Bonzur, Mahébourg?! Traveling from Istanbul to Mauritius (Semi-Live Blog)

On the 3rd of December 2021, we’re hopefully flying from Istanbul Airport (IST) in Turkey to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport (MRU aka Port Louis Airport) in Mauritius. I’m updating this post as we go. If you’re here for the documents checklist to enter Mauritius, click here.

 

Booking Mauritius

Before we even arrived in Turkey, I already knew I didn’t want to spend the full 90 days here. It would be too cold by the end of our visa. And Jonas wanted to spend at least one month in Istanbul, which would result in too little time to do significant traveling around the country away from this incredibly well-connected airport. We decided six weeks. Six weeks we’d stay in Turkey and then we’d fly elsewhere.

I tried to make sense of the jungle of direct flights that depart from Istanbul. Google Sheets was my tool of choice. I plotted in the flights from Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW), Istanbul Airport (IST), and learned that Atatürk had ceased civilian flights in 2019. Istanbul Airport came out as the best airport for flights to warm countries. ‘Warmer than Turkey’ was my first criterion. I added in data points about the countries being open and them having long visas and no quarantine. The longer the flight, the lower the ranking. The shorter the visa days, the lower the ranking. All countries would already be warm in December and January. Now I just needed to prettify the data.

On the 8th of November, Jonas and I finally decided to sit down and decide where to go from Turkey. The six chosen criteria were:

  • Open according to canitravel.net (green, orange, red)
  • Three tiers of how much I’d like to go there (1st tier is best, 2nd tier okay, 3rd is not a priority)
  • Number of visa days (<30, 30–90, >90)
  • Is it visa-free? (yes, no/other)
  • Flight hours (low to high—doesn’t apply to countries we can travel overland to)
  • Is it a new country? (yes, no)

google sheets mauritius flight

All these criteria would yield a result between 0 and 100. Then I’d divide the total by six and make a conditional format to show a color gradient. Sort them and voilà, I have made sense of the mess. It’s kind of satisfying, right?

Yes, there was still a small chance we’d first travel from Edirne to Bulgaria and Bulgaria to Romania to get a shot of Pfizer in Bucharest. That’s why there are some flights in there that depart from Bucharest.

But yes, departing from IST airport, Qatar was #1 and Mauritius #2. Back in early November, no one had heard of this little thing called ‘omicron variant’ yet, so even South Africa was in there near the top.

Of course, this dataset isn’t perfect. Qatar had a few issues such as not accepting our two shots of Sinopharm without an extra shot of Pfizer or a few days of isolation. Jonas found it unattractive that there weren’t really any hotels outside of Doha, so we’d probably just be stuck in the big city and not travel around as much as we’d done in the UAE earlier this year.

But Mauritius, yes, that island nation in the Indian Ocean, they seemed alright. And they’ve been on my radar for a little while. I was honestly excited it came out in the rankings this high despite a very long flight.

Jonas checked it out as well and googled a bunch of things before he said yes. Then we booked the flight for the 3rd of December. That was more than three weeks in advance, but we decided that covid was on the way out. So we were pretty sure booking this early wouldn’t come to bite us in the butt again.

Omicron Variant Enters the Stage

On the 24th of November, South Africa announced the discovery of a previously unknown covid variant, somehow called the omicron variant. The whole world went into a big panic and shut out many countries in southern Africa on a hunch. Mauritius wasn’t included in this list, but we all know it’s just a matter of time before that broad brush also paints outlying countries.

Will this impact our journey to Mauritius? I’m not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, we booked our first apartment in Mauritius in the city of Mahébourg nearby the airport. Our flight would depart at 2:20 in the night and arrive in Mauritius at 13:30, which is a perfect time to check-in and go to sleep. Because the flight time is a horror show. Perhaps I should have weighed shorter flight times heavier than other criteria? I shall improve the next generation of this spreadsheet.

PCR Test in Edirne + Onward Ticket

Wednesday, 1st of December

I asked my formerly favorite Turkish travel group CouchRail where in Edirne one can do a PCR test. Yes, I googled first, asked second. The first post I made was in Turkish and it never got through, so I made one in English that was a lot shorter and the godmins accepted it. Before you know, I didn’t only have legitimate answers, but also many men sliding into my DMs. Dammmit.

But the answer was simply “the hospital”. Until now, we always did PCR tests in clinics and laboratories, never hospitals. Someone said go to Trakya Hastanesi, which is a hospital in crawling distance from our hotel in Edirne. We skipped breakfast that morning to do the test, walked around the hospital once for no good reason besides an inability to spot the entrance, and walked to the test area.

