Reunion (French: Réunion ) is a French overseas territory located in the midst of the Indian Ocean, east of the island of Madagascar.
The Portuguese discovered the uninhabited island in 1513. 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.
Although remote from mainland France (France métropolitaine), Réunion nonetheless officially forms an integral part of the Republic, representing its own département.
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 located near Saint-Denis (RUN). Companies flying to Reunion are Air France , Air Austral , Corsair and Air Mauritius , with direct flights to Paris, Mauritius, Sydney, Bangkok among other destinations.
As always, consider a cheap flight to a direct gateway, for example Paris. It can often cost less than a connecting flight through to Reunion.
You can travel by boat between the islands of Mauritius and Reunion.
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 6AM and 6PM. You can get schedules and details on their official website . Click on "Plans et tarifs" for a map of the network.
There is one main road around the island (74km of it is four-lane) and another road from Saint-Pierre to Saint-Benoit (route des plaines) through the inner part of the island.
Due to the high number of cars, traffic jams often occur so you should avoid travelling during peak times.
Because of the volcano, road is sometimes closed on the east side.
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.
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 one thousand kilometers of hiking trails, in an astonishingly 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 exceptionnal 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.
French is the official language of Reunion, although Creole is widely spoken. Everyone understands French, 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 z'oreilles ("ears") for their tendency not to understand and ask people to repeat.
English speakers meet every Monday evening between 7:30PM and 11:00PM (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 phrasebook, French/Creole dictionary
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 ATM (called "gabier") which don't charge you for using them.
Most shops are closed on Sunday.
Most of supermarkets are open from 9:00AM to 8:00PM, Monday to Saturday. 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:
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 Maison de la Montagne; youth hostels are operated by Auberge de jeunesse de la réunion (Official site). There are five youth hostels at Réunion Island ; Hell Bourg, Bernica, Entre Deux, Saint Denis and Cilaos.
"Clin d'Oeil de l'Océan " is situated at Etang Saint Leu near "Saint Gilles les bains"
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.
Voluntary service: Volontariat Civil à l'Aide Technique (VCAT). Conditions: you must be French or from another EU-member state or a country belonging to the European Economic Area. You must be over 18 and under 28 years old (inclusive). You must not have had your civic rights revoked by a court or have been convicted of certain offences. VCAT
Reunion is fairly safe. You must, however, respect some simple principles:
Most of 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. Be aware that 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.
WARNING: Reunion has been experiencing an epidemic of Chikungunya virus. As of April 6th, 2006, 230,000 people have been infected, which amounts to 29% of the population. The epidemic is over actually, no new cases have been reported in the summer 2006-2007. Travelers should still take precaution against mosquito bites.
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. Prepare layered clothing.
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).
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:
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 France, just use the 10 digits 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.
Few foreign mobile phone companies offer international roaming to Reunion so double-check before leaving. Your company should provide specific roaming to Reunion since it has different mobile phone companies from mainland France.
Alternatively, you should be able to get a Pay-as-you-go SIM card from various locations. There are two companies offering wireless services: SRR and Orange Réunion .
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 envelop) :
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.