Famously known for its white sand beaches, azure waters and luxury resorts, the island of Mauritius has long been known as a honeymoon destination and a fantasy retreat for those dreaming of the ultimate tropical paradise. The island’s little known secret is that, just outside the gates of the luxury resorts, there awaits another Mauritius, an island ripe for exploration and perfectly accessible to those of us wanting to explore Mauritius on a budget.
It may just be time to move Mauritius up a few notches on the bucket list. Here is everything you need to know about travelling Mauritius affordably.
The first thing you should know about Mauritius is that all beaches are public. This means that all those pictures you’ve seen of turquoise waters and powder white sands, are just as accessible to you as to those paying top dollar at the luxury resorts. Public beaches are dotted all around the island and attract a good mix of tourists and locals. Even in the regions dominated by resorts, with a bit of ingenuity, you can always find an access point to the beach.
To read about the best beaches in Mauritius click here.
The entrance to the beach is not always easy to find, but certainly worth the effort!
Believe it or not, Mauritius is not all resorts and we were surprised to find out just how many cheap accommodation options there were! From camping on the beach, to great deals on self-catering, here is summary of some of the cheaper ways to rest your head while backpacking Mauritius on a budget.
By far the most affordable option, is to bring along your own tent because camping is free, yes FREE, on public beaches! On weekends you will see Mauritian families setting-up tents all around the island. No permits are needed; just pull-up on almost any public beach and select a spot with a view.
Beaches come well equipped with public bathrooms, showers, food vendors and barbecue areas so you’ll have everything you need at your fingertips. The facilities are extremely well maintained and clean! Even after a busy long weekend, we were amazed to find not a single piece of rubbish left on the beach.
If roughing-it is not quite your style another option is to rent a cheap self-catering apartment. In tourist hubs like Grand Baie and Flic-en-Flac there are a multitude to choose from with a broad range of facilities and prices that will suit all tastes and budgets. If you are willing to stay a a few streets back from the beach you can pick-up some even better deals. Our no-frills place in Grand Baie, just across the road from the beach, was €25 with aircon and wifi. Having our own kitchen also meant we saved on food and drink by stocking-up at the local supermarket and avoiding the overpriced beach bars in town.
If you’re looking to stay near one of the lesser known beaches your best bet is to snag a deal on Airbnb. Creole families all over the island are opening their homes to tourists, and prices are very reasonable! By choosing to stay with a local family, you’ll also get to sample true Mauritian hospitality and perhaps a homemade rum arrangé or two!
Weekday and off-season deals
Booking last minute or visiting during the low season can save you major bucks. We visited in the hot and sultry summer, a period that many tourists avoid due to the humidity and chance of storms. We lucked out with blue skies and perfect weather every day, and with some amazing hotel deals. In Flic en Flac we ended up with a 3 bedroom beach-side apartment with a pool for just €50 a night, 70% off its normal price!
If you are not careful, eating and drinking can quickly add up to be your biggest expense. Restaurant and resort prices are especially high where you may pay as much as €10 for a beer and €30 for a cocktail. There is a huge range in prices from place to place, so be sure to read the menu carefully before you commit.
In general, expect to pay between €3 and €5 for a beer in a mid-range restaurant. But pick-up a bottle from the supermarket or corner store and it will under €1. In Mauritius there are no regulations prohibiting drinking on the beach so do as the locals do and pull-up on sand with your own supplies.
We found that restaurants in most of the tourist hubs were rather overpriced and slightly disappointing. Catering almost exclusively to tourists, these establishments seem to pump-out dish after dish with very little inspiration. And restaurant meals don’t come cheap: another reason to make the most of the ample self-catering options or public barbecues.
If cooking is not your thing, I suggest opting for the vast array of local snack-stands lining most beaches. Unlike the food produced at the vast majority of restaurants, these dishes are packed with flavor, tradition and lots of love. Think freshly made rotis with creole sauce, seafood samosas, spicy briyani and bonbons piments. It’s easy to spot the best stand by the length of it’s queue.
Mauritius’s street food is a delicious mix of Indian, Chinese and African influences and the choices are more than plentiful. My favorite was the bouillon boulettes, a hot broth filled with yummy things like lamb and seafood dumplings. For the more adventurous be sure to try a cup of confit fruit drizzled in tamarind and chili sauce, or a roti egg pickled in cinnamon, cardamom and other Indian spices. The good news is you can easily try them all for a bit of pocket change. A meal at food stand shouldn’t cost you more than 2 or 3 euros.
Mauritius has a decent, and cheap, local bus system but if you really want to get-out and explore, I highly recommend renting a car. Mauritius is a great place for a road trip, and although cars don’t come super cheap (in the range of €35-50 a day) a rental will give you the freedom to visit places you simply can’t reach by bus. If you have a late night flight, or want to get out at night, a rental may even end-up cheaper in the long run. Buses don’t tend to run in the evenings and taxis are VERY expensive.
Now that you know how to travel Mauritius on a budget, find out which Mauritian beach is best for you.