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First Timer’s Guide to Bermuda

The island of Bermuda blends a tropical island vibe and a dapper British style. The result is a pretty unique vacation destination. Since Americans need at least a passport and a plane flight or cruise booking to visit, a trip to Bermuda definitely requires some planning. Luckily, the logistics on the ground are pretty easy for first timers if you’ve done even a bit of preparation.

First Timers Guide to Bermuda - Princess Beach Club Millennial Pink Beach Chair

My husband and I have had Bermuda on our bucket list ever since we were searching for where to go on our honeymoon. We finally were able to spending a glorious full week there this August. As we were celebrating both our 15th wedding anniversary and my 40th birthday this summer, we decided it was time for a rare child-free trip. After dropping the kids off in Charlotte, NC with grandma and grandpa (thanks mom and dad!), we jetted off for a week in a tropical paradise.

We explored a lot of the tiny island in the 7 nights we were there. Naturally, we made a few mistakes along the way, but also picked up a lot of tips and tricks, both for couples travelers like us as well as for families. I decided that a first time travelers guide might be helpful to others venturing to this destination for the first time too. Here is what other newbies to Bermuda – families as well as travelers without kids – need to know.

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Visiting Bermuda for the first time? The ultimate guide to where to stay, transit and transportation, the best seasons to visit, and flight and cruise ship arrival. Tips for planning the perfect Bermuda vacation getaway for both couples and families! #bermuda #familytravel #couplestravel

Where is Bermuda?

As a child of the 1980s, the first thing that pops into my head when I think of Bermuda is the Beach Boys’ 1988 hit Kokomo. You know you know it… “Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama.” For many Americans, that song forever geographically misplaced Bermuda (and the Bahamas!) in our brains. Because it was named along with so many Caribbean destinations, many Americans erroneously assume Bermuda is somewhere in the Caribbean. 

But Bermuda is very much not in the Caribbean. It’s situated solidly in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly due east of Savannah, Georgia. The closest US landmass is actually around Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The geography is important because it definitely affects the climate and when you should be considering Bermuda as a vacation destination (more on that below!).

A lot of people are also confused as to what Bermuda is – country, protectorate, territory, etc.? Bermuda is actually one of a few British Overseas Territories, along with Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Falkland Islands and Turks & Caicos. It has some self-governing rights and elects its own parliament, but it recognizes the crown and is overseen by a crown-appointed governor.

Sub-Regions, Neighborhoods, & Layout of Bermuda

What many new visitors to Bermuda also don’t understand is just how tiny of an island Bermuda is. To drive it tip to stern takes only about an hour. It’s long and skinny, so there are places where you can easily walk the width of the island. The entire island is only 21 square miles, making it less than half the size of the already pretty small city of San Francisco.

The country is divided into 9 parishes, but most visitors will likely refer to three different regions. Those include:

St. George’s (East End): Located near the eastern end of the island by the airport is the town of St. George’s, the original settlement of Bermuda. Full of historic buildings and churches, it’s a worthy cultural destination. Also on this end of the island are some amazing cave formations as well as the famous Tobacco Bay Beach.

St Georges Town in Bermuda

City of Hamilton & Central Bermuda: The center of the island is where Bermuda’s one “big” city is located. Hamilton is home to the government and major commerce centers (Bermuda has a thriving reinsurance industry that contributes to the wealth there).

Royal Naval Dockyard (West End): At the far western tip is the cruise terminal, located at the Royal Naval Dockyard. Between Central Bermuda and the west end are a ton of gorgeous beaches and the village of Somerset.

Bermuda is small enough that you can pick a single home base and use it to tour the entire island. Some visitors, however, may prefer to split their stay between either end of the island to reduce transportation time and cost.

What is the Best Airport for Flying to Bermuda?

American Airlines Flight Landing at LF Wade Airport in Bermuda

Given its tiny size, it’s probably unsurprising that Bermuda has only a single airport. Bermuda’s L.F. Wade International Airport (BDA) is located on the far east end of the island, close to the town of St. George’s. Driving from the airport to Bermuda’s main commercial city of Hamilton takes about 30 minutes. And driving to the far other end of the island takes close to an hour.

BDA is served by a wide variety of U.S. airlines, including JetBlue, American, Delta, and United. Cities with non-stop airline service include:

  • Miami: American
  • New York-JFK: JetBlue, Delta or American
  • New York-LGA: American
  • Newark: United
  • Philadelphia: American
  • Boston: JetBlue or Delta
  • Atlanta: Delta
  • Charlotte: American
  • Washington-National: American

From Europe, the only carrier is British Airways from London-Gatwick. Canadian travelers can choose between service on Air Canada or WestJet from Toronto-Pearson.

Visitors flying to Bermuda need to know that its air service fluctuates with the seasons fairly significantly. Some destinations are served only in the peak June-August summer months. Flights from some places may only operate once or twice a week. That’s the major reason my husband and I were able to take a full week vacation. American only served our originating airport of CLT in August once a week on Saturdays!

