Madagascar’s land area is about 581,540 square km and has 4,828 km of coastline. It is world’s 04th largest island in the world and has as well numerous small islets. Madagascar is famous for its endemic flora and fauna that exists nowhere else on Earth. In fact, about 80% of all plant and animal species in Madagascar are endemic to the island! The most famous of these are the lemurs. Madagascar is also well known for its vanilla and chocolate, beautiful beaches, and amazing landscapes.
The first inhabitants came from Indonesia in about 500 AD. Subsequent migrations have resulted in a considerable ethnic mix with Malayo-Indonesian, African and Arab influence. There are 18 main ethnic groups.
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries of the world. Most people are involved in subsistence agriculture, mainly rice and cattle. France is the main trading partner.
Compare to Indonesia, Indonesia is 4:0 hours ahead of Madagascar.
When it is 06:00am in Madagascar it is 10:00am in Jakarta.
Compare to France, France is 1:0 hour behind of Madagascar.
Please note that Daylight Saving Time (DST) / Summer Time is taken into account for the calculation of hour difference.
When to visit
The climate is tropical with variable rainfall, higher in the coastal region. Temperate conditions in the highlands with a warm, wet season from Nov – Apr and lower temperature the rest of the year. Temperature varies between 20C – 28C. Subject to periodic cyclone from the east.
While there are some heavy downpours from April to June, these are interspersed with sunshine, while July and August are cool and dry, making this an ideal time for exploring. The whales arrive on Ile Ste. Marie in July and remain until the end of September. Between September and November the weather is particularly lovely, remaining fine and warm.
Money and currency
US$1 = MDA 2946 (currency rate can be varied depending the day you search)
Euro 01 = MDA 3531
The Malagasy Ariary is the currency of Madagascar. The currency code for Ariary is MGA and the currency symbol is Ar. One Ariary (Ar) is divided into 5 iraimbilanja, which turns it to one of the two circulating currencies with a non-decimal division in the world. The word Ariary means literally a silver dollar.
There are banknotes of 10,000 MGA, 5,000 MGA, 2,000 MGA, 1,000 MGA, 500 MGA, 200 MGA and 100 MGA. The largest note of 10,000 MGA is worth about 4 €. There are even coins from 1 up to 50 Ar. The one of 50 Ar is very beautiful and has baobabs carved on it.
1 $ is about 2,000 Ar and 1€ about 2,500 Ar.
You’ll find people wanting to change money for you on the street or at the airport. But, Exchanging money at the market is illegal! Probably the best exchange rate for all major currencies is provided by the BFV/ Société Générale Bank, which is represented in all big cities.
Travellers cheques can be exchanged only at the BNI/Crédit Lyonnais Bank, though this at a worse exchange rate than when exchanging cash (other bank just refuse to exchange them). BNI/Crédit Lyonnais Bank has representations in all major cities. You will be required to show the original purchase receipt.
Most major credit cards are starting to be accepted in top hotels and major travel agencies in the capital and other major towns, but have limited usage elsewhere. There are some ATMs at different banks in Tana, at the Hilton Hotel and at the airport but you can mostly withdraw maximal 150 € with your visa card. Other cards will not even be accepted. Of course you can repeat the transaction as often as you like, but you will be charged each time with the correspondent bank fees.
In Madagascar the power sockets are of type C, D, E, J and K. The standard voltage is 127 / 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. If your appliances plug has a different shape, you may need a plug adapter.
Telephone and how to call
Madagascar country code +261 and Antananarivo 22
With a telephone card of the national telephone company TELMA (Telecom Malagasy), which you can purchase at different amounts, you can make national and international calls from any public telephone box.
Airtel, Telma (Telecom Malagacy), Orage and bip by Blueline are the network operators in the country.
All visitors to Madagascar are required to have a visa. Nationals of any country can obtain a visa on arrival valid for 90 days. Stays up to 30 days are free of charge while there is a fee for a maximum 60 or 90 days stay. All visitors must hold a passport valid for 6 months.
Vaccines and Travel insurance
Rabies is endemic in Madagascar, but vaccination is only recommended for visitors who will be spending extensive periods of time in remote areas. Over 6% of the population is estimated to have syphilis.
How to go to Madagascar
Indonesia to Madagascar
Distance between Madagascar and Jakarta is 8715 Km. Flight between Antananarivo and Jakarta takes close to 09 hours 48 minutes.
Airlines operated from Indonesia to Madagascar
KLM, Air Austral, Kenya Airways
French to Madagascar
Distance between Paris and Madagascar is 6543 Km. Non-stop flights could take up to 10 hours 37 minutes.
Airlines operated from Paris to Madagascar
Air France, Turkish Airlines, Kenya Airways
Transportation in Madagascar
If you are not staying at a very centrally located hotel, getting around Antananarivo will be difficult by foot, since there are usually no sidewalks and traffic is horrendous.
