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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.
- 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.