Mark Twain said, “You gather the idea that Mauritius was made first and then heaven was copied after Mauritius.” The most famous of the Mascarene islands, Mauritius is an island of paradise. If you are fond of deep blue seas and sandy beaches, often after a while you wish for something more to do than swimming and sunbathing. At Mauritius, you wouldn’t be facing this problem. The city is loaded with historical sights, rich cultures, varied geographies and a plethora of activities for you to indulge in apart from the abundant beautiful beaches.Not to forget the hospitality of the warm and welcoming people of Mauritius.
While citizens of most of the countries do not require a visa or can obtain one on arrival, the citizens of the following countries must obtain a visa before arrival- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Laos, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Vietnam and Yemen. All visitors are required to hold proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay. A minimum of 100 USD per day is considered sufficient. Visitors are also required to have confirmed hotel reservation and return tickets on arrival. Due to Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa, nationals of Guinea, Liberia, Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone are refused entry even if they have a visa. Prior entry approval must be sought.
Mauritian Rupee (MUR) is the currency of the island. While you can purchase the currency before visiting the island, you will get a better exchange rate in Mauritius. Credit cards are accepted at most of the hotels, shops and restaurants. ATMs are found in abundance in most of the towns and tourist spots.
When to visit
Mauritius is just twenty degrees south of equator which promotes itself as year-round destination. However the peak season on the island extends from October to April when the weather is hot, humid and rainy and January to March when there is a slight risk of cyclones. November to April marks summer for the island and is the best time to visit Mauritius for Scuba diving and deep-sea fishing. Winter on the island is warm and dry and starts from May to October. This is the best season to go for surfing.The island has microclimate i.e. it might be raining where you are while sunny five minutes from there. Remember this while planning outdoor activities at Mauritius. The northern and western parts of the island are warmer and drier than the eastern and southern parts.
Arriving in Mauritius
Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport at Plaisance, south east region of the island is the airport for travellers coming from across the world. The arrivals go crazy in the morning when most of the flights arrive from Europe. Immigration officers are slow which makes the immigration process really frustrating. Visitors are required to share accommodation details on arrival. Mostly the hotels or resorts offer pick up services from the airport to the place of stay.
Dining in Mauritius
Mauritius is not only a paradise for your eyes but also for your palate. Famous cuisines on the island are from France, India, China and Africa. Mostly rice or a flat bread called chapattis is eaten with curries. Exotic spices like saffron, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, herbs like thyme, basil and curry leaves are commonly used in the preparation of the dishes. Rougaille, a tomato and onion based dish is the Mauritian version of the French dish ragout. Mauritians have a sweet tooth and you can find many French and Indian sweet dishes on the island. If you are looking for an adventurous lunch like a duck, deer or a wild boar curry, visit Domaine du Chasseur’s alfresco Panoramour Restaurant. The restaurant has a steep hike from the car parking area. The restaurant offers a free taxi service if you eat their overpriced meals. But if you just visit for a dessert or a coffee, you will have to pay 230 MUR per person for a 5 minute ride. Mauritius also has a wide variety of cane rum which is cheap and tastes great with cola and ice. Rum over ice and coconut water with a dash of lime are some more local drinks to try. The prices of liquor is cheaper at the supermarkets and local shops than at the hotel. Phoenix, local beer costs around 30 MUR. the local Black Eagle beer which is brewed in Nouvelle France is also a great refreshment in the heat.
Bus and taxi services are available in urban areas. Motorbikes and bicycles are also available for rent on the island. By Plane- Air Mauritius has daily flights connecting Plaisance Airport and Rodrigues. By Helicopter- Helicopter service is available for sightseeing tours and transfers. Air Mauritius Helicopter hourly sightseeing trip costs 850 USD. By Car- A major highway connects the north and south region of Mauritius and traffic drives on the left on the island. Prices for renting a car can start at 1000 MUR per day. Many local and international taxi service is available. To be fully insured, only hire cars from companies holding a tourism enterprise license. If you hire the car from the airport, you need to pay 20 MUR in cash for the parking. Foreign licenses are accepted on the island. By Bus- The island has fairly good bus service. It is also the most economical way of travelling. Few air-conditioned buses have also now been introduced. You can buy the tickets from the conductor after boarding the bus. Bus routes and full schedules are available at Mauritius Buses and Ministry of Transport websites. Carry change while using the buses. By Taxi- Metered taxi is the best way to go around the island. Various sightseeing tours via taxi can be booked and they normally start from 2500 MUR.
Time of Stay
If you are a sun lounger, one week on the island is enough. But if you want to indulge in water sports, go on catamaran trips, check out the islands delights, museums and surrounding islands then you should really book at least two weeks. There is so much to do in Mauritius that one week will just fly by.
North Region and Grand Baie
With the turquoise sea adjacent to the road, Grand Bair is Mauritius top destination. The village offers a wide variety of watersports including big game fishing, windsurfing, under sea walks, diving and snorkeling. The North region of Mauritius is known for being untouched by development and home to a number of white-sand beaches. Enjoy the local Mauritian culture at La Cuvette, Cap Malheureux and Pointe aux Cannoniers.
Southeast Region and Souillac
The region has now the most renowned hotels on the island. However the main attraction is the historical village of Mahebourg, which still bears witness to the French and Dutch culture, named after a French governor. If you are looking for a remote getaway, this is the place to be.
Southwest Region and Grand Bassin
A visit to Mauritius is incomplete without visiting the rugged and beautiful South West region of the island. You can explore on your own in a car or you can hire a taxi to show you around. Top sights not to be missed are the Grand Bassin or Ganga Taloa, which is a scared lake for the Hindus. Several temples dedicated to the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva, surround this crater lake. Do visit the seven-colored Chamarel which has sands in various shades of red, purple, brown and grey and has a waterfall nearby. Other beautiful attractions nearby are the volcanic mountain Le Morne at the Southwestern tip of the island, Alexandra Waterfall and Black River Gorges. Deer Crater or Trou aux Cerfs is an extinct volcano where people can go. If you want to explore the region in detail, stay at Lux Le Morne or the Heritage Le Telfair Resort & Spa for easier access to the region.
Port Louis is the capital city of Mauritius, which is mostly missed by tourists as they are picked up from the airport and taken directly to the seaside accomodations. However if possible, you should visit the capital to get a feel of the local Mauritian culture. You can start with a trip to La Citadelle or Fort Adelaide which is a British built Moorish style fort with amazing views of the city, a visit to the oldest horse-racing track at Champs Mars, built in 1812 and not to miss the ocean. The waterfront of Port Louis is a shopper’s paradise with over 150 retail outlets at Le Caudan. For history buff a simple troll through the old town’s 300-year-old streets is pure bliss.
The East Region
Beautiful lagoons, virgin beaches and green scenery is what encompasses the East region of Mauritius. Drive along the beautiful coast to explore the beauty of nature, lush green valleys, sugarcane fields, rocky mountains and beautiful cliffs. Places you can visit is Eureka House , Trou d’Eau Douce (a fascinating village) and Ylang Ylang Distillery. Centre de Flacq is one of the largest village of the island and is a lovely glimpse of the life of local Mauritians.
Most shops don’t entertain bargaining. However you can sometimes score up to 10- 20% discount. Unique designed jewelry, hand crafts such as artificial flowers, model boats and wooden art are few of the famous souvenirs from the island.
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