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Bermuda

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Travel Guide North America Bermuda

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Introduction

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Bermuda (officially, The Bermuda Islands or The Somers Isles) sits some 1,030 kilometres (640 miles) off the American coast in the Atlantic Ocean. It isn't as hot as the Caribbean islands and its waters are certainly not great for swimming year-round, but Bermuda is warm enough to host the Atlantic's northernmost corals. The beauty these corals afford, as well as the lure of numerous shipwrecks, makes diving in Bermuda's coastal waters an appealing prospect - that is, in summer when the Atlantic is warm enough to brave without a wetsuit.

Bermuda was first settled by the Brits in the early part of the 17th century. Culturally, Bermuda draws heavily on British influences: cricket is the most popular sport, pubs line the street corners and judges wear wigs. For some diversity, African slaves and American Indians have contributed to the island's music and dance styles. In all, Bermuda is an adorable destination of cultural class, British architecture and some fine beaches.

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Brief History

The first recorded discovery of Bermuda was in 1503 by Juan de Bermúdez, a Spanish explorer. Both Spanish and Portuguese ships used the islands as a replenishment spot for fresh meat and water. Bermúdez and Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo ventured to Bermuda in 1515 with the intention of leaving a breeding stock of hogs on the island as a future stock of fresh meat for passing ships. However, the inclement weather prevented them from landing.

For the next century, the island is believed to have been visited frequently but not permanently settled. In 1609, Sir George Somers set sail aboard the Sea Venture, the new flagship of the Virginia Company, leading a fleet of nine vessels, loaded with provisions and settlers for the new English colony of Jamestown, in Virginia. The fleet was caught in a storm, and the Sea Venture was separated and began to founder. When the reefs to the East of Bermuda were spotted, the ship was deliberately driven on them to prevent its sinking, thereby saving all aboard (150 sailors and settlers, and one dog). The survivors spent ten months on Bermuda.

Because of its limited land area, Bermuda has had difficulty with over-population. In the first two centuries of settlement it relied on steady human emigration to keep the population manageable. It is often claimed that, before the American Revolution more than ten thousand Bermudians (over half of the population) emigrated, primarily to the American South, where Great Britain was displacing Spain as the dominant European imperial power.

After the American Revolution, the Royal Navy began improving the harbours and built the large dockyard on Ireland Island, in the west of the chain, as its principal naval base guarding the western Atlantic Ocean shipping lanes. During the American War of 1812, the British attacks on Washington, D.C. and the Chesapeake, were planned and launched from Bermuda, the Royal Navy's 'North American Station'.

In the early 20th century, as modern transport and communication systems developed, Bermuda became a popular destination for wealthy American, Canadian and British tourists arriving by frequent steamship service. In 1948, regularly-scheduled commercial airline service by land-based airplanes began to Kindley Field (now Bermuda International Airport), helping tourism to reach its peak in the 1960s–1970s. By the end of the 20th century, international business had supplanted tourism as the dominant sector of Bermuda's economy.

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Geography

Bermuda is a group of low-lying islands located in the Atlantic Ocean, near the western edge of the Sargasso Sea, roughly 1070 kilometres east-southeast of Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and roughly 1100 kilometres southeast of Martha's Vineyard. The island lies due east of Fripp Island, South Carolina. It has about 100 kilometres of coastline. Although the name Bermuda implies just one island, the territory consists of 181 islands, with a total area of 53.3 square kilometres. The largest island is aptly called Main Island, sometimes just called Bermuda.

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Parishes

Bermuda is made up of 9 parishes and 2 municipalities; the city of Hamilton and the town of St. George's.

  • Devonshire Parish
  • Hamilton Parish
  • Paget Parish
  • Pembroke Parish
  • St George's Parish
  • Sandys Parish
  • Smith's Parish
  • Southampton Parish
  • Warwick Parish

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Cities, Towns and Villages

  • Hamilton, the capital, the only city
  • Saint George - the old capital. Oldest surviving English New World town.
  • Flatts Village - location of the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo.
  • Somerset Village - on Somerset Island, Sandy's Parish.

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Sights and Activities

Horseshoe Bay

Well, the Horeshoe Bay is, unsurprisingly, horseshoe-shaped. It's one of the most beautiful beaches in Bermuda with its soft pink sand and as a result it is often crowded here, especially in the warmer summer months of May to September. The Beach House which is located in the Bay offers snorkeling and diving gear and other water sports related articles for rent and also some snacks and drinks.

South Shore Park

The coastal reserve of South Shore Park has one of the nicest beaches of Bermuda and on top of that it is surrounded by gently rolling green hills. There are walking trails through the hills along the coast to not less than 12 bays and beaches with terrific views from in any direction you look.

Cristobal Colon

The Cristobal Colon is the largest shipwreck in the Bermudian waters and ran aground 13 kilometers north of the island in 1936. It is a popular wreck dive site but most of the interior of this Spanish cruise ship, including chandeliers and other stuff, was auctioned in 1941. The US military used the Cristobal Colon as a target ship and blew it in two during the WWII, because many ships thought the Cristobal Colon, which was still seen on the reef, to be just a ship without having troubles at all, resulting in a Norwegian cargo ship had gashing its hull in 1937. Nowadays, both boats are 50 feet below the water level and on the Norwegian cargo ship you are still able to see a fire truck!

Royal Naval Dockyard

The Royal Naval Dockyard is a is worth a visit and apart from the Dockyard grounds has a pub, movie theatre, market and the Bermuda Snorkel Park and Bermuda Maritime Museum.

