Accessible Travel

Independent travel is difficult for anyone who has mobility problems in Réunion. Only upmarket hotels have features specifically suited to wheelchair use. That said, most restaurants are wheelchair accessible.

Negotiating the streets of most towns in a wheelchair is frustrating given the lack of adequate equipment, and most outdoor attractions and historic places don't have trails suited to wheelchair use. Some notable exceptions are Kelonia in St-Leu, the Musée de Villèle in St-Gilles-les-Hauts, the Cité du Volcan in Bourg-Murat and Stella Matutina museum near St-Leu. With a bit of extra warning, some riding stables, dive centres and other sports operators, including paragliding centres, can cater for people with disabilities. Forêt de Bébour-Bélouve also has a 30-minute trail that's accessible to people with disabilities.

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Bargaining

Bargaining is not a part of life in Réunion; the price quoted is the price you are expected to pay. However, haggling over the price of goods (but not food) is OK in markets.

Climate

  • Réunion's climate experiences only two distinct seasons: the hot, rainy summer from December to April and the cool, dry winter from late April to November.
  • Temperatures on the coast average 22°C during winter and 27°C in summer. In the mountains, they drop to 11°C and 18°C respectively. Clouds generally cover the peaks and high plains from mid-morning.
  • The east coast is considerably wetter than the west, but wettest of all are the mountains above the east coast.
  • The cyclone season is roughly December to March.
  • The drier winter months are the most favourable for hiking, as some of the trails are simply impassable when it's wet.

Dangers & Annoyances

  • Overall, Réunion is relatively safe compared with most Western countries, but occasional robberies do occur.
  • Don’t leave anything of value in a rental car or on the beach and ensure that your room or bungalow is securely locked.
  • Violence is rarely a problem, and muggings are almost unheard of. Intoxicated people are the most likely troublemakers.
  • Unfortunately Réunion has a bad record when it comes to road safety, which means that you must drive defensively at all times. Potential dangers include drunk drivers, excessive speed, twisting roads and blind bends.

Swimming

  • Swimmers should always be aware of currents and riptides. Seek advice before entering the water.
  • Shark attacks on surfers or swimmers have been a problem over the last few years. Always heed any advice, such as shark warning signs, that you might come across, and stick to the lifeguard-patrolled beaches in St-Gilles-les-Bains, St-Leu, L'Hermitage-les-Bains, La Saline-les-Bains, Étang-Salé-les-Bains and St-Pierre. Swim only inside lagoons and protected areas. In an effort to improve the safety of swimmers and surfers, shark nets were installed off Les Roches Noires beach in St-Gilles-les-Bains and Boucan Canot beach in early 2016.

Electricity

220V, 50Hz AC, using European-style two-round pins.

Embassies & Consulates

Since Réunion isn't independent, only a few countries have diplomatic representation.

Belgium Consulate

German Consulate

Madagascar Consulate

Seychelles Consulate

Swiss Consulate

Emergency & Important Numbers

To dial a phone number from outside Réunion, dial your international access code, Réunion’s country code (262) then the number (without the ‘0’).

International access code00
Ambulance15
Police17
Fire & Rescue18

Entry & Exit Formalities

Entering Réunion is usually hassle free, with no visas required for many nationalities. Customs searches are generally quick and easy if they occur at all.

Customs Regulations

  • The following items can be brought into Réunion duty-free: 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars, 1L of strong liquor or 2L of liquor that is less than 22% alcohol by volume, 2L of wine, 50mL of perfume and 250mL of eau de toilette. Anything over the limit must be declared on arrival.
  • There are restrictions on importing plants and animals, for which import permits are required.
  • With regards to currency, anyone entering or leaving the island must declare sums in excess of €10,000.

Visas

Visas are not required for most Western nationals for stays of up to three months.

More Information

Though Réunion is a French department, it's not part of the Schengen treaty. The visa requirements for entry to Réunion are almost the same as for France, bar a few exceptions. For EU nationals, a national ID or a passport suffices. Citizens of a number of other Western countries, including Australia, the USA, Canada and New Zealand, do not need visas to visit Réunion as tourists for up to three months.

Other nationals should check with the French embassy or consulate nearest your home address to find out if you need a visa. For example, South African citizens need a visa to enter mainland France but don't require a visa for Réunion. For up-to-date information on visa requirements see www.diplomatie.gouv.fr.

Etiquette

Although largely informal in their every-day dealings, Réunionnais do observe some (unspoken) rules of etiquette.

