I’ve had the fortune of travelling to Bermuda twice in the past two years, but I did not stay at any of the hotels there, so I am unable to post a resort review at Debbie’s main page. But I thought I’d submit some travel advice here for anyone going there for the first time.
It’s a lovely island, but both times I think I went at the wrong time of year (Mar’03 and Apr’04). It rained 4-5 of 7 days during each trip and became cool enough at least 2 days to warrant a couple of layers (and I’m from Canada!!). However, I still managed to get some sun (burned quite badly the first trip actually).
My friend (who has lived there for 3.5 years) tells me that Aug-Oct is usually the best time to go (little rain, still quite warm but not TOO hot).
I might make it back again at least once before my friend’s work contract expires, but I look forward to trying somewhere else (I’m heading to Cuba in 2 weeks!).
But I digress…
[u]Currency:[/u] Bring US$. They are as widely accepted as the Bermudian dollar (which is at par with US). Usually when you pay in US$, you will receive change in US$. If the shop doesn’t have any, don’t fear. Take the Bermuda $ and when you’re in the next shop, use it to make your purchase and ask them if they have US change that they can give you.
[u]Shopping:[/u] There aren’t really any great deals to be found on this island, unfortunately. Most items are imported from the UK and North America, so they tend to be marked up to compensate for shipping costs. Trimingham’s is the main department store. Everything from perfume to clothing to the famous Bermudian Rum Cake (although, save your money and buy rum cake from an actual rum cake store).
There are a variety of shops in downtown Hamilton, including United Colors of Benetton and Levi’s. Also, a few jewellry stores with some beautiful items to suit any budget, depending on what you’re looking for ($20 to $x,000’s - I bought a nice silver ring with an amber stone for $30).
If you’re looking for souvenirs (i.e., t-shirts, key chains, etc), the best souvenir shop (in my opinion) is the one on Queen St (by the Perot Post Office). I can’t remember the name of it, but it has world flags all around the window. You can’t miss it!
[u]Transportation:[/u] Unfortunately, tourists are unable to rent cars while in Bermuda. But if you’re brave enough, rent a scooter (I did during my second trip)! It’s the best way to see the island from end-to-end! Just remember that in Bermuda, they drive on the LEFT side of the road! I paid about $90 US for 3 full days with the scooter (“economy size” from Oleander Cyles). When you go to the shop, the attendant will give a quick lesson then ask you to drive the bike to the end of the street and back. As long as you don’t fall off, it’s yours!
However, if riding on a moped for a week isn’t your cup of tea, they do have a decent bus system. The taxis are good too, but can become pricey (depending on where you’re going). The only problem I found with taxis was that sometimes when I called to request one to pick me up at my friend’s house, they didn’t always show up!
[u]Beaches:[/u] I’d really have to say that Horseshoe is the nicest, although it can become quite crowded. Oh, and if you’re ever in Bermuda on Good Friday, kite-flying is a tradition and they have a big gathering/festival at Horseshoe Beach.
Elbow Beach was okay, but it wasn’t raked. I’m guessing because it was during off-season.
I also went to John Smith’s Bay on the east end of the island. It was a quaint little beach with only a handful of people there at the time. However, it was very windy compared to the other beaches. I was covered in sand within 15 minutes. I don’t know if it was because it was a particularly windy day, or because of its location on the island.
[u]Sightseeing:[/u] While my friend was at work all day, I toured around the island by myself for the most part. The Bermuda Aquarium & Zoo was fun, although not very big. The seals are funny to watch, and in the zoo part, there is a section that you can walk through with little monkeys that will run right up to your feet! I went to the zoo during both trips.
The Crystal Caves are an absolute must see! Just gorgeous and amazing! If you choose to go, try to stay close to your tour guide as it can become difficult to hear him/her. They have some very interesting stories and point out various formations.
The Royal Naval Dockyard is considered the “largest museum” on the island, however do not expect the text explaining various exhibits to be written on large plaques as we might be used to at museums here. Most of the time, things were written in marker on paper, mounted on coloured cardboard. Very “rustic”. But there are some interesting things to see. The Commissioner’s House is quite interesting, and when you’re walking up the hill to the house, the view is quite surreal. My chest tightened once or twice as I stood at the edge of the fort seeing just how vast the ocean is. Bermuda really is just a “dot” in the middle of the Atlantic!
The Bermuda Maritime Museum is also interesting, although that was on my first trip so I don’t remember too much of it. What I mostly remember are the exhibits with items from various shipwrecks.
Dining: I’ve dined at a number of places in Bermuda, but the one that I remember the most is The Porch (fabulous service - perhaps because the gang I was with are “regulars” - and the food is delicious, especially the steak!). Also, you can almost never go wrong at any of the great pizza places on the island. If you’re at Horseshoe Beach for the day, before leaving that area of the island, go to Tio Pepe’s for pizza and sangria. In Hamilton, Portofino is delicious (and they have the best ice cream for dessert!).
One thing I will say about Bermuda is that if you’re 25-35, there is a great night life as many people living there are ex-pat professionals there to work in the financial industry. Many are single, so they tend to frequent the local watering holes on most weekends! Check out The Pickled Onion (Front St., Hamilton) as a warm up (from 9-11 p.m.), then head down the street to The Blue Oyster or The Hog Penny for dancing (The Blue Oyster has an outdoor dance floor - very fun! Even in the rain!).
[u]One more thing:[/u] When I went to Bermuda in Apr’04, they were still recovering from Hurricane Fabian. The south shore coast line was severely damaged, so don’t be surprised if the palm trees look a bit ragged. Also, there was a lot of road work in progress while I was there. As I post this, it is now Nov’04 so it might be much better by now… but according to my friend who lives there, it often takes a couple of years for Bermuda to recover from a hurricane of such grand scale due to a small labour force and the import of supplies.
Please feel free to e-mail me with any questions you might have! firstname.lastname@example.org