Madagascar Travel Guide
- Everything you need to know for your trip to Madagascar-
Madagascar, officially known as the Republic of Madagascar, is an island country off to Africa’s eastern coast with prosperous land and biodiversity. If you love adventures and spending time in nature, this large island can be a great place to spend your holidays. Every corner of this country is beautiful; some of its beauty can even be seen in Madagascar’s 2005 animation. It has exotic flora and fauna with lovely people and fantastic cuisine. You cannot be a lover of the earth and not visit Madagascar and its wonderous animals and the environment.
Why Visiting Madagascar?
From top to bottom, it is an ideal place for adventures and exploration. The trees and species of animals are unique and perfect for some exceptional pictures. The country has a rich history and traditional areas. After beautiful cities and jungles, it has fantastic beaches and, therefore, the right place for fans of watersports and beaches.
There are extraordinary Baobab Trees in Madagascar, both rare and part of the culture. If you think that is not enough, visit one of the numerous national parks and see the lemurs of Madagascar. If you have seen the 2005 animation called Madagascar, you already know how cute these creatures are.
There are also the natives of the land who are hospitable and have their unique culture. While among them, try their food and some of the souvenir handicrafts and edibles.
Hot, cold, in the jungle, in the desert, in the sea, or in the mountains, you can feel something unique about Madagascar wherever you go. It is a good time to forget about planning for a trip and just enjoy as you go. Do not try to fit this country on a timetable; it is a place to have fun.
On a more general note, you can have a luxury experience, a family-friendly trip, or go backpacking just to discover a country and its people. Get all the relaxing you need on the sands of its beaches or be welcomed into the enchanting beauty of Madagascar’s rainforests.
Madagascar Top Destinations
Best Time to Visit Madagascar
It is difficult to say when is the best time to visit Madagascar as the climate of this 230,000 square mile island varies in different regions. It is generally a tropical country with a lot of rain and occasional cyclones. You cannot clearly say Madagascar has two seasons or more because the weather can always surprise you. Although the west and south of the country has a relatively calmer climate, it still gets its fair share of rain and challenging weather.
You better check the forecast according to the type of activity you desire. If you love harsh weather and rain, the Wet Season of Madagascar is better for you. Other than that, you can visit in the time that can be called a Dry Season in Madagascar.
Wet Season (October – April)
Temperature: 12°C (53.6°F) – 29°C (84.2°F)
Having less rain at the beginning and the end of the Wet Season makes it a good opportunity to visit the wildlife in lower temperatures. Rain becomes heavier slowly and gives you time to prepare for different weather. As the rains become more frequent, the temperature rises and the warmth becomes pleasing. Near April the rains become less, and the environment becomes green and full of life.
Where to Visit in Wet Season?
During the Wet Season of Madagascar, it is best to visit the west and south areas to be less bothered by rain and harsh climate. It becomes much better for taking pictures and catching the sunset and sunrise as you move into the country’s drier parts, but you have to bring appropriate clothes as you travel.
Dry Season (May – September)
Temperature: 10°C (50°F)- 28°C (82.4°F)
Having several months of warm weather and rain, it becomes ideal for visiting wildlife and seeing the animals. You get the best experience of seeing the animals and visiting the National Parks of Madagascar. You can roam more freely across the island and visit any of the places you like. You still have to wear appropriately to protect yourself from the sun and the temperature.
Where to Visit in Dry Season?
The dry season gets some peak times for the number of tourists, but it is also the best weather to see most of the highlights in nature. You get the best view of the animals and possibly get better chances to see the whales near the dry season’s end. You can mostly visit all of Madagascar, just keep in mind that possible rains and different temperatures in various parts are always possible.
Best Madagascar Tours
Things to Do in Madagascar
The stone forest of Tsingy de Bemaraha is a formation of limestone seabed formed 200 million years ago. First, the waters and then the winds shaped these exotic formations of stone where you can walk today. You cannot precisely walk on the rocks as the name “Tsingy” of this area of the national park translates to “the place where one cannot walk.” You will be walking on bridges and with the help of cables and pathways to help you cross. Walk in the Stone Forest of Tsingy de Bemaraha and discover the planet’s changes after millions of years.
Discover the ‘Tree of Life’ at Avenue of the Baobabs
For hundreds of years, Madagascar’s natives have relied on the Baobab trees for food and the large amounts of water they store. The now endangered species of these trees can grow about a hundred feet and several feet in diameter with an odd look that is only seen in this region. They are found all around Madagascar despite being endangered and always attract tourists, especially on the Avenue of the Baobabs.
