Random Travel
Reunion Island for South Africans – questions answered
July 11, 2014

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.

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Reunion coastline – image by Yann Macherez

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.


Where do we stay?

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.fr) with your requirements and they will suggest hotels.

How much does it cost?

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.



About author

Meruschka Govender

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There are 12 comments

  • Sarisha says:

    Hi, thanks for the article! I’ve been itching to travel again but my dates and budget often clashes with friends. Is reunion safe for a female sole traveller?

  • […] Meruschka’s mzansigirl.com is another one of my favourite blogs. Her passion for travel and love for South Africa come through in every aspect of her blog. Inspiring. Meruschka’s post ‘Reunion Island for South Africans – questions answered’ is beautifully written and beyond informative. It will definitely come in handy for any South Africans looking for travel inspiration, to travel Reunion or just inform themselves. Check it out here. […]

  • Michelle says:

    Hi there

    Thanks so much for the article! My boyfriend and I are dying to go.
    What time of year were you there? What was the weather like?
    I have read that Sep-Oct is the best time to go, but obviously us South Africans like to make use of public holidays and there aren’t many during this time.
    So we were wondering if April is an okay time to go?

  • Samuel LOUISE says:

    C’est bien documenté!

  • Naomi Sinden says:

    I won a 7day hotel stay there. im going to take my fiance with me. Due to the dates they gave me we do not have alot of time to save on spending money. Luckily our prize includes 2 meals each day. Any tips how to save money over there and what tourist attractions you would suggest. It will be our 1st overseas trip.

    • Meruschka Govender says:

      Hi Naomi. Lucky you! At least your accommodation and most meals are sorted. Pop in at the supermarket to stock up on snacks and try out the local street food (I recommend the dim sum, samoosas and grilled street-side chicken). It also depends on which part of the island you’re staying in. Getting around with public transport can be a little tricky. If you can afford it hire a car – even if its for s few days – it will help you with sightseeing. I think visiting the volcano is free, you’ll just need a car to get up there. Take warm clothes as the weather can change quickly. See if your hotel has free activities – they might have kayaks or a snorkel you could use. Hiking is free and the island has some of the best hiking I’ve experienced. I hihgly recommend a hike to Mafate if you can, though it might be better to use a guide. Exploring the little towns doesn’t cost much. Grab some beers from the supermarket and take them to the lagoon at sunset. You won’t be disappointed!

  • Anwar says:

    Hi Meruschka
    thanks for the tips, i am off to St Denis on the 22 April, Hope you dont mind , but i sent you a friend request on FB,
    Kind regards
    Anwar Nagel

  • Marie-Helene fitch says:

    I would like to retired there.i am french, American.can I leave there without complications? How much do houses cost? Cost of leaving? Thank you for responding. Coming from USA.how is the healthcare?

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