No, it is not the Caribbean. It is amazing how many people think Bahamas. Then Barbados. Then say, “Remind me where Bermuda REALLY is, please.”
Bermuda sits about 600 miles due east of the border between North Carolina and South Carolina in the USA. The island, really a group of many tiny islands, is just 23 square miles, a speck in the middle of the Atlantic. You are never more than a mile from the ocean in Bermuda. End to end, it’s about 26 miles…think of it as a marathon. On one end, you’ll find Dockyard. On the other end, the east end, St. George’s, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the winding roads, it will take about 1 hour and 20 minutes to get from one end to the other end. Hamilton, THE town on the island, sits roughly in the middle, overlooking the well protected harbor (or harbour, as they write in Bermuda). Stay on either end or smack in the middle—it is small enough to see it all.
Bermuda’s history dates back to 1609, when two ships on their way to save the settlers in Virginia were purposefully driven onto the reefs in a hurricane. The captain, George Somers, was aiming to save crew and passengers, and he did. The group rebuilt one ship out of the wreckage, named it Deliverance, and carried on to Virginia, although they left behind two AWOL sailors, who decided Bermuda was as nice a place to be stranded as any. No indigenous people, fresh fish, abundant greenery. The climate was pleasant, barely cold, plenty of sun.
A few settlers joined the AWOL sailors, and Bermuda became a British protectorate, with a history that includes blockade running, Mark Twain, famous painters and more.
Today it’s a calm oasis, with a mild climate, welcoming to tourists and international business alike. And yes, Bermuda really does have pink sand beaches.
Bermuda hosts visitors year-round, but the “season” really is summer. Cruise ships put in frequently from late March to October, boosting the island population by about 3,000 with each arrival. The roads become more crowded with tourists on scooters, and some of the beaches might even seem crowded (although not by most standards!).
Starting in November, a few things slow down, hours get curtailed and life gets a little quieter, although the hotels are open and doing plenty of business. The water is still warm, and plenty of visitors (if no locals) are still swimming. the worst of the heat and humidity have gone, the sun shines and it’s spectacular.
January and February can be blustery, although there’s plenty of great weather days, still. Those on scooters may wear winter coats, but the temperatures never get much below the mid 50s (F).
When March rolls in, so does spring time. The days are getting longer, the warm days are more frequent and cruise ships are starting to come back.
Because Bermuda is such a short trip from the east coast of the USA (less than two hours in air from NYC), it is not unreasonable to take a long weekend and still enjoy the highlights. That said, there’s more than enough to fill a week-long vacation, with plenty for everyone (adults to children, athletes to artists) to do.
NOTE: Bermuda Dollar is at par with the American Dollar and you can spend your American dollars just like Bermuda dollars; merchants won’t bat an eye. DO use up any Bermuda notes, though; you probably won’t be able to change them back to your own currency when you return.
For other currencies, change at the banks or withdraw from any number of ATMs all around the island.
Give yourself anywhere from a long weekend, especially if you manage to catch a flight from NYC (less than two hours in the air!) to a full week.
You want enough time to lounge on the beaches, see the sights at both ends of the island, do some shopping in Hamilton, some hiking along the beaches and squeeze in some golf or tennis. Don’t miss out on an outing on the water, either, booking either a catamaran sail or a fishing boat for the day. There’s plenty to keep you busy and then plenty of ways to make sure you relax, too.
High season runs May through September. Hotel prices are at their highest, but things are hopping. There’s entertainment, weekly happy hours with entertainment and dancing and plenty to do.
Low season is January, February and into March. Some business close for a couple of months, but not so many that there’s nothing to do. It’s still a great time to visit, with some lower rates and plenty of great weather.
Winter is blustery–plenty of gale force winds buffet the island, but those days are interspersed with mild days, sunshine and you might even feel like taking a dip in the ocean (the locals will recognize you for the tourist you are if you swim in January, not matter how warm the day).
High summer–July and August are hot and humid, although the high temps rarely leave the 80s (Farenheit).
The year-round climate is truly mild, with the average temps around 63ºF in January and 80ºF in July/August/September.
