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Perhaps one of France's most picturesque and scenic overseas departments is best explored by driving. Many of Réunion's pitons, cirques and volcanoes are only accessible via driving and is also a great convenient way to get around the island. Public transport is only available in major settlements, and as such driving is the best way to experience the island.


As Réunion is a French department, traffic moves on the right side of the road in left-hand drive cars, just like most of Europe, North America, or anywhere that has not been heavily influenced by the British or the Dutch.

Réunion is a very car dependent island, and as such, the main means of transportation on the island is by car. Rental cars are available at the airports and in all major towns. Billing is based on a daily rate or by kilometres. The price rates for fuel are the similar everywhere.

Traffic rules[edit]

As Réunion is a French department, all laws of driving in France applies. See Driving in France#Traffic rules.

Speed limits[edit]

Speed limits in Réunion significantly vary depending on the road and can very from just 30 km/h (19 mph) up in the mountains, to 110 km/h (68 mph) in the freeway that encircles around Réunion. Unlike metropolitan France, speed limits can drastically change, and within a very short distance, which can be attributed to its geography.

Breathalysers and alcohol limits[edit]

As of July 1, 2012, all motor vehicle drivers should carry a breathalyser. This French law also applies to Réunion. Due to the deficiencies of existing equipment, the regulation has not been strictly enforced since 2013, but the alcohol limit of 0.5 applies. If you drive with up to 0.8, you risk a fine of up to €750. It gets really expensive above that, and you could face up to two years of imprisonment.

Renting a car[edit]

Six of the world's major car rental companies are present at the airport. There are also other local car rental companies.


It is said that there are many cars for such a small island, and it is true – the road network is saturated at certain times, but for tourists, it is enough to take this into account and move in the right direction at the right time.

The most important road is the national road that circles the island is often two lanes and freeway grade for most of the route taken up by N1 on the west, and N2 on the east.

The rest of the network is made up of ordinary paved/sealed roads (with one lane in each direction). Opened in 2009, the Route des Tamarins is the major axis of the west coast, linking the Etang Salé to Saint Paul.

Mountain roads[edit]

A very narrow hairpin on RN5

Most of the roads in the interior in the mountainous parts of the island and winding roads that change in elevation in such a short distance. Be prepared for some long and narrow, dark tunnels and, in particular, have sufficient maneuverability. An example is the 420 curves and hairpin bends of the RN5 which opened in 1938 through a magnificent 30-kilometre-long mountain gorge (Bras de Cilaos) which is record-breaking.

In addition, horns are required in blind spots, and the horn heard from a vehicle that is not yet visible can also come from an oncoming truck.

Rockfall must be taken into account, and in storms and heavy rainfall, driving in the mountainous areas should be avoided due to the risk of flooding.

Travel times[edit]

Traffic in the capital of St Denis

As much of the island is covered with mountains, the time taken to travel can easily be underestimated – travelling just five kilometres can sometimes take up to around twelve minutes. While on a static map without the topography, driving through the central parts of the island may seem quicker, that is only the case as the crow flies. Driving around the mountain ranges will get you to where you're intending to go much faster, as you don't have to put up with the winding roads.

What is also not often thought about is that the traffic in major settlements can get very hectic. If there is other modes transport available to where you're heading to, utilise it if you can.

Stay safe[edit]

At the important starting points for the hikes in the interior of the island there are usually parking facilities in the form of picnic areas, as are also available all over the island along the very scenic road sections.

Despite the ongoing massive protective barriers such safety nets, many of the stretches of road are still at a high risk of falling rocks, in particular, the more remote routes in the interior of the island, it is advisable to obtain information on the current road conditions after storms before setting off. Special attention should be paid to the specially signposted radiers submersibles in bad weather – these are water crossings that can be flooded during heavy rainfall. Driving on such flooded sections is strictly forbidden and will result in heavy fines.

See also[edit]

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