Port Louis, Mauritius Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Port Louis, Mauritius

Port Louis, Mauritius 06/07/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. My first memories are in Germany as an Army BRAT. I also lived about four years in Dublin, Ireland as an adult working in the private sector.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

We call the DC area home. We're only 8 hours ahead of DC here but this is a pretty remote region with poor air connectivity. However, there are a number of routes to get back to the East coast but none of them are quick, easy, or cheap.

Here are the options:
1) The best option is to fly MRU-CDG and then catch a connection to the U.S.; you're looking at 11 hours to Paris and then the layover and additional 7 hour flight to the East coast. This route has the advantage of being overnight, so you're landing in Paris in the morning and (hopefully) you've slept a bit on the plane, making the flight seem shorter and the connection a lot easier to deal with.

2) Next best option is to fly through Dubai and then connect to the U.S. Advantage here is that you're splitting the trip into two, almost equal legs. Major disadvantage is that there is no good flight schedule; your layover in DBX will probably be between 12am and 6am, when nothing in the airport is open and the layover will be 3 to 6 hours long.

3) A lot of USG types seem to fly through ATL and JNB -- some travel agent is making a mint on this miserable route. From here, we'd have to fly MRU-JNB (4 hours), then JNB-ATL (16 hours), then connect to DC. You're look at one overnight, probably in Jo'burg, and a really long day of travel.

Air Mauritius recently went through a restructuring and they have massive code share agreements with Air France, Emirates, and South African -- I'm told they're looking to add more routes. Etihad is also expanding in the region, so if you don't mind going through UAE, your options are increasing.

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3. How long have you lived here?

10 months into a 2-year tour.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy, first tour FSO.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing: If you're U.S. Embassy, then the housing is nice -- too nice and you'll probably be spoiled here. Other than the Ambassador, DCM, and Consul, all housing is on the coast to the north of Port Louis and no more than 10 minutes from the beach. We live across the street from a beach and three others live ON the beach with ocean views. All but one housing unit are single family homes with at least three bedrooms. Those of us on the coast in the north all have pools. Some of us have two-car garages. Other than the three houses on the beach, all houses are walled, gated properties with lots of privacy.

The only north-south "motorway" in the country ends just south of us in Grand Baie and most of us live just off that motorway or just south of Port Louis. We have the longest commute up here in Grand Baie area, with about 30 minutes commute on average.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Availability is no problem but prices are not my strength as I don't do most of the shopping in the house. There are large, modern supermarkets all over the island. Costs depend on the item. I've noticed that good coffee is hard to come by and expensive; I pay close to US$30 per kilo of whole bean coffee. Things like zip-lock bags and paper towels are also quite expensive and hard to find in bulk in order to save a few bucks. Oddly enough for an island destination (or maybe because it's such a holiday destination), sunscreen is RIDICULOUSLY expensive. I think I paid US$20 for 200 ml of SPF 30 last time I bought some. The majority of the population is Hindu or Muslim, so beef and pork are imported from SA and Australia -- quality varies and it can get quite expensive. If you're vegetarian or happy with chicken and seafood, you'll do fine.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More sunscreen, more deodorant, more batteries, more toilet paper, more paper towels

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, KFC, and Nando's are all well-represented here. The fast food is quite cheap; think dollar menu. Sit-down places vary widely around the island, both in terms of service and prices. I go to a small, Chinese food place in Port Louis where I can get a large beer and a bowl of noodles for about Rs 300 or US$10. Service is generally slower here overall -- you're on island time now -- but you can learn where to grab a quick bite pretty easily.

Street food is plentiful and very cheap. My street food breakfast -- curried beans in a wrap -- costs Rs 20, less than US$0.75. One of our favorite spots near home, a waterfront restaurant that shows South African and European rugby matches, is quite a bit more expensive, with main dishes running at least US$10 each. So much is imported here and life is so much slower, you just have to accept a bit more variance in quality.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

My wife has had a lot of issues with the bugs but I have had few. Some people just seem to attract more of them.

