A visa is required to enter the territory of Madagascar: you can get a visa at the Consulate of Madagascar in your country, or easier, upon arrival at the international airport of Madagascar. Please check if your passport is still valid (at least 6 months before expiry date). You can easily obtain a visa at the airport of Antananarivo: it costs there 80’000 Ariary (around 24 to 27 € depending on the exchange rate) for a stay up to 30 days, 100’000 Ariary (around 33 Euro) for up to 60 days, and 140’000 (around 47 €) for up to 90 days with a valid passport (must be valid 6 months beyond the traveling date) and return flight ticket. We recommend you to have Euro coins and small bills with you, as the authorities sometimes can’t give you back the change and would possibly keep it. Please note that to get a visa at the airport, you do not need to bring photographs. If you prefer to get the visa before arrival, please check on this website, which Malagasy embassy or consulate is near you:
It is planned that during the year 2017, the e-visa will be introduced, which can be obtained online, please inquire with us two months before your trip about the situation.
Authorities also plan to introduce a frontier levy of around 10 € soon; this frontier levy is planned to replace the tourism levy that we pay already with each hotel night that clients are spending. We don’t know the application date and details yet, but we have heard that it can be paid at the same desk as the visa payments, please inquire a few days before arrival with us about the up-to-date situation.
You should be at the airport of Antananarivo Ivato 3 hours prior to departure time for long haul flights (to Europe and Bangkok), and 2 hours prior to departure time for regional flights (to Mauritius, Reunion, Johannesburg, Nairobi etc.), and the latest 2 hours prior to departure for domestic flights. When checking in for the long haul flight, the airline should give you a little emigration sheet that you have to fill in, with your name, flight and passport details, and address. You’ll have to give this, together with your passport, at the counter when you enter the departure area (duty free area). Once you have entered the departure area, you can’t go out anymore and have to stay there until the plane leaves. If you want to go to the airport restaurant after having checked in and before entering the departure area, please allow enough time for departure formalities and security checks, minimum one hour. There’s also a bar in the departure area (duty free area) with drinks and some small snacks, but you have to pay there in USD or Euro. There’s a WiFi zone in the duty free area, but you’ll have to buy the access code before entering the area under customs.
In Madagascar, it is forbidden to export rough gemstones, protected endemic plants or animals and valuable cultural monuments or woods. It is possible to get official export permit for some polished gemstones and some plants but it may take a few days to get it. So if you want to buy polished ammonites, fossilized wood, solitary games or other similar items, it is highly recommended to ask for export papers or at least an official invoice when you buy it at the handicraft market to avoid any problem with customs.
Ariary (AR) is now the local money being used here in Madagascar, in the place of «Franc Malgache» (FMG). But many people still pronounce Franc Malagasy (FMG) when selling or buying something as they are used to it, but all payment must be done in Ariary (1 AR = 5 FMG). You can import and export Ariary to a max. value of 400’000 Ariary, but it can be used and bought only in Madagascar. It can’t be used in the duty free area, so better use up your money before checking in for the flight back home. The Ariary can be changed back into hard currency at the money exchange at the national airport in Tana, or if you leave the country from another city, better change only what you can use up.
To check the updated rates, please have a look at the official website of the Central Bank of Madagascar: http://www.banque-centrale.mg , but at public banks, you’ll get the buying rate which is lower than the middle exchange rate. Upon arrival, it is recommended to change money at airport banks. They are always open at each international flight arrival and their rates are similar to the rates of the banks in town or even better. After changing into Ariary, count the banknotes right there at the counter, there have been cases where some notes were missing, and don’t let the banknotes out of sight (for example, when the person behind the desk proposes you to put the notes in an envelope), as there have been cases where some notes were missing after that.
Credit cards ( the most useful credit card is VISA CARD ) are only accepted in big hotels , restaurants and some shops mainly in Antananarivo. In the other big cities, you can get cash from Automatic Cash Machines (ATM) only with VISA CARDS and now at some machines of the CA/BNI bank also with Master Card. There’s now also an ATM at the airport in Antananarivo, accepting Visa and Master Card. Don’t rely on ATM machines only, they are often out of order, keep some cash in Euro or US Dollar for emergency on you. Maestro or EC cards are not accepted in Madagascar!
Traveller’s cheques (TC) such as Thomas Cook, American Express etc. are also not recommended, because there have been false Traveller’s cheques on circulation and many banks refuse to take them. But if you really want to bring Traveller’s cheques, bring only cheques of Euro 50 or US $ 50 face value, and do not forget to bring also the invoice or receipt of where you’ve bought the TC. In some provinces, it may take you up to a few hours to change Travellers Cheques and the rate is generally worse than changing cash. Some banks charge you some commission.
