Cruise ships dock at Pointe des Galets, near the town of Possession. This is the principal port of the island, about 20 min (22km away) scenic coastal drive away from the capital town of Saint Denis. This is an industrial port, so lacks facilities for the cruise passengers, rather than the basics. There are public buses and taxis you can take to the capital but bear in mind that taxis can be expensive.
The local currency is Euro, as Reunion is an overseas department of France. Exchange money is not that easy as most tourists come from mainland France and have Euros readily available. There are a couple of exchange bureaus near St Gilles and in St Denis. The best thing to do would be to make sure you have Euro prior to arriving. Having said that, most outlets accept the major credit cards, they might juts have a limit on the minimum amount for purchase. There are also plenty of ATMs throughout the island, where you can withdraw cash from. If you have decided to use your cards abroad, don’t forget to notify your bank you would be abroad and make yourself familiar with any fees the bank may charge you.
The opening hours in Reunion vary quite a lot, considering there are mostly privately-owned shops and a few malls. Most of the shops are open from 8 am until 6 pm, some of them until as late as 9 pm Monday – Saturday and are closed on Sundays. The more popular places to shop are the markets – these have different opening times, some of them are open only two days a week, some of them are open all week, including Sundays. Banks, post offices and authorities’ offices are normally open from 8 am until 4 pm Monday to Friday, closed on the weekend. There are a few Public holidays on the island, the same as the ones celebrated in France. Do make yourself aware of any public holidays that might affect your trip.
Tipping on the Island of Reunion isn’t expected in general and most hotels and restaurants add a service fee to your bill. If there isn’t one, tip as per your discretion, about 10 % of the bill if you received a good service. There is no need to tip taxi drivers (expensive as it is) or bartenders.
The local language is officially French. Unofficially, Reunion Creole is spoken alongside French. English isn’t widely spoken. A few French words would come a long way. English is more commonly spoken in the capital and in the tourists’ areas in and around St Gilles.
The local time is GMT + 4 and the international dialling code is 00 262.
Things To Do
Unlike other destinations in the Indian Ocean, Reunion island is famous not for its beaches, but for its stunning landscapes, made of active volcanos, steep calderas, picturesque waterfalls and abundant greenery. 42% of Reunion is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Park.
Visit the three cirques – Cirque de Cilaos, Cirque de Mafate, Cirque de Salazie in the heart of the island. From the extraordinary Mafate, only accessible by foot with the summit of Maido, where you can see the most incredible scenery, almost as if from a birds’ eye, to the lush Salazie, where you can admire some of the island’s most beautiful waterfalls in the centre of the creole culture, to the majestic Cilaos, home to the island’s hot springs, where you can begin the ascent to Piton des Neiges (the Snow Peak). Piton des Neiges is an inactive volcano and the highest peak in the Indian Ocean at 3069m. As the name suggests, you can often see snow on its summit.
Piton de la Fournaise is a shield active volcano on the Eastern side of the island. It is closely monitored, as it has erupted more than 100 times since 1640, the most recent eruption was on 14 July 2017. During one of the eruptions in 2005 it was estimated that 3 million cubic metres of lava were produced daily and some of it even reached the sea.
The Natural History Museum of Reunion Island is a must-see as well. Situated in a beautiful botanical garden, created by the French East India Company, the building of the museum was constructed in 1834, originally for the needs of the Colonial Council of the island. Today it hosts a vast collection of the rich flora and fauna of the Western Indian Islands from the past and present, special features of the unique island habitats, as well as temporary exhibitions, highlighting the permanent collections. The museum’s collection has now been classified as a historical monument itself.
If you haven’t gotten enough of the island’s natural beauty, there is more to explore – the waterfalls at Bassin des Aigrettes, although challenging to reach, are a gorgeous site and swimming spot. Explore the white-sand beaches between the little towns of St Giles and La Saline-Les-Bains. Some of the best whale and dolphin watching, diving and snorkelling can also be experienced on the island.
If you would like a more urban experience, while admiring the rich heritage of the island, a melting pot of European, African, Indian, Chinese and insular culture, stroll around the capital St Denis to admire its markets and architecture. See the Aquarium in St Giles, the rum distillery Saga di Rhum at Saint Pierre and the colourful shops at Le Saline-les-Bains.
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