flag Madagascar Madagascar: Travelling

In this page: Entry Requirements | Organising Your Trip | Visiting | Living Conditions | Eating | Paying | Speaking | Useful Resources

 

Entry Requirements

Passport and Visa Service
E-Visa Madagascar
Diplomatic Missions of Madagascar
For Further Information
Latest Travel News in connection with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak (International Air Transport Association)
Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) daily situation reports (World Health Organisation)
Contact the Embassy
Embassy of Madagascar in Mauritius
Rue Guiot Pasceau
Floreal
Tel: (230) 686 5015 (office)
Fax: (230) 686 7040
Contact the Embassy per E-mail.
 
Check IATA Travel Website for visa requirements and health advices.
 

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Organising Your Trip

Means of Transport Recommended in Town

Recommendation
Taxis are a cheap, reliable and easy way to travel in cities and towns in Madagascar. However, they do not have meters: while in some towns the fares are predetermined, in other towns (including the capital Antananarivo) prices have to be agreed with the driver before the ride.
Other options to get around are: taxi-be (or big taxi, which is a bit larger than a mini-van); pousse-pousse (rickshaw, with fares varying between MGA 500 and 2000 for a ride, depending on distance); cyclo-pousse (in which the cab is attached to a bicycle); yellow tuk-tuks (motorised rickshaws, which can fit three people and have a fare between MGA 500 and 1000).
In rural areas of the country, the charette (a wooden cart drawn by a pair of zebu cattle) is the most common form of transport. Fares are negotiable.
Maps of Urban Networks
Via Michelin (detailed map of Antananarivo)

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Transportation From Airport to City Centre:


Airport

Distance

Taxi

Bus

Train

Car Rental
Ivato International Airport (TNR) 15 km/9.3 miles 25 min/MGA 40,000 “Navette Adema” 1 hour/MGA 10,000 N/A Available

Means of Transport Recommended in the Rest of the Country

Recommendation
The most common way to travel the country is by taxis-brousses, which consist of minibuses of around 15 seats. They are cheap and go everywhere, although also slow, uncomfortable, and sometimes unsafe. There are national and regional services (called ligne nationale and ligne régionale). In the latter normally passengers hop on and off along the way, while on the national services the route and the stops are predetermined. Fares for all trips are set by the government and are based on distance, duration and route conditions.
The Malagasy rail system, known as the Réseau National des Chemins de Fer Malgaches (RNCFM), is made up of over 1000km of tracks, but is used mostly by freight transport. There are four rail lines in Madagascar: Antananarivo-Ambatondrazaka via Moramanga; Antananarivo-Antsirabe; Fianarantsoa-Manakara; and Antananarivo-Toamasina. However, the railway network has not been upgraded much since the colonial period, thus breakdowns are frequent and lines may be closed for several weeks due to maintenance.
Engineless pirogues or lakanas (dugout canoes), whether on rivers or the sea, are frequently used in areas with no road network. They can easily be hired, along with a boatman, but the ride can be quite rough. Cargo boats are also used to travel around, but generally they do not have a schedule.
Several local airlines offer charter flights connecting most areas of the country (generally through Antananarivo), although internal flights are often unreliable.

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Airlines

Name Type Domestic Flights International Flights
Air Madagascar National Company Domestic flights International flights
Air France French National Company N/A International flights
Turkish Airlines Turkish National Company N/A

You Can Consult The EU Air Safety List. Look Also at the rating of the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

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Travelling By Yourself

Recommendation
Of Madagascar’s approximately 50,000 km of roads, only 6,000 are sealed, and many of those are in poor conditions (especially during the rainy season). Due to the often-difficult driving conditions, most rental agencies make hiring a driver compulsory with their vehicles.
If driving independently, keep in mind that driving is on the right-hand side, police checkpoints are frequent, an International Driving Licence is required and drivers must be aged 23 or over and have had a driving licence for at least a year. Fuel shortages are frequent, so it is recommendable to take extra fuel in case of longer trips.
Prices for a car are typically MGA 100,000 to 150,000 per day; for a 4WD MGA 150,000 to 250,000 per day. If hiring a driver, the price agreed generally includes the driver's food and board allowance, while fuel is extra.
Road Maps
Detailed map of Madagasca
Ezilon - Madagascar road network
Find an Itinerary
Via Michelin Madagascar

