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Travel Facts

Location

Mauritius is a volcanic tropical island in the South-Western quadrant of the Indian Ocean, 855 km East of Madagascar and nearly 4,000 km South-West of India, covering an area of 2,040 square kilometres. Mauritius also claims sovereignty over its sister islands of Rodrigues, Agaléga, St. Brandon, and Tromelin.
Other islands nearby include La Réunion, Rodrigues, Seychelles and Madagascar
Mauritius is divided into nine districts, the capital, the coastal city of Port Louis, the central plateau of Plaines Wilhems and Moka and the surrounding coastal districts of Flacq and Grand Port in the East, Pamplemousses and Rivière du Rempart in the North, and Rivière Noire, and Savanne to the West.

Immigration

Visas: Visas are not required for European tourists (maximum stay up to 6 months). Passports are required and must be valid a minimum of 6 months after date of entry.
For the latest information please check the government website:
http://passport.govmu.org

Climate/Weather

Tropical.

Seasons: 2 seasons, rainy and dry. February and March tend to be the rainiest months and, in combination with the hot weather, quite humid.

Temperature: Variable, between May and September 20 – 28 degrees Celsius and between October and April 25 – 35 degrees Celsius. Humidity is generally ranked between 70% and 80%.

Mauritius offers an attractive climate, practically 360 days a year, for a people planning their vacation here. As in all tropical regions there are two seasons and since this is the Southern Hemisphere, they are reversed. This means that summertime in Mauritius reaches its peak around Christmas.

Winter: between May and September with about 20 degrees Celsius at night, and 28 or more during the day.

Summer: between November and April with about 23 degrees Celsius at night, 30 or more during the day.

Cyclone season in the Southern Hemisphere is between mid December and mid April, which you should be aware of as a vacation can be affected for several days. On the other hand it can be an adventurous experience swimming or taking a walk in a class 1 or 2 cyclone!

The island’s micro-climate*, means no matter what the season, you can decide which part of the island you would like to stay at depending on your preferences i.e. Families with children or elderly people who wish to visit Mauritius in the peak summer season, but do not like it too hot and humid, can choose the East or South coast. Whereas, those who prefer a hotter climate would then choose the North or West coast!

* (1) The local climate conditions are brought about by the modification of general climatic conditions by local differences in elevation and exposure. The detailed climate of a very small area of the earth’s surface.
   (2) Also, the localised climate conditions within an urban area or neighbourhood.

Currency/Money

Most currency can be exchanged at banks or currency exchange companies.
The Mauritius Rupee is the national currency. However, Euros, US Dollars, and Pound Sterling are accepted by some vendors and shops (though the exchange rate will be lower).
International Credit Cards i.e. Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted by tourist shops and restaurants.

Accommodation

Accommodation is ranked from 1 to 5 stars and ranges from resorts to hotels, catamarans, beach houses, apartments, and chalets to name a few.

Language

English is taught in schools and represents the main government language. French and Creole, however, are most widely spoken. Other languages are Hindi, Urdu and Cantonese.

Some handy Creole phrases for travellers to know include:

Hello: Pronounced “Bonzur”
Good Bye: You can say ‘Bye’ or “Orevwar”
How are you?: Pronounced “ Ki manyèr?”
Thank you: Pronounced “Mersi”
How much: Pronounced “Kombien?”
Yes: Pronounce “Wi”
No: Pronounced “Noh”
I do not understand: Pronounced “Mo pa kompran”
Excuse me: Pronounced “Exkize moi”
Do you speak English?: Pronounced “To koz Anglay?”

People

More than half the population of Mauritius originates from indentured labourers, brought in from India by the British, to work in the sugarcane fields. Some of the resident Sino-Mauritians were also brought in as labourers, but most of them came to Mauritius as entrepreneurs, and many still control the lion's share of village-based commerce. The remaining population mainly consists of Creoles, descendants of African slaves. The whites or Franco-Mauritians, the original settlers of the island, represent a minority.

