General information

Time difference       

In Madagascar, the clock never changes time. From April to November, the local time is GMT+2. From November to April the local time is GMT+3. This means you will have no problems with Jetlag when traveling to Madagascar.       

Language       

Malagasy and French are the two official languages in Madagascar. French is spoken in the larger cities. In smaller towns and villages, only Malagasy will be understood. English is not often spoken in Madagascar, although a good range of specialized English-speaking guides is available.        

Embassy of the Republic of Madagascar in The United Kingdom        

33, Stadium Street       

SW10 OPU       

LONDON       

Tel: +44/20.77.51.44.10     

Fax: +44/20.73.51.67.57       

Website: www.embassy-madagascar-uk.com        

Travel documents       

You will need to be in possession of an international passport that is valid for 6 more months after your return flight from Madagascar. At arrival at the International Airport of Antananarivo (Ivato), a free tourist visa will be offered for any period up to 30 days. You will need no pictures for this free visa. This situation can change. Please inform before your departure.        

Once in Madagascar, we advice you to keep your passport with you at all times. Carrying a copy will not be seen as valid identification. Neither will your home identification card. In the capital and during your journey, passport checks can occur.        

Money       

Cash:        

The local currency is called Malagassy Ariary (MGA). This currency can not be changed in your country so please make sure to change back this currency in €, $ or £ before departure. You will find 2 money changers in the International Airport of Antananarivo (Ivato). They open for every arrival and departure.        

Changing money on the black market is illegal and risky. Most hotels will not accept or change foreign currency. If they do, they will charge a commission. Banks and moneychangers open from 8.30am to 12 and from 2pm to 4pm from Monday to friday. Some banks in the larger cities open on Saturday morning. Sunday everything is closed. The Euro is the most accepted foreign currency. Banknotes of 50€ and more have a better rate than the smaller notes. They need to be in good shape, without cuts or tears. US Dollars are accepted in the capital if recent notes. Outside the capital it will be more difficult to change them. At time of writing, the rate was: 1£ = 3.150 Ariary, 1€ = 2.700 Ariary and 1US$ = 2.050 Ariary.        

Traveller’s Cheques:        

Traveller’s cheques are not very popular in Madagascar. They will only be accepted in larger banks, but it might take you hours to change them. The rate will be significantly lower than the cash rate.        

Credit cards:        

In the capital Antananarivo and some larger cities, you can withdraw money with your Visa-card. Banks such as BNI-Crédit Agricole, BFV-Société Générale, BMOI-BNP and Crédit Lyonnais have ATM machines. The maximum amount will be 400.000 Ar (+/- 160 €), but you can withdraw several times in a row. Some luxury hotels in the capital accept Visa payments, but you might have to add a commission to the amount. Outside the capital, most hotels, shops and businesses don’t accept credit cards. If they do, you will have to add a hefty commission. American Express and other credit cards are not accepted in Madagascar.        

Bank cards:        

It is possible to withdraw money with your bank card if it has the Cirrus or Maestro service. A few hotels in the capital Antananarivo accept payments with bank cards. You might have to pay a commission.       

Time of flight       

The direct flight from Paris takes about 10 hours and 30 minutes. They are no straight flights from London to Madagascar.        

Departure tax        

You don’t need to pay a departure tax when leaving Madagascar.        

Luggage        

International flights:        

You have the right to carry 30 kg of main luggage and 12 kg of hand luggage for international flights to Madagascar. If you have excess luggage, the airline might charge you for that (10 to 12 €/Kg one-way trip). When leaving Madagascar, please pay attention not to carry any liquids in your hand luggage. Security regulations are the same as in European airports.        

Domestic flights:       

You have the right to carry 20 kg of main luggage and 5 kg of hand luggage for domestic flights to Madagascar. If you have excess luggage, the airline might charge you for that (+/- 2 €/Kg one-way trip). Depending on your time schedule, it can be possible to leave a part of your luggage in the hotel near the International Airport of Antananarivo (Ivato). They are no deposit boxes or deposit service in the International Airport of Antananarivo (Ivato).        

Health        

When travelling to Madagascar, no vaccinations are compulsory unless you travelled to a country where yellow fever is present during the last 6 months. In this case, they might ask you a certification of vaccination against yellow fever.        

We advice you to take precautions against malaria. This tropical disease, caused by a mosquito bite is present in some regions of Madagascar. Please consult your doctor for malaria prophylaxis and eventual (non compulsory) vaccinations.        

