Facts and Information

Useful country and travel info for Reunion

Reunion is a wildly beautiful and rugged volcanic island with an interesting history. It was discovered by the Portuguese in the early 16th century and then claimed by the French in 1643, who named it Bourbon and established their first colony. Slaves were brought in to work the sugar plantations. The island was renamed Reunion in 1793, and it remained a French colony, except for a brief British occupation from 1810 to 1815.

Over time, the mix of French people with Africans, Chinese, Malays, and Malabar Indians gave the island its ethnic mix. This diversity only adds to the island's intrigue. While the economy is dominated by the sugarcane industry, tourism also plays an important economic role. Major exports include sugar, seafood, rum, and vanilla.

Here are some basic facts and information about Reunion, to help you get to know the place better before travelling there.

The Land:

Reunion is one of the youngest islands in the world, having first broke the surface of the Indian Ocean less than three million years ago. It is still highly mountainous with volcanic activity still happening today. The island is 63 kilometres long, 45 kilometres wide, convering 2,512 square kilometres. Like Hawaii, it is located above a hotspot in the Earth's crust. One of its volcanoes, Piton de la Fournaise, over 2,631 metres above sea, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The Piton des Neiges volcano is the highest point on the island at 3,070 metres above sea level and is extinct. Offshore, part of the west coast in characterised by a coral reef system. The coastline is mainly made up of cliffs and beaches.

The People:

The first settlers arrived from France in the 17th century to an uninhabited island, accompanied by servants from Madagascar. The first children born in Reunion were mixed race. Slavery was introduced and slave labour was imported from Madagsacar and other parts of Africa and India. In the 19th century, travellers from China and Muslim India settled here and continued to arrive and settle in greater amounts in the 20th century. More and more people arrived from France, leading to an overall mixed race population. French is the official language but most inhabitants speak Creole.


Reunion cuisine is influenced by a range of nationalities, including French, Indian, Creole and Chinese. Common dishes and foods include achards (finely cut pickled vegetables with chillies); samosas, 'bonbons piment' (chilli dumplings) and Chinese-style meat balls. The rum 'arrangé' flavoured with spices is a great drink.

The Wildlife:

Being a small island, there are only nine native species of mammals. In the forested areas you can find rare rusa deers and hares, among others. Reunion's emblematic animal is the chameleon. There are 91 species of birds, including endemic ones, such as white blackbirds. Sea life includes corallian species and pelagic fish; in the lagoon you'll find star fish, hermit crabs, boxfish, damselfish, butterfly fish, surgeon fish and crabs. On the other side of the coral barrier are turtles, rays, marlins and sharks.

The Climate:

Reunion has a tropical climate softened by the breezes of the Indian Ocean. The sun shines all year round. There is little difference between day and night temperatures.


The Euro is the official currency here. Credit cards can be used everywhere and automatic cash machines are widespread (Visa and Mastercard). Traveller's cheques are also widely accepted.


No particular vaccine is required before entering Reunion (except for yellow fever, if you are coming from an infected country).

Visa Requirements:

UK, US and other visitors need to have passports, but French visitors only need a valid identity card to visit.

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