everything you should know before your trip


Population: 17,308,000

Capital: Antananarivo; 1,678,000

Area: 587,041 square kilometers (226,658 square miles)

Language: French, Malagasy

Religion: Christian, Indigenous beliefs, Muslim

Currency: Malagasy Ariary

Time difference: GMT +3 during winter time, GMT +2 during summer time.

Electricity : 220 V, European standard

Country phone code : +261


There are two seasons in Madagascar : the dry season or southern winter lasts from April to October, and the wet summer season from November to March.

However, the climate is very different in each region of the island. The Highlands are characterized by a mild climate; the West is hot and dry. The East Coast is rainy, so is the hot North, while the South is semi arid. Rainfalls decrease as one moves from the North East (3500 mm in Maroantsetra) to the South West (less than 500 mm in the Tuléar region). Several variants occur between these two extremes.

On the central parts of Madagascar, winter nights can be cold (even between 0-5°C). Southern and western Madagascar is really hot during the summer months. The temperature in the coastal regions is generally higher than that in Antananarivo.


The unilingual (Malagasy) characteristic of Madagascar distinguishes the island from several other countries. However, Malagasy consists of a few more or less noticeable dialectal variants. French and English have an official language status, with French being more widely spoken.


You can easily obtain a tourist visa for a fee at the airport upon your arrival or at the Consulate of Madagascar in your country (probably more expensive then at the airport). Make sure an entry stamp is recorded in your passport.

The visa fees at the airport are as follows (payable in cash in Malagasy Ariary, US dollars or Euros):

  • for a stay of up to 30 days: 35 € or 37 USD or 115’000 Ar
  • for a stay of 31 to 60 days: 40 € or 45 USD or 135’000 Ar

Your passport must be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Madagascar. You should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport on arrival. If you get the visa at the airport, you do not need to bring photographs.

Since 2020, an e-visa plateform is operational (, but due to some technical issues which are not solved until present, we rather suggest to do your visa directly at the airport.

Remark: cruiseship passengers staying less than 24 hours in the port the visa is for free. (Subject to change, please check with us before arrival).


The official currency in Madagascar is the Ariary. Please note that it is difficult or impossible to change other currencies than Euro or USD. Upon arrival, it is recommended to change money at airport banks. They are normally always open at each international flight arrival and their rates are similar to the rates of the banks in town or even better. After the change, you will feel yourself a millionnaire holding the large package of banknotes which will probably not even fit in your purse – the highest banknote worth 20.000 Ariary (approx. 5 euros).

Only banks and exchange agencies in town or in airports, shopping centers and large hotels are authorized to exchange currencies. Avoid informal illegal money changers in certain streets.

It is useful to know that although Ariary (AR) replaced the «Franc Malgache» (FMG) in 2005, many people still pronounce Franc Malagasy (FMG) when selling or buying something as they are used to it – better ask the vendors especially at markets if the price they say is in Ariary or Franc (1 Ariary = 5 Francs). The Ariary can be changed back into hard currency at the money exchange at the international and national airport in Antananarivo. (If you leave from another city, it may not be possible.)

To check the updated rates, please have a look at the official website of the Central Bank of Madagascar: .


Banks are available in all major cities of the country. They are open from 8 AM to 4 PM; major banks have a cash dispenser, accepting VISA and MASTERCARD. Money transfers are also possible via Western Union offices.

Payment by credit card is rarely accepted in the country, it is however possible in big hotels, some restaurants and shops mainly in Antananarivo. The most useful credit card is VISA CARD, American Express and Diners card are hardly accepted anywhere in Madagascar. Outside Antananarivo, you can get cash from ATM (with VISA CARDS) and at some machines of the BNI bank also with Master Card. But, it is important not relying on ATM machines only, as they are often out of order, so keep some cash in Euro or US Dollar for emergency on you.

time differences

Madagascar lies at GMT +3. Therefore, it lies at :

+2 in the winter and +1 in the summer from Western Europe

+1 from South Africa

-1 from Reunion Island and Mauritius

-4 from Thailand

-5 from Singapore and Hong Kong


Usually 220 Volts, the European plugs can be used in Madagascar. Hotels which are not covered by the electric network or which are anticipating untimely power cuts have their own generator. Some are also keen on solar energy. Please, bring battery-powered flashlight for eventual power cuts. Simple, and sometimes even mid-range hotels which are using their own electric generator for power production or are depending on solar energy sometimes switch the electricity off at night and/or also for some hours during day time.

If you have many electronic equipments that you wish to charge during the night, we suggest to bring an electricity distributor, as usually there is only 1 or maximum 2 plugs in the hotel rooms.


