Hamilton, Bermuda Report of what it's like to live there - 06/13/19
Personal Experiences from Hamilton, Bermuda
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Yes, what an amazing first overseas post!
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Ohio, two flights away. Most flights from Bermuda are short flights to the East Coast (mostly NYC, Boston, ATL).
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
As previously noted, housing is spread out over the island, with most COM personnel living east of Hamilton. Everyone pretty much has a 20 min or fewer commute. Traffic here is nothing, though locals note the roads have become more congested and it's noticeable on such a small island and narrow roads. I live in a townhouse with one parking spot (we're limited to one car per household per Bermuda law), and no garage (rare in Bermuda). Houses are very sturdy to withstand hurricanes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Most expensive place I have ever been to! Bermuda's prices make even NYC seem reasonable sometimes. COM personnel receive a nice COLA to offset the cost, and we buy a lot of household goods and non-perishables off Amazon Prime to save money. Groceries are ridiculously expensive: US$8 cereal, chicken breasts US$10/lb, milk is US$6 for half gallon. Note that COM personnel are eligible for duty-free alcohol purchases so make sure to ask about this before buying in the store.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Maybe throw some household products in your HHE before getting here (e.g., laundry detergent, toilet paper) and/or buy online. They have all the brands here, you'll just pay a lot for it.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Disappointingly, very little available for delivery (mostly overpriced pizza). Bermuda doesn't have much in the way of "fast casual" like in the U.S., which is annoying when I want to pick up something quick on the way home from work. One KFC, otherwise no chains allowed here. Plenty in terms of fine dining, but you're looking at $35-50 for an entree at a lot of places. Even the casual places are quite expensive ($20 for a burrito, $25 for a cheeseburger). All prices USD :(
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants and cockroaches are a constant problem. The cockroaches here can fly! One landed on me at the beach.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Diplomatic pouch. You can use the Bermuda post office, it will just cost more.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
No personal experience, but I've heard nannies charge about US$2500/month and I believe housekeepers are about $30-40/hr.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Gyms here are a little smaller and generally not as nice as what I'm used to in the U.S. They start at about $150/month. Plenty of classes available on island: yoga, pilates, spinning, karate, etc. and classes run about $25 each.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Yes, no issues here. I use the Consulate for cash just to avoid the fee my bank charges; ATMs are safe to use.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Plenty! I think Bermuda has more churches per capita than any place in the world! Pretty much every denomination is represented here.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, sidewalks are rare outside the city of Hamilton and are often crumbling or just end randomly. Streets are very narrow with no shoulders; instead, there is usually a rock wall. Buses are not equipped for wheelchairs and many crosswalks are not ADA compliant. It would be very difficult to live here with a physical disability.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Buses and taxis are very safe but not reliable; buses rarely come on time and taxis can also be hit or miss. A taxi driver may refuse to take you to a destination that is "too far" (note, on a 21 sq mile island nothing is very far!) or may not show up- this happened to me a couple of times going to the airport, and I almost missed my flight.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
I bought my car from a local dealer before arriving at Post. I was given a list of what vehicles would be arriving on the ship around the same time I was arriving here. As noted, there are strict restrictions on importing vehicles- newer than 6 mos, original owner, size restrictions. I had a Toyota Corolla, considered a compact car in the U.S., and couldn't bring it because it was too large.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet (no cable/phones) costs $150/month and is really spotty. My husband works from home and has had frequent issues with our Internet cutting out. I also notice it when trying to stream TV. We've been surprised at the poor quality of the Internet, given the cost and how advanced everything else is here.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We use Google Fi and this has been so easy when traveling back to the U.S. or other countries. Post provides phones for local calls.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Lots- hospital, aquarium, Meals on Wheels, SPCA, similar to what you'd find in the U.S.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual at work. A little dressier than most islands. Google Bermuda mens' attire to see a typical Bermuda suit. Back in the day, more restaurants here used to require a jacket for men but that's pretty rare now and dress is overall similar to the U.S.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
This is the safest place I've ever lived. You hear of the occasional break-in, but violent crime is very rare.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is excellent: I had no hesitations about having a baby at the hospital here. Patients are referred to US specialists for some things due to the small size of Bermuda. Check your insurance coverage, though, as treatment is very expensive.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Excellent air quality. I try to get outside as much as possible and enjoy our beautiful weather.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Specialty food items/meds are widely available.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Very pleasant year-round. It gets up to the mid-80s during summer and the coldest it will ever get is mid-50s in the winter. Humid but not as hot as places I've lived in the US including MO and DC. There is the risk of hurricanes in late summer, but Bermuda is well-equipped (sturdy housing, rarely floods, strong infrastructure).
Schools & Children:
1. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
My day care costs US$1200/month and is open from 7:30 am- 6:00 pm. I've been happy with them.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Morale is very high, this is a great place to live! Lots of expats on island from all over the world. Most of them are Americans, Canadians, Brits, Indians, and Filipinos (latter two most commonly working in the food/hospitality sector). Easy to meet other expats in international meet-up groups, golf clubs, etc. Check out the International Women's Association of Bermuda; mostly expats from US/CAN/UK.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
World-class golfing and water activities (lots of shipwrecks to explore by diving), church attendance is high here. Bermudians are very friendly and ready to strike up a conversation.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Bermudians are overall very warm and welcoming, and I have not heard of personal experiences of overt harassment/discrimination.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Again, Bermudians are very friendly!
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not that I have experienced.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Exploring the Railway Trail and taking in the beautiful views along the ocean, Spittle Pond, the quaint town of St. George's. Most of all, spending countless weekends at the beach- favorites include Turtle Beach (where you can spot sea turtles), Warwick Long Bay, and John Smith's.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
If you enjoy water activities and being outdoors, you will love it here. If you don't like the beach, you will probably be bored quickly. Hidden gem- Coconut Rock for the best sushi on island.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There is a neat hand-blown glass factory in Dockyard. For men, A.S. Cooper or the English Sports Shop for Bermuda shorts.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Beautiful weather, year-round access to golf and other outdoor activities, world-class beaches, friendly people, low crime.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Buy the smallest car you can find; our Veloster is a little bigger than I'd like and can be a pain on the narrow roads and parking. Also wish I'd realize just how expensive everything is, but then again, what can you do?
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter coat and SUV.
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, swimsuit, and $$$.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
nothingtodoinbermuda.com has a weekly list of events and gotobermuda.com has general info