  • Greetings Shake hands with men and women when meeting for the first time and when saying goodbye. Female friends are greeted with cheek kisses.
  • Clothing Although beachwear is fine for the beaches, if you dress skimpily elsewhere you will cause offence and may end up being pestered. Nude bathing is forbidden.
  • Temples & Mosques Dress conservatively. It's normal to remove your shoes.
  • Island Time Impatience will get you nowhere in Réunion, where time flows with the tides. Slow down and always start with 'bonjour' before launching into a conversation.
  • Photographing People Always respect the wish of locals. Ask permission to photograph if a candid shot can't be made and don't insist or snap a picture anyway if permission is denied.

Insurance

A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is a good idea. Some policies specifically exclude dangerous activities, which can include scuba diving, motorcycling and even hiking. Always check the small print and make sure that the policy covers ambulances or an emergency flight home. If you plan on diving, we strongly recommend purchasing dive-specific insurance with DAN (www.diversalertnetwork.org).

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

Many midrange and all top-end hotels offer wi-fi access, as do B&Bs, many cafes, restaurants and most tourist offices, usually without charge. In hotels, coverage may be restricted to public areas. The connection is generally good.

LGBT Travellers

French laws concerning homosexuality prevail in Réunion, which means there is no legal discrimination against homosexual activity and homophobia is relatively uncommon. People are fairly tolerant, though by no means as liberal as in mainland France; open displays of affection may be regarded with disdain, especially outside St-Denis.

Throughout the island, but particularly on the west coast, there are restaurants, bars, operators and accommodation places that make a point of welcoming gays and lesbians. Certain areas are the focus of the gay and lesbian communities, among them St-Denis, St-Pierre and La Saline-les-Bains.

Maps

  • For most purposes the IGN (Institut Géographique National; www.ign.fr) Carte Touristique La Réunion map, at a scale of 1:100,000 (1cm = 1km), which covers the island in one sheet, is perfectly adequate.
  • The most detailed and accurate maps for hiking are the six 1:25,000 scale maps published by IGN.
  • Maps can be purchased at most bookshops in St-Denis and in St-Pierre. The larger tourist offices also sell them.

Media

  • Newspapers Daily regional newspapers include French-language Journal de l'Île de la Réunion (www.clicanoo.re) and Le Quotidien (www.lequotidien.re), both good for features and events listings.
  • TV One government channel, Réunion 1re, as well as the independent Antenne Réunion and Canal + Réunion; most programming comes from mainland France.
  • Radio Tune in to Réunion 1re, Kreol FM or Radio Free Dom for local news (in French and Creole).

Money

ATMs in major towns; credit cards widely accepted except in chambres d'hôtes (B&Bs) and mountain lodges.

ATMs

  • ATMs are the easiest way to access funds while in Réunion, but banks charge foreign transaction fees plus a per-use ATM charge.
  • Most banks and post offices have an ATM (known as a guichet automatique de banque or gabier).
  • Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted.
  • Check with your bank before you leave home to ensure that the card you plan to use to withdraw cash doesn't have a low daily or weekly limit.
  • If you're heading off into the Cirques, it's wise to stock up with euros beforehand – Cilaos has two ATMs and Hell-Bourg has only one. Mafate doesn't have an ATM.

Credit Cards

Credit cards will prove the cheapest and easiest way to pay for major purchases in Réunion. Visa (Carte Bleue) and Mastercard (Eurocard) are the cards most widely accepted by hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, adventure centres, petrol stations and stores. Credit cards are mandatory if you want to rent a car, as they'll be used as a form of caution (deposit). Smaller places, however, sometimes refuse cards for small amounts (typically under €15) and it's not common for chambres d'hôtes and gîtes d'étapes to take credit cards.

It's a good idea to check with your credit-card company before leaving home about charges on international transactions.

Money Changers

  • All banks in Réunion have dropped their foreign-exchange facilities in favour of ATMs.
  • The only bureau de change on the island is in St-Denis.
  • As a general strategy, it's sensible to bring a fair supply of euros with you and to top up from the ATMs.

Tipping

Tipping is not expected in Réunion.

Exchange Rates

AustraliaA$1€0.63
CanadaC$1€0.66
Japan¥100€0.80
MauritiusRs 100€2.53
New ZealandNZ$1€0.59
United KingdomUK£1€1.13
United StatesUS$1€0.88

For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.

More Information

As in France, the unit of currency is the euro (€), which is divided into 100 cents. Euro coins come in denominations of 1¢, 2¢, 5¢, 10¢, 20¢ and €1 and €2. Banknotes are issued in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50 and €100.