- Ants: black and red ones. The red ones bite and are quite aggressive. Black ones will invade the house but they only want food, so if you keep a clean house and place some ant traps at major points of entry, you'll be fine.
- Wasps: nasty bright yellow things. Mostly they hover around large bushes and clusters of trees but leave people alone. Everyone I know who has been stung, including me, has disrupted a nest or has sppoked a wasp that was hovering on a branch. The sting hurts and swells up pretty quick. If you find a nest, kill it with the local favorite: DOOM spray. No joke, that's the name.
- Spiders: small, medium, and large (palm of your hand) and a couple of them bite. We put bumpers under all the doors to keep the big ones from wandering in and when we find one, we kill it immediately. My wife got a bite or two on her leg that turned into cellulitis and had to go on antibiotics, but that's only happened once.
- Mosquitos: they're here, but not awful. Thankfully, there are no major diseases, so a bite is just a bite. No need for mosquito nets, just some bug repellant for those more prone to bites when you go outside for a while.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Just last week I got something in the DPO within 7 days but I've had stuff accidentally go to Kinshasa or Dar due to someone misreading my zip code in Chicago. We also use the personal pouch. I have no experience with the local mail system, but it seems most people use Post Office Boxes because you don't see a lot of home delivery.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Help is cheap, but it adds up.

Our nanny/housekeeper works about 25 hours a week and we pay her Rs 100 per hour (approximately US$3.50). After 5pm we pay her an additional Rs 50 per hour. Our gardener comes twice a week and keeps the place trimmed up, we pay him about US$130 a month. Same with the pool guy, although slightly less. The real trick is the 13th month bonus at the end of the year. You're supposed to pay a bonus of one month's salary at New Year, plus bump up their pay by the govt's recommended cost-of-living adjustment. If you're paying cash, you can technically avoid this, but the working class here earns so little that it just seems wrong to stiff them when we live so comfortably. You're supposed to pitch into the national pension fund and national savings fund for each worker you employ on a monthly basis. I think this costs me about US$40 a month. You're also supposed to provide a travel allowance of some sort, so we pay our nanny/housekeeper half her bus fare for each working day (she works for another family the rest of the time and they cover the rest).

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but none are convenient to the Embassy or embassy hours, in my opinion.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are plentiful and safe to use, as are credit cards. They have chip-and-pin here, but have no problem doing a swipe. Your only issue may occur at the gas station, where they ask you to pull up after filling your tank. A few people have been charges a few extra rupees here and there, so double check the total they quote you and the total you're actually charged on your card.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There is a local Baptist church founded by some Americans and I'm pretty sure they do services in English. There's an English-language Catholic mass every first Sunday of the month nearby. To the best of my knowledge, almost everything else is in French and Creole.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

French is a major bonus but not absolutely necessary. The local Creole is like French vocab with English grammar and some Indian slang thrown in for good measure, so I'll never master it but it's good to know a few words and phrases here and there. Pretty much everyone working in the service industry here speaks English pretty well, so you can get by.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, this is not a disabled-friendly environment and Port Louis is a jumbled, organic mess of sidewalks, streets, curbs, gutters, and infrastructure. There are cross-walks and ramps, but they seem to have been planned to take you as far away from where you need to go as possible. You never see a wheelchair in Port Louis. Furthermore, there are no sidewalks to speak of in the villages and smaller towns so I'd imagine it's quite dangerous for someone with ambulatory issues.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The bus system is well-run, safe, and affordable with most routes leading in and out of Port Louis and the central population concentration. Most of the main towns have a bus station. Taxis are also safe and relatively affordabl. No trains here.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

As I'm currently ordering parts from all over the U.S., I can tell you that buying the right car is REALLY important because you will pay out the nose for spare parts if your car is not sold here. Unlike a lot of African countries, you don't need a 4WD here because the roads are mostly decent, but the make and model matters a lot for repairs, maintenance, etc. They drive on the left, so a RHD is preferred. I see Fords, Chevys, and Toyotas mostly but the Nissan Sunny seems to be very popular here. Embassy handled most of the paperwork, but keep a spare couple hundred dollars handy for the endless nickel-and-dime fees to get your car out of the port when it arrives. I don't recommend buying a car here. It is ridiculously expensive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We have a 4MB internet and basic cable combo at Rs 2800 per month, which is just less than US$100.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cheap phones are available, as are the latest smartphones and data plans from Mauritius Telecom and its branding partner Orange. It doesn't seem to be too expensive or different from what we can get back in the U.S.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

