As a French overseas territory, Reunion Island's official currency is the Euro. But that doesn't mean the island is prohibitively expensive for South African's travelling on the ZAR. Here are ten tips to help you budget for your trip to Reunion Island.
There are many free activities to enjoy on the island, from snorkelling to hiking and camping. That's right - camping is free anywhere on the island (as long as you follow the rules)! Known as "bivouacking", it's pitching your tent somewhere at the end of the day and leaving the next morning is allowed everywhere on the island. Of course, it goes without saying that the only signs of your camping experience that you should leave behind would be footprints. But even if camping isn't your style, read our ten tips below to make the most of your budget.
1. Plan your trip in advance to save
Last-minute planning and peak-season holidays can cost you. By planning your trip in advance and shopping around for the best prices on car hire and accommodation, you're likely to save -especially if you plan on visiting during peak season. Make sure to do your research, and check the cost of accommodation and activities at different times during the year.
2. Sign up to the Air Austral newsletter
Air Austral flies direct to the island several times per week and is the most affordable airline to book with. The airline frequently runs sales and special offers, so sign up to their newsletter and follow them on Facebook and Instagram to find out when they are running special offers and get the best price on flights to Reunion Island.
3. Visit during the quiet season
During the months June to August, European tourists descend on the island for their annual summer holidays, so accommodation is limited and seasonal prices are in full effect. The best time for South Africans to visit is during the off-season periods of April/May and September/October. The weather is incredible year-round, so even during the winter months, you can escape the cold in South Africa for beach weather on the island.
Booking a self-catering bungalow or Airbnb property will help you to save on both accommodation and food costs. There are many lovely bakeries (boulangeries) in every neighbourhood on the island, so you can enjoy the traditional French breakfast of baguettes or croissants with your morning coffee for under 3 Euros per day. Stocking up on groceries at the Score or Leader Price supermarkets and packing a basket with homemade sandwiches and salads for your activities will help you save on eating out, which can be expensive – especially on the beach.
5. Plan your transport carefully
Booking a car is essential, as public transport is limited and taxis are extremely expensive. It’s essential to book your car ahead and to compare prices to make sure you get the best deal. Remember to book the comprehensive insurance too, in case driving on the wrong side of the road results in some scratches – the last thing you need is a big damages bill at the end of your holiday!
6. Use Google Maps instead of renting a GPS
You can download the Google Maps of Reunion Island for offline use, or just get a SIM card when you get to the island so you can connect. Head to the Free store in Saint Gilles (103 Rue du Général de Gaulle, Saint Paul 97434, Réunion) where you can buy a SIM card pre-loaded with 25GB of data for just 20 Euros from an in-store vending machine.
7. Eat local food off the beach
Beachfront restaurants are pricey, with French food ranging from 20 Euros up to around 48 Euros per meal. Just one street away from the lagoon edge, you’ll find delicious Creole food for as little as 7 Euros per meal. Enjoy a delicious plate of Rougail Saucisse (a smoked sausage stew served with rice and beans) and a couple of beers for less than 10 Euros.
8. Shop for alcohol at the grocery store
Beers usually go for around 1 Euro at the grocery store (sometimes even less) and around 3 Euro at beach bars. But the beauty of the island is that having a beer on the beach is totally legal, so you don’t have to be at a bar enjoy a Dodo (the local beer) with the sunset. Pack a few beers and a bottle of rum in a cooler bag to take with you to the beach and you could be saving up to 20 Euros per day just on sundowners.
9. Enjoy the free activities
There is so much to do for free on the island that you hardly have to spend any money to enjoy your holiday. From snorkelling to hiking (no park fees or permits required) to visiting the volcano (again, no entry fee for this national park) and even camping. Although canyoning requires a guide and equipment, there are waterfalls that are easy to access where you can swim and relax for free.
10. Travel with your credit card
As a general rule, drawing cash from an ATM on the island works out more cost effective. Many South African banks, like FNB and Capitec allow free swipes. It’s also much easier to stay on top of your budget, since you can check your spending at the end of each day on your internet banking or app. Just remember to call your bank and authorise your card for overseas use before you travel.