Mauritius is an easy destination to get around, and distances are short.
Car & Motorcycle Car rental is cheap and this is the best way to get around; getting from most corners of the island to any other should take less than 1½ hours.
Taxi Popular for excursions or longer trips between hotels, or between hotels and the airport.
Air The main way to get between Mauritius and Rodrigues with twice-daily flights.
Boat Catamarans are perfect for getting to the offshore islands.
Bus Connect larger settlements along major roads.
The only regular domestic air connections are those between Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport on mainland Mauritius and Sir Gaetan Duval Airport on Rodrigues. There are at least two daily flights on this route, operated by Air Mauritius, and flying time is around 1½ hours. This is an extremely popular route, so always book ahead as early as you can.
Air Mauritius offers helicopter tours and charters from SSR International Airport to a number of major hotels. A hotel transfer anywhere on the island costs Rs 25,000, while a full one-hour island tour costs Rs 43,000 for up to two passengers; a quick 15-minute jaunt will set you back Rs 17,000. For information and reservations contact Air Mauritius Helicopter Services or ask your hotel to organise a transfer or trip.
Cycling isn't really a practical means of long-distance transport in Mauritius – there is simply too much traffic, roads are narrow and drivers rarely take cyclists into consideration – but bikes are fine for short hops along the coast. Given that the coast is pleasantly flat, it's amazing how much ground you can cover in a day. The coast roads are also generally (though not always) quieter than those in the interior.
In general the roads are well maintained, but look out for potholes along country lanes, especially in the western part of the island. Avoid cycling anywhere at night, as most roads are poorly lit.
Most hotels and guesthouses can help you arrange bike rentals (usually mountain bikes). Although many offer this as a complimentary service for guests, expect to pay around Rs 250 per day for a quality bike at those places that don't. You'll usually be asked for a deposit of Rs 5000, either in cash or by taking an imprint of your credit card. Most bikes are in reasonable condition, but be sure to check the brakes, gears and saddle (some are mighty uncomfortable) before riding off into the blue beyond. The bike should have a lock; use it, especially if you leave your bike at the beach or outside shops.
Various private operators offer cruises to offshore islands, or snorkelling and fishing excursions. Most commonly this is aboard a catamaran, but speedboat excursions are also possible. For the former check out www.catamarancruisesmauritius.com.
Otherwise two boats, the M/V Anna and the M/S Mauritius Trochetia, have two to four monthly passenger services in both directions between Port Louis (Mauritius) and Port Mathurin (Rodrigues). The journey takes close to 36 hours. On board you'll find four classes ranging from 2nd class up to deluxe cabins.
Services are operated by the Mauritius Shipping Corporation.
Bus travel is cheap and fun – you'll usually find yourself chatting to gregarious locals – and though some drivers go a little fast, it's generally a fairly easy and reliable way to get around. There is no countrywide bus service. Instead there are several large regional bus companies and scores of individual operators.
The buses are almost always packed, especially on the main routes, but turnover is quick at all the stops. If you start the trip standing, you're likely to end up sitting.
Be warned that you could have problems taking large bags or backpacks on a bus. If it takes up a seat, you will probably have to pay for that extra seat. A few travellers have even been refused entry to a full bus if they have a large bag, though this is rare.
It's best to stick to express buses whenever possible, as standard buses seem to stop every few metres and can take up to twice as long to reach the same destination. It takes approximately an hour by standard services from Mahébourg to Curepipe, an hour from Curepipe to Port Louis, and an hour from Port Louis to Grand Baie.
The buses are single-deck vehicles bearing dynamic names such as 'Road Warrior', 'Bad Boys' and 'The Street Ruler'. Thus encouraged, it's perhaps not surprising that some drivers harbour Formula 1 racing fantasies; fortunately the frequent stops slow things down a touch. Though the buses are in varying states of disrepair, the fleet is gradually being upgraded.
There are no published timetables. Locals are the best source of information and can help you work out the best way to get from A to B.
