Mauritius makes relatively decent provision for those with mobility problems. Modern buildings conform to international standards for disabled access, though public toilets, footpaths and lifts tend not to be as good. Most top-end hotels have wheelchair access, lifts and a handful of rooms with specially equipped bathrooms. In big hotels there are always plenty of staff around to help and it's often possible to hire an assistant if you want to go on an excursion or a boat trip. With a bit of extra notice some riding stables, dive centres and other sports operators can cater for people with disabilities.
None of the public-transport systems offer wheelchair access. Anyone using a wheelchair will be reliant on private vehicles.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guides from https://shop.lonelyplanet.com/categories/accessible-travel.
Prices are fixed in supermarkets and upmarket and designer shops, but elsewhere it's always worth asking if the price being offered is the final one. This is particularly true in tourist areas and street markets. If you do decide to haggle, you're likely to get a lot further if you do so in a friendly spirit. You're unlikely to achieve much by trying to bargain on the price of excursions.
Dangers & Annoyances
Your biggest annoyances here are likely to be mosquitoes, sunburn and the occasional upset stomach.
- There are several aquatic nasties, though few travellers encounter anything more serious than the odd coral cut.
- Lying under a coconut palm may seem like a tropical idyll, but there have been some tragic accidents. Take care when walking under coconut trees and don't lie (or park your car) beneath them.
- Cyclones can occur between December (or more commonly, January) and March, though they are not unheard of as late as April.
- The risk of theft in Mauritius is small, but nonetheless it's worth being cautious.
The supply is 220V, 50Hz; both British-style three-pin sockets (type G) and the Continental two-pin variety (type C) are commonly used, sometimes in the same room – bring both.
Embassies & Consulates
Many countries do not have representatives in Mauritius and usually refer their citizens to embassies in Pretoria (South Africa). However, Australia, Canada, France, the UK and the US all have embassies in Port Louis. Italy and the Seychelles have honorary consulates in Port Louis.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering Mauritius is usually hassle free, with no visas required for many nationalities. Customs searches are generally quick and easy, if they occur at all, but rules are necessarily strict on importing food, especially fruit.
In Mauritius visitors aged 16 years and over may import the following:
- 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco
- 1L of spirits
- 2L of wine, ale or beer
- 250mL of eau de toilette
- up to 100mL of perfume
There are restrictions on importing food, plants and animals, for which permits are required. Other prohibited and restricted articles include spear guns and items made from ivory, shell, turtleshell or other materials banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). It's also illegal to take such items out when you leave.
Not required for most nationalities for stays of up to three months.
You don't need a visa to enter Mauritius if you are a citizen of the EU, USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand or a number of other countries. You can find country-by-country information on the government website (http://passport.govmu.org/English/Pages/default.aspx). Initial entry is granted for a maximum of three months and proof of a planned and paid-for departure is required (and sometimes asked for).
Extensions for a further three months as a tourist are available from the Passport & Immigration Office. Applications must be submitted with one form, two passport-size photos, your passport, an onward ticket and proof of finances. Two letters may also be necessary – one from you explaining why you want to stay longer, and one from a local 'sponsor' (it can be someone providing accommodation). Providing you can satisfy these demands there should be no problems, but because quite a few visitors overstay their entry permits, there are 'get tough' periods.
The people of Mauritius have a well-deserved reputation for tolerance. That said, there are a few 'rules' of behaviour that you should abide by.
- Clothing Although beachwear is fine for the beaches, you will cause offence and may invite pestering if you dress skimpily elsewhere. Nude bathing is forbidden.
- Greetings Mauritians generally greet each other by shaking hands, or with a kiss on both cheeks for close friends and relatives. In most circumstances for visitors, a simple 'bonjour', 'hello' or 'namaste' will suffice.
- Temples and mosques Miniskirts and singlet tops are no-nos, and it is normal to remove your shoes. Many temples and mosques also ask you not to take photos. Some Hindu temples request that you remove all leather items, such as belts. At mosques you may be required to cover your head, so remember to take along a scarf. Never touch a carving or statue of a deity.
A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is a good idea. Some policies specifically exclude dangerous activities, which can include 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.
Most towns have at least one internet cafe. Wi-fi connections are almost universal in hotels, resorts and guesthouses, though wi-fi signals sometimes don't extend beyond public areas.
Foreigners are subject to the laws of the country in which they are travelling and will receive no special consideration because they are tourists. If you find yourself in a sticky legal predicament, contact your embassy. Drug offences are taken extremely seriously here.
In general travellers have nothing to fear from the police, who rarely harass foreigners and are very polite if you do need to stop them. Talking on your mobile phone while driving will definitely get you pulled over, but if you're in any sort of minor trouble you'll most likely be let off the hook if it's obvious that you're a tourist (speaking in English helps even more).