The expats who seem to be doing well here are ones who came with money and made significant investments or started their own business. Expats and spouses who come looking for a decent 9 to 5 will not be compensated at a level they think appropriate to their education and skills. There is supposedly an EPAP position coming to the Embassy, but I'm not holding my breath as I'm sure other African posts will get priority.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty through the Embassy: reading to kids, English language events, Earth Day, etc

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

We are relatively casual. Most of the men keep a jacket and tie in the office in case of an important meeting. I wear khakis and a button-down shirt most days. There is a wide variance in dress for women in the Embassy and anything goes in public generally. Everything from beach bum attire to the finest saris are seen in the streets of Port Louis. Despite the heat around New Year, most government and business people seem to want to wear jackets and ties, which I think is pretty stupid. Up in the Seychelles they the right idea: short sleeves, no ties. Ever.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

This is a very safe post. There is the occasional break-in or window smashed on a car, but for the most part we're dealing with lazy, opportunistic types not violent gangs. We always set our alarm and keep the house locked up, but friends of ours are far more lax and have had no problems.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Excellent health care available here and getting better with new clinics opening. Docs are EU and U.S. trained and the sugar conglomerates are investing in new health facilities. No major diseases here, but there was a very small dengue outbreak, quickly contained. No risk of malaria. Water is usually clean, pollution not a major issue.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Very good air quality, other than just before and after the sugarcane harvest season (May through July) when they burn some of the fields. If you smell smoke, close the windows because some people find their allergies are really aggravated by the smoke. People complain about the humidity but it's far easier to deal with than the stickiness of August in Washington, DC.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Mauritius has an "island paradise" reputation but it's really far more varied than that in terms of climate. This small island has two distinct seasons and two distinct climates; elevation makes a huge difference. The hotter season runs from about October through April, with the rest of the year being several degrees cooler. At the hottest point, the thermometer said about 85F in January, but it felt much hotter -- the sun just seems stronger here. We wear sweatshirts in the evening, but it's nowhere close to chilly during the cooler months. For the cooler months, think springtime in DC.

Our friends living nearby on a hilltop, however, never get too hot because of the near-contant breezes they get. Even more drastic is the difference on the central plateau (south and east of Port Louis). They get a lot more rain and clouds in the hotter months and it gets downright chilly during the cooler months. I rarely wear a jacket and tie at work but I'm told it's necessary at the July 4th reception down south because it gets so cold at night. You'll even see guys in puffy winter coats on their motorcycles occasionally. With scarves. And gloves.

We are in the cyclone belt so there are a few warnIngs (and maybe a few days off from school and work) around the New Year. There hasn't been a catastrophic cyclone hit in a long time. Most homes have storm shutters and are built of concrete, so all you really deal with is a lot of wind, rain, and some fallen branches or trees.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We send our daughter to a French school and we've been very happy with it. There's a lot of variety here: French, English, international, an American-run Christian school, etc. It's all about location, though. Put your school preferences in your housing survey, because driving across the island to school will get old fast.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

To the best of my knowledge, there are numerous creches, pre-schools, and so forth. Most of our experience, however, is with a part-time nanny. LIke I said before, household help is cheap and there is a network of nannies and housekeepers who have worked with diplomats and expats for some time.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. Ballet, swimming, soccer, and rugby are all available.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Not a lot of Americans here, but tons of South Africans and French expats. Morale seems pretty high as the Europeans, South Africans, and Americans are thrilled to live near the beach with decent weather year-round. Morale in our Embassy is good and we all get along pretty well.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

A number of movie theaters, religious/community festivals, catamaran trips, bars and restaurants in Grand Baie, hiking, sports clubs for soccer and rugby

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Better for families than couples, and better for couples than singles. Take this with a grain of salt, since I'm a thirtysomething married guy who arrived with a kid and one on the way, BUT... families have schools, sports/social clubs, hiking, beaches, shopping malls, restaurants, etc. Plenty for families, plus it's safe and the housing is good for diplomats with kids. Couples without children have pretty much all the same options; a lot of Mauritians with means go abroad to study and come back with spouses or partners, so there would seem to be plenty of people to meet as well.

