Driving in Mauritius — A FAQ For Visitors

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We came to Mauritius for the cultural diversity, the island environment, and to try something new.

But we also knew that we’d have to hire a car to get around this island, as taxis and public transportation would be insufficient. So driving in Mauritius would be an inevitability.

Long story short, after months of terrible traffic, general craziness, a few near misses and finally one accident by an impatient driver (details below — nobody was hurt though), I don’t think I’ll drive in Mauritius again.

If you’re also considering visiting Mauritius medium-term and want to rent a car, you might be wondering:

  • What’s driving in Mauritius like?
  • What are the other transport options in Mauritius? (I.e. public transportation and taxis)
  • Are the roads in Mauritius safe?
  • Are other drivers in Mauritius safe?
  • How much does a car rental cost in Mauritius?
  • Should you rent a motorcycle in Mauritius?
  • Can you ride a bicycle in Mauritius?

Below is everything we found out about the above (and more). Hopefully it helps you.

Disclaimer: Some of the below is “friendly advice”, advising on informal driving and traffic conventions rather than the strict law. As you can imagine, the law is much more strict than some of the suggestions below. Please drive and behave responsibly.

Driving in Mauritius — Our Rental Car
This is the pocket-sized Toyota we rented.

Driving in Mauritius — In a nutshell

Mauritius is a very interesting place to live. While there’s a lot that I love about it — the relaxed pace, the warm people, the natural beauty, the relative clarity of the legal system, and the climate — one thing that I don’t really enjoy at all is driving in Mauritius.

Driving in Mauritius is… hectic. But at times, it’s also a refresher of the fact that most people are human, nice, and tolerant.

And driving is almost necessary as public transport is slow and won’t take you most places (see the below section on public transport).

In a nutshell, driving in Mauritius is a lot like driving a car in most African countries outside the big cities. It also has a lot in common with driving a car or riding a motorcycle in South East Asia or in Latin America.

There are rules to follow but also social conventions to be aware of. And driving can seem a little hectic or crazy, but if you’re patient, you don’t have to be a rally car driver to get through it… but it would help!

The first time you head to a place in Mauritius, I’d add about 15 minutes extra to account for detours, random delays, or construction. In fact, even with places I go to frequently, I still leave 15 minutes earlier than I need to on paper.

A few important things you can bear in mind about driving in Mauritius are

  • Road signs are in English, which is the default language of Mauritius (even though people speak firstly Mauritian Creole then French more comfortably — see a separate article on the Languages of Mauritius)
  • You drive on the left in Mauritius, just like in most East African countries
  • Speedometers and guidance is in km/h (but mph conversions below are given for our imperial unit friends)

If you’re coming to Mauritius for just a few days — it might be worth getting a chauffeured car. Otherwise, navigating all this stuff may just be a needless headache and waste of time.

If you want to ask for directions in Mauritius, you’ll likely have to speak French (unless you speak Creole). See some of our French language-learning resources here.

What is the road quality like in Mauritius?

A lot of your experience of driving in Mauritius will be dealing with the road conditions.

Roads in Mauritius are generally in good condition, and sometimes very good. The highways are good quality. By this I mean that roads are mostly paved and some are quite new.

But on the suburban roads, there are errant big cracks/potholes that will jar you — especially as you get into the back roads.

It’s not abysmal. I’ve seen worse roads in California than many roads I’ve seen in Mauritius.

In some parts of Mauritius, a paved road can disappear into an unpaved road. On those sections you can still drive your tiny Toyota or Nissan, but you’d be better equipped with a 4×4.

The quality of roads varies around the island. It’s worst in the densely populated urban areas in the middle of the island, or in the more remote villages.

What are speed limits in Mauritius?

Speed limits are not always explicitly indicated.

There are some official rule about speed limits when driving in Mauritius:

  1. Suburban back streets: 40 km/h (25 mph)
  2. Main streets through built up areas: 60 km/h (40 mph)
  3. Highways between town: 80 km/h or higher, as indicated

Speeds are different for different classes of vehicles (e.g. farm vehicles or trucks). The above are for cars. That’s partly why it’s OK for a tractor to be going slowly on a highway, for example.

