departs every half hour from Penno’s Wharf from 10 am to 6 pm daily. There is also a bus that explores St. David’s Island. 441/707–5000.
You cannot rent a car in Bermuda. The island has strict laws governing overcrowded roads, so even Bermudians are only allowed one car per household. A popular, albeit possibly somewhat dangerous, the alternative is to rent mopeds or scooters, which are better for negotiating the island’s narrow roads.
Because car rentals are not allowed in Bermuda, you might decide to get around by moped or scooter. Bermudians routinely use the words “moped” and “scooter” interchangeably, even though they’re different. You must pedal to start a moped, and it carries only one person. A scooter, on the other hand, which starts when you put the key in the ignition, is more powerful and holds one or two passengers.
Think twice before renting a moped, as accidents occur frequently and are occasionally fatal. The best ways to avoid mishaps are to drive defensively, obey the speed limit, remember to stay on the left-hand side of the road—especially at traffic circles—and avoid riding in the rain and at night.
Helmets are required by law. Mopeds and scooters can be rented from cycle liveries by the hour, the day, or the week. Liveries will show first-time riders how to operate the vehicles. Rates vary, so it’s worth calling several liveries to see what they charge. Single-seat scooter rentals cost $55–$75 per day or from about $200–$250 per week. Some liveries tack a mandatory insurance-and-repair charge on top of the bill, whereas others include the cost of insurance, breakdown service, pickup and delivery, and a tank of gas in the quoted price. A $20 deposit may also be charged for the lock, key, and helmet. You must be at least 16 and have a valid driver’s license to rent. Major hotels have their own cycle liveries, and all hotels and most guesthouses will make rental arrangements.
Gas for cycles runs from $3 to $4 per liter, but you can cover a great deal of ground on the full tank that comes with the wheels. Gas stations will accept major credit cards. It’s customary to tip attendants—a couple of dollars is adequate.
On-street parking bays for scooters are plentiful and easy to spot. What’s even better is they’re free!
Roads are narrow, winding, and full of blind curves. Whether driving cars or scooters, Bermudians tend to be quite cautious around less-experienced visiting riders, but crowded city streets make accidents all the more common. Local rush hours are weekdays from 7:30 am to 9 am and from 4 pm to 6 pm. Roads are often bumpy, and they may be slippery under a morning mist or rainfall. Street lamps are few and far between outside of the cities, so be especially careful driving at night.
The number for Bermuda’s emergency services is 911. Scooters are often stolen, so to be safe you should always carry the number of your hire company with you. Also, don’t ride with valuables in your bike basket, as you are putting yourself at risk of theft. Passing motorists can grab your belongings and ride off without your even knowing it.
Rules of the Road
The speed limit is 35 kph (22 mph), except in the World Heritage Site of St. George’s, where it is a mere 25 kph (about 15 mph). The limits, however, are not very well enforced, and the actual driving speed in Bermuda hovers around 50 kph (30 mph). Police seldom target tourists for parking offenses or other driving infractions. Drunk driving is a serious problem in Bermuda, despite stiff penalties. The blood-alcohol limit is 0.08. The courts will impose a $1,000 fine for a driving-while-intoxicated infraction, and also take the driver off the road for at least one year. A new law has recently been imposed against using a mobile phone while driving a scooter.
Taxis are the fastest and easiest way to get around the island; unfortunately, they are also the most costly and can take a long time to arrive. Four-seater taxis charge $7.90 for the first mile and $2.75 for each subsequent mile. Between midnight and 6 am, and on Sunday and holidays, a 25%–50% surcharge is added to the fare. There’s a $1 charge for each piece of luggage stored in the trunk or on the roof. Taxi drivers accept only American or Bermudian cash, but not bills larger than $50, and they expect a 15% tip. You can phone for taxi pickup, but you may wait while the cab navigates Bermuda’s heavy traffic. Don’t hesitate to hail a taxi on the street.
For a personalized taxi tour of the island, the minimum duration is three hours, at $40 per hour for one to four people and $55.50 an hour for five or six, excluding tip.
