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The closest point on the American continent to the archipelago is Cape Hatteras in North Carolina, located 1030 km northwest, while the city of Miami is 1770 km southwest. The capital of Bermuda is Hamilton. It is one of seventeen Non-Self-Governing Territories under the supervision of the United Nations Decolonization Committee.

Bermuda was discovered in 1505 and claimed as part of the Spanish Empire by the Huelva navigator Juan Bermudez, from whom it received its name. This sailor visited the islands twice, but never set foot on land because he did not want to sail across the dangerous reef surrounding the archipelago. In 1609 the Virginia Company, which had founded the Virginia colony and the city of Jamestown on the mainland two years earlier, created a settlement on the islands after a hurricane pushed the crew of the Sea Venture ship across the reef and ashore.

Until 1614, Bermuda was administered by the Company as part of the Virginia colony territory, and from then until 1684 his successor, the Somers Islands Company, did the same. In the latter year, the company’s licence was revoked and the British crown took over the administration of the archipelago. In 1707, with the union of the parliaments of Scotland and England that gave rise to the birth of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, the islands became a British colony. Since 1949, when the island of Newfoundland became part of Canada, Bermuda is the oldest British Overseas Territory. In addition, its first capital, the city of Saint George, is the longest-inhabited British settlement in the Americas.

Bermuda’s economy is based on insurance and reinsurance, as well as tourism, which has enabled Bermudians to enjoy for more than a century one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. The islands have a subtropical climate3 and also form the northern peak of the famous Bermuda Triangle, a large maritime area in which, according to legend, many ships and aircraft have disappeared in unexplained circumstances. The archipelago is prone to hurricanes and adverse weather.

Government and politics

Executive power in Bermuda resides with the monarch and is exercised on his behalf by the Governor. The Governor is appointed by the Queen on the proposal of the British Government. The current Governor is John James Rankin, who was sworn in on 5 December 2016. There is also a Deputy Governor (currently David Arkley JP ). The competences of Defence and Foreign Affairs remain the responsibility of the United Kingdom, which also has the responsibility to ensure good governance. Changes to Bermuda’s Constitution must be approved. Bermuda now exists as a British Overseas Territory, but is the oldest British colony. In 1620, a royal sanction granted Bermuda limited autonomy, forming the fifth oldest Bermuda Parliament in the world, only behind the United Kingdom Parliament, the Isle of Man Tynwald, the Althing of Iceland and the Sejm of the Republic of Poland. Of these, it is the only one that has met continuously since 1620.

Bermuda’s Constitution entered into force on 1 June 1967 and was amended in 1989 and 2003. The head of government is the prime minister. The government cabinet is proposed by the prime minister and officially appointed by the governor. The legislature consists of a bicameral parliament inspired by the Westminster system. The Senate is the Upper House, composed of eleven members appointed by the Governor on the proposal of the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition. The House of Assembly, or lower house, has thirty-six members elected by the population with the right to vote by secret ballot to represent geographically defined groups. Elections must be called at intervals of no more than five years. The last ballot took place on 18 July 2017. It was followed by the Progressive Labour Party, led by Edward David Burt, the youngest Bermudian prime minister to take office at 38, and succeeds Michael Dunkley of the A Bermuda Alliance (OBA) as prime minister.

The Progressive Labour Party leadership is in favour of independence from the UK, although polls have indicated that this is not supported by the population. While a 1995 referendum on independence was defeated by a considerable margin (74% of the population voted against independence), the Bermuda Industrial Union and the Progressive Labour Party (then in opposition) had called for a boycott of the referendum, which has an unquantified impact on the outcome.

Few diplomats are accredited in Bermuda. The United States maintains the largest diplomatic mission in Bermuda, comprising the U.S. Consulate and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Services at Bermuda International Airport. The current U.S. Consul General is Robert Settje, who took office in August 2012. Given that the United States is by far the largest trading partner (providing more than 71% of total imports, 85% of tourists, and an estimated $163 billion of U.S. capital in the insurance industry), and the fact that 5% of Bermudians are U.S. citizens, representing 14% of all foreign born, the U.S. diplomatic presence is seen as an important element in Bermuda’s political landscape.

Territorial Organization

Municipalities:

  • Hamilton
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Economy

The two largest cities in Bermuda are the capital and major port of Hamilton on Bermuda Island and Saint George’s on Saint George’s Island. The issuance of postage stamps, mainly for collection purposes, is an important source of income for the economy. The islands have a Constitution and have been self-governing since 1968. Service to military bases and naval repairs are pillars of Bermuda’s economy. One of the drawbacks there is the lack of drinking water sources, so rainwater is collected, which is frequent. In 2009, due to the global crisis, GDP fell sharply by 8.1% from a GDP of 6 billion to 5.7 billion.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, U.S. multinationals declared $80 billion in profits in Bermuda in 2012, more than the profits declared in Japan, China, Germany and France combined.

Demographics

As of July 2005, Bermuda had a population of 65,365. The population is 54.8 per cent black, 34.1 per cent white and 6.4 per cent multiracial. The islands have a small but growing Asian community. A significant portion of the population is also of Portuguese descent (10 per cent), as a result of the immigration of inhabitants from the islands belonging to Portugal, especially the Azores, over the past 160 years. Today, immigration is very limited legally.