Madagascar Travel Information
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Local time is GMT +3.
Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Plugs are generally of the two-pin variety.
Malagasy is the official language, but French is used in business and government and is widely spoken in the main cities in Madagascar. A few people involved in the tourism industry might be able to speak some English, but it is not widely spoken.
Malaria is a risk throughout the year and is highest on the coast of Madagascar; visitors should take appropriate measures to avoid contracting the disease. Cases of chikungunya fever were reported in February 2010 and this disease is also transmitted by mosquitoes; precautionary measures against being bitten should be taken at all times. While AIDS has not reached the levels of some other sub-Saharan countries, travellers should ensure they don't have unprotected sex. All travellers coming from a country with yellow fever require inoculation against the disease to enter Madagascar. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid and influenza, and those at risk of animal bites should also consider a rabies vaccination. Tap water should not be drunk unless it has been boiled or chemically treated.
Medical facilities are limited in Madagascar, and outside of the capital medical care may be difficult to find. Limited French medications are available in Tana; however, it is advisable to bring along a medical kit for private use. If you require specific prescription medications it is best to take them with you, in their original packaging, along with a signed and dated letter from your doctor stating what they are and why you need them. Comprehensive medical insurance is advised.
Tipping in Madagascar is not usual, although in European-style restaurants and hotels tips of 10 to 15 percent are expected.
The political situation in Madagascar is unstable, especially in central Antananarivo and the Ambohijatovo, Lac Anosy, Antaninarenina and Analakely areas. Violence is possible at any large gatherings and political or military installations. It is advised to travel with an established agency, and solo travellers should continually monitor the local media. Precautions against opportunistic crime, especially in the urban areas, should be taken. Pickpockets operate at the airport and in crowded areas such as markets. Travellers should carry a photocopy of their passport at all times. At night, avoid walking around city centres and road travel outside urban areas as there have been occasional hold-ups on the main routes. The height of the cyclone season is from January to March and affects the coastal regions. Piracy is a significant concern in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, and there have been several attacks against private vessels and kidnappings.
Do not photograph military or police establishments while in Madagascar. Identification should be carried at all times by visitors. In rural areas, locals may abide by a number of taboos called fady, which should be respected by visitors at all times.
The Malagasy people are friendly and approachable. Business is somewhat formal, but lightweight suits are appropriate due to the subtropical climate. Although Malagasy is the official language of Madagascar, French is the language of business and the government. English is only more common in the tourism sector. Translators can be arranged. Businesses usually operate from Monday to Saturday.
The international dialling code for Madagascar is +261. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). To make an international call to Madagascar, the dialling code of 261 must be followed by a two-digit operator code (e.g. 20 for TELMA, the most reliable), then the regional code (e.g. 22 for Antananarivo) and then the five-digit number. A GSM 900 network is in use, covering major cities and main roads, and some operators have also introduced 3G networks. Public internet access exists in large cities and there are a few internet cafes in Antananarivo.
Visitors older than 21 years may bring 500 cigarettes or 25 cigars or 500g tobacco, as well as one bottle of alcohol into the country without incurring import duty. Visitors are allowed to export a maximum of 100g vanilla without cost.
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