To call a landline number from overseas, dial +261+ 20 + area code + the number

To call a mobile phone from overseas, dial +261 + the number without the 0

To call overseas from Madagascar, dial 00 + country code + area code + the number.

Madagascar is wired with high-speed Internet and free WIFI access is usually available in all big hotels. For public internet access, cybercafés are widely available, especially in Antananarivo.

There are three mobile phone operators in Madagascar : ORANGE (dial 032), Airtel (dial 033) and TELMA (dial 034) – coverage is quite good in all the country. If you wish to be on-line permanently, it is a good idea to buy a local SIM card (price is around 1 Euro) at the airport or in the city. If you want to use the internet on your mobile device, our advice is to buy a flatrate (the tariff per second is rather expensive), the rates vary according to the different providers.


No vaccination is compulsory for travelers coming to Madagascar, except if they have been on transit in an infected zone. Anti-malaria prophylaxis and one injection of gamma globulin against hepatitis A are however highly recommended, as well as prevention treatments against cholera and yellow fever. Regarding pandemics which occur once in a while in the world, Malagasy health authorities have the same level of information and of reactivity as their overseas counterparts.

It is worth bringing the following items: your own medical kit, disinfectant, mosquito repellent, malaria medicine, sunscreen, etc. To protect against malaria, Malarone tablets are recommended, starting 3 days before traveling. It is necessary to have a good mosquito repellent, our advice is to buy it upon arrival in a pharmacy, you have a choice of efficient repellents here. If you are sensitive to bumpy or winding journey, bring also some Deadalon pills.

Medical cures and medicines are only available at hospitals in big cities. Please bring your own medical kit with you. A good travel insurance is necessary which also covers the costs of flying you home or to better equipped hospitals (e.g. Reunion, Mauritius, South Africa) in an emergency.

You should drink only bottled water, you can get it everywhere. The “jus naturel” (natural fruit juice) can be consumed in hotels (where they make it either from mineral water or from boiled water), but not in small, cheap restaurants. Try the excellent local rhums ; they are not only delicious and good for your digestion, they are also perfect for disinfecting !


As mentioned above, climate is quite different in each region of Madagascar. However, generally we can say that light clothes (made of cotton) are recommended all year long in Western Madagascar and during hot season, while during winter time you should pack some warmer clothes especially in the Highlands. You should always bring a raincoat when visiting the humid eastern Madagascar and its rainforests.

Visiting the national parks of Madagascar can only be done by foot (not by cars), so light mountain boots are recommended when visiting national parks, especially the rainforest parks. Either light trekking shoes, or comfortable trekking sandals are advised for dry national parks (e.g. Isalo). Please do not forget to bring a a torch (preferably headlight) for nocturnal visits of parks and for any electricity cut-off.

Those who go to more serious trekking are advised to allow for appropriate clothing, including good hiking shoes, as well as insect-repellent sprays and ointments. For the bivouac, ensure that you are in possession of full camping equipment: sleeping bag, flashlight, emergency kit, water bottle, water-purifying tablets, Swiss army knife and a … “Robinson Crusoe” frame of mind.


For professional shootings inside national parks and reserves, a written authorization from Madagascar National Parks is compulsory.

Please kindly request permission from individuals before taking photos of them. 


It is regulated by a Code of Good Conduct, a few rules of which are:

–          Do not litter

–          Take plastic, metal and glass items back with you

–           Do not venture out of delimited paths

–           Camp only at authorized sites

–          To preserve the forest, make an effort to lower your comfort standards

–          Do not take anything out: let the forest keep its plants, animals and insects

–          Do not feed animals and avoid disturbing them with violent gestures and excessive noise

–          Do not purchase your presents just anywhere for you do not know under what conditions they were made.

Breaching these rules can penalize the visitor or the organizer of the trip.


Taboo (Fady’s)

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. There is no taboo for clothing or dressing, especially for foreigners.


In Madagascar, tipping is a habit but it is not obligatory. The main rule of tipping remains that it should depend on your satisfaction ! To give you an idea, here are some amounts for gratuities which are usually expected:

  • Driver and guide : around 5 € per day (about 20.000 Ariary) for a driver and 10 € per day (approx. 40.000 Ar) for a guide. If traveling in a group, we’d recommend to give about 1 Euro/day/person for the guide and 50 cents /day/person for the driver.
  • Park guides : around 3-5 € in total (10.000-20.000 Ariary) for a park guide, depending on your satisfaction, the lenght of the tour and the size of the group.
  • Porters : 500 to 1000 Ariary per bag. Airport porters expect more than that, we recommend to give 2000 Ariary per bag.
  • Restaurant : around 3 % of the bill

Please be prepared that Madagascar, besides its natural beauty, is a very poor country.  Infrastructure is weak, road conditions are not the same as in Europe – driving a kilometer takes more time than we are used to. 70% of the population does not have electricity or water, illiteracy is high. We will have the impression of traveling not only in space but also in time. It’s important that we get ready for these beforehand and in return we will get authentic and real experiences.


