Bermuda trip review
Sep 19, 2008
A few days ago I posted the recap. Here is my review and commentary.
Bermuda was chosen for two reasons. First, it's the closest tropical island to NJ. Hawaii was awesome, but it's 10 hours away. The Caribbean is close, but Bermuda is even closer. It was a quick two-hour flight, though it took a little longer because it's technically an "overseas" flight which includes customs and such. Second, it's another part of the Beach Boys song Kokomo, of which we've already traveled to Jamaica and the Bahamas (and technically Key Largo [Key West is close enough] and Montego [which is in Jamaica]). My goal in life is to travel to all destinations mentioned in the song. Aruba might be next.
The bed and breakfast route was interesting. We rented through BermudaRentals.com after a search for accommodations costing less than the standard $300-per-night hotels. The island unfortunately has no chain hotels, so we couldn't use points. So instead of blowing $2000 for a week with a bed and a toilet, we found a few different B&Bs. However, as I've learned, Bermuda B&Bs are less like family-run hotels, and more like your grandma's house. The lady we stayed with was an 89-year-old great-grandmother of many, and we stayed in one of her spare bedrooms. Her room was directly across the hall from ours, so there wasn't much in the way of privacy. I've heard that in normal B&Bs, the owners' living quarters are usually separate from the guests', and there's a little more room to move around. We stayed in a small bedroom and shared a bathroom with the other guests (which we hardly ever even saw). Despite all these negatives, we were provided with a breakfast and a dinner every day (I'm not sure if the dinner was part of the deal or just the outpouring of a great-grandmother's generosity). Either way, it was a great deal, and though it wasn't ideal, I would gladly do it again.
Bermuda is a British territory, and as such, it has many British qualities. One was driving on the left hand side of the road. This was quite a challenge. I kept wanting to look behind me when I made a right turn, although that's the absolute wrong thing to do. If you think about it, everything in American life is geared towards driving on the right. We drive on the right hand, we bike on the right hand, when walking down a hallway or a sidewalk, we stay to the right. In Bermuda, it's all the opposite.
Another part of being a British territory was that the people had a British accent. But it wasn't normal British. I think it sounded like British mixed with Philly, which was odd. Either way, it was sometimes difficult to understand people, especially for someone like me who has zero comprehension of people with accents.
Renting a scooter is the way to go. Visitors aren't allowed to rent cars, which is probably good because the steering wheel is on the wrong side. At first, we planned on relying on the public bus and ferry system to get us around. That would've worked fine, but we would've had to gear things around when the buses and ferries were running, which didn't always fit into our schedule. Renting a scooter enabled us to do what we wanted whenever we wanted. There was a learning curve, however. Thankfully the only scooters the island rents out are automatic, so once you got the whole driving-on-the-left thing down, everything was good.
However, drivers are absolutely insane. For a tiny island with winding roads, 25mph speed limits, and tons of tourists, the island's natives were ridiculously dangerous drivers. The cars would ride your butt around blind curves, and the other scooters and motorcycles would pass you without even going into the other lane. I'm surprised more people don't die.
Their supermarket sold ShopRite brand products, which was odd because the store wasn't a ShopRite, and ShopRite certainly isn't a name brand.
I got cell phone reception with my Sprint phone. I figured the island would be similar to Europe, which only supports GSM phones (AT&T and T-Mobile), not CDMA (Verizon and Sprint).
Everything is expensive. It's true. I didn't want to believe it, but it's impossible to avoid. I take pride in being able to travel and survive incredibly cheaply, but there was just no way to do it in Bermuda. In most locations in the world, there's a cheap option for food. You can usually find a deli or a Subway, or if you absolutely must, a fast food place. Bermuda had no fast food places (aside from a lone KFC, which I refuse to eat at) and apparently no delis. There was no cheap alternative. A typical cheap meal at a restaurant ended up costing about $15 per person, where in the US it might cost half that. It made a huge difference that our B&B included breakfast and dinner, because a week of meals would quickly add up.
Everything is expensive, but there's no sales tax and the beaches and parks are free. It seems like they could make it more affordable by changing a few things around, but Bermuda is an elitist island. The unwritten philosophy basically says, "If you can't afford it, go away." It's nice because there isn't really any unemployment or poverty, which means there aren't really any "bad parts" of the island. It's bad though because, well, it's just so damn expensive. It's actually similar to staying in a city like New York, where a quick lunch for two usually runs about $30-40. It's not astronomical, but it's not what I'm used to.
One nice thing about the island is its peaceful history. There were no native people when the British arrived in the 1600s, so there was no conflict or genocide. This is in direct contrast to some previous travel destinations, namely the American southwest and Hawaii. Native Americans and native Hawaiians really hate white people.
The snorkeling was awesome, but I didn't agree with many of the recommended snorkeling beaches. Our travel book recommended a few, and a guy at a store recommended a few of the same. We checked them all out and found that many of them had pretty rough waters, which doesn't mix well with sharp underwater rocks. My favorite place was Tobacco Bay, which was actually a really bad beach because of this stupid bar that played pop music all day. But the rocks right off the coast were awesome and the water was perfectly calm, which greatly increased visibility and made snorkeling amazing. I saw the most and the biggest fish in that little bay.
Some of the recommended beaches seemed to be recommended for everyone besides me. They should've said, "This is a great beach if you like hundreds of people, zero space, and crowded water." This is the exact opposite of what I like in a beach. Thankfully, we were able to find quite a few perfect little stretches of beach, which were probably made even better by the fact that it was technically the off-season. None of the beaches were particularly long, since most of the coastline consists of sharp volcanic rock. But it was ok. We managed.
The weather was in the mid-80s and humid every day. It was incredibly hot, which we were told was unusual for September. It's usually more rainy and windy because of the hurricanes coming from the Caribbean. It rained a few times, but just like any tropical place, it came and went pretty quickly. We were even able to simply drive to another beach to escape some bad weather. That's the nice part about a 13-mile long island, just as long as the storm isn't wider than 13 miles. #travel