For singles, I imagine this post can be more difficult but not impossible to enjoy. Public transport after dark is non-existent, so nightlife depends on planning ahead and booking a taxi. Mauritians are friendly and co-exist peacefully (most of the time), but due to their history they have segregated along ethnic and religious lines and the "communities" can be hard to break into or move between. While there is no outright discrimination that I've seen, there isn't much dating across communities (yet), although we do know an American who married a Mauritian Tamil and I know that one of our previous officers was dating a Kreol (Mauritian of African descent). Kreols, whites, and Sino-Mauritians seem to be a lot more open to dating and socializing outside their "community" than their Indo-Mauritian peers (both Hindus and Muslims). I would think the best bet for singles here is to live in the north of the island and get out with other singles from the expat community; like I said, there are plenty of bars, restaurants, and clubs.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Mauritius is a very conservative country, but there is no outright antagonism towards the LGBT community and no trend towards criminalizing homosexuality. Attitudes also depend on the community: the wealthier and more well-travelled whites and Indo-Mauritians are more tolerant than the rest, from what I've seen. Homosexual PDA would draw stares and perhaps some negative comments out in the villages and towns, however. I don't know of any gay bars or social events other than the annual "Rainbow Parade" which draws a lot of onlookers, but is pulled off peacefully.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Mauritius is a country of "communities" descended from the various groups who settled here, either willingly or unwillingly, and although there is no outright antagonism it is a de facto segregated society. Whites are primarily the descendants of French settlers, own most of the arable land, and control the big corporations now expanding into Africa. Kreols are the descendants of African and mixed-race slaves brought by the French and are the least represented in government and business, despite having contributed the most to music (sega and seggae) and culture. The Sino-Mauritians, mostly descendants of Cantonese, have been here since at least the 1790s and control the retail/commercial trade. The Indo-Mauritians, the most recent arrivals due to the British Empire's "Great Experiment" now control government, administration, and are major players in the business community.

Other than rioting in 1999 after a popular activist and seggae singer, Kaya, was beaten to death in police custody, I know of no race riots or ongoing, explicit discrimination. The Muslim community suffers some suspicion due to the fact that most of the imams are expats and the Hindu-controlled government is extremely wary of Islamic extremism, but there is no terrorism threat here. You will occasionally run into a Franco-Mauritian (or an expat white South African) with some nasty things to say about the other groups, but I've not encountered it personally and I'm told this occurs less and less as people travel abroad and bring back European spouses.

There are social clubs around the island that operate similarly to US country clubs. The Dodo Club down south seems to be lily-white and the Gymkhana Club is reported to be more friendly to white foreigners than white Mauritians, but all these issues are word-of-mouth.

The most important thing to remember is that as an American, your status as a foreigner trumps any racial or religious category within Mauritian society, so we get treated better than our co-religionists or people with the same skin tone as us. My language teacher told me flat out that I wasn't white, I was foreign.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Living at the beach! Great food! New and fascinating culture! Beach! Did I mention beach?

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Unfortunately the dodo is long gone. Thanks a lot, Dutch East India Company...

Mauritius is a volcanic island so the hiking is challenging but not impossible and there is the option of some rock climbing on the more perilous peaks. The views are spectacular from Le Pouce, the third-highest peak. I don't dive or snorkel, but I'm told there are some great sites for that around the island. Catamaran trips seem to be really popular, but they're not that kid-friendly so I've not had the pleasure -- if you can get 15 people together you can book a private boat and make it a day-long party.

