Mauritius isn’t a cheap destination, but it does offer something for all budgets. Staying in basic accommodation, buying produce from markets and local shops and travelling by bus will save you money, but most travellers to Mauritius spend more. Hotel restaurants often reflect western prices so lunch out is a more cost effective option. You’ll also need to consider drinks, transport (and day-excursions.
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Value added tax (VAT) of fifteen percent is either included in hotel and restaurant bills or charged separately. A passport and return ticket is needed to buy duty-free items, which must be paid for by credit card or in foreign currency and collected at the airport.
Crime and personal safety
Mauritius is generally a safe destination, with a low crime rate and rare attacks on tourists. As Mauritian culture is predominately traditional and conservative, however, women should exercise some caution when travelling alone: cover up in public, avoid isolated beaches and dimly lit places at night and never invite strangers into your room.
Unfortunately petty crime has increased in recent years, so don’t leave valuables visible in public places (including hire cars) and watch out for pickpockets in crowded and heavily touristed areas such as Grand Baie. Pilfering from hotels does happen occasionally, so keep valuables locked in safes or at reception (with a receipt), and there have been break-ins to self-catering accommodation – opt for somewhere with decent security.
Bear in mind that there’s little regulation of tourism providers outside hotels, and illegal boat excursions or watersports providers may have equipment that’s not up to safety standards, so check boats are licensed for tourism. Accidents are the most common cause of holiday trouble: stick to roped-off swimming areas, which offer protection from motorized water vehicles, which are ever increasing. A natural danger comes from cyclones, which can hit the island from January to March, so always abide by instructions. Check fco.gov.uk/travel before travelling.
The island uses 220 volts, 50 Hz. Both British-style three-pin and continental two-round-pin plugs are found – sometimes in the same building.
Citizens of most Commonwealth and European countries don’t require a visa to enter Mauritius for up to ninety days. It is necessary to have a passport valid for at least six months, a return or onward ticket and accommodation address. If suspicious, the desk clerk may ask for proof of sufficient funds for your visit. Passengers 18 and over can import up to 250g tobacco; 1 litre of spirits; 2 litres of wine, ale or beer; 250ml of eau de toilette and 100ml perfume. Drug trafficking results in severe penalties.
Mauritius embassies and consulates
Australia Mauritius Embassy, 2 Beale Crescent, Canberra, ACT 2600 (+61 2 6281 1203, [email protected]).
South Africa Mauritius High Commission, 1163 Pretorius St, Hatfield 0083, Pretoria (+27 12 342 1283, [email protected]).
UK Mauritius High Commission, 32-33 Elvaston Place, London SW7 5NW (+44 20 7581 0294, foreign.govmu.org).
US Mauritius Embassy, 1709 N St NW, Washington, DC 20036 (+1202 244 1491, [email protected]).
Gay and lesbian travellers
Mauritius is not a gay-friendly destination, illustrated plainly by the column inches of outrage and furore covering the recent appointment of an openly gay British High Commissioner and his civil partner. Homosexuality is not culturally acceptable among the conservative communities which make up the majority of the population, and sodomy is illegal (for both sexes). European attitudes prevail in the many internationally owned and run hotels and resorts, with gay-friendly hotels embracing same-sex honeymoons, but it pays to be discreet elsewhere as public displays of affection may offend. To meet the Mauritian gay community, it’s best to go online.
Mauritius has no malaria, and no vaccinations are required to visit, but the mosquito-borne diseases dengue fever and Chikungunya are present. Use DEET-laced insect repellent liberally, particularly in the summer (November to April) and cover up even in the daytime in wooded areas. Don’t underestimate the strength of the sun either: pack or buy a hat on arrival, use high sun protection factor (SPF) sunscreen and keep a bottle of water handy for hydration.
Although theoretically, the island’s water is chemically treated and safe to drink, most expats boil it first or drink bottled water. Travellers would be advised to follow their lead, especially after a cyclone which can disrupt supply, just in case it causes minor stomach problems. The water isn’t treated on Rodrigues, so definitely opt for bottled water there. Food hygiene is of a generally good standard in hotels, and most travellers happily snack at small restaurants and street stalls without tummy trouble.
Mauritius also has no poisonous reptiles or dangerous animals. That said, sea urchins, stonefish and lionfish, found in Mauritian waters, are harmful, so protective shoes while swimming are recommended. Occasional packs of stray dogs can be daunting, but there’s a low rabies risk.
The standard of healthcare on the island is adequate for most problems, although visitors should opt to see a doctor at a reasonably-priced private clinic, who has most likely trained in France or the UK. Both public and private hospitals are available on the island and there are well-stocked pharmacies in most towns. There is more limited healthcare in Rodrigues.
Always take out an insurance policy before travelling to cover against theft, loss and illness or injury. Mauritius has decent everyday medical facilities, but in case something does go wrong, we recommend you have comprehensive travel and health insurance, including emergency evacuation cover. Be sure to check the fine print if you’re planning to do any adventure activities, as policies commonly exclude “dangerous activities”, which can include horseriding, jet-skiing, mountain climbing, diving and trekking.