People who need medicines are advised to take every with them when travelling to Madagascar. Most medicines can be found on the Island, but only in the capital city and prices are very high.        

It might be useful to carry a small travel pharmacy box in your luggage. Bring something against diarrhea, some paracetamol and something against wound infections (Betadine). You can also ask your doctor to prescribe some broad spectrum antibiotics.        

We advice you not to drink tap water in Madagascar. Bottled water can be found everywhere for a very reasonable price.        

Climate        

From April to November there is very little rain in Madagascar. Only the eastern part of Madagascar gets some showers during this period. During winter months of July and August, day temperatures on the Highlands are cooler (18°C). In extreme cases night temperatures can go down to 0°C in Antsirabe. For this same period day temperatures on the coastal regions are seldom lower than 22°C. Night temperatures go down to 12°C in those regions. We advice you to take warm clothing during this period.        

Most rain falls between December and March. On the highlands, it mostly rains in the late afternoon. In the Southern regions it doesn’t rain so often, even during the rainy season. From January to March there is a risk of cyclones. The eastern coast is the most vulnerable to cyclones.        

Please consult our climate table for more information about temperatures.        

Climate table        

Average day temperatures     

City Jan Feb Mrch Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Antananarivo 28 26 25 25 23 21 20 21 23 25 26 26
Antsirabe 25 24 24 24 22 20 19 19 21 24 25 25
Diego Suarez 30 30 31 31 30 29 29 29 30 31 32 31
Fianarantsoa 26 26 25 25 23 20 20 20 23 25 26 26
Fort Dauphin 32 32 32 31 29 27 27 28 29 29 30 31
Ifaty 32 32 32 31 29 27 27 28 29 29 30 31
Ranohira (Isalo) 31 31 31 30 28 25 25 26 27 29 29 30
Morondava 32 32 32 32 31 29 29 29 30 31 32 32
Nosy Be 31 31 32 32 31 30 30 30 31 32 32 32
Sainte Marie 29 29 29 27 25 23 23 24 25 27 29 29
Tamatave 30 30 30 29 27 26 25 25 26 27 28 29
Tuléar 32 32 32 31 29 27 27 28 29 29 30 31

 

Travel insurance        

We advice you to take a travel Insurance when travelling to Madagascar. Please make sure repatriation is included in this Insurance. Make sure the type of trip and the destination is covered by your insurance.        

Insurance against cancellation        

This Insurance will cover you when you have to cancel your trip due to unforeseen circumstances. Think of a sudden loss of a family member, the loss of your job, sudden damage to your house, … Because the budget of a journey to Madagascar is considerably important, we advice you to consider this type of insurance.        

Safety        

Generally speaking, Madagascar is a safe country. Just like in European capital cities, you will have to be careful in Antananarivo. Theft is, especially outside the capital, not a common thing and thieves will be punished severely if caught by the local people or the police. Armed robbery or violence is very infrequent in Madagascar, although a small increase has been noticed in recent years. In Antananarivo, you have to be careful for pick-pockets in some busy areas. After dark we advice you to use taxi’s for moving around the capital. They are not expensive and a safe way to go to restaurants or bars.        

Don’t show your wealth or show large amounts of money when paying something in a shop, restaurant or bar. With a little attention you will avoid any problems. Leave your valuables in the safe of your hotel or in your luggage. Most hotels in Antananarivo have small safes in the room. If not, don’t worry, just put your valuables in your luggage and close it.        

During your journey, your driver will be responsible for the luggage and valuables in the vehicle. He will stay with the car and park it safely to avoid any problems. This doesn’t mean that you have to leave money or a wallet on your seat when going on a visit.        

Voltage        

The voltage is 220 Volt in Madagascar. The plug is the French type of plugs.        

Electricity        

In the capital Antananarivo and other cities you will have Electricity night and day. Since a few years Electricity cuts have been infrequent. Coastal cities like Diego Suarez or Tuléar sometimes have to cope with electricity shortage. Also the islands Nosy Be and Sainte Marie can have those problems. If you stay in a mid-range or up market hotel, the place will have its own generator to supply electricity a part of the day or 24 hours. The staff of the hotel will inform you about the time schedule. We advice you to charge you electric supplies as soon as you can to avoid problems, especially when on an adventurous journey.        

Telephone        

It is possible to use your mobile in Madagascar. GSM coverage depends on the region you travel but today a major part of the country is covered. Call costs will depend on your operator but will be fairly expensive. For this reason, Colourful Nature offers a unique (free) service to his travellers. When arriving in Madagascar, you can ask you guide to offer you a local Sim-card that will allow you to call your country for a much better rate.        