In addition there is The Keep, the fortress on the edge of the dockyard, which was used by the British navy as a base to launch their raid on Washington in 1814. It also served as a base during both World Wars and was later abandoned in 1951. Most of the buildings including old munitions warehouses and Commissioner's House have been beautifully renovated and function as one of the cultural and historical highlights of Bermuda nowadays, although shopping is almost equally as popular.

Other sights and activities

  • St. George. The old capital and oldest English New World town.
  • Baileys Bay

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Weather

Bermuda has a subtropical climate with warm to hot summers and mild winters. Summers last from May to October with temperatures between 25 °C and 30 °C during the day and 19 °C to 23 °C at night. December to April, daily temperatures are still between 20 °C and 22 °C dropping to around 15 °C at night. Rainfall is quite evenly distributed throughout the year with between 100 and 150 mm of rain a month. April to June is the driest time of year, with an average of 9 rainy days a month, while December has 15 of these days with some rain. Overall, October has the highest amount of rain. Generally though, conditions are very sunny and pleasant, only on hot summer days with higher humidity and almost no wind are conditions a bit more unpleasant.

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Getting There

By Plane

L.F. Wade International Airport (BDA), formerly known as Bermuda International Airport, is the only airport in Bermuda. It has connections to Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. The following airlines fly there:

By Boat

There are no regular passenger services to and from Bermuda, but if you want to get here by boat, there are numerous cruise ships going there during the summer months (April-October mainly). In winter, options are very limited.

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Getting Around

By Car

Unfortunately, foreigners are not allowed to drive cars in Bermuda. However, bicycles, scooters and motorcycles are an option. You don't need a license and minimum age is 16. Be careful on the winding and narrow roads!

By Bus

The bus system on Bermunda is extremely well organised and there are frequent, comfortable and reliable buses between many towns. You need to be the exact amount of money, so bring enough coins. There are passes for 1, 3 or 7 days, which can also be used on ferries and allow unlimited use of both modes of transport. thebusschedule.com offers an overview of schedules and connections.

Taxis are metered but the rates are fixed by government. Some drivers double as guides and taxis displaying small blue flags have qualified guides which are approved by the Bermuda Department of Tourism.

By Boat

Sea Express runs comfortable, reliable (actually punctual!) and fast ferries between Hamilton Harbour and various stops at Sandys, Paget, Warwick and Southampton Parishes. During summer they also stop at the Royal Naval Dockyard and on to the town of St. George's.

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Red Tape

Visas are required by the following nationalities:

Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Egypt, Georgia, Ghana, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

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Money

See also: Money Matters

The Bermudian Dollar (BMD) is pegged to the US Dollar at par. Banknotes issued are $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 while the coins come in 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents and $1.

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Work

Bermudians have been successful in 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 and to building a future in which it is the rule, rather than the exception, for native-born Bermudians to be professionally trained and promoted and for young Bermudians to see a future in which they can hold places of leadership and progress within their own country.

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Language

The principal language spoken is English, although many Bermudians have a strong accent. Bermuda has a unique accent not really similar to any other Caribbean country. Most people claim it resembles the Southern US in some cases. Portuguese is the second most widely spoken language.

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Eat

Two relatively unique Bermudian dishes are salted codfish, boiled with potatoes, the traditional Sunday breakfast, and Hoppin' John, a simple dish of boiled rice and black-eyed peas. Shark hash was made, fish cakes were traditional on Fridays, hotcross buns at Easter, and cassava or farine pies at Christmas. With the high-end tourist market, 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 as premises are lost to development, or establishments are redeveloped to target the tourist market (note the loss of the Ram's Head, the White Heron, the Rum Runner, and the Cock and Feather (redeveloped into the Pickled Onion, with a nouveau menu)). On the other hand, over the same period Bermuda gained its first and only Irish pub, Flannagan's. While lobster and other seafoods are often featured on the menu, virtually everything is imported from the US or Canada.

Local specialties include:

  • 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 wind break. Although, like Surinam cherries and loquats, they are found throughout Bermuda, and produce edible fruit, none of these plants are cultivated for agriculture in Bermuda, 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 eaten widely in the form of local tuna, wahoo, and rockfish. Local fish is a common feature on restaurant menus across the island.
  • Fish Chowder seasoned with sherry pepper sauce and dark rum is a favourite across the island.

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Sleep

Accommodations in Bermuda are typically quite expensive. However there are excellent options available. There are many exclusive and four star accommodations. There are also a wide variety of B&B style accommodations and smaller guestroom hotels. Additionally, some businesses offer private homes, apartments and studios for short term rent.

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
9 BeachesBox MA 238 Sandys MA BXGuesthouse-

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Drink

Bermuda has two popular drinks:

  • Rum Swizzle which 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. Note, it is quite strong. 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 was said to be 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.

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Health

See also: Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Bermuda. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Bermuda) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Bermuda. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also: Travel Safety

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.

Also note that homosexuality is seen as taboo in public in Bermuda even if it is allowed by law in private. The local gay community exists on a more low-key scale than elsewhere, with no gay specific venues at this time.

Note that Bermuda has no right to concealed weapons except for government officers.

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Bermuda is: 1-441
To make an international call from Bermuda, the code is: 011

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Quick Facts

Bermuda flag

Map of Bermuda

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Capital
Hamilton
Government
Overseas territory of the UK
Nationality
Bermudian
Population
64,000
Languages
English, Portugese
Religions
Christianity (Protestant, Catholic)
Currency
Bermudian Dollar (BMD)
Calling Code
+1441
Time Zone
UTC-4

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This is version 27. Last edited at 8:20 on Jun 2, 15 by Utrecht. 16 articles link to this page.

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