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Madagascar: a wonderful world of unique wildlife and nature
Located off the coast of Eastern Africa lies one of the most extraordinary countries in the world: Madagascar. Its location, far away from the mainland, has resulted in the origination of many different types of trees, plants, species of wildlife and a mix of cultures that are unique for the island. Are you planning to travel through Madagascar? Then you can expect to discover rare and exotic flora and fauna that you cannot find anywhere else. Have a look through our Madagascar travel suggestions for more inspiration.
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A Madagascar Travel Experience
A mix of unique landscapes
Due to Madagascar’s remote location it has gained a unique biodiversity. Roughly 80% of the island’s flora and fauna is exclusive to Madagascar. The landscapes are also very diverse. Through the center of the island runs a mountain range with peaks reaching 2600 metres. We recommend you visit the Andringitra Massif located in Andringitra National Park. It has beautiful valleys and granite rock formations. The Eastern side is the wet side. This is where you will find rainforest and rice terraces. More into the rugged landscapes? Then do not miss the limestone rocks at Tsingy National Park. Hanging bridges will take you across this rare landscape.
The best natural spots
If your wish is to fully enjoy what nature has to offer in Madagascar then take a trip down to Baobab Avenue, a perfect lane fringed with Baobab trees. You’ll also enjoy Isalo National Park. This park has unique rock formations, forests, caves and canyons. In the Andasibe rainforest you will encounter the largest living species of lemur – they are over 1 metre tall! Would you like to get off the beaten track? Then the Pangalanes Canal is a good option. This region consists of a range of lakes and creeks where you can take small boat tours.
Spotting unique wildlife in Madagascar
Love animals? Then you made the right choice by going to Madagascar. Dozens of exotic species of lemur live here. There is also a big chance you will see bizarre chameleons or frogs. For bird-lovers, Madagascar is also the place to be. More than 270 species of birds live here. If you’re in the right season, namely between July and September, you can witness the migration of the humpback whales. These whales come to the island to mate and give birth. A truly unique Madagascar travel experience!
Madagascar Travel: local interaction
Of course, there is more on this island than animals and plants, there are people too. A mix of peoples live here, all with their own traditions and cultures. But what they all have in common is that they will warmly receive you. You can easily enjoy a few days in the rural areas, for example, by taking a mountain bike tour around Antsirabe and its villages, markets, churches and schools. This way you’ll really get to know the people and their way of life. Our Madagascar travel expert Frank will gladly help you put together your ideal travel proposal.
Time to relax on Madagascar’s beaches
You might not think it, but Madagascar is great for a beach holiday. There are amazing white sand beaches and tropical islands to conclude your Madagascar journey with. Madagascar has no less than 250 small islands surrounding it, of which Nosy Be in the East is the most famous. We would also recommend Nosy Iranja. There is also Ile de St. Marie, ideal for those who like to snorkel and dive. Madagascar’s marine life is just as rich as the life up on land so you will not be bored!
A real Madagascar travel adventure
Madagascar is still a relatively unexplored country. Meaning there are no masses of tourists yet, and this makes your trip extra special. For example, you can rent a 4WD and discover the inlands. You can camp in the best spots. You’ll usually travel with a car and a chauffeur, but if you wish to drive yourself that is also possible. Our Madagascar travel expert Frank will tell you all about the different possibilities.
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Know Before you Go
General Information and Insider Tips
Residents of the US, UK, Canada and Australia do need a visa for travel to Madagascar. For a 30-day tourist visa, you can apply in advance at your country’s embassy, or receive upon arrival. For visa-on-arrival, payment must be made in cash (Malagasy Ariary, US dollars or Euros). Some countries allow for longer visits, so check requirements if your intended stay exceeds 30 days. For other countries, check visa requirements here.
Your passport must be valid for at least six months prior to arrival in Madagascar, and have three blank visa pages.
If you are travelling from or through the United States, and are not a US national or resident, you will need to obtain an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), ideally at least 72 hours prior to departure. ESTA has replaced the paper form that used to be filled in prior to landing in the US. The authorization costs $ 14 USD and needs to be paid by credit card. Canadian nationals are exempt and do not need an ESTA.
It is your own responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of valid and correct travel documentation.
Insider Tip: You may be required to show proof of onward travel upon arrival, so have your return flight information or plane ticket handy.
There are no particular requirements for Madagascar, but make sure all routine vaccinations are up to date (MMR, polio, tetanus, etc.). Hepatitis A and Typhoid are recommended. Depending on where you’re traveling, malaria is a potential threat, so seek the advice of a medical professional about whether or not you need prophylaxis. We recommend all vaccines be completed at least six weeks prior to travel.
If traveling from a country that has yellow fever, you will be required to show proof of yellow fever vaccination.
Tap water is NOT safe to drink. We recommend using a Steripen with your Dopper refillable water bottle.
Insider Tip: Complex surgeries will require you be airlifted to another country, so be sure your health insurance includes medical evacuation.