We filled in the paperwork and let one young woman process them while the other one swabbed me through a hole in the glass. This is my sixth PCR test and none of them have been as painful as the first, so I wasn’t worried. However, what I really DID NOT anticipate was that she would use the SAME SWAB to go from my throat into my left nostril. I tried to warn Jonas about this, but he didn’t seem to care.

Thank you, I guess? “Come back in two hours for your results.” Okay.

I walked out with a weirdly wet nose. Is this why the PCR test here is so cheap because they save money on swabs? Anyway, it cost us ₺170 per person, which was €11.70 on that day but the Lira was dropping rapidly at that time. Cheapest PCR test to date. Even cheaper than in Bishkek. And it would be done in only two hours.

We picked up the results three hours later after eating one last Turkish breakfast, circumambulating the Selimiye Mosque, and visiting a museum. No surprise, the results were negative. But they’d made a typo in Jonas’ passport number and they’d only written down my middle and last name on mine. They corrected the errors of the results and we had two beautiful PCR tests for our flight: a Turkish version, an English version, and a QR code on both. Perfection.

Negative PCR test Edirne Turkey Turkish version Trakya Hastanesi Negative PCR test Edirne Turkey English Trakya Hospital

Later that day, Jonas booked us an onward ticket from Mauritius to Paris. Though we’d like to extend our 90-day visa-free stay in Mauritius by another 90 days, it’s always good to have a cancellable flight booked within the first stamp. 90 days from the 3rd of December 2021 is – counting the day of arrival – the 2nd of March, 2022. Wow, 2022.

Day of Departure to Mauritius

Thursday, 2nd of December

Packing + Edirne bus station + ride to Istanbul Airport

Our eight nights at Trakya City Hotel had come to an end. We ate breakfast, packed a little, showered, packed some more, and finally finished packing. We had a late checkout at 13:15 and asked the friendly receptionists to call us a taxi. Taxi showed up and brought us to the bus station (otogar) for ₺43.

Jonas went to the office to make our online bus tickets (₺110 per person) into real tickets and to find out which platform. I waited with the luggage.

1 Edirne otogar bus station 2 edirne otogar bus station istanbul airport bus

What we didn’t expect from Edirne bus station was the great availability of food. I had anticipated finding some stale simit and that’s it, but one place made delicious cheese (peynirli) and potato (I forgot) gözleme, which is similar to Azerbaijani qutab. There was also a çiğ köfte place and Jonas was very happy to eat that one last time. The transportable form of çiğ köfte is called a “mega dürüm”, so even though it wasn’t mentioned on the menu, ask and ye shall receive a mega dürüm full of delicious çiğ köfte. No sauce because that gets messy on the bus or squished in the plastic bag.

To my surprise, there was no simit to be found. And the second I opened the bag to take a bite off my piping hot cheese gözleme, a fucking pigeon fucking hopped on my knee to lean in for a bite. (It’s probably payback for that time I had a standoff with a landing pigeon while I was cycling in Maastricht and it landed in my wheel spokes. The bird survived – at least for a while – but I’ve been on the shitlist of birds ever since.)

The bus ride was very no biggie. For those who don’t know yet: it’s best not to hitchhike when you have a flight to catch or have other kinds of serious time pressure. We made stops in Babaeski and Lüleburgaz. It was a long ride, but comfy. We both listened to podcasts and I did my annoying Instagram thing to let people guess where we’re going.

3 istanbul airport bus from Edirne

We arrived at the airport at sunset. This shiny new airport is one I haven’t been to yet, as I’ve only arrived at and departed from Sabiha Gökçen in 2013 with my mom. The other times I’ve passed through or visited Istanbul I was hitchhiking.

4 arrival at istanbul airport from bus edirne thrace 5 istanbul airport IST new terminal

But this new airport, sheesh! it’s huge.

Can we have boarding tickets, please?

At the airport, we first had to let them scan all our luggage and go through metal detectors. Jonas even had to unpack his laptop as if it was the proper security check.

Once inside, I figured out we could already check in our luggage and go through immigration and security to be on the other side. It’s with Turkish Airlines and that’s the main airline of this airport, so we could check in super early. But first, I changed my clothes, then Jonas changed his clothes to feel a little fresher before this long flight.

The moment of truth: we told the check-in man we were going to Port Louis. He asked where, and we said Mauritius. He still didn’t understand where we were going, so Jonas gave him our printed-out tickets. Then he typed something up and finally saw the flight. He asked for our negative PCR tests and that was it. Goodbye checked-in luggage.

