Planning your arrival
Ahead of your move, if you’ll need to get a few things straight, most importantly of all your right to remain in the country with the appropriate visa. Fortunately, the system here is more straightforward than some, as most are able to arrive on a walk in ‘Business Visa’ for 60-90 days, which is then turned into an occupational permit (either self-employed or employed) following the approval from the Immigration Office. To get the occupational permit, you’ll need to prove either your employment contract or your business plan to start an enterprise, as well as proof of where you’ll live and a complete set of health tests (you can ask for the ‘Visa’ check up at any health clinic).
As well as being allowed to stay, you’ll need somewhere to stay. During our interim period to find a place we stayed in a serviced apartment and there are plenty of good ones in the West, such as Esplanade in Tamarin. Following that, you’re best to contact some of the established estate agents (Pam Golding or Park Lane Properties). Looking online can often lead to disappointments, as properties stay up for way after they have been rented.
- Getting around
Cars here are the primary way of getting around but being an island (with import duties) they are expensive to hire or buy, so be warned. Nevertheless, for those coming from overseas they are pretty much compulsory. The buses are functional and run regularly but are too reckless to use often (in my opinion!) especially around the coastal roads. Taxis are reasonably priced as soon as you find a good contact, but from hotels expect them to be a bit pricier.
The supermarkets are fairly decent for all of the usual items on the weekly food list, although of course expect to pay a premium for international brands shipped from overseas. You’ll usually have to get used to going to different places for different items, and don’t always expect what you want to be on the shelves, especially if it’s meat or fish. But you do get used to this here, for example fresh tuna and salmon arrive on Thursdays where we’re based, so hey, fish Thursdays it is…
For all other shopping, Mauritius has adopted the US style approach to outlet malls, with a handful across the island (Bagatelle in the central district of Moka is the most well known). The range of shops is limited and therefore so is choice, but you’ll be able to find the basics for what you need. With new openings and brands entering the market all the time, this is also a rapidly developing sector. Outside of the malls, the hotspots include Quatre Bonne and Curepipe, although in all honesty aside from the clothes and food markets they can be exhausting without much reward apart from the adventure itself. My last outing to Quatre Bonnes (for some wedding envelopes!) took some three hours and I returned with bag of Gateaux Piments (still, tasty though)!
- Health and well being
The formal healthcare in Mauritius is largely dominated by a mixture of private and public hospitals. On the private side, where most international insurers insist, are Apollo Bramwell and Fortis Clinique Darné, which both offer a full range of medical procedures. The biggest issue here is emergency care, with too few ambulances and inefficient methods of getting quickly around the island, so be sure to have a range of key contact numbers in your phone when you’re settled.
English, French and Mauritian Creole are supposedly the three national languages, but I would say English is a distant third in that list. As an English speaker (only English too, sorry, eek!) it has been very difficult, not to manage day-to-day life but certainly to get more than skin deep. While formalities might be in English (the Parliament, the road signs and all tourist information) almost every conversation on the street, in a cafe or in a restaurant is in French or creole.
- Eating out and entertainment
Most from overseas will live in either the North (especially around ‘Grand Baie’) or in the West in Black River. The North is far busier and much livelier, with places to eat and drink, shopping malls and cinemas. The West on the other hand is quieter and more mountainous, with pockets of life such as Tamarin or Flic en Flac. In my opinion, I lived in the West to because it was more peaceful but it also felt too small at times, so each has its advantages. Don’t expect places to be busy or open late, however, as restaurants and bars tend to close at 10.30pm aside from Fridays or Saturdays.
Tips and tricks
- Be careful on the roads: seriously, the driving here is dangerous. Really. Everyone tends to laugh and shrug about it but really, be careful. Expect buses to overtake on corners, mini-vans to continually battle for supremacy and some queue jumping extraordinaire. You can’t change it and it certainly doesn’t help to get angry at it, but please be prepared!
- Don’t be afraid of the dark!: although most pictures of Mauritius show the blue skies and blazing sunshine, one of the biggest surprises to us was just how early it gets dark – really dark (without much light pollution). Come 6pm in the winter or perhaps 6.30-6.45 in the summer, it’s pitch black. It has a noticeable impact on your body clock and mood and every single person who’s stayed with us has felt it. So be prepared to fight the darkness and get out and about and make the most of living in this magical place.
- All beaches are public: something a friend told us early on but we very rarely heard since. Yes, ALL beaches in Mauritius are public, whether there is a hotel, bar or residence there or not. That means if you want a stroll by the sea, you can, and don’t be afraid to, we’ve found some of the most beautiful spots this way and you can find hidden gems right next to crowded public beaches.
- Try street food: while the restaurant choice might be fairly limited, the street food is abundant. Cheap, quick and usually piping hot, the range of street food is a real showcase for the diversity of this island and one of my favourite things about living in Mauritius. Oh, and as you’re here check out my guide to Mauritian street food here
- Get out of your comfort zone: being in Mauritius most often means being away from close friends and family and leaving behind the world you once knew. I’ve felt isolated and cut off many times here, but every time I usually throw myself into something new and it works out ok(!). Whether it’s taking a trip on the ocean to the stunning islets around Mauritius, or taking up a water sport or new hobby, joining a book club or just making friends from around the world, get out of your comfort zone and try. This place is a wonderful playground to try new things so give them a go!
Despite some of the above, I love Mauritius for all of it’s eccentricities and quirks and feel blessed to call it home. In general, you’ll notice a gentle pace of life that focuses around friends and family. So once you’re settled, just kick back and enjoy the journey with a smile.