more useful tourist information
French and Malagasy are the official languages in Madagascar. However, French is merely spoken by educated and/or older people and rare in rural areas.
English is useful in luxury hotels and among employees of travel agencies. Only popular reserves and parks can organize English-speaking (or other languages) guides to help you around.
Currency. The Madagascar currency is Ariary (Ar) and €1.- is about 4.000 Ar.
There are bank notes of 200, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, and 20000 Ar. Note that people in rural areas may still use the old Franc (FMG).
When buying on a market in rural areas, ask whether a price is in Ariary or FMG (1 Ar = 5 FMG).
Debit cards can’t be used in Madagascar.
Visa and Master cards can be used in most cities in Madagascar. American Express is merelyuseful in some of the luxury hotels.
Madagascar has 220 volt electricity. In the big cities the electricity is often cut off and in rural areas hotels and restaurants are dependent on their own generator or solar system. The French-style grounded sockets may pose a problem for some connections.
Check at your hotel.
Things to bring with you to Madagascar
A valid passport.
Cash euro or US dollar (when buying a visa at the airport).
Visa or Master card.
Photo copy of passport with the visa page.
Pictures for visa (in the case of a duration longer than 2 months).
Malaria prevention (e.g. Laream or Malarone).
Cap or hat.
Ear plugs (when travelling with public transport).
Flashlight with batteries.
Good walking shoes.
Mosquito repellent with deet.
Insect bite treatment.
Baby poweder or cream against skin irritation.
Favourite cosmetics, shaving supplies, sanitary napkins, deodorant.
Long trousers (also for children).
Suntan lotion, oil or cream.
Swimming suit and aqua shoes or flipflops.
Warm sweater or fleece.
Things to buy in Madagascar (at the airport!)
Passport and visa
People from Europe can buy a visa at the airport for about €40.-
Check before you leave, because prices are subject to change and differ per duration of your stay.
For an ordinary visa at the airport a picture is not required. This is different when buying a visa in your home country.
For other than short touristic visa, check before leaving your home country!
Physical risks in Madagascar
Malagasy people are friendly and the country has no history of warfare, except for some kolonial tragedies and a few violent political struggles. The problem is the poverty of the population, forcing too many youngsters into crime. Hence travellers should be careful and stick to precautions:
• Do not walk around with precious possessions, e.g.jewelry, luxury watches, wallets.
• Do not go out after sunset, unless safe transport has been arranged. Even when walking at night between your hotel and nearby restaurant may be risky. Arrange a guard from your hotel to accompany you.
• Do not drive a car, unless you have trustworthy Malagasy-speaking people in the car. But in case of an accident, the driver is responsible and this may take a long time to sort out and cause a lot of problems. It is wiser to arrange a multi-language driver instead. And for long driving take two drivers. For example, the trip from the capital Antananarivo to Morondava is about 700 km and takes 14-18 hours, which is too exhausting for a single driver.
• The Malagasy bank notes may have little value for you, but do not show a hipe of them to the Malagasy people. Always keep a few bank notes at hand for unexpected expenses, e.g. a drink, a souvenir.
• In crowded places and particularly on the market, be aware of organized pickpocking.
• Keep all your importand belongings together in a closed suitcase and check the windows and the door of your hotel room.
• Driving distances in Madagascar are long and the roads and the quality of many vehicles is very poor. So inconvenience and delays are common and be prepared by always taking fresh water and food in your hand luggage.
As many poor countries, Madagascar is popular among sex tourists. Be aware that sexual relationships with minors are prosecuted and may cause tremendous problems. Friendly Malagasy people may turn into savages when confronted with a sex offender.
Less dangerous are the animals of the great island. Madagascar has no poisonous snakes and encounters with biting or stinging insects are rare. An exception are mosquitos and you should always use protection. When staying in basic lodges it can be worthwhile to use a strong spray in your room before dining, killing possible bugs. After 50 years of traveling in Madagascar, the author never experienced bed bugs, but it is not impossible and a strong spray (killing cockroaches and ants; for sale in each drugstore) can prevent unpleasant encounters.
Most hotels have mosquito nets and if it is too hot, open a window and ask the people in your hotel for a Mosquito, which is burned and produces a strong odour that keeps mosquitos out.
However, you are in a tropical country and some confrontation with cockroaches or little geckos on the wall of your room can always occur, even in a good hotel.
Disclaimer: The author declines all responsibility related to the information presented on this site.
To be sure about the recent situation in Madagascar, make inquiries at your local Ministery of foreign affairs, health department or physician,
and travel agency.