Mauritius is about sparkling turquoise, powder-white beaches and sculptured mountains. It’s a place to snorkel and hike, and recharge batteries. Add to that a safe environment, friendly people and delectable street food, and tourists flock. In a non-COVID year, the island doubles its population because everyone wants a piece of paradise.
Many move to Mauritius because they’ve enjoyed relaxed holidays. But living in Mauritius comes with a different tag. Mauritian life can be limited. For one, the land mass is tiny, so you can’t go anywhere unless you leave the country. Secondly, isolation and market size limit choice in shopping. The road network is potholed and crammed; skilled workmen are hard to find, and no-one’s in a hurry. Finally, these are closed, jealously guarded social and business communities. You’ll need to be strategic in your attempts to integrate.
Before deciding on a permanent move to Mauritius, we strongly advise you to spend between eight and twelve weeks on the island. Stay away from leisure activities so you can develop a resident’s view. Look too, at the life snippets on our blog.
Here we try to cover the practicalities of moving to Mauritius, but before delving into those, glance through this overview of our melting pot.
Quick history: Although visited by Arabs and Portuguese in the fifteenth century, Mauritius was uninhabited until the Dutch arrived in1638 and named the country in honour of their monarch. Simon van der Stel’s birth was the first registered in Mauritius, officially making him the first Mauritian. These settlers imported deer and traded in ebony. They also introduced sugarcane and rats, and in their quest for food, annihilated the flightless dodo. (they later redeemed themselves with romantic architecture and grape cultivation in the Cape).
In 1715, after the Dutch moved on to the Cape of Good Hope, France laid claim to the island. As it was on the strategic route between the East and Europe, the French invested heavily in the new settlement, allocating land to settlers (now known as Franco-Mauritians) to encourage settlement. Port Louis was established as the main port and commercial centre, and the increasing importance of agriculture led to the importation of slaves. During the French period, between 1715 and 1810, Mauritius developed a colourful population which included pirates and buccaneers, who left a rich heritage of legends. The British captured Mauritius during the Napoleonic wars, and the island became a British colony from 1815 until its independence in 1968.
Cultures: Slavery was abolished in 1835, and more than half the former slaves fled the plantations to live in shantytowns or unoccupied land. To make up for the loss in the workforce, plantation owners imported indentured labour from India. From 1835 to 1845 Indian immigrants grew from zero to one third of the total population. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the country became increasingly diversified, with French, British, Chinese, African, Hindu, and Muslim communities living side-by-side. Such cultural diversity has had its problems, but over the years the geographical isolation has encouraged population coherence and a sense of national unity, galvanised through Creole as the lingua franca.
It helps that religious tolerance is celebrated. Mauritius is often cited as a global example of cultural integration; there is pleasure in being a Mauritian and remaining loyal to your roots.
In the twenty-first century, Mauritius is proud of the continuous social, political, and economic advances made since independence. But its landscape has changed. With an annual population of 2 600 000 (including the tourist influx) Mauritius one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The island can feel claustrophobic: roads cluttered, beaches obscured with holiday resorts and tourists, and there’s an ongoing urban sprawl.
THE SCHOOL SYSTEM
The island has strived to become an educational hub in the region. Its English-medium schools are the stepping stone to a choice of competitively priced international universities.
So, how much emphasis does Mauritius place on Education? Public spending on education is between 10% and 12% of total expenditure, and schooling is compulsory to the age of sixteen. The Mauritian government provides free education and transport to its citizens from pre-primary to tertiary level. With its bilingual and well-educated workforce, Mauritius is an attractive option for international employers, and has been a leading provider of labour in the tourism and contact centre industries.
Both the French and British systems of Education are available to scholars. In the British system, children start school at age 5, completing their primary education six years later. Another four years will take them to GCSE O-Levels, which requires at least six subjects. Those students who wish to complete university then take the two-year A-Levels through the University of Cambridge.
International schools: International schools (French and English media) are comparable to similar schools around the world, so children of expats adapt easily when moving to another country. The English medium schools offer the British GCSE O- and A-Levels and/or the international baccalaureate. International schools are expensive but offer smaller classes. Their acceptance of local learners results in the expansion of your children’s horizons and an understanding of the local culture. Embrace this; expats limit themselves by developing an “us and them” attitude to the country’s population.
The following is a list of international English-medium schools in Mauritius:
Tertiary Education (Private): Mauritius aims to develop a workforce geared towards a knowledge-based economy and sets out to attract new generations of investors. The island positions itself as a regional education hub and has attracted solid international universities to set up shop. With a reliable transport network, state-of-the-art infrastructure, small cohorts and a protest-free environment, the tertiary Education sector is becoming increasingly popular locally and internationally.
In the West, the Unicity campus includes schools, several universities, student residences, a professional gym and a sports centre.
Middlesex concentrates on graduate and post-graduate studies in Law, Psychology, a variety of IT-related qualifications, all branches of Business and Education leadership.