As for flight time, it’s quick. Bermuda is a very short hop, skip and jump for most East Coast and southern travelers. Flights from Boston and New York City are under 2 hours. Atlanta and Charlotte flights are about 2.5 hours. It’s entirely possible to visit Bermuda on a long weekend from many US destinations, assuming the flights are available.

While cash prices can sometimes be very reasonable from New York and Boston, not all originating cities offer flight deals to Bermuda. We were able to find flights on the cheap using British Airways Avios to book flights on its partner airline, American

What Do I Need to Know about Visiting Bermuda by Cruise Ship?

First Timers First Timers Guide to Bermuda - Cruise Ship at Royal Naval DockyardGuide to Bermuda - Bermuda

If you aren’t coming by air to Bermuda, you are almost definitely coming by boat! Bermuda is a very popular cruise ship port and with good reason. With its small size, it is an easy destination where visitors can see a lot in a single day’s visit.

Because of environmental damage to Bermuda’s reefs and harbors, the large cruise ships now dock exclusively at the Royal Naval Dockyard. So if you are coming in via ship, you need to plan for transportation from there. If you want to head to Hamilton quickly, there is a ferry located at the cruise terminal (see the transportation section below for even more information).

The cruise ship terminal area also has plenty to do within walking distance for visitors who don’t want to travel too far. The National Museum of Bermuda is located steps away, as are a number of restaurants and shops.

Even if you aren’t coming in via cruise ship, it’s smart to watch the cruise ship schedules into the Royal Naval Dockyard. When a mega-ship is in port or several ships are in town at one time, they can dramatically affect crowd levels all over the island. Tour operators book up more quickly on these dates as well. We purposefully timed our visit to the Royal Naval Dockyard for a day when one of Royal Caribbean’s biggest ships just left town. There is a Bermuda cruise calendar available several months in advance here.

What Are the Best Transportation Options for Getting Around Bermuda?

My husband and I tried pretty much every transportation option during our stay, so I definitely have some thoughts on this question!

First of all, only Bermudians are allowed to drive cars on the island. That means that visitors definitely need to do a bit of planning when it comes to transportation. Uber and Lyft don’t operate in Bermuda either, so don’t plan to rely on them. Here are the various transportation choices:

Taxis: Taxis are the quickest way to get around the island, but they are also pretty expensive and add up quickly. They also charge higher Sunday and holiday rates. Traveling just about half the distance of the island on Sunday cost us over $65 one way! Additionally, while it’s pretty easy to pick up a taxi at the airport, Royal Naval Dockyard, or in Hamilton, more remote locations are not quite so easily served, especially in the early morning or late night hours. My advice? Rely on taxis when you need door-to-door or very quick transportation solutions, but definitely try other options!

Ferries: The shape of the island of Bermuda makes ferries very useful and actually quite time-saving. For example, while it takes about 45 minutes to drive from Hamilton to the Royal Naval Dockyard, the ferry ride is just 20 minutes. There are 4 different ferry lines that criss-cross the island. Cash is not accepted, so be sure to pick up a transportation pass or token to ride at the ferry terminal building.

Bus and ferry tokens in Bermuda

Public Bus: Public buses in Bermuda are reliable, inexpensive, safe, and clean. They also travel within close walking distance of many of the major tourist attractions. Take a look at the official Bermuda bus map to plan your route. Bus fare is $5.00 for travel anywhere in the 14 zones (or just $3.50 if you are taking a 3 zone or less trip). Bermudian dollars or transportation tokens (available at a discount if purchased at visitors centers or bus/ferry terminals) are both accepted.

Hotel Shuttles: A lot of hotels offer shuttle services of some sort, so look into those when you book lodging. For example, we stayed at the Hamilton Princess Hotel which has a private beach club elsewhere on the island. The hotel offered a regular and free minibus back and forth to the beach club multiple times a day.

Mopeds & Electric Cars (Twizzy): Although visitors can’t rent a real car in Bermuda, they are permitted to rent mopeds and a tiny two-seater electric vehicle called the Twizzy. We rented a Twizzy for a single day of exploring when we were going to multiple different stops, and found it was a pretty amazing experience. They would work for families of 4 as well – just rent two and have each parent drive one kid. The minimum age to ride in the back is 5. Just remember that Bermuda drives on the left!

Rent a Twizzy electric car to tour Bermuda

Is Bermuda a Good Destination to Visit with Kids?

Yes! Even though my husband and I took a couples trip, we were always on the lookout for family-friendly things to do. We remarked to each other several times a day how much one both of our kids would have enjoyed what we were experiencing. 

We also saw a ton of other families in Bermuda with kids of all ages. Since it is such a short trip and is a very safe destination, it really makes a lot of sense for families. I’d absolutely return with my kids.

What is the Best Season to Visit Bermuda?

