The magazines, YouTube videos and internet contents have seduced you. Mauritius is where you want to be. After all, how can we resist to such a place; it has got it all: climatic and political stability, stunning natural beauty, welcoming people… to list a few. Yet, some do fail their Mauritian experience and leave the country with a sour after-taste. There are certain things that are not told or exposed publicly, which means you only get a feel of them once you are hit.
I’ll try to give you some hints on what not to do on the island to ensure that you enjoy the paradise-like feeling. Expect a series of short articles following this one soon.
The road kills
Mauritius is known for its bad drivers. We have some nice roads, latest vehicles (all the top brands & models are here) but strangely things are not working that fine.
Reasons are many and here is not the appropriate platform for a debate. The government is trying to introduce policies to tackle this evil from its roots. True that they removed the penalty points system and this hasn’t helped a lot. If you’re driving a Porsche, then you can afford the fines (that has been the philosophy of careless drivers so far). A new set of rules and fine rates have just been introduced – deliberately high to really affect your pockets and your brains.
Beyond the civic instinct of observing law is the human instinct of preserving lives, yours and others. Mauritian roads have witnessed many human dramas, most of them unnecessary and silly. You don’t want to be part of this sad thing.
40.2% of road victims are bikers. There are many modified motorcycles and the licensing systems are very blurred, both for the bikes & bikers. To correct this, aspiring riders now face a tougher learning & licensing framework. In the past, you could ride any bike you wanted with a ‘Learner Permit’. It meant that a very few found it useful to pass and get a real permit. Many riders are circus stuntmen riding wild on open roads and many of them end up in nice coffins. Don’t be one of them.
You want to live in Mauritius, not die here.
To enjoy riding in Mauritius, putting your knee down from time to time, do it in groups (there are many of them I can introduce you to).
If the bike is your everyday transport, invest in appropriate gear. We have specialized shops now and they can provide you with the latest in terms of safety gear. Intra-town lanes are quite narrow, there’s still room for lane-splitting but many blind spots… and blind drivers – bear that in mind.
The maximum allowed on the island (on highways) are at 110KmH while you can enjoy 40 to 80 KmH in town. Most of the speed-prone areas are equipped with camera & radar systems. They are usually painted in yellow and quite visible, announced by sign boards.
Their effectiveness is another debate; the Mauritian driver fails to understand the concept of ‘speed zone’ – they slow down near the camera and accelerate abruptly after passing it. New devices, capable of measuring average speed over a zone, will be introduced soon to help educate those who still haven’t grasped the concept of speed limit.
Speed limits are not for birds. You have to respect them.
Do not stay on the fast lane (right side of highway) if you think you’re not driving fast enough. There’s always a psycho-driver behind you, driving with a knife between his teeth. His car will shout at yours, flashing violently their lights or swearing at you through their honks. Keep to your left, except when overtaking. Do not respond to aggressive behavior. Keep calm… if you sense real danger, stop at the next police station. I’m not saying the country is dangerous but remember that psychos do not have any specific habitat, they can be found anywhere in any form.
Road rage exists in Mauritius, but you don't want to learn it the hard way.
To cut it short, you might have a go at someone and win your battle of the moment, then after 2 days get yourself greeted at your own gate by a lorry packed with furious X-men. The island is small, you are traceable. Full stop.
Do not start your car if you do not have your seat belt on. I don’t think I need to say more on this subject. It is now common human knowledge that seat belts save lives. They can also save you from paying big fines. There’s a certain tolerance for passengers on the back-seat but by law they need to have their seat belts on.
Drink & Drive is a definite No No. The alcohol limit has been reduced and literally you cannot have more than a glass of whisky if you are behind the wheels. Police squad (fully equipped) can surprise you anytime, anywhere. There is a strict policy on drunk driving – and there’s probably no escaping the wrath of authorities if you are on the bad side. Zero tolerance at this level and it is fully justified. For decades we thought we had responsible drinkers, but it doesn’t go along responsible driving.
It is always good to have that one clean and sober friend with if you feel the night's wilderness is irresistible.
Park your car if you have an urgent call to make or attend to. I repeat, park your car. The roads are too small, and you cannot trust other road users. An abrupt change of lane or speed variation (often when using a communication device while driving) will most probably lead to your vehicle French-kissing another one. Using mobile phones is prohibited, whether you have hands-free system with your latest in-car Bluetooth technology.
No, mobile phones are simply not allowed while driving.
Renting a car
Many foreigners go for car rental for short, medium or long periods. You have to be very careful while dealing with this. There can be nice offers coming from non-registered individuals renting out cars. These vehicles do not have insurance cover for rental and in case of accident, you might be in trouble. In addition, there’s no guarantee on the safety of such vehicles – they may have been repaired after heavy damage, etc.
To be safe, use only registered car rental companies. Do not hesitate to ask for their documents. Check for the papers on the windscreen, look for the validity of insurance, fitness certificate (if applicable) and validity of road tax. Make sure your rental contract has all information required. Check the car thoroughly if you don’t want claims for damage you didn’t do.
Gibson & Hills
We have, for the past 2 decades (and more) been helping foreigners relocate to Mauritius. Part of our responsibilities is to ensure that the local culture is understood by those who have chosen the island as their new home. We feel it is our duty to give as much information as possible to non-Mauritians and help them get the best out of paradise-island.
Our team is availabe to answer any of your questions. Feel free to contact us.