Everything you need to know about the Seychelles before you visit the exotic African country.
USEFUL INFORMATION AND TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE SEYCHELLES
1. The Seychelles is a visa-free country. All foreign visitors are entitled to free entry to the Seychelles. All you need to do to get through passport control is fill in a form and bring a printed hotel reservation and a pre-booked departure ticket.
2. The international airport at Mahe island is located approximately 10 km (6 mi) from Victoria, the capital. Many hotels will organize a shuttle for you. Otherwise, you can take a taxi.
3. Almost everybody speaks three languages: French, English and Creole (the three official languages of the Seychelles). The country was under the rule of France and Great Britain for a long time and, thanks to that, you’ll have no language barrier to contend with.
4. You can pay in dollars, euro or the local rupee. Euros are preferred at most places, but if you pay in rupees you’ll get better rates. All major global credit and debit cards are safe and easy to use at ATMs.
5. Vacationers stay at hotels, but there are many people who swap their home cities for the Seychelles for a whole season. An apartment with an ocean view in Victoria costs around $1000 per month – enough to make you swap your rented apartment at home for one on the island, so you can wait out the winter in paradise.
6. You have to drive on the left side of the road – consider this if you plan to rent a car.
7. Taxis cost between $3 and $5 per km, but feel free to haggle.
8. There are public buses that circulate the island. We used them during our stay (with small backpacks only), but we read in online forums that tourists are not allowed on these buses with huge suitcases. You get a ticket from the driver (payable in rupees only and costing ~$0.30-0.40). These old and rickety vehicles are used mainly by the locals and pass regularly. The drivers, however, all seem to be retired Formula 1 champions and tourists often get off dizzy (we did). If you have a stomach of steel, the public buses are a great way to navigate the island for little money. Bus schedules are available here and in all hotels.
9. The northern part of the island is where you will find the best selection of hotels and entertainment and where famous people are often spotted.
10. One of the reasons so many people love the Seychelles is that the country always has beach weather – the temperature hovers between 24 and 32° C (75 and 89°F) all year round. The humidity is very high and if you accidentally leave the balcony door of your hotel room open, you will find all your clothes soaked. From November to January, the rain is heavy and regular, while May–September is known for being particularly windy.
11. There’s nothing poisonous or dangerous on the islands, which makes it even better than Eden (where they had a sly snake to spoil the party). The only thing to beware of are giant coconuts falling from the palms like cannonballs onto the heads of cocktail-sipping tourists.
SEYCHELLES ATTRACTIONS AND EXPERIENCES NOT TO MISS
See the unique Coco de mer fruit
This ancient tree (they say it’s been around since the time of dinosaurs) is a symbol of the Seychelles because it grows on only two of its islands: Praslin and Curieuse. The fruit of the male and female Coco de mer (or sea coconut) trees provoke many giggles because they look like the respective human genitals. If you want to take one of these fruits with you, you should obtain a special permit; those who try to smuggle the coconuts out of the Seychelles face imprisonment.
Beaches in the Seychelles
Most hotels have private beaches and swimming pools, but the Seychelles has much more than this. Take a bus or rent a car and stop almost anywhere on the main road circulating the island of Mahe to reach wild beaches with no people (or just a few locals drinking ciders). The water is Photoshop-like blue-green and perfectly clear for snorkeling. Don’t forget your water shoes, because sea urchins lurk in every piece of coral and seaweed.
Talk to the locals
The locals are friendly and talkative, many of them having amazing stories to share. Just a small example is the 25-year-old Ethiopian-born member of staff we met at our hotel, whose name was Gorbachev (yes, like the Soviet leader Gorbachev). He told us the amusing story of the Soviet leader and the American President Reagan visiting the hospital where he and his twin sister were born. His mother was so impressed that she named her children after the prominent guests.
The Botanical Garden in Victoria, Mahe
Even if you are not a big garden lover, this destination is worth visiting, if only because of the turtles living here. The Botanical Garden in Victoria is best enjoyed with a leisurely walk among palms, orchids and Coco de mer trees. Your entry ticket costs ~$15 with an additional $3 if you want to feed the turtles (the zookeepers will give you special leaves, which the turtles love).
Food in the Seychelles
Most eateries serve fish and seafood cooked either in Creole style – with lots of spices – or in Italian style. A dinner for two at a restaurant will cost you between $40 and $100, while a burger with French fries from a street caravan for two will cost $20-$30.
The market in Victoria
The market in Victoria is among the major attractions on Mahe island. Here you can satiate your senses with exotic smells, sights, colors and tastes. Most of the vendors sell vegetables, fish, fruit and ginger.
La Plaine St Andre – where Takamaka rum is distilled
You will see the name of Takamaka rum all over the island, and besides sipping cocktails prepared with it, you can also visit the mansion where it is produced – La Plaine St Andre, located only 7 km (4 mi) from the airport. You can easily reach it by bus, as there’s a bus stop right in front of the distillery. Join a guided tour (twice a day, at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm, $15 per person including a rum-tasting session at the end) to see how the former spice mansion was turned into a rum distillery. You will be even be able to put sugarcane into the machine to create a sweet, fresh juice.
And don’t forget to look up at the sky
If you live in the northern hemisphere, don’t forget to look up at the night sky – it’s so different from the constellations you see at home.
Author: Bojidar Bonchev
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