General Information about Mauritius
Mauritius is the ultime holiday destination! Tropical weather, beautiful beaches and a nature asking to be discovered. In this post I share useful information about Mauritius, key facts about the island and a few helpful travel tips. Everything to help you plan a great time!
Location and Climate
Mauritius is made up of several islands: the main island Mauritius, Rodrigues and the outer islands (Agalega, St. Brandon and a number of smaller islands).
Mauritius is a small island located in Africa in the south western part of the Indian Ocean – about 850km east of Madagascar. The closest neighbours are: La Réunion (50min flight) and Madagascar (1h45min) to the west and the Seychelles (2h30min flight) to the north. Mauritius is located just north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
The island is 65km long and 48km at the widest point. Mauritius has 350km of coastline, almost entirely protected by a coral reef – this gives the island the beautiful blue lagoon and white sandy beaches. It also has a lot of mountains – not very high though, as the Piton de Petite Rivière Noire in the south culminates at 826m, followed by Pieter Both at 823 meters and Le Pouce at 812m – both being in the Moka range in the centre of Mauritius.
Related article: Hiking Le Pouce with my new camera
The capital of the island, and the most populated city is Port Louis, located on the north western coast of Mauritius. It is said that Mauritius is the most densely populated country in Africa – I can’t say that you feel that when you are on holidays, except if you get stuck in traffic I suppose.
Because of the geographical location of the island we have a tropical climate with two seasons: a wet and hot (the summer, from November to April) and a cool and dry (the winter, from May to October). Having said that it rains all year round and you can still have temperature well up in the late 20s during sunshine days during the winter. The humidity is the big game changer here. Generally speaking this is how it is:
- The island’s climate can be affected by cyclone activity during the summer months (mostly from December to February) – it has been many years since one actually hit the island.
- The coast and Port Louis have the highest temperature all year around
- The cities in the centre of the island, for example Curepipe or Vacoas have the lowest temperature, year around and also the most rain.
- Temperatures do generally not exceed 34 degrees and the lowest night time temp in the centre can be 10-12 (not something I have ever tried).
- Popular weather beliefs: The south-west coast is the driest, the sun always shines in the north. The east coast is the windiest and it always rains in the centre. It’s more or less true of course!
Related article: Top Things to know about cyclones in Mauritius
Spoken languages in Mauritius
Very often I am asked if you need to learn French to come to Mauritius. The very easy answer is no! Mauritius is completely bilingual (well trilingual actually) with French, English and Creole.
- French is spoken by nearly the whole local population.
- English is less used on daily basis, but it is very rare to meet someone who does not speak it.
- Creole is the local language – close to French.
- Because of the all the different origins of the population other languages can be heard: Hindi, Urdu and Bhojpuri but also Cantonese and other Chinese dialects – though sadly not that much anymore.
Related article: You might also want to read my post about the 50th Independence celebrations we had this year in Mauritius. Happy Anniversary Mauritius: 50 years of Independence – I write a bit about the history of the island.
Currency in Mauritius: the Mauritian Rupee
No need to bring Rupees with you when you come to Mauritius: you can either withdraw at ATMs or exchange currency (though the places to actually change money can be a little hard to find outside cities and often busy as people use them to send money abroad). Credit cards are widely accepted, but I would not recommend to pay in other cash currencies in shops or to change money at your hotel – both would be a rip off with the exchange rate.
The Mauritian Rupee is a fairly stable currency.
At today’s rate (beginning April 2018) – US$1 = Rs33.6 or €1 =Rs41.3
I always use xe.com when I travel to convert so I know how much things cost. It is super easy app to use, available both on IOS and Android.
Other important things: you can claim VAT back on some of your purchases at the airport, you will of course need your passport to do that when you make the purchase.
Public Transport in Mauritius
I have written a more in depth post about transportation in Mauritius but here are a few quick facts:
- Driving is on the left (one of the things left over by the British) – the traffic code follows normal international standards (you can always question how much people actually know though). Maximum speed is 110km on motorways, 80km on larger roads and 60km. You have to wear seatbelts and kids under 10 are not allowed on front seat. Smoking is prohibited if the driver is not alone and no mobile phones when driving.
- Taxis are easy to find (no meter taxis in Mauritius, so don’t forget to ask how much it will be before accepting the ride).
