|Population||855.9 thousand (2018)|
|Electricity||220 volt / 50 hertz (Type E)|
|edit on Wikidata|
Reunion (French: La Réunion) is a French overseas department located in the midst of the Indian Ocean, east of the island of Madagascar and 200 km to the south-west of Mauritius, in East Africa. This enchanting destination is blessed with a tropical climate and beautiful volcanic landscapes, with its appeal being as much due to its white sandy beaches as its mountain scenery. Reunion used to be known as the Isle de Bourbon and Isle Bonaparte.
- 1 Saint-Denis — the capital of Reunion island
- Saint-Gilles — on the west coast, where all the white sand beaches are
- Saint-Leu — a well-established city and surfing destination
- Saint-Pierre — the second most important town of Reunion Island.
- Etang-Salé — a small town on the west coast with one of the black volcanic sand beaches
- Saint-Benoît — where you can find the vanilla cooperative factory
- 1 Piton de la Fournaise
- 2 Takamaka — location of the only water power plant of the island
- Pleine de Cafres
The island's climate is tropical. The time from September to mid-December is probably the most favored time to go, since rain is uncommon then, and temperatures are mild on the beaches as well as in the hills, so you can both hike in the mountains and enjoy the seashore without issues of humidity or heat.
January to March is the rainy season, sometimes marked by cyclones. The island has two climatic zones: the greener windward side (east) that receives moist Indian ocean air, and the noticeably drier leeward side (west) shielded from the wet air by the mountainous landscape.
The Portuguese discovered the uninhabited island in 1513. Réunion became officially French territory in 1663. From the 17th to the 19th centuries, French immigration supplemented by influxes of Africans, Chinese, Malays, and Malabar Indians gave the island its ethnic mix. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 cost the island its importance as a stopover on the East Indies trade route. It remained a colony until 1946, when it became a département of the French Republic.
Locals take great pride in marking the anniversary of the abolition of slavery (which happened on 20 December 1848), in a festival known locally as "La Fête Cafre" (a "cafre" being the name given to an indigenous dweller of the island, now widely used to address a friend). This gesture towards the past is still very much present in society today, and as such the word "slave" ("esclave") is a grave insult to a Réunionnais.
Today, the population of Reunion is widely varied in terms of ethnic origin, which each group inheriting its respective traditions.
Passport and visa
Although Reunion is an integral part of France, it is not part of the Schengen area, so it has its own immigration and visa rules. Citizens of Mauritius, for example, do not need a visa for short visits to Reunion but do need a visa to visit mainland France.
The main airport is Roland Garros International Airport, near Saint-Denis (RUN IATA). The vast majority of intercontinental flights arriving at Reunion come from mainland France, with a handful of other airports through the Indian Ocean. Airlines flying to Reunion are the following:
- Air France operates direct flights between Paris Orly and Roland Garros.
- Air Austral is the principal local airline, which serves numerous destinations in Africa and the Indian Ocean (South Africa, Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mayotte and the Seychelles), as well as Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport. Air Austral also offers transfers onto the TGV-Air service for various destinations within France, and the Thalys line from Paris towards Brussels. If coming from Asia, there exists a seasonal service from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport.
- Air Madagascar flies from Roland Garros to Antananarivo, Antsiranana, Nosy Be. Air Madagascar stops in at Roland Garros on its twice-weekly Antananarivo to Guangzhou, China, but does not have traffic rights to carry passengers between Saint-Denis and Guangzhou.
- Corsair offers a weekly service to Paris Orly, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse.
- Air Mauritius has multiple daily flights to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Airport, Port Louis, Mauritius. The trip is 45 minutes.
- French Blue offers service to Paris-Orly.
For travelers from North America, travel direct to Reunion can be very expensive (well over US$2000 in economy and booked months in advance!) due to a lack of competition and lack of codesharing agreements with Air Austral at Paris-CDG. The most affordable way to travel from North America to Reunion is to book a flight to Mauritius, then book a separate flight for about US$180-300 round-trip between Mauritius and Reunion, which are less than an hour apart by air. Mauritius is served by several major carriers, such as British Airways, Emirates, South African Airways, Turkish Airways, Air France (to Paris-CDG, rather than Paris-Orly), KLM (seasonal), Lufthansa (seasonal), and Austrian (seasonal), so fares are competitive at about US$1200-1800 and can involve shorter layovers.
