Travel and Tourist Information for Madagascar Safaris
What to Wear
When travelling to foreign destinations it is always respectful to dress modestly and we suggest the emphasis is on comfortable clothing. It is often warm on the plains and at lower altitudes but cold in the hilly and mountainous areas of Madagascar, including Antananarivo.
Whilst on safari neutral coloured, loose fitting and relaxed clothing is the most appropriate. We also suggest taking a fleece or jumper for early morning walks through the forests and mountains of Madagascar. It can be surprisingly cool!
On the Beach
Madagascar has some lovely beaches, but please comply with local customs and traditions and dress modestly. Unsuitable clothing such as swimwear or brief shorts, are not acceptable in towns and villages away from the main tourist resorts.
It is best to pack as light as possible, remembering that most hotels and lodges have laundry services, so an excessive amount of clothing should be unnecessary. Please note that most hotels, lodges and camps hand wash clothing.
Please limit baggage to two items per person and always use soft bags rather than suitcases. In specific cases i.e. for internal flights, luggage may be limited to 15kg per person. Please see more information about luggage and packing in your journey essentials document post-booking.
Getting There & Away
If Natural World Safaris has arranged your international flights you will be sent your flight itinerary separately. Please note that once your flights have been booked these will be subject to their respective terms and conditions. If you haven’t booked your flights with Natural World Safaris, you will need to make your own arrangements to arrive and leave in accordance with your itinerary. We can arrange these flights for you if needed, please ask for further details.
Upon arrival at your destination, you will be met by our local representative. They will hold a ‘welcome card’ with your name on it. We will provided local contact details in your pre-departure information but if you have any problems please call our 24-hour emergency UK telephone number on +44 (0)7887 637 628.
Hotels, Lodges & Camps
The lodges and hotels in Madagascar are not of the same standard of those found in East/Southern Africa, but they are of a good standard and ideally situated for the best wildlife viewing in each area. Most lodges and hotels have en-suite rooms with running hot and cold water, but in some of the more remote areas shared bathrooms may only be available and hot water may be limited. We do however always attempt to use environmentally friendly lodges who are committed to protecting the local environment and helping local communities.
Most of the safari lodges and camps we use in Madagascar are in prime wilderness areas giving you access to some of the best wildlife viewing in each area. There are snakes, scorpions, sharks and crocodiles in Madagascar and so care is needed when swimming and trekking through the jungle. Malaria is also present and so please consult your GP or travel clinic before your departure to make sure you have the correct precautions.
Most lodges are able to offer laundry facilities but please note that the cost is not always included. Check with reception for current prices. Due to natural drying and variable climatic conditions your clothing might not always come back ‘bone dry’. As most laundry is hand washed please avoid handing in delicate clothing. Most lodges won’t wash underwear but will happily provide washing powder to use in your room.
Food & Water
Food varies from destination to destination. Please bear in mind that we try to use lodges/camps that use local produce which supports the local communities. Do not be afraid to try local produce it is part of the experience!
Vegetarian meals can be catered for, however more specialist diets such as Halal, Kosher and vegan are not always readily available. If you require gluten free products we recommend bringing these yourself as they will not be readily available.
We recommend that you only drink bottled water which can be bought throughout Madagascar.
International telephone communications are good from the major cities but more difficult from some remote areas. Mobile network coverage is reasonable throughout most of Madagascar and mobile phones are now the most reliable means of communication, though you may have to travel a short distance to reach an area of coverage. All drivers/guides will have mobile phones and/or radios for emergency use.
We are not able to provide contact details for individual hotels, lodges or camps, as many do not have the facilities to handle guest calls/communications. We will provide contact details for our ground agents, within your pre-departure information.
Madagascar is three hours (+3) ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Sunrise is around 05:30 hours and sunset at about 18:30 hours. This varies slightly, depending on the location within Madagascar and the time of year.
Electricity is available at most lodges and hotels in Madagascar. Some of the more rural hotels may only be able to charge cameras from the generator, but please speak to your guide or reception about this. It may be worth taking an in car charger in case.
The electricity supply in Madagascar is 220 volts/AC50Hz. Plug sockets are 2 round pin sockets (European).
The local currency in Madagascar is Malagasy Ariary. The most accepted foreign currency is Euro, but US dollars and GBP are easily changed. We recommend that you carry a mix of denominations.
There are money changing facilities (forex bureaux & bank kiosks) available at the major banks in Antananarivo or at the airport on your arrival. You will be able to change money at most main towns and cities. The most accepted foreign currency is the Euro, although the US Dollar is also accepted.