One thing that is easy for all and certainly a memorable experience is moving in this avenue in the country’s western regions. Pack your camera and find your angel, and make sure to make this visit.
Hike at the Isalo National Park
The lands inside the Isalo National park of Madagascar are sacred areas to the natives and the best parts near the south for hiking. The landscape is filled with a wide variety of terrains such as grasslands, canyons, rivers, palm-lined oases, and more. There are hundreds of species of animals, birds, and plants. Some of the Isalo National Park’s lovely inhabitants are the lemurs, which can be seen if you are lucky.
It is a trendy part of Madagascar, and chances are, you will meet other tourists because of the flora, fauna, and scenery. Discover as much of the park as you can, and be sure to wear appropriate clothes under the sun and proper shoes for walking. Bring some water, and be sure to have a guide to get the best of this journey.
Have Your Best Vacation in Nosy Be
Nosy Be is the largest and most popular volcanic island of Madagascar that is also the tourists’ favorite place. Its white sands and beautiful waters are fantastic for anything you want to do on the beach or sea. You can even go swimming with the sharks, which is one of the tops things people would do in Nosy Be.
This island can get busy and a little expensive, but it can also be your ideal vacation when traveling with your family or friends. But it can also be the right place for adventures and fans of scuba diving as there are amazing sea creatures in the nearby waters.
Spend Some Time in Antananarivo and Explore
Ever since the 17th century, the city of Antananarivo, or Tana, as the locals call it, has been Madagascar’s capital. This capital thrived and even became a cultural hub of the entire country, especially during the rapid developments of the 19th century and colonial times.
What remains of that time are buildings and parts of town with old colonial texture and architecture that attract visitors. Other than that, there is the Crocodile Farm to see as an exotic part of Antananarivo. Whatever you want to do in the city, do not forget to explore it and visit its tourist sites.
See More of the Beautiful Environment at Andasibe-Mantadia
As soon as you head out of Madagascar’s capital, move toward east and the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. This rainforest with an area of more than 60 square miles is the perfect place to see some of the protected species of animals not seen anywhere else. The highlight in the Andasibe-Mantadia is given to the beautiful Lemurs that live here until their numbers grow to be free again. Other than these lovely creatures, you should go around and see the impressive forest and enjoy the environment while there.
Trek in the Tropical Rainforest of Ranomafana National Park
If you want to go to a very enchanting place and see even more of Madagascar’s animals, one other favorite of tourists is the Ranomafana National Park. It is easily accessible and not too challenging, even if it gets your clothes dirty. The beauty of the Ranomafana National Park is exceptional and, with its 12 species of lemur and all other kinds of animals, it makes for a great adventure.
The morning or evening trek in the Ranomafana National Park is among the top things people do. You might think it gets crowded, but you can hardly make the approximately 160 square mile park that is filled with visitors.
Relax on the Beaches of Île Sainte Marie
Nosy Boraha or Île Sainte Marie is the counterpart of Nosy Be that is cheaper and more relaxed and, a much different history. This place is near the Indian Ocean and a great place to visit the sea creatures or just lay back and relax. If you are up for a little exploring, you may also visit the Pirate Cemetery of the 17th century. There are several things, which make a visit to the Île Sainte Marie so fantastic in Madagascar. Among them are diving, exploring, simplicity of Île Sainte Marie, peculiar history, and seeing the whales above all else.
It has become a favorite of all to come here and see the beaches of Île Sainte Marie and the migrating whales. You can visit during autumn and winter to see them coming to mate and have a ‘vacation’ of sorts.
Explore the Amber Mountain National Park
Madagascar is all about biodiversity and fantastic scenery. Another place like a paradise in Madagascar that you should visit is the Amber Mountain National Park, filled with impressive waterfalls and lakes. If the other parks are mostly about animals, this one is most beautiful regarding the environment and its journey. Explore around and do not be afraid to get a little dirty. It would be more recommendable for this visit to have a local guide to show you where to go and help you around.
Taste the Cuisine of Madagascar
The food in Madagascar and the Malagasy Cuisine is not something you can forego in a visit to this place. They have flavorful and traditional dishes that are both amazing and healthy. They also get a lot of influence from Asia and France, using several of their recipes and ingredients to make stuff that you have not seen anywhere else.
Meat, vegetables, spices, and herbs, whatever you need can be found in Madagascar and can be cooked to perfection. Therefore, keep their food into consideration and have the idea of trying their local cuisine as part of the tops things to do in Madagascar.
