Mauritius became a duty-free port in 2010 and has the best shopping in the Indian Ocean. The island is known for diamonds, designer clothing, cashmere and linen, which can be a third of the price back home. Many of the best shops, and a craft market, are found in Le Caudan Waterfront in Port Louis, but there are markets island-wide and a wide selection of shops on the central plateau. Organized shopping excursions will take you to a selection of tourist-oriented shopping centres, including Le Caudan and key markets (Mahébourg is the cheapest), but for serious shopping it’s best to strike out on your own.
For clothing, shopping centres sell western labels at western prices, but decent high-street brands and quality cotton clothing can be found at knock-down prices at markets (try Flacq and Quatre Bornes), in factory shops, or better still in boutiques and older, established shopping centres in central plateau towns. Outside of shopping centres and duty-free outlets, which stock British, American and French brands, clothes are imported from India, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Korea, and shoes from Brazil and Arab countries, so sizes vary. Clothes are often on the small side, so it’s usually a matter of trying things on to see what fits.
Local crafts are few, but reasonably-priced straw baskets, leatherwork and recycled glass made into everything, sculptures or jewellery make good gifts and souvenirs, and imported textiles from India can be cheaper than at home. More interesting buys include finely-crafted model ships made from teak and mahogany – companies can ship these home.
Island produce includes tea, artisanal salt, vanilla and anthurium flowers, but perhaps the most interesting gourmet buy is Mauritian vanilla-infused rum. Buying shells from hawkers, many of which are now imported from Madagascar, contributes to the destruction of the marine ecology, and should be avoided.
Mauritius’s traditional markets are colourful affairs and the place to bag a bargain. There’s a market every day somewhere on the island, but each has its own character and flavour. Apart from Port Louis’ Central Market, markets start early and close by 4pm, selling everything from vanilla pods and spices to fake designer T-shirts, pareos (sarongs), saris, and crafts such as traditional baskets, leatherware and Indian textiles. Items are typically around two thirds of the price in shops, and you should bargain, which is common practice here. Start by offering a quarter of the price proposed, and edging up, and even walking away if necessary, to reach a compromise; you should expect to pay about a third of the initial price.
Daily except Sun Port Louis
Thurs Quatre Bornes
Sun Quatre Bornes, Flacq