Since I’ve got back from Reunion island, I’ve been inundated with questions from friends, family and social media followers about Reunion. People are obviously interested in the destination, but seem to know little about it. It’s easy to see why – the island has mainly marketed itself to tourists from mainland France and most of the tourist information has been in French.
More recently Reunion Tourism has decided to diversify it’s tourism markets, and is focusing on new markets such as South Africa. Good news for South Africans as this country has so much to offer. South Africans have a lot of destination knowledge about other Indian ocean islands such as Mauritius, Seychelles and Zanzibar but very little about Reunion.
So here are a few answers to your questions:-How do I get to Reunion Island ?
Air Austral operates flights direct flights from Johannesburg to St Denis, Reunion twice a week (departing Thursdays and Sundays). Flights start from €370 return (approx R5400). If you’re coming from Europe, Air Austral also flies from Paris. There are also regular flights between Mauritius and Reunion, so combining the two island destinations is a viable option.Do I need a visa?
The good news is that South African’s no longer need a visa to Reunion. However .I do recommend you have a print outs of your return ticket and hotel booking when your arrive. The immigration officers asked me for this, and weren’t too happy that I didn’t have them available.
There are quite a few options for hotels on the island, from 3 to 5 star, though I’d consider self-catering villas and guest houses f you’re travelling on a budget. To really save on accomodation, check out the camping options. It’s free to camp anywhere within the National Park for free, as long you pack up your tent during the day! The perfect option for hikers.
Hotel Les Filaos (2 star) has a really good deal for South Africans – €60 per room per night. It’s located in the seaside hub of the lovely L’ermitage lagooon, close to many cool restaurants and bars. Since most hotel websites are in French, it’s easiest ways to email Reunion Island Tourism (reunionisland.za@atout-france.
If you prefer package deals, I see that Flight Centre has recently advertised 7 night packages to Reunion for around R12500. I think if you book things independently you need to budget around R12,000 – R15,000 depending on activities.
To give you an idea of prices, a 3 course lunch / dinner including apertif drinks and table wine costs around €20 – 30 for a mid-range restaurant. Beer costs around €1,20 from the supermarket and €2-3 in a bar. A baguette at a corner cafe costs €2 -3. A pizza at a street food truck costs around €7. A great way to save money by self-catering, eating from food trucks and food-shopping in supermarkets.Do I need to speak French?
No you don’t but it will make it much easier if you do. Outside the main tourist areas few people understand much English. Pick up a French phrasebook or download an app and you’ll be ok. That being said, I speak zero French and I got by, but we were lucky to have a speaking guide Niko from Tours Reunion. Learn a few worlds of Reunion Creole and you’ll definitely make friends 🙂How do I get around?
The best way to travel the island is by renting a car, though be prepared to drive on the right hand side, like in Europe. You will need an international drivers licence though. A small 1,4l car will cost you between €25 – 60 per day. The road infrastructure is excellent, so a small car is fine, no 4×4 needed. Click here for a list of car rental dealers.
There are public buses that cover the main routes of the island, but really everyone on Reunion has a car, and if you want to go to the more remote places, I suggest you hire one too. Cabs are super expensive, so unless you’re a larney, they’re not a budget-friendly option. I noticed lots of hitchhikers, especially at night. So if you’re adventurous consider hitchhiking.Are there any issues with safety?
Reunion Island is probably one of the safest places I’ve been to. Aside from not swimming in certain beaches due to shark activity, I think you’re pretty safe. The lagoon is perfectly safe for swimming and watersports.
Have any other questions for me? Ask me in the comments below and I will try and answer them if I can.