The small Pierrefonds Airport on the southwest side of the island near Saint-Pierre has daily flights to Mauritius on Air Austral and Air Mauritius, plus a seasonal Air Austral flight to Rodrigues.
- From Reunion, it is possible to reach Mauritius and Madagascar by boat. Two ferry services offer these routes, the Mauritius Pride and the Mauritius Trochetia. They are at 4, avenue du 14-Juillet 1789, 97420, Le Port, telephone: 02184.108.40.206.
- Throughout the year, a number of cruise liners dock on the island. More information should be sought through individual cruise companies.
It is often said that Reunion has more than its fair share of cars, and it's true. At certain times, the road networks can become jam-packed with vehicles, but in order to overcome this, all a visitor needs to know is when to travel and how to travel. The national road (route nationale) which goes round the island is double-laned for each direction in many places. The rest of the roads are usually tarmacked, with one lane in each direction. There have been plans to build a railway to alleviate the traffic congestion, but as of 2018 those plans have been shelved.
Hailing a taxi on the island is fairly expensive, especially when leaving the airport (expect to pay €15).
Intercity bus travel around the island is served by Car Jaune ("Yellow Bus", buses are easily recognizable by their yellow color). There are 13 lines. Apart from these buses there are also local buses. Most of lines operate between 06:00 and 18:00.
- Car Jaune, Ligne B, from Saint-Denis to Saint-Pierre and back, Par les Bas (via the coast). Operates approximately every 1½ hours.
There is one main road around the island (74 km of it is four-lane) and another road from Saint-Pierre to Saint-Benoit (route des plaines) through the interior of the island.
Due to the volume of cars, traffic jams often occur so you should avoid travelling during peak times.
Because of the volcano, the road is sometimes closed along the east side of the island.
The four-lane highway between La Possession and Saint-Denis, known as the route du littoral, runs between an unstable cliff and the sea. Because of the rain (mostly between December and March), this highway may be "basculée", that is switched to a two-lane road. Expect traffic jams in such circumstances. It is being replaced by a remarkable €1.7-billion, 5.4-km viaduct a few hundred metres off shore that is planned to open in 2020.
The Route des Tamarins is an expressway linking Saint-Paul and Étang-Salé offering spectacular views of the coast. With its completion, a 4-lane divided highway now runs around three-fourths of the island.
Do not underestimate driving times, even if the island seems small. The main roads, especially on the west coast, tend to jam; so do the streets of Saint Denis. The roads in the interior are mountain roads, some with many turns and steep slopes.
Car hire is available.
Reunion Island has almost 1000 km of hiking trails, with an astonishing variety of landscapes for an island. The cirques, plains and volcano have been classified as a french national natural park. The best hikes are probably in the Mafate cirque and on the volcano (see Piton de la Fournaise). The exceptional Mafate circus has no roads, and about 800 inhabitants.
You can find hostings on main hiking places.
Some helicopter and airplane companies do touristic flights. These depart very early in the morning (in order to avoid clouds and fog at altitude). There are also some helicopter trips, e.g. to La Nouvelle in Mafate.
Reunion is very much an island to be discovered through exploring its mountainous scenery and outdoor activities. The typical landforms of Réunion "Pitons, Cirques and Remparts of Reunion Island", have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and the world heritage covers more than 40% of the island.
The following two (fairly ambitious) hiking trails (Grande Randonnée) take in breathtaking views of the island.
- GR R2. This route crosses the island from Saint-Denis in the north down to Saint-Joseph in the south. Set aside about a week to cover the route's 130km trail.
- GR R1. The is slightly shorter at around four days, and covers the Cilaos, Mafate and Salazie craters.
An alternative is to walk in Mafate, without marked-out footpaths. Visit the villages (locally known as îlets) to get a feel of car-free settlements in beautiful surroundings.
Le Cirque de Cilaos
This can be accessed from Saint-Louis by the road of 420 bends (route aux 420 virages). Whilst in this welcoming village sat at the foot of the Piton des Neiges cliff, be sure not to miss the embroidery museum (musée de la broderie). https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2015-05-28-LaReunion_0555-0208%2BPitonDeLaFournaise_05.JPG
- Cilaos. A paradise for hikers of all abilities. With the circuit of the volcano, the most famous hike is most definitely the ascent of the Piton des Neiges. To make the most of the hike, be sure to be well-equipped: solid hiking footwear, water, cereal bars, dried fruits, an IGN map of the St-Pierre region, and a second pair of lighter sandals for severe weather or downpours. The tracks are very well marked-out and maintained, making it fairly difficult to get lost. The remaining hiking time (for the competent walker) is also marked on each signpost. To get warmed up first, start out with an easy walk (such as the Bras-Rouge waterfall) before tackling a visit to Mafate (Marla by the Taïbit pass) or the Piton des Neiges. Cilaos is also a passing point of the GR1 and GR2 hiking trails.
