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Bermuda's Cost of Living Guide

Consumer facts for residents and visitors

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By Keith Archibald Forbes (see About Us) at e-mail exclusively for Bermuda Online

To refer to this file use "bermuda-online.org/costoflivingguide.htm" as your Subject

Bermuda cost of living overall

The World Bank rates Bermuda as the most affluent countries in the world. But also be aware Bermuda's cost of living is one of the highest in the world. This is not in any way 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. 

Overall, Bermuda costs of living are more than three times those of the USA, 280% more than in Canada and 200% more than in UK. Unfortunately, organizations such as Hogg Robinson and Mercer Human Resource Consulting, completely exclude Bermuda - and similar, competitive offshore business jurisdictions - from their lists of costs of living by place.

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. There is not yet any Bermuda equivalent. In the meantime, the information given below are the nearest Bermuda has to what is on offer in Canada.

Bermuda's Cost of Living main factors include

Before coming to Bermuda, potential newcomers make their own comparisons, by comparing Bermuda's costs with where they live now. The following help to justify the claim that Bermuda costs of living are more than three times those of the USA, 280% more than in Canada and 200% more than in UK.

Here are the principal factors, when compared to the USA, Canada, Europe and elsewhere:

Accommodation. Hugely expensive by international standards, equivalent to those in downtown New York, London and Paris. Buying. In Bermuda, non-Bermudians can only buy one of the most expensive homes. Figure on at least $3.5 million, compared to $225,000 in Boston, MA. Annual Property taxes for non-Bermudians are the highest in the world, sometimes in excess of $80,000 pa, compared to £1,300 sterling in the heart of 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 2014 rental price of a one-bedroom property is $2,389, a two-bedroom $3,551 and a three-bedroom $5,403. Location and scenery are among the most significant factors. 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. The rental market is always busy. 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. Affordable housing. By this is meant low-cost housing for and purchased by qualified Bermudians. ( Not applicable to newcomers who are not Bermudian and don't qualify unless a spouse is Bermudian).   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.

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. 

Things newcomers should always confirm include: 

Alcoholic beverages. There are no locally made alcoholic drinks. Costs are very high. From April 1, 2013 the Bermuda Government's import duty rates alone (wholesale level) were:

Air Conditioning. Essential in Bermuda from May to October to live comfortably at home or in the office. Regular air conditioning units and more expensive but more versatile ductless mini split systems are available. Will add significantly to the cost of your electricity.

Automobile annual licensing costs are the highest in the world by a very wide margin for private cars. Up to 10 times more costly than in the USA or Canada. 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. In Bermuda, a Class E vehicle is rated in the USA and Canada as a medium-size car. Plus, in Bermuda only one car per household is allowed, with new ones at about twice USA prices. Unlike in the UK, in Bermuda new smaller environmentally-friendly cars do not have free annual licensing. Tourists may not rent cars and 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. Car leasing is not allowed. 

Automobile Insurance. Based on a reputable local insurance company written quote of $1,894.26 annually for comprehensive coverage with a deductible, for a very small car. Actual premiums can vary wildly. Rates can vary considerably in Bermuda, where Only a Bermudian insurance company can insure a vehicle. For a list of Bermudian insurers see under "Insurance Companies, Local" in Bermuda Employers. See how they compare in prices to American insurers, at http://www.insure.com/car-insurance/most-and-least-expensive-states-2013.html

Boats. Expensive to buy new, due to a significant government import duty. See under "Boats" in Watersports.

Cable and satellite TV. More than twice US prices but about the same as in UK (and with far more useful channels than in UK).

Child support costs are very high. Bermuda, despite being nominally British, does not offer any child birth and/or child-support payments to parents.

Cigarettes and tobacco products. Cigarettes are well over $70 a carton. From April 1, 2013 the Bermuda Government's import duty alone on them is $44 a carton.

Clothing, hats, shoe, etc costs are very high.

