DRIVING There are around 2,000km of good, tarred roads throughout Mauritius. A well-maintained motorway crosses the island diagonally from the airport in the southeast corner, travelling through Port Louis and north to Grand Baie.
Little-used country roads are not in such good condition.
Driving is on the left. Although the standard of driving is generally fairly good (higher than in neighbouring Réunion), drivers are not courteous. Do not expect other drivers to give way or to stop at pedestrian crossings, or to wait for a safe moment to overtake. Outside the towns, there are stretches of open road without traffic, which make driving pleasant. However, roads are not well lit at night so watch out for pedestrians and stray dogs. Take care to observe the speed limit of 80km/h on the motorway and 50km/h in built-up areas; police operate on-the-spot fines. As of December 2008, it is compulsory for cars registered in Mauritius to be fitted with rear seatbelts and the driver is held responsible if they are not worn.
Negotiating Port Louis by car requires patience as traffic builds up to horrendous proportions during the day. Most of the streets are one-way, which adds to the confusion for the uninitiated. If you only want to hire a taxi for one day, let it be the day you go to Port Louis.
Parking zones, applicable if you are parking on the street, exist in Port Louis, Rose Hill, Quatre Bornes and Curepipe between 09.00 and 16.30. Parking tickets must be purchased in advance from a filling station and displayed inside the windscreen. In Port Louis, there are car parks near the Caudan Waterfront, such as the Granary, where you can simply buy a ticket on arrival.
Both petrol and diesel are readily available at filling stations throughout the country, but it is worth keeping your tank full, especially for distance driving at night.
Private cars have black number plates, taxis white, hire cars yellow and diplomatic cars blue. However, I have heard that this system is likely to change.
Car hire The minimum age for hiring a self-drive car varies from 20 to 25 years, according to the hire company. All companies require that the driver has been in possession of a valid driver’s licence for at least one year. The car-hire company will need to view your licence.
The rental must be paid in advance. Payment of a daily premium reduces the insurance excess and a daily driver and passenger personal accident insurance is available.
Cars can usually be delivered and recovered anywhere on the island and there are car-hire desks at the airport.
Europcar operates one of the largest fleets of rental cars in Mauritius, with cars ranging from Hyundai Atos to BMW X3s or convertible Mini Coopers. They have desks at many hotels around the island and their staff are efficient and helpful. As an example of daily rates, Europcar charges around Rs2,500 per day (one to six days) for a small, three-door car with unlimited mileage (fuel is not included).
If you don’t want to drive yourself, the car-hire companies will provide a driver. Not only does this save you having to cope with local driving conditions but there is also the bonus of having a private guide too. A chauffeur-driven service provided by the main companies will add around Rs750 per eight-hour day to your bill. Overtime, Sundays and public holidays may be extra.
Motorbike hire There are few places offering mopeds and fewer still offering motorbikes, and it is risky to hire from an unofficial provider. Mopeds are available from around Rs800 a day, including helmet. Crash helmets are compulsory when driving or riding a motorbike or moped.
Bicycle hire In 2009, the MTPA began a campaign promoting Mauritius as a cycling-friendly destination . Suggested cycle routes are available on the website, along with a list of races held on the island. While short rides along the coast can be very pleasant, the towns are not generally cyclist-friendly and in areas of heavy traffic there are no cycle lanes into which one can escape. All bikes used on the road need to be registered at a police station for a small fee but if you hire a bike, this will already have been done.
Bicycles can be hired from the major hotels by the hour, half day and day. The cost is usually from Rs350 per day and several hotels organise group bicycle tours. Some agencies in Grand Baie and most inbound tour operators can arrange bicycle hire.