Madagascar Travel Tips & Useful Info

Updated: 22nd June 2020

Madagascar ring tailed lemurs

Planning a visit to the island of lemurs and want to know what to expect? Use our handy travel tips to prepare for your holiday of a lifetime covering all manner of topics from the currency to the food, shopping to duty free, WiFi to tipping plus a whole load more.

What vaccinations do I need for Madagascar?

You should seek medical advice from your local health practitioner before travelling to Madagascar and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatits A, Diptheria and Polio are recommended.

Do I need anti-malaria tablets for Madagascar?

There is a high risk of malaria throughout all of Madagascar at all times of the year. Anti-malarials such as Mefloquine, Doxycycline or Atovaquone/Proguanil are recommended. It is also important to avoid mosquito bites as much as possible by wearing long sleeves and trousers where possible, sleeping under a mosquito net and covering yourself in a strong insect repellent containing at least 50% DEET. If you have any feverish symptoms within 12 months of returning from Madagascar, seek immediate medical attention. For more information on the malaria risk in Madagascar visit the NHS Fit to Travel page or the CDC Traveler's Health page.

Is it safe to drink tap water in Madagascar?

Tap water is never safe to drink in Madagascar and visitors to the country should stick solely to bottled mineral water or boiled/purified water if bottled water is not available. Avoid ice in your drinks as this may have been made with unhygienic water.

Vanilla beans and pod - Madagascar - On The Go Tours
Madagascar is famous for its high-quality vanilla

What's the food like in Madagascar?

A typical dish in Madagascar consists of a very generous portion of rice or ro (rice mixed with herbs and leaves), served with some meat in sauce and vegetables. Although Malagasy food is cooked with relatively little spice, it is considered flavoursome and delicious and encompasses influences from African, Arab, Indonesian and French cuisine.

A popular dish that can be found across the whole island is romazava, a stew made from beef, chicken or fish and vegetables, served with rice. Another speciality is ravitoto, which consists of pork and shredded cassava leaves. While Malagasy food is not normally hot, a chilli relish called sakay can be used to spice up a dish.

Dessert is almost always a variety of exotic fruits sprinkled with sugar and flavoured with vanilla, which can be washed down with a glass of ranonapanga, an alcoholic drink made from burnt rice water. Local beers go by the name of THB (Three Horses Beer) and Gold, soft drinks such as Coca-Cola are widely available.

Safe eating while travelling in Madagascar

Food hygiene standards in Madagascar may differ to what you are used to back home so to avoid getting sick take extra precautions with your food. Ensure that all hot food is served piping hot rather than lukewarm. If something looks poorly prepared, especially meat or fish, it is better not to eat it. When it comes to street food, don’t eat anything that might have been sat in the sun for too long. Avoid ice that has been made with tap water as well as salad and unpeeled fruit, which might have been washed in it.

Is it standard to tip in Madagascar?

Tipping in Madagascar is a nice gesture but is by no means compulsory. A tip of 10% or so at a restaurant would be incredibly generous by Malagasy standards but if the service has been up to standard then there is no reason not to leave that much. Bell boys and housekeeping in nice hotels should get around USD $1 per bag/day of cleaning. Tour guides and drivers should be tipped anything between USD $5-10 per day, depending on the quality of the service they provided. Tipping is not expected by taxi drivers but rounding up the fare is a good way of showing your appreciation of good service.

Colourful fabrics for sale on Ifaty beach - Madagascar - On The Go Tours
Colourful fabrics known as lambas make great souvenirs

What souvenirs should I shop for in Madagascar?

One of the most popular things to take home from Madagascar is vanilla. It is one of the country’s most famous products and is unrivalled in taste and quality elsewhere in the world. For something truly authentic, pick up one of the traditional lambas from the local markets. This item of clothing consists of a colourful square of fabric, which is then wrapped around the body.

When it comes to souvenirs, travellers are truly spoilt for choice in Madagascar’s vibrant markets, teeming with handicrafts. Hand-carved wooden sculptures of things like baobab trees can easily be found, as can homemade jewellery and items made from traditional Antiamoro paper. Local rum and perfumes can also be taken home with you but be sure these don’t leak in your luggage.

Is bargaining acceptable in Madagascar?

Haggling is generally accepted in Madagascar but bear in mind that prices are usually very low anyway. Make sure you remain courteous and respectful throughout the entire transaction and if you find yourself negotiating over a matter of pennies then stop and pay the little extra. Chances are you earn at least ten times more than the vendor. The ideal outcome should leave both buyer and vendor satisfied and neither feeling ripped off or hard done by.

Is it safe for a single woman to travel in Madagascar?

Most women do not encounter any problems during their solo travel through Madagascar. Hospitality and kindness to strangers is a prominent part of Malagasy culture and most travellers to the country find that they are warmly welcomed by everyone they meet. Nevertheless, women should dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention and to blend in better with the locals. Women should also be wary of being alone in isolated places at night.

What is the duty free allowance for Madagascar?

Travellers over the age of 21 are permitted to bring the following in to the country:

  • 2 cartons or 20 packs of cigarettes
  • 2 litres of alcoholic drinks

The following are banned from being imported into Madagascar: Unauthorised firearms and ammunition, and endangered species (unless accompanied by a CITES permit). Plants, fruit and vegetables require a phytosanitary certificate.

What is the currency in Madagascar?

The official currency of Madagascar since January 1, 2005 is the Malagasy Ariary (MGA). Check OANDA for the latest exchange rates.

Most major currencies, including Euros, Pounds Sterling and Dollars can be exchanged at banks in the majority of cities. People offering to exchange money for you on the streets are unofficial sellers and will not usually offer good rates. Traveller’s cheques can be difficult to exchange and usually do not have very good exchange rates. There are some ATMs in the capital (Antananarivo) but these usually only accept VISA and give out a maximum of around USD $170.

What do things cost in Madagascar?

Madagascar is very cheap to visit and most travellers will find that their money goes much further than they had expected. A simple double room in a guesthouse usually comes in at around USD $10-15, while a more upmarket hotel will cost about USD $20-30. Food can be found for as little as USD$1 and a full meal with a beer won’t set you back more than about USD $5-7 depending on how much you eat.

What sort of plugs do I need for Madagascar and what is the voltage?

In Madagascar the standard voltage is 127/220 V and the plugs required are those with two circular prongs.

Is WiFi widely available in Madagascar?

WiFi is reasonably easy to find in Madagascar with most restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels offering a connection. Please note that the speed and security of the connection in Madagascar may be inferior to what you are used to back home.

What time zone is Madagascar on?

Madagascar is 3 hours ahead of GMT and does not observe daylight savings.

See Also

Check out the following useful resources to help plan your visit to Madagascar:

Best Places to Visit - national parks and more not to be missed
Best Time to Visit - Madagascar's climate and seasons
Tourist Visas - what you need to know prior to travelling to Madagascar