Tips for driving in Mauritius from an old hand like me. Our techniques for a safe trip on our roads. Most of us feel slightly anxious when we drive in a foreign country. What you need to know is all here:
Our country roads are quiet with magical sceneries
Roads are in fairly good condition with safety signs and a network to take you through the island. However expect to get lost a few times even with a map. A GPS is not essential. The software can't keep track of the changes on our roads.
Driving routes and directions could do with improvements
Our warm hospitality extends to our busy city streets where we welcome everyone and everything. Trucks, cars, buses, motorbikes, mopeds, bicycles, snack vendors, portable shops, pedestrians, the odd cart, dogs, goats …
We have two highways where the speed limit is 110km/hr on some sections. From the airport in the South East all the way to the North via Port Louis our capital. Plus a new link freeway which bypasses busy Port Louis. They are well signposted.
Our highways are well maintained
2. Primary Roads:
Our primary roads are single lane with a speed limit of 60 to 80 km/hour. There are no footpaths so you’ll quickly learn to share your side of the road.
A quiet primary road
3. Secondary Roads:
Some secondary roads could be a little bumpy with the odd potholes. Nothing serious. Rather enjoy the scenery.
A quaint road through sugarcane fields
4. City and Village Roads:
There is a speed limit of 40 km hour in residential areas and villages.
There are no pavements. Watch out for pedestrians who walk between your car and the storm drains alongside the road.
You are about to hire a car. Never forget we drive on the left side of the road. Mauritius was a British colony when cars were introduced to the island. At times it looks as if we drive where there is the most shade ...
As elsewhere in the world you should follow the speed limit. There are hidden cameras and radars lurking around.
Driver and passengers must wear a seat belt. Speaking on your mobile phone when you drive is a no-no. You must stop at zebra crossings to let pedestrians cross the road.
Drinking and Driving:
By law the alcohol limit must be less than 50mg/100ml alcohol in your bloodstream.The equivalent of a small glass of wine.
Avoid driving through towns at peak hours from 07 30 am to 09 30 am and from 15 00 to 18 00 pm. Keep these in mind if you need to travel across the island to join an excursion.
Over the years Mauritians have developed their own style of driving and mastered the art of overloading trucks, two wheelers and bicycles with people and goods.
A bicycle can carry lots of fodder
You’ll most probably wonder why so many motorcycles and mopeds have short handlebars or handlebars angled towards the back. It makes squeezing between vehicles in heavy traffic much easier.
If you are going to hire a bike or bicycle rather use it on our coastal roads.
We quite enjoy hooting. Don’t take it personally. You’ll soon be able to interpret the sound of horns. No in depth musical knowledge is required …
Some drivers are incredibly slow. It can be frustrating when you are stuck behind a driver who insists on driving at 60 km hour on our highways or 30 on our main roads. Which means you can’t rely on distances on the road map.
Impatient drivers will overtake you on single lane roads which is not safe.
Mauritian drivers will stop their car and block the lane where and when it suits them. Most times without warning. Maybe they want to talk to a friend walking on the road or they need to go to a shop and there is no parking.
Sugarcane cutting season ...
A handy tip is to keep an eye for hand waving codes. The weather is hot, your car does not have air con or you don’t want to switch it on, so you keep the windows down. To stay cool you let your arm hang over the side. A hand gesture is practical to indicate you are slowing down, turning left or right …
Bus and lorry drivers can use a red flag to show they are turning. When you see a red flag sticking out of the driver’s window you should slow down because it’s not often clear which way he will turn.
When you visit our capital Port Louis use the convenient parking at the Caudan Waterfront shopping centre. The cost is about 50 rupees for one hour. It’s well located and a 5 minute walk to the city centre. The supervised car parks are usually busy.
Then go on a self-guided walking tour of Port Louis.
You’ll need parking coupons for street parking in towns like Curepipe, Quatre Bornes or Rose Hill. These are sold at filling stations. The duration is either half an hour or one hour. Depending on the zone.
Parking is usually free at night and during week-ends. The time varies from town to town and is indicated on signposts.
Like elsewhere it’s best not to leave your vehicle in an isolated spot.
With all the fresh air and the day’s outings you’ll feel like an early night. If you really have to drive at night during your holiday carry on reading.
Many drivers are reluctant to use their lights or they don’t work. Which means headlights can be confusing. One headlight coming towards you could be a truck, a car or a two wheeler. Two headlights could be a vehicle with two headlights in working condition or a car overtaking a truck, or vice a versa, and even two motorbikes overtaking one another.
Add poorly lit roads, pedestrians and cyclists you can’t see and the odd wandering cow. Mauritians dogs have developed the dare devil habit of sleeping on the tarmac (even during the day).
I hope I have discouraged you from night driving in Mauritius.
Enjoy your (day) road trip!