Hamilton, Bermuda is currently...
An introduction to Bermuda
Bermuda is a small Island (53 square kilometres or 22 square miles) in the Atlantic Ocean, located approximately 1000 kilometres (600 miles) from the coast of North Carolina. It is made up of a cluster of 138 coral islands and islets, which are connected by a series of causeways and bridges.
Bermuda is very accessible, with regular, direct flights from several major centers including Toronto and Atlanta (2 & ½ hrs), NY, NJ, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia (2 hrs) and London (7 hrs). In the summer months, there are also direct flights from Halifax (just over 2 hrs).
The main business center and capital of Bermuda is the city of Hamilton. Although it is the only official city in Bermuda, it is by no means a typical city in the international sense. The daytime population of Hamilton is approximately 15,000 and the majority of the office buildings are under five storeys high.
Hamilton is the place that most people go to work, to shop and to eat out however very few of the Island's residents actually live there. They tend to live in quiet neighbourhoods or close to the beach, and commute in to Hamilton (by ferry, bus, scooter or car). The city is very compact and can easily be covered on foot. It borders along the harbour and provides great views.
Bermuda is situated more than 1600 kilometres (1000 miles) north of the Caribbean; however the warm waters of the Gulf Stream pass near Bermuda creating a mild, subtropical climate.
The warmest months are from May to October, with temperatures ranging from a low of 24°C (75°F) up to a high of 32°C (90°F). From January through March, the cooler season, temperatures typically fall between 16°C (60°F) and 21°C (69°F). Relative humidity levels are fairly high, especially during the months of July and August. The mean annual rainfall is approximately 1,422 mm (56 inches).
All of this warmth and humidity allows for a lush green landscape and a variety of brightly coloured flowers, especially during the summer months. Hibiscus and Oleander trees are found throughout the island, adding an array of beautiful colours and sweet aromas to the scenery.
Although many hurricanes pass over the Atlantic Ocean, very few of these storms have a serious impact on Bermuda. They usually only bring increased winds and downpours. However in Sept 2003, Bermuda received its first direct hit in more than 50 years with hurricane Fabian. The damage was considerable, but the Island was well prepared and rebounded quickly. Most of the buildings in Bermuda are made of limestone so that they can withstand these rare storms.
To see the latest weather conditions in Bermuda, visit www.weather.bm.
The population of Bermuda is approximately 65,000 - of these, 8,000 or so are expatriates (often referred to as guest workers). Most of the expatriates in Bermuda come from Canada the U.K. and the U.S. but there is representation from many other countries. Professionals from all over the world are drawn to Bermuda for a combination of factors including unique jobs, lower taxes and a better work-life balance. The official language in Bermuda is English, however there is also a fairly large Portuguese speaking community.
The local Bermudians are known for their friendly disposition and helpfulness. One local in particular has touched the hearts of locals and tourists alike. Johnny Barnes, an 85+ year old retired electrician and bus driver, stands at one of the busiest roundabouts each morning, from 4 -10 am, blowing kisses, waving and shouting "Good morning! I love you! God bless you!" He's there rain or shine, 5 days a week, putting smiles on the faces of the commuters and tourists as they head into Hamilton. Johnny's been featured in numerous publications and several videos. In recent years, a life-size bronze statue was erected in his honour and placed near the roundabout.
Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory, but has been self-governed since 1620. Their government system is very similar to the UK, with Her Majesty the Queen as the official head of state. She is represented by a Governor who looks after foreign affairs and internal security. The current Governor is George Fergusson.
Bermuda has two major political parties: the Progressive Labour Party (PLP) and the One Bermuda Alliance Party (OBA). The OBA was elected as the leading party in late 2012. Prior to that, the PLP had been in power since 1998. The current Premier is Craig Cannonier.
The judicial system of Bermuda is headed by the Chief Justice who is appointed by the Governor. The legal system is based on English common law.
Bermuda's economy is strong, fuelled by both the international business sector and tourism. The Island has one of the highest standards of living in the world and unemployment has historically been fairly negligible.
