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Bermuda's Cost of Living Guide

The most expensive place in the world in which to live, visit and work

By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) exclusively for Bermuda Online

Cost of Living

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Bermuda costs of living are more than three times those of the USA, 280% more than in Canada and 200% more than in the UK

Why? There are four main reasons:

After Bermuda - a British Overseas Territory - as the world's most expensive place in which to live and with the world's highest cost of living by a wide margin come Switzerland, The Bahamas, Norway and Iceland. The UK comes 12th, and the US 21st in places with the highest cost of living.

What overseas sources say

Telegraph Newspaper of UK. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/maps-and-graphics/mapped-the-cheapest-and-most-expensive-countries-to-live-in/ 

Numbeo.com. See https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Bermuda. Gives a detailed analysis in leading areas.

2017. December 11. Importers of food and other goods will face fines of up to $5,000 if they fail to provide information to a new commission examining their costs and margins. The Cost of Living Commission, renamed from the Price Commission, will be established by legislation which passed through the House of Assembly in the early hours of Saturday. David Burt described the Cost of Living Amendment Act as “the first step in tackling the cost of living in order to improve the quality of life that this Government promised voters at the last General Election”. The Premier and Minister of Finance added: “The number one concern we have on the doorstep clearly that I know that we all hear is the cost of living in Bermuda and how expensive it is to live in Bermuda. We do know that this is the most expensive country in the world to live in, as is given by international surveys and any government has a responsibility to tackle this issue. Of course, we are looking at it from both sides, looking at it from this side and we are also looking at it from the living-wage side.” Mr Burt said the Government had no intention of controlling prices and that the commission would focus on getting information from importers of food and other goods about their import cost and margins. He added: “The commission intends to then process this information, and submit various reports containing its recommendations to the minister on approaches to contain the cost of certain goods.” The Bill paves the way for higher fines for those who do not comply with information requests from the commission. Mr Burt said the penalty would increase from $500 to $5,000, with an additional daily fine of $500 in the case of non-compliance. Mr Burt added that Senator Anthony Richardson, who served on the last Price Control Commission, would chair the new commission and that they would get to work as soon as the Bill had passed. One Bermuda Alliance leader Jeanne Atherden said the change was a “very good idea”. She hoped the commission could look at the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, which “had played a very significant part of the expenditure of the Bermuda resident”. Progressive Labour Party backbencher Rolfe Commissiong was happy the Premier and the PLP government had moved in this direction. But he said that the Bill was “just one piece” and pointed to the work on the living wage and the Tax Commission, which is looking at comprehensive tax reform. Mr Commissiong added: “I think we all want to see us move from a status quo which is no longer serving Bermudians, at least not enough Bermudians, to an era where we can have a greater degree of social equilibrium and bring those persons who need the most help in society, to a point where we can again foster a greater degree of social cohesion and social harmony.” Grant Gibbons, the shadow economic development minister, said the change was “nothing new under the sun”, with the Cost of Living Commission mirroring the original purpose of the Price Commission, set up under the former United Bermuda Party administration.