The sun shines almost every day in Bermuda–there’s an saying there: if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.
January 1: New Year’s Day
March/April: Good Friday (varies with the year)
May 24: Bermuda Day
June: National Heroes Day, Third Monday in June
July/August: Cup Match/Emancipation Day and Somer’s Day happen on the Thursday and Friday closest to August 1
September: Labour Day: First Monday in September (matches USA)
November 11: Remembrance Day
December 25 and 26: Christmas Day and Boxing Day
January: International Race Weekend (3 road running races in one weekend)
Palm Sunday: National Trust Palm Sunday Walk
Good Friday: Kite Fest
April: Agricultural Fair
July/August: Cup Match Weekend
December: St. George’s Holiday Walk About
Bermuda is on the Atlantic Time Zone, one hour ahead of New York City and the East Coast of the USA.
Bermuda is plenty casual, but don’t plan on wearing your bathing suit and cover up in town (Hamilton) or to restaurants unless you are dining at one of the beach-side places—you will see tourists in their bathing suits (bathing costumes for the UK visitors), but locals don’t like it.
Jeans, shorts, neat shirts, sandals. Summer business dress for gentlemen includes the famous Bermuda Shorts, which are typically linen, beautifully cut, fairly long and worn with knee socks and dress shoes. You don’t need to join in, but nice khakis, polo shirts, casual summer dress is usually appropriate year-round.
A warning: Even with mild temperatures, a scooter ride at 65ºF is a very chilly ride. If you’re planning a scooter visit for the winter months bring at least a fleece jacket, and to be safe, toss in a relatively waterproof jacket to go over that.
Bermuda is not inexpensive–nearly everything reaches the island by boat or plane, so it costs. A cup of coffee will run you $4 or $5 (not so different from the USA), but eating breakfast out might cost $15, lunch easily $25 and dinner $50 per person. Often that is before drinks, so keep an eye on that.
Watch for bargain rates on hotels (often during the winter months), check into B&Bs and consider AirBnB options, too.
And check our Itineraries for Affordable Bermuda or search our Points of Interest for Free or Nearly Free places.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $US.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $25 per person
$$ => Tickets $25-50 per person
$$$ => Tickets $50-100 per person
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $100-250 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $250 for a double
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $15-30 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $30 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $50 per person
$$ => Tickets $50-100 per person
One Bermuda Dollar equals One US Dollar and you can spend your US Dollars without exchanging them. Chances are good you will not be able to exchange Bermuda notes once you are off-island, so spend what you get.
All other currencies can be exchanged at banks or you can withdraw Bermuda dollars at one of the many ATMs around the island—rates and fees will be determined by your own bank, and the local bank machine may assess a transaction charge at the time of withdrawal.
You cannot rent a car in Bermuda—roads are crowded already, so this keeps traffic at bay to a point.
You can rent scooters and mountain bikes—about $50 per day, with discounts for longer rentals. Check each rental shop.
Airfare from the NYC area can often be attractive; winter 2016 saw roundtrip tickets to/from NYC for prices in the $200s. Other east coast cities, you might find fares ranging from the $300s to the $700s. Shop around.
To/From Europe: Only British Airways flies from the eastern side of the Atlantic to Bermuda. Expect to pay about $1200 US dollars (some less expensive seats go on sale now and then ) for a roundtrip ticket to/from Gatwick in the UK.
It’s up to you whether or not to insure your actual airfare—something you can do when you purchase your ticket.
Medical insurance is another matter.
Check with your own medical insurer to see what kind of coverage you have when you travel. Specifically ask about emergency room visits and medical transportation back to your country–Bermuda has a great medical system here, but the country does not have equipment to treat every possible medical scenario. If you leave you will need air transportation, as that is the only way off for a medical emergency, and it is expensive.
One Bermuda Dollar equals One US Dollar. US Dollars can be spent on island, and all business accept US currency. You do not have to exchange US Dollars for Bermuda Dollars.
You will have to exchange any other currencies for Bermuda Dollars; do you best to spend your Bermuda currency on island, as it can prove difficult to exchange notes anywhere else.
