About Madagascar

My aim is to give every visitor to Madagascar the opportunity to discover the true essence of the country whether they are looking fot luxurious holiday or a more grass roots experience. Below I have provided information which will help your visit run as smoothy as possible. Please remember that things like transport may not run as smoothy as the country you're from, and sometimes variations of itineraries have to be made, but if you accept the power of being in the moment, you can experience a profound difference from your normal life.

BANKS and ATMs:
ATMs ary readily available in the larger cities of Madagascar. Visa is the most accepted card and BNI bank accepts master cards
The best place to change money or T/C in Madagascar both for exchange rate and service is SOCIMAD. Feel free to ask your quide's help to get your local money for any complications.

HOTELS and RESTAUTANTS
Madagascar has a range of hotels categories and typical restaurants. These are listed below to help you best decide how you would like to travel throughout the country. Visitors who are seeking a more luxurious experience won't disappointed in Madagascar.  Feel free to choose what level suits your budget, or seek assistance from your guide.

CARS and DRIVERS
Madagascar has different types of vehicules as well as drivers and guides who I am working with.
They are available to take you from the airports to hotels, the Nationnal Parks & reserves.
They are trusted, understandingn polite and flexible towards their clients. Our aim is to be your number partner during your trip in Mada.
If you wish to travel by TAXIBROUSSE; (the traditional from of tranport for most Madagasy - and a real adventure in itself ) you will only charged for my guidance and car fees throughout the tour.

MADAGASCAR and YOU
Submerse yourself in our warm culture and share your emotions and impressions during your trip you will be creating memories that last a lifetime!!

Know before you go to Madagascar

Practical things you should know before you go to Madagascar

Currency:
The national currency of Madagascar since December 2004 is the "Ariary", replacing the old currency "Malagasy Franc (Fmg)". When buying something in Madagascar specifically ask the sales person if they are charging you in the old Malagasy Francs or the new Ariary as the exchange rates differ. If you're not careful of the Madagascar exchange rate you could end up paying more!
A 10 000 Ariary note is approximately 4 Euros, 1€ = around AR 2500.
You can only obtain Ariary while in Madagascar so travellers are advised to change their currency according to their needs. The best currency rates in Madagascar come from bureau de change offices located in Ivato airport. You will normally receive a better exchange rate for Euros than Pound Sterling.
On arrival at Antananarivo-Ivato airport steer clear of people who approach you to exchange your currency. They will propose a more attractive rate than the change offices but more often than not they are scams, which leave you with less money.
Make sure you carry lots of smaller currency denominations for your everyday purchases, as people won't always have change (especially in more remote areas).

Tipping:
Tips are usually expected for some services: restaurant services, small purchases, taxis etc.

Credit card:
If you have a credit card be aware that the Visa sign is better known than Maestro for example. And even if you have a Visa card, the use of credit/debit cards are generally limited to upscale hotels and restaurants frequented by tourists. The better option is to carry enough cash and only use your card for bigger value purchases or for ATM/cash point withdrawals.

Entry requirements to Madagascar :
Most nationalities require a visa to enter Madagascar. There are two ways of obtaining a tourist visa: either in advance from your country's Malagasy diplomatic representation or by at the airport on arrival. For both methods you should check in advance the fees and documents required from your country's Malagasy diplomatic representation and your passport should be valid after 6 months from the departure date.

Madagascar Health precautions:
Travellers to Madagascar require no vaccination if coming from countries with low risk of Malaria and other tropical diseases. However it is wise to check with your local Madagascar embassy for a comprehensive list of health requirements from different destinations. We advise travellers to consult with their doctor about precautions against malaria, cholera, yellow fever and hepatitis 6-8 weeks before departure.

Do not forget :
Your normal medication and the prescription for renewal (in case you run out of supplies)
A first aid kit containing medicines in case of:

Time difference :
+2 during Winter

Electricity
220V. Some Madagascar regions have no electric network. Take battery powered appliances and dispose of them environmentally.

Climate in Madagascar

Madagascar Climate:
There are 5 climatic zones in Madagascar, which follow the physical geography of the island by differentiating the mild Highlands, the hot and dry western regions, the rainy and the eastern coastal regions under the influence of trade winds, the hot and wet North, and the semi-arid South. Rainfall decreases progressively from the North-East (over 3m) to the South-West (less than 400m) with several variants between these two extremes. The dry season or the southern winter is from April to October, and summer is from November to March. At sea level temperatures range from 27°C and 32°C in summer and 22°C in winter. In the Highlands (such as Antananarivo) they may go down 4°C or even less in winter nights.

Madagascar Geography:
Some say that Madagascar is of divine creation: its 592 000 km² surface area strangely takes the shape of a left foot (of which the satellite isles would be the toes), as if it were the ancient footprint of a facetious giant.

