Mauritius makes relatively decent provision for those with mobility problems. Modern buildings conform to international standards for disabled access, although public toilets, pavements 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 is 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 guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
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 price. 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
Take care when undertaking any kind of adventure sports and make sure your insurance policy covers you in the case of accident. Otherwise, your biggest annoyances here are likely to be environmental (mosquitoes, sunburn and the occasional upset stomach).
The Indian Ocean is a warm tropical ocean, so there are several aquatic nasties to watch out for. Fortunately, few travellers encounter anything more serious than the odd (and often quite painful) coral cut.
Lying under a coconut palm may seem like a tropical idyll, but, as silly as it may sound, there have been some tragic accidents. Take care when walking under coconut trees and don't lie (or park your car) beneath them.
Mauritius lies within the cyclone belt. Most cyclones occur between December (or more commonly, January) and March, although they are not unheard-of as late as April. While direct hits are relatively uncommon, storms kilometres away can bring very strong winds. Most hotels and other accommodation have systems in place (such as lock-downs and flexible eating plans) to deal with such threats.
As soon as a cyclone is detected, a system of alerts is used to inform the public of the level of danger. In Mauritius there are four levels of alert. The alerts and then regular bulletins are broadcast on radio and TV. For current warnings, consult metservice.intnet.mu.
The risk of theft in Mauritius is small, but nonetheless it's worth being prepared.
Petty theft and break-ins are fairly common outside the resorts. Favourite haunts for thieves are the beaches; Île aux Cerfs is a particular hot spot. The best strategy is not to take any valuables to the beach – and never tempt a passing thief by leaving your belongings unattended.
Be extra careful in crowded places such as markets and avoid walking around with your valuables casually slung over your shoulder. When travelling on public transport, keep your gear near you.
If you hire a car, it's best not to leave anything valuable in it at all. If you must do so, hide everything well out of sight. Wherever possible, park in a secure car park or at least somewhere busy – never park in an isolated spot, especially at night.
Don't leave vital documents, money or valuables lying about in your room. Many hotels provide room safes, which are well worth using. Otherwise, leave your valuables in the safe at reception and ask for a receipt. While most hotels are reliable, to be extra sure, pack everything in a small, double-zippered bag that can be padlocked, or use a large envelope with a signed seal that will reveal any tampering. Count money and travellers cheques before and after retrieving them from the safe.
If you do have something stolen, report it to the police. The chances of their recovering anything are remote, but you'll need a statement proving you have reported the crime if you want to claim insurance.
The supply is 220V, 50Hz; both British-style three-pin sockets and the Continental two-pin variety 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, the Seychelles and Sweden 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.
In Mauritius, visitors aged 16 years and over may import 200 cigarettes or 250g of tobacco; 1L of spirits; 2L of wine, ale or beer; 250mL of eau de toilette; and 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 is 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, the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand or a number of other countries. You can find more information on the government website (www.passport.govmu.org). Initial entry is granted for a maximum of three months and proof of a planned and paid-for departure is required (though rarely 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 try to 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; women going topless is tolerated around some hotel pools but rarely on the beaches.
- 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, while some Hindu temples request that you remove all leather items, such as belts. At mosques, you may be required to cover your head in certain areas, so remember to take along a scarf. Never touch a carving or statue of a deity.
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 the Mauritian character.
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.
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…
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.
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).
Most towns have at least one internet cafe and access can be found at most resorts, hotels and guesthouses. Wi-fi connections are increasingly the norm in hotels – most often wi-fi access is restricted to public areas, although it may extend to some rooms.
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 map produced by the Institut Géographique Nationale. The Globetrotter travel map is also a good choice. Both should be available from local bookstores and supermarkets.
Otherwise, see if you can pick up the reasonable Tourist Map of Mauritius & Rodrigues by ELP Publications – we found it at Le Village Boutik in Pamplemousses (Rs 230).
Mauritius has a generally good record when it comes to press freedom: it ranked 68th out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders' 2015 World Press Freedom Index, ahead of Italy and Hong Kong but behind Haiti, Mauritania and Madagascar.
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).
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.
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.
ATMs widespread on 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, at larger supermarkets and in 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.
The Mauritian unit of currency is the rupee (Rs), which is divided into 100 cents (¢). There are coins of 5¢, 20¢ and 50¢, and 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 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.
|euro zone||€1||Rs 40.52|
|New Zealand||NZ$1||Rs 24.63|
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Major currencies and travellers cheques can be changed at the main banks, exchange bureaux and the 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. 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. Banks don't charge commission on changing cash. As for travellers cheques, the system 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 (although 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.
In most resort hotels, tips are always welcome, but most prefer that you contribute to an overall tips box, usually at reception, rather than tipping 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 to 3.15pm Monday to Friday (extended hours in tourist hubs like Grand Baie and Flic en Flac)
Government offices 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday, 9am to noon Saturday (closed during religious and public holidays)
Post offices 8.15am to 4pm Monday to Friday, 8.15am to 11.45am Saturday (the last 45 minutes are for stamp sales only; many offices close for lunch from 11.15am to noon on weekdays)
Restaurants noon to 3pm and 7 to 10pm; many restaurants close on Sunday
Shops 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, 8am to noon Saturday; many close around 1pm Thursday
The postal service in Mauritius 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
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary 15 August
Ganesh Chaturti August/September
Divali (Dipavali) October/November
Arrival of Indentured Labourers 2 November
Eid al-Fitr November/December
Christmas Day 25 December
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 with you your passport and flight or other departure details. Upon 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.
The island's telephone services are generally reliable. In fact, Mauritius offers some of the cheapest mobile-phone services in the world.
The state-controlled Mauritius Telecom has a virtual monopoly on landlines, although there's an open market for mobile services.
The rate for a call to Australia, Europe or the USA is about Rs 25 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 Orange and Emtel; international roaming and local SIM cards available.
Coverage on Mauritius and Rodrigues is generally excellent and mobile phones are a cheap way to communicate with others. In fact, many Mauritians have more than one mobile phone.
If you have a GSM phone and it has been unlocked, you can keep costs down by buying a local SIM card from either Orange or Emtel. A starter pack costs around Rs 100, including Rs 86 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 1.20 and Rs 3.60 per minute, depending on whether you're calling someone on the same network or not. International calls cost a couple of rupees per minute on top of the standard Mauritius Telecom rates.
Purchasing a SIM card package – even for one call home – is much less costly than buying a local phonecard.
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. 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's arrivals hall, and they can assist with hotel bookings (although 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 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 – although, to be perfectly frank, many were empty during prime business hours, 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 The recommended AHRIM is an association of high-quality hotels, guesthouses and restaurants. It is 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.
Most of the 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 vacation, while many hotels and even some chambres d'hôtes offer family rooms. Most hotels have cots, although 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 risque 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 why.
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 (although it’s usually fine within hotel or resort grounds), but you’re unlikely to feel uncomfortable as long as you're discreet.
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:
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, while volunteering at coral reef conservation projects for one week to six months can be arranged through Working Abroad and others.
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.