Moving around with a taxi is generally an easy thing. Taxis are almost everywhere and fares are cheap. Official and registered taxis must be of beige colour and have to bear this signal. If it’s not beige, better skip it! Taxis do not have metres, so agree price before getting in.
Taxi-brousse (Bush taxi)
Main form of transportation for short and long trips in Madagascar (old minivans seating up to 15 people) is taxi-brousse, with a journey between the capital Antananarivo (locally known as Tana) and Toliara taking a full day. Taxi-brousse travel is cramped, not air-conditioned. but getting aroudn this way is the perfect opportunity to interact with local people and find out more about their country and culture.
In the cities, taxi-bes (larger minibuses) are common.
Madagascar water taxi
Coastal ferries operate between various port towns in Madagascar, although schedules seem virtually non-existent. While water travel can be scenic and relaxing, the condition of many of the boats is poor and often overcrowded.
Rent a car
If you are an experienced driver and you fell courageous enough, you can also rent a car. The big international companies such as Hertz or Budget do operate in Madagascar.
Other local companies renting cars are:
Aventour Madagascar www.aventour-madagascar.com
Madagascar Airtours www.madagascar-airtours.com
Train and buses
Antananarivo is the main rail hub offering limited service between towns in the vicinity of the capital, but the rest of the large island has no train access. Other public transportation is by conventional large buses operated by a number of different companies or the taxi-brousse (bush taxi) minivans.
Southern and Western, served by both reliable and sketchy operators, but Kofimanga or Kofifi are recommended. Bus tickets are inexpensive, but you get what you pay for in regards to comfort.
Special food and drinks
The cuisine of Madagascar is truly a reflection of the African, Arab and Indonesian peoples that have settled in the country. There are also certain French influences found in the crops that early French colonisers brought including vanilla, coffee, cloves and sugar cane.
A traditional meal in Madagascar usually contains one main dish of meat, poultry or fish with a side dish of vegetables, accompanied by a bowl of ro (a mix of herbs, leaves and rice). Malagasy cuisine is known for being quite flavourful despite being prepared in a simple manner without much spice.
Tana has some very good French-Malagasy restaurants, and even Mexican and Japanese.
Delicious Madagascar food
Sausage stroganoff, Vegetable biryani, Madagascar fried rice, Madagascar steak and Onion fold over, Chicken pies
A popular local drink is ranonapango, which is burned rice water. After a pot of rice has been overcooked, boiling water is added to the rice to get the flavour. The water is then poured out, chilled and served. Beers available in Madagascar include Three Horses Beer (THB) and Gold.
Many restaurants take great pride in their selection of home-flavoured rums – ginger, mango, coffee, lychee, liquorice… often set out along the bar in a colourful display.
Places to go and things to do
The small island of Nosy Be is one of Madagascar’s premier tourist spots attracting thousands of tourists from across the globe year round. Although Nosy Be’s beaches don’t look as picture perfect as some other tropical beaches, they do win points for tranquility, clear turquoise water and excellent seafood restaurants serving seafood diner on the sand.
Isalo national park
The Isalo National Park is notable for is varied terrain. Located in the central southern region of Madagascar, the park includes areas of grassland, steep canyons and sandstone formations, all dotted by occasional pools lined by palm trees.
Masoala national park
Situated in the northeast Madagascar, the Masoala National Park covers nearly 400 Km of rainforest and includes three marine parks as well. The park features ten species of lemur, including the Aye-aye, the world’s largest nocturnal primate. The park is also home to a diverse array of birds and reptiles, including the Tomato frog, named for its bright red colour.
Ranomafana national park
Located in the southeastern region of Madagascar near the village of Ranomafana, the Ranomafana National Park is one of the nation’s most popular parks. The eastern section of the park is the most scenic, with numerous streams splashing through densely forested hills. The park is home to the endangered golden bamboo lemur.
Encompassing around 160 Km of land in eastern Madagascar, Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is home to eleven lemur species, including the country’s largest lemur, the Indri. Located near Madagascar’s capital city of Antananarivo, Andasibe-Mantadia is one of the easiest parks to visit.
Royal hill of Ambohimanga
Considered one of the country’s most sacred spots by the Malagasy people for 500 years, the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is a historical village that was once home to Madagascar royalty. The wall that surrounds the village was made in 1847 and was constructed with a mortar made of lime and egg whites.
Avanue of baobabs
The Avenue of the Baobabs is a group of trees lining the dirt road between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in western Madagascar. Its striking landscape draws tourists from around the world, making it one of the most visited locations in the region. The Baobab trees, up to 800 years old, did not originally tower in isolation over the landscape but stood in a dense tropical forest.
The Tsingy de Bemaraha reserve
The Tsingy de Bemaraha Reserve lies in the southern region of Madagascar’s largest natural reserve, Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve. The word “tsingy” refers to the pinnacles that dot the park’s limestone plateau. Located near the country’s west coast, the park features a broad expanse of mangrove forest. The park is home to seven lemur species, including the Deckens sifaka, a genus of lemur notable for its creamy white fur and black face.