BTA Dispatching Ltd.. 441/296–2121
First Step Taxi Service. 441/735–7151
Island Taxi Services. 441/295–4141
You should have no trouble bringing a laptop through customs into Bermuda, though you may have to open and turn it on for inspection by security officers. It’s a good idea to bring proof of purchase with you so you will not run into any difficulty bringing the computer back to the States, especially if it’s a new machine.
Most hotels charge connection fees each time a laptop is hooked up to the Internet ($3 to $10), with additional charges (10¢ to 30¢ per minute) during the connection. The Fairmont Southampton Resort, Fairmont Hamilton Princess, and Rosewood Tucker’s Point have fully equipped business centers where guests can use hotel computers for Internet access (connection charges still apply).
TeleBermuda International offers hotspots around the island for $4.99 an hour, including all of Dockyard. While most of the hotspots are advertised as WiFiZone, log on to their website at www.telebermuda.com to find the closest.
The good news is you can now make a direct-dial telephone call from virtually any point on earth. The bad news? You can’t always do so cheaply. Calling from a hotel is almost always the most expensive option; hotels usually add huge surcharges to all calls, particularly international ones. In some countries, you can phone from call centers or even the post office. And then there are mobile phones, which are sometimes more prevalent—particularly in the developing world—than landlines; as expensive as mobile phone calls can be, they are still usually a much cheaper option than calling from your hotel.
Destination-specific international calling cards from Logic Communications in Hamilton offer the cheapest way of calling. You can use them on any phone, including public payphones and mobile phones. You can also get standard international cards from pharmacies, some supermarkets, and many gas stations, which will also get you a better rate than calling directly from the hotel.
The country code for Bermuda is 441. When dialing a Bermuda number from the United States or Canada, simply dial 1 + 441 + local number. You do not need to dial the international access code (011).
Calling Within Bermuda
Telephone service in Bermuda is organized and efficient, though service may be interrupted during storms.
When in Bermuda, call 411 for local phone numbers. To reach directory assistance from outside the country, call 441/555–1212.
To make a local call, simply dial the seven-digit number.
You can find payphones similar to those in the United States on the streets of Hamilton, St. George’s, and Somerset as well as at the airport, cruise ship terminals, ferry landings, some bus stops, and public beaches. Deposit 50¢ (U.S. or Bermudian) before you dial. Most hotels charge from 30¢ to $1 for local calls.
Calling Outside Bermuda
The country code for the United States is 1.
Most hotels impose a surcharge for long-distance calls, even those made collect or with a phone card or credit card. Many toll-free 800 or 888 numbers in the United States aren’t honored in Bermuda. Consider buying a prepaid local phone card rather than using your own calling card. In many small guesthouses and apartments, the phone in your room is a private line from which you can make only collect, credit card, or local calls. Some small hotels have a telephone room or kiosk where you can make long-distance calls.
To call the United States, Canada, and most Caribbean countries, simply dial 1 (or 0 if you need an operator’s assistance), then the area code and the number. For all other countries, dial 011 (or 0 for an operator), the country code, the area code, and the number. Using an operator for an overseas call is more expensive than dialing direct. For calls to the United States, rates are highest from 8 am to 6 pm and discounted from 6 pm to 8 am and on weekends.
Buy a prepaid phone card for long-distance calls. They can be used with any touch-tone phone in Bermuda, although they can only be used for calls outside Bermuda. Rates are often significantly lower than dialing direct, but the downside is that some hotels will charge you for making the call to your card’s 800 number. Phone cards are available at pharmacies, shops, gas stations, and restaurants. The phone companies TeleBermuda and Logic Communications sell prepaid calling cards in denominations of $5 to $50. The cards can be used around the world as well as in Bermuda.
Logic Communications. 441/296–9600.
TeleBermuda International. 441/296–9000.
If you have a multiband phone (some countries use different frequencies than what’s used in the United States) and your service provider uses the world-standard GSM network (as do T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon), you can probably use your phone abroad. Roaming fees can be steep, however: 99¢ a minute is considered reasonable. And overseas you normally pay the toll charges for incoming calls. It’s almost always cheaper to send a text message than to make a call, since text messages have a very low set fee (often less than 25¢).
If you just want to make local calls, consider buying a new SIM card (note that your provider may have to unlock your phone for you to use a different SIM card) and a prepaid service plan in the destination. You’ll then have a local number and can make local calls at local rates. If your trip is extensive, you could also simply buy a new cell phone in your destination, as the initial cost will be offset over time.
