La Reunion: Rent a Car and Travel through the Mountains
Reunion is well covered by modern road infrastructure and this makes a tour of the island via road something every visitor should try out. In fact, most non-beach tourist attractions are much further inland. The RN1 is Reunion’s main highway and goes around the island. About 75 kilometres of the RN1 is a four lane highway. Another important road runs from Saint Benoit to Saint Pierre through the island’s interior.
As with most other places in the world, you have three options for a road tour – public bus, taxi or car rental. Of the three, using Reunion’s public bus system will cost you the least. However, since bus routes are mainly geared toward serving the working class, you stand to lose out on getting a close up view of the best sites. Taxis provide more flexibility but the cost of hiring one is prohibitive especially if you intend to use a taxi for an entire day or several days.
Rental cars are thus the perfect compromise – not as expensive as hiring a taxi but providing the same degree of flexibility. The conditions for hiring a car are fairly straightforward – one must be a minimum of 21 years old, possess a driving licence at least 12 months prior to their application and hold a valid passport. Since Reunion is part of the European Union, tourists who are citizens of any EU member state can use their national driving licence. Non-EU citizens may need to have an IDL (international driving license).
There are a couple of salient notes to bear in mind when driving a rental car in Reunion. First, whereas the RN1 is for the most part built to international standards, certain sections can be treacherous. For instance, on Reunion’s south eastern side where its volcano is located, eruptions and other substantial volcanic activity may sometimes lead to the closure of sections of the RN1. Some of the roads through the mountains feature sharp turns and go over steep cliff drops. Drive cautiously.
A second point of note is the notorious traffic jams on the island’s more densely inhabited western side. Reunion has a relatively high number of vehicles for its size and population. Fortunately, the chaos is mostly confined to the rush hours when locals are rushing to or from work. As much as possible, ensure your movements from the capital Saint Dennis do not coincide with peak travel times.