Mauritius has a paradoxical relationship to homosexuality. On one hand much of the population is young and progressive, gays and lesbians are legally protected from discrimination and individuals have a constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy, and Mauritius has signed the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. At the same time 'sodomy' is illegal and there remains a rigidly conservative streak to Mauritian public debate.
As a result of the latter, gay life remains fairly secretive, mainly existing on the internet, in private and at the occasional party. While there were no gay or lesbian bars or clubs on the island at the time of writing, there are monthly underground club nights organised by text message. La Mariposa, close to Tamarin, is the only place we found that openly advertises itself as gay friendly.
For gay and lesbian travellers there's little to worry about. We've never heard of any problems arising from same-sex couples sharing rooms during their holidays. You're still best to avoid public displays of affection outside your hotel and generally to be aware that what might be entirely standard at home may not be viewed in the same light here.
There's not much of an LGBT scene in Mauritius, so there's little online of much interest. OK starting points include:
- Collectif Arc en Ciel (www.collectifarcenciel.org) Advocates for LGBT rights; information in French.
- Gay Mauritius Guide (www.travelgay.com/gay-mauritius-guide) High-level information
- Global Gayz – Gay Mauritius (www.globalgayz.com/gay-mauritius) A few interesting perspectives.
- LGBT Mauritius (www.lgbt.mu) Information from the local LGBT community.
Although Mauritius markets itself heavily as a major tourism destination, the island has a frustrating lack of decent maps.
The best map of the island is the satellite imagery on Google Earth. If you don't have printing facilities on hand, try the 1:85,000 Île Maurice map produced by the Institut Géographique Nationale (IGN; www.ign.fr) – it's excellent, and was updated in 2016. We found it for sale at the Super U Hypermarket in Grand Baie, and Chez Popo in Trou aux Biches for Rs 440. It costs more in hotel gift shops.
Mauritius has a generally good record when it comes to press freedom: it ranked 56th out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders' 2018 World Press Freedom Index, ahead of Japan, Greece and Israel, but behind Madagascar, Papua New Guinea and Burkina Faso.
- Newspapers French-language L'Express (www.lexpress.mu) and Le Mauricien (www.lemauricien.com); English-language weeklies News on Sunday and the Mauritius Times (www.mauritiustimes.com).
- Radio There's a huge number of local commercial stations broadcasting in Creole and Hindi, and the BBC World Service and Voice of America are readily available. The most popular stations include Kool FM 89.3 Mhz and Taal FM 94.0 Mhz.
- TV Three free TV channels – MBC1, MBC2 and MBC3 – are run by the state Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), and there are numerous pay channels. Programming is mainly in Creole, but there are foreign imports in French, English and Indian languages.
ATMs widespread on the main island, less common on Rodrigues. Major credit cards widely accepted by hotels, restaurants, shops and tour companies.
It's perfectly possible to travel on plastic in Mauritius since ATMs are widespread. Even Rodrigues has a smattering of them. They're mostly located outside banks, though you'll also find them at the airports, larger supermarkets and some shopping malls. The majority of machines accept Visa and MasterCard, or any similar cards in the Cirrus and Plus networks, while Amex has a tie-in with Mauritius Commercial Bank (MCB). Remember, however, that bank fees, sometimes significant ones, can apply – check with your home bank before setting out for Mauritius to see if some banks have lower fees than others.
The Mauritian unit of currency is the rupee (Rs), which is divided into 100 cents (¢). There are coins of 5¢, 20¢, 50¢, Rs 1, Rs 5 and Rs 10. The banknote denominations are Rs 25, Rs 50, Rs 100, Rs 200, Rs 500, Rs 1000 and Rs 2000. While the Mauritian rupee is the island's currency, almost all villas, guesthouses and hotels (and several high-end restaurants usually affiliated with hotels) tether their prices to the euro to counterbalance the rupee's unstable fluctuations, and it is possible (and sometimes required) to pay in euros at such places.
Visa and MasterCard are the most commonly accepted cards, though Amex is catching up quickly. Nearly all tourist shops, restaurants and accommodation places accept payment by credit card, as do car-hire companies, tour agents and so forth. Any establishment well outside the tourist bubble will still expect payment in cash.
