Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: Bermuda: The Impossible Budget Destination

Nomadic Matt's Travel Site: Bermuda: The Impossible Budget Destination

Bermuda: The Impossible Budget Destination

Posted: 15 Aug 2013 07:55 AM PDT

bermuda beaches and clear blue waterIs it possible to travel Bermuda cheaply? It's a good question, one that deserves an answer. When I was 12, my father took my sister and me to Bermuda to surprise my mom, who was there on a cruise with my grandmother. We spent four days sweltering in the heat, swimming at the beach, and eating at Henry the 8th's (where my dad swears I told a girl she had nice hooters. I still don't believe him).

Lately, Bermuda has been on my mind again. I'd been thinking about going there for a few months since it's a close flight from New York City.

And now, older and not that much wiser, I wondered: could the land of rich people, celebrities, bankers, and tax-avoiding corporations really be enjoyed on a budget? Bermuda is not known as a cheap destination. Being the frugal traveler I am, I didn't want to spend much money, but what is the absolute minimum one needs while there?

As it turns out, a lot.

Way more than $50 a day.

After my four day visit there, I can tell you that it's nearly impossible to go to Bermuda on a budget. Realistically, you need about $175 a day.

Why? There are two main reasons:

bermuda blue water and beaches

First, accommodation is stupidly expensive (there are no hostels on the island). The cheapest accommodation costs around $100 a night for apartment rentals found via Airbnb, HomeAway, or Bermuda Rentals. If you book at least a month in advance or know someone, you might be able to find a room for as little as $75 a night. (I booked last-minute so ended up paying $125 per night.)

Secondly, transportation around the island is difficult. The bus system here, while cheap, is infrequent and many routes stop around 7 pm. If you aren't staying in a central location, this can be problematic. Additionally, taxis are expensive and a short 10-minute ride can cost $20 USD. Additionally, if you are visiting far-off beaches and attractions, or coming back late at night, you'll definitely need a taxi. You're guaranteed to take at least one taxi ride a day.

So is it possible to visit Bermuda cheaply?

bermuda beaches and clear blue water
There are, in fact, ways to spend less money on this island but it will take a little bit more planning and creativity. Here’s what you do:

Book early – If you want cheap accommodation, you'll need to book rooms at least a month in advance. Avoid hotels and resorts and instead stay at a bed and breakfast or home rental property. If you are staying with a group, definitely rent a large apartment as it is far less per person than a hotel room.

bermuda beaches and clear blue waterCouchsurf – There are only 15 Couchsurfing hosts in Bermuda. Many of them have private rooms available but if you want to succeed in reserving one, make sure you inquire really early in order to maximize your chances of success.

Rent a motorbike – Motorbikes are the most convenient and economical transportation on the island. Since buses are infrequent and taxis expensive, having a motorcycle will give you more freedom to travel at a lower cost. Motorbike rentals begin at around $50 a day but get cheaper the longer you rent them; 4 days will cost an average of $35 per day. Two popular rental companies are:

Stay central – While Hamilton is not set on a beautiful, pink sand beach, it’s the center for all the buses and ferries leaving the city. If you rent an apartment and aren't careful, you can end up somewhere far from a bus stop (which means more taxis). Staying in or near Hamilton will ensure you're near all the bus lines so you can avoid spending too much money on taxis.

bermuda cove

Skip the fancy food – There's good food on Bermuda, but it's expensive. Avoid all the big, fancy restaurants (ok, enjoy one nice meal) and go for smaller stalls and local restaurants where prices, though still high, are more economical. My two favorite places were Specialty Inn and North Rock Brewing Co. Additionally, the cafe at Cambridge Resorts is reasonably priced despite being at a resort. Most meals will cost between $10-20 USD.

Cook – If you skipped the hotel and rented an apartment, you'll have a kitchen. There's an ever-growing local and organic foodie scene on the island. You can find a lot of cheap fruits, vegetables, and meats at markets and shops that will help lower your costs dramatically.

bermuda blue water and beaches

Overall, if you find a Couchsurfing host, you can probably do Bermuda for around $70-80 per day. Otherwise, you’re looking at around $175 per day.

But, despite the drain on my wallet, my trip to Bermuda was amazing. As you can tell from the photos, everything you've ever heard about Bermuda is true. This is truly island paradise, with warm, clear water lapping on pink sand beaches.

looking out onto the water in bermuda

But what makes Bermuda truly paradise are the locals. The Bermudians were always helpful, friendly, and welcoming. Everywhere I went people were talkative and sincere. The woman in charge of our rented room was very hospitable and fed us dinner and breakfast while her family described life in Bermuda (apparently, it’s not just for the newly rich or nearly dead anymore!). We met a nice guy at the bus stop who randomly ended up giving us a ride into Hamilton, and then there was the waiter who kept telling us to have a "Bermudaful day." (Plus, countless other little things that made me fall in love with Bermuda.)

So go to Bermuda.

It won't be cheap — but it will be beautiful.

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