Sometimes you may see a sign, e.g. for “60 km/h” before a town, but may not see a sign on the other side of the town to indicate you can go back up to 80.

So you can’t assume there’ll signs for speed limits. I’m often left guessing. This leaves me at the mercy of any speeding cameras — and fines can be pricey!

However, you’ll rarely drive too quickly in Mauritius.

Generally while driving in Mauritius you’d be lucky to hit 100 km/h (60 mph). The general speed between towns is about 80 km/h (50 mph), unless you’re behind someone who’s incapable of going that speed or just unhurried (see below on hazards). Which is quite often!

In town, it’s usually impossible to go the speed limit of 60 km/h (40 mph). Traffic is erratic and bad during daylight hours, road conditions vary dramatically, and there are too many random hazards — stray dogs, people walking, slow scooters, or drivers cutting in and out of traffic.

There are highways around Mauritius where you can technically go 110 km/h (around 65 mph). And you might get there sometimes — but a lot of things can stop you, like rain, slow drivers, obstacles on the road, slow trucks, and poor lighting.

Traffic in Mauritius can be Bad and Unpredictable

You might think that an island with a population of about 1.5M wouldn’t have traffic problems. You’d be wrong!

Traffic in Mauritius is erratic and goes from clear to quite bad — and sometimes, very quickly.

Driving in Mauritius Traffic in Mauritius

Mauritius isn’t overpopulated, but the infrastructure is still playing catch-up to the number of vehicles on the road.

The number of vehicles is high because people need it. Public transport can’t serve everyone, so cars are necessary for shopping, going to work, and going to school.

Plus, the quality of cars that can be registered is very low, and licenses seem to be given out freely. Many cars I’ve seen on the road are incapable of going the speed limits. The drivers also seem incapable sometimes.

Rush hour traffic (between 7:30 and 9, and between 5 and 7) can be stand-still for long distances, even backing up into suburban streets like where we live. But it’s only stand-still in one direction. Usually, Google Maps says it adds around 5-10 minutes to a trajectory and it’s often right.

But traffic can also present itself at other places, even seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Traffic can get backed up

  • When a traffic light is out, and people have to feed themselves through
  • When a traffic light is miscalibrated and only lets a few cars through on a turn with high demand
  • When there are roadworks or a blocked lane (and there’s usually only one lane) due to an accident/breakdown
  • Just “traffic waves” from former incidents/bottlenecks

Plan for the traffic, and plan to make peace with it!

What are other drivers like in Mauritius?

The hardest part of driving in Mauritius is due to the 80/20 rule in that 80% of the insanity is caused by 20% of the drivers. Maybe it’s more like 95/5. Anyway, aside from the small fraction of selfish or crazy drivers, everyone else is just trying to get by.

The small percentage of drivers who behave badly presents itself for example as:

  • A car tailgating you, often a pick-up truck or an SUV, with its high beams on, for no reason.
  • A car tailgating you because it wants to pass. Unfortunately, this bothers people like me, so we let tailgaters pass, which signals the tailgaters that this is a good tactic, fuelling a vicious cycle…
  • Drivers doing half the speed limit on a huge carriageway at night time with no lights on, in random lanes
  • Diesel buses and trucks with poor tuning or blown rings that put out PILES of black smoke and can’t keep up speeds going up inclines. Getting stuck behind a diesel bus in traffic is so bad I sometimes pull over to let a couple of other cars past.
  • People parked in the middle of a lane in a narrow two-lane road, forcing it to become a one-lane road. If you’re lucky, their blinkers will be on, but that’s only if the driver is still around.
  • Scooters going very slowly and not moving enough to the left to let cars past.
  • Drivers going around roundabouts in any old lane (e.g. turning right from the left lane)
  • Extremely aggressive passing — across double lines, around blind corners. We’ve had to stop on highway roads because a car was passing in the other lane. If we didn’t, we’d have been toast.
  • Drivers cutting past long lines of traffic by driving on the wrong side of the road or roundabout, then cutting into your lane, waving with their hand to let you in. You don’t have to — but they’re playing an aggressive game of chicken and you’ll lose.
  • People not using turn signals and just drifting across lanes (fairly common in many places, even America, but more hazardous in Mauritius as it might be at a fraction of the speed limit)

Sometimes many of these things happen at once while driving in Mauritius. For example, I might be blocked by a smoky bus going half the speed limit with few lights on on a poorly lit road.

