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TIPS MADAGASCAR

Written by DanielaZavala. Posted in Africa, Tips

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Published on July 27, 2011 with No Comments

VISA: Most nationalities need a visa to visit. It is always important to double check what applies to you according to your nationality. At the moment of writing, a tourist visa could be issued upon arrival at the airport in Antananarivo. Make sure you have at least three empty pages in your passport.

HOW TO GET THERE: There are non-stop flights to Antananarivo (also known as Tana) from Paris (France), Johannesburg (South Africa) and Nairobi (Kenya). I traveled through Johannesburg, and although it was an only 3-hour flight, it cost me US$800 (and with Madagascar Air which was the cheapest. Be ready for delays!). Flying to the island is expensive, yet the costs in Madagascar (if traveling independently) are low.

TOURS VS. INDEPENDENT TRAVEL: The cheapest way to travel around Madagascar is by taxi brousse. Traveling independently and with public transportation is possible but it takes time and patience (but it will save you money!!!). If you don’t have much time, I would strongly recommend getting private transport. Although more expensive, it is convenient. If you decide to hire private transportation, be careful who you negotiate with because some travel agencies will send you outrageous prices for their tours. In this post, I will give you some information regarding costs so you can tell if someone if ripping you off.

I don’t like to travel with tour operators, but the few times I have used agencies, I have been very lucky to get great-customized service at good price. For Madagascar, I chose Rija Tours, which was recommended by two travelers in the Lonely Planet Forum (a source I trust). It turned out to be a TOTAL disappointment. Its owner lied to me and –when I finally met him in person- he was actually rude. For instance… before traveling to Madagascar, I asked him that I preferred camping in the parks than staying at hotels. When he sent me the itinerary, I noticed he put hotels. Just in case, I insisted in the camping option in another email, but he said that only Isalo had a camping area. Well, throughout my trip I found camping areas in most parks!!! Actually there are camping options all the way in route N7! I guess he lied to me so he could make more money through the agreements with the hotels.??? I have no idea but I was very upset about that. Fortunately I had camping equipment with me, and I did (of course getting from my pocket the cost of camping despite the fact I had paid for accommodation!). Regarding overpricing… when I asked him the cost for a day trip to Andasibe, he said it was 225Euros (about US$325) for driver, fuel, car, budget hotel and ticket to park. A diplomat friend in Tana arranged for me a driver in a private Land Cruiser, one night in the top-end hotel, fuel, ticket to park, local guide and meals, and I spent less! If you go on taxi brousse and stay at budget hotel, you can even go cheaper!

RECOMMENDED GUIDES:
For trips around Madagascar: You can contact Mamy Randriamanantena. This is a guide/driver who speaks perfect English, Italian and Japanese. He can help you arrange your trip and customize it depending on your time, your interests and your budget. He is a very nice Malagasy man and the kind of guide that would go the extra mile for you (he did for me while in Andisabe!). Email: mamyguide@yahoo.fr . Address: Lot II E 48 A Ter. Ampanotokana, 101 Antananarivo. Phone numbers: (00261) 320249083/ (00261)331549083/ (00261) 340749083
For Ranomafana: I strongly recommend Mamifeno ‘Mami” Saminirina. Mami knows Ranomafana inside out. He has been a local guide there for ages. He is knowledgeable and fun! We were able to spot most lemurs (including the rarely seen as the Greater Bamboo Lemur!) on a full day tour. At night when I saw nothing, he spotted all sort of chameleons, mouse lemurs and frogs. He is awesome. Tell him to play you my favorite Malagasy songs 😉 His email is: mamifenos@gmail.com and his phone numbers: 0330908048 or 0341245531
For Isalo National Park: Rabeniandrasana Noizy Velombita or simply “Roxy” (as you will learn, Malagasy names are insanely long and impossible to pronounce!) is a young, knowledgeable and enthusiastic local guide with impeccable English. Strongly recommended. His email is roxyisalo@gmail.com and his phones are (00261) 330833813 or (00261) 346397616

APPROX. COSTS IN MADAGASCAR The costs in Madagascar –as you will read below- are cheap, especially food. Fuel is expensive and that’s why having a private car/driver will be pricy, yet make sure to negotiate and get a fair deal not a rip off!

strong>Approx. Costs of taxi brousse rides:• Antananarivo-Antsirabe:US$10 per person
• Antsirabe-Fianarontsoa:US$15 per person
• Fianarantsoa-Ranomafana:US$5 per person
• Fianarantsoa-Ambalavao: US$8 per person
• Ambalavao-Isalo: US$20 per person
• Isalo/Tulear: US$20 per person
• Tulear/Ifaty: US$20 per person