Internet        

The Internet is not widely spread in Madagascar. Outside the capital Antananarivo and some larger cities, it can be a problem to find a connection. Some hotels have a connection, in larger cities sometimes even a WIFI connection.        

Travel gear: hard case luggage, soft luggage or backpack?        

When staying in hotels (on a classic tour), you can travel with hard case luggage. For adventurous tours, hard cases will be a hassle, so we advice to take soft luggage or a backpack for those tours. A daypack is always useful on a tour.        

What to bring?        

A daypack is always useful, during a walk or just on tour in the vehicle. It can be used to carry a lunchbox, water bottle, camera, travel documents, sunglasses, sun lotion, a rain coat or binoculars. It will avoid you to open your main luggage (and loose precious time) when on the road.        

Don’t forget to bring warm clothing during the winter months. Most people underestimate the winter temperatures in tropical countries. Especially the early morning and evenings can be cold.        

 Bring a rain coat when travelling to Madagascar. Some regions get rain quite often.        

 Another very important thing: bring is good walking shoes with a good grip. Depending on the regions and the vegetation, trekking sandals can be good too.        

If you plan trekkings in the tropical forest (most journeys to Madagascar), it is wise to bring shirts with long sleeves and long trousers to avoid insect bites. Of course you can always use insect repellent. Those products are available in specialized shops or your pharmacy.        

Eating and drinking        

Food:        

Madagascar is a stunning country when it comes to food. You will be amazed by the high standard of French cuisine available throughout the island. Madagascar has been colonized by the French for more than 60 years and this is one of the good things they left behind. It will probably surprise you to see duck breast or magret de canard, foie gras or banana flambée on the menu, but this is Madagascar. Most restaurants offer French, European, Chinese, Creole and local dishes.        

A few local dishes: Romazava (beef stew in bouillon with local vegetables), Ravitoto (porc stew with minced manioc leaves), kitoza (strips of smoked beef with rice and beans). The national dessert is called Koba (made with rice and peanuts, wrapped in banana leaves), often sold along the streets.        

Meat lovers will particularly enjoy there stay in Madagascar. The local beef, called zebu is very tasty.        

When visiting local markets in Madagascar, you will notice the large variety of vegetables and fruits. Those fresh products will be served in restaurants and hotels. If you are on an adventurous journey and decide to stay in basic hotels, you might have slightly less variety than in larger hotels and restaurants, but the food will be very tasty too. In local restaurants they will serve chicken, beef (zebu), tilapia (fish) or prawns with a very tasty sauce, mostly served with rice, but sometimes you can also get potatoes or manioc. In those restaurants, they will probably serve you a little plate with “achards”, a small vegetable salad prepared in vinegar.        

If you choose our camping option, your cook will buy all the fresh products on local markets. People living in the villages around your campsite know your guide or cook will purchase as much as possible from the village. They appreciate that and will offer there best products for our visitors. This is also a way to help the local economy of the villages. Your cook will consult you for the choice of the meals.        

Madagascar has a coastline of almost 5000 km, which means you will have plenty of opportunities to taste seafood. Fresh calamari, crab, prawns but also oysters or “oursins” will be found on the menu.        

Most restaurants also serve crayfish. From the 1st of December to the 31st of March, it is forbidden to catch and sell crayfish because it is their breeding period. Although some restaurants and hotels will ignore this law, we kindly ask you to respect this law and simply respect nature and not to order crayfish during this period.        

People who like fresh tropical fruit will not be disappointed when travelling to Madagascar. Depending on the period you will visit the country (June to September is winter, so less choice), you will find a huge variety of fruit (mango, litchi, pineapple, peaches,…) for very low prices on local markets.        

The kind of breakfast largely depends on the hotel. Some hotels in larger cities offer a buffet style of breakfast with different types of bread, eggs, fruit, cheese, jam, … Most hotels however will serve the French style of breakfast. This means they will serve French baguette or toasted bread, croissants with butter, jam and honey. You will have the choice of coffee, thee or chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). A fruit juice will often be served too.        

Vegetarian        

If you are vegetarian, please tell your guide from the beginning. He or she will inform the restaurants and make sure you will have a good variety of dishes. Only a few hotels and restaurants have vegetarian dishes on their menu. If they don’t, your guide will consult the cook for you. Madagascar has plenty of fruits and vegetables and those fresh products will be served in restaurants and hotels. Of course the variety will depend on the season. Something important to know: all products are still BIO in Madagascar.        

