The Beach Is Always Free . . .
And Other Hints on Taking a Budget Trip to Bermuda
By John Deiner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 18, 2004; Page P01
It's no secret that Bermuda is expensive. According to the island's tourism department, rooms on the 21-square-mile confection of pink-sand beaches and British accents cost an average of $250 a night, while a dinner out regularly tops $40 per person. Visitors blow $112 each day on everything from Sunday brunches and souvenirs to snorkeling expeditions and moped rentals.
That doesn't mean you have to.
On a recent four-night visit, my third to this archipelago about 650 miles east of the Carolinas, I wanted to see if it's possible to do Bermuda on a budget. Credit the recent introduction of nonstop service by USA 3000 -- a discount carrier now ferrying travelers from BWI to the island for as little as $79 each way -- for putting that crazy thought in my head.
The flights were fast (under two hours), comfortable, amenity-packed (sandwiches coming and going, a movie on the return) and only slightly delayed in both directions.
But the savings didn't stop once I deplaned. I spent $100 a night on lodging and less than $35 a day for food -- that's for three meals, including lunch out every afternoon. I opted for the beach, day hikes and a do-it-yourself island tour over costly attraction-hopping, though I did fork over $2.50 to climb a lighthouse. And while a moped -- the preferred mode of locomotion among natives and visitors, who are prohibited from renting cars -- can easily run $30 or more per day, I bought a $28 bus pass that covered most of my stay.
All told, I paid just under $900 for four days, including air, lodging, transfers, ground transportation, activities and all meals. That's well below what four nights in an average-price room would have run, though resorts usually include a meal or two in the nightly tab. (See Details below.)
Bottom line: If you need linen tablecloths, turn-down service and chardonnay from a bottle you didn't open yourself, you can pick up the phone and call Ariel Sands, the Reefs or any of the island's other highfalutin resorts. Or you can shop for groceries with the locals, amble through islanders' back yards and commute with schoolchildren for a pittance.
I've done it both ways. For me at least, the choice is simple.
With only 65,000 residents, Bermuda never seems more crowded than when you're padding around a resort knocking into other guests (or mingling with cruisers in Hamilton, but that's another kind of hell). Eat on-site and you'll pay a fortune, plus there's often a dress code at dinner. Who wants to get gussied up at the beach?
A lot of people, actually -- just not me. Fortunately, the island is home to dozens of rental cottages or apartments with kitchens; they're available in all price ranges, from bare-bones studios nestled behind someone's home to luxe multi-bedroom bungalows overlooking the Atlantic. I bunked at the Clairfont Apartments, a pretty-in-peach, eight-unit hideaway in a South Shore neighborhood. Its manager, Corrine Simons, greeted me with an apology.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company