Long-distance buses run from around 6am to 6.30pm, though there is a late service between Port Louis and Curepipe until 11pm. Generally there are buses every 15 minutes or so on the major routes, with less frequent express services. Buses in country areas can be few and far between.
Fares range from Rs 15 for a short trip to a maximum of Rs 40 for the run from Port Louis to Mahébourg. Air-conditioned express buses may cost a couple of rupees extra. Tickets are available from the conductor or porter (the conductor's 'assistant'); keep some small change handy. Retain your tickets, as inspectors often board to check them, and press the buzzer when you want to get off.
Reservations are not possible.
Car & Motorcycle
By far the easiest and quickest way to get around Mauritius and Rodrigues is to hire a car. Prices aren't as low as they could be, considering the numbers of visitors who rent vehicles, but you should be able to negotiate a discount if you're renting for a week or more.
Road Conditions & Hazards
Most roads are in reasonable condition, though be wary of potholes and poorly signed speed humps on minor or residential roads. The main concern for first-time drivers is that, apart from the motorway that links the airport with Grand Baie (albeit with roundabouts), many roads can be quite narrow – fine under normal conditions, but slightly trickier when buses, trucks and meandering cyclists are factored in. The only solution is to err on the side of caution and remain vigilant. Also watch out for other vehicles overtaking when it's not entirely safe to do so.
Even on the motorway you'll find people wandering across the roads and a generally relaxed attitude. As in most places the greatest danger comes from other drivers, not the roads. Mauritian drivers tend to have little consideration for each other, let alone for motorbikes. Buses are notorious for overtaking and then pulling in immediately ahead of other vehicles to pick up or drop off passengers; always use extra caution when a bus comes into sight. At night be aware that you'll face an assault course of ill-lit oncoming vehicles, totally unlit bikes and weaving pedestrians. If you sense that you've hit something while driving at night, proceed to the nearest police station. Motorcyclists should also be prepared for the elements, as sudden showers can come out of skies that were clear a second earlier.
To rent a car drivers must usually be over the age of 23 (some companies only require a minimum age of 21) and have held a driving licence for at least one year. Payment is generally made in advance. You can pay by credit card (Visa and MasterCard are the most widely accepted), though small companies might add a 3% 'processing fee' for this service. All foreigners are technically required to have an International Driving Licence. Few rental agencies enforce this, but it's safest to carry one as police can demand to see it.
Rates for the smallest hatchback start at around Rs 1000 a day (including insurance and unlimited mileage) with one of the local operators. Expect rates to start at Rs 1200 and beyond when using an international chain, though daily prices can even start as high as Rs 1600. On top of that you will be required to pay a refundable deposit, usually Rs 15,000; most companies will take an imprint of your credit card to cover this. Policies usually specify that drivers are liable for the first Rs 15,000 of damage in the event of an accident, but more comprehensive insurance is sometimes available for an extra cost.
Although there are dozens of operators on the island, it's best to book ahead during the high-season months (the European winter holidays). The following car-hire companies either have airport desks or can deliver to the airport.
Renting in Rodrigues
Although there are some formal car-rental options in Rodrigues, it will likely be a more informal process if you arrange a vehicle through your guesthouse. That can mean that someone turns up at the airport when you arrive and hands you the keys to a large pick-up. Then away you go, dropping the person off at a spot of their choosing somewhere along the way. While this may be an endearingly Rodriguan way of doing things, it's worth remembering that you may not be insured in the case of an accident – insist on insurance or go with someone else who will provide it.
There are only a few places where you can hire motorbikes, which is a shame as this is a great way to explore the quiet coastal roads, especially in traffic-free Rodrigues. While you'll occasionally find a 125cc bike, most are 100cc or under; the smaller models are referred to as scooters.
Expect to pay upwards of Rs 500 per day (Rs 600 in Rodrigues). As with car hire, payment is requested in advance, along with a deposit of Rs 5000 or so.
Towns offering motorcycle hire include Grand Baie, Flic en Flac, Mahébourg and Port Mathurin. Your best bet is to ask around your hotel. You should be aware that most motorcycle hire is 'unofficial', so you may not be covered by insurance in event of a collision.
