Aside from perennial complaints about a few drivers’ unfortunate lack of people skills, the island’s bus service generally wins great reviews from visitors and is also well used by locals, including schoolchildren. Routes cover the main roads and neighborhoods of the entire island, and vehicles are well maintained and air-conditioned. Strollers can be stowed in a rack at the front, and drivers are usually more than willing to alert you to your desired stop.
The candy-pink diesel fleet operates from the renovated central Bus Terminal (Church St., Hamilton, tel. 441/295-4311, information and dispatch 441/292-3854), where passes, tokens, books of tickets, plus routes and fare information can be found. From here, buses travel east and west with numerous stops along the way. If you want to save time, opt for the fast ferries instead; buses take an hour between Hamilton and Dockyard, for example, compared to a brief and breezy 20-minute journey across the Great Sound. But buses offer a slice of workaday Bermudiana you won’t necessarily find on customized tours or taxi rides. Local custom demands Bermudians boarding the bus call out an all-inclusive “Good Morning!” or “Afternoon!” to the driver and seated congregation as they choose their seat. Students in their various school uniforms pile on board later in the afternoon, as buses take them home or to Hamilton. And views of the South Shore beaches and other scenic areas are worth the long journeys and sometimes-lurching movement as buses stop and start their way through the parishes. For more peaceful trips, avoid the rush hour and travel between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. or after 5:30 p.m.
For foreigners confused by the island’s drive-on-the-left rule, bus stop poles offer color-coded clues to let you know which side of the road to stand on. Neon pink poles indicate a route inbound to Hamilton; the electric blue ones mean passing buses are headed out from the city. One rule all drivers enforce: exact fare (coins only) is needed, so no change is given. Passes, tokens, and tickets are more economical if you plan to make frequent use of the bus or ferry to get around during your stay. The popular Transportation Pass is available for one day ($12), two days ($20), three days ($28), four days ($35), seven days ($45), one month ($55), and three months ($135) of unlimited use, allowing you to get on and off buses and ferries as many times as you wish. These are also sold at the ferry and bus terminals, and other authorized outlets.
There are a total of 11 routes covering the island, on most of which buses run every half hour throughout the day. Morning start times vary according to route, but service begins as early as 6:15 a.m. and generally runs until around 6:30 p.m. weekdays. The exceptions are Routes No. 7, 8, and 11, serving Southampton, Dockyard, and St. George’s, which keep running until 10 or 11 p.m. There are curtailed schedules and fewer buses on weekends and holidays. Fares are based on 14 zones and priced accordingly (each zone is about two miles long). Fares are either $3 or $4.50 (for Hamilton to Dockyard, St. George’s, or Hamilton Parish), but special passes and books of tickets cost less per ride. Children under five and resident seniors ride free. Routes, fares, schedules, and running times can be found in public transport brochures available at Visitors Information Centers, or contact the Public Transportation Board (PTB) (26 Palmetto Rd., Devonshire, DV 05, tel. 441/292-3851 weekdays, fax 441/292-9996, www.bermudabuses.bm). Tours and group charters (tel. 441/292-6704, charters [at] ptb [dot] bm) can also be arranged.
© Rosemary Jones from Moon Bermuda, 2nd Edition