Madagascar

Quick Facts

Region: Africa

Population:
20,653,556

Religion:

Indigenous beliefs 52%, Christian 41%, Islam 7%

Language:

Malagasy and French (both official).

Area (sq. km):
587,040 square meters

Time:

GMT + 3 hours

When To Travel

Madagascar has a tropical climate which has two seasons: it is hot and rainy from November to March, (summer/wet), whilst April to October (winter/dry) sees the island weather being mainly dry and mild. The coastal regions generally are hot throughout the year whilst the central plateau's more temperate climate produces warm summers and cool winters. The average temperature range in Antananarivo (on the plateau) is 16° to 26°C in January and 9° to 20°C in July. In June it can get very cold with temperatures near freezing in the highlands and cool weather in the south. Most of the rain falls from November to April. Southeastern trade winds dominate the eastern part of Madagascar at this time creating a lot of rain with annual precipitation in some places exceeding 3,050 mm. The central plateau gets considerably less moisture, and arid areas in the south and southwest receive less than 380 mm of precipitation per year. There are also occasional cyclones around February and March on the east of the island.

The best time to travel will depend on where and why. Feb-Mar - The cyclone season – east coast of the island. Sep – Mostly pleasant weather although trade winds are in the south and it can therefore be windy. Apr-May – Good weather after the rainy season, all vegetation is lush and green. Feb – Good for botanists with beautiful displays of wild orchids and its also good for herpetologists as the reptiles are more colorful as well as active at this time of the year. Oct-Nov is a good time to visit Madagascar as this time of the year the weather is warm but not too hot; jacarandas are in bloom, its baby season for the local lemurs.

Useful Travel Facts

Airports:

Antananarivo Ivato Airport, 17km (11 miles) from the city. Airport facilities include restaurant and bureau de change (open during arrivals and departures of international flights). It is linked by a regular bus service to the Air Madagascar office and the Hilton Hotel (the centre for Madagascar Air tours). Taxis asking special higher rates are also available at the airport.

Telephone:

Madagascar country code 261

Electricity:

110 to 220V; assume 220V when in doubt

Food:

In Madagascar, eating well means eating a lot. You can recognize the influence of the French in the food, which is not as highly spiced as in most of Africa. Malagasy cooking is based on a large serving of rice (most of which is home grown) with a dressing of sauces, meat, vegetables and seasoning. Dishes include ro (a mixture of herbs and leaves with rice); beef and pork marinated in vinegar, water and oil, then cooked with leaves, onion, pickles and other vegetables and seasoned with pimento; ravitoto (meat and leaves cooked together); ramazava (leaves and pieces of beef and pork browned in oil); vary amid ’anana (rice, leaves or herbs, meat and sometimes shrimps), often eaten with kitoza (long slices of smoked, cured or fried meat). The people of Madagascar enjoy very hot food and often serve dishes with hot peppers. Local restaurants are often referred to as hotely. The choice of beverages is limited. The national wine is acceptable. Malagasy drinks include litchel (an aperitif made from litchis), betsa (fermented alcohol) and toaka gasy (distilled from cane sugar and rice) and ‘Three Horses’ lager. Non-alcoholic drinks include ranon ’apango or rano vda (made from burnt rice) and local mineral waters.

Shopping:

Make sure you leave some room in your luggage for all the ‘extras’ you buy along the way. Items such as raffia work, wood carvings, crocheted and embroider table clothes, and leather goods just to name a few. The south of the island is where you can buy silver bracelets that are traditionally worn by the men of Madagascar. Go to the east of the island for your spices and cloves. It’s a sad thing to see but unfortunately it still appears that you can buy souvenirs made from endangered species such as turtle shell, snake skins, shells and coral as well as live animals! Please help these endangered species and do not to buy them.

Visa: All foreign visitors to the Republic of Madagascar require entry visas. A tourist visa valid for a maximum 30 days is free and can be obtained on arrival. To obtain a visa at the airport, you must produce the following:
1. A return airline ticket (the length of the visa will be issued according to the dates of your airline ticket).
2. A passport with 6 months validity from your date of return.
3. A trip itinerary.

Useful Words & Phrases

French

Hello: Bonjour
Good Bye: Au revoir
Please: S’il-vous-plait
Thank You: Merci
You're Welcome: Je vous en prie
Yes: Oui
No: Non
Excuse me (request): Excusez-moi
Sorry: Pardon
How are you? (formal): Comment allez-vous
How are you? (informal): Ça va
Do you speak English?: Parlez-vous anglais
I don’t understand: Je ne comprends pas
What is your name?: Comment vous appelez vous?
My name is...: Je m’appelle...
Where is...: Où est...
I’d like...: Je voudrais...
How much is it?: Combien ça coûte?
Which way to...: Comment faire pour aller...
City centre: le centre-ville
Train station: la gare
Bank: la banque
Toilet: les toilettes
Exchange office: un bureau de change
1: un
2: deux
3: trois
4: quatre
5: cinq
6: six
7: sept
8: huit
9: neuf
10: dix
20: vingt
50: cinquante
100: cent

Further Reading

'Lords and Lemurs' by Alison Jolly