Parking is free and not a problem in most of Mauritius, though it's best not to leave your car in an isolated spot.
City parking, however, requires payment. There are supervised car parks in Port Louis, but elsewhere you'll have to park on the street, which in a handful of towns involves buying parking coupons – ask a local if you're not sure. Coupons are available from petrol stations and cost from Rs 50 for 10, with each coupon valid for 30 minutes. The same coupons can be used all over the island. Street parking is generally free at night and on weekends – the exact hours, which vary from one town to another, are indicated on signposts.
Local motorists seem to think they'll save battery power by not switching on their headlights, and the police are better at people control than traffic control. Traffic congestion can be heavy in Port Louis and, to a lesser extent, Grand Baie.
There are many pedestrian zebra crossings, but cross with care. If you cross expecting courtesy or that drivers will be worried about insurance, you'll get knocked over.
Driving is on the left and the speed limit varies from 30km/h in town centres to 110km/h on the motorway – speed limits are usually marked. Even so, not many people stick to these limits and the island has its fair share of accidents (and speed cameras). Remember also that the motorway has a series of roundabouts – bearing down on them at 110km/h is a dangerous pastime best avoided.
Drivers and passengers are required to wear seat belts. For lack of sufficient breathalysers, the alcohol limit (legally 0.5g/L) is defined by the police as one glass of beer.
Hitching is never entirely safe in any country in the world, and we don't recommend it. Travellers who decide to hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk. People who choose to hitch will be safer if they travel in pairs and let someone know where they are planning to go.
If you do decide to hitch in Mauritius, getting a lift is subject to pretty much the same quirks of luck and fate that you experience hitching anywhere. The only place where it really does come in handy is Rodrigues. Since few people there own cars, hitching is a popular way to get around, especially on Sunday, when buses are few and far between. If you're driving in Rodrigues you'll make friends by offering lifts to locals, who'll try to flag you down almost anywhere. Obviously proceed with caution and don't offer lifts to groups if you're alone.
It's sometimes possible to imagine that every adult male in Mauritius is a taxi driver. Drivers will often shout out at travellers they see wandering around Port Louis, Flic en Flac or Grand Baie, while ranks outside hotels are usually overflowing. Negotiation is key: meters are rarely used and you'll usually be ripped off if you get into a taxi without agreeing on a price first. During the journey most drivers will tout for future business; if you aren't careful, you may find that you've agreed to an all-day island tour. If you aren't interested make this very clear, as many drivers won't take a half-hearted no for an answer.
Many guesthouse managers/owners have attempted to mitigate their guests' frustration with rip-offs by arranging prices with local taxi drivers. The quotes given under such arrangements, particularly those from small guesthouses, are often acceptable; they can usually arrange competitively priced airport pick-ups as well. Once you've got a feel for the rates, you can venture into independent bargaining. You'll find that prices are fairly standard – you may be able to knock off Rs 100 or Rs 200 here and there, though don't be crestfallen if you can't whittle the driver down to the exact price you're expecting (after all, they've had more practice at this taxi game than you!).
Taxis charge slightly more at night and the cheeky drivers may ask for an extra fee if you want the comfort of air-con. It's also worth remembering that some taxis charge around Rs 1 per minute waiting time. It seems minimal, but it adds up if you stop for lunch or do some sightseeing on foot. Your best bet is to negotiate a set fare with the driver that includes waiting time.
There's a taxi desk at the airport with set prices to just about anywhere on the island.
For around Rs 2000 to Rs 2500 you can hire a taxi for a full-day tour along one or two coasts of the island. You can cut costs by forming a group – the price should not be calculated per person. Once you've agreed on a price and itinerary, it helps to get the details down in writing. Although most drivers can speak both French and English, double-check before setting off to ensure you won't face a day-long communication barrier. If you're lucky you'll get an excellent and informative guide, but note that most drivers work on a commission basis with particular restaurants, shops and sights. If you want to go to the restaurant of your choice, you may have to insist on it. Small guesthouses can usually recommend a reliable driver.
There are no train services in Mauritius.