One of many highlights during a visit to Mauritius is certainly the experience of its magnificent culinary diversity. The main cuisines are Creole, European, Chinese and Indian, with seafood often served as a speciality on the side. Common dishes include a variety of ‘kari’ (curry), ‘rougaille’ (tomatoes, onions, garlic  with any kind of meat or fish) and ‘la daube’, a local stew. Favourite local beverages include lassi, a refreshing yoghurt and ice-water drink, and alouda, a syrupy brew of agar, milk and flavourings which are sold by local vendors everywhere.

Important Dates

With its host of cultures and multinational residents, it comes as no surprise that Mauritius celebrates an equally high number of holidays and special events.

Tamils celebrate Thaipoosam Cavadee in January or February with long processions throughout the island. Around the same time, the end of the harvest season is marked by feeding rice pudding to decorated cows in the festival of Pongal.

Tamil fire-walking ceremonies take place throughout the year.

The abolition of Slavery is a celebration of joy as well as sadness by the Creole people.

The Chinese Spring Festival is celebrated generally in February with the standard barrage of fireworks and foodstuffs.

Maha Shivaratree lasts 3 days at the end of February and into March. It is the largest and most important Hindu festival outside of India. Most of the island's Hindus embark on a pilgrimage to the holy volcanic crater lake Grand Bassin, to make offerings of food and flowers and stockpile vessels of the holy water.

Independence/Republic Day is celebrated on the 12 March.

The Muslim Eid-ul-Fitr feast occurs after the fasting month Ramadan, currently in July.

Père Laval Day in September marks the anniversary of the Catholic doctor and healers’ death. Mauritian expatriates from all over the world gather at his shrine in Ste-Croix to pray.

The Hindu festival of light, Divali marks the end of the year and usually occurs shortly before Christmas.

Activities

There are almost unlimited activities to choose from. Embrace sports like deep-sea fishing, sailing, surfing, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, and sea kayaking; or enjoy wellness treatments in spas or clinics; or experience cultural events like the Chinese Spring Festival; or visit one of the many historical and scenic sites. A car or 4x4 as well as scooter and bicycle rentals will enable you to access the various sites.

Diving: A world-renowned diving spot, the island hosts a large number of diving schools which offer CMAS and PADI courses of all degrees. It is recommended that experienced divers visit neighbouring Rodrigues.

Do not miss the opportunity for dolphin watching in their natural habitat off the West Coast (Tamarin) of Mauritius. Some tour operators offer this activity sustainably ensuring that travellers consider and respect the well-being of the dolphins.

Entertainment

Most hotels offer daily live entertainment and tourism hubs like Grand Bay and Flic-en-Flac offer a great nightlife with bars, restaurants and nightclubs open till late. Tourists can usually experience cultural events as they generally occur throughout the year.

Health and Safety

Malaria has been exterminated on the island, no vaccinations are necessary, but it is always prudent to use anti-mosquito protection, and do not forget the sunscreen! It is also advisable to drink bottled water.

Mauritius can be as dangerous or as safe as any other holiday destination.

Travelling: Wherever, you are travelling it is wise to take precautions against theft. Never leave luggage unattended at airports or even at hotels. Do not put any valuables in luggage to be checked-in on airlines.

When moving around the island, do not leave valuables in a vehicle or luggage visible in a car unless it is under constant supervision. It is better to leave valuables at home or use the hotel safe deposit boxes for passports, money and cameras and be careful with your bags. All hotels have security staff who are mainly a formality not a necessity. In general, people are friendly and helpful in Mauritius. However, we recommend that you do not walk or drive alone at night unless you know the area well. Leave enough time to arrive at your destination before dusk. These are no more than sensible precautions for travellers anywhere in the world.

Swimming in the sea: If you choose to swim, snorkel or dive, you must first check locally to ensure that the currents are safe and that there are no visible or unseen hazards. Always stay within your limits.