2017.November 30. David Burt, the Bermuda Premier, said he will to cut the cost of living in Bermuda through “additional competition”. Mr Burt also announced plans for a new Cost of Living Commission at a reception for Bermudians in the UK on Monday. He said: “For some time in Bermuda we have been very protective in our mindset and I think that we have to be a little less protective and explore how to make things more efficient.” He added: “If we have more competition, we have more efficiency and that means the prices will come down”. Mr Burt tabled amendments to the Price Commission Act last Friday to change the body’s name to the Cost of Living Commission and increase the fines it can hand out. Mr Burt discussed the problem of high food prices and quoted a conversation with the head of “one of the big supermarkets”, who claimed she could lower prices by 15 to 20 per cent the next day if they cut out the middleman. Mr Burt said: “People say that might destroy employment opportunities throughout the economy. But you also have to examine the additional spending that might create inside the economy which we can have in other types of places.” The Premier also encouraged Bermudian students to return to the island after graduation and work experience. He said: “One of the best ways to make Bermuda more affordable to live in is, surprisingly, to get more Bermudians living and working in Bermuda. The more people living and working in Bermuda, the more customers you have but also more ability to spread fixed expenses across a greater number of people.” Mr Burt also discussed the island’s economic future and said the Government had worked hard to uphold Bermuda’s “sterling reputation” by continuing to be a “leader in tax transparency”. He dismissed bids to label the island as a tax haven in the wake of the Paradise Papers — millions of files hacked from international law firm Appleby. Mr Burt defended the island and said Bermuda was the opposite of “non-co-operative tax jurisdictions”. He added: “We are leading in the international requirements, we have automatic exchange of information, we are doing everything that is a requirement for international standing. You can’t hide your money in Bermuda. The money that comes to Bermuda is often taxed on its way to Bermuda and on its way out.” Katiyah Fubler, 21, said Mr Burt’s speech went “really well”. Ms Fubler, who will finish her master of science degree in clinical biochemistry next year, said she hoped to get a job in Britain. She added: “I will need experience. I think that’s another problem with Bermuda. I don’t think we have enough opportunities for people to come back.” A Sandys woman visiting her student daughter in London said she was optimistic after she heard the Premier’s speech. She added: “I’m hopeful that in due course we can see a positive move towards things like healthcare and affordable rents, so that we can pay for rent using our pension. Those sorts of things are what we are looking forward to in the future.”

2017. March 6. Bermuda has again topped an international list of most expensive places to live. In an article by the UK newspaper The Independent , Bermuda came first in a list of the 21 most expensive places in the world, beating New York, Switzerland and Hong Kong. “The Atlantic Ocean tax haven of Bermuda is officially the most expensive nation on earth, with the country’s capital Hamilton also the most expensive individual city on the planet,” the article stated. The list is based on assessments by MoveHub, which analyses price of groceries, transport, bills, restaurants and how much renting somewhere to live is. Using an index in which New York — a notoriously expensive city — is scored at 100, Bermuda was scored at 126.34. Comparatively, Switzerland topped European destinations with 90.68, while Hong Kong was the most expensive destination in Asia scoring 81.93. Also see https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings_current.jsp

2016. December 29. Bermuda’s capital has topped the list of most expensive cities to live, by crowd sourced global database numbeo.com. The website thecrazytourist.com, founded by a former Google software engineer, ranked the top 20 most expensive cities with Hamilton’s cost of living listed as $4,769 — $157 more expensive than the second most expensive San Francisco [$4,612]. Next came New York [$4,207], Geneva [$3,314] and Hong Kong [$3,244]. Tokyo was at number 20 at $2,208. Bermuda towered above the other cities in terms of the price paid for high speed internet access at $140 compared to the next most expensive — Geneva at $57.10. According to the data, collected through user submissions, rent swallowed up the lion’s share of costs at 61.6 per cent, restaurant food took up 12.7 per cent while eating at home took up 10.7 per cent. Breaking down the costs of goods, Hamilton sold the most expensive beer at $9 with the next most expensive hailing from Geneva at $6.86. There was no specification on how much beer that would buy as was the case with milk where in Hamilton it was listed as being $16.40 for the same amount for $4.49 in San Francisco. Accompanying the figures, an article on thecrazytourist.com read: “Luckily, almost anywhere you go, the cost of a beer hovers around $6, so if you’re left reeling after spending all that money, you can take the edge off with a pint. Hamilton is the exception; at $9 a beer, you’ll need a few more to forget about the damage to your wallet."

The World Bank rates Bermuda as the most affluent countries in the world. But Bermuda's cost of living isf the highest in the world. This is not intended to deter you from coming, simply to alert you in advance to the fact that Bermuda is far more expensive a place to live and work than you'll be told by many head-hunters and recruiters based in other countries who have not actually lived and worked in Bermuda themselves recently or at all. 

