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The tropical island paradise of Mauritius lies in the Indian Ocean, to the east of Madagascar, and is famous for its laid-back lifestyle, friendly folk, glorious beaches and diverse marine life. Officially part of Africa, the island has a colourful multinational heritage that makes for a fascinating mix of cultures, and the sheer beauty of its countryside and coastline make for a perfect holiday.
Self-drive is the best way to explore the beaches and lush, green interior of the island, and to get to grips with its eclectic mix of cultures. Indian, French, African and British influences colour the ethnic experience, and getting around is straightforward on the island’s narrow but well-kept roads.
Driving licences: all that’s required to hire a car if you’re visiting for less than a month is your UK driving licence. Longer stays require a temporary licence from the island’s traffic office.
Which side does Mauritius drive on: the left, as in the UK.
Highways and dual carriageways, excluding urban areas: 56mph (90kph)
National or provincial roads: 50mph (80kph)
Local roads: 37mph (60kph)
Urban roads: 25mph (40kph)
Alcohol limits: 0.05 per cent (50mg/100ml), which is stricter than the UK limit of 0.08 per cent. Drink-driving laws are rigorously enforced, with random breath checks common. Drivers caught over the limit may be issued with a large fine.
Driving age: 16 to 18 years; 21 years to hire a car.
Seatbelts: are mandatory for all vehicle occupants, with on-the-spot fines levied for non-compliance.
Mobile phones and GPS: mobile phone usage while driving is illegal unless a hand-free device is fitted. The use of GPS devices is legal at present.
Cost of fuel in Mauritius: more costly than in the UK due to import and transportation costs.
Car hire and fuel payment: car hire companies accept payment by credit card, but petrol stations may not, with cash needing to be carried as a result.
Insurance: basic car insurance as part of car hire costs is comparatively inexpensive, although fully comprehensive insurance is recommended due to the risk of collisions.
Traffic and parking: outside the island’s main city, Port Louis, traffic and finding somewhere to park aren’t problems. However, rush hour traffic jams in the cities and congestion at all times in the narrow city centre roads is normal. City parking is by zone tickets purchased at petrol stations, with car parks the alternative. On-road city parking laws resemble those in the UK, with double yellow lines indicating a no-parking zone, restricted parking on single yellow lines and parking allowed indicated by no lines.
Mauritius licensed and metered taxis are a practical way to get around the island, but visitors should avoid unlicensed cabs as there’s a risk of being robbed. Always ensure your driver uses the meter or you may get overcharged. Taxi drivers are known to tout for business as all-day tour guides of the island, and can be very persuasive. Air conditioning, night journeys and waiting time often incur an extra charge. Rates are around £1 per kilometre.
A network of buses crosses Mauritius, offering services from standard to express. Bus travel on the island is cheap and fun due to the gregarious locals and, while your journey times may not be fast, you’ll learn a lot about the island. Average journey time from St Louis to Curepipe or Grand Baie is one hour. Buses run every 15 minutes between 06:00 and 18:30, with late buses between St Louis and Curepipe stopping at 23:00. Services are provided by five regional bus companies and several smaller operators banded under the umbrella of the National Transport Authority. The three main providers are National Transport Company, Mauritius Bus Transport and United Bus Services, and most journeys cost between £0.80 and £1.60.
A fun side trip here is the ferry from Port Louis harbour to the nearby islands of Reunion and Rodriguez. Two modern cargo/passenger ships, the Mauritius Pride and the Mauritius Trochetia, offer service. The overnight trip to Reunion takes around 12 hours.
Located 30 miles from St Louis, Sir Seewoosagir Rangoolam International Airport is Mauritius’s main point of arrival. Home to Air Mauritius, the facility supports direct flights to the UK’s London-Heathrow and London-Gatwick airports with British Airways and Air Mauritius, as well as flights to other European destinations. The airport’s new terminal offers banks, ATMs and currency exchange services, duty-free shops, eateries, car hire and other upgraded services. Mauritius is marketed as a luxury destination, with average air fares from the UK at around £800.
A holiday on tropical Mauritius offers a wide variety of things to do and places to see, with the natural beauty of the island and its superb beaches at the top of the list. One of the loveliest beaches is found on the offshore Ile aux Cerfs, a water sports paradise with its beaches set along extended sandbanks. Catamarans and yachts bring visitors to its unspoilt beauty from the little harbour at Trou d’Eau Douce village on Mauritius’s east coast.
The pretty harbour village of Albion lies on the road between St Louis and the popular visitor destination of the Black River Gorges, and is a great place to stop off for a swim. The white-sand public beach is tiny and the water is azure blue and warm. Heading further to the southwest, you’ll find the beautiful Chamarel Waterfalls with their seven colours of earth, the sacred lake at Grand Bassin and the Trou aux Cerfs extinct volcano with its three peaks.
