MAURITIUS ON A BUDGET

Mauritius sights

Mauritius on a budget, yes you can! Here are our money-saving hacks and travel blog for our 5-day trip to Mauritius, which didn’t break the bank!

When people hear the word Mauritius, they normally think of two things – honeymoons and expensive resorts. And that’s fair enough, that’s what a lot of people visit Mauritius for. But travelling to this tropical island can be done on a budget, which was exactly what our trip was all about. Mauritius can make a great add-on to an African adventure. We tacked our visit onto the beginning of a month in Madagascar, midway through our 18-months of travel. In order to keep our costs low, there were a few things we needed to do.

The first step was finding a cheap flight.

Booking flights early is a great way of keeping costs low and maximising options. We planned on flying to Mauritius from somewhere in Eastern Europe, where we were travelling prior to Madagascar. We used Skyscanner to look at options for the countries near where we were travelling in Europe and found that flights from Istanbul were very reasonable. Having a little flexibility with inbound and outbound flights really helped us to get the best rates.

Secondly, where did we want to stay?

We spent quite a bit of time researching different areas of the island before rushing and booking accommodation. There were lots of great deals on accommodation. But, we wanted to make sure we were in an area where everything was easily accessible, before snapping up a bargain, which may have cost us more, in the long run, getting around. We also knew we wanted to be miles away from fancy resorts and honeymooners. So, finding the right area was key. For us, that was Mahebourg, in the southeast of Mauritius, close to the airport.

Thirdly what style of accommodation did we want?

For a budget traveller, hostels, home-stays and guesthouses generally offer some super affordable options. We were really wanting to keep costs low, so looked at self-catering options too. We found a great place called Le Bovallon Guesthouse which was only €32.50 p/night. It was centrally located to shops and some beaches, had a small kitchen, pool, free bike hire and included breakfast. Perfect!

Next up was deciding what we wanted to do in Mauritius?

We thought long and hard about what we wanted to get out of our 4 nights in Mauritius. Not interested in exploring the entire island just for the sake of it, our goal really was to relax, enjoy some of the beautiful beaches and to do a little hiking. So that was exactly what we did! We actually did nothing other than exploring both local beaches and some further afield, utilised the pool at our guesthouse and climbed Mauritius’ most iconic mountain – Le Morne Brabant.

Finally, how did we want to get around the island?

Our guesthouse was brilliantly located with an airport bus stop nearby. Being able to catch a local bus to/from the airport saved us a lot of cash. Mahebourg’s home to some beautiful beaches which were only minutes away by bike. As we had free bike hire, we were able to cycle to Pointe d’Esny and Blue Bay Beach. We also used our bikes to explore the local area. We used local buses to get around which was a painfully slow but fun experience!! As we were keen on staying local for most of our time in Mauritius, we opted against a rental car to get around (though renting a car was a safe and convenient way to see the island, had we wanted to really explore all of it thoroughly.)

Exploring Mahebourg and around.

With kitchen facilities available, our first job was to get on the bikes and check out the supermarket. The local ‘London Way’ was very well stocked and the prices were surprisingly reasonable. After stocking up on food supplies and local beer, we set off to see the local beaches. The weather was beautiful and that water was like nothing we had ever seen before. We were super impressed to see just how clean the beaches in the area were.

Mauritius Cycle
Pointe d’Esny
Mauritius Beach

Our cycle to the beaches passed plenty of mangroves, where we saw lots birds along the way. The distinctive Red-whiskered Bulbul seemed to pop up everywhere and we also saw plenty of others like the Madagascar Fody, Heron and Village Weavers. Sadly, we were just a few years too late to see Mauritius’ national bird – the Dodo haha!

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Apart from swimming in the countries pristine water, the other thing we wanted to do in Mauritius was climb Le Morne Brabant. This symbolic hike has a sad history and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, in recognition of its function as a refuge for slaves.

But there was so much conflicting information online how about how to do it, with the main question being ‘do you need a guide?’ After deciding not to rent a car, getting to Le Morne Brabant for an early start was problematic. After looking at rental car options for just the day, organised online day trips, bus and taxi’s options, all of which were either expensive or very slow (buses), we spoke to the owner of our guesthouse. She knew a local driver who had a guiding license and after a quick chat, he offered to do the half day trip for by far the best value we had found.