We recommend you change you money upon arrival, as it is more difficult to change money whilst on safari. There are ATM machines available in the major towns and the most widely accepted card is Visa. All ATMs will only dispense Ariary. There are very few places where credit cards can be used so please only use it as an absolute emergency. Please do not take travellers cheques as you will not be able to change these in Madagascar.
As most meals, park fees, guiding fees etc are covered in the cost of your safari we generally recommend allowing approximately US$25 per person per day for spending money on drinks, souvenirs and crafts items.
You may wish to take extra funds to make contributions or donations to organisations that we encourage clients to visit. Donations and contributions are entirely voluntary.
It is preferable to travel with cash rather than travellers cheques or credit cards, as often it is only possible to use these in main cities (cards are useful as an emergency back–up). We recommend that you carry a mix of cash denominations, Euros are the most favourable hard currency to use in Madagascar although US Dollars and British Pounds are easily changed at banks and Foreign Exchange offices.
Never keep all of your cash in the same place, keep it in different pockets and split it up between different bags.
If you are carrying USD$, please take bills dated 2006 or later as earlier dated bills can be very difficult to change and may not be accepted (as well as torn and dirty bills – the crisper the better!). A number of low denomination Euro bills are useful for tipping although some locals may prefer Ariary, as sometimes it’s difficult for them to change Euros.
Credit cards (Access, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Eurocard and Diners) are accepted in certain larger hotels and restaurants. The most widely accepted card is Visa. Please note: Where credit cards are accepted, the payments will normally be recorded in Euros, regardless of the card’s default currency. Most shops will not accept payment other than cash, and card use is restricted to major banks and hotels. It is wiser not to expect to use one at all.
A valid passport with a minimum of 6 months validity on arrival is mandatory. Whilst we are happy to advise you on visa requirements please ensure you have arranged all the necessary visas well before your intended date of departure as these are your responsibility.
Tourist visas are required by all nationalities visiting Madagascar. We recommend that visas are obtained prior to departure, but please note that visas can be obtained at Antananarivo International Airport on your arrival. Please check with your local embassy or Malagasy mission to confirm this before you travel. At this stage a single entry tourist visa for a stay of 30 days or less is FREE, but things can and do change on a regular basis, so please check with the embassy prior to your departure.
Please note obtaining the correct entry visas are your responsibility.
Embassy Contact Details
The closest Malagasy Embassy to the UK is located in Paris: 4, Avenue Raphael, 75016, Paris
Tel: +33 145 046 211
In the USA the Malagasy Embassy is located at 2374 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington DC, 20008
Tel: +1 202 265 5525
All of our local operators conform to local safety regulations. If you at any time feel that this is not the case please do not hesitate to contact us.
Know Before You Go is an ongoing campaign from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office to help Brits stay safe abroad, however in our opinion it has useful information for all nationalities. The campaign was launched in 2001 to promote these key messages:
Get adequate travel insurance
Check the FCO’s country travel advise
Visit your GP as soon as possible before travelling
Check your passport is in good condition and valid and you have all necessary visas
Make copies of important documents and/or store them online using a secure data storage site.
Tell someone where you are going and leave emergency contact details with them
Take enough money and have access to emergency funds.
We suggest that you go to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website to get up to date information on your specific destination and important travel tips before you travel.
Go to: https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/ for relevant and important travel tips to plan your trip abroad.
There has been political unrest in Madagascar since January 2009 which resulted in a number of deaths. The situation has calmed down but still remains fluid. We continue to monitor the situation and avoid all travel into the centre of Antananarivo. Outside of the capital city the situation is normal and tourists have been unaffected by the troubles.
Clients should take the usual precautions when travelling abroad in unfamiliar surroundings and we recommend that clients take a taxi rather than walk at night. Please use your common sense and do not draw attention to cameras, video equipment, jewellery, etc. Do not flaunt money and always use safes when provided at hotels/lodges. If in doubt please ask your guide.
For latest travel advice please contact us, at our UK office, or alternatively use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.
Health & Medical
Always seek medical advice before travelling; please consult your GP or Doctor who will be able to advise you on required vaccinations and anti-malarial prophylaxis. In the UK we recommended visiting the ‘Fit for Travel’ website.
In the USA, we suggest consulting CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) - http://www.cdc.gov/
Please bring any personal medication required. Anti-malaria tablets and mosquito repellents are essential. Travel from some countries requires a Yellow Fever inoculation and certificate. Drink bottled or boiled water only.