Being forewarned about cost of living prices below will enable you to negotiate more accurately with a prospective Bermuda employer for a realistic starting salary and benefits package to enable you to balance your monthly budget and match it to what you can afford. It's far better to know upfront what to expect so you are not surprised but can plan accordingly than to be dismayed by revelations after you arrive that were omitted. Bermuda's charms can be very attractive to those who can command high salaries to help offset the extremely high costs of living. But for those not earning those high salaries, say under US$88,000 a year where they are now employed, they might be far better off overall staying where they are than in moving to Bermuda on a Work Permit. Why? Simply because most people expecting upward mobility go abroad to places like Bermuda and rightly expect better accommodation and conditions than they have now.

There is no official Cost of Living Index provided by the Bermuda Government (nor is there one in the USA). In Bermuda, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) program is the closest thing. It measures changes over time in what urban consumers pay for a basket of goods and services. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the CPI is the most widely used measure of inflation. The CPI frequently is called a cost-of-living index, but it differs in important ways from a complete cost-of-living measure. BLS has for some time used a cost-of-living framework in making practical decisions about questions that arise in constructing the CPI. A cost-of-living index is a conceptual measurement goal, not a straightforward alternative to the CPI. A cost-of-living index would measure changes over time in the amount that consumers need to spend to reach a certain utility level or standard of living. Both the CPI and a cost-of-living index would reflect changes in the prices of goods and services, such as food and clothing that are directly purchased in the marketplace; but a complete cost-of-living index would go beyond this to also take into account changes in other governmental or environmental factors that affect consumers' well-being. It is very difficult to determine the proper treatment of public goods, such as safety and education, and other broad concerns, such as health, water quality, and crime that would constitute a complete cost-of-living framework.

In Canada there is a website giving some details of Cost of Living there. See http://www.expatarrivals.com/canada/cost-of-living-in-canada.

Main factors include the following:

Accommodation

Hugely expensive by international standards, equivalent to those in downtown New York, London and Paris. Buying. In Bermuda, non-Bermudians may buy only one of the most expensive homes. Annual Property taxes for non-Bermudians are the highest in the world, sometimes in excess of $80,000 pa, compared to £1,600 sterling in central London, England. 

Renting. Excluding utilities. At least three times more to rent a house or apartment or condominium in Bermuda than in most of the USA, Canada and UK. The average 2017 Bermuda rental price of a one-bedroom property is $2,389, a two-bedroom $3,551 and a three-bedroom $5,403, compared to £500 to £800 a month outside of central London (anywhere in the London suburbs).. Note that average price is usually without a beach nearby or view or pool. Expect to pay appreciably more to live in one of the choice modern apartment blocks in or near the City of Hamilton, or in an apartment or house near a beach or with nice sea view and pool access. Some newcomers receive a housing allowance from their employers. Better employers, usually international not local, now do this routinely.. There is always interest in the $4,000 monthly and below market but these apartments are not usually in the desirable near-Hamilton or in the city area. Newcomers are advised not to pay any more than 28% of their salary on accommodation if they do not receive a partially compensatory housing allowance. Utilities are always extra unless specified in a written rental agreement. Accommodation costs can be much less onerous if employer offers a housing allowance. Many Bermuda-based international employers now do this routinely for their imported staff.  

Apartment or house rental agreements. Standard monthly rental agreements - not leases - can be purchased but they should be viewed carefully before they are signed by a tenant and landlord. Most monthly rental agreements will stipulate that tenants, not landlords, are responsible for all periodic internal painting and upkeep but landlords will do external maintenance and upkeep.. 

Things newcomers should always confirm include: 

Home and Household insurance is very high. Only local majority-Bermudian-owned insurers can be used. For example, a small (1250 square feet) 2-bbedroom detached cottage in Paget costs $3200 a year with Argus, compared to a 3 bedroom 1,750 square foot detached bungalow in the UK that costs £120 sterling. Average home insurance costs, huge by UK standards, are just for the building, not the real estate or contents which are extra. All home insurance must by law be with a reputable local insurer. Insurance should always include hurricane and windstorm protection. Most working non-Bermudian professional newcomers won't own their Bermuda homes but rent them so may need only contents insurance. The cost of this should be ascertained and compared with their costs back home.