So… this means we’re going to Mauritius, right?! They will let us in, right?!

Immigration and security

We walked on to immigration to stamp out of Turkey. We had to walk through those snake lines again and I commented on how dehumanizing it is to make people walk in this idiotic pattern. Snake lines are in my top 5 of most hateable airport nonsense.

The immigration lady stamped us out just fine. There was no commentary about the Karasu stamp—the weird sea border we used to enter Turkey. And just like that, we were one step closer to entering Mauritius.

Next, we had to chug our water bottles to take them empty through security. It wasn’t that tight, presumably because this was our second time through security. There was a full body scan but we didn’t have to go through it. It was mostly fine.

But what lay beyond… It’s huge.

Mandatory time-wasting before the Mauritius flight

We had contemplated before going to the airport to go sleep in one of these sleeping pods at the airport. Or to go into a hotel. But it was all rather expensive for probably still a piss poor nap. So we decided to find a calm spot to do some work (i.e. writing this blog post) and eat our dinner.

The tables next to the Shake Shack looked good. It was completely empty and quiet. The downside was that there were no plugs to charge our batteries. But we can do without for a couple of hours.

We decided to give the food from Shake Shack a try. I’ve been studying USAian fast food culture on YouTube, so I was already familiar with the name. They had a vegetarian mushroom burger that sounded good. We also ate the çiğ köfte and the potato gözleme because we were, in fact, famished. That portobello mushroom burger had a surprise of melted cheese inside it and it was *chef’s kiss* amazing.

During the many hours of work and writing, Jonas made a visit to a water refill station and almost got lost. The building is really, really huge and he’s not a connoisseur of fast-food brand names. I wrote for a couple of hours until my battery was low. It was time to visit a bathroom, spend our last ₺35, and find a seat with wall sockets this time.

7 istanbul airport water refil airside yotel turkey

We decided that simit was the last Turkish thing we still wanted to eat. There was one place that sold simit but referred to it as a ‘bagel’ – and not even ‘Turkish bagel’ – so that was a no. The chain called Simit Sarayı (simit palace) had their main product, of course. The day before during the covid test in Edirne we used their tables to fill in the forms. I don’t know how expensive their simits are outside of the airport, but at this shop, it was a steep ₺15 for one. On the streets in Istanbul, the going rate is ₺2.50. Big oof!

6 first time shake shack vegetarian mushroom cheese burger 8 last simit of turkey istanbul airport simit sarayi 15 turkish lira

But keeping these Turkish liras is a bad idea since their value is dwindling quickly. Jonas kept a bill of ₺5 for his collection. So we bought ₺30 worth of simit and found another place to work nearby. This time it had plugs near the table, but also a speaker with rather annoying music. You win some, you lose some.

Gate reveal and boarding

The board had said that our gate would be announced at 0:50 for our flight that departs at 2:20. Jonas didn’t take it very seriously. At 0:55 on the 3rd of December, I went to the board to check it. Gate D16.

I returned with the news and fifteen minutes later we packed up our hand luggage once again to go to the gate. It was a very long walk on the D wing and we always, always, have to depart from the dead-end wing of a big airport. It’s good that we went there because all passengers were already waiting there and the gate agents were already fumbling around with stuff. I heard a lot of people speaking Russian around me.

9 istanbul airport gate D16 flight to Mauritius from Turkey

An internet friend had said that a Russian friend of his was flying to Mauritius today as well. From Moscow. I knew there were no direct flights, so I asked if this friend has to transit in Istanbul. That turned out to be true. The reason for their travel to Mauritius? Obtaining a visa to the USA. Apparently, it can’t be done inside Russia anymore and other countries that are closer by don’t have a good reputation of getting it done. So this flight is probably full of Russians just trying to get a stupid visa to the USA.

We both visit the bathroom one last time before it’s time to board. They wanted to see the PCR test again along with our boarding pass before letting us on. I heard a lot of people say “ПЦР… нужен тест ПЦР” while searching for their papers. In the airbridge, we received a covid care package with fresh masks, hand sanitizer, and the like. It said “change your masks every four hours” and actually had three masks in it, enough to cover the entire flight.

10 boarding turkish airlines flight Mauritius in 2021 covid-19 pcr test istanbul airport gate D16

We boarded the plane and sat almost all the way in the back of the plane behind the wings. It had a layout of 2 seats, 4 seats, 2 seats, so we didn’t have to share our section with anyone else. But also, the four-seater middle wasn’t booked by anyone. I’d say the occupancy was about 85%.