- La Roche Merveilleuse is a rocky headland in the heart of the forest, where you will be greeted by a stunning panoramic view across the cirque and its villages. It can be reached by car in 15 minutes on tarmacked roads. Get here by taking the route du Bras-Sec and follow signs for the forêt de cryptomérias (Japanese cedar forest).
- Ilet-à-Cordes. Nestled on a clearing at the foot of the Grand-Bénare, Ilet-à-Cordes was one a popular sanctuary for indigenous "Noirs marrons". Nowadays it is dedicated to agriculture (lentils, citrus fruits and wine-growing). It is a well-earned place to rest up after a journey along the mountainside, where locals extend a warm welcome to visitors and gladly engage in conversation about their daily lives. Another place to stop by is the old thermal baths at the Bras-Rouge waterfall. The journey leaves a little further up from la Chapelle, approximately 5 hours.
- La cascade de Bras-Rouge. Found in the Bras-Rouge gorge, on the old path towards Mafate, the waterfall has carved out several pools which are ideal settings for picnics. The water coloured by iron oxide is one of the principal attractions. An easy family walk, with numerous viewing spots along the gorges. For a round-trip, set aside two and a half hours. To get there from the thermal pools, follow the well-indicated path (named chemin des porteurs) flanked with flowers and greenery.
- Palmiste-Rouge by the Sentier des Calumets. The Sentier des Calumets is one of the most interesting ways to discover Palmiste-Rouge (but if strapped for time, it is possible to reach by car from the Cilaos road in St-Louis). It is just a short walk from the end of the village of Bras-Sec. The route crosses forests, winds its way around the foot of Bonnet-de-Prêtre, and comes down towards the small "village at the bottom of the valley". Nothing difficult here, apart from that it is sometimes slippery, especially in the morning. After around 2½ hours of walking, you will come across a typical mountain hamlet with nice restaurants. Get back by car (or hitchhiking) or wait for the bus back up to Cilaos. It is of course also possible to go back on foot. Expect a journey of 5½ hours.
- La Chapelle. Before the road, the journey towards Ilet-à-Cordes could only be made by a path going down steeply into the Bras-Rouge river before climbing back up to the plateau. On the riverbed, enormous slabs of basalt form a curious and impressive feature nicknamed "La Chapelle". It’s a journey of two hours in each direction. A great hike for good walkers. Just before entering into Cilaos, take the route just opposite the cirque bakery (which sells reasonably-priced sandwiches). Then, follow the signs away from the main road. Sturdy shoes and plenty of water are a must. Also, consider bringing a second pair of shoes for crossing the waterfall, and don’t be scared to take a dip underneath the waterfall!
- Le sentier des Sources. This is an easy-going little walk, taking about an hour and a half starting from the village of Bras-Sec. Be sure to bring water.
- Forest walks. Cilaos boasts an important coverage of both primitive forestry (behind the church) and land reforested with Japanese cedars (Mare-à-Joseph canton, route de Bras-Sec). There are many well-maintained and well-signposted tracks here, leading to waterfalls, pools and picnic spots which will leave you spoiled for choice. Information can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre in the town centre.
- Notre-Dame-des-Neiges and the Père Boiteau. Among the island’s sacred architecture, Notre-Dame-des-Neiges is one of the jewels in the crown. The nave and chancel are noteworthy, and the woodwork is all the work of craftsmen from Rivière-Saint-Louis. The most illustrious figure at the church was the father Paul Boiteau, who arrived there in 1927, and died in 1947. A mystical ascetic, he was very close to the poor. He is buried in front of the church, and is remembered for the good deeds he granted unto his followers. The church can be seen from afar, so finding one’s way there should not be a problem.
Le cirque de Mafate
- From Cilaos, come along the Taïbit Pass (it takes about 5 hours from Cilaos to Marla, 4 hours from the îlet at Cordes). The cirque is also accessible from the cirque de Salazie along the Col des Bœufs, and there is even a manned car park (unfortunately slightly expensive: around €10/day). By this pass, you can join up with La Nouvelle in two and a half hours of walking through tamarind forest, or Marla in 3 hours. Set aside a few days to enjoy this place to its potential.