Drinks        

Beer:        

Madagascar has 2 breweries, both enjoying Belgian knowledge. The most popular beer is called THB (Three Horses Beer). This pilsener of 5,4% is sold in bottles of 33cl or 65cl or cans of 33cl. Some hotels, bars or restaurants also have THB draught. Gold and Gold Ambrée, a blond and light brown beer of 6,5% is also available in some hotels, bars and restaurants. Gold is sold in bottles of 33cl and 65cl. Queens, the light version, with less alcohol (4,7%) is only available in bottles of 65cl, but only in a few larger cities. Some places also sell imported beers like Heineken, Beck’s or Phoenix (Mauritius).        

Wine:        

Most hotels offer French and South African wines. Madagascar also produces wine. Some of the “gray” wines (vin gris) or rosé wines are appreciated by tourists (Clos Malazos en Soa Vita).        

Rhum:        

The locals drink rhum. Brown and white rhum are available everywhere. The quality and price varies largely on the place you buy it. The famous “rhum arrange” (fixed rhum) is a typical drink of Madagascar. You will find it in most hotels and restaurants. To make rhum arrange, they put fruits, vegetables, spices or even sweets in a recipient of rhum and let it take over the flavor during several months. Once ready, they add some cane sugar and you can taste it. The rhum arrange vanilla, cynamon, ginger, litchi and pineapple are successful with tourists.        

Soft drinks:        

Coca-cola products are available all over the country. Bottled mineral water is sold in 500ml or 1.5L bottles in every local bar or shop and in restaurants and hotels.        

Coffee and thee:        

Madagascar produces coffee and thee. Those local products are found in hotels and restaurants.        

Cost of living        

Madagascar is not an expensive country and the price-value is great. Of course, prices are lower as in Europe. The price of a meal will depend on the restaurant and the region. In local restaurants, called “gargottes”, you sometimes eat for less than 1€. For this price, they will serve you a huge portion of rice with very little pieces of meat or fish, some vegetables and a piece of fruit. In mid range restaurants, you will pay around 5€ for a dish (zebu filet with chips) and in up market places a dish will cost you 8 to 10€.        

Accommodation        

Tourism is not (yet) enormously developed in Madagascar. For this reason, it is not always possible to offer you luxury hotels on every stop. Sometimes, you will stay in mid range hotels without too much luxury but always with clean bedrooms. We paid particular attention to the cleanness and hygiene of our hotels and restaurants. As much as possible, we try to offer charming little hotels offering a personalized service.        

Classification        

To give you an idea of the level of comfort of our hotels, we made detailed presentations of them. On those presentations, you will notice a detailed description of the hotel but also our personal quotation. Every hotel got a global quotation and detailed quotations for the room (comfort, space, design), the restaurant (hygiene, quality and variety of the dishes, atmosphere) and for the service and facilities (reception desk, staff, room service, laundry, activities).        

Our quotation goes from . to …... In some cases our quotation is more severe than the amount of “stars” the hotel shows. Be aware that there is no official classification of hotels in Madagascar. A hotel can easily put 3 stars on its sign, even when it is only worth 1 or 2. Our classification has been made following personal experiences in the hotels. All hotels have been visited and tested (sleep and eat) by our team to avoid surprises.        

Types of rooms        

Most hotels in Madagascar have no rooms with single beds. In case you booked for a single room, you will mostly get a double room instead. Some hotels have triple rooms or family rooms with a larger capacity. Twin rooms are also available in most places. When booking a Twin room, you will get a room with 2 single beds or a room with 1 single + 1 double bed or even a room with 2 double beds. If you travel with friends and wish to stay in neighboring rooms, please let us know as soon as possible. We will do our best to arrange this for you. This will of course depend on the availability of rooms in the hotels.        

Check-in check-out        

In most hotels your room will be available from 12 o’ clock. Sometimes it is possible to have it earlier. You normally need to check out before noon. Sometimes, the hotel will allow you to stay a bit longer. In case you arrive earlier or leave later, you will get the information about the availability of your room.        

Discount for children        

If children stay in the same room of both paying parents, some hotels will offer a discount for them.        

Guiding        

You will be guided by a professional guide or driver/guide during your journey to Madagascar. He or she will speak English and French. For certain beach extensions, the hotel will be responsible for the excursions. They also dispose of English speaking guides.        

You will have a specialized nature guide for every visit to a national park. Those guides have been trained by the ANGAP (National Association responsible for the Protected Areas). If you have any special interests such as birds, reptiles, orchids, … please let us know so we can plan guides that are specialized in this particular field.        