Flying to Mauritius from Istanbul

Friday, 3rd of December

Take off + Turkish Airlines Jain meal

The journey over the taxiway to one of the many runways took forever. Whenever we’d turn, I could see all the other airplanes before us or behind us going to the same area. It’s too bad this flight started in the dead of night, but with a nearly 10-hour flight, you get a bit of both. And I guess it’s nicer for pilots to land in the daytime on an island such as Mauritius.

Istanbul Airport new map runways

We took off in a southerly direction flying over the Green Mosque of Arnavutköy, making some big turns before continuing south at a higher altitude past Lake Büyükçekmece. There was some turbulence at the start which made a few people gasp audibly. We flew above the Sea of Marmara. The clouds became thicker at some points and I couldn’t see things such as the no-fly zone above İmralı Adası.

Istanbul Airport new map runways

Lake Büyükçekmece, Turkey

During the flight, we received another care package with slippers, an eye mask, and a toothbrush with toothpaste. This is something I appreciated. Next, we received four (!!) forms to fill in before our arrival in Mauritius. Many people grabbed their pens to get down to business, but Jonas said “We filled in the Mauritius all-in-one travel digital form online and printed it out, so this one is redundant.”

We also received a menu with all the meals that were coming our way, followed by the first meal. The flight attendant offered us the whatever food from the menu, but we said we’re the people who asked for the Vegetarian Jain Meal (VJML) during online check-in and seat selection. It came shortly afterward.

We had rice, two spinach samosas, two, eh, sort of falafels (?), and a little daal surprise below the two special foods. It was very tasty, albeit not as tasty as the Vegetarian Jain Meal aboard the Emirates flight from Malaysia to Dubai. I asked for a glass of wine and received a very cute small bottle. That was great because the turbulence returned for a bit during the meal. And without the help of turbulence, I managed to spill an entire cup of cold water over my table and leg because my table was a little broken. Good thing I only tried the wine after figuring this out.

12 turkish airlines flight wine alcohol aboard economy class red dry

Flying through the night over the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Indian Ocean

After the food, Jonas wisely went to sleep. I started a movie (Radioactive, 2020—minus the nudity and sex talk, apparently) that I didn’t finish in one go because I also got a little sleepy. There wasn’t much to see from the window above Turkey or above the Mediterranean because it was cloudy. The straight-line projected route at the start of the flight said we’d fly over Cyprus, but that didn’t happen; we drew a straight line from Antalya to Cairo. Every time our pilots turned I looked out the window to assess our progress.

Flying over the Nile Delta was pretty cool. Once over Cairo, I was scanning the landscape for the pyramids, but couldn’t find them. That’s when I decided to really try to sleep, waking every now and then to look on the map and out the window to only see cloud cover above the Red Sea.

We zig-zagged over the Red Sea dodging Saudi Airspace when we were headed directly for Jeddah. Crossing the Somali peninsula (Horn of Africa), flying over other countries I’ve considered going to after Istanbul: Djibouti and Ethiopia. It would have been a much shorter flight, but also a much shorter visa.

I was sound asleep when we began the home stretch to Mauritius over the Indian Ocean. It was somewhere there when the sun rose in two sharp stages: dawn made me lower my window blinds a little bit and sunrise made me close it completely. I grabbed a blanket because I was quite cold.

It was time for breakfast, which in our case was the same Jain meal as dinner which I liked. I’m not sure if Jonas regretted not choosing the standard meals. I guess next time we book our meals with Turkish Airlines, we’ll hedge our bets and I take a special meal and he goes for the vegetarian meal of the day if they have that.

13 vegetarian jain meal VJML aboard Turkish Airlines flight to Mauritius from Istanbul 2021

Flying over Seychelles and Agaléga

Now that I’m awake, I try to find on the map where above the Indian Ocean we are. We make a sharp turn at two islands that must be part of Seychelles. I find out later that they are North Island and Silhouette Island and we have a good daytime view. Next, the main island of Seychelles (Mahé Island) comes into view as we use Seychelles International Airport (SEZ) as a routing point. We’re not flying that high in the grand scheme of things and it’s possible to see a lot of details on the island.

14 Seychelles North Island Silhouette Island from airplane flight to Mauritius

Silhouette Island (left) and North Island (right), Seychelles

 

Fifteen minutes later, we fly over Platte Island. It takes me forever to realize that the island is really small and that it only looks so big because of the huge coral reefs that protect it from being washed away. Jonas jokes about how you know that there’s an island when there are loads of clouds hovering in one spot.

