Madagascar is an island state which includes the big island itself and several smaller islands in the Indian Ocean and Diego Suarez Bay. The capital city is Antananarivo.
On the south of Madagascar, the climate is dry, in the central part, it is temperate maritime and on the east of the country, the climate is tropical monsoon. The best time for visiting Madagascar is from may to October.
The indigenous population are the Malagasy people. There are three official languages in Madagascar: Malagasy, English, and French. Half of the population practice traditional religious cults, about 45% of the people are the Christians, and 7% are the followers of the Islam.
Madagascar is an ideal place for ecological tourism, boat trips, beach and active holidays. Divers should head to the south-western part of the island. Geographic conditions of the coast make it perfect for yachting, surfing, kitesurfing and windsurfing, and climbing. Among some other active entertainments on Madagascar are rafting, snorkelling, trekking, motorcycle rides, underwater hunting, and sports fishing. The tourists can also visit the caves.
The lovers to relax on a beach can choose from such resorts as Antsirabe, Morondava, the Saint Marie Island, and Nosy Ben. On the north of the island, there is the city of Antsiranana formerly known as Diego-Suarez. Those who like out-of-town holidays and hiking should visit the Amber Mountain National Park and the Ankarana Reserve.
Fashionistas will enjoy shopping in the shops and markets in the port city Mahajanga. In Mahajanga, anyone can see the Mahafanina falls, the remnants of the castle Rova of Antananarivo, and the Graveyard of ships.
A flight is the only way for the travellers from CIS and EU countries to get to Madagascar.
The flights from Moscow to Antananarivo are not regular. It is more convenient to take a flight to Paris and then to Madagascar. The total travel time is from 11 to 13 hours.
There are the flights to Madagascar from the Comoros and the Seychelles.
One can get from the Continent to Madagascar by coastal vessels. International cruise ships also arrive at the port in the Madagascar city Toamasina.
The CIS and European citizens must obtain a visa to travel to Madagascar.
There are two variants to obtain a visa:
- submit the documents to the Embassy of Madagascar;
- get a visa at the airport in Antananarivo on arrival.
A visa at the airport is issued for thirty days for free. If the tourists want to stay on the island for a longer time, they should pay a charge.
In addition to standard documents, the embassy official may require some other documents. The consulate charge is paid either are the embassy or at the airport in Antananarivo.
If you plan to travel to Madagascar, make sure you know the Customs rules.
Foreign currency can be imported and exported without restrictions but the money must be declared. The import of national currency is limited to 5.000 Malagasy francs. The tourists are allowed bring in alcohol and cigarettes.
It is prohibited to import:
- golden bars and gems;
- products made of crocodile leather;
- products made of skins, horns, hoofs, and bones of exotic animal.
It is prohibited to export from Madagascar:
- Madagascar plants and seeds;
- exotic animals and stuffed animals.
The Malagasy cuisine is unique because it uses unusual ingredients. Some plants, spices, and meat can be found only here. Madagascar is a dream place for foodies who prefer exotic food.
The restaurants in Madagascar will impress even the most experienced travellers. The Malagasy people are not afraid to experiment and will offer to you a mix of seafood and meat. Do not miss a chance to try Henakiso sy armalona (amazingly delicious pork with eel). Although, the Malagasy people consider zebu a sacred bull, a grilled steak from zebu is a hallmark of the local restaurants. You cannot stay in Madagascar and do not try a very tender zebu fillet.
The Malagasy people roast, grill, air-dry, and smoke meat. They serve meat with hot and savoury sauces. It is impossible to make the same sauce outside the island. We recommend jerk pork with garlic, curry, and coriander (traditional Malagasy spices).
The locals usually cook seafood over the open fire. Rice is served as a side dish and it is also used in salads. Some other popular ingredients for the salads are local herbs, fresh prawns, poultry, vegetables, and beans. A salad Ro is extremely popular here. It includes herbs. Exotic spices, cassava leaves, and rice.
The best way to refresh oneself is to drink lychee juice. Those who prefer more typical fruits can order strawberry, pineapples, and bananas.
For those who have a sweet tooth, it will be hard to resist the temptation of sweet fruits and a dessert Godro-godro (rice and coconut pudding with vanilla, coriander, and cardamom).
On the island, they have natural mineral water. Tea and coffee are popular among the locals. As for alcoholic drinks, the tourists can try rum, locally brewed beer, and wine. If you want something exotic, try coconut wine Trembo and rum Toaka gasy.
The national currency in Madagascar is the Ariary.
Until 2005 the official currency was the Malagasy franc and it is still in circulation. Do not forget to ask the seller in what currency is the price for the goods, in ariary or in francs.
To exchange the currency the tourists must provide the declaration where the exchanged sum is fixed. The tourists can exchange the currency in exchange offices or in hotels. It is illegal to exchange the currency on the street.
Credit cards are accepted in the capital city, on large resorts, in airline companies, travel agencies, supermarkets, and hotels.
One can cash travellers checks art banks and in hotels. The tourists can pay with checks in some shops, travel agencies, and airline companies.
In Madagascar, the tax-free system is available. The tourists can refund the VAT for purchasing the following goods:
- alcohol (2 litres);
- perfume (2 bottles);
- cigarettes (2 blocks).
One can pay for tax-free goods with cash (Euro and US dollars) or with a credit card.
Due to the local crisis which occurred in January 2009, the criminal situation in Madagascar deteriorated.
Details of interest
Planning your travel to Madagascar, it will be useful to learn more about the traditions of the people on the island.
Customs and traditions on the island
The Malagasy people respect their ancestors. They believe that people’s soul is reincarnated as animals. Zebu is a sacred animal in Madagascar however, the Malagasy people consume its meat.
In Madagascar, to some extent matriarchy still exists. Women take an active part in the life of the island and occupy leading positions. However, women are not recommended being in crowded places alone.
The life of the Malagasy people is greatly influenced by Fady (taboo). If the tourists do not observe or violate Fady, it can lead to a serious conflict.
Sightseeing in Madagascar
- The Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve with unique karst landscapes and xerophytes. The Reserve is also the habitat for the endangered species of lemurs Avahi cleesei.
- The Royal Hill of Ambohimanga in the province Antananarivo. The hill preserved the burial sites of previous rulers of Madagascar and some archaeological objects of the 15th century.
- The Rainforests of the Atsinanana are situated in the Eastern part of the island. This unique place was formed about 60 million years ago. About 80% of the fauna and flora here can be found only in Madagascar.
- 50 kilometres away from Antananarivo, there are some extinct volcanoes. The Ankaratra Volcano still strikes terror into the hearts of the Malagasy people.
Souvenirs in Madagascar
Buying a memorable souvenir is the best end of the travel. You can buy all types of souvenirs on the market in Antananarivo from jewellery and handmade craft to species, bright textile, and national clothes lamba. This is the second largest market in the world.