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Visiting

Different Forms of Tourism

Historical
Among the historical sites in Madagascar is the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, located approximately 24 kilometers northeast of the capital city of Antananarivo. This historic village - which belonged to the Merina Kingdom in the pre-colonial era - has been included in the list of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites thanks to its royal palace compound ("rova") and its well-preserved 19th-century palaces, which have a particular political and spiritual significance to the Malagasy people. Other important historic landmarks are the archaeological site of Antongona (36 km west of Antananarivo, which consists of two main groups of archaeological sites dating from between the 16th and 18th centuries); and the rova in the town of Tsinjoarivo in the Vakinankaratra region. Furthermore, the rova of Antananarivo, known as Manjakamiadana, located on the city's highest hill, is also an interesting site (although it is still under restoration after a fire which occurred in 1995).
Cultural
Although the cultural and heritage centres of Madagascar are still in an early stage of development, the country has several museums and cultural centres, including: the Museum of Art and Archaeology, the Museum of Ethnology and Paleontology, and the Andafiavaratra Palace Museum (all located in the capital Antananarivo); the Toamasina Regional Museum; and the Toliara University Museum.
Nature
Madagascar is one of the richest countries in biodiversity in the world. Approximately 95% of Madagascar's reptiles, 89% of its plant life, and 92% of its mammals exist nowhere else on earth.
The country offers a variety of national parks, including: the Andasibe and Mantadia National Parks (which are home to the largest lemur species), the Tsingy de Bermaraha with its limestone forests, the Amber Mountain Reserve, the Masoala National Park (the largest in Madagascar, covering 2,300 km2 of rainforest as well as three marine parks with coral reefs), the Andohahela National Park (one of Madagascar's most diverse parks in terms of landscapes and wildlife), and the Isalo National Park in the southwest of the country (the most famous).
Religious
Around half of the population of Madagascar adheres to traditional religions; and the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga has always been considered as a spiritual and sacred place for the Malagasy people.
Fourty percent of the population is composed by Christians, with the main churches being the Faravohitra Church in Antananarivo and the Ambozontany Cathedral in Fianarantsoa.
Thermal
Located at a distance of 170 km from Antananarivo by the National Road 7, the city of Antsirabe, renown for its thermal springs and baths, is the capital of Vakinankaratra, it is surrounded by volcanic mountains and enjoys a special invigorating climate. The first large bath house was built in 1917 and it has become the meeting place for patients who come from all over Madagascar and even the neighboring islands. Antsirabe can be visited in "pousse-pousse" (rickshaws) and it has the quiet atmosphere of a provincial small European town and at the same time a typical Malagasy character that one can discover at the markets and its traditional neighborhoods. 
Other hot springs are located in Ranomafana (across the Namorona River) and in the geysers area of Analavory.
Beach
With its 5,000km of Indian Ocean coastline, Madagascar is a fantastic destination for beach lovers. Some of the best beaches are: the Baie de Sainte Luce (also known as Manafiafy, in the south), the tropical island of Nosy Be off the northwestern tip of Madagascar, the neighbouring Tsarabanjina, Ramena beach (in the second-largest natural bay in the world, close to the port city of Diego Suarez), Île aux Nattes and Île Sainte-Marie (located off the northeastern coast of Madagascar), and Andovoke bay (on the southwest coast).
Winter Sports
The climate of Madagascar is not suitable for winter sports.
Outdoor Activities
With its beautiful landscapes and pleasant climate, Madagascar offer a wide variety of outdoor activities, including: trekking and hiking in the numerous national parks (like the paths in Cape Masoala, those that connect Lake Aloatra to the East Coast, those that start with the mazes of Makay, and the mountain treks of Boby Peak and Marojejy Peak); surfing and kitesurfing; whale watching (from June to September); birdwatching; diving; sport fishing (mostly in the northwest of the island); motorcycle road trips; etc.
Shopping
Madagascar is famous for its handicrafts, like the lamba (a traditional sarong-like cloth worn by women), silk scarves, wooden carvings, jewellery (often made of stones and zebu horns).
Some good destinations for shopping are the Marché Artisanal de La Digue (about 12km out of Antananarivo), Kudeta Etnik Shop, La Teeshirterie, Roses & Baobab (a collective of local artists showcasing sculptures, wood carvings, paintings, etc.), Antsiranana's Ateliers de l’Artisanat (with a wide selection of handicrafts and artwork from all over the island). Whereas bargaining is normal in markets, it is not that common in standard shops.
Tourism Organisations
Madagascar Tourism

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Living Conditions

Health and Safety

Health Precautions
There are no specific vaccination requirements to enter Madagascar (except for vaccine against yellow fever which is required for travellers arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever). Nevertheless, WHO and foreign ministries of various countries recommend the following vaccines before entering the country: Hepatitis A, Malaria, Typhoid, Hepatitis B and Rabies. Vaccination against Measles is also required.
International Hospitals
There are no international hospitals in Madagascar. It is possible to go to the Soavinandrimo Hospital in Antananarivo or to the Main Hospital of Diego Suarez. Otherwise, in case of a serious problem, it is better to take a plane and go to the island of Reunion.
For Further Information on Sanitary Conditions
CDC - Health Information for Travellers to Madagascar
For Further Information on Safety Conditions
U.S. Department of State - Madagascar Travel Information
Government of Canada - Madagascar Travel Advice
OSAC - Madagascar Crime and Safety Report
Contact Your Embassy
Mauritian Embassy in Madagascar
Villa David IV
Manakambahiny
Antananarivo-101
Madagascar
Tel: (261-20) 22 321 57
Fax: (261-20) 22 219 39
Contact the Embassy per Email.
 