Madagascar Customs and Traditions

Etiquette, taboos (fady), and prohibitions
If you intend to go on a Madagascar trip you should know the Malagasy population is known for being pacifist and tolerant. They are strongly attached to their customs and practices, namely in villages and rural communities. Travellers should be respectful of Malagasy traditions; in particular those relating to elderly people, high-ranking members of society, and respect local "fady", i.e. taboos and prohibitions.
It is advisable to prepare yourself in advance of the main customs of Madagascar if you want to go in a Madagascar trip. Some examples include communities who do not like their children's heads to be caressed, asking permission before taking photographs of a person or group. Lastly nudism is not allowed on beaches so take care to cover up while walking around town after visiting the beach. A sarong and top for ladies, and a T-shirt and shorts for men should be sufficient.

Socio-cultural situation:
Although anchored at 400 km off the eastern coast of the African continent, the Malagasy are a melange of Southeast Asian civilization mixed with Bantu, Arab and European cultures. Madagascar's foundation, as attested by several navigators' stories and certified by archaeologists, would go back as far as the first decade of the Christian era. The Malagasy language is common to all the country's inhabitants, in spite of its dialectal variants. Although Madagascar's population is divided into 18 "ethnic groups" they hold common traditions and beliefs such as: rice as a dietary staple, farming of zebu and circumcision.

Tipping:
Whilst on a Madagascar tour, tipping is not obligatory but is expected for services obtained from people like tour guides, drivers, waiters etc.

Languages:
In spite of a few dialectal variants, Malagasy is the national language and the one spoken by the Merina (from the Highlands) and is the official language. While travelling to Madagascar on a trip French is the administrative language, and although French listening comprehension and speaking have significantly declined in rural areas, it remains the language of trade in big towns.

Bargaining:
Bargaining is a tradition in Madagascar; it is always practiced at the market, with street vendors, and for taxi fares. If you're on a Madagascar trip it is necessary to reach an agreement with the driver concerning the fare before taking a taxi. Bargaining should be accompanied with smiling!

History and Economy of Madagascar


History of Madagascar
Madagascar was comprised of several kingdoms, whose unification was completed in 18th Century under the Merina monarchy of Andrianampoinimerina. Then it started to have diplomatic relationships with the western world, which led to its being a French colony from 1896 to 1960. Since Madagascar gained its independence on 26th June 1960, it has chosen to adopt a western style parliamentary democracy, and since the middle of the 20th century, its contemporary history has modelled itself on the modern world economic and political chronicles, the latest change being the turning to economic liberalism.

Economic situation:
In spite of its geoclimatic, mining and ecotourism opportunities in Madagascar, the population's standard of living is one of the lowest in the world. Although Madagascar is undergoing urban drift, nearly 75% of its inhabitants still live in rural areas. Sustainable and fair development in Madagascar can be achieved through enhancing the value of their natural, economic, craft and cultural environment. Solidarity in tourism, which is protective of the environment and respectful of the people, could contribute to improving these living conditions.

Out and about in Madagascar

Madagascar Food and Drink
International and exotic cuisine is available in most of the big hotels' restaurant. Or you can sample authentic Malagasy cuisine with the locals in cafes or "Hotelys". Malagasy gastronomy turns centres around rice, an emblematic product of Madagascar. The country even holds the world record in rice consumption. This obsession with rice has created proverbs like "love is like rice's seedling: transplanted, it shoots again elsewhere", and "don't sing your own merit like rice boiling in a pan".
In regards to beverages it is advisable to avoid tap water and stick to bottled mineral water, sodas, coffee, tea or you can sample the local "rano vola" (rice water).

Daily papers and magazines:
All daily papers are owned by private groups. Amongst the French language papers are: "Le Quotidien", "Midi Madagasikara", "La Gazette de la Grande Ile", «Les Nouvelles», «Madagascar Tribune», and «L'Express de Madagascar». All of them provide information like addresses and telephone numbers for emergency services (hospitals, chemist shops, other SOS services) as well as cultural interest contact details like theatres and events, air flights, and foreign exchange.

Photos and videos:
Madagascar has the basic photography materials to please both amateur and professional photographers (cameras, films, video camera etc), classic or digital, available in most photo laboratories and specialized shops in the big towns.

Telecommunications:
The landline telephony network in Madagascar is managed by TELMA (Malagasy Telecom), and mobile phone services by AIRTEL, ORANGE, and TELMA. There are telephone booths in all big towns.

Post offices:
Each city in Madagascar has its own post office, equipped with a public phone booth. Phone cards are easy to buy at any small shop. For letters and postcards, do not forget to write "by air mail" on the envelope. You should ask within for information on postage.

Working hours:
Most offices and services (post offices, banks etc) are open from 9am to 5pm. Post and Telecommunications services are open on Saturday mornings. Most shops are closed during lunch time (noon to 2 pm), except big stores who are open Monday through Saturdays from 9.30am to 7 pm, and sometimes on Sunday morning.