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.
Saint-Denis, the capital of Reunion island
Saint-Gilles, situated on the west coast, where all the white sand beaches are.
Saint-Leu, a well-established city of surf.
Saint-Pierre, second most important town of Reunion Island
Etang-Salé, a small town on the west coast with one of the black (volcanic) sand beach
Saint-Benoit, where you can find the vanilla cooperative factory
Reunion is an integral part of France so it has the same rules as France, which you can get from France's page.
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 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. Because of the rain (mostly between December and March), the four-lane between La Possession and Saint-Denis is "basculée", that is switched to a two-lane road.
Roads are well maintained.
Car hire is available.
Reunion Island almost has 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 hikings are probably in the Mafate circus and on the volcano. The exceptionnal Mafate circus has no roads, and about 800 inhabitants.
You can find hostings on main hiking places.
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 litchees (december), mangos, pineaples (the Victoria types in Reunion are said to be the tastiest), bananas, papaya...
At lunchtime, you can have many kinds of sandwiches and samoussas in snack-bars (cheap but not very balanced, except for the spicy "achards sandwich"), and find restaurants easily (average of 10-15 USD).
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.
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.
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 opened from 9:00AM to 8:00PM, Monday to Saturday. Some of them are opened 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 where to buy African traditional objects, such as Oware .
Here are some ideas for gifts:
book or dvd about volcano's last eruption;
local fruits (might be forbidden depending on your country).
French is the official language of Reunion, although Creole is widely spoken. Everyone understands French but few people understand English.
English speakers meet every Monday at 7:30PM (including during holidays) at Chez Francky in Rue de la Compagnie in Saint-Denis.
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.
Sanitary and medical facilities in Reunion are very good.
Health care in Reunion is controlled by a state-owned organization (Sécurité Sociale).
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).
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.
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 24hrs, you should buy in advance enough food and water as well as batteries and candles;
Alerte orange (orange alert): cyclonic risk in the next 24hrs, 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.
Reunion is fairly safe. 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 of crimes are family-related and linked with alcoholic behaviors.
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
Country code: 262
Dialing within Reunion: all numbers have 10 digits. Landlines begin by 0262 and mobile phones by 0692.
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 deferent mobile phone companies than in mainland France.
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) :
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) : 0,90 €
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.
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|Area||2,517 sq km|
|Electricity||230V/50Hz (French plug)|
|Government||overseas department of France|
|Population||787,584 (July 2006 est.)|
|Religion||Roman Catholic 86%, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist (1995)|