Madagascar Travel Guide
Located off the coast of East Africa, Madagascar is about as isolated as you can get – which makes for an exciting destination filled with endemic species that cannot be found elsewhere in the world. As for the terrain, you will find bizarre boab trees, volcanic lakes and limestone karsts dotted along the 5,000 kilometres of unspoilt coastline.
Avenue of the Baobabs
Unlike anywhere else in the world, the Avenue of the Baobabs is one of the most iconic destinations in Madagascar that you need to visit. This must-see spot is where you can find over 20 baobab trees lining the trail between Morondava and Belon’i Tsiribihina in the Menabe region in western Madagascar – with some up to 800 years old.
As one of the most vibrant and eclectic cities in Africa, Malagasy capital (Tana, as it is universally known) is not to be missed. Visitors can enjoy taking in the colourful sights and sounds of the hillside city filled with palaces, historic buildings with churches along uneven, cobbled streets. For the food lovers, there are many high end (and local) restaurants to tempt your inner gastronome.
Isalo National Park
We mentioned earlier that the terrain of Madagascar is rich and varied, and Isalo National Park is no exception. Possibly one of the most popular sights in Madagascar, the landscape is filled with Jurrasic-style sandstone formations, dry grasslands and forests. If you’re searching for lemurs or hoping to see the white sifakas dancing and jumping around, this is where you need to go.
For travellers looking to swim, splash, dive or relax in unspoilt waters, Nosy Be is the place to go. As Madagascar’s top beach destination, the Nosy Be are ideal for swimming due to the shallow and calm waters. Despite being the top attraction in the area, tourists are few and far between – meaning your experience will be both peaceful and undisrupted.
Ranomafana National Park
Possibly one of the most spectacular national parks in Madagascar, Ranomafana was created in 1991 to protect the golden bamboo lemur after its discovery in 1986. Aside from the golden bamboo lemur, there are plenty of other mammals hiding among the trees including the Malagasy striped civet, mongooses and bats.
If you’re searching for one of the most authentic experiences at one of the greatest landmarks, your best bet is to cruise along the Tsiribihina River in a pirogue (a traditional long narrow canoe) or in one of the more modern canoes. You can extend your journey by camping on the riverbank while surrounded by a blanket of stars, or simply revel in the experience during the day.
Madagascar is an island located in the western Indian Ocean and lies off the east coast of Southern Africa. From New York, a flight is 19h 30m with a stopover, and from Johannesburg, it is roughly 3 h direct.
Antananarivo is the political and economic capital of Madagascar and there is a significant amount of history and culture to discover while you’re there.
Ivato International Airport is the main international airport serving Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, located 16 km northwest of the city centre.
- Closest City
The official languages of Madagascar are Malagasy and French. While it is uncommon to find fluent English speakers, the language is increasing in popularity.
Madagascar uses the Malagasy Ariary. The currency code is MGA. ATMs are readily found across the country, although some aren't accessible outside banking hours.
All foreign visitors to Madagascar require entry visas. Visa information can change often and varies from country to country. We recommend checking your country's travel advisories in advance of booking a trip.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz; a UK-type plug with three flat pins. The standard voltage in the US is 110 volts, so to avoid frying your electronics, you may need a surge adaptor.
Typhoid, Hepatitis A and B are advised. The government of Madagascar requires proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. Make sure you consult a medical professional before you depart.
The phone numbers to call in case of emergency are 117 for the police, 020 22 625 66 for an ambulance and 118 for a fire.
When to Visit
FAQs about Madagascar
Do you tip in Madagascar?
Tipping in Madagascar isn’t very common for locals, but as a tourist, it is expected to tip and will always be appreciated. For porters, Ar200 or Ar500 is acceptable, and for restaurants or bars, 10% to 15% will be appreciated.
What is the internet access like?
Hotels across the country offer free WiFi as do many bars and restaurants. Outside urban areas this is not as common.
Is the tap water safe to drink?
In general, the water is not safe to drink in Madagascar. Make sure to only drink from sealed water bottles, or take a portable water purifier.
Can I use my credit cards?
The use of credit or debit cards is mostly restricted to larger hotels and restaurants frequented by international visitors. We suggest for you to carry enough cash to last a few days and withdraw funds as needed.
What are the public holidays?
Along with common public holidays such as New Year’s Day, Christmas and Easter, Madagascar celebrates Martyr's Day in March, Labour Day on May 1 and Independence Day June 26, All Saints’ Day November 1, just to name a few.
Is it safe to travel in Madagascar?
While Madagascar is safe to visit, there are many precautions you should note. It is not safe to walk after dark and it is recommended that you travel by taxi at night. As for other crimes, pickpocketing frequently occurs, so be careful with your belongings.