International Business: There are more than 10,000 international businesses on the island. The majority of these are in the financial services sector, which accounts for 60% of Bermuda's Gross National Product. Bermuda is one of the leading centers in the world for insurance and reinsurance, right next to London, England and New York. There are nearly 1,300 captive insurers located there, with more arriving every year. In addition to insurance, Bermuda is home to a number of offshore hedge funds and private investment holding companies.
Tourism: More than 400,000 tourists visit Bermuda each year, either by air or sea. Tourism accounts for an estimated 28% of Gross National Product, with most of the visitors coming from North America.
The currency in Bermuda is the Bermuda dollar, which is kept on par with the U.S. dollar and, as a result, the two currencies are interchangeable on the island. All major currencies are available on the island at the local banks.
Bermuda's lifestyle provides a balance between the laid back island atmosphere, and the fast-pace of international business. You can choose the slower, relaxing lifestyle but for the type-A personalities out there, there's always something going on...
The sub-tropical climate means that many sports and outdoor activities can be enjoyed year round. These include: tennis, golf, volleyball, rollerblading, cricket, soccer, cycling, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, swimming… to name a few. There are many related teams and associations that you can join including a fairly competitive ball hockey league (which is enjoyed by many Canadian expats!).
The social scene in Bermuda is quite active. Dining out is popular and there's a wide selection of restaurants to choose from - with varying menus and price points. There are also many pubs, bars and clubs where both locals and expats can be found enjoying happy hour on Friday evenings.
Cost of Living:
You may have heard that Bermuda is an expensive place to live. Bermuda's cost of living may seem quite high at first glance, but in order to get a accurate picture, we recommend constructing a budget to examine what you will earn relative to the expenses you'll face on the island.
There are some key factors to consider. Salaries in Bermuda are quite competitive in the global sense. The Bermudian dollar is set to a fixed 1:1 exchange rate with the US dollar and salaries are nearly tax free - subject to only a 5.25% (maximum) payroll tax deduction. For Canadians and professionals in many other international locations this represents a huge drop in personal taxation and you'll notice a large difference in net pay on your first pay stub.
While it’s true it does cost a fair bit to enjoy living in a subtropical paradise, these opportunities often allow for an increase in earning potential. With some proper planning and oversight, most people find that they are able to come back after a few years with savings. We're happy to discuss typical expenses and answer questions on an individual basis.
Purchasing property is not really an option for expatriates in Bermuda therefore most rent their accommodation. The majority of rentals are either apartments within houses or condominiums.
The cost for housing varies depending on location, size, whether it is furnished or unfurnished, what facilities are available, etc. Generally speaking, the closer you live to Hamilton (or the beach), the more expensive it will be. However with the island being so small, it's easy to commute in from anywhere. We'd be pleased to provide examples and discuss typical rental costs with you. Current rental listings can also be viewed on local classified websites (see links page).
Utilities such as electricity, telephone and cable service are usually not included in rental costs, but are available from local service providers. Some "all-inclusive" properties are available however. Water is normally included in rent because each house has its own rooftop water catch. The roofs of houses in Bermuda are made of limestone slate and are designed to catch rainwater which is channeled into a tank beneath the house. During exceptionally dry seasons water may be purchased and delivered by truck.
The combination of the Bermuda's economy and small size means that housing costs are relatively high but affordable housing is available. Many people are able to find suitable rental accommodation through word of mouth and our advice is to ask everyone you meet. The island is small and chances are you'll run into someone who knows someone with a place to rent. The realtors in Bermuda are often focused on the higher-end of the market (executive rentals), but they should be able to show you a wide range of suitable housing.
All guest workers require a valid work permit in order to live and work on the island. Work permits are managed by the Immigration Department and application for a permit is made by the employer subsequent to a job offer being made. Permits can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to be approved. The wait time for permit approvals are typically 2-3 weeks for a temporary permit and 6-8 weeks for a standard permit once the necessary documents have been submitted. The length of the permit will depend on the employer's requirements and immigration approval.