Medical services, especially in rural areas, are basic so it is essential you have appropriate travel insurance with adequate medical cover, air repatriation with a 24-hours contact telephone number for emergencies. Securing the necessary travel insurance for your safari is your own responsibility.
It is a condition of booking that all clients must have, and must demonstrate to the company prior to their departure, adequate insurance for the duration of the tour.
Proof of the following items of insurance is required on booking; cancellation or curtailment of your trip, medical expenses, repatriation, loss of luggage, personal injury, adventure activities such as white-water rafting, tracking wild animals, theft of personal belongings.
Please report any theft or trip disruption immediately to your guide during your trip and also in writing to Natural World Safaris immediately on return to your home country.
We strongly believe that smoking in national parks should be avoided and is often not permitted.
Travel times can vary considerably in Madagascar. Main roads are generally good but travel is much slower than on European or American roads. Most roads in rural areas are often dusty or muddy and bumpy due to poor local maintenance and weather conditions.
Many of our safaris are organised using scheduled flights on light aircrafts. Please note there may be a luggage allowance of 15kgs on all shared charter flights to and from lodges/camps. There can be no exceptions to this rule, unless extra seats are booked in advance.
We also use properly equipped 4x4s for many safaris. Journeys overland can on occasions take most of the day, however we always try to break these up with refreshment stops and there is always a lot to look at as you travel by!
Madagascar has a tropical climate with the winter (April – October) being cool and dry and summer (November – March) being hot with variable rainfall. The weather that you experience in Madagascar is dependent on where you are travelling in the country. The eastern part of the country usually receives most of the rainfall with the central highlands and western part receiving quite a bit less. During the summer months the north and northwest monsoons bring heavy rains to the northern areas, decreasing as you move south.
Average midday temperatures are 25 Degrees Celsius in the highlands and 30 Degrees Celsius along the coast, although at night the temperatures can drop to near freezing in the highlands. Please explore our When to Go to Madagascar page for further weather information.
Please refrain from photography of military personnel, military installations and airports. Always ask for permission when taking photos of local people or alternatively ask your guide for advice. Please bring extra batteries as it may not always be possible to re-charge them at the lodges. In addition it might be useful to bring a car charger (cigarette lighter variety).
It is forbidden to use flash photography when with the lemurs. Please note flash photography of any wildlife usually causes disturbance and should be avoided.
Prices include airport transfers; accommodation; meals and drinks as stated; an English speaking driver / guide and a safari vehicle; porterage of two items of baggage per person on the trip (subject to weight restrictions); boat trips; park fees; and permits where appropriate.
Prices exclude all items of a personal nature: entry visas, international flights, tips, telephone calls, drinks (unless otherwise stated), laundry and airport taxes.
Tips & Gratuities
During your time in Madagascar, tipping is entirely at your discretion. There is no obligation to pay a tip to your drivers, hotel staff or your guides. However, should you wish to tip, the following may be used as a guideline depending on the service you have received:
1 Euro - per local guide, per excursion
10-15 Euro per private escort guide, per day
5-10 Euro per driver per day
Loose change in ariary is fine for porters
A service charge is not usually added to restaurant bills, so we recommend a 5% (or loose change) tip if the service was good.
Charitable Giving & Community Projects
We recommend as part of our responsible travel policy that you do not give money or gifts directly to local people. We have links with local projects/schools that would appreciate your support. Please ask your guide for further details. If you would like to contribute to these donations of clothing, pens and pencils are greatly appreciated.
When you buy an ATOL protected flight or flight inclusive holiday from us you will receive an ATOL Certificate. This lists the flight, accommodation, car hire and/or other services that are financially protected, where you can get information on what this means for you and who to contact if things go wrong. Company Name: Natural World Safaris Ltd. ATOL Number 9826. For more information please visit their website: http://www.caa.co.uk/atol-protection/
As a member of the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust Limited (ABTOT), Natural World Safaris Ltd has provided a bond to meet the requirements of the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.
In the event of insolvency, protection is provided for non-flight packages commencing in and returning to the UK and other non-flight packages excluding pre arranged travel to and from your destination. Please note that packages booked outside the UK are only protected when purchased directly with Natural World Safaris Ltd.
In the above circumstances, if you have not yet travelled you may claim a refund, or if you have already travelled, you may claim repatriation to the starting point of your non-flight package.
The ABTOT number is 5127.