Malagasy is Madagascar’s most common language, although French is still spoken amongst the educated and has been an official language since 2010. Many Malagasy dialects are also spoken across the archipelago and except in the capital and on Nosy Be, English is rare.
The official money of Madagascar is the ariairy, a non-convertible currency only available in the country. Visitors can exchange US dollars, pounds sterling and euro on arrival at the airport, although limits on the amount are in place. Banks are found in the cities and main tourist areas, although many will only take US dollars or the euro. Travelers’ checks are usually accepted although some banks won’t take Amex checks or those from Thomas Cook. ATMs are the easiest way to get cash and are found in city centers. Credit cards are accepted at major outlets in the capital and provinces, but are not yet widely used as a form of payment and a service charge of seven percent will be applied.
Madagascar is in the East African Time Zone, 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT +3).
Madagascar uses electricity at 220-240V/50Hz and sockets are Europlugs and Schuko plugs. Visitors from the US will need to purchase a step-down transformer not rated as dual-voltage, and outlet adapters. Visitors from the UK will also need plug adapters.
The dialing code for Madagascar is +261 followed by a regional code and the telephone number. Cell phone usage in the country is expanding fast with three companies providing service, Orange, Zain and Telma. If your phone is unlocked, it’s easy to buy a Malagasy prepaid SIM card, although coverage and costs between the three providers can be tricky to evaluate.
Visitors arriving to Madagascar are allowed to bring in 200 cigarettes and two liters of alcohol, but all perfume is subject to duty. Passengers returning to the US are able to purchase up to 200 cigarettes, one liter of alcohol, and gifts up to a value of US $400 tax-free. Goods manufactured illegally in Madagascar may not be taken out of the country, nor may food with the exception of 100 grams of vanilla.
National Tourism Office of Madagascar: +261-2-266-155 or http://madagascar-tourisme.com
Embassies and Consulates in Madagascar
Canadian Consulate, Antatanarivo: +261-20-224-2559
US Embassy, Antatanarivo: +261-20-222-1257
Australian High Commission, Mauritius: +230-202-0160
British High Commission, Mauritius: +230-202-9400
Emergency services: 117