Madagascar is not a usual place where you can just pack off your bags and catch a flight. It offers a lot of adventures and fresh experiences which one might not find anywhere else but at the same time, it can spring multiple surprises at you…not all of which might be good. Having prior information before travelling to Madagascar is exceptionally useful. Fortunately, I had spent a substantial amount of time researching before my trip and I can gladly say that I am in the substantial position to share some exceedingly important things which one should definitely consider before ticking Madagascar off their bucket list. So the following things are what you should definitely know about Madagascar before going there.
- Visa: On your flight to Madagascar, the flight attendant will give you a small form which you should fill before landing because that form will get you a visa on your arrival in the country. It costs about 22£ to get a 30-day short stay visa (which is extendable on the cost of extra 50£). Do carry the Yellow vaccine card otherwise you might fall in the trap of Immigration officers as I did. (Read about it here)
- Travel Insurance: As I have already mentioned, Madagascar has a lot to offer and that unfortunately goes for both positive and negative things. So you’d better be prepared for the negatives just in case you are the unlucky one. It is highly advisable to buy prior travel insurance before you travel to the island. I used http://www.aro.mg/ to buy mine.
- Currency: The local currency of Madagascar is Ariary. It’s only valid on the island and won’t buy you anything in any other part of the world. Apart from a few notes or coins you might want to keep for souvenirs, do exchange the rest of it when you leave the country. When I was there, 1£ was equal to 4300Ariary which was a pretty good exchange rate. The country is considerably cheap and you can enjoy some real luxury without putting in too much load on your pocket.
- Card payments and Banking: This is a point I would like to include in this list because it does makes a difference when in Madagascar. Although it’s not hard to find an ATM in the big cities, most of the payments are usually done by cash. A Maestro/Visa card works only with a local bank called MCB and the bank is located only in the capital city. American Express card and Travellers cheque do not work in any part of the country so do not depend on them.
- Plugs, mobile and connection: It must be hard to find out this bit of information online as being a remote island, you don’t know what to expect from Madagascar. So let me make it easy for you: being a French colony Madagascar still has typical French plugs with 220 volt supply. The electricity situation is not awfully good in the country so try to get your gadgets charged whenever you can and consider taking a good power bank with you to save a lot of trouble.
- SIM Cards: I would recommend you to buy a local sim card as soon as you arrive in the country. I bought it from a telecom network called Telma. For 6£, I got 2GB data and connectivity which was good at least in the southern and northern part of the island where I travelled. It gives you flexibility and helps you when in an unknown island. It was very helpful for me with respect to finding hotels, a decent place to eat and not to forget Google maps- the life saver.
- Beggars and General safety: Just to be realistic, Madagascar is a poor country which automatically makes it necessary to watch your belongings closely. Leave your expensive and precious jewellery behind. Ranging from old beggars to children, pick pocketing happens exceedingly fast and in surprisingly clever ways. Likewise, it is prohibited to give something to children in an open place. The number of children running towards you begging for the item you just handed over to that one child will make you dizzy.
- Pack list: Here are some things you should pack while travelling there. The list is not limited to these but can be helpful: Light clothing if you travel between September and May, Light sweater if you travel between June and August. Rain coat if you are sure to go to rainy areas, walking boots if you might opt for hiking, binoculars, sunscreen, mosquito spray. A hat or a cap, personal belonging and necessities. All reservation related documents, power backup for electronic gadgets, good camera etc are major necessities. Find more packing related tips in my posts here.
So these are the few things I thought might help you get to know the magical island of Madagascar. This post might even be really helpful in your planning. Despite of some negative reviews, the country is worth the efforts. Wait till you see the next post where I will be sharing 10 pictures which will make you fall in love with the country (followed by the full photo album). Read more about my experience in Madagascar here and I hope that you find it helpful. If you’d like to add any tips to this article, do feel free to share your views in the comments below.