Pratical tips

Madagascar is home to some of the most interesting destinations in the world where you can explore and learn its cultures, its endemic fauna and flora, nice people, beautiful landscapes, traditions, and biodiversity, etc. No matter your reason for visiting Madagascar, one aspect of this vacation is universal: You will experience sightings, sounds and tastes that cannot be found or replicated anywhere else.

To ensure a flawless vacation once you decided to choose Ortour during your visit in Madagascar, then you might find our list of simple and useful tips quite handy, especially if it’s your first time.

1. Thus, upon your arrival at the airport, be careful with unofficial agents at the airport who approach you pretending to carry your luggage. Make sure that only Ortour representative should take care of you or your luggage if you need help.

2. Do not go off exchanging your foreign currency from unofficial exchange agents at the airport; they will quote you the most unfavorable rates. Your Ortour guide/driver will give you directives or careful hints for anything you need. So, feel free to ask him/her.

3. If you happen to have a Visa card, then you don’t need exchanges at all – you can easily withdraw any amount of cash from an ATM. You will receive your money in Madagascar national currency called ‘Ariary’ and will have to pay a small commission.

4. As far as food is concerned, we recommend visiting the restaurants that serve national cuisine. The restaurants offer excellent services, delicious meals, at affordable prices like «La Varangue» or «Le Sakamanga».

Personnel in hotels and restaurants oftentimes can speak English or French.

5. Shopping in Madagascar is something you will definitely enjoy if you go to the right places. Paying by credit or debit card will be acceptable if you go to a supermarket or some boutiques. If, on the other hand you wish to buy paintings, or a hand-made souvenir at the handicraft market you will need to pay in cash. Market places start from 8:00AM till 5:00PM, and all super markets and shopping centers open from 08:30 AM till 07:30 PM.

BRIEF HINTS

Local currency: Ariary which has replaced the Malagasy Franc (FMG). 1 Ariary = 5 FMG.

Credit card: Visa Card is the most generally accepted credit card.

ATM machine are available in big cities.

Opening hours: Local banks and all offices open from 08.30 to 15.30 and closed on week-end and public holidays.

Payment: Cash in Ariary, €, US $. Travelers’ cheque (very limited and requires a receipt)

Time zone: GMT + 3 hours

Official languages: Malagasy and French.

STAYING HEALTHY

While traveling throughout the whole country, maintaining proper health will ensure not only an enjoyable vacation but also a safe one. Thus, bring all required necessary medications and don’t forget to pack your insurance card in case of medical emergency. Your doctor will probably advise you to take a malaria prophylaxis like Mefloquine (Larium) or Malarone. Nevertheless, unlike the other African countries, regarding the Malaria or yellow fever, Madagascar is not such vulnerable one. Tourists are recommended though to take with them anti malarial pills, mosquito repellent.

While visiting certain places, vaccinations are not necessarily required. Drinking tap water can cause bouts of diarrhea due to bacteria widespread; thus, water bottle is highly recommended as safe drinking water. If you have a sensitive stomach, you may want to drink only bottled water and refrain from requesting ice in your drinks as some hotel serves ice from tap water. Also, make sure that uncooked vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, or cucumbers, should be washed with bottle water only.

In the bush, you need a small first aid kit, especially if you plan to hike such as dressings, cream for insect bites, anti- diarrheal, etc.

If you need medical assistance, you can check the following private clinics, equipped with X-ray and laboratory:
Hospital Soavinandriana, the Military Hospital, the best equipped and the most efficient one.

Clinic Saint Paul
Clinic Ilafy

There are several best pharmacies in the capital:

Pharmacy Métropole, near the Hotel Colbert

Pharmacie de l’Océan Indien

Pharmacie d’Ambohibao, open 24 hours a day
If you need help from the police station, call 00261 (20) 22 227 35 or 00261 (20) 22 357 09

In case of emergency, call 032 or 07 801 22 10 487 47
In case of fire incident, call the line 18
If you need an ambulance, call 00261 (20) 22 200 40

SAFETY TIPS

Madagascar is quite safe to travel compared to other countries though some insecurity or crime/misdemeanor incidents may occur in large cities such as robbery, pickpocket, penny theft, etc.

So you are strongly advised not to show off your valuables like ‘I phone, camera, wallet or any other belongings’.
Avoid walking alone on your own during late evenings when taking dinners at certain restaurants, bars or nightclubs.
Don’t leave your bags unattended. Keep large amount of money, jewelry, cameras and phones out of sight when walking in town centers.

Don’t let your belongings exposed.

Mind your belongings in crowded areas like street markets and airports.

– Use a bag with a strap that goes around your neck and across your body.