Rum is the national alcoholic beverage and there are more varieties than you ever imagined. Several of the big sugarcane companies have diversified into distilling, so you now have rum tasting room in the citadel, Ft Adelaide, in downtown Port Louis as well as at the sugar museum in Pamplemousses. Speaking of Pamplemousses, there is a national botanical garden there with a lot of endemic species (the ones the Dutch and French didn't kill off) on display there. One of my favorite things is Grand Bassin, the site of a massive annual pilgrimage of Hindus from all over the island. There's a massive statue of Shiva there, plus a bunch of temples for various Hindu devotions, definitely worth a look.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

The coco-de-mer up in Seychelles is the world's biggest seed and has a distinctly -- ahem -- suggestive shape. Allegedly you can buy one for EUR 200, but there's a bit of hassle with paperwork and customs. There's not really a lot of unique souvenirs, just enjoy your life here!

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Mauritius has tons to offer. Aside from being so far from home, this is an EXCELLENT deal.

Good governance: We complain about the travel, the bureaucracy, and so forth... but we have it so much easier than our colleagues in the rest of Africa or India. Crime is low, people are friendly, roads are (mostly) good, and most of the population speaks English so you can get by even if you don't speak French/Kreol or aren't interested in learning.

Touring: Air travel is expensive and we are too far to sail many places comfortably. However, the Embassy covers Seychelles and much of our regional support comes from Johannesburg so if you play your cards right you can take some family holidays onto training and save a few rupees.

Culture: This is, without a doubt, the most diverse place I have ever been. If you've ever wanted a crash course in Islam, Hinduism (several devotions), and Catholicism while at the same time observing the mixing of and competition between European, African, Indian and east Asian cultures, then this is the place for you. I find the food to be excellent: curries, seafood, Chinese food, French bakeries... I've eaten very well here and there's no shortage of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and secular holidays to celebrate.

Saving money: it can be done here especially if you take it easy and don't travel too much. Gasoline is expensive and no one lives close to the Embassy so your gas bill will be shocking, but street food is plentiful and cheap as is household help. You have the option due to the modern shopping centers and supermarkets: you can live cheap if you want or find all the comforts of home (almost).

Medical care: There are two modern and well-staffed hospitals here. We had our second daughter here. While the doctor's clinics can be a bit slow and inefficient, most doctors are educated in Europe or the U.S. so the care is great and the facilities at the big hospitals are excellent. MEDEVAC to South Africa is available but not necessary for much other than major medical mysteries.

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10. Can you save money?

If you adapt your diet to what's locally available and shop around a bit, you certainly can. If you only shop at the big supermarkets, travel a lot, and employ a cast of thousands, then no.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Cars. Don't ask expats what they've brought, ask a local what cars they can buy on the local market. If you have an accident or breakdown, getting parts will be expensive and will take FOREVER if you buy a model that is not sold here.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes. All you'll need is a single jacket or sweatshirt in the cooler months, maybe a sweater or two.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and lots of it. The sun is intense here.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

None that I've found. Have a look on Youtube for some sega videos. Be sure to use "Ile Maurice" as well as "Mauritius" when looking.

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

JMG le Clezio is a Franco-Mauritian who's written several books featuring or taking place in Mauritius, most notably The Prospector.

Joseph Conrad visited here and wrote a few short stories about it and Mark Twain dedicated a chapter or two to Mauritius in his book about travelling around the world. I think you can get the Conrad and Twain free for Kindle. Twain wrote this famous and often misquoted line about Mauritius: "Here the citizen does the talking about the country himself; the stranger is not asked to help. You get all sorts of information. From one citizen you gather the idea that Mauritius was made first, and then heaven; and that heaven was copied after Mauritius. Another one tells you that this is an exaggeration..." He also writes some funny stuff about the British governor, the French locals, and the new Indian arrivals. Historical surveys are unfortunately hard to come by.