A few places add on an extra fee, typically 3%, to the bill to cover 'bank charges'. The cheaper car-hire companies are the worst offenders. To be on the safe side, always ask. Cash advances on credit cards are available from most major banks, including MCB, Barclays, the State Bank and HSBC. Just remember to take your passport.
|New Zealand||NZ$1||Rs 23.65|
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Major currencies and travellers cheques can be changed at the main banks, exchange bureaux and larger hotels. Bureaux de change sometimes offer slightly better rates than banks and the queues are shorter, but there's usually little difference, and many seem to close without warning when reserves run dry. Banks don't charge commission on changing cash. Hotels tend to have the worst rates and may add an additional service commission. There is no black market in Mauritius.
As a general rule travellers cheques bring a better rate than cash, though fewer banks accept them with each passing year. The system for travellers cheques varies. Some banks, such as HSBC, charge 1% of the total, with a minimum of Rs 200, while MCB and the State Bank levy Rs 50 for up to 10 cheques. Don't forget to take along your passport when changing money. And make sure you hang on to the encashment form, which may have to be presented if you want to change Mauritian rupees back into foreign currency at the end of your stay (though not all airport bureaux de change ask for it).
Tipping is not generally practised in Mauritius and is never an obligation.
- Top-end hotels and restaurants Sometimes add a service charge of about 10% to 15% to the bill.
- Resorts Tips are always welcome, but most resorts prefer that you contribute to an overall tips box, usually at reception, rather than tip individual staff.
Hours below are the general rule. Shops in larger seaside resort towns are usually open longer, while on Rodrigues shops and offices generally close earlier than stated below.
Banks 9am–3.15pm Monday to Friday (extended hours in tourist hubs such as Grand Baie and Flic en Flac)
Government offices 9am–4pm Monday to Friday, 9am–noon Saturday (closed during religious and public holidays)
Post offices 8.15am–4pm Monday to Friday, 8.15am–11.45am Saturday (the last 45 minutes are for stamp sales only, and many offices close for lunch from 11.15am to noon on weekdays)
Restaurants noon–3pm and 7pm–10pm; many restaurants close on Sunday
Shops 9am–5pm Monday to Friday, 8am–noon Saturday; many close around 1pm Thursday
The postal service in Mauritius (www.mauritiuspost.mu) is generally quick and reliable. In general, mailing services end about 45 minutes before closing and the bureau becomes a retail shop for stamps and envelopes but nothing else.
New Year 1 and 2 January
Thaipoosam Cavadee January/February
Chinese Spring Festival January/February
Abolition of Slavery 1 February
Maha Shivaratri February/March
National Day 12 March
Labour Day 1 May
Eid al-Fitr May/June
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 15 August
Ganesh Chaturthi August/September
Divali (Dipavali) October/November
Arrival of Indentured Labourers (Indian Arrival Day) 2 November
Christmas Day 25 December
- Smoking Prohibited in indoor public places and on public transport; allowed in outdoor restaurants, on beaches, in some hotel rooms and at some workplaces. The trend is towards prohibition, so expect restrictions to increase over time.
Taxes & Refunds
Most items apart from unprepared food are subject to 15% VAT. There's no clear rule about whether this tax is included in prices quoted for meals, rooms and activities. If it's not clear be sure to ask or you may be in for a shock.
Foreign visitors can claim back from the government the VAT they paid on purchases of Rs 2300 and over (per shop) while in Mauritius; look for the 'Tax Refund' sticker near the entrance of eligible shops. When making your purchase ask for the 'VAT Paid Supplies to Visitors' receipt – you'll need to have your passport and flight or other departure details with you. When leaving the country present this receipt to the MCCI Tax Refund Counter (after passing through customs) at SSR International Airport. If leaving aboard a cruise ship, ask the cruise company for details on how to claim the refund.
Check out www.taxfreeshopping.mu for more information and participating shops.
The island's telephone services are generally reliable, and Mauritius offers some of the cheapest mobile-phone services in the world.
The rate for a call to Australia, Europe or the USA is about Rs 20 per minute. These rates fall by around 25% during off-peak hours (10pm to 6am Monday to Friday and noon on Saturday to 6am the following Monday).
When phoning Mauritius from abroad, you'll need to dial the international code for Mauritius (230), followed by the seven-digit local number (unless it's a mobile phone, which has eight digits and begins with '5').
There are no area codes in Mauritius.
GSM network through Mauritius Telecom and Emtel; international roaming and local SIM cards available.
Coverage on Mauritius and Rodrigues is generally excellent.
If you have a GSM phone and it has been unlocked, you can keep costs down by buying a local SIM card from either Mauritius Telecom (www.mauritiustelecom.com) or Emtel (www.emtel.com). A starter pack costs around Rs 100, including Rs 80 worth of calls and 20MB of data. To top up your credit you can buy prepaid cards almost anywhere. When buying a SIM card you may need to bring along your passport and a sponsor's signature.
