Madagascar Travel Notes

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The Australian High Commission in Mauritius is responsible for Madagascar

2nd Floor, Rogers House
5 President John Kennedy St
Port Louis
Mauritius
Tel   +230 202 0160
Fax  +230 208 8878
www.mauritius.embassy.gov.au

Smartraveller

The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers.
www.smartraveller.gov.au

Time Zones

Madagascar time is (GMT+ 3) and therefore 8 hours behind Australia AET. Madagascar does not have daylight savings.
www.worldtimeserver.com

Currency

To obtain the most up-to-date exchange rate you may wish to visit
www.xe.com/currencyconverter
or  BNI/Crédit Lyonnais Madagascar Bank at: www.bni.mg. Click on “Marché des changes”.

The official currency of Madagascar since January 1, 2005 is the Malagasy Ariary (MGA), which has been reintroduced to replace the Malagasy franc. One Ariary (Ar) equals 5 iraimbilanja. The word Ariary means literally a silver dollar, and it was introduced for the first time in 1961 being equal to 5 Malagasy francs. The banknotes still show in small print how many francs they are worth to avoid misunderstandings.

There are banknotes of 10,000 MGA, 5,000 MGA, 2,000 MGA, 1,000 MGA, 500 MGA, 200 MGA and 100 MGA. The largest note of 10,000 MGA is worth about 4 €. There are even coins from 1 up to 50 Ar. The one of 50 Ar is very beautiful and has baobabs carved on it. 1 US$ is about 2,000 Ar and 1€ about 2,500 Ar.

Important: Although the Malagasy franc has not officially existed since 2005, travellers can still find prices in francs especially in some rural areas. So when you see or hear the amount of money you have to pay, be sure you all are talking about Ariarys before paying!

Credit Cards and ATM machines

ATMs are available in Antananarivo and other major cities (the exception is Bekopaka at Tsingy of Bemaraha), however you should not rely on this being your main way to access your money. They accept Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro cards. ATMs sometimes run dry on weekends.

You should not rely on paying anything via credit card. VISA card is the most common card accepted. Visitors with debit cards should check with your bank that the card is accepted in Madagascar for cash withdraws. Please note withdrawals can be limited to MGA 200’000, the equivalent of about € 63.20 or US$ 72.50, at any one time.

Please note that using a credit card in foreign countries usually requires a new “chip-and-pin” credit card with an embedded microchip and an associated PIN number (the PIN is specific to each credit card). If you have questions about using your credit card in a foreign country, please contact your bank prior to departure from Australia. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services which may be available.

Cash

Foreign currency is not accepted. Currency (US and EURO are the most accepted) can be exchanged at banks, exchange bureaux and larger hotels. Exchanging foreign currencies at banks can be very time consuming (exception the airport upon arrival). If you are taking US bank notes older than 2004 and  US$ 100.00 notes, they will not be accepted by banks and most Money Exchanges cannot change larger denominations. Australian Dollars can be selectively accepted by banks. Do not change money in the street, it is not safe.
Travelers Cheques are NO longer accepted.

Telephone & Communication

Mobile telephones
All the areas visited on the ASA tour are well covered by the three main mobile service providers TELMA, ORANGE and AIRTEL. As roaming, particularly to Madagascar, is very expensive, it is recommended to purchase a local sim for your mobile phone provided the equipment is not locked by the Australian provider. It is nonetheless still cheaper to buy a small mobile phone than use your phone on roaming. Mobile service also includes Internet access, although 3G only. SMS works very well.

Internet
Internet access is becoming more available, especially in major cities and tourist areas.  However generally speaking, Wi-Fi is still very unreliable. Below is some information about Wi-Fi access for some of the hotels on this tour:

  • Andasibe, Andasibe Hotel: Wi-Fi available in common areas only.
  • Masoala, Dounia Forest Lodge: Wi-Fi not available
  • Morondava, Palissandre Cote Ouest: The lobby, restaurant and the pool area are the best places to access Wi-Fi. Access to Wi-Fi in the bungalows varies depending on their distance from the public areas.
  • Tsingy de Bemaraha, Hotel Soleil des Tsingy: Wi-Fi not available
  • Isalo NP, Hôtel Le Jardin du Roy: Not available during the evenings after generator is switched off.
  • Ranomafana, Setam Lodge: Wi-Fi is available at the restaurant only.
  • Antsirabe, Hotel Le Royal Palace: Wi-Fi is unreliable.
  • **Other hotels on this tour are likely to be more reliable for Wi-Fi access, but are still subject to electrical power outage.

If you have Web access while traveling, you might consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype or Vonage, which allows you to make free international calls between online computers and phones, and cheap international calls if you’re calling a normal phone number. Most cybercafes throughout the country will be using these programs already, complete with headset, microphone, and webcam.
www.skype.com    www.vonage.com

Voltages and Plugs

Madagascar uses 220 V/50 Hz; Plugs C & E.  The best converter to bring with you would therefore be a universal adaptor. www.korjo.com/Adaptor-Guide

Electricity
Most hotels offer continual power however, this may be interrupted as towns and villages are subject to blackouts. A number of hotels run private generators during times of blackout, however they are often switched off during the night. Please note:

  • Masoala, Dounia Forest Lodge: Electricity is provided by private generator from around 1730 or 1800 through to 2230hrs. There is no electricity in the night or during the day. Each room has a “flash light” for any need in the night.
  • Isolo NP, Jardin du Roy: Electricity is provided by private generator running between 1500 and 2300 and 0600 through 0900hrs.
Business Hours in Madagascar

Business hours vary from location to location however the following is a general guide
Offices and Banks  09.00 – noon & 14.00 – 17.30 Monday to Friday. Most towns have one bank open on a Saturday.

