Madagascar… a place like no other on earth! The fourth largest island on the planet, the diversity of the flora and fauna will simply amaze you, and with approximately 5,000kms of coastline, the beaches will take your breath away. Madagascar is a nature and outdoor lover’s paradise, where you can go from rainforest to desert in 300km. An incredible 5% of the world’s fauna and flora species can be found here, and here alone. Madagascar has a rich history and a fascinating belief system and the genuine warmth and welcome of the people will be a highlight of this amazing island.
Madagascar Facts & Tips
Did you know?
- Madagascar is the world’s biggest producer of vanilla. Other crops include coffee, sugarcane, cocoa, beans, bananas and peanuts.
- There are three blocks of colour on the flag – white, red and green.
- It is also referred to as the ‘Red Island’ because of the colour of its soil.
- Mount Maromokotro is the highest point of Madagascar at 2876m.
- Madagascar has a Republican government, which means any person over 18 has the right to vote for their president and government body.
- Independence from France was gained on 26 June 1960, and this day is now celebrated as Independence Day.
- The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga is a World Heritage site and consists of a royal city, a burial site and a number of other sacred places.
- Approximately half of the land of Madagascar is covered with forest.
- 5% of the world’s fauna and flora species are found on Madagascar, and of these, 90% are not found anywhere else on the planet.
Visas & Passports
Australian passport holders travelling to Madagascar need a visa at this time. An eVisa must be applied for before you travel online at: https://www.evisamada.gov.mg/en/
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date of entry. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian Embassy in Mauritius is responsible for Madagascar:
2nd Floor, Rogers House
5 President John Kennedy Street
Ph. +230 202 0160
Fax. +230 208 8878
Australian Consulate in Madagascar:
Building C1 (AMCHAM Office), Explorer Business Park
Ph: +261 32 05 596 01
The official currency of Madagascar is the Madagasy Ariary (symbol Ar). Notes come in denominations of 100, 200, 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 and 10,000 ariary.
The recommended currency to take to Madagascar is the Euro. Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have Madagasy Ariary with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Madagascar is approximately €1.00
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately €1.50
- The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately €7.00
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately €1.00
Malagasy cuisine has been heavily influenced by French cuisine, Indian and other dishes from the Far East, and has evolved into simple, spicy dishes. Food portions are generally large and rice is a staple served with almost every meal. For breakfast, it comes as a broth, and is served with an omelette. Otherwise it is steamed and served with a side dish of meat. Most traditional dishes do not use vegetables. ‘Romazava’ is a dish of local leaves and either beef or pork; ‘ravitoto’ is considered Madagascar’s national dish and is made of pork; ‘drakaka’, a local seafood dish, referred to as the ‘big crab’. Dessert dishes are often flavoured with vanilla.
The tap water is not safe to drink, so use bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth etc. The local beer is called Three Horses Beer or THB and homebrewed rum and crème de cocoa is available in many flavours.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
Madagascar has a warm, tropical climate along its coastline, arid in the south of the country and a temperate climate up in the highlands. Much of Madagascar’s weather stems from the southern trade winds that originate in the Indian Ocean. Madagascar has two main seasons – a hot, rainy season from November to April and a cooler, dry season running from May to October. The east coast of Madagascar bears the brunt of the trade winds and therefore has the heaviest rainfall and is most prone to cyclones and violent thunder storms.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
The best (and cheapest) way to get around towns in Madagascar is in the brightly coloured rickshaws or pousse-pousse’s, as they are known locally. Be prepared that you may be hounded by driver’s searching for fares. Fares are negotiable, so negotiate it before beginning your journey.
When catching taxis, make sure you have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. We recommend you ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Madagascar…
The towns of Madagascar offer a variety of shops and markets to purchase souvenirs. Handcrafted wooden items, hand-woven rugs and silver jewellery are very popular and vanilla and other spices are a wonderful souvenir to take home from Madagascar, however, you will need to check Australian Customs regulations before bringing them back into Australia with you.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Pop culture is seen in vibrant Madagascar holidays and festivals throughout the year all over the country, with many events attracting a significant number of tourists. The celebrations are based on a variety of traditions ranging from holy days to cultural rituals and national holidays, with the Santabari festival and Donia Music Festival two of the favourites.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- Alahamadi Be
- Martyrs’ Day
- Santabary Festival
- Labour Day
- Independence Day
- Feria Oramena
- Christmas Day
The capital, and largest city of Madagascar, Antananarivo is home to some 4 million people. It’s a chaotic place, with market stalls lining all the major streets, selling everything from fresh fruit to electronics to embroidered linen. It is also quite hilly, so walking to see some of the cultural and historical sights of the city is a great way to work off a few calories! The best part of being in Antananarivo is simply being out on the streets with the locals and soaking up the atmosphere of this wonderful, crumbling hillside city. Photo by Amelia Winters.
Andasibe Mantadia National Park
The protected forest of Andasibe Mantadia National Park is home to 108 different species of birds, 14 species of lemurs and 84 types of amphibians. This national park is a great way to explore the wonders of the rainforest, tracking lemurs, spotting the exotic plants, trees, insects and reptiles of Madagascar. If you are lucky, you may have a sighting of the iconic ‘Indri Indri’ lemur, the largest on Madagascar and a visit to Vakona Island for close up experiences with the animals is not to be missed. Photo by Amelia Winters.
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