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Expat Exchange - Best Places to Live Overseas: The Bahamas vs. Bermuda
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The Bahamas

Best Places to Live Overseas: The Bahamas vs. Bermuda

By Joshua Wood, LPC


Summary: If you're deciding between the Bahamas and Bermuda, this article compares cost of living, climate, visa and residency options and difficulty, culture and much more.

When deciding whether to move to the Bahamas or Bermuda, several factors come into play. From the climate to the quality of healthcare, understanding the key differences can help you make an informed choice about which destination is right for you. This article provides an overview of both places from the perspective of an expatriate looking to make one of these islands their home.

1. Climate

The Bahamas, an archipelago of 700 islands and cays, offers a tropical maritime climate. This means warm temperatures year-round, ranging from 77°F to 89°F. There is a wet season from May to November, which brings with it the possibility of hurricanes.

Bermuda has a subtropical climate. Summers are warm, with temperatures hovering around 85°F, while winters are mild, with temperatures rarely dropping below 60°F. Bermuda is also in the hurricane belt, with storms more likely between June and November. However, its northern location makes it slightly less susceptible than the Bahamas.

2. Cost of Living

Generally, the cost of living in the Bahamas is high, especially in popular areas like Nassau. Imported goods, housing, and dining out can be pricey. However, there is no personal income tax, which can be an attractive factor for many expatriates.

Bermuda is one of the world's most expensive places to live. Everything from housing to groceries comes with a hefty price tag, primarily due to the high import duties. Like the Bahamas, Bermuda does not levy personal income tax, but the overall cost can still be prohibitive for some.

Expense Category Bahamas Bermuda
Housing (Monthly Rent for 1-bedroom apartment in city center) $1,200 $2,500
Utilities (Monthly for 85m2 apartment) $200 $300
Groceries (Monthly average for 1 person) $500 $800
Transportation (Monthly pass) $50 $70
Dining Out (Meal at mid-range restaurant) $30 $50

3. Quality of Medical Care

The Bahamas offers both public and private healthcare. The quality is generally good, especially in Nassau, but more remote islands may lack facilities and specialized care. It's recommended for expatriates to have comprehensive health insurance and to consider medical evacuation insurance, given the islands' remoteness.

Bermuda boasts high-quality healthcare, with the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in Hamilton being the primary care facility. Many doctors and healthcare professionals in Bermuda have trained abroad, ensuring a high standard of care. Health insurance is mandatory, and expatriates should ensure they have a comprehensive plan in place.

4. Access to Public Healthcare System

While citizens and permanent residents of the Bahamas have access to the public healthcare system, expatriates might find it more beneficial to use private healthcare facilities. This is especially true if seeking specialized treatments or faster service.

In Bermuda, public healthcare is available to all, but it's expensive. Both locals and expatriates typically rely on private health insurance to offset costs.

5. Friendliness and Welcoming Attitude of Locals

Bahamians are known for their warmth and friendliness. The country's strong tourism industry means locals are accustomed to interacting with foreigners, leading to a generally welcoming environment.

Bermudians are also friendly and hospitable. However, the island is smaller and more densely populated than many of the Bahamian islands, leading to a close-knit community vibe. While Bermudians are welcoming, integrating fully may take time and effort.

6. Visa and Residency

For those wishing to reside long-term in the Bahamas, an Annual Residency permit or a Permanent Residency permit is required. The process can be straightforward, especially for those investing in property or business. The Bahamas has an attractive residency-by-investment program.

Type of Visa/Residency Description Duration
Tourist Visa For visitors wanting to spend a short period in the Bahamas for leisure or tourism. Up to 90 days
Work Visa/Permit For foreigners who have secured employment in the Bahamas. Requires sponsorship from a Bahamian employer. 1 year (renewable)
Annual Residency Permit Allows non-Bahamians to reside in the Bahamas for extended periods. Suitable for retirees, second homeowners, etc. 1 year (renewable)
Permanent Residency For those wishing to permanently reside in the Bahamas, often linked to significant property or business investment. Indefinite
Homeowner's Resident Card For non-Bahamians who own a home in the Bahamas. Facilitates easier entry and travel. Annual (renewable)
Bahamas Extended Access Travel Stay (BEATS) Program Developed for Digital Nomads. After you apply, approval is typically within 5 days. 12 months. Annual renewals will be considered for a maximum 3 year stay.

