Is it possible that paradise has been sitting beneath our nose this entire time? How can there exist an island of luxury, exotic animals, breathtaking lagoons and the finest in French cuisine, and the world has yet to hear about it? The more astounding fact may be where this place exists – off the coast of Africa.
Where were you guessing this haven is hiding? Perhaps the Mediterranean or Caribbean? This small nation is actually 1,242 miles east of the African continent and has inconspicuously been offering the best in beaches and blue seas to travelers for years. Beyond the coast and lapping waters of the Indian Ocean, is what makes Mauritius truly unique. Mountains rise from the center of the island like a beacon, lagoons invite you to snorkel and swim and a melting pot of people and cultures welcome you in like family. If you’ve been intimidated by Africa and the mysteries of Mauritius, here is everything you need to know.
As the home of the wealthiest city in all of Africa, Mauritius tends to draw an equally affluent crowd to its swanky resorts. Paradise comes at a price and the thing you have to prepare yourself most for in Mauritius is sticker shock. This island destination has long been marketed to the high-end traveler, but for most it’s an experience that matches the value. If you stay within the resorts, expect prices to be marked up. Outside those walls, though, costs are comparable to home and a bargain or two can even be found.
You’ll exchange the dollar for the Mauritian Rupee. Your best bet is to change currency first thing at the airport, but banks are plentiful and major credit cards are accepted throughout the island. Once you’re ready to spend, you’ll find the best deals on clothes in the Central Plateau towns of Quatre Bornes and Curepipe thanks to a burgeoning textile industry.
When it comes to spreading the wealth, a 15 percent value added tax is placed on restaurant bills, goods and services so there is no obligation to tip. Wages for these service industry positions are quite low though, so if you have it in your heart and wallet, leave a little extra in the form of gratuities when you’ve received a wonderful experience.
Mauritius is more like a trendy fusion restaurant than country, blending the best of Creole, Chinese, European and Indian flavors, foods, customs and cultures. In this multicultural country Muslims, Christians and Hindus live in harmony and visitors should respect this balance of peace so many other countries have tried and failed to achieve. While the resorts are geared toward you, the traveler, the meld of traditions shines in the cities.
There is no official religion in Mauritius, it’s a haven of free practice for all with an expectation of tolerance from everyone. Temples, churches and mosques dot the landscape and you’re welcomed to discover them for yourself. Dress appropriately and conservatively if you’ll be entering a place of worship and remove shoes before stepping into temples, shrines and mosques. If you’re unsure of proper protocol, read up on these tips about How Not to Get Kicked Out of a Sacred Site.
Since earning independence in 1968, Mauritius has never had an uprising of any kind or a coup. The government of Mauritius is that of a parliamentary republic, and a stable one at that. Travelers should maintain usual safety precautions, avoiding walking alone at night, steering away from street demonstrations and ensuring equipment operators have proper licenses before engaging in water sports activities. If something unfortunate does befell you, the local equivalent to the “911” emergency line is 999 for police, 114 for medical assistance and 115 for fire service on the island of Mauritius. Whenever you are visiting abroad, you should also register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
, a free service that keeps you up to date with pertinent safety and security announcements.
The cuisine is where Mauritius’ backgrounds shine, the different flavors in merging at one meal. The French ruled the island from 1710 to 1810, so many staples like bouillon and coq au vin have become popular mainstays.
Indian workers whom migrated to the island brought with them touches of home and tastes of curries, chutney and rougaille. The arrival of the Chinese at the end of the 19th century meant a surge in rice, noodles, steamed broth and crispy chicken. Come hungry because the dinner table is where Mauritius’ multiple influences are at their most evident (and delicious).
Drink | Thanks to an abundance of sugarcane, rum is very cheap. If you don’t want to survive on simply daiquiris and mojitos, though, there are other options. Tea is grown locally on the island at plantations. See the process from beginning to end, wandering through the tea gardens, watch the tea leaves be harvested by hand and tour one of the processing factories.
Most tours end with a pleasant cup of jasmine- and vanilla-instilled teas with views of the coast and mountains. If you need a hydrating glass of H2O, though, take caution. You should not drink local water unless boiled first. Stay safe and purchase the bottled version instead.
ShutterstockGetting Around |
Not too many restrictions will keep you from entering Mauritius, but you’ll need a passport valid for at least six months to gain admittance. While it measures just a mere 40 miles by 28 miles, you’ll want to get going right away. There’s a ton to see between beaches, volcanoes, mountains and two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
You’ll arrive at the airport in the southeast, with something to see in every direction. The capital city of Port Louis is on the northwestern coast along with the touristy area of Grand Bay. The best beaches follow the west coast down to the volcanic mass of Le Morne at the southwestern end.
Your resort stay will likely be mid-east, while a plateau rises in the center. Your resort will send a shuttle to pick you up from the airport. Past that you can organize taxi tours of the island (once you find a good taxi driver, keep them for the rest of your trip), buses can transport you along the coast and to the capital or you can rent a car. Just make sure you drive on the left!
Intrigued? Here’s everything you need for your Mauritius Travel Planning Page.
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