Opening Hours

Banks 8am–4pm, Monday to Friday or Tuesday to Saturday.

Bars 10am–midnight (or when the last customer leaves).

Clubs 10pm–4am Friday and Saturday.

Government offices 8.30am–noon and 2pm–5pm Monday to Thursday, to 3pm Friday.

Restaurants 11.30am or noon–1.30pm or 2pm, and 6.30pm or 7pm–9.30pm; often closed on one or two days of the week.

Shops and businesses 8.30am–5pm or 6pm Monday to Saturday, often with a break from noon–1pm or 2pm. Some shops close on Monday.

Post

Mail to Europe, the USA and Australia takes about a week and the postal system is very efficient. Most towns have modern post offices. Many post offices are equipped with ATMs.

Public Holidays

Most of Réunion's offices, museums and shops are closed during jours fériés (public holidays).

New Year's Day 1 January

Easter Monday March/April

Labour Day 1 May

Victory Day 1945 8 May

Ascension Day late May or June

Bastille Day (National Day) 14 July

Assumption Day 15 August

All Saints' Day 1 November

Armistice Day 1918 11 November

Abolition of Slavery Day 20 December

Christmas Day 25 December

Smoking

  • Smoking Prohibited in indoor public places and on public transport but is allowed in outdoor restaurants and on beaches. As with elsewhere, the trend is towards prohibition, so expect restrictions to increase over time.

Telephone

  • All telephone numbers throughout Réunion consist of 10 digits; landline numbers start with 0262, and mobile-phone numbers start with 0692 or 0693.
  • If calling a Réunion landline or mobile number from abroad (bar France), you'll need to dial your country's international-access code, Réunion's country code (262), then the local number minus the initial 0. Calling abroad from Réunion, dial 00 for international access, then the country code, then the area code and local number.
  • There are no area codes in Réunion.

Mobile Phones

Local SIM cards can be used in European and Australian phones. Other phones must be set to roaming to work.

More Information

  • For mobile phones, Réunion uses the GSM 900/1800 system, which is compatible with Europe and Australia, but incompatible with North American GSM 1900.
  • The network covers most towns and villages throughout the island, including the Cirque de Mafate.
  • If your GSM phone has been 'unlocked', it is also possible to buy a SIM card with either of the two local network operators: Orange (www.orange.re) and SFR (www.sfr.re). Recharge cards are readily available, or you can top up your credit by phone or online. When buying a SIM card, you'll need to bring along your passport.

Toilets

  • All toilets in Réunion are of the sit-down variety.
  • Except on some beaches, there are few public toilet facilities, but you can use the toilets in hotels or restaurants.

Tourist Information

There are generally offices du tourisme (tourist offices) in most main towns across the island. Most of them have at least one staff member who speaks English. Tourist-office staff provide maps, brochures and the magazines Ileenile (www.ile-en-ile.com) and Guide Run, which are useful directories of hotels, restaurants and other places of interest to visitors.

Île de la Réunion Tourisme (IRT; www.reunion.fr) Réunion's regional tourist office has a fantastic website with easy-to-browse information on activities, attractions and places to stay, among others.

Travel with Children

  • Réunion is an eminently suitable destination if you're travelling with the kids in tow. With its abundance of beaches, picnic spots and outdoor activities, plus its healthy food, it offers plenty to do for travellers of all ages in a generally hazard-free setting.
  • Most locals have a number of children themselves and will not be troubled by a rowdy child at the next table.
  • There are excellent medical facilities in the main cities.
  • For more information, see Lonely Planet's Travel with Children.

Practicalities

  • A few hotels offer kids clubs and many places provide cots for free and additional beds for children at a small extra cost. Most chambres d'hôtes welcome children.
  • Many restaurants have children's menus with significantly lower prices.
  • Nappies (diapers) are readily available.
  • Breastfeeding in public is not a problem.
  • The main car-hire companies can supply safety seats at additional cost.

Weights & Measures

  • Weights & Measures Réunion uses the metric system.

Women Travellers

  • The sight of women travelling, be it in a group or alone, is not met with too much surprise or curiosity, and women travelling by themselves should encounter no difficulties, as long as sensible precautions observed in most Western countries are adhered to.
  • Women can enter most bars alone, but there are still a few places where this may attract unwanted attention – you'll get a pretty good idea when you enter.
  • It's not advisable to walk alone on the trails in the interior.

Work

There are few work opportunities in Réunion if you're not French. Possible exceptions include bartenders in large hotels.

If you are looking for work, you will need to contact prospective employers directly and they should be able to advise on the necessary visa requirements.