If you have a bank account in your home country with an ATM card, you will PROBABLY be able to withdraw money at any of the numerous ATMs around the island. Exchange rates and fees will be assessed by your bank and local banks for the transaction. Ask ahead of time if your card will work in Bermuda and what costs will be associated with using your card in Bermuda.
Bermuda currency includes pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters, all similar to US coins.
There is a $1 coin, very used, very much in circulation.
Bill/Notes commonly seen:
If you take out more than $50 from the ATM, you should expect to get $50. Easily used, not turned down.
Bermuda recently removed a number of paper notes from circulation—if you have a note that has a HORIZONTAL layout (as in US dollars, for example), this is an OLD NOTE. Do not accept it as change in a store. If you do, you might have a difficult time exchanging it for a regular note. (To be fair, at the time of this writing, I have not seen old notes for at least 9 months.)
Use cash, credit cards and ATMs like anywhere else in the world. Ask your taxi driver ahead of time if he/she accepts credit cards (they don’t all have machines).
Almost every restaurant in Bermuda calculates and charges a 17% gratuity, delivered with the bill. Read your bill carefully. You are free to leave more than that if you desire.
A few exceptions—the two Swizzle Inns do NOT include a service charge on your bill, so make sure you don’t stiff your servers there—they are pros and earn their tips!
If you buy groceries, someone will bag your purchases, and you can choose to tip that person–tip at least the coins in your hand (the change you get back from your purchase), more ($2) if you’ve done a week’s worth of shopping.
Tip your cab drivers, hairdressers, spa personnel as you would anywhere else.
There is no sales tax in Bermuda, so the price you see is the price you pay–that takes some of the sting out of prices that might seem high—they are not as high as you think!
If you can, pack your sunscreen, bug spray and toiletries. If you want to use your cell phone, you are probably better off buying a pay as you go SIM card from a local provider (in Town (a.k.a. Hamilton) at Digicell or Cell One). $25 gets you a SIM card, activation, a local phone number, $10 (at the time of this writing) of air time. I tend to avoid data, although the cost of phone data has been coming down. The island is small enough, that you might not feel the need to be connected at every step, waiting, instead, to return to your accommodations to connect via WiFi.
Your hotel may charge some tariffs and resort fees, so ask about those when you book.
Gas is expensive (about $8 a gallon), but if you are on a scooter, you won’t spend much there.
If you want to buy a bit of a beverage (wine or spirits) while you are here, there is a VERY convenient duty free counter after you go through customs but before you get your baggage. Everyone in your party—babes in arms included, by the way—can buy a liter (litre) of spirit and a bottle of wine. Prices are good at this duty free and it makes sense (cigarettes and cigars are also available at this small duty free counter).
Bermuda is a small place (23 square miles) and easy to get around—but know this:
No one gets to rent a car. Not even the locals.
That’s right. Once here, you can take a bus, take a taxi or rent scooters. Keep that in mind, especially if you are coming with a crowd. It is all possible and buses are plenty (although they don’t run late) and cab drivers can be your best discovery—many of them love to show their island to new visitors.
Don’t let the lack of rental cars dissuade you—you’ll see everything you need to see.
Direct flights come from east coast US cities (New York airports, Boston, Miami, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and seasonally (summertime) from others–Charlotte, for example) and from Toronto (WestJet and Air Canada) and the UK (British Airways).
All other flights require a connection.
You might want to check into cruises—more than a few put into Bermuda for a few days and nights, with cruisers disembarking for the days, seeing the sites then returning to the ship for the night. Cruises come from Europe and from the USA, just check with your travel agent or your travel website.
You must have a passport to enter Bermuda. Citizens of the USA, Canada and the UK can all arrive without visas and can stay up to three months as tourists. To make sure of your own visa situation, including USA, Canada and the UK (as rules and regulations change often), please check with the Bermuda Government about your own country’s passport and requirements.
You cannot arrive on a one-way ticket; Bermuda customs agents will want to know when you are leaving. You must have either a return ticket or proof of flying on to another destination. (Non-Bermudians who live/work in Bermuda must have the original paper granting permission to land or confirming work permit in order to land in Bermuda without a return ticket. That paper must be presented at customs upon arrival and often at check-in counters in the USA before departure.)
