Expat Guide to Bermuda

Please note the following is based on my opinions and personal experiences only, as of July 2011. If you’re an expat currently in Bermuda and feel anything is missing, please get in touch! Likewise if you are thinking of making a move to Bermuda and have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll help as much as I can.

Accommodation
Typical accommodation for the average expat is a condo or apartment-style home, and most expats seem to find their new homes on emoo. A two-bedroom apartment, in good condition, generally costs around $3,500 per month, although recently it has become much more of a renter’s market, so you may be able to negotiate! Homes in close proximity to Hamilton, and/or with sea views or on-site facilities such as a pool or gym will cost more.

If you are planning to buy a car, you will need to ensure that the property you rent has an Assessment Number. There is a strict rule of one car per property in Bermuda – something worth bearing in mind if you are going to house-share with others who may want their own car!

It’s unusual for expats to buy a property due to the extremely high selling prices and rules on foreigners owning property.

Although we found our condo on emoo I would still recommend meeting with an estate agency as they can give you a feel for the market, show you a range of properties and educate you on topics such as tenancy contracts.

Useful websites:
Emoo (classified and local guide website)
Moura & Associates (real estate agency)
Joy Lusher (real estate agency)

Culture
Bermuda prides itself on its manners – and expects visitors to do the same! You should always say “Good Morning/Afternoon” to anyone you encounter – from shop assistants to people you pass in the street – and people use “Sir” and “Ma’am” more commonly than they do in the UK.

Being a small island, there’s also a strong sense of community – with many people being connected through schools, or neighbourhoods or work, so that it seems that everyone knows everyone! This is also true of the expat community – very quickly you will find that a new friend knows another friend of yours!

Groceries
Our average weekly shop for the two of us is around $150. Almost everything in supermarkets has been imported so most things are more expensive than you may be used to. You can save some dollars by shopping on a Wednesday, where supermarkets offer 5% off, providing you pay by cash or cheque. Fruit and vegetables are particularly expensive, and do not last as long as we are used to back in the UK. For the freshest produce, there are a few farms which grow their own fruit and veg and sell these through on-site shops, at roadside stalls, or at the Bull’s Head market in Hamilton on Saturday mornings.

I would recommend Lindo’s for most of your groceries, The MarketPlace for bakery bread, Robinson’s Squash (a UK favourite!) and for when you’re trying to save some dollars, and Miles Market in Hamilton for expensive but lovely treats like Parma ham and fresh Wahoo from the fish counter! If you’re from the UK you may also appreciate the Supermart on Front Street in Hamilton which sells some Waitrose products, and other English foods such as After Eights!

We also buy some household goods in bulk at Hunt’s, off of Khyber Pass in Warwick, to save money.

Useful Websites:
Lindos
Marketplace
Miles

Job Opportunities
Opportunities for employment depend largely on your skills-set and experience. Bermudian candidates will always be given preference. If you are coming to the island with your spouse, on his/her work permit, you are required to have a Dependent’s Permit to live on the island, with the clause that allows you to seek employment if you are planning to look for a job. Until you have this permit, you are not allowed to apply for jobs if you are on the island. Your spouse’s employer normally applies for the Dependent’s Permit with permission to seek employment (See also the section on Work Permits on this page).

Useful Websites:
The Royal Gazette Job Listings
The Ladder (job site)
Bermuda Executive Services (employment agency)
Island Employment Partners (employment agency)

Leisure time
There are a whole host of different sports teams which play throughout the year, catering for different abilities. In the summer there are additional sports to get involved in such as beach volleyball, beach football and touch rugby on the er…beach. Joining a sports team can be a great way of meeting a lot of expats, and you don’t have to be good at sport to play! Tennis and golf are also very popular here, with numerous courts and courses for locals to use.

In the summer there are also lots of outdoor activities to participate in – kayaking, jet skiing, boating, snorkelling and scuba diving to name just a few. If that sounds too much like hard work, there are plenty of boat trips around the island, including whale watching in the spring and the popular booze cruises in the summer! And of course, with so many beautiful beaches, it would be rude not to spend a lot of the time sunbathing!

There are four cinemas on the island – each with one screen, and a few DVD rental shops where you can rent films for just a few dollars. The main two cinemas in Hamilton are the Liberty Theatre and the Speciality Cinema.

The popular Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society and Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Bermuda frequently put on productions which are well-respected and well attended throughout the year.

For expat wives, the International Women’s Club is a popular group to join and meet other ladies on career breaks!

Medical
It’s compulsory for all employed people to pay medical insurance deductions from their salary, which will cover a basic medical policy. Some organisations will pay for employees’ medical insurance, and for their dependents too. For some treatments, e.g. a consultation with a doctor, you may still have to pay part of the fees, even if you have a full medical policy provided by your employer.

