The official language in Madagascar is “Malagasy” (also the name of nationals), spoken in almost the entire island! Because it’s such a big island, naturally there are a few dialects but the main one is Merina, the "Official Malagasy" spoken in Antananarivo and in most parts of the island
Because it has been a French colony, the second official language is French, commonly spoken by the government and large corporations in everyday business.
Although, not many people speak French fluently and even less English. Knowing a bit of Malagasy or French can be very helpful when travelling to Madagascar.
Malagasy is not difficult to learn and any attempts by foreigners to speak Malagasy are much appreciated and encouraged by the Malagasy people. So, for longer stays it may be interesting to learn the basics.
We can't define a single climate in Madagascar because it is such a big country with a big variation in elevation and position relative to dominant winds.
Although, in general terms, we can consider has two seasons: a hot, rainy season from November to April, and a cooler, dry season from May to October.
We can also consider another common pattern: tropical along the coast, temperate inland, and arid in the south.
Average temperatures usually are around 30 °C during the day and 20 °C at night but always very humid, becoming more comfortable on altitudes above 1000 metres.
Typical Malagasy food doesn't have many condiments and basically consists of rice, which is eaten in many ways for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
You can have a simple meal that include a plate of rice served alongside with braised tiny fish,vegetables, beans or any kind of meat and rice water for about 2000 Ariary (about 1 dollar)!
Another dirt cheap and really filling good dish is called Mi Sao, a delicious combination of noodles with vegetables and meat or fish. It is recommended to try some of the better restaurants who will serve you a more tasty version.
You will also see a huge variety of of fresh seafood; Langoustines, crab, lobster, squid and all manner of fish in restaurants and local markets for really low prices!
All sorts of Bananas and rice cakes (Malagasy 'bread') are the most common 'street food' and sold in every corner. Other 'Street food' will consist of tiny zebu (beef) brochettes, samosas, pakoras, fried chicken, boiled eggs, coleslaw and banana fritters amongst other things, all incredibly cheap!
Coffee from local plantations is very good, usually hand-made by the cup and served very sweet with condensed milk. Try it!
Local time is UTC+3 (GMT+3)
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. outlets will fit the Europlug - round two-pin plugs.
The official currency is Ariary. Touristic services and products in Hotels, Restaurants and Tour prices are frequently quoted in Euro, and Euro is generally accepted.
ATMs can be easily found in most cities and towns. Visa is the most commonly accepted credit card. MasterCard, is accepted only at BNI Bank and a couple of restaurants. An American Express card is basically useless down here.
Basically everything except transportation in/to Madagascar is really cheap! While meals can be bought for less than a Dollar and basic beds can be found for just a few dollars even in big cities, getting to somewhere is expensive!
Air Madagascar has the monopoly in air transportation within the country and charges tourists double on all domestic flight tickets (unless you flew into the country on that airline).
The only alternative to a taxi (not much reliable…) is a private car where you can expect to pay around €60 a day for driver, fuel and a driver's accommodation.
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Madagascar but you should have your vaccinations in order before travelling to the country.
The only two requirements when entering Madagascar are that you have a cholera stamp proving the fact that you don't have that disease; and you need a yellow fever
vaccination if you have been in a country (7 days or less before entering Madagascar) where that disease is widely prevalent.
If you are staying longer than 3 months, you should consider taking Rabies, Tuberculosis and Hepatitis B vaccination.
Also, don’t forget Malaria! Take all the necessary precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitos.
Just take the normal precautions and you’ll do fine! It is highly unlikely that anyone will try to cheat you.
Like any other country, problems in Madagascar can be easily avoided if you follow common sense like avoiding any displays of wealth and keeping an eye on your belongings. Don't walk alone at night and take an official taxis at all times as they are pretty cheap.
Entry requirements - Visas
All visitors to Madagascar require a valid passport for at least within six months after your final date of stay.
Any tourist from any nationality must require a 30 days Visa to visit Madagascar. These can be requested at the airport for either 25 Euros/27 US dollars/or equivalent in Madagascar Ariary.
Visas for up to 3 months can also be obtained at the airport. If you need to stay longer than that, you will have to leave the country and then re-enter.
If you know in advance that you’re going to stay more than 3 months : It is always best to check with the consulate/embassy for your eligibility.
You must have a cholera stamp proving the fact that you don't have that disease; and you need a yellow fever vaccination if you have been in a country (7 days or less before entering Madagascar) where that disease is widely prevalent.
How to get there
You can get to Madagascar by plane or boat.
Many flight companies have regular flights to Antananarivo (Tana) but if you’re planning to take some domestic flights once in the country, you should fly with Air Madagascar. They have the monopoly in air transportation within the country and charges tourists double on all domestic flight tickets (unless you flew into the country on that airline).
These are some of the companies flying to Madagascar:
- Air Madagascar
- Air France
- Air Austral
- Air Mauritius
The other single option is arriving to Madagascar by boat. There’s a regular connection from Mauritius via Reunion linking to Toamasina on the east coast.
Don’t expect broadband! You’ll be able to connect to the Web only in hotels or internet cafes in most major towns.
The international access code for Madagascar is +261.
It can be quite cheap to call home if you use one of the many phone booths almost in every corner or if you buy a cheap local top up SIM card available in most shops for less than €1. Mobile phones can be used in towns but don’t expect good coverage in rural areas. Normally Orange use to have the best national wide coverage.
Police: 17 or 117 from a mobile phone (emergencies).Fire Brigade: 18 or 118 from a mobile phone.
Gendarmerie: 19 or 119 from a mobile phone.