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Hot tropical climate. Temperatures are cooler in the hills, occasionally dropping to freezing point in the mountains at night. The cyclone season (January to March) is hot and wet.
Lightweights, with warmer clothes for the evenings.
Due east of Madagascar, in the Indian Ocean.
2,507 sq km (968 sq miles).
777,000 (UN estimate 2005).
309.9 per sq km.
Saint-Denis. Population: 178,000 (UN estimate 2003).
Réunion is an Overseas Department of France and as such is an integral part of the French Republic.
Réunion lies 760km (407 miles) east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Running diagonally across the island is a chain of volcanic peaks, separating a green humid eastern zone (Le Vent) from a dry, sheltered south and west (Sous le Vent). The majority of the population lives along the coast. Sugar cane production accounts for over half the arable land in a country where many basic foodstuffs are imported.
French is the official language. Local Creole patois is also spoken.
The majority of the population is Roman Catholic, with a Muslim minority.
GMT + 4.
The islanders follow French fashion. Normal social courtesies should be observed. The immigrants from India, Pakistan and Europe have retained their cultural identities.
220 volts AC, 50Hz.
Head of Government
Nassimah Dindar, President of the General Council.
Head of State
President Nicolas Sarkozy since 2007, represented locally by Prefect Laurent Cayrel since 2005.
The most recent elections to the Regional Council and the General Council, held in 1998 and 2000 respectively, were won by a right-wing coalition and the left-wing alliance of Communists and Socialists.
The Euro is the official currency for the French Overseas Departments (Départements d’Outre-Mer) of French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion. For further details, see the France section. US Dollars are also accepted in some places.
All major currencies can be exchanged at banks and bureaux de change.
Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs
American Express, Diners Club and Visa are accepted. MasterCard has limited acceptance. Cards can also be used in ATMs.
Traveller's cheques are not generally accepted.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding €10,000 or equivalent must be declared if travelling from or to a country outside the European Union.
Exchange Rate Indicators
1.00 GBP = 1.16 EUR 1.00 USD = 0.72 EUR Currency conversion rates as of 13 November 2011
In the 1640s, Réunion was occupied by the French, displacing the Portuguese, who in 1513 had been the first European arrivals on the island. The island became prosperous during the 18th century when it lay on the shipping routes which carried trade between Europe and Asia. Sugar plantations, worked by slaves imported from Africa, formed the other main economic sector. Réunion was ruled as a colony until 1946 when it was granted the status of an Overseas Department of France, under which it is an integral part of the French State, which is represented on the island by a commissioner. Much French culture has seeped into the island’s day-to-day life, intermixing with Réunion’s African, Indian and Chinese influences, and creating a wonderful tropical twist. The predominant spoken language is French, the architecture leans towards the French models; but this is also a land of volcanoes and cyclone seasons. Equally, French dishes may be on the menu but they are usually subverted: you may well be served duck curry rather than the canard à l’orange you were expecting! It is little wonder that Réunion is a much-kept secret, since the French presumably want to keep this little gem of an island to themselves.Although this is an island of exceptional and bright turquoise waters, its quantity of sharks mean that swimming and other watersports activities may not be the number-one reason why visitors might want to go to Réunion. Far greater are its stupendous trekking routes across mountain terrain. Cirques – large volcanic valleys surrounded by mountains, creating a natural amphitheatre of about 10km (6 miles) in diameter – sink into the ground, replete with magnificent waterfalls and other natural features.It is fortunate that Réunion has so many areas of beauty, since this is a densely populated island that, although once flourishing from the cultivation of sugar cane, is now mostly sustained from its tourist industry – plus financial aid from the hands of France. Nevertheless, economic problems persist, and the large wealth gap on the island has often fuelled social tensions, occasionally spilling into actual violence. Unemployment remains stubbornly high, and migration is common.
From www.worldtravelguide.net copyright Columbus Travel Publishing Ltd, November 2011.