The checked luggage allowance on domestic flights (Tsaradia Airways) is 20 kg, hand luggage allowance is 5 kg. Please keep that in mind while preparing your luggage to Madagascar.


Each country has distinct travelers‘ allowances, which means limits of items that you can take with you duty-free. It is important to know that the European Union have a maximum value of goods that may be imported for free. If exceeding this limit, all your items become dutiable. In the EU, the limit is 430 €.

The following limits apply to EU per person over 17 years:

  • 2 kilogrammes of vanilla
  • 250 grams of stamped gold jewelry. Should the holder prove sufficient foreign currency to buy the items, this allowance can extend to 1 kilo,
  • 4 different crocodile skin items, bought from certified sellers; holders must present the purchase receipts and the authorizations signed by the forestry administration,
  • Pepper, clove and other spices can be exported in unlimited amounts. But this does not mean you can bring several suitcases full of spices back home. Customs decide whether your amounts are of commercial intent or private. If they suspect you to export spices for commercial purposes, you may have to pay duties.
  • Coffee: 500 g
  • Honey: 2 kg
  • Alcohol: for European Union, only 1 l alcohol with more than 22  ‰ or instead 2 l with less than 22  ‰ is allowed. Additionally, you are free to bring 4 l of foamy wine and 16 l of beer.

After visiting such a fantastic country as Madagascar, you surely want to take some souvenirs home from your travel. However, there are some rules you have to take care of to avoid trouble at customs.


Precious woods

Rose wood and palisander are precious and rare, and you can get them in Madagascar still for relatively cheap prices. Although it has been illegal to export cut down rosewood from Madagascar for years, the business is still thriving. In contrast it is legal to buy processed wood in the form of games, boxes, statues, figurines or masks. Since 2016, artist and vendors need to issue small certificates when selling those wooden goods, because there is a limited quota on legal precious wood items trade. Often, people forego these certificates in case of very small or few items without getting in trouble at customs. However, it is always sure to ask for a certificate when buying precious wood items.


Animals and preparations, plants, shells and corals

Generally it is forbidden to export any plants, animals, corals or shells from Madagascar. This also includes parts of plants such as seeds, leaves or dried flowers as well as parts of broken corals. You are also not allowed to take turtle shells or skulls with you. Smuggling alive animals and corruption are still big problems at the airports, especially concerning valuable reptiles like tortoises. For some years, controls have been harder as a result: Hand luggage is controlled several times at departure, and complete luggage is searched on a random basis. Please also refrain from taking prepared butterflies or bugs with you due to species conservation reasons – although you can buy them everywhere. Special permits to export animals or plants  are hard to get from Malagasy authorities and are exclusively given for scientific purposes.


Gem stones and jewelry

Measured by its sapphire occurrence, Madagascar could be among the richest countries in the world. If you want to take gem stones or precious jewelry home, you need a small certificate issued by the vendor. The paper includes the kind of item, its price in Ariary, the dates of the licensed vendor and the date of purchase. You get this paper directly when buying gem stones – if not, please ask for it. Also be aware of the travelers’ allowances of your country, otherwise you can get in trouble at the customs when coming home.


Grave goods

A special topic on several souvenir markets are grave goods. Basically, it is not forbidden to buy old decoration and statues. But in many cases, those are stolen materials, that can be easily turned into cash among travelers. For Madagascans, it is absolutely fady (taboo) to take away grave goods. But since many graves can be found along the big streets in the country, thieves may choose them as an easy target. Some families especially in the South are so poor and desperate they sell grave goods or decoration items – for most Malagasy families, this is inconceivable. It is therefore highly recommended to be suspicious when offered old stone statues or dusty wooden pieces – better do not buy souvenirs of potentially dubious origin. In doubt ask your local guide!

Please note that you can’t take wooden objects in your hand luggage, please put them in your luggage for check in.


Meat, eggs and food of animal origin

Meat, sausage products, cheese and other foods of animal origin are not allowed to be exported from Madagascar – honey is the only exclusion. The reason for this is animal epidemic control and the possibility to transfer many animal diseases via food.


The duty-free shops of Antananarivo-Ivato airport offers a choice of goods, but are more expensive then the markets. Some other duty-free selling points exist in the capital, in certain provincial airports open to international flights and also in the shopping malls of some big hotels. Taxes are directly deducted at the pay-desk. The presentation of the return ticket and an ID document is necessary. 

Are you ready?

Like the chameleon, one eye on the future,

one eye on the past.

malagasy saying

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