Camping:        

Some places are so beautiful you just want to sleep on the spot. On those places, we will offer a camping option for people who want to get the most out of Madagascar.        

Camping with Colourful Nature means you actively participate into durable tourism in close collaboration with local communities. On several places we work with local people from the village to offer you a comfortable and safe camping place. All the ingredients and products needed for our camping option are bought in the villages. In some village, local musicians will add a warm atmosphere to make your stay even more unforgettable.        

Photography        

People like to be photographed in Madagascar and they are very photogenic. If you want to take a detailed portrait of someone, it is normal to ask for permission to that person. Sometimes people ask to send them a picture. If you promise to do so, please keep your promise. Sending a picture to someone in Madagascar is a huge present for them. We know by experience that mostly the picture will arrive.        

One of the impressive sights along the roads, are the huge graves. People like to paint portraits, landscapes or stories on them. Some graves are beautiful and you might want to photograph them. Please ask your guide if you are allowed to do this. In some areas it is “fady” (forbidden) to photograph graves or even mountains. Please respect this. Strategic spots such as harbors, airports or military buildings are better avoided too, even if it looks deserted.        

Tips        

You are free to leave a tip whenever you are happy about a service offered to you. Tips can add a nice amount to a local salary and the person will be thankful. Luggage boys, room staff, guides and drivers usually get tips in Madagascar. In the restaurants, tourists normally add something to the bill.        

Holidays in Madagascar        

1st of January: New Year’s Day        

29th of March: Commemoration of the 1947 Rebellion       

25th of April: Easter Monday        

1st of May: Labour Day        

2nd of June: Ascention Day       

26th of June: Independence Day (1960)        

15th of August: Assumption Day       

1st of Novembre: All Saints Day        

25th of December: Christmas Day        

In case an excursion or visit has to be cancelled, we will do our very best to present other options (if available) or try to plan this excursion or visit on another day (if possible).        

Group Minimum and maximum        

We advise to limit groups to a maximum of 18 people. For adventurous tours the maximum number of people per group will be significantly lower. For certain group tours, a minimum of people can be mentioned. In case this number is not reached, we will contact you as soon as possible and present other options.        

Exclusive excursions        

When on a tour with us, you will visit the touristic highlights of the regions where you travel. Next to that, we also want to show you some less touristic, alternative spots that got our attention. We want to bring our visitors to places that are still relatively or completely unknown to tourism. We noticed the contact with local people was even more intens and enjoyable on those spots and want to share some of those places with you.        

Madagascar is bigger than France but only has about 5.000 km tarred roads. This means some regions are isolated or just hard to reach. Whenever we have some time, the Colourful Nature team goes in the bush in search of such places where local tribes still counts our fingers to see if we also have 5. Those little jewels will be studied in our offices to see if it is possible to show them to our visitors. Some National park or even unprotected areas have a huge biodiversity, but nobody visits them. Only a few adventurous researchers go there every year. We see this as an advantage and will put all our logistic skills together to make them accessible for our guests. Therefore, we will not hesitate to use special army vehicles or hire boats and planes.        

Our appreciation sheets        

Colourful Nature listens to their customers. That is why we made detailed appreciation sheets for every visitor. In the beginning of your tour, your guide will give you those sheets. We kindly ask you to return them at the end of your trip with us. On this sheet, you get the chance to give your personal opinion about different parts of the tour (guides, driver, vehicle, hotels, restaurants and lunch boxes,…). There is also some space to write down your comments and eventually your suggestions. Those sheets will be read with attention and if possible, we will adapt our tours to improve them. This sheet is very important for us and we kindly ask our visitors to take a few minutes to fill them. The sheet allows us to keep a high standard and try to improve the quality and diversity of our tours and develop new products for our next visitors.        

Vouchers        

We will give you vouchers after your reservation. Once you are in Madagascar, please hand over those vouchers to your guide. He needs them to check-in in your hotels or for certain visits.        

On those vouchers, you will find some information:        

–   hotel name + address and Telephone number        

–   date of arrival and date of departure        

–   the name or names of the guests        

–   the type of room that has been booked (single, double, triple, family or twin room)        

–   the number of night staying at the hotel        

–   the formule booked: room only (B), Bed and breakfast (B&B), Half board (DP), Full board (PC)        

–   personal requests (neighboring rooms, …)        

–   telephone number of our offices in Antananarivo        

–   name of excursion or visit and company that has to present/organize it