15 Platte Island Seychelles from airplane

Platte Island, Seychelles

If I had gone to the left side of the plane, I might have also had a chance to catch a glimpse of Coëtivy Island, also part of Seychelles. That one belonged to Mauritius till 1908 and now hosts a low-security prison and voluntary rehab center. Instead, I finish my movie.

I see on my map that if I move to the left side of the plane, we will fly over Agaléga. Agaléga is two Mauritian islands separated by a narrow reef-protected strait called La Passe. So yes, we’re finally entering Mauritius!

Flying over Agaléga north and south island Mauritius territories

 

I find an empty row on the left side of the plane, open the window slowly to not bother the sleepers, and spot this outlying territory of Mauritius. My map showed two parallel runways on North Agaléga; the old one is a simple airstrip and the new one is a huge, shiny airport runway good for very large aircraft. Apparently, the Indian military built the modern one as they have a base on North Agaléga. This is not completely uncontroversial with the Agalégans because of Mauritius’ history with foreign military bases with the Chagossians on Diego Garcia.

16 Agaléga north and south islands Mauritius flight

Agaléga, Mauritius. Lower left corner is the north island

When back at my seat, I show Jonas the videos and photos I took of Agaléga. I’m very happy I made the effort to check it out. But would it perhaps have been better to sit on the left side of the plane for this flight, to begin with?

18 agaléga north island flight Mauritius 2021 17 agaléga south island flight Mauritius 2021

Landing at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport

In the final stretch of the flight, I try my best to spot tiny Tromelin Island (impossible), decide that Saint Brandon is also too far off, and decide to nap until we’re over Mauritius main island. When I wake up, the zoomed-in low-res flight map only gives me a blurry impression of how we approach the airport. But with my videos, I can reconstruct the approach pretty well.

last leg of flight to Mauritius Turkish Airlines Approach to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam international airport Mauritius

We fly over the northern tip at Cap Malheureux. I can only see the shore, the reefs, and loads of resorts at Mont Choisy Beach. There’s one particularly ugly-shaped resort that stands out and is super easy to find on Google Earth called Victoria Beachcomber Resort & Spa.

20 Pointe aux Cannoniers from turkish airlines flight to Mauritius ile maurice 2021

It is cloudy over Port Louis, so I don’t see any bits of the city while we hobble through some turbulence. The next time the clouds thin out, I can see Albion and La Ferme reservoir with its shore-side solar panels. There, we make a sharp left turn before the village of Cascavelle, which reveals Trois Mamelles peak.

21 la ferme reservoir Mauritius island from airplane 22 cascavelle trois mamelles peak mauritius 2021 december flight

We pass through some more clouds and then I see three reservoirs: Tamarind Falls reservoir, Mare Longue reservoir, and the large Mare aux Vacoas. We turn some more and now fly low enough to see individual farms and villages with details. I am reminded once again that Mauritius is a country that drives on the left.

The landing was quite smooth considering the many low-hanging clouds and tricky terrain. No one in our section clapped. The taxiing to the terminal was short and efficient. It’s not a small international airport like the ones in Kyrgyzstan, but it’s delightful nonetheless. The terminal building is very modern and supposedly quite environmentally friendly as far as terminals are concerned. There’s a huge Emirates airplane with United Arab Emirates 50th birthday decorations on it. The UAE’s birthday was yesterday on December 2nd.

23 landing Mauritius island 2021 travel covid-19 coronavirus Istanbul Turkish Airlines 19 flight route Istanbul Turkey to Port Louis Mauritius Mahébourg 2021 covid-19 travel

Much to my delight, our big plane gets the airbridge treatment. I’m so used by now to using one of those weird-sized airport buses to travel between plane and terminal these days that this is a happy moment. Before disembarking, Jonas and I take off our sweaters because it’s still gonna be hot soon. Should we take those four forms we received at the start of the flight? I guess it can’t hurt.

31 Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam international airport Mahébourg Mauritius Port Louis MRU 2021

A moment of appreciation

If you read through all of this and wondered “Why doesn’t Iris mention crying babies and chair-kicking, screaming hellspawn children like always?” you’re having good instinct. Because honestly, this flight was… alright.

I went in it expecting everything to be awful like long flights usually are. I expected my back to hurt by the end of it and to feel like a zombie because of sleep deprivation. And yes, I expected to have to exert the highest amount of tolerance for breeders who think it’s a great idea to bring their germ-spreaders to a place this far away (it’s not).

In the end, there was only one toddler in our section that made a noise a total of three times. The parents were always directly on their snot goblin to quiet it down, so the aggravation was minimal.