HEALTH AND HYGIEN
There is a risk of catching Malaria in Madagascar. So it is highly recommended to ask your doctor’s advice about any drug against Malaria before leaving your country. Anyway, you should know the symptoms of Malaria. And bring a good mosquito repellent with you! Please also bring a suncream to avoid sunburn, the sun is very strong here.
When going to Madagascar, you do not need any vaccination except for those who have been to some African countries ( where there is a yellow fever ), vaccination against yellow fever is compulsory. We also recommend the vaccination against Hepatitis A, as you can catch it also through for ex. a dirty drinking glass. As medical cures and medicines are only available at hospitals in big cities , you are invited to bring your own medical stuff with you.We also recommend that you make a good travel insurance, which will also cover the costs of flying you home or to better equipped hospitals on Reunion, Mauritius or Southafrica in an emergency.
Tourism in Madagascar is still at its early stage! About food, do not eat raw vegetables and do not drink unstamped bottles of water. Please , protect your head and skin against sun burn: use sun blockers.
Madagascar is safer than some other countries, but unfortunately, crime has increased a little bit lately. Especially in the city center of Antananarivo, mind the thieves and pickpockets. Leave your valuable belongings in your safe at the hotel, or put them in your suitcase in your hotel room and lock it with a padlock. You better leave your precious jewelry, necklaces etc. at home. Mind the fake porters at the airport and near some hotels. Keep an eye on your luggage and only give it to your driver or to official porters in uniform. Put a locker on your luggage that you’ll drop off at check in for a flight, and keep all valuables in the hand luggage, also camera etc.
If you want to go out, take a taxi to the restaurant or discotheque or go there with your reliable driver. Also mind the thieves in Tana, who profit from traffic jams and steal mobile phones, cameras or bags through the windows of cars.
Adjust your clock upon arrival at the airport: add 2 hours during summer time and 3 hours during winter time to GMT.
WEATHER AND SEASONS
There are only two seasons in Madagascar : Dry season and wet season. Wet season lasts in most areas 5 months ( from December to April). In eastern Madagascar, it rains quite often all year long whereas it rarely rains in western Madagascar.
On the central parts of Madagascar, winter nights are so cold that the temperature may go down to +5°C. It may even go down to around freezing point in Antsirabe. So please bring warm clothes if you travel to Madagascar from May till September. From November till March, it is hot in the coastal Areas of Madagascar. The temperature in the coastal regions is generally higher than that in Antananarivo.
It is possible to call abroad from any public phone: you just need to buy phone cards from an office of Telma (Telecom Malagasy). In the cities, there are also some people offering their phone for calls for relatively cheap rates, they are called taxi-phone. Besides, most cities are now covered by mobile phone network and even some small towns like Moramanga and a small island like Tsarabanjina in the north western Madagascar are also covered. There are so far three mobile phone operators here in Madagascar : ORANGE (dial 032, former Antaris), Airtel (dial 033, former Zain, Madacom and Celtel) and TELMA (dial 034, Malagasy Telecom).
So if you want to bring your own cell phone , of course with roaming option , you can always be reached whenever you are in the big cities of Madagascar. But from some reason, sending SMS from /to Madagascar sometimes doesn’t work. It is also a good idea to buy a local SIM card, as it is not expensive (less than 5 Euro, including a little credit), at some shops or Supermarkets or at the airport. The local SIM cards all permit Internet access with your smartphone, but if you want to use the internet on your mobile device, we strongly recommend to buy a flatrate, as the tariff per second is rather expensif, the rates vary according to the different providers. TELMA often has very cheap new Chinese mobile phones for sale, you can buy them sometimes for as little as 6 Euro including a small credit, so this may be another option. In Madagascar , communication by phone is relatively expensive and its quality is sometimes worse than in other countries.
Cybercafé / Internet
There are now some Cybercafés in every big city of Madagascar. Also many hotels in the cities offer now free WiFi. The Paositra Malagasy (Malagasy Post) also offers internet connection at their offices. It is very cheap but the connection speed is low, unless you are lucky and find one of the few places which offer ADSL. Even ADSL is slow compared what you are used to in Europe. There’s a WiFi zone in the duty free area at the airport of Tana, but you’ll have to buy the access code before entering the area under customs.