Other international tertiary institutions under the umbrella of Unicity include the French Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School (courses in English, culminating in an MBA degree), a specialised French Law school, and the ENSA Nantes Architectural school.
Moka’s Charles Telfair campus (CTC) offers learning pathways towards a diverse number of careers. It is the largest tertiary cluster in Mauritius, with 15000 alumni and an annual enrolment of over 2000.
Programmes include business, design, IT, Science, Psychology, Communications and Education.
Explore the education hub by clicking on the links below. Not all universities, TAFE Colleges or TVET Colleges have been linked to this blog, but all tertiary institutions registered with the Tertiary Education Committee (TEC) is listed in the Wikipedia link at the end of this blog.
https://www.uniciti.mu/en/learn/uniciti-education-hub (fully integrated, state-of-the-art Education hub with residences and sporting/gym facilities)
https://www.eclosia.com/en/activity/charles-telfair-campus (Australian TAFE)
http://curtinmauritius.ac.mu/about-us/why-study-at-curtin-mauritius/global-university/ (Australian University)
https://www.vatel.mu/ (International Hotel School, dual medium)
Tertiary Education (Public)
The Mauritius Institute of Technical Development, a Training and Vocational Education and Training College (TVET) offers hands-on education / apprenticeships: http://www.mitd.mu/courses.php
The following link lists public and private tertiary education and training centres. Other than those universities also listed under “International Universities in Mauritius” above, the quality and international credibility of the following colleges has not been ascertained: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tertiary_institutions_in_Mauritius
The United Nations puts at 28 713 the number of international migrants / expats in Mauritius in 2017. Jobs requiring specific technical skills or general labour in the textiles, manufacturing, agricultural and construction industries tend to employ migrants from India, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Seychelles, and Madagascar. These nationals are also found in the fishing, trade, and logistics industries.
Highly skilled expats from South Africa, the UK, Pakistan, France and other European countries tend to work in education, tourism, food and beverages, banking, financial services, and retail, or to manage companies registered in Mauritius, operating either locally or regionally.
This county’s lifestyle is a huge drawcard. I can vouch for the friendliness, cultural diversity, pretty environment, and low crime rate.
EVERY DAY: Basic foods cater for the local taste. If you (like me) like fresh fruit, rice-based dishes and the slightly exotic, for example, salted snoek, leaves, and legumes (lentils, kidney beans) you can get away with a relatively small budget. Fresh and processed meat, frozen goods, dairy products, and organic food are expensive, as are household basics. Some sites evaluate Mauritius on the whole as being 24% more expensive than South Africa. This figure includes accommodation, the price of cars, private education, and a lifestyle similar to South Africa’s middle classes.
TRAVEL ON THE ISLAND: It can take up to one and a half hours to travel from one side of the island to the other, so people like to live close to workplaces. Problems with travel range from noisy narrow roads, potholes, to pedestrians, cyclists, and dogs. On holiday, the situation is quaint; as a resident, it’s annoying.
The United States’ Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) https://www.osac.gov/ believes Mauritius is one of the safest regionally. The national crime rate is low and limited to petty theft and pickpocketing. However, drug use is a growing problem, and is sometimes associated with violent crime. The police, customs officials, and the coast guard have made several large seizures of drugs in the past few years.
So, the police has time on their hands. If you speed or park illegally, or speak on your mobile while driving, you’ll be nailed. The police spend much of their time directing the chaotic traffic and setting up speed traps.
The most popular areas for expats to settle are Black River, Tamarin and Grand Baie. Moka, with its temperate climate and central location, is gaining popularity, and more recently, gated communities have popped up in the East and South East. The North, West and the central plateau are close to good schools, medical facilities, offices, and shops.
Remember that coastal temperatures are higher than in the Central region, Moka being on average 3oC cooler and more humid than Grand Baie (North) or Black River/Tamarin (West). Moka and Curepipe, on the central plateau, are close to reputable medical and cultural centres. These towns are an attractive option for retirees, while families tend to favour the coastal areas for their sea-related leisure activities. The windy East is an ideal summer location, cool in winter.
INVESTING IN PROPERTY
Previously the Integrated Resort Scheme (IRS) and Real Estate Schemes (RES) were the first mechanisms to enable foreign nationals to buy property in Mauritius. The Property Development (PDS) and the Smart City (SCS) Schemes have replaced its ancestors and are more investor friendly.
The Property Development Scheme (PDS) is allows property to be sold to citizens, non-citizens and members of the Mauritian diaspora. Projects must focus on ecological wellbeing and are subject to strict controls with regards to the environment. Read more about the Property Development Scheme (PDS) on the Economic Development Board’s website (www.edbmauritius.org). Reputable Mauritian real estate companies will provide greater detail about PDS properties.
Non-citizens are eligible for a residence permit when they buy a villa worth more than USD 375,000 under the PDS scheme. If you acquire your residence permit in this way, you are exempted from an Occupational or Work permit to invest and work in Mauritius.