- Car rentals are available on the island – easy to get at the airport and to be organised by the hotel/villa where you stay. Make sure insurances are in order – as in full cover not only third party.
- Buses are easy to find in cities, a bit more difficult in rural areas. – they run from 5:30am to 8pm in urban areas, they stop at 6:30pm in other places. It’s very cheap to take the bus – you pay on the bus directly, maximum fare for a ride is Rs37.
- Petrol stations close at 9pm – except a few that are open 24h. Prices are set by the government so the same everywhere (Rs47.3/litre in April 2018). A few scams when you tank up here, so make sure that the fuel dispenser is at 0 when they start! Mauritius is one of the countries where you don’t need to fill up by yourself.
An important point of course wherever you travel in the world today. To start with I will say that I have never felt unsafe in Mauritius. However here are a few rules to follow to stay safe:
- Don’t walk around by yourself at night (there isn’t much to do anyways).
- You do not need to have large sums of money on you, and leave the expensive jewellery in the safety deposit box at the hotel!
- If you prefer to have an ID with you, a photocopy is fine – leave the original one with the jewellery and the money. That’s what everybody does here.
- Emergency numbers are 999 from a landline and 112 from your cell phone. Firefighter are on the 115, emergency services (SAMU) 114.
- There are private clinics on the island, but all the larger hotels have a nurse 24/7 and a doctor on call. Public hospitals offer free-for-all services for Mauritians – but the standards are not great – at least not what I have seen.
- There are generally speaking no naughty mosquitos on the island: dengue and chikungunya are usually imported cases and the government takes them very seriously. Small out-breaks have happened in the past and can happen again (2005, 2006, 2009). Malaria does not exist in Mauritius. We do not have any poisonous snakes or spiders. The only thing you should really look out for are stonefish, stingrays and jellyfish outbreaks when the temperature of the water within the lagoon gets higher than normal. This is my experience with wildlife in Mauritius – and I am not a health professional. I have read somewhere that crocodiles are a hazard – as far as I know the only crocodiles we have in Mauritius, are those at the Crocodile Park! Bring your own mosquito repellent – specially if you are looking for a not so toxic option – though there are a few health shops now that could provide natural mosquito repellent.
- The sun: be careful, it really burns in Mauritius, even when staying in the shade. Sun screen is a must – while the UV index in Northern Europe for exemple rarely exceeds 8 – here it goes to 14 for many hours of the day. Apply sunscreen before going out in the morning so it has time to protect you – not once you already are in the sun and reapply as needed through out the day.
- Water: drink a lot of it – you will find yourself getting dehydrated fast – specially when it is very humid. Do not drink the water from the tap. Coconut water is also great.
- Mauritius is street food paradise – some hawkers are cleaner than others – so go where there is a queue and choose cooked items; chilli paste, raw satini (salsas), pickled fruits and veg are super yummy but the storage could be a problem for your tummy – always wash the fruits.
Other facts about Mauritius and helpful travel tips
- Mauritius is a very religious country: temples, churches, pagodas and mosques can be found everywhere.
- Always wear appropriate clothing when visiting.
- Remove your shoes to enter a temple or a mosque (though mosques can be more difficult – I have never visited one in Mauritius so don’t really know about it) – Kiddos 1 has visited the biggest one in Port Louis with school though, so it possible.
- Mauritius is a very traditional and somehow conservative country: no nudity, do not talk about sex, pornography is illegal.
- Most common electrical socket is the 3-pin one (UK) – but hotels usually have the European one as well. Rated voltage is 220 to 240 volts.
- Mauritius time zone is MUT: GMT+4 and does not have time saving – they have tried a couple of times, but the local population doesn’t see the point – so every time they cancel it again.
- International calling code for Mauritius is +230.
- There are 2 mobile phone operators: my.t and emtel. It’s been a long time but I think the sim card costs Rs100 and then you can recharge daily (Rs8.69), weekly (Rs42.61 or Rs86.09), monthly. You just need to go to one of their shops and bring your passport. You will find the shops in any of the larger shopping malls or ask the hotel/villa where you are staying where is the closest retailer. To top up who can buy scratch cards in practically any supermarket/little shop. I use my.t – the coverage is pretty good.
There you are: all my best travel tips for Mauritius! I think I have pretty much covered anything I would want to know before going to a new country. If there is a question you have I have not answered please do not hesitate to comment below or send me a mail (contact) and I will get back to you (and update my list!).