It may happen that your luggage gets lost in the airport of Paris or other airports during transit flight luggage handling. If this should happen, your bags or suitcases will arrive in Madagascar a few days later. So it is recommended to put your very important stuff and some clothes, if possible, in your hand luggage. Please also put all your personally needed medicaments in your hand luggage, if necessary with an attestation of your doctor, as if your checked in luggage get’s lost in Paris or somewhere, it can take up to 5 days or more until you’ll receive it, when you are already in the provinces. From Paris or other transit airports and on your connecting flights, you are sometimes allowed to have 30 kg of luggage allowance and Air France gives lately sometimes 2 x 23 kg per person. But be cautious: Sometimes the airlines allow only 20 kg sharply. We recommend to review it on your flight ticket. The luggage allowance on domestic flights is also 20 kg only (15 kg on Twin Otter flights, and 18 kg with Madagasikara Airways). Put a locker on your luggage that you’ll drop off at check in for a flight, and keep all valuables in the hand luggage, also camera etc. Hand luggage allowance is 5 kg on domestic flights, 8 to 12 kg on international flights.
Please make sure that you have put your air tickets, money and Credit card and all the other travel document in your hand luggage or carry it on you. It can also be a good idea to have a copy of your travel documents somewhere in your main luggage.
During winter time, warm clothes and windcheaters are recommended especially in the Highlands, whereas light clothes made of cotton are needed all year long in the western Madagascar and during hot season. But you should always bring raincoats when visiting the humid eastern Madagascar and its rainforests.
Light mountain boots are recommended when visiting national parks, especially the rainforest parks. Waterproof sandals are recommended for beaches. In other places, you can wear almost any shoes.
Do not forget to bring a torch for nocturnal visits of parks and for any electricity cut-off.
FILMS AND PHOTOGRAPHY
Films, battery and photography kit are expensive in Madagascar and specific films like APS or slide films are very rare. So you should buy them in your country. Bring enough memory cards and batteries for your digital cameras. Please also note the info below regarding Electricity, this can influence also the recharging of your batteries for the camera or videocamera. Some hotels powered by own generators don’t have electricity plugs in the rooms, you can deposit your recharger and batteries at the reception.
In Madagascar, the two pole plug and the French standard socket are the most used with a tension of 220 volts ( but it may go down to 160 volts in some areas at peak times ) The European plugs with two slightly flexible pins (as on for ex. Electric shavers) can be used in Madagascar. Power cuts happen quite often, and hotels, which use their own electric generator for power production often switch it off at night and sometimes also for some hours during day time. Please bring a good torch / flashlight with you!
BEHAVIOUR AND TABOO
It has become a habit to tip someone who served you but it is not obligatory. Here are some ideas of gratuities which are expected:
- Around 4 € per day ( about 12’000 Ariary ) for a driver and around 6 € per day (about 18’000 Ariary) for a guide.
- Around 2 € ( about 6000 Ariary ) for a park guide , depending on your satisfaction.
- Around 5% of the bill at the restaurant
- 500 to 1000 Ariary per bag for a porter. Airport porters expect more than that, we suggest to give 2000 Ariary per bag
- Around 1 € (about 3000 Ariary) per day for the chamber maid
As Euro coins can not be changed into local money here in Madagascar, it is advisable to tip in Ariary.
If you want to go out in the evening for dining or to go to a bar or disco, you must always have your passport with you (this is requested by the local authorities), or at least a photocopy of it, also from the visa stamp, and keep a copy of it also in your luggage at the hotel. Please also look under “security”.
There are some beggars in some villages and mainly in the big cities, especially in Antananarivo. If you do not want to give something to them, neither talk nor look at them. But if you wish to give something to beggars, buy something to eat or pens or balls and share them only to the kids.
In Madagascar, there are different local beliefs and taboos, known as «Fady», related mainly to tombs or some places. So please respect those sacred places or tombs: your driver or guide will instruct you on what you should not do and respect during your trip.
It is forbidden in Madagascar for tourists to have sex with prostitutes, you can be punished for this with a fine and/ or imprisonment. Travelers who abuse children sexually will be punished according to the laws in their own country. Our company Le Voyageur is strictly against child abuse and we are also member of www.thecode.org, who are active in the fight against sexual child abuse, the Code also co-operates for this with ECPAT (End child prostitution and trafficking of children for sexual purposes). You can help us in this fight against child abuse if you report us and/or via the local phone number 147 if you should notice during your Madagascar tour a case of child abuse or a strong suspicion of this.
The best updated and trustworthy guidebooks on Madagascar are probably the latest editions of the «Lonely Planet» guidebook and the books by Hilary Bradt.