Useful Websites:

BF&M Insurance

Nightlife
Whilst there are a few bars and clubs scattered throughout the island, the main place to go for drinking and dancing is Hamilton. Popular expat watering holes include The Pickled Onion, Cafe Cairo, and during the summer – Friday Happy Hours at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess, and the Lemon Tree.

Outside of Hamilton is The Swizzle Inn at Bailey’s Bay and The Swizzle in Warwick, which serve good value food and drink, including the famous Swizzle rum drink.

Pests
The two main household pests are ants and cockroaches, although some parishes have mouse and rat problems too. Ants squeeze in through the tiniest gaps, and it won’t take long for a small army to appear if you leave a crumb on the floor. We’ve not had significant problems with ants though so don’t worry too much!

I have heard of people with frequent cockroach visitors, but so far (without wishing to tempt fate!) we haven’t had any in our condo, and I saw more cockroaches and flying beetles in my two weeks in Florida than I have done for 8 months in Bermuda. They are attracted to grease so it’s best not to leave dirty dishes overnight, and to get a kitchen bin with a lid. They are attracted to the light but like dark places to hide so you may also want to get bait pods and place them under fridges, cupboards and other dark spots. You can also spray all your windows and door frames with insect spray to help deter them. Apparently Baygon is the best for killing cockroaches – but it’s also full of toxic chemicals so try not to breathe it in too much! Also make sure you don’t hit them with a shoe because if you have a female roach, she will spray her eggs across the room!

For more information on Bermudian beasties please see my post on The Birds and The Beasties. And, if you need some therapy to deal with the cockroaches, you can read Conquering the Cockroach!

Transport
Bus services are generally reliable and are relatively cheap. You can either purchase a sheet of tokens at the Bus Station in Hamilton, or buy a bus pass for regular travel. Bus stops are marked by pink poles if the bus is heading towards Hamilton, or blue poles if the bus is travelling away from Hamilton. Buses will stop for you providing they can see you at the bus stop!

There is a ferry service too. Details of costs and the timetable can be collected from the Ferry Terminal in Hamilton, opposite and just along from HSBC.

Most expats tend to use mopeds to get around as parking in Hamilton is much more convenient, and they are cheaper to purchase; a new moped will cost around $3000 in contrast to a new car which starts at $15,000 for a Chevrolet Sparks. Mopeds and cars don’t depreciate hugely but there are some bargains to be found in the second hand market, generally advertised on emoo. Look out for people who are leaving the island with little time left to sell their cars and scooters – they may be willing to drop their prices significantly!

Travelling Internationally
You are required to pay import duty of 25% on anything you bring into Bermuda (that is going to remain in Bermuda) over your personal allowance (currently $100 per person). Your luggage may also be subject to random searches by customs officers. It’s good practice to ensure you keep receipts of everything you have purchased whilst abroad so that you can prove the costs of items if needs be.

Before you go off island, you can register any electronic goods (e.g. iPod, mobile phone, camera) at Customs House on Front Street, Hamilton to ensure you are not charged import duty on these items when you return to the island.

Useful Websites:
HM Customs Bermuda

Utilities
We pay the following for our two bedroom, two bathroom condo:

Electricity – $200 per month in the winter, $400 in the summer (as we have the dehumidifers/air conditioning on throughout the day)
Internet and Cable TV – $275 per month
Telephone – $35 per month (we only make local calls)
Mobile (pay as you go) – approx $40 per month

You may also need to pay for additional water in the summer months if there has been insufficient rainfall. When looking at properties, ask the landlord whether this is a cost that you will be expected to cover and how much you should expect to pay in a year.

Useful websites:
BELCO (Electricity)
Cablevision and Logic (Internet and Cable TV)
Cell One (Mobile Provider)

Weather
The climate is mild all year round, and hot and humid in the summer. Storms and high winds are quite common in the winter, and there is a fair amount of rain, although Bermuda welcomes this as running water comes from filtered rainfall! Although our friends presumed we would spend every weekend on the beach all year round, it’s really only been warm enough to sunbathe from the end of May until end of October, and it can be very changeable. When the sun comes out though it’s very strong so slap on the sun cream!

Work Permits
Non-Bermudians must have a work permit in order to work in temporary or permanent employment. Your employer will apply for the work permit on your behalf. In our experience, and experiences of friends, we have found that work permits for permanent jobs take around 6-12 weeks for a decision to be made by Immigration.

Work permits for temping jobs reportedly take around 4 weeks. For temping work, your employment agency acts as your employer and so will make the work permit application on your behalf. Your permit will then enable you to work in roles that your employment agency finds for you. Because the employer is the employment agency, you are only allowed to register with one agency on the island and can only work in temping roles through that organisation.

Volunteering
There is a strong culture of volunteering on the island, and many expats spend time getting involved with the local non-profits. For me my volunteering has been my lifeline to meeting people, learning new skills, and giving something back to Bermuda.

