Madagascar can be visited by air or by the services of a local guide. There are two primary methods to get around Madagascar: flying or being driven by a driver. People usually fly in the north and drive in the south as a general rule. Because distances are long in Northern Madagascar and routes bad, it is best to travel by air. All flights operated out of Antananarivo and radiated to main towns and islands of Air Madagascar had networks.
The major attractions include the islands of Nosy Be and Isla Ste Marie, Maroantsetra, the starting point for trekking in the Masoala National Park, and Diego Suarez, from where you may go to Amber Mountain and Anarana. We’ll have a guide waiting at each regional airport to meet you with a 4×4 — or perhaps a boat — ready to go on excursions around parks, reserves, or private islands.
The principal road south from Antananarivo, Route Seven, is a good asphalt road that winds through several villages and towns. It’s a beautiful drive and we suggest doing it with a driver guide. Driving south for ten days to see the parks of Ranomafana, Isalo, and Berenty is an excellent way to go about things.
After reaching the south coast of Madagascar, most visitors fly back to Antananarivo from a regional airport like Tulear or Fort Dauphin. French is the predominant language spoken in Madagascar, but you’ll find that many people in the tourism industry speak English as well.
We work closely with several bilingual guides who have extensive knowledge about the country and its attractions. Many of them have specific expertise in lemurs, reptiles or birds, so we can easily find a guide to match your interests.
A few words of Malagasy will take you a long way. Here are a few examples: ‘manao ahoana’ (hello), ‘goodbye’ (misowtra), ‘thank you’ (misowtra beh), and ‘please’ (azafad). Although French and Malagasy are the most popular spoken languages, some hotels have staff that can converse in English as well. However, it would be useful to know basics in both French and Malagasy before your trip.
If you’re ever unsure about how much of a tip to leave, we’ve done the research for you. After surveying a number of guides around Madagascar, we suggest tipping them anywhere from 10,000-20,000 per day. This converts to roughly $5-$10 USD and is greatly appreciated by your guide(s). Additionally, it’s thoughtful to carry some 2,000 notes (roughly $1 USD) on hand to tip any porters that may assist you during your stay.
Money and expenses
While traveller’s cheques are not commonly accepted in Madagascar, cash is the best option. It is advised to take Euros and change them into Ariary when you arrive at Tana airport. However, if you have leftover Ariary and want to exchange it back for pounds, the only place to do so is at the airport–and the exchange rates there aren’t great. We only recommend changing the amount of money you think you will need until your next chance to go to a bank. This requires some planning but ensures that you won’t be left with an abundance of Ariary when leaving Madagascar. Also, please don’t plan on spending any Ariary in duty-free shops at the airport on your way home as they only accept Euros or Visa cards. Currently, £1 = 3,500 Ariary. The easiest way to do the maths is 10,000 Ariary bills are worth around U$5. It’s always useful to have small notes handy for tipping purposes too.
Malagasy social relationships hinge on seeming placid and inoffensive. You should never express anger, but rather be patient and tolerant. In conversation, avoid being too dogmatic by making use of words like ‘perhaps’ and ‘maybe.’ Be excessive in your thanks. Learning the nuances of body language is easy–for instance, a stooping posture with an arm extended forward indicates ‘excuse me may I come in? You’ll be able to see how often it’s utilized.
The respectful thing to do when in the presence of something with spiritual or religious significance is to point with your finger bent over, instead of using an extended arm and pointing with just your index finger. This is because it’s believed that ancestors have a lot of power and their ‘wishes’ shape the behaviour of families or communities.
Although “fady” is typically translated to mean “taboo,” this definition does not fully encapsulate its true meaning. Fady refers to beliefs related to certain actions, behaviors, foods, or days of the week being dangerous. These fady differ between families and communities. For example, one family may believe it is fady (or taboo) to sing while eating because they think it will cause the person’s teeth to grow long. Another belief might be that it is fady not use a spade with a loose handle when digging graves because doing so would create too strong of a connection between the living and dead worlds. Additionally, some people believe it is bad luck pass an egg directly from person-to-person; instead, eggs must be placed on the ground before being picked up by someone else.Fady’s goals are not to make life harder for Malagasy people but to improve the quality of their lives and increase happiness.
If you are spending money while in Madagascar, try to ensure that as much of it stays in the country as possible. We will choose small, locally-owned hotels where we can for your stay. You can help by choosing handicrafts made locally or donating to conservation projects. When buying handicrafts, offer a fair price. It’s important to note that the Malagasy people don’t have a bartering tradition, so keep that in mind when engaging with locals. It’s also best practice to get permission before taking anyone’s photo. And if you do take someone’s picture, remember to send it as promised–people will remember your failure to honor your word long after you’ve forgotten about them. In terms of fashion, modest and casual clothing is generally accepted everywhere, but we recommend avoiding more revealing items as they can cause offence–particularly in smaller towns and villages. Although Madagascar is overall a safe country with low crime rates, be sure to take precautions as you would while travelling anywhere else.
If you’re feeling unsafe or uneasy about travel, our country specialists can help guide you. For updated information, please check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office website frequently.
When to go to Madagascar
Want to know the best time of year to visit Madagascar? Our guide includes monthly temperature and rainfall data, so you can plan your trip around the weather that suits you best.