Log In

Reset Password

Roadblock for Bermuda drivers reported in more countries

A headache for Bermudians driving in the Azores extends elsewhere, according to residents (Image from online)

Bermuda-licensed drivers have reported obstacles related to driving abroad from a string of countries after The Royal Gazette highlighted widespread issues in the Azores, including motorists brought before the courts.

Residents said they encountered problems in Japan, the United States and Iceland as well as across Europe, and questioned why successive Bermuda government administrations were unable to secure a resolution.

A frequent visitor to the Azores, who said the issue first raised itself 20 years ago, said he was “not sure of the technical issue around getting this sorted — but in this day and age it’s totally unacceptable, not being able to rent a car for a few days while visiting”.

Another said: “It seems some countries, if they’re aware of the situation, they will tell you no. But if they’re not aware, they let things slide.”

Four drivers described being unable to rent vehicles and had experienced officials in other countries who considered the Bermuda licence invalid.

The snag has been linked to Bermuda’s absence from an international treaty, the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, which was aimed at standardising international road safety rules.

Bermuda’s omission meant residents who rented cars abroad using their Bermuda licence risked being found invalid for insurance.

A solution that never materialised

Reports surfaced in 2016 of the Bermuda driving licence getting declined by car rental agencies in Massachusetts, when the state launched a new format for its licences.

For many residents, the revelation that Bermuda was not covered under an international agreement came as a surprise.

The Bermuda Government vowed to tackle the issue as “a matter of urgency”.

A year later, in August 2017, Bermudian travellers still reported trouble with Massachusetts rentals.

The Ministry of Transport said clearing up the obstacle would require “ongoing dialogue with overseas authorities”.

It added: “The ministry is committed to bringing this issue to a conclusion as soon as possible, but it will require reciprocal arrangements with other countries by way of treaty extension.”

Queries were sent by The Royal Gazette in April when the Azores issue was flagged up by a resident, who was concerned that increasing numbers of Bermudians travelling to the islands risked getting into legal trouble.

No response has been received.

A woman whose parents now reside in Spain said she had landed at Málaga airport only to get turned down.

She recalled: “The lady at the car rental desk was very nice but very firm, and said that she could not add me as a driver because Bermuda was not on the reciprocal arrangement list.

“She explained that if I was caught driving, I would get a hefty fine, as would they for having rented me the car.

“I go often to Spain and I have only had this happen once previously, a number of years ago.”

She said the Transport Control Department in Bermuda had advised acquiring an international driver’s licence.

The woman added: “I continue to investigate my options as not being able to drive in Spain with ailing parents is not something that is an option for me.”

However, other drivers said they were sceptical of relying on a document purchased online.

A frequent visitor to the Azores, who has travelled to the Portuguese territory since the early 1980s, said of the IDL: “Therein lies the problem — there is such a thing. You go online and give your details, but you haven’t passed any test.

“It’s just something off the internet.”

Nevertheless, he added: “I do know people have tried it.”

The Gazette sent queries to the Ministry of Transport but received no response.

The ministry addressed the matter in detail in 2017 after Bermudian drivers began encountering a car rental impasse in Boston, Massachusetts.

At that time the ministry said extending the treaty to Bermuda presented complications because reciprocal recognition of driving credentials would mean that visitors to the island will be able to use their licences to drive a car.

Another frequent visitor to the Azores said he had written to the ministry suggesting an agreement between the Bermudian and Azorean governments to permit changes to rental restrictions, or to reintroduce the basic driving test for visitors to the Azores that was dropped several years ago.

He said he had received no response.

Another Bermudian traveller said he was told after arriving in the Azores in 2016 and in 2022 that his Bermuda licence was invalid.

He said he was unable to rent in 2015 during a trip to Florence, Italy, and had his licence queried in Iceland and Ireland, where he was eventually able to hire.

In September 2017, he attempted to take the go-kart tour in Tokyo, Japan, but was told his licence was not considered valid.

The man said he was unable to rent a car at Logan Airport in Boston in 2018, and had to switch agencies in Orlando, Florida, before being allowed to rent.

He added: “I think we are in a bit of a pickle here. It doesn’t stand out as a high priority for any government, given what they deal with day to day.”

The Azores frequent traveller said that increasingly Bermudians were going there and liable to encounter problems.

“Having family over there and needing transport, it’s a real nuisance,” he said.

The traveller added that he had heard of Bermudian visitors getting in trouble in the Azores after road accidents.

“It’s because the Bermuda Government didn’t sign this agreement that allows for recognition of insurance.”

A Bermudian with Portuguese citizenship, who said he was aware of Bermuda-licensed drivers getting stopped and fined in the Azores in the past several years, said he decided to try renting after planning to get married in the Azores this summer, with a large group of Bermuda licence holders expected to travel there.

He said: “I was able to book the car online and everything looked promising.

“When I arrived and went to the rental kiosk, we went through the normal rental car procedures.

“As soon as I showed my Bermuda licence the client service rep instantly said, ‘Sorry, we can't accept a Bermuda licence’.

“I was then left to grab a taxi to my destination as I had no other method of transport.”

He said he tried to acquire an Azores licence, but got hindered by the procedure.

It started with registering his Portuguese citizen card to his parents’ Azorean address, followed by obtaining a personal tax number and getting a doctor’s note clearing him as fit for driving.

However, taking the written test, at €50 (about $54) for each attempt, requires an appointment 30 days in advance, followed by the driving test — making it too time-consuming to complete during a holiday.

The man said: “This issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible.”

He added that he was unaware of any advisory from the Bermuda Government.

However, he noted that “it will definitely be on the top of my list of questions when the election candidates come canvassing”.

You must be Registered or to post comment or to vote.

Published June 18, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated June 18, 2024 at 7:36 am)

Roadblock for Bermuda drivers reported in more countries

What you
Need to
1. For a smooth experience with our commenting system we recommend that you use Internet Explorer 10 or higher, Firefox or Chrome Browsers. Additionally please clear both your browser's cache and cookies - How do I clear my cache and cookies?
2. Please respect the use of this community forum and its users.
3. Any poster that insults, threatens or verbally abuses another member, uses defamatory language, or deliberately disrupts discussions will be banned.
4. Users who violate the Terms of Service or any commenting rules will be banned.
5. Please stay on topic. "Trolling" to incite emotional responses and disrupt conversations will be deleted.
6. To understand further what is and isn't allowed and the actions we may take, please read our Terms of Service
7. To report breaches of the Terms of Service use the flag icon