Local calls are charged at between Rs 1 and Rs 3 per minute, depending on whether you're calling someone on the same network. International calls cost a couple of rupees per minute on top of the standard Mauritius Telecom rates.
Mauritius is on GMT plus four hours, both on the mainland and on Rodrigues. When it's noon in Port Louis, it's 8am in London, 9am in Paris, 3am in New York and 6pm in Sydney, though this can vary when other countries change their clocks for daylight savings. Mauritius does not operate a system of daylight saving; being equatorial its sunset and sunrise times vary only slightly throughout the year.
The overwhelming majority of toilets in Mauritius (or at least among those you're likely to use) are of the sit-down, rather than squat, variety.
You'll find free public toilets close to many beaches. Most are regularly cleaned and are fine if you find yourself caught short.
Although independent travellers are definitely in the minority, two corporate entities are dedicated to those who don't fall into the package-getaway category. Both have desks in the airport arrivals hall, and they can assist with hotel bookings (though this is increasingly rare as few travellers arrive in the country without a booking), basic tourist maps and quite general island information.
Also useful is Mauritius Telecom's 24-hour phone service, Tourist Info (152). At any time of day or night you can speak to someone (in English) who will at least try to answer your questions.
Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA; www.tourism-mauritius.mu) The Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority is a government-run body essentially responsible for promoting the island and its virtues to foreign markets. MTPA has a constellation of kiosks across the island, though, to be perfectly frank, many were empty during prime business hours when we visited, and when we did find someone staffing a booth they tossed us an outdated island map and offered very limited information. You're better off asking tour operators, hotel staff or anyone else accustomed to dealing with travellers' queries.
Association des Hôteliers et Restaurateurs de l'Île Maurice (AHRIM; www.mauritiustourism.org) The recommended AHRIM is an association of high-quality hotels, guesthouses and restaurants. It's starting to offer guesthouse-plus-airfare packages – an attempt to empower tourists to have a local experience while also benefiting from discounted airfares. Check out its website for details.
Travel with Children
Travelling with children in Mauritius presents no particular problems. To put their holiday in context, there's a wonderful series of English-language cartoon books by Henry Koombes (published locally by Editions Vizavi Ltd), including In Dodoland, SOS Shark and Meli-Melo in the Molasses.
For more information, see Lonely Planet's Travel with Children.
Besides the seaside, Mauritius has numerous attractions that make for excellent day excursions for families. Remember, however, that some activities may be subject to minimum-age requirements – phone ahead or check the relevant website before getting the kids all excited. Our favourite attractions for children:
Most high-end hotels have dedicated facilities (like 'kids clubs') for children, and those that don't sometimes have a small playground. Most top-end hotels also include babysitting services. The proliferation of villa leases has made it easy to bring the entire family on holiday, while many hotels and even some chambres d'hôtes offer family rooms. Most hotels have cots, though usually only a limited number, so always request one when making your reservation and send a reminder some weeks in advance of your arrival.
Remember that some top-end resorts market themselves as 'adults only'. This is less an indication of risqué behaviour than an attempt by hotels and resorts to appeal to the honeymoon or romantic-getaway market. In other words, kids are not welcome. If you're making a reservation online and there's no option of adding kids to your booking, chances are that's the reason.
Disposable nappies are widely available in supermarkets, and most car-hire companies have a limited number and range of child safety seats available (the smaller the company, the fewer options you’ll have). Baby-changing facilities in restaurants and other public areas are almost nonexistent. Breastfeeding in public is not really the done thing (though it’s usually fine within hotel or resort grounds), but you’re unlikely to feel uncomfortable as long as you're discreet.
There aren't that many volunteering opportunities in Mauritius, but there are some possibilities in the area of wildlife or marine conservation. Six-month placements on Île aux Aigrettes are possible through the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation – there's a volunteering page on its website where you can register. Volunteering at coral reef conservation projects for one week to six months can be arranged through Working Abroad (www.workingabroad.com), Reef Conservation and others.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Mauritius uses the metric system.
There are no particular dangers for women in Mauritius, and you won't feel out of place travelling solo. It's still sensible to avoid walking alone along heavily forested trails and roaming around late at night outside of resorts, particularly as most places have very poor or nonexistent street lighting. Port Louis is one place where it really would be foolish for anyone to walk about alone after dark, especially near the Jardins de Compagnie (a favoured hang-out of pimps and drug addicts). Le Caudan Waterfront is, as always, something of an exception to this rule, with plenty of people around at most times.
There are few work opportunities in Mauritius for travellers. Possible exceptions include jobs for experienced divers at one of the country's dive centres, and work (usually unpaid) on board a yacht – for the latter ask at the marina at Le Caudan Waterfront in Port Louis or La Balise Marina in Black River.
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.