Mauritius may seem small at 45 by 65 kilometres, but one- to two-hour drives between hotels and attractions are not uncommon. There are only two major highways: the M1, which heads from the airport north to Grand Baie, and the new M2, which heads north from the central plateau and bypasses congested Port Louis. Otherwise roads are typically narrow, twisting around a topography of coastal inlets and mountains, or winding through congested towns and villages, often with no pavements.
Buses are a fun, cheap way to explore the island and travel everywhere except from the uninhabited Plaine Champagne and Le Morne Peninsula. The main transport hubs are Port Louis in the north, Curepipe and Quatre Bornes on the central plateau, Flacq in the east and Mahébourg in the south. Buses typically run from 5.30am to 8pm in urban areas and 6.30am to 6.30pm in the countryside, with the occasional later service. Most destinations aren’t on direct routes, so travel can be time-consuming. Choose express buses over standard ones as these have air conditioning and travel much faster.
Self-driving is an increasingly popular and flexible option for touring the island as driving is on the left, traffic signs are in English and petrol is relatively cheap. Speed limits vary from 30km/hr in towns to 110km/hr on the motorway. Although things are improving, towns and attractions are typically poorly signed and Mauritian driving is erratic, so don’t expect to get anywhere fast. Driving on the south and east coasts where roads are quieter is the most pleasant, and arguably safest.
Open-topped jeeps, Mini Cooper convertibles and 4WDs can be rented from leading international players with desks at the airport and major resorts, with chauffeurs available too. Local providers tend to be 25–30 percent cheaper. A good bet island-wide is Maki Car Rental, who use local contractors and have competitive rates which include unlimited mileage, and a free GPS with five days’ car hire. Scooters and some motorbikes can be rented in tourist centres; a valid driving licence is required and you must be a minimum age of 23 to rent a car, or 18 to rent a scooter.
There aren’t a plethora of petrol stations around the island, so fill up when you see one, and bear in mind, apart from on the motorway, most close around 7pm.
Tourist taxis are regulated by the hotel or province they’re linked to, which is printed on a yellow panel on the driver’s door. Outside of hotels, taxis tend to be found at shopping centres or bus stations during working hours; some listed in the Mauritius Yellow Pages can be booked in advance. Despite the presence of meters in taxis, its better to negotiate the fare before you get in – and don’t be afraid to bargain. Journeys are relatively inexpensive, depending on the distance travelled, although bear in mind that taxi drivers get commissions on top, so get suggestions of places to shop, eat or drink from independent sources.
Shared taxis operate on popular routes and depart when full. Charging little more than a bus fare, they are used on a regular basis by locals after buses have stopped in the evening. Hotel staff are a good source of information on where to find them.
Mauritius isn’t a particularly cycle-friendly destination as towns have narrow congested roads, and bikes are not allowed on buses, but short rides along the quieter coastal roads are pleasant and popular. The south and east coasts have the least traffic, and Le Morne Peninsula, with virtually none, is a cyclist’s paradise. Most hotels and resorts, some guesthouses and travel agencies in tourist areas offer bicycles for guests’ use or for rental. Yemaya Adventures (5752 0046,yemayaadventures.com) offers cycling holidays.
Most visitors to Mauritius jump on convenient and reasonably-priced minibus excursions offered by island tour companies from most hotels and resorts. Typically lasting a half- or full day, these take in major island sights and experiences on regional or themed trips such as the “exotic south”.
Air Mauritius’s Bell Jet Ranger four-seater helicopters based at the airport offer a number of trips as well as airport transfers (207 7575, airmauritius.com, or book through its ticket offices or tour operators). Themed excursions include heli-golf and heli-lunch.