The safety of our clients is of the utmost importance to us, and our local experts are always well-informed about the current situation in Madagascar. For up-to-date information about safety, security and travel warnings, please refer to the US State Department, UK Foreign Travel Advice, or your local government resource.
Most sockets take the European-style two-pronged round (Type C) and grounded two-pronged (Type E). various three-pronged round (Type D, M and N).
Insider Tip: Rural areas may have limited electricity, so bring a flashlight/torch, as well as a power bank or solar-powered USB charger for your electronics.
At Better Places Travel, you book your own international flights. Your travel expert will gladly advise you on the best option. Read here for more information and tips.
When to go
Madagascar has a sub-tropical climate with a hot and rainy wet season, and cooler dry season. The east coast is wetter than the west coast, the mountains are temperate and the southwest is arid. The rainy season hits December-March, whereas the dry season runs April-October. Peak travel season is July-August when Europe and North America have school breaks.
Insider Tip: The east coast typically sees rain year-round, but thunderstorms usually happen in the afternoons so mornings may be still be sunny and clear.
The national language is Malagasy/French
While English was added as Madagascar’s third official language in 2007, it is not widely spoken. French will get you pretty far, particularly in the cities, but exchanging a few pleasantries in Malagasy will delight locals.
Hello Manaohoana (manow-OWN)
Goodbye Veloma (ve-LOOMa)
Please Azafady ( az-a-fad)
Thank you Misaotra (meesh-OW-truh)
Excuse Me Aza fady
Yes Eny (any)
No Tsia (tseeya)
Insider Tip: The words for “please” and “excuse me” reference fady, or Malagasy taboos (see more on this in the Culture section). They both translate into anti- fady, or “may it be culturally acceptable.”
The French influence can be found in the architecture, cuisine and customs of Madagascar. Christianity is pretty widespread, but traditional beliefs are also strong. Their social culture is generally relaxed; holding hands with a partner of the opposite sex is accepted and homosexuality (while not necessarily prevalent) is not taboo. As a general rule, visitors should refrain from wearing military-style clothing and photographing local military or police.
Fady is a Malagasy term that refers to taboos, and they play an integral role in local society, some based in superstition or ancient rituals. Pointing at a grave is a common fady, but many tend to vary by region or tribe. Your local guide can advise on what you need to be aware of, and more information can be found here.
Insider Tip: Flash photography is forbidden with lemurs, and discouraged for most wildlife, so make sure it is disabled.
The local currency is Malagasy Ariary (MGA)
The ariary replaced the Malagasy franc in 2005 to become the country’s official currency. One Ariary is divided into five iraimbilanja. ATMs are available in major towns, and Visa is the most widely accepted, but we recommend bringing foreign currency with you to exchange. Euros are the most accepted, followed by US dollars and British pounds. If bringing USD, make sure your bills are from 2006 or later, otherwise you may have issues exchanging. Always change money at an authorized office, never on the street. Very few places accept credit cards, so don’t rely on them. Again, when they are accepted, Visa is your best choice.
Insider Tip: Although the Malagasy franc is no longer used, it’s possible to encounter prices quoted in francs in rural areas. Always confirm the price in ariary before paying.
- Restaurants- If a service charge is not added to the bill, 10% is considered standard for tourists (locals don’t usually tip, and if they do, they just leave small change).
- Cabs- No tipping, but you can round up the change.
- Hotels- Tip bellmen about 2,000 AR per bag, and housekeeping 2,000 AR per day.
Insider Tip: Most lodges will advise on tipping guidelines for safari guides, rangers, trackers, etc. Your local guide can also provide recommendations based on your specific package.
While traditional dress is common among tribes, the cities are much more relaxed and you’ll see a range of styles, including tight, Western clothing. Lightweight, breathable fabric is best for this hot and humid climate, although a light sweater or jacket is handy for cooler evenings and mountain areas. Long pants and sleeves will help protect against the sun and mosquitoes. This will help you prepare for your Madagascar travel adventure!
- Comfortable closed-toe shoes or hiking boots
- Light jacket or sweater
- Warmer jacket or fleece for mountain area
- Daypack for rural excursions
- Binoculars for wildlife spotting
- Telephoto camera lens
- Swimsuit and cover-up for coastal areas
- Micro-fiber towel or sarong for beach-going
- Mosquito repellant
- Umbrella or light rain jacket (even the east coast gets rain in the dry season)
- Simple medical kit with over-the-counter drugs and first aid (including anti-diarrheal and stomach meds)
- Hand sanitizer or wet wipes
- All prescriptions
- Flashlight/torch for possible power outages
- Tissues in case toilet paper is unavailable
Insider Tip: Many nightclubs have a dress code, so be sure to pack something other than sneakers or flip flops for an evening out.
Be sure to check out our Sustainability Checklist for more tips on how to respect the environment and local culture while travelling.