Customs (import) Duties for returning residents or visitors.  Returning Bermudians, residents and visitors should expect to pay Bermuda Government 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, whether for individuals or families. 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 

Education costs are very high for private schooling at pre-primary, primary, secondary level.  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. Budget at least $330 a month per small family unit, based on 730 kWh per month in May 2014, very expensive by international standards, more if also with a kitchen gas stove. LP gas per cylinder is about 4 times the US price.

Food & liquor shopping. Very expensive. 2-3 times more overall than in USA/Canada, appreciably more than in UK. Figure on paying over $55 per large paper bag

Furniture & Appliance costs are very high. Everything is imported and subject to government import duties.

Gasoline and diesel for private cars. Hugely expensive compared to most places except UK and Norway. Bermuda prices are nearly three times more than those in the USA and more than twice the price of Canada.

Grocery and related costs are very high.

Healthcare costs are very high. 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.  

Home Insurance. All home insurance must by law be with a reputable local insurer. Insurance should always include hurricane and windstorm protection. In Bermuda, hurricane season officially starts on June 1 and ends October 31, but this is variable. Average home insurance costs, which are huge by UK standards are just for the building, not the real estate or contents which are extra. If in a valley or otherwise not elevated and near the coast, flood insurance is recommended. Every few years a local insurance company initiates raising the insured value of the house. The system in Bermuda seems to be quite different to home insurances in the UK or USA or Canada, etc. in several significant ways. Overseas, homeowners are encouraged to insure their properties for what they deem to be replacement or market value. In that area alone in Bermuda, a property may be close to or exceed 1M at present but the costs of rebuilding after a hurricane or fire may be much lower because the foundation, tank, cess pits and walls are likely still up. So from their perspective in Bermuda, a lower or medium-priced building with a market value of say $1.2 million  may be insured for only about 491K rebuilding cost indicated on the policy, to return the house to the same pre-catastrophe condition. Prospective non-Bermudian owners of Bermuda real estate should always check with their local insurers about home insurance and those from the UK must also be prepared to pay up to ten times in Bermuda what they pay in the UK. As an example of this, one Bermudian who lives in the UK can pay no more than about $300 a year for a $491,000 home, including $30,000 for contents. But his family in Bermuda can easily pay $2,340 a year for a similarly detached stand-alone Bermuda property also insured for $491,000 with contents of $30,000.  The above relate to buildings and contents insurance. 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.

Hospitalization costs. Very high, equivalent to those in the USA.

Hotels. Bermuda cost of hotel rooms comparison, by jurisdiction, most expensive first, year-round average daily rates with cooked breakfast, in US$. Source: 2014 Trip Advisor.

Place January to December 31 2013
*   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


Household Accommodation rental and/or purchase costs are very high for accommodation such as for an apartment or flat or house or condominium. Plus, their costs for utilities, LP gas and sometimes water are extra. Unlike in the USA, Canada, UK, etc. there is no locally-produced oil or natural gas or coal.

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.

Housing. See under Accommodation

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 speed.

Legal costs are very high, averaging in Bermuda about $600 an hour. 

Miscellaneous costs are very high for items such as dry cleaning, general goods, general services, linen, magazines, maid service, newspapers, office supplies, postage stamps and stationery.
 

Overseas newspapers. 2-3 times published prices in place of origin.

Personal Care costs are very high for cosmetics, hair care, moisturizer, diapers (nappies), pain relief tablets, shampoo, soap, sun block, toilet paper and toothpaste. 

Poverty indices. In this context 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 since 2008 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. In the USA, the Government's 2013 figures are:

The 2012 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.

Private School fees. High. If you have a child or children and don't want him/her/them to go to a USA-type public school. 

Public transport by bus or ferry is exceptionally good for such a small island (only 21 square miles in total land area). And not overly expensive, but commuter buses are invariably crowded, especially at peak rush hour times and, in the case of ferries, when cruise ships are visiting. 

Real Estate taxes. See more details under Property taxes. Payable by owners of non-Bermudian apartments, condominiums and houses, at rates appreciably more in  Bermuda than in the USA, and Canada - usually passed on indirectly to renters in rents. See Homes in Bermuda. 