Other drivers behaving badly is inevitable. Sadly, there’s not much I can do other than breathe and remain calm, and not use their bad behaviour as an excuse for my own.

Again, I want to point out that it’s just a fraction of drivers that are like this.

I’m tempted to say “don’t hate the player, hate the game”. Traffic is not consistently regulated in Mauritius and it almost encourages a dog-eat-dog environment. But most people try to abide by the rules, and I’ve found similar blog posts and comment threads of the majority of people wishing things were better.

Is there a lot of road rage in Mauritius?

Interestingly, despite the traffic jams and drivers behaving badly, I haven’t seen road rage in Mauritius. I know it exists, but the exterior signs of it — e.g. yelling, or beeping — are very rare to see while driving in mauritius.

Driving in Mauritius is a blend of dog-eat-dog and courteous. Sometimes people let you in. But usually, you kind of have to force your way into a lane or into a roundabout, when you need to. And when you do, it’s OK.

Because the good news on which to end is that other drivers in Mauritius are easy-going. If you do manage to force your way into a lane, the car behind will back off and won’t do something like get on the horn or get angry.

For example, if I’m turning right on a one way street and traffic coming the other way stretches out a long way, the people in the opposing lane will see that, and they will not want me to block everyone forever. They understand there’s nothing I can do about it, so will just stop and let me through, flashing their lights to say “go ahead”.

The most common times I’ve ever heard someone beep their horn have been

  • To alert another driver they can move forward
  • To alert drivers/pedestrians around a blind corner where there’s no mirror
  • To alert an owner of a car they’re blocking them — e.g. double parking

But I rarely hear people toot their horn in frustration in traffic, e.g. to say “why is it so slow”. People driving in Mauritius are more chill than in many big cities.

Is it dangerous to drive in Mauritius?

Overall, I wouldn’t say driving in Mauritius is prohibitively dangerous. It important to get used to the conditions. But the one thing you can never discount is the craziness of other drivers. Ultimately, this resulted in someone hitting us. If I were on my motorcycle, it would have been a very bad accident.

The safest time to drive is in the middle of the day when it’s dry. Conversely, driving in Mauritius can be a little dangerous at night time, particularly in the wet.

That said, I wouldn’t say don’t drive at night/in the rain. But if you’re going to drive in Mauritius, I’d say drive a few times in good conditions before driving at night. The low visibility means you won’t see those low-powered scooters with no lights on or trucks dawdling in the middle of the road at half the speed limit. It’s good to get used to those things first.

There is one other important situation where it’s dangerous driving in Mauritius — residential areas, which are replete with blind corners.

For some reason, Mauritian roads are built in a way that there are blind corners everywhere. To turn out of a residential street I have to poke the nose of my car out. If a car is coming in the perpendicular direction, it’ll beep to tell me to stop (rather than give way).

Similarly, if you notice a car’s nose poking out of a driveway, give it a toot to tell it that the coast isn’t clear.

I’ve had a few near misses driving in Mauritius in urban areas where I haven’t followed the social convention to beep to allow me to pass.

The Accident We Had in Mauritius

A few days before we left, we had an accident in Mauritius.

We were turning right along a straight road. I had turned on my turn signal and slowed. As I turned, the car behind me tried to pass me for some reason (I think they didn’t see my turn signal) and I swiped them.

Look, nobody was hurt, and there were no other vehicles involved. No motorcycles, thank goodness. And everyone had insurance. So that much is probably ok.