A visit to the 18th century sugar mill and plantation at Domaine les Pailles gives a glimpse into the history of the island, which was once famous for its sugar and rum. The plantation still distills rum and maintains a spice garden that cultivates all the island’s spices. Transport around the plantation is by vintage train or horse and cart, and there’s a first-class restaurant serving delicious lunches.
The waters off the west coast of Mauritius are home to whales and dolphins, with boat trips from the Black River estuary a favourite with visitors. It’s possible to swim with the dolphins, and snorkelling gives an unforgettable undersea view of these gentle mammals and their young. The pods here generally number around 20-30 dolphins, and whales are also seen, although less frequently.
Port Louis to Le Morne Peninsula – this drive begins at Port Louis and heads to the peninsula along the west coast. Le Morne has a plethora of lovely beaches and lagoons, and is a favorite with kite-surfers and surfers.
Port Louis to Grand Baie – the island’s only highway brings visitors to Grand Baie, a resort town in northeastern Mauritius. Although it’s busy in the high season, the beaches are breathtaking.
Port Louis to Blue Bay – this drive takes you right across the island’s scenic interior to Blue Bay Beach in its southeastern quadrant. This beach is popular with sailing and windsurfing buffs.
Le Morne to Bel Ombre – is a slow drive along the southern coast, past quaint villages, tiny bays and beaches, and ending within easy access of the spectacular Black River Gorges.
New Year’s Day (1 January)
Abolition of Slavery Day (1 February)
Thaipoosam Cavadee (20 February)
National Day (12 March)
Ougadi (4 April)
Ganesh Chaturthi (2 September)
Diwali (36 October)
Christmas Day (25 December)
Mauritius’s climate is typically tropical, with the southeasterly trade winds moderating the humidity. Summer is December through April, and the cooler, drier winter runs from May to November. January and February are peak cyclone months and best avoided, and average temperatures across the year range between 22°C and 28°C.
Mauritius has been an unspoilt tropical hub for upscale European travellers for many years, with its luxury tourism infrastructure well-established as a result. However, visitors with less cash to splash can still have a memorable holiday here as there’s plenty of affordable, comfortable accommodation and restaurants serving delicious food at less-than extravagant prices.
Mauritius contact numbers
Country code - (+230)
Ambulance - 999
Emergency services – 114 (Police 112)
UK High Commission – +230 202 9400
US Embassy – +230 202 4400
EU Delegation – +230 207 1515
Australian Embassy – +230 208 1700
The official currency is the Mauritian rupee, which is not normally convertible and usually unavailable outside the country. Currency can be exchanged at the airport on arrival and at banks, money exchange outlets and hotel front desks. Major credit cards are accepted at many outlets in the tourist areas and hotels, but cash should be carried for small purchases and trips away from the visitor centres.
Health and safety
No specific inoculations are required for a visit, although routine jabs should be updated where necessary. Those travelling from an area where yellow fever is endemic will need a medical certificate stating they are free of the disease. Sunburn and heat stroke are risks, especially during the summer, with sun cream and drinking quantities of water the best defences. Bottled water is advised, particularly in rural areas.
Mauritians are some of the most friendly, welcoming people on earth, and most take their particular religion seriously, whether it’s Christianity, Islam or the Hindu faith. Visitors should take note of the correct dress code when visiting religious sites, with conservative dress the respectful option. Visitors may be asked to remove any leather shoes or clothes when visiting Hindu temples.
Visas for Mauritius
Travellers from EU member countries as well as those from the US, Canada and Australia may enter Mauritius visa-free for a stay of up to three months on production of a passport which is valid for more than six months and a return air ticket. Citizens of other countries are advised to check online or at their nearest Mauritian consulate or embassy for exact requirements.
Electricity here comes as 220-240V/50Hz, as in the UK, and sockets take the standard British three-pin plug. Visitors from the US will need a step-down transformer for their electronic appliances unless they are configured for dual voltage, and most visitors will need a plug adaptor.
Businesses: 09:30 to 17:30, Monday to Friday
Government offices: 09:30 to 17:30 or 17:00, Monday to Friday
Shops: 09:30 to 19:30, Monday to Saturday, with tourism area shops also open Sunday
Banks: 09:15 to 15:00, Monday to Friday, with some in tourism areas open Saturday mornings
Most Mauritians are either bi- or tri-lingual, with English, French and Creole spoken all over the island. Visitors will have no problems getting around Mauritius using the English language.