But honestly, the bar for what a “good flight” entails for me is so low. I still think the whole process is humiliating.

Welcome to Mauritius?!

Mauritius immigration

Once in the airport, we first had to grab our documents and repack a little. Jonas visited the bathroom while I monitored where we had to go next. I couldn’t read the signs so I honestly had no clue where immigration was.

32 Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam international airport 2021 travel 33 mauritius airport terminal building international

When Jonas returned, he walked around to figure stuff out. The queue for immigration was right next to us and it was a huge queue. Not looking forward to that.

On top of that, loads of people were frantically filling in those four forms we’d received on the flight. Those people were also non-Boomers who had used the online all-in-one form. Oh no…

Jonas asked an airport employee if we can just hand over the all-in-one form instead of filling in these four forms which contain the same information. She said that we still needed to fill in the green form (with the dodo). But when we entered the queue, someone else came out of it and told us they were sent out to fill out all four forms despite having the all-in-one form.

We filled in the last three forms while queueing. It was chaotic. The white forms were the worst because they asked for everything yet again, but they had even less space to fill stuff in and one of them changed the order of the dates from DD/MM/YYYY to YYYY/MM/DD. Outrageous.

At the immigration agent, we handed over our passports. We showed our faces without our face masks. She asked us for proof of accommodation. This is one thing we had printed out but didn’t expect to use. She really wanted a specific address, which we kind of didn’t have because it’s an Airbnb without a house number. The length of stay we’d booked was only 7 days, but we told her we wanted to stay in Mauritius for three months (90 days). We told her we didn’t have a booking for the entire 90 days because we intend to move around and first see if we like Mahébourg. She also asked for our proof of departure, meaning the plane ticket to France.

It was really strict, especially in comparison to entering Turkey by boat. She took only the green form.

Stamp stamp, and we entered Mauritius!

Health control + second PCR test

Once through immigration, there was a queue for the health control. There were some booths with guys in it that checked our passports, our negative PCR tests, and our address in Mauritius yet again. He took our yellow form and gave us a blue laminated card that said “MTPA Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority”. It was unclear what we had to do with that.

34 health control entry Mauritius airport MRU 2021 coronavirus covid-19

It was quick and he waved us through when he shouted after me “Are you vaccinated?”

I was ready to grab my Kyrgyz vaccination card, but he was like “Okay”.

Next, the arrivals were divided into having a blue laminated card or a yellow one. I later learn that the yellow card means you’ll get your covid-19 test done at your accommodation when arriving. With our blue laminated cards, we have to go right to the PCR test area where people in full medical hazmat suits stood. Kind of like… Malaysia! So I also expected the PCR test here to be more ‘thorough’ meaning more painful.

35 additional pcr test on arrival in Mauritius entry rules coronavirus 2021 december travel 36 blue card Mauritius Tourism Promotion Autority 2021 covid rules entry

We sat down at registration, where they put our names on the test tubes and we had to bring those to the swabbing area. One of the white forms disappeared from our possession and we do not know who took it, where it went, or what it was for.

I said “Bonjour” to the probably handsome man hiding behind all that plastic and he grabbed my test tube stuff. He returned the greeting in French. I sat down on the chair and put my hand luggage down so I could relax. He asked if English or French is better and I said English. I was already in PCR test position with my head up before he asked me to do that, so he said “Ah, I’m dealing with a professional.”

The swab went only into my right nostril, which meant that I felt symmetrical again after the PCR test in Edirne which did my throat and left nostril. It wasn’t super painful, to my surprise.

Swab Man gave me a blue card that said something like “PASSENGER SWABBED” which I immediately had to hand over outside the booth to a guy with a box full of these blue laminated cards.

Luggage carousel + ATM attempt #1 + customs + airport pickup

We went downstairs where the luggage carrousel was. I immediately spotted Jonas’ backpack on the near-empty carousel and grabbed it. We had to wait a while for mine to arrive and I was already going through the scenarios that someone took my luggage from me or that it was left behind in Istanbul. But then it arrived and all was good.

37 blue card yellow fever book vaccine proof of health negative covid test entry mauritius 2021 38 baggage carousel mauritius aiport

While I repacked, Jonas tried to use an ATM. It didn’t work. (But a few days after our arrival we figured out it was because he blocked the usage of this card for the entire continent of Africa, along with South America and Antarctica. Lesson learned: don’t block entire continents on your bank cards.)

There was a small booth that was about bringing in seeds or dirt into the fragile Mauritian ecology, but we didn’t have to do a ‘biosecurity check’ like in Chile. Jonas knows from experience that biosecurity checks are very strict in Australia and New Zealand and Australia is practically a neighbor of Mauritius.

