Information & Facts
Boasting miles of verdant landscape with pretty beaches, scenic
rainforests and characteristic towns and ports, Madagascar offers
some lovely attractions for visitors who choose to visit this
inspiring and unique land. With a number of reserves and national
parks boasting a variety of magical wildlife, including the famous
lemurs, Madagascar's unique creatures and botanicals have dubbed it
'the eighth continent' and visitors will be enchanted by the beauty
of this mysterious land. Head to the town on Antsirabe to view the
volcanic lakes of Andraikiba and Tritriva, or relax in the
therapeutic thermal baths. Visit Ile Sante Marie for some of the
best whale watching opportunities, wander through herb gardens and
enjoy the scents of vanilla and lemongrass, or for a chilling good
time, take a spooky tour of the pirate cemetery. Toamasina offers
some fantastic architectural wonders as well as the popular Jardin
D'Essel and the Parc Ivoloina. For active travellers, water sports
abound here, such as diving, swimming, snorkeling and canoeing, to
name a few, while landlubbers can enjoy the plentiful walks and
hikes through the many reserves Madagascar offers, while viewing
some of the most fascinating birds and animals on the planet.
The Malagasy people are friendly and approachable. Business is
somewhat formal, but lightweight suits are appropriate due to the
subtropical climate. Although Malagasy is the official language of
Madagascar, French is the language of business and the government.
English is only more common in the tourism sector. Translators can
be arranged. Business hours are usually Monday to Saturday.
Generally the climate of Madagascar is subtropical, with a hot
and rainy season between November and April, and a cooler dry
season from May to October. However there is a big variation in
climate depending on altitude and geographical position. The west
coast is drier than the east coast and the central highlands, while
the far south and south west is a semi-desert region that
experiences very little rainfall. The east coast receives the most
rain and is hot and humid during the wet season, and also prone to
cyclones between February and March. Temperatures are much cooler
in the highlands. Antananarivo has a pleasant, temperate climate.
Along the coast temperatures range from 81°F to 90°F (27°C to 32°C)
in the wet season and 64°F to 72°F (18°C to 22°C) in the dry
season. May to October is the most pleasant time to travel to
Madagascar, with cooler temperatures and little rain.
The international dialling code for Madagascar is +261. The
outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g.
0027 for South Africa). To make an international call to
Madagascar, the dialling code of 261 must be followed by a
two-digit operator code (e.g. 20 for TELMA, the most reliable),
then the regional code (e.g. 22 for Antananarivo) and then the
five-digit number. A GSM 900 network is in use, covering major
cities and main roads. Public Internet access exists in large
cities; there are a few Internet cafes in Antananarivo.
Do not photograph military or police establishments while in
Madagascar. Identification should be carried at all times by
visitors. In rural areas, locals may abide my a number of taboos
fady, which should be respected by visitors at all
Visitors older than 21 years may bring 500 cigarettes or 25
cigars or 500g tobacco, as well as one bottle of alcohol into the
country without incurring import duty. Visitors are allowed to
export a maximum of 100g vanilla without cost.
Electrical current is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are
Air Madagascar connects Antananarivo to 51 towns on the island,
although flights do not depart daily for most locations and air
travel can be much more expensive than going by train or bus. The
train journey between the capital and Toamasina, and between
Fianarantsoa and Manakara is recommended for its scenery. Buses and
taxi-brousseare the most commonly used form of transport
for the local population and are generally overcrowded, leave at
irregular times and are slow. The island has just three main roads
(from Tana to Mahajanga, to Toamasina and to Tuléar), with dirt
tracks covering the rest of the country, and many roads are
impassable during the rainy season. Car hire is not common and not
generally recommended, but agencies can be found in the main
Malaria is a risk throughout the year and is highest on the
coast of Madagascar. Cases of chikungunya fever were reported in
February 2010 and are transmitted by mosquitoes; precautionary
measures against being bitten should be taken at all times. In
April 2008, an outbreak of Rift Valley fever was reported in five
regions; contact with domestic animals and mosquitoes should be
avoided. While AIDS has not reached the levels of other sub-saharan
countries, protection should be used at all times. All travellers
coming from a country with yellow fever require inoculation against
the disease. Other risks include bilharzia, tuberculosis and
rabies. Tap water should not be drunk unless it has been boiled or
chemically treated. Medical facilities are limited, and outside of
the capital medical care may be difficult to find. Limited French
medications are available in Tana and it is advisable to bring
along a medical kit for private use. Comprehensive medical
insurance is advised.
Malagasy is the official language, but French is used in
business and government and is widely spoken in the main cities in
Madagascar. A few people involved in the tourism industry might be
able to speak some English, but it is not widely spoken.
The official currency is the Malagasy ariary (MGA), which has
been reintroduced to replace the Malagasy franc. Coins and notes
display both currencies, but newer notes display the ariary more
prominently than the franc. One ariary is equal to five francs.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks and official bureaux
de change, but the ariary cannot be changed back into hard
currency. Some banks will only accept US dollars or Euro.
Travellers cheques can be exchanged at most banks and in major
hotels, but some banks refuse to accept them. ATMs are available in
Antananarivo. Most major credit cards are starting to be accepted
in top hotels and major travel agencies in the capital and other
major towns, but have limited usage elsewhere.
Foreign visitors to Madagascar of most nationalities can obtain
a tourist visa on arrival, provided they have at least one blank
page in their passport reserved for the Immigration Authorities of
Madagascar. Tourist visas are valid for 90 days, and cost MGA
140,000 (or equivalent in USD or EUR). A yellow fever vaccination
certificate is required to enter Madagascar, if arriving within six
days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is
highly recommended that your passport has at least six months
validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your
travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different
rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
The political situation in Madagascar is unstable, especially in
the Ambohijatovo, Lac Anosy, Antaninarenina and Analakely areas.
Violence is possible at any large gatherings and political or
military installations. It is advised to travel with an established
agency, and solo travellers should continually monitor the local
media. Precautions against opportunistic crime, especially in the
urban areas, should be taken. Pickpockets operate at the airport
and in crowded areas such as markets. Travellers should carry ID at
all times. At night, avoid walking around city centres and road
travel outside urban areas as there have been occasional hold-ups
on the main routes. The height of the cyclone season is from
January to March and affects the coastal regions. Piracy is a
concern in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
Tipping in Madagascar is not usual, although in European-style
restaurants and hotels tips of 10-15% are expected.