For lovers of local crafts, shopping in Madagascar is a treat a minute, with a wide variety of ethnic souvenirs, home décor and fashions all at tempting prices. Favorite mementos of your trip may include wood carvings in diverse styles, colorful, woven squares known as lamba, semiprecious stones set in silver jewelry, intricate embroideries and unique, handmade Antiamoro paper fashioned into flowers and other decorative items. Every city and town has a local market, although presently the main one in Tana is closed to visitors for safety reasons.
A unique buy in Madagascar is a bag of the exceptionally fragrant vanilla at a great price for which the country is famous. Tana’s government stores are good for a variety of souvenirs and local crafts at cheap prices, especially if you’re short on time and find yourself near the small Route Digue craft market by the airport. A wander through the city’s herbal medicine market by the train station is fascinating, while the main shopping drag, Avenue de l’Independence, has market stalls as well as upscale outlets and malls. If you’re stocking up on crafts, make sure you don’t need an export permit.
Nosy Be Island’s shopping scene is smaller and more focused on traditional handicrafts and locally-sourced Malagasy clothing, all of which are found in two markets and along the streets. The island’s local rum and exotic perfumes, often vanilla-based, make great gifts, as do art from several galleries. Bargaining is allowed, although prices in general are already low. For upscale retail therapy, the shopping malls at the resort hotels offer a good selection, although prices are significantly higher.