Mauritius promotes itself as a “cyber island”, and high-speed internet access is offered at all hotels and resorts, most guesthouses, as well as restaurants and bars in the main tourist centre – although there may be a charge, or it may only be accessible in a designated area. Without a travellers’ scene, internet cafés aren’t common, but can usually be found in shopping centres, so the internet access on offer at post offices in tourist areas may prove more convenient.
Hotels provide laundry service, but prices are almost equivalent to dry cleaning costs at home. Laundromats are found in the tourist centres of Grand Baie and Flic en Flac, and provide a much more cost effective option.
The postal service on Mauritius is quick and reliable. It takes about a week to reach the UK and Europe from Mauritius, and about ten days to reach Australia, South Africa and the US. Larger hotels and resorts will post postcards and letters for you, and there are around a hundred post offices on the island, in most towns and villages, as well as the airport.
The Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) produces a reasonable free map, Port Louis & Mauritius, featuring the main hotels and tourist sites, while the forestry department publishes a map of Black River Gorges National Park (although it’s not accurate enough to navigate trails). For more detailed information, purchase one of the following before you go: Mauritius, Réunion, Rodrigues (Reise-Know-How Verlag); Mauritius (Institut Géographique National or IGN); Mauritius & Réunion (International Travel Maps [ITMB]). Street maps of central plateau towns are found in the Mauritius Yellow Pages, but there are none available for tourist towns such as Flic en Flac, and even Grand Baie, prompting some enterprising guesthouses to make their own.
The unit of currency is the Mauritian rupee (MUR or Rs) which is divided into 100 cents. Hotel rates are quoted either in rupees or euros, and it’s possible to pay in euros at larger establishments. Local currencies have been used for hotel rates throughout the guide for the sake of comparison. Banks and ATMs are found in most towns and shopping centres, and there are moneychangers in tourist resorts such as Flic en Flac and Grand Baie, but there’s little difference between them. Credit cards (Visa and MasterCard) are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, car rental companies, and tourist shops and attractions. The Central Bank of Mauritius (bom.mu) determines exchange rates.
Opening hours and public holidays
Business hours in Mauritius’s main cities are Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. Banks open Monday to Thursday 9am to 3pm and Friday 9am to 5pm. Post offices open Monday to Friday 8am to 4pm and Saturday 8am to 11.45am. Shops are generally open Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 7.30pm, with some shops – for instance in the capital – also open until noon on Sundays. Shops in central plateau towns close for a half-day on Thursdays. Markets tend to start early and close around 4pm. Museums are open Monday to Sunday, with one closing day in the week, usually Tuesday or Wednesday. Tourist attractions’ opening times vary, although most are open daily. Restaurants tend to open from noon to 3pm for lunch and from 7pm to 10pm for dinner; many close on Sundays.
The international direct dialling code for Mauritius is 230, followed by a seven-digit number for landlines. The prefix 5 has recently been added to mobile numbers and is often not reflected on business cards, so if a number isn’t working, try adding it. All phones have IDD and calling abroad costs about MUR15 a minute. Apart from LUX* Resorts, however, who have telephone boxes offering free calls, calling home from hotels and resorts can be up to ten times more expensive. Coverage for mobile phones is good in Mauritius (not as good in Rodrigues), and GSM phones can be set to roaming. With Mauritian mobile charges some of the lowest in the world, it’s worth unlocking GSM phones and buying a local SIM from either Emtel, Air Mauritius Building, President John Kennedy St, Port Louis (5498 9898, emtel.com), or Orange, 9th floor, Mauritius Telecom Tower, Edith Cavell Street (orange.mu).
Mauritius standard time is four hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), with no daylight saving.
The Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority or MTPA (210 1545, tourism-mauritius.mu) is the main source of tourist information on the island, with a head office in Port Louis and information offices in SSR International Airport, Trou d’Eau Douce and Rodrigues. They publish a free island map, and booklet on island attractions, and you can pick up leaflets on attractions from their offices. Independent travellers on Mauritius tend to rely on their accommodation provider for information and arranging activities.
Travellers with disabilities
Mauritius tries to provide for disabled travellers, with ramps for wheelchairs at main tourist attractions, and Mauritians are kind and willing to help. Hotels and resorts have made some attempts to cater to travellers with disabilities, but as they are not required to construct special rooms, this mostly amounts to rooms on the ground floor, sometimes with steps to get there. Hotels which are adapted include Shangri-La Le Touessrok Resort & Spa and Le Preskil Beach Resort. Public transport is difficult as buses have no ramps and pavements in cities are often in a bad state of disrepair. There’s no mobility equipment for hire on the island.
Independent site from locals exploring their island.
Information site on Mauritius’s famous extinct bird.
Mauritian government site with good background information on island history and culture.
The widest selection of tours and excursions bookable online.
Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority’s (MTPA) website, with plenty of tourist information such as where to stay, where to eat and activities, using an interactive map.
MTPA’s website on Rodrigues.