Bermuda

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Introduction to Bermuda

Think Bermuda and images of tidy pastel cottages, professional gents in ties and shorts, pink-sand beaches, and quintessential British traditions like cricket matches and afternoon tea spring to mind. For once the stereotype matches the reality.

North Americans visiting the island consider it to be quaintly British; the Brits, on the other hand, tend to consider the island highly Americanised. It is, of course, uniquely Bermudian - a product of nearly four centuries of British colonial history and an equally long reliance on American trade.

You may be somewhat disoriented if you thought Bermuda was somewhere in the Caribbean. The island is, in fact, situated in the western Atlantic Ocean, nearly 600 nautical miles off the coast of North Carolina.

Full country name: Bermuda

Area: 21 sq km

Population: 62,997

Capital City: Hamilton

People: 61% African descent, 38% Caucasian descent, a small minority of American Indian descent

Language: English, Portuguese

Religion: Christian (28% Anglican, 15% Roman Catholic)

Government: parliamentary British overseas territory with internal self-government

Head of State: Governor Sir John Vereker (representing Queen Elizabeth II)

Head of Government: Premier Alex Scott

GDP: US$1.98 billion

GDP per capita: US$30,000

Inflation: 2.1%

Major Industries: Tourism, finance, insurance, structural concrete products, paints, perfumes, pharmaceuticals, ship repairing.

Major Trading Partners: USA, Canada & UK

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Traveler Facts

Visas: No visas are required for citizens of the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Western European countries. Visas are required by citizens of the former Soviet Union, most countries in North Africa and the Middle East, China, Sri Lanka and some former Soviet Bloc countries in Eastern Europe.

Time Zone: GMT/UTC -4

Dialling Code: 441

Electricity: 120V ,60Hz

Weights & measures: Imperial



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Events

Bermuda has an inordinate number of golf tournaments and sedate events like bowls tournaments and gardening shows aimed primarily at older people, but that doesn't mean it lacks oomph.

Gombey dancers strut their stuff on New Year's Day, and the Bermuda Festival is a six-week performing arts spectacular running from mid-January through to February. The Bermuda Cat Fanciers Association Championship Cat Show in mid-March sounds like a hoot but is slightly less prestigious than the Newport-Bermuda Race, one of the world's major ocean yacht races held in late June during even-numbered years.

SOCA is a Caribbean music festival that has the Royal Naval Dockyards jumping in late July or early August, while the Bermuda Reggae Sunsplash continues the skanking in mid-August. You can march to a different drummer during the three-day Bermuda Tattoo in early November, which culminates with a grand finale of fireworks.

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Best time to Visit

Bermuda can be visited year round, but the busiest tourist season is from April through to October when the weather is warmest and water temperatures comfortable for swimming and diving. It's also the liveliest time on the island, with plenty of events and entertainment options to keep visitors amused.

The winter season is a bit too cool for swimming, and many tourist-related agencies, like diving companies and boat tours, suspend operations for part of the season. January is the quietest month, so if you're more interested in tennis and golf or seeing the island when it's free of large numbers of tourists, this is the time to come.

The advantage of visiting during the cooler months is that accommodation prices can be up to 40% lower and you can escape the colder winter of more northern climes. The best conditions for windsurfing also tend to be in winter.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Bermudian Dollar

Meals

Budget: BD$5-10

Mid-range: BD$10-25

High: BD$25-30

Deluxe: BD$35+

Lodging

Budget: BD$100-120

Mid-range: BD$120-180

High: BD$180-200

Deluxe: BD$200+

There's no getting round the fact that Bermuda ain't cheap. Bermuda's high cost of living, the result of most goods having to be flown in from the US mainland, is reflected in hotel room rates and restaurant menu prices. Even grocery costs are 50% higher than in the USA. Therefore this is not the place to come if you're watching your budget - you'll be hard-pressed to find a double room under USD100.00. If you plan to stay seven days or less, it's worth looking into package deals that incorporate both airfare and hotel accommodation.

The most convenient way to bring money is in US dollar traveller's checks. Major credit cards are accepted by most shops and restaurants, but some smaller hotels and guesthouses can be fickle about accepting them. Bring some US dollars in cash as they are widely accepted as legal tender. The Bank of Bermuda has ATMs that accept various international ATM and credit cards.

Hotels add a 7.5% occupancy tax to their bill. They also tend to add a 10% service charge to cover gratuities to hotel workers. The usual restaurant tip is 15%, which most establishments automatically add onto your bill. If they don't, then you should calculate the tip yourself. Taxi drivers will be pleased with a tip of around 10%.

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Attractions

Hamilton

Hamilton, the hub of Bermuda, serves as both its capital and commercial centre. While it's not a large city, it has a surprising amount of hustle and bustle - at least compared to the rest of the island. Locals refer to it simply as 'town' - 'going to town' means, without a doubt, going to Hamilton.

The city's pulse is located in Front St, a harbourfront road lined with turn-of-the-century Victorian buildings in bright pastel lemon, lime, apricot and sky blue. Many buildings have overhanging verandahs, where you can linger over lunch and watch the boats ferry across the harbour.

Royal Naval Dockyard

When the British were no longer able to use ports in their former American colonies, they chose this site as their 'Gibraltar of the West'. In addition to the Bermuda Maritime Museum, you can pass a pleasant hour or two strolling about the Dockyard grounds, stop in at the pub, the movie theatre, the craft market or the Bermuda Snorkel Park.

The fort is built of limestone blocks in Georgian style and was first used by the British navy as a base to launch their raid on Washington, DC, in 1814. It later served as a North Atlantic base during both World Wars but was abandoned as a costly outpost in 1951. Since then the buildings have been renovated and given a second life.

South Shore Park

This coastal reserve protects some of Bermuda's finest beaches. A coastal trail runs through the park, linking a series of coves and bays divided by outcrops of craggy rocks. The 12 beaches range from medium-sized half-moon bays like Horseshoe Bay to postage-stamp-sized inlets like Peel Rock Cove.

One of the most appealing areas, forming the eastern fringe of the park, is the splendid stretch of pink and white coral sands known as Warwick Long Bay. Since it's unprotected by headlands, this beach generally has good waves suitable for bodysurfing.

St George

This unspoilt town overlooking St George's Harbour was Bermuda's first capital and remains the sightseeing hotspot. Steeped in period charm as befits a place that was Britain's second settlement in the New World, many of its original twisting alleyways and colonial-era buildings remain intact.

Attractions include Kings Square, where the attractive Town Hall overlooks the pillory and stocks once used to publicly chastise those who offended colonial mores. Nearby is the ducking stool where gossips and petty offenders were forced to endure the humiliation of being dunked in the harbour.


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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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