The Smart City Scheme (SCS): An international trend, Smart Cities encourage residents to work, live and play in the same mixed development complex. The government offers attractive investment incentives for the local SCS. Here is a list of Smart City projects approved by the Economic Development Board (www.edbmauritius.org):
- Mon Trésor
- Cap Tamarin
- Uniciti, Medine
- Moka City
- Jin Fei near Port Louis
- Beau Plan near Pamplemousses
- Mon Choisy, North West
- Hermes Properties Ltd
- Yihai Investment Ltd
- Royal St Louis
- New Montebello Development Ltd.
- St Félix in the South (permit acquisition in process)
Buying property in a condominium: The Non-Citizens (Property Restriction) Act amendment of 2016 allows foreigners to buy apartments in complexes of Ground + 2 floors, with a price tag of more than Rs6 000 000. This is the most affordable option for purchase of property in Mauritius. You don’t have to hold an Occupational Permit or any forms of residence permit to acquire apartments.
If you haven’t explored the country sufficiently to know this is your forever-home, you should consider renting property. A major advantage of rentals is that most homes come fully furnished, so you can leave your belongings in storage until you are certain of your decision to move. Bear in mind that you will need to pay a full month’s deposit to the lessor, and, in most cases, the value of another month’s rental to the agency.
Furniture, personal belongings, car imports
Should you sell your belongings and buy new in Mauritius? Be careful. In a place where almost 90% of goods are imported, prices are inevitably inflated. The choice of furniture, furnishings and household equipment is also limited, and you may not find much in alignment with your taste. If and when you do decide to import your personal effects, it is best to hand over the entire process to a good shipping agent.
What about cars? You will be expected to pay excise duty on cars, new or second hand. Again, a shipping agent will provide advice and will do the dirty work for you.
Ensure that you contract the freight company to deliver your car to your doorstep fully registered. If they can’t do that, find someone else. This is serious! Car licensing systems are not co-ordinated in Mauritius, so I spent three days moving between various buildings in Port Louis, fistfuls of documents in hand – and I speak Creole, so I could ask people in the queue to help. To put it mildly, it was catastrophic.
You will also learn that you need an entire file for the car registration documents. You have to memorise names like the green card (which isn’t green) and “fitness,” a Certificate of Roadworthiness.
Your role in the process should be to keep your purse handy and get an insurance. We don’t recommend any, but we go by the principle that when you don’t know a country, do what the locals do. SWAN has the biggest share of the local market, follow the pattern at least until you understand the country better.
A number of commercial centres (malls) are found near the main towns, where you’ll find the most tried and trusted international brands, and products from all continents, plus restaurants, cinemas, bars, and leisure centres. It’s worth noting that 18h00 cinema shows are in original language, most of the time English. At other times, films are sub-titled in English.
In owner-run shops and markets (not malls), open up your perception censors – it’s fun. If the chap gives you a price and immediately lowers it, that’s a cue to look for a discount. Prices may differ from one seller to the other, so compare prices. A way of paying less is to ask if you’ll get a cash discount rather than paying with your credit card.
But hey, if a guy is struggling to keep his shop open because of commercial “developments” that will annihilate the authenticity of Mauritius, then it’s OK to pay a little more. It’s my personal social contribution.
|Everyday household shopping needs||Tourist centres, luxury gifts, artisanal|
|La Croisette (Grand Baie, supermarket, variety)||Sunset Boulevard (Grand Baie, variety, chic)|
|Super U (Grand Baie, supermarket, general)||La Croisette (Grand Baie, variety)|
|Village of Grand Baie + market|
|Bagatelle (Moka, supermarket, clothing, luxury)||Bagatelle (Moka, variety)|
|Kendra (St. Pierre, supermarket, general)||Floréal Square (textiles, clothing)|
|Trianon (Central: hardware, household goods)||Curepipe (T-shirts, gifts, some luxury items)|
|Town of Quatre Bornes, supermarkets||Town of Quatre Bornes + market|
|Phoenix Mall (Jumbo supermarket, general)|
|So’Flo (Floréal, supermarket, luxury goods)|
|Town of Curepipe, supermarkets, luxury, variety|
|PORT LOUIS AND AREA|
|Riche Terre Mall (near Port Louis, supermarket)||Le Caudan (Port Louis : chic and artisanal)|
|Port Louis city (textiles, luxury goods, variety)||Port Louis market|
|EAST AND SOUTH EAST|
|Cœur de Ville (Flacq, supermarket, general)||Flacq market|
|Bo’Vallon (Mahebourg, supermarket, general)||Town of Mahebourg and market|
|Cascavelle (near Flic en Flac, s’market, general)||Ruisseau Créole (chic)|
|London (Black River, supermarket)||Cascavelle (near Flic en Flac : varied)|
|Cap Tamarin (Tamarin, supermarket)|
|Winners (Chemin Grenier, supermarket)|