It is also possible to reach here by the GR2 route from the north (canalisation des Orangers), or from Maïdo by taking the narrow path heading down the "La Brèche" pass, with a 750-m change of altitude. It’s a fairly strenuous trip, 2 hours down, and 3 hours up (minimum), with dizzying drops. About halfway along, be sure to stop and appreciate the views, above a sheer drop of 1500 m.
The cirque de Mafate is home to many villages, or “îlets”. Aside from La Nouvelle (1470m), there is Marla (1600m), Trois Roches (1220m), Roche Plate (1110m), Grand-Place (530m), Îlet des Orangers (1000m), Îlet des lataniers (650m), Îlet à Bourse (850), Îlet Malheur (828m), Aurère (930m) and Cayenne (530m). Although seemingly near from a bird’s-eye view, the journey from village to village requires a good few hours even for competent walkers. It is possible to get here by helicopter from St-Denis or St-Giles as well. Try Helilagon, Altiport de l'Eperon-97460 Saint-Paul, tel.(0)220.127.116.11.
Le cirque de Salazie
- The cirque de Salazie’s entrance opens up on the eastern side, allowing easterly winds from the ocean to bring spray, and thus rendering this region one of the island’s most lush. The name of the caldera is potentially derived from the Malagasy word salazy, meaning ‘good encampment’. The various villages an easily be reached from the Saint-André.
The main villages are Salazie (the administrative centre), Hell-Bourg (a pretty, flowery village) and Grand-Ilet.
- Salazie, The Bridal Veil:
This is one of the island’s most spectacular sights. The eastern side of the caldera is carpeted in lush greenery through which slice a multitude of waterfalls. The area can be reached by crossing the river on a suspended footbridge, and by continuing alongside fields of watercress and chayotes (a green, pear-shaped fruit). A nice route would be to work one’s way through the vegetation and to go right up to the base of the waterfall – a perfect spot for a picnic.
Starting off from Hell-Bourg, a few lengthy routes can take you to the "trou de Fer" (literally ‘the iron hole’), or the "Piton des Neiges". Alternatively, you could opt for a shorter hike to "Les Trois Cascades" (‘the three waterfalls’), taking just two-three hours for an easy round-trip – still, you’ll need to be equipped with decent footwear though.
- Grand-Ilet is the departure point for a winding route through to the "col de la Fourche" (‘the forked pass’). You can leave your car up in the car park there, and continue the signposted GR1 route, which leads you down to Mafate through the tamarind forests.
Le Piton des Neiges
- The highest point on the island, the Piton-des-Neiges commands so much appeal among certain enthusiasts that it brings them back time and time again. It can be reached from a few different places, (Plaine-des-Cafres, Hell-Bourg, gite de Bélouve), with the ascent from Cilaos probably the most popular option. It’s still not an easy venture, though – it takes a good 8-hour day from Cilaos for even competent hikers to complete a full round trip.
To really make the most of it, however, it is well-advised to plan a night-stop at the Gîte de la Caverne-Dufour (3 km from the summit). The hosts are nice people and, after a traditional rum-based fruit punch, a simple meal will take your mind off your exhaustion from the climb.
At the crack of dawn (at around 03:/0), grab your shoes again, marvel at the night sky which seems a million miles away from today’s polluted metropolises, then climb further. Walk by torchlight along marked-out paths leading to the summit, where the sunrise will leave an indelible mark upon your memory. Words cannot begin to explain the magnificence of this experience. The descent back to the gîte is no more surprising for most visitors that the initial ascent – it would be the first time to see by daylight the track you followed in pitch black earlier. The natural surroundings make it clear that you are on an (extinct) volcano..
- Route from Cilaos
Take the Route de Bras-Sec where the paths leaves off from. The view is completely unobstructed, and the wilderness is staggeringly beautiful. A good place to take a halfway pitstop would be at the "Grand matarum" cabin. For very good climbers only! The gîte takes bookings (several weeks in advance): Maison de la Montagne (Tel.: 02.62.90.78.78), or at the Cilaos tourist information centre 02.62.31.71.71, then book in for a meal and breakfast with the hosts at the gîte (02.62.51.15.26), 24 hours ahead. The journey back to Cilaos can be made in a single push (descending 1800 m in altitude) – try to take it easy on those knees!