– Make sure you have your ID on you wherever you go as Police checks day and night.

– Plan your route beforehand to minimize checking maps on the street.

– If you are going somewhere in dark time, inform someone (your guide/driver).

– Store any excess cash and other valuable in the safe in your hotel or ask the reception.

– Do not carry all your money in one place. If travelling as a couple or in a group, divide the money between you.

– Don’t carry more money with you than you intend to spend during the day.

– If you have to carry excess cash or valuables, use a discreet money belt inside your clothing.

Be alert when withdrawing money from cash machines

Keep car doors locked while you are seated inside.

If you want to take a photo from inside during the drive, do not leave luggage or valuables visible and do not open your windows to avoid snatching.

ASSISTANCE

Again, even with the best advice and planning, things can sometimes go wrong. If you are a visitor to Madagascar and have been victim of a crime or traumatic event, report the incident to the nearest Madagascar’s National Police Service station where the incident closely occurred. Get a report of the incident and ask the officer of things you should do next. You can use telephone/fax/email facilities

Proceed on cancelling your credit cards once they are stolen

Note that Ortour is there as a ‘facilitator’ but cannot offer financial assistance, replacement of stolen items or insurance or legal advice.

PACKING TIPS

The total amount of luggage you will need to bring depends solely on your specific excursion. If you are staying in one city for the duration of your stay and you aren’t planning on bouncing between different hotels, you can bring more luggage than if you were going to visit several different destinations. A single bag weighing 20 kg will be sufficient for the average tourists plus 5 kg of hand luggage. For international flight, it is 30 kg plus 10 kg of hand luggage. Extra weight charges you extra money. Smaller luggage allows you to keep your belongings with you during flights and also reduces the likelihood of items being broken or stolen in transit.

CELL PHONES USE HINTS

Most African countries including Madagascar use the GSM network to operate cell phones. Modern cell phone companies offer service within foreign countries. To avoid a large cell phone bill when you arrive home, you can purchase a local prepaid credit card to make calls.

The country code is 00261 and plus the code of the mobile operator and the subscriber number.
Operators’ codes:

Telma fixed 20,                      for example: 00261 20 xxx xx

Telma Mobile 34,                  for example: 00261 34 xxx xx

33 Rtel,                                   for example: 00261 33 xxx xx and

32 orange,                              for example: 00261 32 xxx xx

 

INFRASTRUCTURES
Madagascar is one of the best places in the world worth visiting due to its biodiversity wealth, unique endemic fauna and flora. However, obstacles still remain especially with regard to infrastructures as a whole.

Thus, we need your understanding that traveling in Madagascar is not easy as roads are in poor condition lacking much of the infrastructure required for tourism in international normal standard. So, it is important that you are well prepared before heading off on your Madagascar adventure.
Below you will find some suggestions as to what you might want to bring on your journey. Bear in mind that this list is by no means exhaustive – it’s merely some of the things you should think about before going on your trip.

EQUIPMENTS INCLUDE

Short/long pants, light pants, long sleeved shirts or T-shirts, sweaters, rain jackets, sneakers, good pair of hiking boots, flip flops, swimming gear, sunglasses, flashlights or headlight, sun cream, extra batteries for camera, binoculars, insect repellent, sprays or creams, hand washing lotion or anti germ lotion, penknife, first aid kits, useful medications, cash or credit cards, ID, travel with light luggage, if possible; backpacks are very handy especially when taking public transport.

For bivouac lovers: Swiss knives, first aid kit, flasks, water, sleeping bags during camping.

 

TRAVEL DOCUMENTS INCLUDE

Passport, valid beyond 6 months,

International flight ticket (round trip),

Domestic flight tickets when traveling in the country,

Your insurance contract

HIKING

During the hike, make sure that you are physically fit to it.

Actually, normal hiking hours last between 4 to 8 hours a day.

Moderate walk is recommended to avoid injuries, gashes, or fall.

Bring at least a big bottle water of 1, 5 liter every day.

Never forget to bring sun hat, sun glasses, if necessary, sun cream, and walking stick with spring for old age.

For clothes, do not forget to bring long sleeved clothes (light or heavy), pants or shirts, rain jacket, etc.

In group, keep altogether to avoid any loss

During camping, mineral water is provided

A pair of walking shoes which holds the ankle.

A pair of flip flops for the beach and / or lightweight shoe

2 large plastic bags to protect your belongings from rain in the bag

Pocket knife

Toiletry items, toilet paper

Biodegradable shampoo/soap to preserve the environment

Headlight with batteries and bulbs

Personal first aid kit

Bring mosquito repellant always, malaria pills, etc…

When in tents during the camping, we provide:

Large tents made for 3 people or for a couple.
Or small sized tent for single traveler.