Recreation and Culture costs are very high for books, camera, cinema tickets, fitness/health club membership, sports goods and movie house (cinema) tickets.  There are no UK-like theatres in Bermuda.

Restaurants, Meals Out and Hotel costs are very high.

Salaries and earnings

Telephoning overseas. Least costly rate is $.0.16 per minute anytime from home. (But less expensive to call UK from Bermuda than Bermuda from UK). Only with computer-to-computer Skype or similar is it possible to make free calls to/from Bermuda after allowing for the time difference.

Estimated monthly expenses budget for newcomers & visitors

It has long been said - inaccurately - that Bermuda is tax free. In fact, it has a combination of direct taxes (payroll tax on income, paid by employers and employers) plus a huge range of very high and non-deductible indirect taxes paid by every consumer rich or poor, young and old.  Newcomers should know payroll and general living taxes combined translate into a 20% tax as a percentage of income. The following list should be useful. 

All prices are in USA or Bermuda dollars unless shown otherwise specifically and are monthly, or pro-rated.

Automobile insurance $290 See under Bermuda's Cost of Living main factors
Books, magazines, newspapers $160 Local and international
Cable television $155 Full service, all movie channels, several TV sets
Car insurance   See under Automobile insurance.
Car payment $560 To local bank. Assuming new car
Car annual licensing $125.00 Monthly portion of annual cost for a larger car by Bermuda standards (compact in USA). In comparison, the monthly cost near Toronto is CA$4.69, based on registering a fairly new Mazda Protégé for 2 years + for CA$225
Car gas (gasoline, petrol) and commuting costs $420 Car, including depreciation, gasoline or petrol at US$2.15 a liter - mostly because of a huge Bermuda Government import duty - and workday parking. To compare, gasoline in the United Kingdom is about the same; in Ontario it is less than half the Bermuda price; and USA less than a third of it
Clothing and shoes $190 Acquired locally
Company Pension $470 Deducted by employer for a contributory corporate pension, approximately based on a salary of US 79,692 a year
Credit Card payments $390 International and local charge-cards.
Deductions from paycheck Varies hugely For newcomers, about 15 percent of an employee's monthly gross salary is deducted by the employer for the employer's portion of the Bermuda Government's Payroll Tax, Company Pension, Bermuda Government's Social Insurance, Life Insurance if provided by the employer and Health Insurance. 
Departure & Passenger Taxes $35 per person See under Airport
Lunches and Dinners $350 Occasionally (once a week), at restaurants
Education $620 per child Applies if you have children of school-attending age and send them to a local private day school 
Electricity $360 Excluding air conditioning May to September. A three bedroom two or three bathroom house will cost at least $400 a month with air conditioning. Much of the local price is because of a huge Bermuda Government import duty, plus a Fuel Adjustment charge of 25%.
Food, groceries $740 per person or $900 for 2 or $1300 for 3 See separate paragraph below for more details. Food shopping, including liquor (much of the local retail price of which - averaging $26 a liter - is because of a huge Bermuda Government import duty). But USDA approved meat  may be less expensive in local grocery stores than in Toronto. Excludes amount for alcohol and cigarettes or cigars
Grooming $140 Hair cutting and other. Here, a basic man's hair cut costs from US$28 a time at the cheapest place plus gratuity and a woman's - with no perm - from $75 plus gratuity. Government has a 22.5% at wholesale level tax on all personal grooming products.
Health Insurance, major medical, usually only until 65 or termination, whichever sooner from $490 per month for a single employee or retiree For Basic Bermuda Government provided Hospital Insurance Plan (HIP) if not covered by an employer's plan, $390 per month per individual.  If with an employer's plan, for a single person with no spouse or children - 50 percent of what is offered by an employer. Add at least $188 for a dependent or  dependents only; add significant further amounts for an  unemployed spouse only or an unemployed spouse and dependent or dependents. If possible, work for an employer paying 100% of the cost for an employee, even if it passes to employees 100% of the cost of health-insuring children or unemployed spouses or both. Non-Bermudian newcomers should avoid all employers offering only HIP, which is Government-owned, full of exclusions, no doctors visits, prescriptions only up to $1,000 a year.
Home entertainment $215 Purchase of televisions,  stereo, CDs, DVDs, etc.
Household insurance $340 If renting a 1 bedroom apartment
Internet access, personal $139.95 Unlimited ADSL (Broadband) at 8 MB speed
Life insurance $95 Through a local employer, covering approximately twice annual salary of US$80,592. This excludes the cost of other life or term insurance you may have which is not employer based
Medical contingencies $280 For items not or only partially covered by Health Insurance, such as doctor's visits, dentistry, prescriptions
Movies $95 At local theaters
Newspapers (local) $59.25 To keep up with the news
Other $500 Contingencies or memberships. For example, see "Professions Supplementary to Medicine" below. Much more if you pay for memberships of beach clubs or golf clubs or tennis clubs or yacht clubs
Overseas purchases tax $195 Overseas, duty free allowances on imports are very generous (ie EU, USA of $800,etc) before nominal tax. But in Bermuda they are only $100 per resident per trip and very high - nearly 30%- after 1st $100 per person.
Payroll Tax $450 Bermuda Government payroll tax purposes is a percentage of gross salary, with an employer liable for 50 percent of the amount payable by the employer. Amount here is for an average salary.
Real Estate Tax see "Real Estate Taxes" Not for renters but owners (but built in to rents)
Social Insurance (local social security) $220 Compulsory, payable by employee with a matching amount from employer, regardless of any employer-provided pension coverage. Self-employed persons pay for both employee and employer. This Employed persons over 65 pay nothing but their employers do.  When newcomers leave Bermuda they should write to the Department of Social Insurance to see if they qualify to claim back what they paid in.
Sports clubs from $190 Excluding beach clubs, golf clubs, tennis clubs, yacht clubs
Telephone $75 Basic, local, home phone with 50 free local calls  excluding Internet calls
Telephone $105 If you have cellular
Telephone $70 Long distance charges.
Telephone $45 Internet calls, at 50 cents per hour after 50 free social calls allowance have been used
Vacations $500 Monthly, for 2, more per family
Overall Over $8,000 A month, depending on your spending habits