Real Estate taxes. For mid-priced Bermudian-owned and occupied homes, land valuation taxes - similar to property taxes in the USA or council taxes in the UK are moderate. But homes in Bermuda owned by non-Bermudians pay the highest ;and valuation taxes anywhere in the world, by a very large margin.  (For an example of merely one comparison, a £10 million lavish home in central London pays under £1,500 a year in council or property tax).  Often passed on by homeowners to renters.

Alcoholic beverages

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York. There are no locally made alcoholic drinks. All (including rum) are imported. 

Air Conditioning

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York. Essential in Bermuda from May to October to live comfortably at home or in the office.

Automobile and moped Insurance

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York. Actual premiums can vary wildly. Only a Bermudian insurance company can insure a vehicle used locally..

Automobile annual licensing 

10 or more times the costs in London or New York. Highest in the world by a very wide margin for private cars. One of the biggest single contributors to Bermuda's international reputation as the world's most expensive place in which to live, visit and work.  For more information see under "Annual Vehicle License Fees" in http://www.gov.bm/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=253&&PageID=477&mode=2&in_hi_userid=2&cached=true.  Unlike in the UK, in Bermuda new smaller environmentally-friendly cars do not have free annual licensing. Also, in Bermuda only one car per household is allowed. Tourists may only rent tiny 2-seater electric cars. Visitors who have driver's licenses in their home countries cannot use them in Bermuda to drive cars belonging to their Bermuda-based relatives or friends. Nor is car leasing allowed. 

Boats

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York. Also, boats have a significant government import duty. See under "Boats" in Watersports.

Cable and satellite TV

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York. 

Cellphone (Mobile phone in UK)

About 10 times more than the cost in London or New York. 10GB of 4G mobile service per month is around $20 but in Bermuda can be $200 per month.

Child support and welfare

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York.  Bermuda, despite being nominally British, does not offer any UK-like child birth and/or child-support payments to parents. Non-Bermudians are never eligible. 

Cigarettes and tobacco products

About 2-3 times the costs in New York. Cigarettes are well over $100 a carton.  The Bermuda Government's import duty alone on them is over $44 a carton. Cigars are very expensive.

Clothing

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York. 

Customs (import) Duties for returning residents or visitor

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York.  Returning Bermudians, residents and visitors should expect to pay customs or import duties on purchases overseas at a much higher rate - about 300 to 500 percent higher overall - than in the USA, Canada and United Kingdom. Here, your duty allowance is only US or BDA $100 (it used to be $400 until the mid 1990s) per person per month. It is by far the least generous place in the Northern and Eastern hemispheres in terms of import duty allowances.  If you acquire and import goods of  a greater value, the great majority of tourists and locals pay about 35 percent of the receipted or Bermuda Customs assessed value of what you bring back. Newcomers should expect to pay this too.  In UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, newcomers are usually exempt from Customs Duties on what they arrive with and ship in. But not in Bermuda. For example, if you are Canadian, a stay in Bermuda or elsewhere entitles you to up to a Canadian $ 700 allowance. If you're from the USA and have been in Bermuda for at least 48 hours, you're entitled to a duty free exemption of $800 per person on returning home. Additionally, gifts under $50 in value may be sent home, to people other than to yourself, every 24 hours, duty free. And antiques (over 100 years old), prints, maps, coins and stamps are all duty free. Duty free allowances and exemptions don't prohibit you from buying more. Nationals of EEC countries visiting another EEC country and returning to their own have a very generous duty-free allowance. When duties apply in your own country on goods purchased in Bermuda, you'll often find them very reasonable. 

Duty-free allowances for returning residents. See http://www.bermuda-online.org/Bermudadutyfree.htm. Very stingy compared to the far more generous duty-free allowances given to traveling returning residents of the USA, Canada, UK, etc 

If you, once a resident, send away for (import) any goods, be prepared to pay a substantial customs duty, even on samples.