If you travel internationally frequently, save one of your old mobile phones or buy a cheap one on the Internet; ask your cell phone company to unlock it for you, and take it with you as a travel phone, buying a new SIM card with pay-as-you-go service in each destination.
Most travelers can use their own cell phones in Bermuda, though you should check with your provider to be sure. Cell-phone rentals are available from stores in Hamilton, some of which will even deliver the phone to you. A typical charge is $2 a day for the rental while local calls will cost 60¢ a minute. Incoming international calls will also cost 60¢ a minute, but outgoing international calls will cost $1.10 a minute.
On entering Bermuda, you can bring in duty-free up to 50 cigars, 200 cigarettes, and 1 pound of tobacco; 1 liter of wine and 1 liter of spirits; and other goods with a total maximum value of $30. To import plants, fruits, vegetables, or pets, you must get an import permit in advance from the Department of Environmental Protection. Merchandise and sales materials for use at conventions must be cleared with the hotel concerned before you arrive. Be prepared for a bit of a wait, as the Customs Office has a reputation for being very thorough. If there are a lot of passengers this process can add an hour or so if you’re unlucky. It goes without saying, but you should definitely not bring in any drugs such as marijuana, as drug checks are very thorough and the penalties are harsh.
Reservations are always a good idea. We mention them only when they’re essential or not accepted. Book as far ahead as you can and reconfirm when you arrive, especially in high season. Many restaurants close—or curtail hours, or days of service—in the off-season, so call ahead before setting out for lunch or dinner.
What to Wear
Bermuda has had a reputation for strict sartorial standards, but most of the mid-price restaurants are much more casual these days. In many of the pubs and bars in town you would not be out of place in shorts and a T-shirt. It’s a different story in more upscale restaurants, often attached to hotels. Even when not required, a jacket for men is rarely out of place. In our restaurant reviews we mention dress only when men are required to wear either a jacket or a jacket and tie.
Restaurant and menu guides are available at any Visitor Information Centre. The island’s telephone directory also publishes a good selection of restaurant menus.
Much harder to swallow than a delicious Bermuda fish chowder are the prices of dining out. Bermuda has never sought a reputation for affordability, and restaurants are no exception. A few greasy spoons serve standard North American fare (and a few local favorites) at a decent price, but by and large you should prepare for a bit of sticker shock. Don’t be surprised if dinner for two with wine at one of the very top places—Tom Moore’s Tavern, for example—puts a $200–$300 dent in your pocket. A 17% service charge is almost always added to the bill “for your convenience.”
The local electrical current is the same as in the United States and Canada: 110 volt, 60 cycle AC. All appliances that can be used in North America can be used in Bermuda without adapters. Winter storms bring occasional power outages.
Police, ambulance, and fire services are all at 911. Pharmacies usually open around 8 am, some stay open until 9 pm. People’s Pharmacy in Hamilton is open from 10 am to 6 pm on Sunday.
The most common types of illnesses are caused by contaminated food and water. If you have problems, mild cases of traveler’s diarrhea may respond to Imodium (known generically as loperamide) or Pepto-Bismol. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids; if you can’t keep fluids down, seek medical help immediately.
Infectious diseases can be airborne or passed via mosquitoes and ticks and through direct or indirect physical contact with animals or people. Some, including Norwalk-like viruses that affect your digestive tract, can be passed along through contaminated food. Speak with your physician and/or check the CDC or World Health Organization websites for health alerts, particularly if you’re pregnant, traveling with children, or have a chronic illness.
Specific Issues in Bermuda
Sunburn and sunstroke are legitimate concerns if you’re traveling to Bermuda in summer. On hot, sunny days, wear a hat, a beach cover-up, and lots of sunblock. These are essential for a day on a boat or at the beach. Be sure to take the same kind of precautions on overcast summer days—some of the worst cases of sunburn happen on cloudy afternoons when sunblock seems unnecessary. Drink plenty of water and, above all, limit the amount of time you spend in the sun until you become acclimated.