Flight Tulear-Antananarivo with Madagascar Air (Be ready as this airline is always delayed!): US$150-200 per person

Accommodations:
Madagascar is a great place for camping. Most of the parks have camping sites and they are actually very good. You can bring your own camping equipment or you can rent it through a tour agency in Madagascar (I would recommend to take at least your own sleeping bag). At the time of writing, the camping site in Antsirabe was in the works. Ranomafana, Isalo y Anja parks have camping sites that will give you opportunity to experience Madagascar’s wildlife at its best. If you prefer the comfort of a hotel, there are some decent budget options. If you want to splurge, there are some new luxury hotels (in some locations) that will leave you speechless. I stayed in the cheap or the camping, but I did my research and visit some newest top-end hotels. Here it is info per location I visited.

Antananarivo: Chez Aina is a good quality, great service and good value B&B in Antananarivo. Website: www.chezaina-maison-hote.com. Email: chezaina@moov.mg Address: IVC 147 A Ambatomitsangana, Antananarivo 101, Madagascar
Andisabe: The most expensive and luxurious hotel is Vakona Lodge and it costs 60Euros per night. I did actually stay here. It is beautiful and in the middle of the forest. I found it to be a bit overpriced but you are paying for location and amenities. Website: www.hotelvakona.com. A good and cheaper alternative is Hotel Feon’ny Ala. Also located in the forest. Great restaurant. It doesn’t have a website, but can be contacted at +261 205683202.
Antsirabe: The range price for a budget hotel is about US$25-45$ (No camping options) . Le Retrait Hotel is basic, but good location. Doesn’t have website. Phone.+261 20 44 050 29. For better quality and more comfort, check Soa Guest House. Website: www.soaguesthouse.com
Ranomafana: The budget hotel the operator booked for me was Manja hotel (about US$15) I stayed at the camping area of the Valbio Research Centre, which is awesome and strongly recommended as you will be able to interact with the very enthusiastic researchers who work there. You can also camp in the area of park itself.
Ambalavao: I stayed at the Tropik hotel, a part apart from the center of the town. It is basic, but there are no many options in this town. It would make it for the night.
Anja Park: This is a very well-run private reserve. It has a great camping area

Rock Lodge Room


Isalo: The park has a camping area. Budget hotels cost US$25 a US$35. Motel L’Isalo Motel is a good value located in Ranohira, the closest town to Isalo National Park. But Isalo has some amazing luxury hotels. I checked out Rock Lodge and it is truly spectacular. The location is perfect in the middle of the stunning sandstones. Th hotel is beautiful, modern and classy. The rooms are spacious, BEAUTIFULLY decorated, fully equipped. The restaurant is awesome too. Excellent service. I can go on and on about this gem in Isalo’s sandstones. It is more expensive for Madagascar standards and for a backpacker budget, but if you have some extra money to pamper yourself, I STRONGLY recommend checking this one. You won’t regret it. Email: www.isalorocklodge.com. Tel. 00 261 20 22 328 60. E-mail: reservations@isalorocklodge.com
Ifaty: For cheap, right on the beach, La Voile Rouge is a good option with basic bungalows. Phone: +261 032 04 311 42. For those with some extra cash, check out “Les Dunes d’Ifaty” (www.lesdunesdifaty.com)

Park Entrances: Approx. US$ 10 each park. However, VERY important to take in consideration: All parks require visitors to hire local guides to visit the reserves. There are established rates for local guides and the cost depends on the length of the tour, but a tour of 2 to 4 hours can cost US$20 to US$30 (sans tip!) and in some cases it can even be up to US$40 (for full day). So be aware that local guides’ fee are higher than the park entry fee!

WEATHER: It can get cold in Madagascar. They do have winter (no worries, no snow) but it can get chilly so bring some sweaters if you come in the months between May and October. Be aware of the rainy season through January to march.

HEALTH: Take with you: Iodine tablets (for the water), sun block, anti-malaria pills, anti-diarrhea medicine, antibiotics, antibacterial ointment, bandages, gauze, mosquito repellent, hydrocortisone for rashes and aspirin. Don’t drink water from the tap and avoid eating non-cooked vegetables. Avoid strawberries and wash well the tomatoes.

MONEY: The local currency is Ariary and Malagasy economy is all about cash. Euros are accepted everywhere. US$ dollars are not as widely accepted as I wished except in Antananarivo and a few other places so you are better off with Ariary or Euros. There are ATMs in major cities but sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t!

LANGUAGE: The official languages are Malagasy and French. If you are traveling independently, you’ve better speak some basic French! The local guides at the parks though speak great English.

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