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Travel guide to Madagascar

Passports
Your passport must be valid for 6 months after your return date and have two blank facing pages. If you do not have this, you will be denied boarding at your departure airport. Soiled, damaged or defaced passports will not be accepted.
Visas
Visas are compulsory and are purchased at the airport on arrival  (€25/$27) for visits of < 90 days.
Health
There are no compulsory health requirements, unless you are travelling via East Africa when a yellow fever certificate may be requested. Malaria tablets are recommended. As dengue fever is present, a good insect repellent and anti-histamine are advised. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. You should be up to date with your primary courses and boosters, and always check with your doctor at least 8 weeks before travel for any other inoculations recommended (eg Hepatitis A+B, Cholera, Diphtheria, Typhoid, Polio, Meningococcal Meningitis, Rabies and TB).
Currency
Madagascar Ariary (MGA) - although some tourist hotels accept Euro (EUR). You can exchange currency at Antananarivo airport, but  you will not be able to change back any surplus afterwards. Hotels are not allowed to exchange currency. Remember to ask for smaller denominations, which are useful for tipping
Language
French + Malagasy
Time Zone
GMT + 3 Hours
Travel Tips
To ensure that you have the best possible holiday experience, we ask you to read the following information carefully. If you have any questions, please discuss them with us before you depart. 
 
Madagascar is a poor country with a fragile infrastructure and, apart from one or two exceptions, most roads are severely degraded and a 4x4 vehicle is essential. Tracking lemurs in the rainforests is also very physical, requiring a certain level of mobility and fitness. Standards in most simple rural hotels are also well below European standards, although en-suite and clean. So when you visit Madagascar do so with an adventurous outlook and have patience when plans have to be changed. 
 
Cash - it is essential to take foreign currency in small denominations, and only exchange the amount you are likely to use, as you will not be able to change any surplus back into hard currency. 
 
Hand Luggage – pack essential items for a day or two in your hand luggage, in case your bags go astray and take a few days to catch up with you, especially if you have any tight connecting flights. 
 
Documents – take a copy of your travel insurance policy with you, and leave a copy of your passport with a reliable contact at home, in case the originals are lost or stolen. 
 
Electronic Devices – ensure these are all fully charge before travel, as you may be required to switch them on at airport security. Any device that does not switch on cannot be checked in and must be surrendered. 
 
Mobile Phones – make sure they are set up for international calls and turn off data roaming to avoid nasty bills. Many hotels offer free Wi-Fi but be aware that some rural regions may not have cell phone coverage. 
 
Credit Cards – remember to inform your bank when travelling abroad. Visa is more widely accepted than MasterCard and a 3-5% surcharge usually applies. Many rural places do not have satellite reception (so card machines don't work), so ensure you have cash when travelling in the countryside. 
 
Clothing – pack in layers according to the season, including lightweight but long sleeved shirts and long trousers to protect against mosquitos (safari clothing is ideal for this). Neutral colours are best – khaki, green & brown. Avoid white & bright colours, as these increase your visibility to the lemurs, and black which can get very hot. Pack long socks (so you can tuck in your trouser legs and keep out biting ants) & gardening gloves to protect your hands, as you scramble through the rainforest. Take a generous supply of insect repellent to spray on your neck, wrists and ankles and avoid using perfume, as this attracts insects. Proper rain gear is also essential, including both a rain jacket and lightweight waterproof trousers. Take a day pack, good walking shoes, T-shirts, shorts, jeans, light fleece, sunhat, swimming costume, sunglasses, sunscreen, flip flops & and sea shoes to protect your feet from coral. Pack your own toiletries, as these are not always supplied. Sanitising hand cleaner/wet wipes and eye drops can be handy, especially if you wear contact lenses & a 'shewee' is invaluable for ladies in the bush. 
 
Accessories – a good head torch is essential for tracking lemurs at night. Also your phone (with charger and a spare battery pack), camera (with spare memory cards and batteries – a 200 mm zoom lens is good for wildlife photography) and binoculars (large 8x40 is best). If you are a keen birder we suggest one pair per person, as it can be frustrating to share. 
 
Plugs – Type C (European 2-prong). 
 
Books – pack a good travel guide, with information on the wildlife and birds of the region, as well as a French phrase book. Knowing a few simple greetings in Malagasy will also go down well. Also pack a generous supply of English reading material for quiet evenings and when waiting for flights, as these will be hard to come by in Madagascar. 
 
Local Flights – Air Madagascar is notoriously unreliable and flights are re-scheduled daily, usually without prior notice. Your ground handler will check these for you, but be prepared to change your itinerary in need. You must check in 2-hours before each departure and expect to be re-routed indirectly via other towns at times. For this reason, if you are taking an internal flight on your last day, it is sensible to spend your last night in Antananarivo to ensure you do not miss your international flight home. 
 
Water – be fastidious and only drink bottled water. Avoid washed salads, local yoghurt, ice cream and ice cubes outside your hotel, as tap water is not safe to drink. Peel all fruit before eating it and remember to brush your teeth with bottled water. Pack diarrhoea tablets and rehydration sachets for emergencies. 
 
Food – Malagasy cuisine has been influenced by both Indonesian and French style, but tends to be very basic with rice as the staple food. Breakfasts are mostly continental (you will usually be expected to pay extra if your order eggs) and tea is served black. If you ask for milk, remember to ask for it cold – otherwise it will be served hot. Vegetarians may find the menu rather monotonous outside the main towns. 
 
Driving – this is on the right, but the roads are in such a poor condition that it is not possible to self-drive. 
 
Safety – this is a poor country and pickpockets are active in Antananarivo. So leave valuable jewellery/watches at home, wear a money belt and be alert when outside your hotel. In particular, avoid taking out large wads of cash in public view and keep your spare cash in your hotel safe. 
 
Swimming – this is generally safe around the reef protected islands of Nosy Be, Anjajavy, Manafiafy, western side of Ile Saint Marie and Masoala Peninsula, Morondava and the southwest coast. Avoid swimming along the east coast from Diego Suarez to Fort Dauphin, as sharks are a danger. 
 
Bush Toilets – there are no clean facilities outside the main towns, except for specified stopping points, so expect to use a “bush toilet” if you are caught short in the countryside. 
 
Wild Animals – attacks by wild animals are rare, but we cannot guarantee that attacks will not occur so observe all sensible precautions. We cannot be held responsible for injuries caused during an incident with a wild animal. 
 
Indemnities - please be aware it is likely you will be required to sign indemnities for safaris and any other potentially hazardous activities. 
 
Pack for a Purpose - if you have a little space in your suitcase, local schools & communities always appreciate gifts of English reading books, pens & pencils, stationery, deflated footballs etc. Specific requests from communities can be seen on the 'Pack for a Purpose' website. 
 
Tipping – this is voluntary and should depend on the level of service received. We suggest the following Euro (or local currency equivalent) per couple/family, but this can be reduced for longer stays: 
- overland guide & driver: €10/€5 per day 
- city guide: €10 per day (€5 for half day) 
- national park guides: €2 
- tipping box for hotel staff: €5 per day 
- waiters: 10% (if not already added to your bill) 
- porters: €1 per bag. 
 
Your Safety - consult the UK Foreign Office website for the latest travel advice www.fco.gov.uk.
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