Quick Guide to Reunion: Visa-free travel for South Africans
Reunion Island may be small, but it packs quite a punch when it comes to activities.
It's an adventure hot spot from water sports on its coastline to paragliding from its mountains, most of which was formed by its active valcano.
It has a World Heritage Site filled with craters, and you can even explore lava tunnels formed long ago through fierce, molten eruptions.
Although it's part of France, the island is made up of diverse cultures from all over and has developed it's own unique Creole identity.
Here we take a look at one of the top ten searched African destinations for South Africans and what you need to know should you want to visit:
Visa requirements: No visa required for South Africans with a valid passport qualifying for a 120-day stay. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months and have at least 2 blank pages.
Continent: Indian Ocean island
Medical requirement: None
Currency / Exchange Rate: Euro (It’s part of France and a region of Europe)
National Carriers: Air Austral
Main airports: Roland Garros Airport
Time Zone: 2 hours ahead of SA
Plugs: European style, two-round pins
Public transport: There's a bus system, but the tourism agency advises that the cheapest way to get around is to hire a car and drive yourself.
Best time to visit: High season is November to April are the best times to visit, although January is very busy coinciding with the school holidays. The shoulder season during April through to September sees less tourists, but weather and temperatures are still decent.
Food specialities: The island is a cultural melting pot and thus it's food is influenced by French cuisine, Indian and Chinese spices. Traditional dishes involve a lot of rice and 'cari', which is similar to a curry, and rougaille, which is like a charcuterie board. The island is also known for its Bourbon Pointu coffee grown on the island and lychee honey.
Language: French (Official), Creole
My name is ….
Mon nom est …
Je vous remercie.
Do you speak English?
Parlez vous anglais?
Where is [hotel/toilet/beach etc.]?
Où est le… ?
- The island is quite safe with little crime, so South Africans can really relax on Reunion.
- If you're prone to motion sickness, pack some anti-nausea medication as the roads can be very steep and winding.
- Although its a tropical island, temperatures on top of the volcanoes can drop drastically, to even 4 degrees in winter, so dress warmly when visiting those areas.
- When it the water follow lifeguards' instructions and all safety precautions as there is a shark risk around the island.
- Stay updated with Reunion media for any cyclone warnings - orange alerts means don't do any sea or mountain activities, and red alerts mean stay indoors and do not drink tap water unless it's boiled.
Top attractions on Reunion Island:
- Maloya Music
Once upon a time banned by the French government, Maloya combines song and dance in protest towards the treatment of Malagasy and African slaves working on the plantations and is recognised as 'Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity' by UNESCO. It's well worth the effort to catch a performance of this soulful music.
- Piton de la Fournaise volcano
One of the most active volcanoes in the world, Piton de la Fournaise is situated in the UNESCO-certified Reunion National Park and poses little threat to the inhabitants of the island. The many lava flows has created a unique, almost alien landscape and offers easy hikes to the top.
- Cilaos, Salazie and Mafate craters
At the heart of the island and surrounded by the national park, these three mountainous basins were formed after the collapse of the Piton des Neiges, still the highest peak in the Indian Ocean. These craters are also home to a rich diversity of fauna and flora, making the island one of the 34 biodiversity hot spots in the world.
- Explore lava tunnels
You can go caving in tunnels created by lava flows around the island and experience another world under the ground. Guided by a naked flame, shapes and weird colours illuminate your way as you feel like Jules Verne travelling to the centre of the earth.
- Extreme outdoor activities
Reunion is a paradise for adrenaline junkies, offering countless activities on the coast, in the sea, in the mountains and even up in the air! All the water sports you can imagine is on offer, and you can take to the skies in a helicopter, glider or even a paraglider if you're brave enough.