The Portuguese man-of-war occasionally visits Bermuda’s waters, so be alert when swimming, especially in summer or whenever the water is particularly warm. This creature is recognizable by a purple, balloon-like float sack of perhaps 8 inches in diameter, below which dangle 20- to 60-inch tentacles armed with powerful stinging cells. Contact with the stinging cells causes immediate and severe pain. Seek medical attention immediately: a serious sting can send a person into shock. In the meantime—or if getting to a doctor will take a while—treat the affected area liberally with vinegar. Ammonia is also an effective antidote to the sting. Although usually encountered in the water, Portuguese men-of-war may also wash up onshore. If you spot one on the sand, steer clear, as the sting is just as dangerous out of the water.
More recently, divers have encountered the highly poisonous lionfish, which is not a native of the waters. Swimmers will be extremely unlikely to come into contact with one, while divers should just exercise caution around the creatures, which are not aggressive unless provoked.
Crime, especially against tourists, is extremely low in Bermuda. Purse snatching is the most common crime tourists should watch out for. While rare, more serious incidents do happen occasionally, so you should guard against being overly complacent. Don’t leave unattended valuables on the beach while going for a swim. Exercise commonsense precautions with wallets, purses, cameras, and other valuables. If you’re driving a moped, always travel with your purse or bag concealed inside the seat. Always lock your moped or pedal bike, and store valuables in your room or hotel safe. Although an ocean breeze through a screen door is wonderful, close and lock your hotel room’s glass patio door while you’re sleeping or out of your room. The “back-of-town” area, in particular Court Street, has a bad reputation historically, though the government has made a number of efforts to clean the area up. However, if you do want to go to a venue there it’s worth taking a taxi, just to be on the safe side.
Distribute your cash, credit cards, IDs, and other valuables between a deep front pocket, an inside jacket or vest pocket, and a hidden money pouch. Don’t reach for the money pouch once you’re in public.
Most branches of HSBC Bermuda are open weekdays from 9 to 4:30. All branches of Butterfield Bank are open weekdays from 9 to 4. Bermuda Commercial Bank (19 Par-La-Ville Road,) operates weekdays from 9 to 5. Clarien Bank (25 Reid Street, Hamilton) is open weekdays from 8:30 to 4 and Saturday from 9:30 to 1:30.
Many gas stations are open daily from 7 am to 9 pm, and a few stay open until midnight. The island’s only 24-hour gas station is Esso City Auto Market in Hamilton, near the Bank of Butterfield, off Par-La-Ville Road.
Hours vary greatly, but museums are generally open Monday through Saturday from 9 or 9:30 to 4:30 or 5. Some close on Saturday. Check with individual museums for exact hours.
Pharmacies are open Monday through Saturday from 8 am to 6 or 8 pm, and sometimes Sunday from around 11 to 6 pm.
Most stores are open Monday through Saturday from around 9 until 5 or 6. Some Hamilton stores keep evening hours when cruise ships are in port. Dockyard shops are generally open Monday through Saturday from 10 to 5, Sunday from 11 to 5. The Bermuda government recently made it legal for all stores to open on Sunday, although most shops have yet to take advantage of the change. Those that are open—mainly grocery stores and pharmacies—have abbreviated hours.
On Sunday and national public holidays, all shops, businesses, and many restaurants in Bermuda close. Buses and ferries run on limited schedules. Most entertainment venues, sights, and sports outfitters remain open. When holidays fall on a Saturday, government and commercial offices close the following Monday, but restaurants and shops remain open.
Bermuda celebrates a two-day public holiday for Emancipation Day/Somers Day and Cup Match in late July or early August when the whole island comes to a standstill for the annual cricket match between the East and West ends of Bermuda. National public holidays are New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Bermuda Day (late May), National Heroes Day (mid-June), Labour Day (early September), Remembrance Day (early November), Christmas, and Boxing Day (December 26).
The Bermudian dollar is on par with the U.S. dollar, and the two currencies are used interchangeably. (Other non-Bermudian currency must be converted.) You can use American money anywhere, but change is often given in Bermudian currency. Try to avoid accumulating large amounts of local money, which is difficult to exchange for U.S. dollars in Bermuda and expensive to exchange in the United States. ATMs are plentiful, as are the number of venues that will accept credit cards, even for small items.