39 duty free shop mauritius airport arrivals 2021

We walked past customs who weren’t interested in our luggage. Then we walked through some dark hall to the arrivals hall where some guy sat at a “⟵ Exit | Quarantine ⟶” sign wanted to have that mysterious blue card. So apparently, the blue card is proof that we don’t need to quarantine on arrival. Good thing we didn’t toss it. We took that left to the arrivals hall.

There our Airbnb host Marie stood with a sign with Jonas’ name. She profusely apologized for not putting my name on the sign, which doesn’t matter in the slightest.

40 welcome to mauritius 2021 travels 41 mauritius arrival international airport MRU long flight intercontinental

Welcome to Mauritius. It was 14:30 local time and the timeshift is one hour forward from Istanbul.

Drive to Mahébourg + ATM attempt #2 + SIM card attempts #1–#69

We put our luggage in the car and sat in the back. It was immediately a little confusing to be in a right-hand drive vehicle. We kept our masks on as is the rule in Mauritius and talked to Marie. She told us Mahébourg is pronounced “Maiebourg” in French/Creole and “Mayburg” in English. Not at all what I expected.

Though we received a load of information immediately, not all of it stuck to us because we were quite tired. The biggest warning was how early businesses close in Mauritius, except for the restaurants. At the apartment, we dropped off our stuff and then discussed what to do. I was in favor of getting over the pain and going to an ATM in Mahébourg and buying a SIM card

We changed our clothes to suit the weather (so hot) and backed a day bag with hats, water, and the like. Though we managed to get money at an ATM by the bank called ‘SBM’ with a different card, we didn’t manage to buy SIM cards because you need to visit the official telecom office and not just any random shop. We visited a great many of these shops before we got the hint. Try on Saturday, but try it earlier!

The walk in the heat got us a little grumpy. We were very tired and sweating profusely. We visited a supermarket to buy some basic foodstuffs and a local Mauritian craft beer that looked good. At home, we showered and scrolled on the very fast home WiFi. We managed to avoid falling asleep and messing up our bedtime.

In the evening, we ate at a nearby restaurant called Chez Marylin for some vegetarian tempura, a mixed salad, vegetarian fried noodles, and a big Phoenix beer. Now we have arrived.

Traveling to Mauritius in 2021 Checklist

  1. Check the latest covid-19 requirements on canitravel.net and the IATA website
  2. Check the immigration requirements to enter Mauritius for your passport (apply for a visa if you need one)
  3. Book your flight to Mauritius
  4. Once your departure comes close, arrange a PCR test at your nearest clinic/laboratory/hospital
  5. Take the PCR test in the 72-hour window before boarding your flight
  6. Be negative for covid-19 and pick up the test at your clinic/laboratory/hospital
  7. Use your negative test information to fill in the Safe Mauritius online all-in-one travel form. (Despite the uselessness during our entry, I would still do it)
  8. Print out and collate all your documents and pack a pen with them:
    • Your passport (if applicable, with a Mauritian visa)
    • Negative PCR test
    • Vaccine certificate (and preferably also your Yellow Book)
    • Safe Mauritius online all-in-one travel form
    • Confirmed hotel/Airbnb reservation printout (with address and a local phone number!)
    • Bank statement as proof of sufficient funds (US$100 per day of stay)
    • Return or onward ticket to leave Mauritius
    • Health insurance that covers covid-19
  9. 24 hours before your flight, check-in online. Select your seat and your meal
  10. Pack your bags. Don’t forget fresh face masks!
  11. Travel to the airport and go to the check-in counters. Show all the documents the check-in agent asks for. Make sure to receive them back
  12. Go through the airport as usual (immigration, security)
  13. At the gate, give the gate agent your boarding pass, passport, and any other documents they ask for (e.g. negative PCR test)
  14. Board your plane and fly to Mauritius. Receive the (four) forms
  15. Once in Mauritius, go through immigration. Give them the documents they ask for (e.g. proof of hotel, onward ticket) and pull down your mask for the identity check
  16. Go through the health control. Give them the papers they ask for (e.g. proof of vaccination, yellow book, negative PCR test) and receive the blue card that says “MTPA Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority” (hold on to this!). Alternatively, receive the yellow card which means you’ll be tested for covid-19 at your hotel
  17. Let the doctors perform another PCR test on you. Receive the different blue card that says something like “PASSENGER SWABBED” and dunk it in the box at the exit of the PCR test area
    • If the test is negative, you’ll never hear from them again. If the test is positive, they will call you and come to your address to quarantine you (what happens after this, I don’t know)
  18. Go to the luggage carousel and pick up your baggage. There are ATMs in this area in case you want to get cash on arrival. Make sure your bank doesn’t block the use of your card in the continent of Africa
  19. Clear customs and enter the arrivals hall. Take a bus/taxi/airport pickup to your accommodation
  20. Enjoy your first five days in Mauritius
  21. On the fifth day after arrival, go to a pharmacy and buy a covid-19 rapid test (Rs. 260 or about €5.40 or US$6.05). Do the test and hopefully, it’s negative. If it’s negative, enjoy Mauritius!

