We see a lot of interest from professionals with experience in Bermuda who are interested in relocating to Cayman. Both are international offshore financial centers, so it’s natural that there will be some overlap and crossover between residents. But what are the key differences to living and working in Cayman compared to Bermuda? One of our recruiters who recently made the switch to Grand Cayman from our mid-Atlantic cousin gives her initial impressions…
Travel & Transportation
Bermuda’s public transport system is generally reliable and affordable. Ferries travel between key points on picturesque routes and large public buses run regular routes across the island. Bermuda has a one-car-per-household policy, which can sometimes prove tricky in a larger family or for a working couple. Cars are also expensive and you cannot rent them (only buy), so many people resort to mopeds for their primary or secondary vehicle. You’ll often find a ‘third lane’ of bikes in the morning traffic! Roads are often narrower and winding since two of the three main roads on the island are on the coastline. You must retake your practical and driving theory test on arrival if you wish to drive a car, or take your bike practical and theory test if you want to buy a bike. Speed limit is 35kph across the island, Bermuda drives on the left and mostly in right-hand-drive cars.
Cayman’s public buses are much smaller. There are some ferry services, but they predominantly run to tourist destinations rather than to the city. Most people have a vehicle and it’s possible to have more than one per family/household. Cars can be rented easily from a variety of companies, and it’s somewhat cheaper to purchase one. Driving is also on the left, but people drive both left and right-hand drive cars. Roads are wider, and generally straighter; some have two lanes and higher speed limits up to 40-50mph. Driving licenses from qualifying jurisdictions can be transferred and a Cayman license issued upon passing a theory test.
Rush hour traffic is bad on both islands – no difference there!
Cost of living
Cost of living is not dissimilar; it depends on where you choose to live and the lifestyle you want to have. Property rental is perhaps a shade lower in Cayman, and most houses are furnished (in Bermuda, rental properties are majority unfurnished), so initial set up costs may be lower. Bermuda’s salaries are generally higher, but there is payroll tax and social insurance to factor in. Cayman is tax-neutral, so aside from pension and medical insurance contributions your salary is take-home. Don’t forget when looking up costs in Cayman that the currency may be quoted in either US Dollars or Cayman Island Dollars (written as C.I.). 1 USD is pegged at 1.2 C.I.
‘Feel’ of the islands
This is an easy one – both are very friendly and have a lot of culture and history, but Cayman is more ‘American’ and Bermuda is definitely more ‘British’ in terms of influence – especially noticeable in the road systems, signs and layout of amenities. Cayman has several international chain restaurants (Burger King, Dominos/Papa John/Pizza Hut etc.) whereas Bermuda only has a KFC; conversely, Bermuda has a few international chain stores (M&S, GAP, Nine West etc.) whereas Cayman has very few.
Cayman has a broad range of financial services but is probably best known for funds and banking. Bermuda also has a broad range of financial services but is famed for its insurance and reinsurance industry and supporting businesses. Both countries have a diverse range of companies and roles available outside these industries, however.
Topography & Weather
Cayman has typical Caribbean weather; warm in the winter and even warmer in the summer! Coastlines are picture-perfect; white, sandy beaches with crystal-clear water. The Cayman Islands are composed of three land masses – Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Grand Cayman is the biggest island with the highest population. Generally, the island is flat, with very few hills (great if you’re a runner)!
Bermuda is a chain of small islands, resulting in hilly terrain and a beautiful, more rugged coastline with pink sand beaches. Warm in the summer and cooler in the winter; once summer comes to an end, Bermudians generally don’t swim in the sea again until 24th May!
Both Bermuda and Grand Cayman are split into specific geographic areas (districts in Cayman or parishes in Bermuda).
Bermuda has an eclectic mix of local specialties including fish chowder, fish sandwiches and codfish dishes, as well as several dishes originating from the sizeable Portuguese community on island. There are also a lot of international options from the many local restaurants.
Cayman’s cuisine is very Caribbean in style, including fresh, local-caught fish/shellfish; jerk BBQ is popular and fresh local Caribbean fruit/vegetables are readily available at supermarkets and farmers’ markets. Again, there are many international and even vegan restaurants.
Both have great rum cake, several national rum drinks and brunch is a regular Sunday feature on both islands!
Entertainment & Travel
Both islands have extensive outdoor activities, many of which revolve around the ocean. There are lots of things to get involved with on both islands, from parades and carnivals to sports clubs and societies.
Bermuda is in the middle of the Atlantic, several hundred miles off the coast of North Carolina (not in the Caribbean as many people think). Direct flights are available to London, New York, Miami, Toronto and several other US cities.
Grand Cayman is squarely in the Caribbean, just south of Cuba. Direct flights are available to many locations including the other Cayman Islands, Miami, New York, Cuba, Honduras, London and Jamaica.
In summary, both islands are great places to live and work, and whilst there are many similarities, there are a number of significant differences between the two.
My advice? Do your research, contact us at SteppingStones and take a visit to Cayman if you’re thinking of making the move… as if you need an excuse for a Caribbean vacation anyway!