Since Bermuda imports everything from cars to cardigans, prices are high. At an upscale restaurant, for example, you’re bound to pay as much for a meal as you would in a top New York, London, or Paris restaurant: on average, $60 to $80 per person, $120 with drinks and wine. There are cheaper options, of course; the island is full of coffee shops, where you can eat hamburgers and french fries with locals for about $15. The same meal at a restaurant costs about $25.
Prices here are given for adults. Substantially reduced fees are almost always available for children, students, and senior citizens.
ATMs and Banks
Your own bank will probably charge a fee for using ATMs abroad; the foreign bank you use may also charge a fee. Nevertheless, you’ll usually get a better rate of exchange at an ATM than you will at a currency-exchange office or even when changing money in a bank. And extracting funds as you need them is a safer option than carrying around a large amount of cash.
PINs with more than four digits are not recognized at ATMs in many countries. If yours has five or more, remember to change it before you leave.
ATMs are found all over Bermuda, in shops, arcades, supermarkets, the airport, and two of the island’s banks. Both HSBC Bermuda and the Bank of Butterfield are affiliated with the Cirrus and Plus networks. Note that both banks’ ATMs only accept personal identification numbers (PIN) with four digits. Typical withdrawal amounts are multiples of 20 up to 100. Cash point robberies are a rarity in Bermuda, but if you’re concerned, Reid Street and Front Street—which have the most banks—are Hamilton’s busiest, and hence safest, places to withdraw cash.
It’s a good idea to inform your credit-card company before you travel, especially if you’re going abroad and don’t travel internationally very often. Otherwise, the credit-card company might put a hold on your card owing to unusual activity—not a good thing halfway through your trip. Record all your credit-card numbers—as well as the phone numbers to call if your cards are lost or stolen—in a safe place, so you’re prepared should something go wrong. Both MasterCard and Visa have general numbers you can call (collect if you’re abroad) if your card is lost, but you’re better off calling the number of your issuing bank, since MasterCard and Visa usually just transfer you to your bank; your bank’s number is usually printed on your card.
If you plan to use your credit card for cash advances, you’ll need to apply for a PIN at least two weeks before your trip. Although it’s usually cheaper (and safer) to use a credit card abroad for large purchases (so you can cancel payments or be reimbursed if there’s a problem), note that some credit-card companies and the banks that issue them add substantial percentages to all foreign transactions, whether they’re in a foreign currency or not. Check on these fees before leaving home, so there won’t be any surprises when you get the bill.
Dynamic currency conversion programs are becoming increasingly widespread. Merchants who participate in them are supposed to ask whether you want to be charged in dollars or the local currency, but they don’t always do so. And even if they do offer you a choice, they may well avoid mentioning the additional surcharges. The good news is that you do have a choice. And if this practice really gets your goat, you can avoid it entirely thanks to American Express; with its cards, DCC simply isn’t an option.
Most Bermudian shops and restaurants accept credit and debit cards. Some hotels insist on cash or traveler’s checks, so check in advance whether your hotel takes credit cards. The most widely accepted cards are MasterCard, Visa, and American Express.
Currency and Exchange
The local currency is the Bermudian dollar, which is on par with the American dollar. Both are accepted throughout the island. Bermudian dollar notes all feature the Queen’s head and are smaller than their U.S. counterparts. It’s worth being careful, as the $10 and the $2 notes are similar in color (light blue) and could be easily mistaken for one another.
If you need to exchange Canadian dollars, British pounds, or other currencies, for the most favorable rates change money through banks. Although ATM transaction fees may be higher abroad than at home, ATM rates are excellent because they’re based on wholesale rates offered only by major banks.
As a rule of thumb, Bermudians dress more formally than most Americans. Leave your cutoffs, short shorts, and halter tops at home. In the evening, some of the more upscale restaurants and hotel dining rooms require men to wear a jacket and tie and women to dress comparably, so bring a few dressy outfits. However, increasingly venues are more accepting of the trend toward “smart-casual.” In this case, women should be fine with slacks or a skirt and a dressy blouse or sweater. Bermudian men often wear Bermuda shorts (and proper kneesocks) with a jacket and tie for formal events and business meetings.