But the other car didn’t accept responsibility, so insurance had to cover it. The other party claimed I had been drinking and that I didn’t use my turn signal — both of which were untrue (I never drink, and even my partner remembered me signalling, which I always do). In another country I’d be sure that the situation would come out in our favour, but in Mauritius, things became murky quickly.

Even when we were making our police statements, the police seemed to agree with us that this was trivial. But there was an odd situation in which one police officer got aggressive with me and said “Just write here ‘I accept responsibility’. Otherwise we have to do a full investigation with a drug and alcohol test.”

There was no way I was going to let a cop to pressure me to write an admission of fault. This was very strange behaviour for a Mauritian police officer. I don’t understand that as a tactic.

He said (in French): “You’re a foreigner. Foreigners make mistakes. Recognise your mistake!” But I knew that to write down “I admit fault” would result in an unfair insurance process.

Then he tried to explain to my friend who organised the car for me: “He’s a foreigner. Explain to him how things work here in Mauritius.”

I wrote something trivial, like I accepted that I couldn’t turn into a private road. That seemed to appease him. But it didn’t matter, I left feeling like the Mauritian police handled it poorly. It didn’t reflect well on the Mauritian police or traffic system.

Does Google Maps work in Mauritius?

Generally, Google Maps works in Mauritius — until it doesn’t. So know the route, as Google Maps can quickly become your worst enemy in Mauritius.

You can generally use Google Maps to get between major destinations if there are established roads between them.

But a lot can go wrong if you just rely on Google Maps (or Waze). You definitely can’t rely on Google Maps in Mauritius to get to places reliably if you’re going there for the first time. Especially if you have a deadline.

Google Maps works in principle, except it doesn’t know a few things. It doesn’t know

  1. Roads that are closed due to construction (even long-term)
  2. Just how bad the traffic is, and the likely delay

On the first point — roads are closed sometimes even temporarily, e.g. night works over a long period. That’s hard for Google to know.

Around 30% of the time when driving in Mauritius to a new place, I have to ignore what Google maps  says and find my own route around. For example, yesterday Maps was telling me to turn right onto a road that was having a tram built on it. Not only could I only turn left, there were zero U-turns for what seemed like kilometers. I used a map the old fashioned way, turning it around until I found a road to take me home.

One time, we drove for an hour to get to a hike, only to realise the mountain road was closed due to long-term construction. Months had already elapsed. Google Maps didn’t know. We had to go home.

The second thing Google maps rarely knows is just how bad a traffic jam is.

For common routes, Google Maps usually knows. If it says it’ll take me 35 minutes to get somewhere (e.g. my regular route to my local Jiu-Jitsu club), then usually it takes between 33 and 40 minutes.

But sometimes, if a segment of the road is red, I’ve seen estimates of a 45-minute trip (for what’s normally a 25-minute trip) blow out to over an hour.

That’s one of the reasons I decided to get a motorcycle here (see below).

Are Police Aggressive in Mauritius?

Yes, there are a lot of speeding cameras, both fixed and mobile, in Mauritius. So when driving in Mauritius you have to be aware of the risk.

Police are everywhere in Mauritius. Luckily, they seem mostly to be attending to changed traffic conditions due to road closures or incidents.

But where there are police, there are passive speeding cameras. These are a liability for anyone driving in Mauritius.

It’s quite ridiculous to me that with the plethora of things people do badly driving in Mauritius that present real hazards that there’d be speeding cameras. Most cars aren’t even capable of doing serious speeds. And those who have a fast car (there are a couple) or motorcycle can afford to pay any ticket.

Speeds change quite suddenly between 60, 80, then 110 (in km/h), are often not signposted and are meant to be intuitive, and there are speed cameras everywhere which always has us wondering if we just got nabbed — you can get a ticket for driving just a few km/h over the limit, which you may not have even been aware of!

There are passive speeding cameras not just on the big highways, but also on back suburban streets. In these areas I’m sometimes confused whether the limit is 40 or 60, so I often end up slowing down too much…

Luckily, most fixed speeding cameras are very obvious and well sign-posted. They’re very common near Port Louis (the capital), and also in towns along highways, where I suppose people shouldn’t be blasting along at highway (or higher) speeds.

