Monday to Thursday: 9.15 am -3.15 pm, Friday: 9.15 am -3.30 pm
Saturday: 9.15 am -11.15 am (Some banks only).
Banks are also open to coincide with the arrival and departure of international flights at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Airport.
Credit cards are normally accepted most hotels, restaurants and tourist shops.
From 26 October to 29 March GMT +5
From 30 March to 25 October GMT +4
Electricity: 230 volts, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs and round two-pin plugs are commonly used.
Money: The currency of Mauritius is the Mauritian Rupee (MUR), which is divided into 100 cents. Traveller’s cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and larger hotels. Cash is usually exchanged at a poorer rate than traveller’s cheques. ATMs are widely available in most towns and most hotels, restaurants and large retailers accept major credit cards.
Language: English is the official language of Mauritius, but the most widely used is French and the local dialect, Creole. Hindi, Urdu and Chinese are also spoken.
Driving: People in Mauritius drive on the left-hand side of the road and give way to the right. Foreigners holding a driving licence issued by a Competent Authority in their respective countries are allowed to drive during their stay in Mauritius.
Economy: The Mauritian economy is based on four sectors: Textile, Tourism, Sugar and Services.
Culture: The people of Mauritius are made up of a variety of cultures and religions, all coexisting harmoniously. The population consists of Hindus, Creole, Chinese, Muslims and Europeans. Half of the population in Mauritius is Hindu and approximately a fifth is Muslim. Both religions are descendent of indentured labourers that were brought during British Colony to work in cane fields. The remaining population comprises mainly Chinese and Sino – Mauritians, Creole (descendants of African slaves) and Franco Mauritian (the original settlers of the island). The latter today still occupy many of the sugar estate and control almost all sugar plantations.
The Traditional Dance: The Sega is a dance which originated from the ritual music of Madagascar and the mainland of Africa. Sega is one of the cultural pleasures to be enjoyed in Mauritius.
Cuisine: A holiday in Mauritius involves tasting the exotic flavours of its cuisine and culture. While Mauritius offers a wide variety of cuisine, the most common are Creole, Chinese, European and Indian. Typical Mauritian cuisine includes rougaille (a Mediterranean dish of tomatoes), Sounouk (Salted dry fish), Octopus stew, Daube de poisson and Biryani (Mauritian version). The favourite Mauritian beverages include Alooda (a syrupy brew of agar, milk and flavourings such as vanilla or Almond). You can also try the traditional snacks: Dholl puri, Gateaux piment, Samoussa and Baja.
Passport/Visa Note: Passports must be valid for six months after departure. All visitors must hold valid tickets and documents for an onward or return journey, adequate funds for the intended length of stay (minimum of US$100 per day), and confirmed booking for accommodation.
Health: No vaccination certificates are required for entry into Mauritius, unless travelling from a country infected by yellow fever or where yellow fever is classified as endemic. Stonefish stings are uncommon but can in some cases be fatal. You should obtain urgent medical attention if stung; many hotels stock anti-venom serum. Travellers should stick to bottled water. Medical facilities are good and free in public hospitals, but private clinics are expensive and medical insurance is recommended.
Nudism: Nudism and topless sunbathing are frowned upon. No hotel permits nude sunbathing on beaches. Topless sunbathing is sometimes tolerated.
Tipping: Tipping in Mauritius is entirely at the customer’s discretion. However, some extra money paid for services, such as a taxi ride, is appreciated. In the hotels and restaurants, if service has been good, travellers can add around 10% of their incidental expenses when paying the bill on departure. Government tax is added to all hotel and restaurant bills and this is included in the basic price. However, all incidental hotel expenses will incur a tax, which is generally included in the price quoted.
Safety: A visit to Mauritius is usually trouble free, however petty crime can be a problem and it is not wise to wander alone at night outside the grounds of hotels. Visitors should be aware of pick-pocketing in the central market in Port Louis. Care should be taken of bags and valuables when visiting popular tourist areas such as Péreybére, Grand Baie, Flic en Flac and Tamarin. There has been an increase in break-ins in self-catering accommodation and visitors are advised to only rent accommodation from registered proprietors.
Coming though Customs: Penalties for drug trafficking and use are severe, and any personal medicinal drugs should be covered by a prescription. Scheduled drugs, such as psychotropic preparations (e.g. tranquillisers, hypnotics), narcotics (e.g. morphine) and other strong painkillers require by law authorisation before import.