Emergency Numbers

Police 117
Ambulance 118
Fire 124
 

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Time Difference and Climate

Time and Time Difference
It is %T:%M %A In Antananarivo (GMT+3)
Summer Time Period
There are no daylight saving time clock changes in Madagascar.
 

Map of the Time Zone

Time zone

Type of Climate
Madagascar is a large island located in the Indian Ocean, in the Southern Hemisphere. The country has a tropical climate, rainy along the east coast, arid in the south-west, and temperate in the mountains.
Madagascar has a rainy season from November to March and a dry season from April to October (or from May to September in the north). Some areas have a different climate, like the east coast (where it rains pretty much all year round) and the south-west (which is arid instead). Rainfalls usually occur in the form of thunderstorms. Madagascar has one of the greater biodiversity and many native species populate the island.
The temperature in the capital Antananarivo ranges from an average of 21 °C in the summer months to 15°C in July and August.
For Further Information
Directorate-General for Meteorology
 

Average Annual Temperatures and Rainfall

Climate

 

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Eating

Food Specialties
The cuisine of Madagascar has Asian, African and French influences.
The basic food of the Malagasies is rice, served at most meals and usually complemented with the two main national dishes: the Romazava (made up of leaves, herbs and pieces of beef and pork cooked in oil until browned) and the Ravitoto cooked with pork meat. Other traditional dishes include the Foza sy hena-kisoa (stir-fried pork and crab served with rice), Vary amid’anana (a dish with rice, leaves or herbs, meat and occasionally shrimp); and Lasopy (a thick soup made with veal or beef broth and vegetables, served with bread).
It is possible to eat large quantities of seafood at a very reasonable price, such as tuna, shrimp, etc.   
Vanilla is the national spice, it is an ingredient used in many local dishes.  
It is also possible to taste the specialties of the neighbouring island Reunion, especially the Rougail.
Drinks

One of the specialties of Madagascar is the rice water, which consists of the water recovered after the rice has been boiled (called “ranonapango”).
The rum is the national alcoholic drink, that can be tasted in its marinated form, called "arranged rum". Three Horses is the most common beer.
It is also possible to drink fresh fruit juices which vary depending the seasons, as well as a bubblegum flavoured drink called “Bonbon Anglais” (often sold as lemonade).
Finally, it has to be kept in mind that running water is not drinkable in the country.

Dietary Restrictions
There are many prohibited foods or "fadys" in Madagascar, but they differ depending the population or the place. For example: in Andringitra, pork is "fady", but sometimes it can be eels, rabbit, etc. It is better to ask information from the local Malagasies.
Around 7% of the population is Muslim, hence normally do not eat pork meat (unless it is “halal”, which means it is permissible or lawful in traditional Islamic law) nor drink alcohol.
The drinking age for alcohol is 18.

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Paying

Domestic Currency
Malagasy Ariary
ISO Code
MGA
To Obtain Domestic Currency
ATMs (Visa and MasterCard) are widely available in large towns and cities. In rural areas, cash rules. Euros are the easiest foreign currency to exchange. Withdrawals from ATMs are capped at Ar300,000.
Visa and MasterCard can be used at most banks to obtain cash advances of up to Ar10 million; commission rates go as high as 5%, depending on the bank.
Possible Means of Payment
Although Madagascar changed its currency in 2005 (from the Malagasy franc to the ariary), many Malagasies still count in franc (one MGA is worth five francs), so it is recommendable to double-check which currency a price is being quoted in, especially in rural areas.
High end hotels generally accept payments in foreign currency. Visa credit cards are accepted at some upmarket hotels and shops, along with certain travel agencies. MasterCard can be used at some ATMs, but only a limited number of shops will accept payments with it. Some places levy a commission of about 5% to 8% for credit-card payments.

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Speaking

Official Language
French, Malagasy
Other Languages Spoken
English
Business Language
French or English (with non-French native speakers)
Getting Some Knowledge
Visit the website of Omniglot to learn the basics of the Malagasy language.
Free Translation Tools
Omniglot : Malagasy phrasebook
Lexilogos : English-Malagasy dictionary

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Latest Update: April 2022