Local Transportation in Madagascar
You might want to choose urban taxies as the primary means of transportation in the city as they are not expensive and much more comfortable. The prices in US Dollars are also down and need no negotiations, and you rarely see scams.
A popular means of transportation in the cities of Madagascar is the Pousses-Pousses that is not very expensive. The prices should not go higher than 2000 Ariary but expect to see higher than normal fees at night or during rain.
This kind of urban taxi is just like the Pousses-Pousses, except it is attached to a cycle for more speed. This bonus in speed makes it slightly pricier than the Pousses-Pousses, but it is still cheap.
Intercity Transportation in Madagascar
Taxi-brousse, aka Bush taxis or Taxi-bes, are means of transportation that travel between cities or sometimes inside a city. They are large vehicles and mostly crowded (they need to get a large amount of load to start moving) and are not very clearly recognizable. You need to look for their stops and ask locals to tell you where they are and where they will take you. They are relatively cheap as compared to the distance they take you, but they are rather slow. If you want to enjoy the scenery of your journey, you can choose this type of transport.
There do not run regularly, and therefore you cannot get a fixed arrival and departure time. The cars and the rails are a bit old and uncomfortable. They can take you to some of Madagascar’s major areas, but their destinations and stations are limited and need developments. This option is not very expensive, but it is also not seen as an excellent way of traveling, and thus the trains are mostly used to transport cargo rather than people.
If you prefer to go around as fast as possible, getting on an airplane is the fastest option. But this option comes with limitations as you can probably just go long distances or from one major city to the other. If you have a time limit, planes can help you significantly.
Flight Deals to Madagascar
Madagascar Travel Costs
The prices for snacks and drinks are relatively low and around 3000 ariary. As for the meals, you can spend an average of 18000 ariary for a meal which is almost $5 US dollars. On average, you can spend about $26 US dollars a day (single) for a meal, drink, and perhaps even a side dish.
You can spend about $300+ to get a luxurious hotel in Madagascar, which means it is mostly cheap compared to many other destinations. You can get a mid-range place to stay and enjoy your trip, or if you plan to go on a budget, you can spend so little on accommodations.
The prices for transportation are the same for locals and tourists. If you need a ticket, buy your ticket from a booth and ask for a receipt to avoid touts. The transportation price depends on the distance, duration, and route, but they are not high. If you are traveling within the city, you might pay a maximum of 5000 ariary. The fee for traveling between cities is also not very much.
Low-end ($30-50/day) A really strict budget traveler can pay as low as $10 a day if they travel alone. If they also do not drink and stay off the more expensive activities, they can travel with as little as $30-35 US dollars per day.
Mid-range (US $65-150/day) For travelers who want to take better transportation and relax, drink and eat appropriately and also get a decent hostel or hotel room. Mid-range travelers will still have to travel with cheap transportations.
Top-end (US $150+/day) For people who want to travel fast around the country and take a flight to the next destination and stay at luxury hotels.
Hotels in Madagascar
Find the best hotels in Madagascar using our best price search engine, or go with one of our All-inclusive tours with 4 Star hotels included. You can book our guaranteed hotels for your extra accommodation; before or after your tour days.
Madagascar Travel Tips
If you visit during the Wet Season when it is warmer, you may need to take some health tips from a doctor. One of these tips is about preventing Malaria and getting vaccinated for possible disorders. If you have any allergies or need to take possible medications with you, you must consult with a doctor before traveling to Madagascar.
If you do not like the idea of using public transportation, you can hire a driver and rent a car. This will cost you, but at least you have the freedom to go where you please at any time you desire. Driving in Madagascar will need a bit of getting used to, but it is not impossible.
Safety is not a significant concern in Madagascar, but you need to be careful. If you are careful enough and mind your stuff, you will have no problems. Do not leave your stuff like money and electronics unattended. Otherwise, you should be fine. Do not stay out during the night, and nothing out of the ordinary will happen.
The weather is diverse in this country. You will need to be prepared for heavy rains and dry and warm days. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to fight the possible heat of the day. Have waterproof clothes for the showers and bring good walking shoes as you will be trekking and hiking in many places. If the weather is suitable, bring something comfortable, pack for unusual activities, and always check the forecast.