Travellers to Mauritius over 18 years do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250g tobacco; 1 litre spirits and 2 litres of wine, ale or beer; perfume and eau de toilette for personal use. Prohibited items include sugarcane and parts thereof, soil micro-organisms and invertebrate animals, and fresh fruit from parts of Asia. No dogs or cats from a 62-mile (100km) radius where rabies has occurred in the past 12 months are allowed into the country. Firearms and ammunition need import permits and must be declared on arrival.
Communications: The international access code for Mauritius is +230. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 00 27 for South Africa and 00 44 for the United Kingdom). Area codes are not required. The whole island is covered by the mobile network; the local mobile phone operators use GSM networks, which are compatible with most international operators. Handsets and SIM cards can be hired at the airport. Internet cafes are widely available.
Notable dates in the Mauritian Calendar
The people of Mauritius have several events which they celebrate each year. The island enjoys a blend of diverse cultures and religions, which the immigrant population brought from their ancestral countries. Their festivities are celebrated in a spirit of peace and harmony throughout the year. Here are some notable dates in the Mauritian calendar.
Maha Shivatree: Is Celebrated in honour of Lord Siva (February). Following an all night vigil, Hindu devotees, clad in white, carry the “Kan – war” – wooden arches covered with flowers -in pilgrimage to Grand Bassin, to fetch holy water from the lake. The whole scene is reminiscent of the great rituals on the banks of the Holy Ganges in India.
Eid-Ul-Fitr: Is celebrated to mark the end of Ramadan, The Muslim holy month of fasting. Prayers are offered at mosques during the day.
Father Pere Laval: In September people of all faiths flock to the shine of Father Jacques Desire Pere Laval in Ste. Croix, Port Louis. You can almost catch a glimpse of Lourdes in the fervour of the great crowds who attribute miraculous healing powers to this holy man.
Chinese Spring Festival: The Chinese New Year’s Day (January / February), which every year falls on a different day because of the adjustment of the lunar days to solar days, is preceded by a thorough spring – cleaning of the home. No scissors or knives are used on the day. Red, symbolic of happiness, is the dominant colour. Food is piled to ensure abundance during the year, and the traditional wax cake is distributed to relatives and friends. Firecrackers are lit to ward off evil spirits.
Divali: The most jovial of all Hindu festivals. Celebrated in October / November, it marks the victory of Rama over Ravana and also commemorates Krishna’s destruction of the Demon Narakasuran. Clay oil lamps are placed in front of very home turning the island into a fairyland of flickering lights.
Holi: This Hindi festival is as colourful as the numerous legends which inspire it. Essentially, it is a festival of revelry when men and women enjoy themselves by squirting coloured water and powder on one another. It is a time for rejoicing and exchanging greetings.
Cavadee: Cavadee is celebrated in January / February. Along with the fire walking and sword-climbing ceremonies, Cavadee is among the most awesome Tamil events. Their bodies pierced with needles and their tongues and cheeks with skewers, devotees trance-like and in penance, trek along bearing the “Cavadee”, a wooden arch covered with flowers with a pot of milk at each end of its base, to place it before the deity in the temple. At this point, despite the long hot trek, the milk should not have curdled.
Ougadi: The Telegu New Year. It is usually celebrated in March.
Ganesh Chaturthi: Is celebrated on the 4th day of the lunar month of August / September, as the birthday of Ganesha, the God of Wisdom and remover of all obstacles by Hindus of Marathi faith.
History of Mauritius
Arab merchant ships have been sailing the Indian Ocean for centuries, and they were the first people to set foot on the island of Mauritius, naming it Dina Robin.
Around 1507, the Portuguese seaman Fernandez Pereira sighted Mauritius and named it Cerné. The group of islands consisting of Mauritius, Reunion and Rodrigues were given the names of Mascarenes after the Portuguese captain, Pero Mascarenhas. The Portuguese never attempted to settle on any of the Mascarene Islands. They were more interested in protecting their trade routes with India and therefore established settlements along the coast of Mozambique instead.
The first Europeans to have visited Mauritius were the Portuguese sailors at the beginning of the sixteenth century. However, the island was first colonized in 1598 by the Dutch, who settled on the island and named it Mauritius after the then governor of Holland, Prince Maurice of Nassau. Mauritius was populated over the next few centuries by waves of traders, planters and their slaves, indentured labourers, merchants, and artisans. Among other things, the Dutch introduced sugar cane and the Java deer before leaving in 1710.