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Port Louis, Mauritius 02/22/09

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, Madrid, Brussels, London, El Salvador.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

12 hours from Europe.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is good to great, although can be hard to find in some neighborhoods. Driving times are deceptive due to few main highways; a 10 km commute can take 45 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Spotty. Because most of the products here are imported, you can find some ingredients one week...then not see them again on the shelves for six months!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Mexican food. Koolaid. Shoes (what you find here are cheap Chinese-made knock offs). DVDs (you can't buy DVDs that aren't pirated). American breakfast cereal. English greeting cards.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Some options available, such as KFC and McDonald's. But you'll get more by eating local cuisine in cafes. Prices are similar to (or in some cases cheaper than) the U.S.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Local Mauritian International post can be used to ship things via international registered mail. It is cheaper than DHL or FEDEX (which are prohibitively expensive).

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Yes, but it can be hard to find a qualified person depending upon where you live. The best method is via referrals from another domestic who works for a person who lives near you.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problems. Available everywhere.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes. But online services beat out the printed word in cost and timeliness.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Very little to none. Although you will find that while most people speak English (it is taught in all schools from a young age and is a national language of the country), the local press and TV is all in French or Creole.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, but not very convenient buses. There are no posted routes for the buses and they breakdown frequently. Taxis are safe and dependable. Some folks find them expensive, but if you consider the price of gas here compared to the U.S., you get a pretty good deal taking a taxi.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Left-hand drive is best. U.S. and Japanese cars are sold and repaired by dealers here.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. US$60-$110 a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are cheap and readily available.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes. This can be a difficult procedure and require advance planning of up to a year before your arrival in country.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, with some vet services available at your home. Don't know about kennels.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Yes, but it takes some leg work. Visa problems for Embassy spouses has largely been resolved. But be prepared to provide any and all necessary paperwork to back up your credentials -- especially if you are looking for a job as a teacher or medical professional.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Work is business dress. Casual events are tan slacks and golf shirt for men. Cropped pants and sandals for women.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Mauritius is statistically one of the safest countries in the world.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Health care is good, with decent to excellent hospital near both Embassy communities. Doctors are often trained in Europe or Australia, and very helpful and available. Embassy has special contract for a private ambulance service.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Lovely weather year-round. Some micro climates that can be refreshing if you want a change of weather.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Surprisingly good options for schools here; several high schools with IB or other internationally recognized programs. Even a primary school running the IB program! Lots of options around the island to find a school in your area.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

There is a national federation that can provide some assistance for special-needs kids, finding schools, and the like. Much of the work will depend upon what you need in this regard. Some schools have limited special-needs programs.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes. There is a basketball federation for children (girls and boys), tennis clubs, and other sporting groups. Excellent options for horse-riding lessons, for examples. Schools may have limited programs compared to the US, but government or private clubs provide other alternatives.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Not large, but it is a fun and dynamic group.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Great expat interaction. More events than you can possible go to! Lots of outdoor events, visits to beach houses, and dinner,. Many events include kids and are informal. Good clubs and bars in the north. Pockets of excellent restaurants (some of posh hotels) around the island.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for families. Tougher for singles because the culture is so focused on family-related events and activities. Lots of outdoor activities, water sports, horse riding, seasonal horse racing (which is a big social event here), hiking, and climbing is great.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Could be tough.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

If you love warm weather and outdoor activities, Mauritius is a dream assignment. Wonderful water sports of every kind. Gorgeous beaches and snorkeling. Great destination for friends and family to come for a visit (if they can manage the long trip here). A few small museum. Rich and diverse culture. Wonderful restaurants from high-end fancy cuisine to food off a cart downtown.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Not much local...maybe rum (although it is pretty rough stuff), sugar, and tea. T shirts and inexpensive clothing items from factory shops...but nothing very nice.

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9. Can you save money?

Maybe...if you are careful about not going out to the expensive tourist spots. Beach access is easy and free, and hiking the parks is a great free weekend activity. A weekend at a posh resort, however, will cost you easily $800 for two nights with a family. Some goods in shops can be VERY expensive -- especially food items.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. This post is a secret gem.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, equipment for outdoor fun, and your willingness to try new things.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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