They come in various guises, but however you want to describe them, taxes and gratuities can mount up; resulting in significant, and often unexpected, additions to the cost of a vacation.
Bermuda is often referred to as a tax-haven or a tax-neutral jurisdiction. This leads many to believe that there are no taxes in Bermuda. The assumption is incorrect. The government has significant expenditure to finance (it’s the island’s largest employer by a long way) and collects around one billion dollars in taxes each year. A significant proportion of this is collected from tourists and business visitors.
Government taxes affecting visitors include:
• Passenger Departure Tax (Aircraft) – Visitors departing Bermuda by plane pay $35 departure tax. There are a few exemptions including children under 2, air crew, and passengers in transit. The tax is included in the price you pay for your ticket, so no surprises here.
• Passenger Departure Tax (Cruise ships) – Departure tax of $20 per passenger for each 24-hour period the cruise ship has been in port, up to a maximum of $60. The tax applies between April 1 and October 31. This tax is included in the price of your cruise ticket.
• Passenger Cabin Tax (Cruise ships) – This tax is $14 per passenger cabin between May 1 and August 31, and $10 per cabin between September 1 and October 31. It’s already included in the price you pay for your cruise.
• Yacht Arrival Tax – Yachts are liable for arrival tax of $35 per person. Children under 2 are exempt. The tax is collected by the customs officer when the yacht is clearing customs and immigration at Ordnance Island in St George.
• Hotel Occupancy Tax – Visitors staying in hotels and guest houses pay 7.25 percent hotel occupancy tax on top of the room rate. Check carefully whether this is included in the rate quoted when booking.
• Tourism Guest Fee – Visitors staying in hotels and guest houses are also liable for 2.5 percent tourism guest fee. Many hotels include this within the hotel occupancy tax, so you frequently see a hotel occupancy tax of 9.75 percent quoted. Again, check whether this is included in the rates quoted.
• Customs Duties – Visitors enjoy the following duty free allowances – 1 litre of spirits, 1 litre of wine, 0.5 kg of tobacco, 50 cigars, and 200 cigarettes. Goods in excess of these limits attract customs duties.
Tipping and Gratuities
Tips can also add a lot of expense to your vacation costs. They’re a controversial issue in Bermuda as many are usually added to your bill automatically.
• Restaurants – Nearly all restaurants in Bermuda automatically add a tip to your check. It’s usually 15 or 17 percent. There are only a handful of restaurants on the island that don’t follow this practice. They include the Swizzle Inn, Swizzle Inn South Shore, Mad Hatters, and the Speciality Inn.
• Hotels – Most hotel bills are subject to a service/gratuities charge, usually 10 percent. Some of the larger hotels/resorts also a daily resort fee or levy. This is supposed to cover things such as use of the health club. Again, check whether this is included in the rate quoted when you book.
• Cruise Ships – There was a time when cruise passengers left cash in envelopes for individual crew members that had served them. The cruise lines visiting Bermuda now encourage or require tips to be pre-paid. For example NCL charge a fixed service fee of $12 per person. It’s added to the cost of the cruise and can be paid up front or on board the ship. A gratuity of 15 percent on bar bills and 18 percent on spa/salon bills is automatically added. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have similar policies.
• Taxi Drivers – Most taxi drivers expect a 15 percent tip, more if they’ve done some heavy lifting.
• Gas Station Attendants – $2 to fill your scooter with gas should be about right.