The French claimed Mauritius in 1715 and renamed it Isle de France. It became a prosperous colony under the French East India Company. The French Government took control in 1767, and the island served as a naval and privateer base during the Napoleonic wars. In 1810, Mauritius was captured by the British, whose possession of the island was confirmed four years later in 1814 by the Treaty of Paris. French institutions, including the Napoleonic code of law, were maintained. The French language is still used more widely than English.
In 1936 the Mauritian Labour Party was formed and Mauritius gained independence on the 12th March 1968. Since becoming a Republic on the 12th March 1992, there has been much economic reform resulting in the transformation of Mauritius from an underdeveloped third world country to a developing one with great potential. Mauritius is one of Africa’s success stories, having had a stable democracy and good human rights record.
This tropical island paradise is made up of a melting pot of cultures and religions all coexisting harmoniously. Most Mauritian ancestry can be traced to African, Indian, Chinese, European and Arab decent. The majority of the population follows Hinduism, but Islam and Christianity are also practicing religions on the island.
Creole and French are the official languages of Mauritians, with English being widely spoken. Other languages include Urdu, Hindi, Hakka and Bojpoori. Over 1.2 million people live in Mauritius, which includes Rodrigues, a smaller island known as the tenth district of the Republic of Mauritius, as well as other outer islands.
Mauritians are proud of the fact that their island is one of the most multicultural ones in the Indian Ocean. Franco-Mauritians, descendants of the original French colonists, are the smallest in number but one of the most economically important for the island. Most of Mauritius’ Creole population are the descendants of slaves and free labourers from Africa and Asia.
Indo-Mauritians constitute about 70% of the total population and originate from the waves of immigrants from the British Colony in India during the British reign. There is also a small but dynamic Chinese community that dates back to the mid-nineteenth century.
The culture of Mauritius reflects its diverse ethnic makeup with many religious festivals observed. The island’s traditional holidays have their origins in the East and include the Hindu festivals of Diwali, Maha Shivaratree, Holi, Cavadee and Ganesh Chaturthi. The Muslims celebrate Id-El-Fitr and the spring festival is observed by the Chinese.
The Mauritian cuisine embodies a variety of European, Indian, Chinese and Creole flavours.
The Séga is the national dance that is widely celebrated and revered in Mauritius. It was the original slaves that first introduced this evocative traditional folk dance with a vibrant and intense beat. This song and dance art form originally sought to reflect the hardships of the slaves and their need for freedom. Today the locals often dance the Séga to entertain visiting tourists who are sometimes called upon to join in this rhythmic dance.
The Séga requires the use of traditional musical instruments known as the ravanne, maravanne and the triangle with the addition of some modern instrumentals.
In the more rural areas where the population is predominantly of Indian origin, Bhojpuri songs are still popular and have been recast in modern forms.
Traditionally, Mauritian literature has been conservative with an importance placed on the proper use of the dominant language, French. However, since the 1930’s, the literature became more progressive with modern Creole literature morn in the 70’s.
With the increase of the Indian community throughout the 20th century, it stands to reason that literature in Hindi and other Indian languages also evolved.
Climate in Mauritius
Located near the Tropic of Capricorn, Mauritius enjoys warm tropical climate, making it an ideal all-year round island destination.
The climate can safely be divided into two main seasons, summer and winter. Summer is from around November to April when it is hot and wet, while winter offers a cooler and drier climate from around May to October.
The warmest time is the Cyclone season, which is generally from December through to end February. Tropical cyclones are a common occurrence in Mauritius and tend to disrupt the weather for a few days at a time, bringing a lot of rain to the region. Visitors should be prepared to spend a few days indoors during extra-heavy rains. Some times these storms can occur as late as April.
The western and northern regions are slightly warmer and relatively drier than the East and the South.
Opinions will differ on when the best time to visit Mauritius is, so take note of the different seasons: some may find cooler climates more enjoyable as many say the weather is at its most pleasant, while others may enjoy the heat and summer holiday more.
On average, the sun rises at 5.00am and sets at 7.00pm in Summer and in Winter, rises at 6.00am and sets at 6.00pm.
December through March is the best time for diving, when the waters are at their clearest; June through August is best for surfing; and October through April is excellent for big game fishing, when the large predators feed close to shore.