Enter the fascinating world of Madagascar!
With over 50 years of experience in Madagascar, we’ll happy to share our views and make your holiday a wonderful experience.
Madagasccar is the fourth biggest island in the world, about 1500 by 500 km with different landscapes and an abundance of options for tourists.
Madagascar separated from Africa 110 million years ago and underwent a different evolution. The animals and plants live nowhere else on earth, such as baobabs, tortoises and lemurs.
The Malagasy people came from different corners in the world, which is reflected in 20 different tribes, all with their own traditions and rituals. Welcome to mysterious and exciting Madagascar!
Currently there are 27 million people in Madagascar, half of them under the age of 21 years. Ther background and culture is a mixture of various Asian and African influences and the traditional and spiritual lifestyle of many reminds of midieval times. The major tribes are the Mirina in the center of the island, the betsinisaraka in the east, the Sakalava in the west and the Antandroy in the south.
Madagascar is a very poor country and the condition of roads and bridges is appalling. Moreover, there are no rivers allowing travelling by boat and no trains (with the exception of an ancient train connecting the cities of Fianarantsoa and Manakara).
Because of the huge distances and the poor infrastructure, tourists with a few weeks available for their holiday are recommended to restrict their visit to one or two geographic areas, e.g. the central part and the west, or the central part and the south. Particularly northern Madagascar is best reached by airplane from the capital Antananarivo.
The different geographic zones of Madagascar are associated with specific climatic conditions. The overal tropical climate implies lots of son and a daily temperature of about 30 C. The Central highlands are chilly at night, particularly between June and August. The East is moist and rain very common. The west is dry between April and December, but during January and March rainfall can be excessive. The South is dry and desert-like and the North has humid and dry areas. In the East and the North, there are no large climatic differences between the seasons, although February is the hottest and August the coolest month. Particularly after rainfall roads and bridges make driving difficult or impossible and many reserves and parks are closed.
SOME USEFUL INFORMATION
Travel agencies for Madagascar
We have outstanding experiences with:
Matoke tours www.matoke.nl email@example.com 073-612 33 64
Madafocus www.madafocus.mg firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Telephone and Wifi
People who want to use a telephone outside the wifi of their hotel are advised to buy a mobile phone in Madagascar. Bring your passport. A pre-paid device costs only €10-15.- Credits can be purchased everywhere on the street, but usully of small credits, which requires a lot of time to get enough credit inside for an intercontinental call. It is better to have your new phone charged at the office you bought it.
Most hotels have wifi, but often of poor quality and it may be worth-while checking the wifi quality in a hotel room before accepting it.
Things to buy in Madagascar (at the airport!)
- Insect spray.
- Drinking water.
Thinks 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).
- Specific medication.
- 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-sleeve shirt.
- Long trousers (also for children).
- Suntan lotion, oil or cream.
- Swimming suit and aqua shoes or flipflops.
- Warm sweater or fleece.
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!
Medical precautions before going
Be sure to make inquiries about specific health riscs. In general visitors should use malaria prevention. Other common problems include diarrhoea or dysebtehria. Common medication can be brought into the country and for serious intestinal problems local physicians are familiar and medication is available. Rabies occurs in Madagascar and although extremely rare, tourist with bite wounds should undergo treatment in hospital. Vaccination in advance is possible but costly and offers no full guarantee. Visitors to Madagascar with the intension of long duration could take yellow fever vaccination (valid for 10 years and obligatory when coming from Africa into Madagascar). Make inquiries in your home country before leaving!
TRANSPORT IN MADAGASCAR
A tight schedule in Madagascar favours unpleasant surprises. Most transport is done by car and to reach many reserves and parks, a four-wheel drive car may be required.
For trips to different parts of the country an airplane can be necessary, but changes inschedules are common. The taxi-brousse is the number one way of traveling around in Madagascar.
This is uncomfortable and a private car is to be preferred. However, the taxi brousse is an interesting experience and very cheap. Go to the carroutiere of your destination, generally near the outskirts of the city. Buy a ticket in the office at the carroutiere, because people offering transport along the road are mediators. Tall or obese people are advised to buy 2 tickets for more space, particularly when driving at night. Your suitcases or large luggage can’t be reached while driving, so take drinking water, some food, a raincoat or a warm sweater, and a mosquito repellent with you in the cabin. Sanitary stops are made on request and Malagasy-style resturants along the way are used for a simple rice meal. Be prepared for delay.
You can easily rent a car at your hotel, generally with a driver included. A Malagasy driver is familiar with the road and speaks Malagasy, which is importand in the case of problems. Be sure that communication with the driver is possible and be prepared that deals are flexible to interpretation and that promises are often not kept.
Many tourists like to take a boat over sea from one city to another. This can be a fascinating experience, but be prepared for problems along the way, such as getting stuck on a beech when currents or waves change, long delays, and uncomfortable situations in general.
Food and drinks
The breakfast in Madagascar is French-style and consists of a piece of bread with confiture, coffee or tea. Eggs are generally available but supplementary.
The standard food in Madagascar is rice. Nearly all restaurants serve a main course consisting of meat, chicken or fish with rice. French fries or boiled potatoes can often be ordered. Vegetables should be ordered separately. The Malagasy kitchen is poor on spices, but garlic and ginger are commonly used. Most restaurants have similar dishes and this is quite different from what the Malagasy people eat at home.
Common food in rural Madagascar are beans, corn, sweet potatoes, maniok (cassave), wild jams, dried fish or shrimps – food that is rarely available in restaurants.
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.