Leaving our guesthouse at 6 am, the drive from Mahebourg to Le Morne Brabant took around 1.5 hrs. We parked in a designated carpark at the base of the mountain and commenced hiking around 7.30am. After signing in at the small office by the entrance, the climb started off quite easy for the first hour and progressed to a steeper incline for the last 30-40 mins.

Le Morne

We had read so many differing opinions on the difficulty of the climb, some saying it was dangerous and brutal, others suggesting it was not so difficult. Honestly, what it boils down to, is your hiking experience and fitness levels. We personally hike quite a lot, are reasonably fit and don’t suffer from fears of heights. So other than the heat, we found it one of the easier hikes we’d done for a while, classing it as easy/moderate. For those who are scared of heights, there is a bit of scrambling on the steep rocky ascent/descent close to the peak. In wet conditions, slippery rocks would also make the climb significantly more dangerous, in which case, we certainly wouldn’t recommend doing the hike.

Steep Climb

Despite the conflicting information on the hikes difficulty, there’s no argument that the views from the top were spectacular! Simply stunning on a clear day. After around an hour admiring the views at the top, we made the descent back down, which took us around an hour.

sea view
le morne
hike mauritius

All up, our hike took around 3.5 hrs, including time at the top. So… do you need a guide? We’re still not 100% sure. The path was simple to follow and easy for those with a good level of fitness, so in that respect, you don’t. If you speak to locals, rangers, guesthouses and read the websites, you’ll probably be told you do. We had to sign in on arrival and we read signs at the entrance stating that hiking was at your own risk. We also passed a sign mid way which also said hiking beyond that point was at our own risk. But we saw nothing that stated a guide was compulsory. We saw a few people hiking up without guides, so it’s obviously not always enforced, if it is even compulsory. Approximately half way up the hike, there was big fence and gate which was open and unmanned. Our guide said it gets locked/manned when it’s wet for safety reasons, but otherwise, it’s was always open. We did ask our guide directly if it was compulsory to have a guide, to which he gave us a very unclear answer. Not surprising really! From our experience, we would suggest that having a guide was optional, but you would need to sign a disclaimer at the entrance to the mountain.

We loved our hike and had a great time on Le Morne Brabant, which had us back to Mahebourg in time for lunch. The afternoon was spent planning the following day, as we’d hoped to see Chamarel Waterfall. But after discovering the water flow was almost non-existent at that time of year, we changed our plans and instead elected to bus back over to Le Morne Public Beach.

Getting information on the long bus journey wasn’t easy, as not many tourists use local buses and there were no timetables anywhere! But after a bit of local advice, we had a route. Travelling around Mauritius by bus was painfully slow!! Direct bus routes were limited, meaning we had to take several buses to reach our final destination, 3 in total. The buses stopped frequently to pick up/drop off passengers and there was a lot of waiting time between connections. It was however a great way to see the countryside and see how the locals get around!

The journey out to the beach took around 3 hrs one way, taking us a little way past the entrance to the Le Morne Brabant track, where we got off the bus. We then walked 5 km down a road to the beach. The hot and tedious journey was worth it though, as the water was just beautiful. The wind conditions, however, were not as perfect, unless you were a kitesurfer, of which there were many! Despite the strong breeze, we spent the afternoon walking along the beaches and cooling down in the crystal clear sea.

sea hammock
Mauritius beach

We had lunch at a beachside cafe and basically walked all the way around the base of Le Morne Brabant, before coming to the main road, via the entrance track. The bus journey back to Mahebourg took a similar route and timeframe and we didn’t get back to our guesthouse until late. In retrospect, we should have asked our guide the previous day to drop us off at the beach and then bused-back to Mahebourg ourselves. Oh, how hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Le morne
Bussing Mauritius

On our final day, we hit the local beaches again before the weather turned. Our timing was perfect, as the rain was heavy and lasted for hours.

d'esny beach

It was again a quick and easy bus ride to the airport for our flight out to Madagascar, the next leg of our travels. We had a great time in Mauritius seeing and doing everything we wanted to, of course, on a budget. We certainly could have done things a bit differently and saved some time, but overall it was all we hoped for.

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