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Summary: Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island, behind Greenland, New Guinea and Borneo, located in the Indian Ocean to the east of Mozambique, and has a narrow coastal plain with a terrain rising to high plateaus and mountains in the center. A French colony in 1896 and independent in 1960, Madagascar has worked to privatize and liberalize its economy, based primarily on agriculture, forestry and tourism.

Capital: Antananarivo
Time Zone: UTC+3
Population: 17,501,871
Languages: French, Malagasy
Power: 220V, 50 Hz
Currency: Malagasy Franc
Climate: Madagascar has a tropical climate along the coasts, more temperate inland, and arid in the south, with a cooler dry winter from April to October, and a warmer and wetter summer from November to March, which carries a risk of hurricanes. The eastern coast flips from the south and has a rainy season from June to September.


Antananarivo: Often called simply Tana, Antananarivo is the cultural and historical center of the country. Start on the Araben ny Faheleovantena, the Avenue of Independence, and see the street markets, then head to Rova, the ruined home of the Merina court and Queen's Palace, then make your way to the Parc Botanique et Zoologique de Tsimbazaza sharing the grounds with the Musee d'Academie Malgache to get an understanding of the local wildlife and history. A day trip to Ambohimanga will reveal the palace of King Andrianampoinimerina within the walled blue city.

Tsingy de Bemaraha: The two Tsingy Parks that make up the Reserve Naturelle Integrale des Tsingy de Bemaraha, Petit Tsingy and Grand Tsingy, are a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its remoteness and limited human impact. Old limestone pillars hide lemurs, birds and reptiles safely viewed by a canoe trip down Manambolo River. The Park is roughly 375 miles west of the capital, a long enough trip that is virtually only possible during the dry season.

Nosy Be: In the north, and home to most of the Madagascar's resorts, Nosy Be is a tourist island hotspot with restaurants, bars, and beaches, but also some great ecotourist sights, often called the perfumed isle, l'Ile Parfumee. Hike to Mont Passot, an easy 1079 foot climb surrounded by the sacred Crater Lakes, and 100 miles away, on the northern tip, the Parc National de Montagne d'Ambre, a massive rainforest reserve filled with chameleons, geckoes, birds and other wildlife.

Security: Avoid overt displays of wealth and traveling around the cities at night, and keep an eye on your wallet or purse in crowded tourist areas.

Local Customs: Time seems to slow down here, and punctuality becomes almost optional for locals. Avoid taking pictures of police or military buildings or personnel, and always ask locals before photographing them. Local villagers are very hospitable and will offer a bed to sleep in and a seat at the village feast; see the head of the family or the village chief to make donations in return.

Banking: Banks are open weekdays but close for several hours over lunch, where currencies and traveler's checks can be exchanged. Credit cards have limited availability outside the larger cities.

Bargaining: When you don't tip, you can always bargain, an option at all the smaller shops and marketplaces. Work with the price of what you’re buying, as it's expected and may even make you look gullible if you don't.

When To Visit: The April to October winter has more comfortable temperatures and makes for the best time of year to visit, especially since there's no risk of hurricanes, although the highlands have a more constant climate and can be visited yearround.

Food: Fresh fruits are widely available, and rice dominates many Madagascar meals, with meat or vegetables sized as garnishes, and achards are common, pickled vegetable curry. Ravitoto, a pork stew made with manioc, and romazava, a vegetable and beef stew, are local dishes, and fish is frequently served along the coast. Finish you meal with a coffe, THB, or Three Horse Beer, or a litchel, made from lychees.

Tipping: Tipping is not standard, however, generally speaking, round up your bill or add up to 10% for exceptional service.


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