- The other route up is from the Bélouve gîte: set aside between 4 and 6 hours of hiking to get to the refuge hut at the Dufour cave – it is a longer and more circuitous route than approaching from Cilaos.
The path around Bélouve gets very muddy from time to time. The final route is to approach from Hell-Bourg passing through the cap Anglais: allow 6 or 7 hours for this route, which covers 1500 metres of altitude.
Le Piton de la Fournaise
- The piton de la Fournaise (Furnace Peak). Make sure to take to the caldera on a nice day, and leave early morning. The circuit of 14.5 km takes about 5 hours of walking.
The first surprise is on the "Nez de bœuf" pass (2136 m), where, after walking through lush greenery, a panoramic over the "plaine des sables" (plain of sands) hits you. This plain of black sand from volcanic activity gives us a hint of what is to come. A path (or more precisely, a dusty track), riddled with potholes, takes us to the "Pas de Bellecombe" (2311 m). A short walk of just a few metres from the car park takes you up to a lovely view over the "Fournaise".
It’s a breathtaking sight as you see this lunar landscape presented before your eyes. A path (which is the only way of getting to the Fournaise) goes down about 150 m in altitude in about 580 steps (we counted them!). Fortunately, there is a rail along the whole route, because the “steps” are far from being like those on normal staircases – they are from 10 cm to 40 cm in height and scramble over rock, earth, tree roots, concrete and pebbles. Nevertheless, the descent along the wall of the caldera leads you through tamarind trees and is not an all too unpleasant route.
Once you’re at the bottom, the first stop is to the "Formica Léo", a small volcano which has been inactive since 1753. From it’s reddish tip emerges about 20 m of ash spewed out from successive eruptions of the volcano during its active years.
The entire journey is well marked out with white markers. These white markers, about every 2 m apart, are essential in case of a sudden spell of mist – they will guide you back to the starting point. Be careful not to stray too far from them, as if you get lost there is very little chance of being rescued before the next morning, and nights up there are pretty cold!
After the Formica Léo, the signposts take you towards the peak, on hard and smooth earth, made up of old lava. A small sign marks out that it is made of “Lave Cordée” (basaltic, smooth, fluid lava, also known as “Pāhoehoe” lava). From then on, the track goes on through a more lunar-like landscape, and the long ascent begins, crossing more recently produced lava.
Getting one’s bearings is no problem, all you have to do is follow the throngs of fellow visitors. Nevertheless, drink lots and do not be deceived by the cool air at this altitude of 2200 m. The sun, even through mist, is very strong, so protect your head and use suncream sparingly all over all parts of your body exposed to the sun (including your legs). Otherwise, be prepared for a few difficult days of sunburn.
After the 2 hours of walking from the car park, you will finally arrive (about a third of the way along the route) at the summit of the Bory crater, at 2631 metres above sea level. This small crater, only 350 m in diameter, has been inactive since 1971. It’s an ideal place to take a few photos or videos to immortalise the moment.
Still following the white markers, the walk continues towards the Dolomieu crater (1km in diameter), which is still active, as the fumes will remind you. This itinerary covers the crater, and the route traverses recent lava flows. You’ll certainly feel the heat on your legs and the crunching underfoot (as if you’re walking on pieces of glass). A few signposts remind you of the danger of climbing down the rock face to get closer to the crater. The positioning of certain seismic probes around the crater’s lip will put your mind at rest slightly.
Once you are finished up on the summit, it’s just another 2½ hours of walking to return to your vehicle – without forgetting that you have to climb back up those 580 steps again!
There is also good diving off the coast of Reunion.
French is the official language of Reunion, although Creole is widely spoken. Everyone understands French, as it is the language of education, but few people understand English.
French spoken with the local Reunion accent, intermingled with Creole, can be difficult to understand for native French speakers. Metropolitan French are locally nicknamed zoreilles ("ears") for their tendency not to understand and ask people to repeat.
English speakers meet every Monday evening between 19:30 and 23:00 (including during holidays) at the Moda Bar, 75 rue Pasteur, in Saint-Denis. Infoline 0692 560220. If you speak English, it is a good way of sharing ones accent, culture and language to meet travelling and resident couch-surfers. Ten to twenty people attend each week. The bar allows people to bring take out food.