Shops   09.00/10.0018.00 Monday to Saturday. Opening hours will vary in smaller towns.

Personal Safety

  • We strongly recommend the use of a money belt to keep your cash, cards and travel documents safe. This should be kept under your clothes at all times. This is a precaution that should be taken anywhere due to the difficulties that can be experienced in trying to replace stolen items.
  • Take photocopies of all important documents (passport, credit cards, airline tickets, insurance) and keep one copy securely in your luggage and leave another copy at home.
  • It is generally helpful to take a business card from the hotel you are staying at. This can assist hugely if you get lost. If you also have a key card for your hotel, make sure you keep these two cards separate or you run the risk of allowing a thief access to your room
  • Take extra care in crowded places and try not to ‘advertise’ the fact that you may be carrying valuables by having something like an expensive camera over your shoulder. Put it in your bag or under your coat. And men, try to avoid keeping your wallet in your hip pocket.
  • Pick pocketing is common especially in markets and tourist areas. Expensive jewellery and watches should be left at home
What to Pack

Clothing (general)
The time of the year you visit this destination will dictate the type of clothing it is appropriate to bring. It would always be advisable to take a rain coat or a water proof windbreaker. For daytime activities, we suggest a wardrobe that is versatile, casual and comfortable. It is recommended that “layered” clothing might offer the best comfort in a variety of conditions. Always expect the weather to be changeable.

Beyond the normal wardrobe we suggest

  • comfortable walking shoes, with good tread and ankle support (very important)
  • teva or similar (amphibious sandles) for days when you may be in and out of water
  • Day pack- The site visits often involve walking on uneven ground, up inclines and may be of reasonable duration.  You will want to have your hands free to use a hiking stick or steady yourself as applicable and we recommend you carry a day pack for your ancillary items:  camera, torch, waterproof, sunhat, sun cream, bottled water (provided), sunglasses etc
  • sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat
  • Folding hiking pole/stick
  • light raincoat/ wind breaker/ pullover
  • travel torch / head torch – this is essential! Paths may not be well lit and for any night excursions
  • insect repellent and mosquito coils
  • we strongly recommend long trousers & long sleeve over-shirts
  • toilet paper, wet wipes and  hand sanitizer
  • camera:  Please take all necessary equipment/spares with you as there are limited options to purchase additional supplies while on tour
  • alarm clock or phone alarm
  • extra prescription eyeglasses (if required)
  • Binoculars
  • Personal First Aid kit (many items may not be available)
Travel Health

It is important to make sure you are protected when you travel. The following link gives you valuable information and a guideline at to the vaccinations/ medications may or will be required to visit your destination.
www.traveldoctor.com.au/TravelHealthPlanner

Travelling with Medication

  • Talk to your doctor or a travel medicine specialist and discuss both the prescription and over the counter medicines that you will need to take with you; take only those for personal use.
  • Contact the embassy of the country you are visiting to ensure the medicine is legal there.
  • Carry a letter from your doctor with your prescription medicines. The letter should include the name of the medicine, how much you are taking or sending, and state that the medicine is for your personal use.
  • All medicines should be kept in their original container displaying your name and dosage requirements, and carried in hand luggage to prevent their loss.

Because a prescription from your doctor cannot be filled overseas, and familiar over the counter medicines may not be available in foreign countries, it is also important to carry an adequate supply for the entire trip plus some extra in case of travel disruption or delay. Some medications, such as those containing Codeine 30mg or strong painkillers, even when obtained on a legal prescription in Australia, should not be transported across international boundaries unless they are accompanied by a customs clearance from the country concerned. You must apply to the appropriate Consulate or Embassy for this.

Etiquette

  • No attempt should be made to photograph anything remotely connected with the armed forces or in the vicinity of defense installations. Many people do not like being photographed. Always ask before photographing someone, they may try to obtain money from you.
  • Bartering is expected in the markets, it is neither customary nor appropriate to bargain in shops.
  • Begging is commonplace and the locals recommend that tourists do not handout money or gifts.
  • Tipping is expected in restaurants, coffee shops, taxi’s etc – the expected amount is 10%

Clothing (Churches, Mosques and Monasteries)
Although ‘foreigners’ do not have to adhere to a strict dress rules, women should wear a head covering (ie a scarf) in active churches. Men must remember to remove their hats in religious buildings. In churches it is polite to stand around the edges of the building, rather than in the centre. It is acceptable for foreigners to light candles.

Useful websites

Madagascar Tourism
www.madagascar-tourisme.com/en

Climate

We suggest that prior to departure you check the weather forecast for the most up-to-date information.
www.worldweatheronline.com or www.weather-finder.com 

Average minimum/maximum Temperatures (˚C)

City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Antananarivo 16/26 16/26 16/27 15/25 12/24 10/22 10/21 10/22 11/24 14/26 15/27 17/28
Maroantsetra 22/29 22/27 22/28 22/27 21/25 19/24  18/24 18/24 18/24 20/25  21/26 23/28