Getting residency in Bermuda is more challenging. Work permits are issued to expatriates if employers can prove they cannot fill the position with a qualified Bermudian. Permanent residency can be achieved, but it often requires living in Bermuda for long durations and fulfilling stringent criteria.

Type of Visa/Residency Description Duration
Tourist Visa For visitors wanting to spend a short period in Bermuda for leisure or tourism. Up to 90 days
Work Permit For foreigners who have secured employment in Bermuda. Requires sponsorship from a Bermudian employer. Usually 1 to 5 years, depending on the category
Residential Certificate For those wishing to reside in Bermuda without seeking employment, e.g., retirees. Proof of sufficient means to support oneself is required. Indefinite, but subject to review
Permanent Resident's Certificate (PRC) For long-term residents who meet specific criteria, such as residence in Bermuda for a continuous period. Indefinite
Work from Bermuda Certificate For remote workers or students who want to work or study remotely from Bermuda. 12 months from date the certificate is issued, may be renewable on case-by-case basis

7. Culture

From a cultural standpoint, both the Bahamas and Bermuda offer rich tapestries of history and tradition, but they manifest in distinct ways.

The Bahamas, with its diverse array of islands, boasts a fusion of African, European, and native cultures, reflected in its vibrant festivals like Junkanoo, reggae-infused sounds, and its colorful art scene. English is the predominant language, but you'll often hear the melodic Bahamian dialect, a testament to its colonial and African influences.

Bermuda, on the other hand, leans more heavily into its British colonial heritage, evident in customs such as afternoon tea and cricket matches. While English is also the primary language in Bermuda, the British accent is more pronounced. For digital nomads and expats, the Bahamas may feel more laid-back and eclectic, while Bermuda offers a sense of orderly tradition combined with island charm.

Both the Bahamas and Bermuda offer beautiful landscapes, crystal-clear waters, and a unique island life. Your choice will largely depend on personal preferences and priorities. If a lower cost of living and a more expansive environment appeal to you, the Bahamas might be your pick. However, if you prioritize high-quality healthcare and don't mind a higher cost of living in exchange for a tight-knit community, Bermuda could be the place for you. Before making any decisions, visiting each location and experiencing the local culture firsthand can be invaluable.

The Bahamas vs. Bermuda: A Comparison of Key Factors

Bahamas Bermuda
Cost of Living Moderate to High (depending on the island) High
Taxes No direct personal income tax, VAT at 12% No personal income tax, but higher import duties
Climate Tropical marine; mildly cooler in winter Subtropical; mild, humid; winters can be cooler
Ease of Obtaining Residency Reasonably straightforward with property investment Challenging; typically requires job offer or spousal connection
Easiest Visa to Obtain Tourist Visa Work Permit or Spousal Visa
Access to Quality Healthcare Good in major cities; limited on remote islands High quality; modern facilities
Quality of Public Healthcare System Moderate High
Ability of Expats to Use the Public Healthcare System Yes, with potential fees Yes, but expensive without insurance
Best Places to Live Nassau, Freeport, Paradise Island Hamilton, St. George's, Paget Parish
5 Biggest Cities Nassau, Freeport, West End, Coopers Town, Marsh Harbour Hamilton, Saint George, Flatts Village, Somerset Village, Dockyard
Best Coastal Places to Live Paradise Island, Exumas, Abaco Islands Southampton, Warwick, Paget
Best Places for Expat Families to Live Lyford Cay, Eastern New Providence, Freeport Smith's Parish, Paget Parish, Devonshire Parish

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

First Published: Aug 22, 2023

The Bahamas

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