There are cultural aspects and taboos to know which require some level of knowledge. It is best to have a guide to tell you these things and to show you around. If you do not want a guide, read about the people as much as possible, and perhaps bring your own guide book. Other than that, there is the necessity of having a guide with you in some places. It is easy to find local guides for such sites, but if you must, avoid these areas.
Tap water is not purified in Madagascar, and you need to stick to mineral or purified bottled water. You should also avoid eating ice if you are not sure about its water. In an ideal situation, you can bring a purifier.
Budget travelers and people who visit mid-range restaurants are advised to eat if the food is fresh and served very hot. If you can check the water with which your meal is prepared, that would be even better. High-end restaurants and eateries will not need such precautions.
You will need to learn a little French as well as a bit of Malagasy. You will not get serious problems, but there is a chance that not many people will understand English.
|Madagascar’s country code||261|
|Mobile prefix||032, 033 or 034|
|Police & Medical Emergency & Fire Department||117|
Currency & Money Tips
The best place to exchange into the local currency of Ariary (MGA) is the main bank of Madagascar called Bank of Africa (BOA). Besides, you can also look for BNI Madagascar or Banky Fampandrosoana’ny Varotra-Société Générale (BFV-SG).
- The most common way to exchange money is to go to one of the banks.
- Some hotels may also exchange for you.
- You also exchange as soon as you get to the airports of Madagascar.
If you use other exchange offices’ services, be sure to check the rates and count your money. There are rare occasions of fraud and possible mistakes.
As soon as you see an ATM, make sure to withdraw some cash because credit cards rarely ever work. The best option is to have your Visa card and make such a withdrawal with this card. Mastercard is also accepted in many ATMs and banks but not as easily as Visa.
Check the Currency
It is possible to see some odd prices on some items in the cities. It is because the local currency has been changing several times in the past decades. The official currency is Ariary (MGA), but you may still see prices in the other currencies as well. In such places, you might need to check the rates and do the math.
Food & Drink (Malagasy Food)
Madagascar or Malagasy cuisine is one of the best things in the country that every traveler should try. Their food tastes lovely because of all the fresh local ingredients and perhaps the love they put in their food. They love rice and meat, so it is not odd to see them so much in their cuisine. They also have a wide range of dishes to make you want to eat more. Seafood, vegetables, soups, or salads, try them all and enjoy your experience with their food culture.
The number one of the dishes you must try in Madagascar is their traditional Romazava. This dish is usually made with beef, but you may also find other types of meat in the Romazava. It is brazed in a special sauce prepared with tomato and vegetables that will make the meat melt in your mouth. It is full of spices and then served with rice, which is always a part of their cuisine. You can save it for last as it is perhaps their best traditional food, but in any case, do not forget to try it.
Mofo Gasy is a famous bread that also looks like pancakes eaten by the locals as a popular breakfast. This bread is made with flour, sugar, and rice. You can also try it as a street snack as you walk, but be sure to try it as part of your breakfast and perhaps have some coffee with it. Some locals also add their own unique ingredients to make it tastier, which means you have to eat this bread more than once as you travel.
Traditionally, Madagascar’s people love meat and, therefore, they have a simple dish of beef called Zebu. Now you may be wondering what is so special about a plate of beef if it is so simple! Zebu is not found anywhere on the planet as it is made from the meat of Madagascar’s local cows. It can be cooked in the same way as other types of beef, but it is also considered a traditional meal since this cow is not found anywhere else. The taste is excellent, and Zebu can be served as a standalone dish or mixed in any other kind of their cuisine.
Another favorite of the Malagasy is originally a vegetarian meal, but it can also go with beef or pork. It is basically mashed cassava leaves that can have room for spices and other regional herbs or unique local ingredients. Try it several times and try it with different types of meat to enjoy it as much as possible.
Madagascar’s people indeed love their meat, but they also have some vegetarian dishes, and one of them is Lasary. You can usually see tomatoes, carrots, green beans, cabbage, and onions, either served fresh or pickled and topped with spice or a touch of vinegar. And since they also love rice, you can sometimes see rice inside the dish, which adds to its already delicious food. It was traditionally used as a side dish, but it can be a fantastic meal for a vegetarian traveler. Even if you are not a vegetarian, you must have some tasty Lasary as it is relatively healthy and delicious.
Madagascar can easily be a paradise if you love meat, especially with their famous poultry blood sausage known as Sesika. Sesika can look like black pudding that has a great deal of spice. You will usually see it served with rice and beans, and the entire mix taste simply amazing. If you love meat and love new things, Sesika is the ideal meal of your time in this country. Fall in love with this part of Malagasy cuisine and perhaps have some of their famous beer.
