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The island of Réunion is a tiny bit of France with a tropical twist, situated 500 miles (805km) east of Madagascar, deep in the heart of the Indian Ocean. Nicknamed 'l'Île Intense', Réunion is a dramatic, mountainous paradise created and shaped by volcanoes. The scent of vanilla, stretches of black sand beaches, forest-covered peaks, rushing waterfalls and an incredibly diverse and friendly population makes this overseas départementof France an idyllic destination.

The history of the island is reflected in its people. The Portuguese stumbled across the unoccupied island in 1513, but it was the French that descended in 1646 and stayed put. French exiles and colonists, Malagasy slaves, Chinese indentured labourers, Indians and Pakistanis have subsequently created a rich melting pot of culture, as well as the island's most widely spoken language, Réunion Creole.

Réunion was hard hit with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, as it lost significance as a stopover on the East Indies trade route, and today it relies heavily on mainland France for financial support. Its main industries are sugarcane, rum, vanilla, geranium oil for perfumes and not surprisingly, tourism. An interesting facet of the island's economy is the enormous gap between rich and poor; its high unemployment rate contrasting with an affluent elite. One's immediate impression of the place, however, is that the groups seem to live relatively equably side-by-side, with plenty of racial and religious mixing. That is not to say there has not been conflict caused by such socio-economic disparity, as seen in riots 15 years ago.

Réunion is home to one of the world's most active volcanoes, le Piton de la Fournaise, and has three major cirques: Cilaos, Mafate and Salazie. This provides breathtaking scenery and world-class trekking and canyoneering, with plenty of footpaths and daredevil drops to choose from. The island's beaches are not given the credit they deserve - the black volcanic sands at Etang-Salé are a treat (though the sand can be scorching in summer), the warm Indian Ocean is the colour of absinthe and the abundance of underwater creatures makes snorkelling a must. The popular St Gilles-les-Bains offers classic palm-fringed shores on a wide lagoon and Saint Leu has incredible surfing. For those who venture inland, small mountain villages, lush forests, rich birdlife and flora can be found.

Delicious local cuisine, local fusion music and dance, and quintessentially French sophistication are served up side-by-side in Réunion. Outdoor activities and plenty of relaxation are combined with a welcoming people and a magnificent backdrop, making Reunion indeed 'l'Île Intense'.

Information & Facts


Business procedures are quite relaxed in Réunion. Only the most formal of occasions will require suits. French is the language of business and an interpreter should be brought along if needed, as there are no professional interpreters on the island. Business hours are generally 8am to 12pm and 2pm to 6pm Monday to Friday.


Réunion's climate is tropical, with temperatures affected by elevation. The average coastal temperature is between 64°F and 88°F (18-31°C), with temperatures dropping in the interior. Humidity is high. The island has two seasons: summer and winter. November to April is hot and rainy, while May to November is usually dry and cool and is the popular time for travel to Réunion. The cyclone season runs from mid-November to mid-April and the island is occasionally affected.


The international access code for Réunion is +262. The outgoing code is 00, followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). City/area codes are not necessary. Three mobile phone companies provide service, although there are not many international roaming agreements. Internet cafes are available.


Réunion follows French tradition and culture, influenced by its many different population groups. There is a mix of Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam on the island and visitors should respect the different religious groups and their customs.

Duty Free

Travellers from non-EU countries over 17 years of age entering Réunion can bring in the following items duty-free: either 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g tobacco, as well as 2 litres of either spirits or wine, 50g perfume or 250ml eau de toilette, gold jewellery not exceeding 500g, 500g coffee, 100g tea and other goods to the value of EUR175 per adult, or EUR90 for children under 15 years.


Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. A round pin plug with male grounding pin is used.

Getting Around

There are local buses on the island of Réunion, as well as Car Jaune(yellow buses) that connect the island's principal towns. Car rental agencies are located at the airport, as well as in Saint Denis. Roads are well maintained, though traffic can be heavy during peak times. Taxis are available.


A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required from travellers coming from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission.Visitors to Réunion should take precautions against mosquito bites due to illnesses such as dengue fever and the Chikungunya virus. A yellow fever certificate is required from travellers arriving from an infected area. Réunion's medical and sanitary facilities are very good. Most towns have doctors and clinics, while the principal hospital is in Saint-Denis. Tap water is usually safe for drinking. Public water sources are unsafe if labelled 'Eau non potable'. There is a reciprocal health agreement with the UK and most EU countries, whose citizens are entitled to low-cost emergency medical treatment on presentation of a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).


French, as well as Reunion Creole and some English is spoken.


Réunion is an overseas départementof France and therefore since 2002, the unit of currency is the Euro, divided into 100 cents. There are plenty of banks and ATMs on the island, and most shops and hotels accept major credit cards (though most require a minimum amount for payments). Travellers cheques are widely accepted, with Euros the preferred currency. Banks are open on weekdays from 8am to 4pm. Most businesses are required to display their prices in their windows and restaurants and hotels must have their rates visible from the exterior.

Passport Visa

Passports must be valid for length of intended stay. Travellers must have proof of return or onward tickets, sufficient funds or lodging certificate and all travel documents needed for onward journey. Schengen visa is also valid if endorsed "also valid for Reunion". It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


As when travelling to any foreign destination, visitors should be vigilant of their personal belongings, not display signs of wealth (e.g. mobile phones, money, expensive jewellery) or walk around alone in an unknown area at night. Réunion is, however, relatively safe. Swimmers should be aware of currents and riptides, if unsure, ask the locals. The cyclone season is from December to April. The Piton de la Fournaise volcano is considered likely to erupt at some point in the near future.


Local time is GMT +4.


Tipping is customary in Réunion and 10% or more of the bill is expected.

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