Sun, swaying palm trees and miles and miles of silky white sand, stretching out for as far as the eye can see. All of this framed by an ocean of sparkling turquoise. Offering all this and more, it should come as no wonder that Mauritius is one of the best holiday destinations in the world.
A common misconception, however, is that it’s also one of the most expensive destinations. As a local, let me assure you that this couldn’t be further from the truth: the thing about Mauritius is that there literally is something for just about anyone and while luxury holiday packages are heavily marketed, rest assured that it is quite possible to book a cheap holiday in Mauritius.
Cheap accommodation in Mauritius
There’s no denying that the island offers more than its fair share of luxury hotels. That being said, you don’t even have to search a lot to find somewhere cheap to stay on the island: from villas to self-catering apartments and- more recently- Air BnB’s, rest assured that it is more than possible to easily find cheap accommodation in Mauritius.
When browsing for the best places to stay, be sure to favor self-catering apartments and bungalows since these tend to be significantly less expensive. Bungalows in Mauritius are locally referred to as campements and very often provide easy access to the beach, without necessarily costing more. The best thing about renting a self-catering bungalow is that, unlike hotels, you pay for the entire place, and not per person, which means that you can simply split the cost with your group and consequently save up on accommodation.
While the cheapest self-catering bungalows are found across the scenic south coast of Mauritius, I would recommend that you rent one in the north if you’re interested in exploring the island’s vibrant nightlife. Being the tourist hub of the island, the town of Grand Baie offers plenty of options as far as inexpensive accommodation is concerned. A personal favorite of mine is Burnas Beach Resort, a self-catering group of apartments- complete with swimming pool- found on the north coast of the island.
Of course, if all else fails, you could always pitch a tent right on the beach and be lulled to sleep by the soft sloshing of the waves every night. And I’m not even kidding: camping in Mauritius is entirely free and quite safe, if you know where to go!
Save money by eating like a local
Like everything else on the island, the food in Mauritius is bountiful and trust me when I say that you never have to walk or drive far to find something to eat (of course, the island’s tiny size does help a lot with that!).
When eating in Mauritius, however, do keep in mind that more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better quality. Of course, the refined taste buds will undoubtedly find their joy in a multi-course meal at a fancy hotel, but luxurious dishes may not always harness the vibrancy of an authentic Mauritius meal. If you ask me, the best way to save up on food in Mauritius is to eat like a local- and that means skipping the high-end places in favor of street-side stalls or small, family-owned restaurants.
One of these examples is the classic boiled noodles- an absolute favorite among locals and tourists alike. There’s nothing like sitting in front of a large bowl overflowing with fragrant broth and thick noodles generously coated in oyster sauce, sesame oil and soy sauce, topped with scallions, minced chicken or meat and of course, the customary over easy fried egg. All of this washed down with a bottle of ice cold local beer.
And yet, this iconic Mauritian dish can cost anywhere between $0.50 to $20, depending on where you eat it.
If you ask me, the best place to enjoy a hearty bowl of boiled noodles in Mauritius is in one of those tiny, not entirely fancy-looking pubs and snack cafes that are often found by or around the beach. Most of these establishments are family-owned and offer twice the portion sizes that you will get in a fancy restaurant at only a fraction of the price.
Best of all? These are the places that don’t hesitate to screw conventional toppings and play around with just about any kind of daring varieties. So, you can forget about the customary meat-and-egg noodles: these places won’t hesitate to offer toppings such as octopus stew, fresh river prawns in a red sauce, juicy slabs of sardines, pork ribs, or even curried lima beans on the boiled noodles- perfect for adventurous eaters!
And if you’re wondering- yes, I did (very reluctantly) try lima beans with boiled noodles once.
Believe it or not, it was one of the most delicious things I have ever tried in my entire life!
Cheap activities in Mauritius
A cheap holiday in Mauritius is entirely realistic once you realize how much free stuff you can do on the island. For starters, every single public beach on the island offers a free access to the sea, providing you with ample opportunities to indulge in activities such as swimming and snorkeling without having to spend a cent. And while you can bring your own lunch to save up on expenses, let me assure you that street food on the beach is famously inexpensive: a flatbread roll filled with delicious curries or even a cup of fresh tropical fruit salad can cost you less than a dollar.
If you’re willing to loosen the purse strings just a little, you can also opt for paid albeit cheap activities in Mauritius. Do bear in mind that some prices can fluctuate according to the season, so if you’re traveling off-season (January to March and May to October), you’ll certainly get the best rates.
The good news is that the island does offer plenty to do without necessarily breaking the bank. For example, a day trip to the famous La Vanille Nature Reserve (in the south) can cost you around $15 per adult, and you’ll get to spend the whole day walking through the blissfully shady nature reserve as you check out the crocodiles, alligators and century-old giant turtles.
Traveling on a limited budget can also give you the chance to really connect with the locals and experience Mauritius like a true Mauritian. Instead of renting an expensive car or booking a cab at an exorbitant fee, try touring the island by bus: bus stops are scattered all over Mauritius and you can simply ask any local which bus to take to get to your destination. If you ask me, hopping on and off the somewhat noisy and choppy local buses is the best way to explore the true, unvarnished side of the island.