Newcomers employed by the Bermuda Government

This is purely a guide, to show private sector employers and employees what the Bermuda Government does for certain staff. Some private sector employers may also follow this policy, or offer rent allowances instead, if appropriate.

When it employs expatriates, return travel for candidate, spouse and up to two children if appropriate and shipping and resettlement allowances are provided by the Bermuda Government. Because of the high cost of living in Bermuda and the finite resources in a very small land area yet with one of the highest populations anywhere per square mile or kilometer, families with more than two children are not normally approved. Employment for a spouse is sometimes available (especially if the spouse has a professional qualification) but is not guaranteed. 

For newcomers it employs, the Bermuda Government assumes responsibility to find suitable, furnished accommodation for contract officers (one bedroom for a single or married person, three bedrooms for a family with two children), and rent in excess of 25% of the contract officer's salary is fully subsidized. Candidates are expected to remain at the accommodation provided for at least three months but thereafter may choose to move into accommodation of their own choice. Rent in excess of 25% of the employee's salary will continue to be subsidized within reason.

But newcomers to Bermuda should note that each year, Bermuda Government bursaries are awarded to selected Bermudian applicants undertaking a course of study at a university, college or training institution in order to acquire professional or technical qualifications specified by the Cabinet as essential or desirable for appointment to offices in the Public Service. The annual allowance is accompanied by provisional undertaking of employment in the Public Service upon successful completion of the course of study.

There is also a supernumerary program. A supernumerary trainee is a Bermudian who is professionally and or technically qualified in a chosen career and needs post-qualification experience. Supernumerary officers are given favorable consideration for appointment to positions held by contract officers. There are now over forty trainees studying in various fields in the Bermuda Government.

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Last Updated: August 18, 2014.
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