It would be nice to equip yourself with your own sleeping bag if you find it necessary.

For the months of June, July and August austral winter, provide a warm bag (-5 ° C / 0 ° C).

Bring your own self-inflating mattress during long days of hike.

There will be porters carrying the heaviest luggage but you need to take your valuables with you and any other luggage you consider to be always with you

Those porters/guides themselves will be the team of the cook preparing your meals in full board.
For breakfast, it includes hot drinks, tea and/or coffee, bread, jam or honey, fruits, sugar.
Picnic lunch, includes starter, main course, and dessert.

Note that we will always keep your meal safe to eat as those porters/guides have been trained and knowledgeable in cuisine.

Dinner includes an appetizer, entrée (first course), main course and dessert.

Local Malagasy cuisine to be served if requested.

ACCOMMODATION

Our tours offer various range of hotels varying from Top to Medium range both mainly on Bed and Breakfast since we do understand that each client expenses vary reserving them the capacity to choose.

Hotels mentioned on description are given for information purposes only and we chose the best one.
It is in these establishments that we shall make the reservations. It is possible that one of these hotels can be in double share containing 1 double bed or twin share with 2 single beds.
Useful abbreviation:

BB: Bed & Breakfast

HB: Half Board

FB: Full Board

MEALS

The vast majority of our service provides Bed & breakfast carefully and thoughtfully done in order to reserve the customer the right to choose his/her own meal allowing them to take various choices of hotel ranging from Top to Medium range. Also, we do understand that each client’s food expense is not the same and that they might not want to take it related to their eating time behavior.

We do not include breakfast during an early morning flight given that some hotels might not provide so due to their proper time policies.

However, there are few hotels requesting a booking in half board (breakfast + dinner) in places like Setam Lodge in Ranomafana, Jardin du Roy in Isalo, Andilana beach (Nosybe) Ifaty Beach, Paradisier (Ifaty).

Or on full board (breakfast + lunch + dinner) during camping

The price of a meal vary between 8 and 15 € in top hotel or between 4 and 5 € in medium range

 

TIPS

Tips are viewed as mandatory service rather than compulsory. You can leave tips though depending on your satisfaction from the service you received.

We would recommend certain hints based on rendered service below to help you arrange your budget:

Hotel porter is around 1000 Ar (about half euro)

Porter in the park during the camping is 5000 Ar per day (less than 2 euro)

In the restaurant, tipping is more or less than 10% of the bill

For driver, it is 10 000 Ar per day (less than 4 euro)

For local guide in the park, it is 10, 000 Ar per day (less than 4 euro)

For tour leader, it is 20 000 Ar per day (a bit more than 7 euro)

PASSPORTS

To enter Madagascar, a passport valid for six months after the date of entry is required by all foreign nationals.

VISAS 

Visas for Madagascar are required by all foreign nationals.

You can freely obtain a visa valid for 30 days upon arrival in Madagascar.

If you want to prolong your stay, we suggest you to go to the Interior Ministry, along with your passport, 02 photos, and fees.

OUR VEHICLES

Most of our vehicles are equipped with air conditioning, luggage rack and their type is SUV (4 wheel Drive), A tour bus, car, minivan.

Also, you can recharge the batteries of your camera and/or phone on the cigarette lighter sockets.

TRAVEL RESPONSIBLE

Our motto is, ‘Pack it in, and pack it out’

Pay much attention of the preserving the ecosystem.

Make sure to pack out your personal waste.

You are highly advised to contribute to the cleanliness of the unique condition of sites you are visiting.

Do not illegal buy or take out any protected endangered species of animals.

Photo is the best memory ever.

Note that according to the International Convention on Animal trade, there are many prohibited animals that tourists should be aware of including lemurs, radiated tortoise, sea tortoise, boa, and Antongil red frog, vertebrate, fish and plant fossils, Dinosaur bones, Aepyornis eggs, orchids, Euphorbia, Didieraceous, species (Pachypodium), etc..

Animal skin and plants are prohibited for export.

Besides, respect the local traditions, the elder people, those of in high ranking, and especially the ‘fady’ or taboo.

Before taking photographs of a person or a group of people, please ask for their permission first.

Lastly, nudism is not allowed on beaches and sexual tourism is strongly prohibited that tourist can liable to imprisonment and huge amount of fines.

Prohibited exports are seized by customs to protect the national heritage requiring a license to do so which is issued by the following services:

Vibrant Plants: Forestry Department, Nanisana

Vegetables, fruits and dried plants: Plant Services (Tsaralalàna station or Airport Ivato)

Gemstones: Ministry of Commerce, the Department of Economic controls Ambohidahy.