I haven’t been pulled over in Mauritius, but I’ve heard it’s quite easy to get a ticket.

The only upside is that all that can happen is a ticket — max 20000 rupees (around $450 at current exchange rates). That’s quite a lot. But they’ll never confiscate your license or impound your vehicle, as can happen elsewhere.

Is There Much Parking in Mauritius?

Whenever I get to a place I’m headed to, the next challenge is parking. After driving in Mauritius for upwards of 30 minutes, this can be a headache!

On the plus side, people do tend to just park any old place. So sometimes I pull over and hope for the best — but then someone will come and tell me “hey you can’t park here, this is for XYZ” (e.g. a nearby restaurant) and then rather than fight I usually move.

My best recommendation is to find open parking lots within about 100 m of destinations and park there.

Or ride there using a motorcycle…

How Much is Car Rental in Mauritius?

Of course, if you plan to drive in Mauritius, you need a car!

One bit of good news is that you can rent a car cheaply (20000 MUR a month, which is about 400 Euro or 450 USD). You’ll get a tiny car with the basics — air con, barely enough power, power windows/mirrors… and that’s it.

Car rentals in Mauritius are much cheaper than car rentals in most countries. Especially as there’s no deposit and the condition report seemed to be a formality. In fact, I didn’t even do a condition report for the replacement car I got. We paid cash and didn’t leave a credit card on file.

We rented a car in Mauritius from Klokan Rental. The first car he gave us was a bit of a lemon, for which he was apologetic and gave us a second, cheaper (and better) one. I get the impression he works through third party operators and takes a slice, but it’s also easy to deal with him.

Basically, our only requirements for driving in Mauritius were: a) a car that is clean and works and can get up to speed, b) air conditioning, and c) automatic transmission

A very common rental small car in Mauritius is the Nissan March, also known as the Nissan Micra.

We had that initially, and ended up with a Toyota Vitz, also known as a Yaris or Echo (the older gen). The Vitz/Yaris/Echo is a good car — great handling, and enough power to get up to highway speeds, even with the air conditioning on. Also, ours was a slightly older model, so only cost 18000 MUR a month… probably less if we tried negotiating.

What are Gas/Petrol prices Like in Mauritius?

(Gas, gasoline, and petrol are the same thing. But different English speakers use different words. But just to be clear — this isn’t about autogas/LPG.)

In Mauritius, gas is expensive. Of course, we came here after Russia had already declared war on Ukraine, spiking global oil futures and gas prices. But even in the last couple of years, gas prices were only about 20% cheaper.

We used the most basic kind of unleaded petrol (no “Premium” pumps that I could find!) and paid about 60 MUR / litre, which translates to about 1.30 Eur or $1.40 / litre, or $5.14 a gallon. If we came here in 2020 or 2021, we’d have paid around $4 a litre.

Basically, it makes a lot of sense that people in Mauritius typically use low-capacity scooters and small cars.

Luckily, most driving in Mauritius is for fairly short trajectories of 3-20 km. (which take 5-30 minutes, given the traffic and road conditions).

What’s Public Transport Like in Mauritius?

Public transport in Mauritius is only good for certain routes and only if you take them frequently and are used to them.

There are two main kinds of public transport in Mauritius: the tram line and buses.

The one bit of excellent public transport in Mauritius is the tram that goes between Port Louis and Curepipe. It’s extremely clean, very comfortable and cool, and tickets cost 60 MUR each (about 1.2 euro or $1.40). That’s quite a lot for some locals (it’s more than what many pay for lunch), but office workers / professional staff use it.

You can buy tickets with a credit card at the terminal. Would that every bit of public transport were like this!

Every time we’ve used the tram — not at rush hour, mind you — we’ve had seats. And there have never been any people who have made us question security.

Unfortunately, the tram is extremely limited in where it goes. It’s expanding, but its expansion is also a political hot potato.

There are buses in Mauritius, and they’re cheaper. The express buses are faster and even air-conditioned.

