The unilingual (Malagasy) characteristic of Madagascar distinguishes Madagascar from several other countries. However, Malagasy consists of a few more or less noticeable dialectal variants. French and English have an official language status, with French being more widely spoken.
In 2005, Madagascar has shifted back to its traditional currency, the Ariary. As the Malagasy currency is not convertible, it is advised to exchange foreign currency only as necessary.
PURCHASES TO BE AVOIDED
Do not become traffickers by ignorance or because you are keen on exotic items. The Convention on international trade of threatened fauna and flora species (CITES) is very strict regarding the matter. In conformity with its Annex 1, commercial export of several live species is forbidden, among which: lemurs, the dugong, the various tortoises (radiated and spurs) and turtles; boas, the small Bemaraha chameleon and the Antongil red frog; some Euphorbiaceae, Didiereaceae and Apocynaceae species. In addition to the above, items classified as National Heritage such as aloalo, Zafimaniry shutters and ancient manuscripts.
The duty-free shops of Antananarivo-Ivato airport offer a very wide choice of goods and have very competitive prices. Some other duty-free selling points exist in the capital, in certain provincial airports open to international flights, like in the shopping malls of certain big hotels. The taxes have already been deducted at the pay-desk. The presentation of the return ticket and an ID document is necessary.
SPECIFIC EXEMPTED PURCHASES
A traveler can freely take out the country:
- 2 kilogrammes of vanilla
- 250 grams of stamped gold jewelry. Allowance can extend to 1 kilo, should the holder prove sufficient foreign currency to buy the items.
- 4 different crocodile skin items, bought from certified sellers; the holders must present the purchase receipts and the authorizations signed by the forestry administration.
Banks are available in all major cities of the country. They are open from 8 AM to 4 PM; major banks have a cash dispenser, accepting VISA and MASTERCARD. Money transfers are also possible via Western Union offices.
The official mapping institution is FTM (Foibe Taosaritanin’i Madagasikara), the equivalent of the Institut Géographique. It is located at Ambanidia in Antananarivo. Depending on the needs, some maps are also available from Madagascar National Parks, from the nNational and Regional Tourism Boards or from book shops.
Only banks and exchange agencies in town or in airports, shopping centers and large hotels are authorized to exchange currencies. Avoid informal illegal money changers in certain streets.
The Highlands are characterized by a mild climate, the West is hot and dry. The East Coast is rainy, so is the hot North, while the South is semi arid. Rainfalls decrease as one moves from the North East (3500 mm in Maroantsetra) to the South West (less than 500 mm in the Tuléar region). Several variants occur between these two extremes. The dry season or southern winter lasts from April to October, and summer from November to March.
Usually 220 Volts. Hotels which are not covered by the electric network or which are anticipating untimely power cuts have their own generator. Some are also keen on solar energy. Bring battery-powered appliances for emergencies….
BUSINESS DAYS AND PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
In general, offices open from Monday morning to Friday afternoon. Official working hours are 8 AM to 4 PM.
Public holidays are usually:
January 1st (New Year’s Day)
March 8th (for women exclusively)
March 29th (Commemoration of the 1947 events)
May 1st (Labor’s Day)
June 26th (Independence Day)
November 1st (All Saints’ Day)
December 25th (Christmas)
PHOTOS AND VIDEOS
For professional shootings inside national parks and reserves, a written authorization from Madagascar National Parks is compulsory. Please kindly request permission from individuals before taking photos of them.
To call a landline number from overseas, dial the International Code + 261+ 20 + area code + the number
To call a mobile phone from overseas, dial 261 + the number without the 0
To call overseas from Madagascar, dial 00 + country code + area code + the number.
Madagascar is wired with high-speed Internet and access is available in all big hotels. For public internet access, cybercafés are widely available, especially in Antananarivo.