Reunion

Reunion Island – Planning a trip


If, after reading about my week-long trip to Reunion Island here, you’re inspired to plan your vacation, here is some useful information to get you started.

Getting there

  • Air Austral has direct flights from Joburg to Reunion, thrice weekly.
  • It’s a four hour flight departing Joburg in the afternoon, arriving in Saint Denis in the evening. With the late arrival time, it makes sense to spend your first night in Saint Denis, the capital.
  • Alternatively, you can get there via Mauritius with Air Mauritius. (You can combine the two islands in one trip – making it an active holiday on Reunion Island, and a relaxing beach break in Mauritius).
Roland Garros Airport in Saint Denis, Reunion

Roland Garros Airport in Saint Denis, Reunion

Getting around

  • The easiest way to get around is to hire a car and drive around the island.
  • They drive on the right, so it does take some getting used to if you usually drive on the left.
  • According to some websites, you need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to legally drive in Reunion. You can get one from AA stores. However, we were able to rent a car using our South African driver’s licence card only, without any hassle.
  • The roads are in excellent condition and are mostly well sign posted. Signs are usually marked in French only. But you can get by easily without knowing the language.
  • It is highly recommended to download an offline Google Map of the island. It came in very handy to navigate around the island, and to get an estimate of driving times. However, the accuracy of actual directions is sometimes questionable (Google wanted to take us around the wrong side of the traffic circle at times), so use common sense.
  • Fuel stations are available in almost every town, and there are fuel attendants to help you fill up. Fuel prices were similar to those in South Africa.
  • Traffic can move slowly in the towns, so plan accordingly.
  • An alternative is to use the bus network, although you won’t be making efficient use of your vacation time.
  • If you’re basing yourself in just one or two towns, then it may make sense to organise private airport transfers, and then organise tours from there. (Tailored Travel can assist with transport and accommodation.)
Villa Delisle at St Pierre

Villa Delisle at St Pierre

Accommodation

  • There’s a wide range of accommodation, from small guest houses / B&Bs to resorts and hotels.
  • Choices are limited on the interior, so you’re likely to have to stay in a B&B there.
  • There are a few high end hotels on the island.
  • Some people like to stay at different towns on the island, making exploring the island easier. This is especially recommended if you have a rental car.
  • Alternatively, you can base yourself in one or two towns and do longer day trips from there.
  • (Tailored Travel can assist with accommodation).
Breakfast at Lux* Resort Saint Gilles

Breakfast at Lux* Resort Saint Gilles

Eating

  • Eating out can be a bit expensive for South Africans, as everything is in Euros.
  • You can save by buying some snacks and lunch items from one of the many large supermarkets on the island (or by taking some snacks from South Africa).
  • There are many bakeries (boulangeries) on the island, where you can get fresh, inexpensive large French baguettes. You can then create your own sandwiches for lunch.
  • Restaurants attached to hotels tend to be pricier, as expected, but make for a good treat.
  • There’s a good choice of restaurants serving vegetarian or seafood dishes, as well as some that have gluten free options, particularly in the larger towns. There is less choice on the plains and in the cirques (away from the coast).
  • Menus tend to be in French, although a few will have English translations on request. The translations can be confusing if not comical. It helps to use Google’s Translate app (which can be downloaded offline to your cellphone).
  • Make a point of trying some of the speciality flavours of ice cream. (I tried ylang ylang, coconut and ginger.)

Gear

  • Take a pair of comfortable walking shoes, preferably with good ankle support if you plan to hike to the volcano peak.
  • Water shoes will come in very hand if you’re spending time at any beaches with coral lagoons (example Saint Pierre, l’Hermitage les Bains, Saint Gilles). Bits of broken coral (which is sharp) lay on the lagoon floor (and on the beach).
  • If you’re dining at some restaurants (for example at some upmarket hotels or resorts), flip flops aren’t allowed at dinner time.
  • Even if you’re just doing day hikes, a wide brimmed hat helps in the tropical sun.
  • A warm top is essential if you’re hiking to the top of the volcano. The clouds can come in at any time, especially in the afternoon.

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