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Mauritius Travel Guide
It is easy to run out of adjectives when attempting to describe the natural beauty of the small tropical Indian Ocean island paradise of Mauritius. The volcanic island, covered with lush forest, streams and waterfalls, and fringed with palms, dazzling white sands and teeming coral reefs, lies east of Madagascar just south of the Equator. Mauritius, covering just 720 square miles (1,864 sq km), is the archetypal dream destination for an idyllic holiday, equipped with modern resorts that have been carefully developed to preserve the island's beauty and ecology.
Mark Twain is quoted as having said that 'Mauritius was made first, then heaven was copied from it', and anyone who has experienced the island would no doubt agree with him.
Along with its natural beauty Mauritius has a valuable tourist resource in the warmth and friendliness of its multicultural population. Since being officially 'discovered' in 1505 by the Portuguese, the island has been occupied by the Dutch, the French and the British. All have added to the melting pot that constitutes the island's human heritage, along with injections of African slaves, Arab traders and Chinese indentured labourers over the centuries.
Most of the tourist resorts in Mauritius are situated along the 205 mile (330km) coastline, with the capital Port Louis, on the west coast, being the centre of operations for most visitors. The bulk of the population, however, reside on the central plateau around Curepipe, the island's other major town.
Although everyone who takes a holiday in Mauritius comes for the sandy beaches and blue lagoons, most are delighted to discover that the island has plenty of other attractions too, from some of the world's rarest stamps to the first ever race course to open in the southern hemisphere. Of course no holiday would be complete without good food and entertainment and Mauritius offers both, with some delicious local cuisine that makes use of tropical fruits and vegetables, and the chance to learn the island's indigenous wild dance, the Sega, which originated among the African slaves of yore.
230 volts, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs and round two-pin plugs are commonly used.
The currency of Mauritius is the Mauritian Rupee (MUR), which is divided into 100 cents. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and larger hotels. ATMs are widely available in most towns and hotels, and restaurants and large retailers accept major credit cards.
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.
Tipping in Mauritius is discretionary. However, some extra money paid for services, such as a taxi ride, waitering or cleaning is appreciated. In the hotels travellers can add around 5 percent of their incidental expenses when paying the bill on departure, if service has been good. 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 12 percent tax, which is generally included in the price quoted.
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. Vaccinations may be recommended for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. It's also a good idea to pack shoes that can be worn in the sea to protect against sharp coral, sea urchins and stonefish. 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. Visitors should take precautions against mosquito bites, as there have been several cases of the Chikungunya virus, which is spread by mosquitoes, although this is more common from October to May. 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. Medications are usually easily available, but for peace of mind it is better to take any prescription medication with you, in its original packaging, with a signed and dated note from your doctor detailing what it is and why you need it.
A holiday in 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 Pereybere, 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. Cyclone season is from November to May.