Mauritius travel guide
A tropical island that's dubbed the jewel of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius balances between the developed and developing world, the hasty and the laid-back. It is an island that has been colonised over history by the Arab, Chinese, Dutch, French and English, all of which have left their mark on the people, resulting in a melting pot of culture, cuisine, and lifestyle. It is arguably one of the most colour-blind and integrated countries in the world, as people from all races and religions live comfortably together with little fear of prejudice or intimidation.
Since gaining independence as a republic in the 20th Century, Mauritius has become one of Africa's most prosperous nations, with exports ranging from sugar cane to designer clothes. It is a popular honeymoon destination, as well as being family-friendly and catering to the watersports enthusiast. Shoppers can pick up discounted items by Ralph Lauren, wander through the bustling Port Louis markets, or explore the boutiques of Grand Baie, Flic en Flacq and Happy House. The island is a site of natural beauty, with highlights including Pamplemousses (The Grapefruit Garden), Alexandra Falls, and the 7-colour sand mountains, which provide Mauritius's most popular souvenir. Animals can be stroked and observed at the Crocodile Park towards the south of the island, and Caudan has much to offer in the way of nightlife. There is also much to explore on the three dependencies of Mauritius – Rodrigues, Agalega Islands, and Caragados Carajos Sholas.
The two main factors in planning a trip to Mauritius are air fare and weather. Flights are significantly more expensive during school holidays, and July to August can see temperatures fall to as little as 15c, which can seem a lot cooler in the south, where wind and altitude affect the environment. October and November are more reliable, as air fares drop and the weather becomes more stable.
As Mauritius is in the Southern Hemisphere, its summers are November-February with temperatures reaching the mid-30s, and its winters June-August. The island suffers from having a microclimate; conditions can vary dramatically from Grand Baie to Chemin Grenier, and Port Louis is always more humid than the suburbs. The country is also prone to hurricanes (cyclones) which hit between December and March.
For the latest weather info use the Pampo weather forecast tool.
Provided there is proof of return travel, travellers from Europe, the US, and Australia do not need a visa. Entry cards will need to be completed on the plane, stating where you will be staying and for how long. Mauritius is generally malaria-free, so if coming from a country where malaria is an endemic, there may need to be a blood test.
Mauritian food is a blend of Indian, Chinese, Creole and European. It is not uncommon to see a mixture of all foods on the same plate in most households. A few of the most popular dishes are:
Dholl Pourri – A wrap made out of ground lentil flour. Often filled with a spicy tomato salsa, or even meats. These can be bought from carts around towns and cities
Rougaille – A tomato-based dish made with herbs, garlic and ginger, and onions. This dish can come in many forms, and is equally tasty as chicken, salmon, or even tofu rougaille. Usually only served in restaurants and in the home.
Fried rice and noodles – seasoned slightly differently to the Chinese way, these meals are popular and cheap, often found in food courts and small town-centre cafes.
Biryani – A muslim dish consisting of meat mixed with rice and spiced vegetables.
Gateaux piment – literally “chilli cakes”, these are fried, savoury snacks, which can be bought very cheaply on the streets.
Confit – pickled tropical fruit served by piece, again available from street vendors or ice cream-style vans.
Stemming from its cane sugar tradition, Mauritius is famous for its rum. It is sold quite cheaply, and drunk neat, or with cola, coconut water, or lime. Vintage rums (5 years+) are also available, and worth the find.
It may be cheaper to buy your drinks at local supermarkets than at bars or hotels, where drinks are inflated. Local dive bars are worth a visit, however. They are relaxed, and often play no music, but are good settings for those who want to play the flaneur.
Mauritius also produces a lot of beer, the most famous of which is Phoenix. A bottle costs around 30 rupees and is popular among locals.
Rums and other spirits can be tasted at the Medine Estate Refinery.
The currency in Mauritius is the Mauritian Rupee. Denominations for coins are 5c, 10c, 20c, 25c, and 50c. Denominations for banknotes are Rs5, Rs10, Rs50, Rs100, Rs200, Rs500 and Rs1,000. ATMs are available at banks, and there are branches of Barclays and HSBC around the urban areas. Credit cards are not widely used, except in hotels and some restaurants.
Mauritius only has one International Airport, the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (MRU). Most Asian airlines serve the airport, as well as British Airways, Air France, and Virgin.
There are also several sea routes from Rodrigues and Madagascar.
Even though the official language of Mauritius is English, most people speak French or Mauritian Creole
Mauritius is the only known home of the flightless Dodo bird
Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, the 2008 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, is of Franco-Mauritian Origin, and lives in Mauritius for part of the year.
New Year is celebrated more than any religious festival in Mauritius
Mauritius was the 5th place in the world to issue postage stamps