Legislation dictates that visitors are not permitted to rent or drive cars in Bermuda. There are no car hire companies on the island. There are good reasons for the law, but it raises problems for some visitors, particularly the elderly and families with children.
This may seem unusual to most tourists who are accustomed to renting vehicles while on vacation. Factors behind the law include:
- Bermuda has pretty bad traffic congestion. At peak times (from 7 to 9 am, and 5 to 6.30 pm) the main roads in and out of Hamilton are very busy and traffic moves slowly. More vehicles on the road would almost certainly bring traffic to a standstill.
- The density of vehicles per square mile is the highest in the world (2007 figures – 48,054 vehicles in 21 square miles – 22,617 private cars, 19,232 motorcycles, 765 buses and taxis, 4,142 trucks, and 1,298 others). Permitting rental cars for tourists would worsen the problem. Serious consideration has been given in the past to bringing in legislation banning vehicle ownership by foreign workers (a sizeable section of the community).
- There are not enough parking spaces to accommodate any increase in vehicle numbers.
- The vast majority of tourists are from the US and Canada. They are not accustomed to driving on the left, or the island’s narrow, winding roads.
The government has considered allowing tourists to rent Smart cars, electric cars, etc. but legislation has never been tabled.
Anybody driving a car must have a Bermuda driving licence. These are only issued to Bermudians and residents. Even if you could borrow a car from a resident, you couldn’t drive it legally.
Most visitors find the bus and ferry system serves most of their travel needs. Buses are frequent and serve all parts of the island. There are very few places on the island that aren’t within ½ mile of a bus stop. Fares are extremely good value.
Motor vehicles weren’t allowed in Bermuda until 1946. Until then people got about on bikes, by horse and carriage, or on the railway.
Even now there are severe restrictions on vehicle ownership and size. There is a limit of one vehicle per residence and no person is permitted to own more than one vehicle. Cars longer than 175 inches, wider than 71 inches, or with an engine capacity of 2500 cc are illegal.
All cars are imported and are heavily taxed. New vehicles cost roughly double what they do in the US. Gas prices are also significantly higher. At the time of writing (July 2013) gasoline cost $8.10 per gallon in Bermuda. The average price in the US at the same time was $3.67 for a gallon.