Taking Our First Rapid Antigen Self Test on our Fifth Day in Mauritius

Helpful intel? Consider buying me a Phoenix beer!

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Stats and total travel time

  • We departed Edirne at 13:15 Turkish time on the 2nd of December. We arrived at the Airbnb in Mahébourg at around 15:00 local time. That means the total travel time was 24 hours and 45 minutes, door to door.
  • The distance by plane was a little under 7900 kilometers. If we’d flown in a straight line, the distance would have been 7,491 kilometers.
  • The total flight time was from take-off at 2:45 Turkish time till landing at 12:55 Mauritian time. That is 9 hours and 10 minutes. With taxiing and boarding, it’s of course a bit longer

Congratulations on reading all of this!

Entering Mauritius ile Maurice in 2021 covid Entering Maurice Mauritius in 2021 Mauritius entry pin 1

2 thoughts on “Bonzur, Mahébourg?! Traveling from Istanbul to Mauritius (Semi-Live Blog)

  1. hi, i love reading your blog! is it ok to as some questions, read few blogs, travel bit different, how you manage to keep it going? we are thinking of heading off ourselves as we have similar issues with our country that you have, just head enough, we probably couldnt always do airbnb how can you do it? got a bit of savings from inhertiance. do u ever miss home, find it super interested how international you are. secondly nice to read blog with different opinions, wondered why wifi seems so important to you guys apart from work? Do you ever like to be away from wifi and see any negetives of this technological age? find when i travel, i avoid it, its way to reconnect with the world, be without wifi, rather use public wifi the get a sim card! finally what happened on boat trip from turkey? i hope i am not seeming rude or too nosy! i really like your blog

    • Hey Ems! Thanks 🙂
      We manage to keep traveling because of remote work, which includes this blog. Jonas is a web developer and that’s a very good job to have for remote freelance work. Neither of us has an inheritance to pay for our travels because all our immediate family members are alive and healthy. We mostly stay in Airbnbs and hotels these days because as long as we can work a few days a week, we can keep this going and also save money. A quiet place to work with a good table and chair is more important than saving money at all costs. That’s why I stopped doing couchsurfing; it’s not sustainable for me. I couldn’t write all these blog posts you’re enjoying while also being a good guest.

      That’s also the same reason why WiFi is so important and why we also always buy SIM cards in new countries: online work. Even if Airbnbs and hotels often have WiFi, the signal is often not as good, and asking staff to restart the router or give us the correct password takes time and energy. With WiFi, when it’s good it’s just good and when it’s bad it’s awful—so we bypass this problem completely through self-reliance. And I can write a new “How to get a SIM card” guide to help others whenever we do this!

      Also, having a local phone number is great when you’re meeting people. I remember when I didn’t buy local SIM cards, meeting people at the statue of XYZ at bla bla o’clock would usually result in not meeting them. Now I can just call them or send them a WhatsApp message if we’re still on.

      While I do like to be away from WiFi and the comforts of Airbnb, I also enjoy having access to all the knowledge (and memes) of the galaxy. It’s a tool and depending on how you use it, it’s good. However, using social media is usually too much for me these days. So often I post on the blog but don’t really share on Facebook and Instagram because it’s such a time suck and it actually makes me miserable.

      While I do miss my family sometimes, I do not miss home because I am home. I stay in contact with my family members and – as far as I know – we’re all satisfied with the amount of skype calls. And because I usually have a local SIM card with unlimited data, I can skype them on a regular schedule regardless of if the WiFi is working.

      In the end, you do you! We don’t all travel the same way or have the same needs while traveling. That’s the beauty of it. Some people might find my blog completely useless because I don’t write about certain topics, while others who are a lot more similar to me might find this a treasure trove. Both are fine.

      Happy travels!
      Iris // Mind of a Hitchhiker

      P.S. We took the boat from Ukraine to Turkey and it was amazing, but I haven’t finished the second post yet! I will hopefully finish it soon

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