Reunion Island is a quick 4 hour direct flight from Johannesburg, with no visa requirements for South Africans and more exciting things to do than you could ever fit into a single trip. Basically, it’s is the dream holiday destination for South African travellers who have already explored Mauritius, or are looking for a more adventurous holiday destination. If spending your holiday between a crystal clear lagoon, an active volcano, hundreds of beautiful waterfalls, thousands of kilometres of hiking trails, delicious food and bustling markets sounds like your cup of tea, you need to start planning your trip to Reunion Island asap. Here are ten budget tips for Reunion Island, to help making your planning a little bit easier.
Ten Budget Tips for Reunion Island
Although the currency is the Euro, Reunion Island isn’t prohibitively expensive for South African travellers. By using these ten budget tips, you’ll be able to make the most of your holiday, even with the rand’s weak exchange rate.
1 Book the trip yourself
Going through a tour operator or travel agent can push the overall price of your trip up, and planning yourself is half the fun anyway. Do a little research and plan and book yourself to save on booking fees. If you need a little help, head over to my Ultimate Guide to Reunion Island or read my Top 10 Things to do in Reunion Island.
2 Sign up to Air Austral’s newsletter to save on flights
Air Austral flies direct to the island several times per week and is the most affordable airline to book with. They frequently run 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 out of 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.
4 Book self-catering accommodation
Booking a self-catering bungalow or Airbnb property will help you to save on both accommodation and food costs. There are loads of great 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 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 Compare car hire prices before booking
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. I always use Dohop to book cars when I travel and have found their prices to be really good across the board. 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
Which can cost up to 15 Euros per day! 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! Luckily, just one street away from the water’s edge, you’ll find delicious Creole food for as little as 7 Euros per meal. My favourite place to find a good plate of food is Chez Herbert, where you can tuck into 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 drinks 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 – that’s right, you can camp anywhere on the island for free! 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
I normally don’t bother exchanging rands for foreign currency in South Africa. It generally works out more cost effective to draw cash from an ATM in my destination, and many 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.