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Driving in Mauritius, what you should know

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Forget everything you know about driving in France or else. Discover a whole new road experience. Here are my 10 commandments to survive.

Mauritius is a welcoming country, but a little less so on the roads. I invite you to discover the Mauritian way of driving.

I’ve prepared a list of 10 commandments if you want to survive:

Les routes mauriciennes
Les routes mauriciennes

The 10 commandments of driving in Mauritius

1. On the left, you shall drive

Yes, Mauritius was once British, hence the heritage of left-hand drive. Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly, and with the heavy flow of traffic on the roads, you’ll just have to go with the flow. Watch out for roundabouts!

Note, however, that the indicators and windshield wipers are reversed. You’ll make several mistakes. That’s how I spot tourists.

2. Air conditioning you must have

You’re an environmentalist or you’re thinking of taking a car that doesn’t have air conditioning. Bad idea or good luck either way! It’s a must-have in Mauritius in summer, because it’s very, very hot! And even hotter on jam-packed roads. 

3. Of holes you shall beware of

The state of the roads is not like that of our French freeways. On the one hand, you’ll find that there are no toll booths on the roads, and since they’re free, their condition suffers. In addition to the holes, beware of the “cassis”, which are not necessarily indicated 150 meters upstream.

4. Slalom you shall practice

Roads in Mauritius are narrow and parking spaces are rare. So people stop on the side of the road to run an errand, buy a roast, some samoussas or some fruit. Given the narrowness of the road, you’ll have no choice but to slalom your way along, especially to avoid the holes and cracks in the pavement.

5. Hazard lights you shall use

Because traffic is so heavy, it’s not always easy to get people to let you through at certain intersections, or even to insert you. If you do have the privilege of passing, the custom here is to put on the hazard lights as a token of thanks. Woe betide you if you don’t.

6.  Headlights call you shall communicate

There are two possible interpretations of a headlight flash: the first is the more courteous one, in which you let the vehicle in front pass. The second, more enterprising, is to warn the opposite vehicle that you’re about to pass.

Ambiguous, isn’t it?

7. Bus fumes you shall avoid

Yes, Mauritius is a paradise island, but that doesn’t mean it’s environmentally friendly. You’ll soon notice it with the big buses belching clouds of black smoke as they go by. A real CAU-CHE-MAR and a paradox when you see the turquoise blue waters. Note that hybrid and electric cars are still uncommon today.

8. To give way, your arm you will stick out

A practice unknown to me before I moved here, I’ve observed that when the roads are busy, there’s a way to insist on passing… All you have to do is open the window, stick out your arm, wave your hand in a friendly manner as you move the vehicle in the direction you want to go, and you’re done!

9. Dazzled by high beams at night you will be

Driving at night in Mauritius is quite special, and you’ll need to be extra vigilant. As the roads are not necessarily well lit, Mauritians will avoid driving at night. However, for the rest of the night drivers, you’ll see them driving… with their headlights on!

10. Patient you will become

It’s true that when you think of Mauritius, you immediately imagine fine sandy beaches and turquoise water, not endless traffic jams. Alas, that’s the harsh reality here. Whether you’re in Port Louis, Vacoas/Phoenix or the Quatre Bornes roundabout, it’s hard to avoid traffic jams unless you’re driving at night. Despite its small size, the island has a large number of vehicles on the road. Public transport and its infrastructure are not fully developed, which is why Mauritians prefer to drive.

Some pros and cons of driving in Mauritius

The Pros

  • The pump attendant at the gas station, no need to get out of the car
  • Identical prices at all gas stations
  • French driver’s license is sufficient (in principle), no need for an international license and no deduction of points
  • No tolls on the roads
  • Most parking lots and other parking facilities are free of charge; paying parking lots are rare and mainly located in Port Louis.
  • The development of the “metro express”, which is the tramway that runs from Port Louis to Curepipe.
  • A zero-tolerance policy with regard to alcohol (a point that can also go in the “minuses” section, it’s up to you).
Les Flamboyants Mauriciens

The cons

  • The rock’n’roll, even reckless driving of Mauritians, which explains the high death rate on the roads.
  • Fines cannot be paid online (appointment at the District Council).
  • The vignette has to be renewed every year, and purchased at the post office (payment by cash or cheque only).
  • Very heavy traffic (except at night)
  • Buses that are not at all environmentally friendly
  • Large number of polluting vehicles, and many cars still run on diesel.

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