See also: French/Creole dictionary 
Exchange rates for euros
As of 04 January 2021:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
Reunion is part of the Eurozone, so as in many other European Union countries the currency used is the euro (symbol: €).
It is compulsory, for the large majority of businesses, to post prices in windows. Hotels and restaurants must have their rates visible from outside.
Most shops accept international credit cards (Visa and Mastercard) but most of them require a minimum amount for credit cards payments (usually €15).
There is a good number of ATMs (called "gabier") which don't charge you for using them.
Most shops are closed on Sunday.
Most of supermarkets are open M-Sa from 09:00 to 20:00. Some of them are open on Sunday morning.
You can find traditional objects in some shops but it's often easier and cheaper to go to a market (marché). The market in Saint-Paul is famous and you'll also find fruits and vegetables: it gathers on Friday morning and afternoon and on Saturday morning.
It's a good place to buy African traditional objects, such as Oware .
Here are some ideas for gifts:
- local music;
- book or dvd about volcano's last eruption;
- local fruits (might be forbidden depending on your country).
Eat and drink
Thanks to its history, Reunionese cuisine is a mix between different cultures: French, Indian, Chinese & African
Typical dishes are cari and rougail which are a meat or a fish cooked in a sauce and eaten with rice.
Depending on the season, many tropical fruits are available, like lychees (December), mangoes, pineapples (the Victoria types in Reunion are said to be the best in the world by the locals), bananas, papaya...
At lunchtime, you can have many kinds of sandwiches and samosas in snack-bars (cheap but not very balanced, except for the spicy "achards sandwich"), and find restaurants easily (average of USD10-15). Other local specialties are bonbons piments, which are spiced and salted fritters, piments farcis, which are stuffed hot peppers, and bouchons, which are morsels of meat or fish that are surrounded by rice paste and steamed before being served with soy sauce.
Réunionnais pastries are often quite thick and sweet. There are pastries made from sweet potatoes (gâteaux patates) and (for a bit of an adventure) manioc (gâteaux manioc)
Reunionese cuisine is quite safe, but ask for some dishes to ensure that they're not too spicy. The spice level is below that of much indian cuisine.
The main local drink is rum. The lowest quality rum is made from fermented cane sugar molasses and is not aged (thus its color is clear). It is often drunk as rhum arrangé - rum flavored by fruit and spices. Rhum arrangé, being fruity and sugary, is easy to drink but beware of the high alcohol content! Higher quality rum is rhum agricole, made from fermented cane sugar juice. It is either clear, or aged in oak barrels, giving it a brown colour.
There are many possible accommodation types in reunion: Ordinary hotels; privately run Gîtes d'Étape; Gîtes de Montagne are mountain cabins or lodges located in the central areas appropriate and operated by Reunion Island Tourism Board; youth hostels are operated by Auberge de jeunesse de la Réunion. There are five youth hostels at Réunion Island ; Hell Bourg, Bernica, Entre Deux, Saint Denis and Cilaos.
For European people coming from an EU country, working in Reunion is allowed without a visa or work permit. If you're from outside the EU, you will probably need a work permit. Check with the French Embassy in your country. Do not forget, though, that the unemployment rate is high. If you work in the health sector (doctor, nurse), it will be much easier.
From time to time the island experiences volcanic activity. However, this is nothing to worry about; the lava flows are fluid and slow moving, and they always go by the less-inhabited Southern part of the island. Alerts are always sent out, and authorities block roads that are covered by lava.
The season when cyclones generally occur is the Southern hemisphere's summer, from October to April. However, alerts are sent out by radio, and it's very hard to not hear about it. Should a cyclone occur during your visit, stay indoors during it.
Reunion is fairly safe - even safer than much of metropolitan France. You must, however, respect some simple principles:
- Don't walk around alone at night in big cities.
- Be careful of signs of riches (cameras, too many jewels).
- Don't resist in case of aggression.
Most crimes are family-related and linked with alcoholic behaviors.
The major attraction of Reunion is the stunning scenery, with impressive walks on cliffs and, obviously, the volcano. In some high altitude areas, especially the volcano, mid-day fog may really hamper orientation; also, temperatures may drop significantly. In foggy weather, do not stray from well-marked paths. Carry layered clothing. Even on this tropical island, in high altitude locations, in humid weather, you can really catch a bad cold.