Lasopy is a famous and hearty vegetable soup with a little bit of meat for extra taste. These vegetables and meat soup pieces are best served and eaten hot and can even be performed before your main meal. It is quite tasty with its tomatoes, carrots, turnips, beans, onions, potatoes, and leeks. Other than its vegetables, it has a bit of spice, but it is not intolerable. It is very healthy and a great dish to give you some energy to exploring the country.
Akoho Sy Voanio
Another delicious meal that is served with rice and on special occasions is the Akoho Sy Voanio. It is flavorful and rich in nutrients that make it ideal for their celebrations. The meat in an Akoho Sy Voanio is marinated and cooked and then put on fire with the rest of its marvelous vegetables and spices. The ingredients are fresh, and the meat will melt in your mouth after it is prepared and served. You will have some of their special sauce with the meal but before you taste the sauce, be sure to try the already mouthwatering Akoho Sy Voanio.
Laoka is mostly known as a variety of side dishes that are served with rice. Since it has cassava leaves, peanuts, groundnuts, and other vegetables, it is considered a vegetarian food, but it can sometimes be served with meat and seafood. If you prefer the vegetarian version, be sure to check before you order the Laoka. It can also contain an optional sauce and spice next to it. This flavorful and aromatic Laoka of the Malagasy is not something you can say no to.
Nem- Crispy Finger Food of Madagascar
Nem is a trendy small snack of Madagascar. It is a crispy and deep-fried roll that is filled with vegetables and beef. It always has beef, but the rest of the fillings can vary. You usually see cabbage, onion, potato, and leaks in a Nem. The Nem looks simple to prepare, but it is a bit difficult to make. As you walk and explore, be sure to get some of these delicious and crispy snacks from Madagascar’s street vendors.
You Want More?
While we gave you our top 10 recommendations, there is always more to expect in Madagascar if you are ready to try new things. While exploring and looking for new options, keep an eye out for some Mofo Anana snacks and try their popular Koba Akondro desserts as well. If you want something to drink with your snacks and meals, also consider their beer and famous coffee with what you eat.
Mobile & Internet
SIM cards’ availability and coverage are excellent in Madagascar, and they are still expanding. You can quickly get a card and data at reasonable prices as soon as you arrive or before arriving. Just keep in mind that these ‘credit’ SIM cards come with an expiration date, and you cannot keep them for so long.
The best company
There are three leading providers in Madagascar, known as Airtel, Telma, and Orange. They offer similar rates and satisfactory services, but the most popular has always been Airtel.
Where to buy it?
Anywhere! You can get one at the airport as soon as you get off or find one in a market or even at street vendors. But if you purchase a SIM card in the streets, stay and make sure it is unlocked and usable.
- Airtel SIM card (2000 Ar – $1)
- 2 GB Data (30000 Ar – $8)
- Activation code for data: *114*49#
- The amount of texts and calls depends on your credit
- Credit can be recharged at hotels, restaurants, and shops.
Holidays & Festivals
Some of the holidays in Madagascar, like Id Al Fitr are based on the Lunar Islamic calendar and other holidays are based on the Gregorian calendar.
|Holiday||Date 2021||Date 2022|
|New Year’s Day||1-Jan||1-Jan|
|Women’s Day *||8-Mar||8-Mar|
|Id al Fitr *||13-May||2-May|
|Id al Adha *||20-Jul||9-Jul|
|All Saints’ Day||1-Nov||1-Nov|
Shopping in Madagascar
Your best bet is to purchase at the government stores and at the malls to get fixed prices and less need for haggling. They provide most of the items you can buy as a souvenir. If you prefer to spend some time at the local markets, that is also fun but needs more negotiating and haggling. Before you buy anything, make sure it does not require a permit for export.
The most popular souvenir you can buy in Madagascar is the Baobab Seed to grow your own tree. It requires a lot of care and a great deal of patience to see the results of a journey to this beautiful country.
Cinnamon, ginger, and helichrysum essential oils are among the aromatic souvenirs that you can bring home. It can be used at home or serve as a gift for loved ones.
Among the fine products of Madagascar is their Madagascan Coffee. Their Robusta coffee is so good that it is among their exported products. If you love coffee or have a coffee lover at home, you can make them very happy with this souvenir.
Antemoro Paper of Madagascar is an exotic souvenir that has been part of their history and culture for centuries. They are not white, and they sometimes come with designs made with dried flowers.