During the cooler months, bring lightweight woolens or cottons that you can wear in layers to accommodate vagaries of the weather. A lightweight jacket is always a good idea. Regardless of the season, pack a swimsuit, a beachwear cover-up, sunscreen, and sunglasses, as well as a raincoat (umbrellas are typically provided by hotels). Comfortable walking shoes are a must. If you plan to play tennis, be aware that many courts require proper whites and that tennis balls in Bermuda are extremely expensive. Bring your own tennis balls if possible.
Bermuda-bound airlines commonly accept golf-club bags in lieu of a piece of luggage, but there are fairly stringent guidelines governing the maximum amount of equipment that can be transported without an excess baggage fee. The general rule of thumb is one covered bag containing a maximum of 14 clubs, 12 balls, and one pair of shoes.
U.S. citizens arriving by air and sea to Bermuda need a valid passport, though cruise-ship passengers on closed-loop cruises (those departing and arriving in the same U.S. port) need only have proof of citizenship and identity (a government-issued photo ID and a birth certificate with a raised seal). U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Bermuda for a period less than 90 days.
Facilities and Services
Considering Bermuda’s hotel rates, it might come as a surprise that perks like 24-hour room service and same-day laundry service are rare. Fortunately, however, personalized attention, exceptionally comfortable rooms, and trim, scenic surroundings are not. The number and quality of facilities vary greatly according to the size and rates of the property. Resort hotels are the best equipped, with restaurants, pools, beach clubs, gyms, and (in the case of Fairmont Southampton and Rosewood Tucker’s Point) a golf course. Cottage colonies also typically have a clubhouse with a restaurant and bar, plus a pool or private beach, and perhaps a golf course. Each cottage has a kitchen, and housekeeping services are provided. Small hotels usually have a pool, and some have a restaurant or guest-only dining room, but few have fitness facilities or in-room extras like minibars. Efficiencies or housekeeping apartments almost always come with a kitchen or kitchenette. Some properties have pools, but you may have to take the bus or a scooter to get to the beach. Even the smallest property can arrange sailing, snorkeling, scuba, and deep-sea fishing excursions, as well as sightseeing.
Rates at Bermuda’s luxury resorts are comparable to those at posh hotels in New York, London, and Paris. A 9.75% government occupancy tax is tacked on to all hotel bills, and a service charge is levied. Some hotels calculate the service charge as 10% of the bill, whereas others charge a per-diem amount. Virtually every hotel on the island offers at least one vacation package—frequently some kind of honeymoon special—and many of these are extraordinarily good deals.
You can shave about 40% off your hotel bill by visiting Bermuda in low or shoulder seasons. Because temperatures rarely dip below 60°F in winter, the low season (November through March) is ideal for tennis, golf, and shopping.
When pricing accommodations, always ask what’s included. Most lodgings offer a choice of meal plans, several with “dine-around” privileges at other island restaurants.
Clothing, china, and jewelry in Bermuda are sold at prices similar to those abroad, but because there’s no sales tax, you can get good deals, especially on high-end goods. If you see something you like, go ahead and buy it—comparison shopping isn’t fruitful on Bermuda, as prices are typically fixed island-wide. In all but a few stores, shoppers leaving the fitting rooms are expected to return unwanted items to the store floor. The island’s bounty of craft markets and artists’ studios offers a multitude of inexpensive souvenirs, from Bermuda honey to hand-painted pillows. Buyers and sellers don’t really bargain, although a vendor may offer a discount if you buy something in bulk.
Shops are generally open Monday to Saturday from 9 to 5 and closed on Sunday, although some shops and supermarkets are open from 1 to 6 on Sunday. From April to October, some of the smaller Front Street shops stay open late and on Sunday. The shops in the Clocktower Mall at the Royal Naval Dockyard are usually open from Monday to Saturday from 9:30 to 6 (11 to 5 in winter) and Sunday 11 to 5. Some extend their hours around Christmas. Almost all stores close for public holidays.
Hamilton has the greatest concentration of shops in Bermuda, and Front Street is its pièce de résistance. Lined with small, pastel-color buildings, this most fashionable of Bermuda’s streets houses sedate department stores and snazzy boutiques, with several small arcades and shopping alleys leading off it. A smart canopy shades the entrance to the 55 Front Street Group, which houses Crisson’s. Modern Butterfield Place has galleries and boutiques selling, among other things, Louis Vuitton leather goods. The Emporium, a renovated building with an atrium, has a range of shops, from antiques to souvenirs.