Unlike most tropical islands, Réunion hasn't had issues with malaria or infectious tropical disease for several decades. Travelers should still take precautions against mosquito bites; in 2005-6 the island had an outbreak of Chikungunya virus spread by tiger mosquitoes.
Caution should be taken when spending time in the sun. High altitude areas may be scorchingly hot when the sun is high, and cold when it is foggy. You might not notice the sensation of sunburn forming if it's chilly out, so don't hesitate to cover up with light clothing even in the heat. It's advisable to bring your own sunscreen, as it's somewhat more expensive on the island.
Sanitary and medical facilities in Reunion are very good.
As in the rest of France, French and EU residents get most of their health care costs covered by the compulsory health insurance plan (sécurité sociale). This plan does not cover nonresidents, who will be expected to pay full price. A travel health insurance is thus advised. Full price costs are significantly lower than in the United States.
Visitors from European Union should bring an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) - obtained in their own country before departure. The E111 form is no longer valid. Ask for details at your local health care organization.
The major hospital is in Saint-Denis but there are various others in important cities. There are doctors in almost every village.
Tap water is usually safe for consumption. Public sources of water are unsafe if labeled with "Eau non potable" (Water not drinkable).
Emergency phone numbers
- emergency services: 112 (which can be dialed by any mobile phone, even if not connected to a GSM network);
- fire brigade: 18;
- police station: 17;
- specialized emergency medical service (called SAMU): 15.
During the cyclonic season (November to April), you should check cyclone warnings shown in newspapers or broadcast by the radio or TV. There is three state of warning:
- Vigilance cyclonique (cyclone watch): cyclonic risk in more than 24 hours, you should buy in advance enough food and water as well as batteries and candles;
- Alerte orange (orange alert): cyclonic risk in the next 24 hours, schools are closed, try to avoid getting around;
- Alerte rouge (red alert): cyclonic risk in the next hours, don't move from your home and avoid using the phone, stay calm.
Réunionnais people have a sense of nationalistic pride that may seem a little unusual or unexpected. It's an island phenomenon that's difficult to explain to people from the mainland. However much someone shouts about the island's superiority from the rooftops, don't be concerned about xenophobia.
Country code: 262
Dialing within Reunion: all numbers have 10 digits. Landlines begin by 0262 and mobile phones by 0692 and with 0693.
Dialing to Reunion: international prefix + 262 + phone number without the first 0 (this leads to dial twice 262 which is normal). If you dial from mainland France, just use the 10-digit number.
Dialing from Reunion: the international prefix is 00.
Calling to a mobile phone is more expensive than to a landline. Number beginning by 0800 are free phone. Number beginning by 089 are premium-rate.
When the new EU roaming regulations came into force, more EU-based mobile providers started offering roaming in Reunion. Many of them even treat Reunion the same as roaming in mainland France, so you can use your plan with no additional charge. Few out-of-EU mobile phone companies offer international roaming to Reunion, however, so double-check with your provider about availability and pricing before leaving. Your company should specifically state that they offer roaming to Reunion (or include it in their EU roaming allowances) since it has different mobile phone companies from mainland France (and as an outermost region of the EU, EU providers are not required to include it in their roaming allowances). If you have service from a provider in mainland France, specifically check that your plan covers the "DOM" (overseas departments).
Alternatively, you should be able to get a Pay-as-you-go SIM card from various locations. There are three companies offering wireless services: SFR (SRR), Orange Réunion, and Free Réunion. As in mainland France, Free is the cheapest offer by far, at €9.99 a month for 50 GB and unlimited talk and text locally, to mainland France, and to landlines across Europe.
Post offices are found in all cities.
Letter boxes are colored in yellow.
Less than 20g (postcard, letter with one or two pages in a regular envelope):
- France (including Overseas Territories DOM-TOM) and Europe: €0.53
- Area 1 (South Africa, Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Tanzania): €0.75
- Area 2 (rest of the world) : €1.05
The basic stamp for regular mail is red with the head of "Marianne" (the Republic logo). It does not carry its value and can therefore be used even after a price increase. It is sold in all Post Offices, Bureaux de Tabacs (Tobacco sellers identified by a red lozenge) and postcard vendors. The latter may also carry other common stamps.
In most Post Offices you will find an automatic machine (yellow) with a scale and a screen. Just put your mail on the scale, tell the machine (French or English) the destination, pay the indicated amount and the machine will deliver a printed stamp.
Chronopost, UPS and DHL offer parcel services.