Wild animals: Mauritius is not considered a home for dangerous animals inland or in water. However, there are always some animals that can hurt humans if one is not careful. Follow the advice of your guides; keep a safe distance from monkeys; do not touch plants or animals. When going SCUBA diving “take only pictures and leave only bubbles”.

The Emergency Services phone numbers are:

  • Police 999
  • Fire 115
  • Ambulance / SAMU 114

During the cyclone season from December to April, you should be aware of the cyclone warning system that ranges from Class 1 to Class 4 depending on the probability of the storm affecting the country.

Class 1: issued 36 – 48 hours before Mauritius is likely to be affected by a depression or a cyclone.
Class 2: issued to allow 12 hours of daylight before the possibility of gusts of 120 km/h.
Class 3: issued to allow 6 hours of daylight before the occurrence of 120 km/h gusts.
Class 4: issued when gusts of 120 km/h have transpired and are expected to endure.
No more cyclone warnings: there is no longer any danger of gusts exceeding 120 km/h.

Precautions to take during a cyclone:

Class 1 or at the first announcement of a cyclone:

  • If you are out and about when a cyclone class 1 or 2 is issued, return home.
  • You can keep updated on the status of the storm by checking the Mauritius Meteorological Service website or by listening to the radio.
  • If you are staying in self-catering accommodation, bring anything inside that you can reasonably move and put your car in a garage if possible to protect it from falling objects.
  • If you are staying in self-catering accommodation, maintain a supply of candles, matches, batteries for a radio and flashlights, non-perishable foodstuffs, bottled water.
  • Boil and filter extra quantities of water in case of a power cut.

Class 2

  • Ensure all preparations have been completed.
  • Return home.

Class 3

  • Public transportation will not be available. Government offices and private companies will close.
  • Do not leave your accommodation, stay inside to avoid injuries caused by strong gusts of wind and flying objects.

Class 4

  • You should stay inside until all warnings have been cleared.
  • Drink boiled or bottled water as pipes may have been disturbed and water become contaminated.

Services and Utilities

The international dialling code for Mauritius is +230.

Mobile phone numbers are eight digits long and all begin with ‘5’. Landline numbers are seven digits long. The main companies offering mobile phone services in Mauritius are Mauritius Telecom, Emtel and MTML (Chili). Pay-as-you-go sim cards for all networks cost 100 MUR and come pre-loaded with credit. They all offer pay-as-you-go data or per-paid packages so you can go online if your phone is enabled.
Post offices are found in most towns and cities, open Monday to Saturday. Banks are open Monday to Friday only.
In Mauritius the voltage is 220V and they use English and French style plugs, so an adapter would be useful just in case.
Weights and measures: Metric plus old English and French

Shopping

Mauritius enjoys a reputation of being a "shopping paradise" with duty-free shops selling international as well as local brands, but beware of certain so called factory shops which sell fake brands at high prices with high commission paid to taxi drivers who take tourists there.

This does not mean that there are not attractive deals and quality products to be had, but local shops selling brand names at cheap prices are likely to be fake.

There are numerous shopping malls in Mauritius where you can purchase designer as well as local goods, most notably at Bagatelle in Moka on the central plateau, La Croissette in Grand Baie to the North, and Cascavelle in Flic en Flac in the West. You also won’t want to miss the Caudan Waterfront  Arts and Crafts Market. For factory shops and handicrafts like ship models, Floreal in the centre of the Island is the place to go. You will find a variety of shops in the various urban centres like Grand Bay, Port Louis, Quatre Bornes and Curepipe.

Common types of shopping items available:

Handicrafts: Ship models especially those of the 19th century: Basketwork in vacoas, aloe, vetiver, sugar cane leaves, raffia and bamboo; glass items from the glass gallery and silk painting.

Cuisine: Spices; pickled vegetables; and dried octopuses

Jewellery: Gold; silver; cut diamond jewellery (Duty Free). Some of which is 100% Mauritian handicraft.

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