By Mary Frances Monroe
International regulatory attorney Mary Frances Monroe moved from Washington DC to Bermuda in 2011, where she lived until 2013. Continuing our expat advice series, here she describes life on a small island in the North Atlantic.
Bermuda is an island of just over 60,000 people on 21 square miles in the Atlantic Ocean. It is not, as many assume, in the Caribbean; it’s actually 650 miles off the coast of North Carolina in the US. It has a warm climate most of the year but unexpectedly chilly and rainy winters, so don’t neglect to pack a reasonably warm coat, sweaters and rain gear, even if your job does not require travel to colder locales. Given the high humidity, fur and wool are not the best options – for me, a trench coat with a liner was ideal.
Travel to and from Bermuda is via one small, but charming, airport in the north of the territory. The airport and the causeway linking it to the main island are susceptible to bad weather, however, and can be closed. Generally, however, travel is not a problem and the ability to clear US customs on the Bermuda side is a plus for those who travel back and forth to the US.
Transport on the island can be challenging. Buses run regularly, especially the 7 and 8 routes on Middle Road which traverse most of the island, but bus strikes can be disruptive and services can be overcrowded at peak periods. Depending on your location, ferries are an option and a wonderfully relaxing way to commute — for example, between the capital Hamilton, where most businesses are located, and Paget and Warwick parishes on the Pink route.
Prices of new cars are eye-watering, so check the expat secondhand market on Emoo.bm. Scooters are an option for the brave but beware the narrow streets and slippery conditions in rainstorms.
For cars or scooters, you must have a Bermudan driving licence – there is no reciprocity for licences from other jurisdictions, including the UK and Canada. The process is a bit convoluted: in addition to passing a driving test, you will also need a local medical exam – the physical you have to emigrate to Bermuda is not valid for driving licences.
Bermuda’s environment is a major plus, with beautiful pink sand beaches and clean, clear water that is ideal for swimming, snorkelling and boating. Sailing, cricket, tennis and golf are the main sports in Bermuda but, regrettably, the island has no indoor tennis facilities for when it rains.
My husband and I lived in Paget Parish, up the hill from the Elbow Beach resort area. The location was ideal for work (10 minutes by car or 20 minutes by bus to Hamilton) and tennis (just down the hill to the Elbow Beach tennis courts), and our two-level townhouse overlooked Bermuda’s South Shore. Of course, all of that was at a price well above what comparable housing would cost in Washington DC, which itself is hardly a bargain location.
Be aware that just about everything — housing, food (almost all of which is shipped or flown in) and recreation — is expensive in Bermuda. That said, a walk or run on the beach or a swim in the ocean after work is free and on your doorstep, as the island is no more than one mile wide at most points.
What I wish I’d known before moving to Bermuda
Moving into rented housing can take some time. It is best if your employer provides a rental agent to assist with the process, but even then, you can expect to spend a month or longer in a hotel until you get fixed up, especially if you are shipping furniture and household effects from abroad (you need to wait until the ship is full and ready to sail). Furnished or semi-furnished rentals can be a good option, as is Emoo for secondhand furniture and household goods.
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