The best place to start is volunteer.bm where you can browse opportunities according to days of the week, types of tasks or organisations.

Other Useful Websites
Nothing to do in Bermuda – a website listing upcoming events across the island
The Royal Gazette, Bermuda Sun and Bernews – for news and information

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9 Responses to “Expat Guide to Bermuda”

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  3. Kerrie Ahronson 25 September, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Hi! I have just moved to Bermuda from the UK with my husband and 2 children, (11 and 16) and although my situation is somewhat different to yours (being older, having kids and their general baggage! lol!) your blog has been a great source of information and a joy to read! I will keep abrest of your endeavours and hope in time to have some of my own, other than ‘ants’, ‘scooters for the mature, non-biker, woman’ and the ‘speed of buses’, when you can’t find a seat’, once settled. I can see how being ‘sporty’ helps you fit in, which won’t be easy for me, but to read about volunteering as a source of meeting people, has given me hope in these early days of not knowing anyone! Keep up the good work! Thank you.

    • suscatty 25 September, 2011 at 9:26 am #

      Hi Kerrie

      Thanks for your positive words! I hope you and your family are settling into Bermuda well. For me it took a little bit of time to get used to it, and I missed many things from home, but now I’ve come to love it. So if you are feeling the same – do give yourself some time to acclimatise. I would definitely recommend volunteering, and I know the International Women’s Club is very active and can be a good way for “expat wives” to meet others in a similar boat. And you will find ways to conquer the ants, I promise! 🙂 We had quite a few when we first moved in, but I like to think my reputation as a ruthless ant killer has spread among the insect community – we just get the occasional wood louse now!

      Wishing you much happiness here!

  4. Petra White Palota 5 December, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    Dear Sue,
    I just came across your blog yesterday evening and reading it since then! I just love it! 🙂 Thanks for the funny stories and all the honesty about Bermuda! Wishing you all the best in your new job and hope it will work out for you!
    I am in the same situation as you are, moved here about a year ago, following my husband and leaving my great marketing job back in Hungary. We were looking forward to this adventure. Now after a year I can honestly say that our life changed totally, in both ways! Positives: love the beach, the ocean, the weather and all the easy going/relaxed lifestyle. On the other hand missing family/ friends and also the fact that I am still not working. Now after a year of new experiences we need to decide if we would like to stay for an other year?! Big decisions to make.
    I wish I would have found your blog earlier as it gives everybody such a great perspective about Bermuda and the expat life!
    Thanks again and keep it going! You definitely have a new subscriber! 🙂
    Take care!
    Petra

    • suscatty 5 December, 2011 at 9:25 pm #

      Hi Petra

      Thank you so much for your lovely comments, and for taking the time to read my ramblings! I empathise completely with how you feel about Bermuda. It has such beauty but it can also feel a little restricting when you cannot work. I hope that whatever decision you reach turns out to be the best one for you both!

      Thanks again for stopping by – really appreciated!
      Su

    • Lola 12 May, 2012 at 12:46 am #

      Hi Petra!
      My husband and I are thinking about moving to Bermuda too.
      I have mixed feelings after some research I’ve done…
      What did you decide?
      Did you stay there another year?

      I’m also confused regarding bermudians…
      Some say they’re super friendly, others say they hate expats.
      What would you say, in your experience, prevails?

  5. Lola 12 May, 2012 at 12:37 am #

    Hi! My husband just had an offer to work for an IT firm in Bermuda.
    Last week I read your blog and another 2 and I was excited!
    This week I found a forum called bermudasucks and not surprissingly found many terrifying testimonies from expats.
    Is it true about Bermudians openly hating on expats? Office installations being very poorly maintained, Bathrooms not having doors?!
    Those are just a few of the criticisms on that forum.
    Also, would you say both of us would be ok on a 120K/year salary, even if I can’t find a job right away?
    I mean, live & enjoy and have some money for “short escapes” in case of island fever, and save?
    Thanks so much for your feedback & advise 🙂
    PS: If you don’t feel like publishing your answers here, please e-mail me instead.

    • suscatty 21 May, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

      Hi Lola

      Thanks for your comments and sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – it’s been a hectic period! Bermudasucks is a place to have a rant so you are going to get lots of unbalanced moans and groans there! Bermudians definitely don’t hate expats – the culture here is open and friendly, and there is a huge number of non-Bermudians living and working here. I’ve never come across a bathroom without a door?!

      My best advice would be to come out for a visit with an open mind – speak to an employment agency about job prospects, arrange an appointment with an estate agency to get a feel for what sort of apartment you can rent for your budget etc. There’s no hard and fast rule about how much money is enough – as it really depends on your expected lifestyle – but a visit to the island will give you a fairly accurate idea if it will work for you.

      All the best!

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