First Timers Guide to Bermuda - Horseshoe Bay Beach

Unlike the Caribbean which stays warm all year, Bermuda is more affected by the seasons. Summer is most definitely the high season, with the island seeing most of its visitors between June and August. Hotel prices tend to surge during these months, but early planners can find deals. During summer months, the island is quite warm and humid. Plan accordingly for outdoor activities, as you don’t want to be exerting yourself too much during the heat of the day in these months unless you are in the water!

But Bermuda isn’t only a single season destination. It’s warm enough in a lot of the spring and fall to travel to the island too. Shoulder season offers more affordability and lower crowds, so I’d certainly consider it on not-so-obvious times. Winter is windy and chilly (but not cold), with temperatures in the mid-60s.

Of course, the one major weather factor travelers also have to consider is hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November, so it can throw a wrench into travel plans. Going the first week of August, we knew we were a bit at risk. Realistically though, peak hurricane season is in September and early October, so most high season visitors should be able dodge most of the riskiest times.

Where to Stay in Bermuda

Lodging in Bermuda doesn’t come cheap, and that is probably why many travelers on the East Coast and the South opt for Caribbean destinations instead. As a California-based traveler often, the prices didn’t shock my conscience. I found them to be roughly equivalent to Hawaii prices. The only difference is perhaps that there were not as many moderate hotels in Bermuda as there are a few places in Hawaii. More of the hotels on Bermuda are luxury level and priced accordingly.

First TimersFairmont Hamilton Princess Hotel in Bermuda

We decided to stay at the Hamilton Princess, which is a Fairmont-managed property. My husband and I always love staying in a hotel with history, and the Hamilton Princess has that in spades. In fact, the history was quite personal for both of us. My mother stayed in the hotel about 50 years earlier with my grandparents when she was in high school, and my husband’s grandparents had visited as well many decades ago!

The Hamilton Princess is located within easy walking distance of Front Street in downtown Hamilton, which has a ton of shops and dining. We loved its urban location on the harbor. Look for a full review coming soon!

Other hotels we considered, visited, and/or researched:

There are not really many chain hotels on the island, meaning it’s a bit of a challenge to redeem hotel points in Bermuda to save. However, there will be a St. Regis coming to the east end of the island, putting Marriott points in play. We saw the construction during our visit and it definitely has a ways to go though!

What to Do in Bermuda

Although we spent a few days lounging on the beach, my husband and I were pretty active on this vacation and did a lot of the local activities and excursions. It’s amazing how efficient we could be again without kids in tow! But if you want to know about all that we did, you’ll have to wait for my things to do in Bermuda guide to come out soon.

For even more in-depth recommendations of what to do in Bermuda, check out these guides from fellow family travel bloggers I personally know and trust (and that I used in my own planning and research!):

Even More Bermuda Tips & Tricks for First Time Visitors

Need a few other tips and tricks as you plan your trip? 

First Timers Guide to Bermuda - Rainbow over Hamilton Harbor

1. Don’t worry about money: Bermuda uses the Bermudian dollar which is tied completely to the value of the US dollar. This means that you do not have worry about converting money. Bermudian dollars and US dollars are used interchangeably at cash registers too. Usually if you pay in US dollars, most cashiers will even make change in US dollars when available. We asked for some local currency as change though, so we could bring it home for our kids!

2. Check your cell coverage: We found the cell and data service in Bermuda to be quite good in most places. I guess with such a small island, it’s not too hard to get the infrastructure in place to cover it all. Plenty of restaurants and businesses also have free WiFi, so we were able to stay pretty connected for purposes of getting directions and doing research. Definitely check your cell phone data plan before you leave – we found Bermuda to be covered at such a reasonable rate with ours (Sprint) that we didn’t have to worry about using it as needed even when we could not get WiFi.

3. Pre-book excursions: Because Bermuda is so small, popular activities and excursions can sell out, especially during the high tourist season in the summer. Book early so you aren’t disappointed!

4. Build in extra time for airport departures for customs pre-clearance: Bermuda is one of several foreign airports where US travelers pre-clear immigration and customs before they board their flights. When you land in a US airport, that means your flight will arrive into a domestic gate because you’ve already “entered” the US. So what does this mean for your Bermuda departure? You’ll need to plan extra time at the airport before your flight for this step. Arriving about 2.5-3 hours before flight time should be more than sufficient. 

5. Don’t leave without trying a Dark & Stormy, Rum Swizzle, or fish sandwich: Bermuda has a few local food and drink specialities. No trip is complete without giving them a try! The fish sandwiches in Bermuda are made on raisin bread, making for a sweet and salty combination that is exceptionally tasty. If you drink alcohol, try the rum swizzle (kind of like Bermuda’s take on the mai tai) or a dark and stormy, a stronger mixed drink made with Gosling’s rum and ginger beer.

Have you been to Bermuda? Share your additional tips and tricks in the comments.

Planning a trip to the Bermuda? Essential travel tips for first time visitors, from information about air travel and cruise ship arrivals, transportation options, where to stay, and more. #bermuda

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