Education

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York for private School fees. Government schools (public schools) are free to Bermudians and some non-nationals if they accept the multi-racial conditions and generally a lower standard. There is a community college that is not free. It awards associate degrees. There are no Bermuda-based universities. Most Bermudian and non-Bermudian residents send their children to universities in the USA, or Canada or the UK, in that order of overall preference.

Electricity and LP Gas

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York.  Budget at least $380 a month per small family unit, based on 730 kWh per month.  LP gas per cylinder is about 4 times the US price.

Food & liquor shopping

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York. 



Furniture & Appliances  

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York. Everything is imported and subject to government import duties.

Gasoline and diesel for private cars

About 3 times the costs in New York, twice the cost of Canada and somewhat more than in the UK. 

Healthcare  

Costs are enormous, now higher than in USA. Figure on $1500 a month per adult. Free in the UK with the National Health Service. (Bermuda has no equivalent of the UK's or Canada's National Health Service and unlike the UK does not offer free doctor's visits, free hospitalization, free surgery, free prescriptions for the over and under 65s). Local taxpayers pay not just once but several times for healthcare, namely (a) for the rebuild of the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital; (b) the operational costs of the Bermuda Government's Ministry of Health; (c) for employer/employee health and hospital insurance. Only local majority-Bermudian-owned insurers can be used. Bermuda, despite being nominally British, follows the American pattern of charging for general healthcare, general practitioner consultation rates, healthcare/medical insurance, hospitals private ward daily rate and medications. There are separate charges for dentists.  

Hospitalization costs

Costs are enormous, now higher than in USA

Hotels

Bermuda cost is the most expensive in the world by far. Year-round average daily rates with cooked breakfast, in US$, compared to other countries. Source: 2016 Trip Advisor.

Place January to December 31 2016
*   1. Bermuda (island-wide) $347.00
**  2. Moscow  $317.00
**  3. Rome  $294.00
**  5. Paris  $264.00
**  6. New York  $263.00
**  7. Milan  $255.00
**  8. London $250.00
**  9. Geneva  $245.00
**  10. Athens  $242.00
**  11.Stockholm  $241.00

International investments bought locally

What will cost you $8 per trade in the USA, or via an overseas online investment broker, will be about US $29.95 if bought in Bermuda, one of the accurate reflections of the differences in the cost of living.

Internet service 

About three times more than in USA or UK or Canada for equivalent Broadband upload and download speed.

Legal costs 

Very high, averaging in Bermuda about $690 an hour. 

Miscellaneous costs 

About 3 times the costs in New York, twice the cost of Canada and somewhat more than in the UK, in particular for items such as dry cleaning, general goods, general services, linen, magazines, maid service, newspapers, office supplies, postage stamps and stationery. 

Personal Care 

About 3 times the costs in New York, twice the cost of Canada and somewhat more than in the UK. In particular for cosmetics, hair care, moisturizer, diapers (nappies), pain relief tablets, shampoo, soap, sun block, toilet paper and toothpaste. 

Poverty indices

It is significant, when considering costs of living overall, to compare the financial definitions of poverty existing between Bermuda and the USA. In Bermuda, the poverty line has been established as an income of less than $27,000 per annum for a single person and $76,000 for a two-parent family with two children under 16

The 2016 Poverty Guidelines for the 48 Contiguous States and the District of Columbia
Persons in family Poverty guideline
1 $10,830
2 14,570
3 18,310
4 22,050
5 25,790
6 29,530
7 33,270
8 37,010
For families with more than 8 persons, add $3,740 for each additional person.

Public transport

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York. By bus or ferry. Commuter buses are invariably crowded, especially at peak rush hour times and, in the case of ferries, when cruise ships are visiting. 

Recreation and Culture

About 3 times the costs in New York, twice the cost of Canada and somewhat more than in the UK. In particular for books, camera, cinema tickets, fitness/health club membership, sports goods and movie house (cinema) tickets.

Restaurants

About 2-3 times the costs in London or New York. 

Salaries and earnings 

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Last Updated: December 13, 2017.
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