St. George’s Water Street, Duke of York Street, Hunters Wharf, Penno’s Wharf, and Somers Wharf are the sites of numerous renovated buildings that house branches of Front Street stores, as well as artisans’ studios. Historic King’s Square offers little more than a couple of T-shirt and souvenir shops.
In the West End, Somerset Village has a few shops, but they hardly merit a special shopping trip. However, the Clocktower Mall, in a historic building at the Royal Naval Dockyard, has a few more shopping opportunities, including branches of Front Street shops and specialty boutiques. The Dockyard is also home to the Craft Market, the Bermuda Arts Centre, and Bermuda Clayworks.
Department stores such as A.S. Cooper & Sons and Gibbons Company are excellent one-stop shopping destinations, but you may have more fun exploring the boutiques on Front and Reid streets and streets branching off them. For crafts, head to the Royal Naval Dockyard, where you can find artisans’ studios and a permanent craft market. The town of St. George’s has a bit of everything, including lots of small, unique boutiques, where you can find the perfect island outfit or a Bermuda-cedar model of a famous ship.
Small cakes from the Bermuda Rum Cake Company in the Dockyard make popular gifts and cost $14.95 duty-free. Men may want to pick up a pair of real Bermuda shorts, which come in an array of bright colors. They sell for about $45 in department stores. The Outerbridge line of sherry peppers and other sauces is available at grocery stores and souvenir shops. Locals use them to flavor fish chowder. A Bermudian cookbook makes a good accompaniment. An original photograph or painting is meaningful, if expensive, souvenir. A coffee-table book of Bermudian art is another option. For something really offbeat, head to one of the music stores to take home the island’s unique sound—yes, you really can buy a recording of Bermuda’s tree frogs chirping through the night. The distinctive high-pitch sound is sure to remind you of your vacation.
Bermuda Customs. It’s illegal to export shipwreck artifacts or a Bermuda cedar carving or item of furniture that’s more than 50 years old without a special permit from Bermuda Customs. Custom House, 40 Front St., Hamilton, Hamilton Parish, HM12. 441/295–4816.
Hotels add a 7.25% government tax to the bill, and most add a 10% service charge or a per-diem dollar equivalent in lieu of tips. Other extra charges sometimes include a 5% “energy surcharge” (at small guesthouses) and a 17% service charge (at most restaurants).
A $50 airport-departure tax and an $8.25 airport-security fee are built into the price of your ticket, as is a 16-passenger facility charge, whereas cruise lines collect $60 in advance for each passenger, again, normally included in the price of the ticket.
Tipping in Bermuda is fairly similar to tipping in the United States. A service charge of 10% (or an equivalent per-diem amount), which covers everything from baggage handling to maid service, is added to your hotel bill, though people often still tip a few extra dollars. Most restaurants tack on a 17% service charge; if not, a 17% tip is customary (more for exceptional service).
Comprehensive trip insurance is recommended for all vacations purchased through Vacays4U. Comprehensive policies typically cover trip cancellation and interruption, letting you cancel or cut your trip short because of illness, or, in some cases, acts of terrorism. Ask about insurance policies that cover evacuation and medical care. Some also cover you for trip delays because of bad weather or mechanical problems as well as for lost or delayed luggage.
Always read the fine print of your policy to make sure you’re covered for the risks that most concern you. Compare several policies to be sure you’re getting the best price and range of coverage available.
The important thing to remember when planning your trip is that subtropical Bermuda is in the Atlantic—not the Caribbean. High season is April through October, when the sun shines brightest and the warm waters beckon. This is when the island teems with activity, sightseeing options are plentiful, and the events calendar is full. Off-season—November through March—the weather is often perfect for golf or tennis, but the pace is considerably slower.
Bermuda has a mild climate. In winter (December through March) temperatures range from around 55°F at night to 70°F in the early afternoon. High winds can make the air feel cooler, however. The hottest times are between May and September when temperatures range from 75°F to 85°F. It’s not uncommon for the mercury to reach 90°F in July or August, and it often feels hotter due to humidity. Although summer is somewhat drier, rainfall is spread fairly evenly throughout the year. In August and September, hurricanes occasionally hit the island.