There are buses “every 15 minutes or so” in Mauritius, with express buses coming less frequently. Buses start around 5:30am and end at about 8pm in built up areas, and run between 6:30 am and 6:30pm in the countryside.

Bus tickets are 15-30 Rs — pretty affordable — and a little extra for the express buses with air con. You can buy the tickets on board. You have to buy a ticket every time you get on a bus, so keep some small money with you. (There are multiple operators and they don’t have interconnected systems, so you can’t get a card that works across every system).

Unfortunately, the bus network is a little tough to navigate. You have to know a specific route and bus and then use that bus. The data in Google Maps isn’t there. It’s not like major cities around the world (including elsewhere in Africa) where you can plot a few connections using buses and trains.

Generally, I wouldn’t use a bus in Mauritius if I had an appointment, e.g. if I was trying to meet someone or get to a class/to work, unless I knew the route VERY well and took it often.

But using the bus can be a relaxing way to check out remote parts of the island without renting a car (according to some of our readers). You get the added bonus of talking to people on the way there.

Can You Rent a Motorcycle or Scooter in Mauritius?

An alternative to driving a car is to ride a motorcycle or scooter. But I generally wouldn’t recommend it. The risk of an accident is too high.

You can rent a small motorcycle (125cc scooter) for around 10000 MUR (about 200 Euro / 250 USD) a month. If you spend a bit more, you can get a bigger motorcycle with a shifter, like this Benelli 300TT I took for a couple of weeks. (You would need a motorcycle license for this.)

Driving in Mauritius — Motorcycle

Riding a scooter or motorcycle in Mauritius carries with it the same caveats as above — random road condition changes and hazards and other drivers.

But the major benefit of riding a motorcycle in Mauritius is that you can go around traffic when it gets very hectic!

When traffic is stand-still one way but empty the other, it’s very common in Mauritius for bikes/scooters to just jump in the other lane. When it’s time for them to merge back in, cars let them in — probably knowing they’re about to leave again.

The two caveats are that I wouldn’t rent a scooter in the wet season months, and I wouldn’t rent one unless you have a lot of riding experience. Slippery roads — or rain — make riding a very unpleasant experience, unless you have nowhere to go in particular.

And you need experience to know how to brake and swerve to avoid accidents.

There are many scooters that are 50cc in capacity in Mauritius. You can use those, but they won’t go highway speeds.

This 300cc motorcycle I rented from Klokan (16000 / month, but I also was renting a car) can get up to freeway speeds. It’ll do 110 km/h pretty easily… I could push it further (maybe to 140 if I’m patient), but I’m just wearing an open-face helmet and no road gear, so anywhere above 60 I feel nervous. That’d be a lot of gravel rash!

In the end, I didn’t use my motorcycle much for travelling because I got nervous about going too quickly. I used it for local errands.

Can you ride a bicycle in Mauritius?

One thing I thought about before coming to Mauritius was riding a bicycle. After having stayed in Mauritius, I would not recommend riding a bicycle for getting around Mauritius!

The roads just don’t seem safe, with cars and pedestrians everywhere. Distances are large, and hills are frequent.

Of course, do ride a bike for exercise or leisure — the back country roads are pretty wonderful and quiet. Even then, cars will pass you and may stress you out.

We do see bicycles in some parts of town, like coastal areas. We also see leisure riders on the country roads. But they’re always being overtaken by trucks and cars at what seems like dangerous proximity. It doesn’t look leisurely to me. Do it if you’re a diehard and plan on riding in groups, maybe.

Are there Taxis or Uber in Mauritius?

At time of writing (2022) there’s still no Uber in Mauritius, nor any alternatives like Didi, etc. I don’t expect there to be — the market is too small.

There are taxis, but they’re expensive. We didn’t bother. I only see them parked in touristy areas and they’re often haphazardly trying to flag me down, but we heard they’re expensive (even for visitors), and I hate bargaining with drivers, so I don’t recommend getting them.

The only time you might get a taxi is from the airport to your hotel. But even then, if you call a car service and pre-arrange a ride, you’ll pay less for a higher-quality service. (We booked one through our Airbnb.)

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