Note for USA-bound travelers: Bermuda is one of the countries with a US Customs clearance on the island itself. If you are flying to the US from Bermuda, after you check in, you clear customs before you go to security. When you touch down in the USA, walk off and away (collecting bags if you’ve checked them!).
Once in Bermuda, rely on the widespread bus service, but check for schedules. The buses do not run late and Weekends and Holidays, the schedule might feel sparse. If you do bus somewhere, check when the last returning bus leaves, and either catch that bus or make arrangements to have a taxi come collect you. To catch a bus, find the stops marked by pink and blue poles. Big stops have stone shelters, but smaller stops are often a (sometimes-easy-to-miss) pole. Pink poles are for buses going INTO town. Blue poles mean buses are LEAVING town (town being Hamilton), going either in the direction of Dockyard, St. George’s or, in a few cases, Spanish Point. Don’t be shy about letting the driver know where you want to get down, and, if you are outgoing, turn to your seatmate and let them know, too. Someone will get you there. Push the buttons to alert the driver you want the next stop and done. You might need to transfer; ask for a paper transfer ticket when you board and hand that into the driver of the second bus you board.
To head to Dockyard from town, you can use the token for the Ferry from Hamilton (ferry terminal is located on Front Street at Queen Street). If you are staying along Harbour Road, many smaller local ferries can get you into Hamilton, but ask your host/concierge for information.
Taxis are generally spacious and well-kept. You might have the number of a driver from someone (locals have their favorites) or you can call taxi dispatch, BTA Dispatch (441-296-2121 call center, 24/7). Make arrangements for day trips or short trips, airport drop-offs or pick-ups. Taxis are widely available and widely used.
Scooters—not for the faint of heart, but the easiest way to get around. Several rental operations will set you up with a scooter. Helmets are required. Be warned: DRIVING IS ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD IN BERMUDA. This can be tricky at first, so go slowly, take no chances. If in any doubt, grab the bus or the taxi.
You might also consider bicycles, many also available from the same outfits that rent scooters, some available at hotels. The roads are narrow and hilly, so that might unnerve some visitors, but the Rail Trail, where no motorized traffic is allowed, is relatively flatter (longer, slower grades up and down), and might be a nice way for some visitors to see the island.
Transportation hubs include the bus station in Hamilton, right next to City Hall on Church Street, and the ferry terminal, on Front Street near Queen Street (and the Bird Cage, no longer occupied by traffic police, sadly). You can get books of bus/ferry tickets, day passes and week passes.
Hours for the Central Bus Terminal near City Hall:
Central Terminal Information Booth
Sells tickets, tokens and passes and provides information on the bus system.
Monday to Friday:
7:15 am to 7:00 pm
8:00 am to 6:30 pm
Sundays and Holidays:
8:30 am to 5:30 pm
For bus/ferry discounts and passes, please visit the Bermuda Bus Service Fare Page, or read more on the ticket tab here.
If you are considering renting a scooter, many of the companies offer discounts for advance bookings and online bookings. Each is different, so ask.
To board buses or the ferries, Adult fare is $4.50, cash, ONLY COINS ACCEPTED.
Better to buy a book of tickets, a book of 15 for zone 3 (Hamilton to Horseshoe Bay in the Dockyard direction, Hamilton to Grotto Bay in the St. George direction) costs $25. If you are going all the way to Dockyard or St. George’s, use two of the Zone 3 tickets from your book.
If you are going to use the bus all day to go all over, consider one of the passes, for one day or more. One day passes cost $19. Other fares:
2-Day Transportation Pass (All Zones) $31.50
3-Day Transportation Pass (All Zones) $44.00
4-Day Transportation Pass (All Zones) $48.50
7-Day Transportation Pass (All Zones) $62.00
There are discounts for students, but bring proof of age.
Very detailed information is available on the fare page of the bus service.
English is spoken in Bermuda–no problems there, but there is plenty of accent if you get to speak with locals. Usually not a problem, but there are times when lots of slang and heavy accents might make it tough to understand–but that doesn’t happen often.