You are thinking about travelling Madagascar in 2019? Our trip to Madagascar this year was full of surprises, contrasts and inspiring moments. We are happy to share our newly gained travel knowledge about this country with you in this post.
Despite or because its sad status of being one of the poorest counties in the world, tourism is on the rise. Many know Madagascar as the tropical paradise like it was presented in the popular cartoon Madagascar. White sand beaches, palm trees and lemurs, an incredibly cute monkey-like animal that can only be found on this island.
That being said, Madagascar is not really the typical island. It is 1580 km long and 570 km wide and the diverse landscape makes it seem like 10 countries in one.
When to go?
High Season for travelling is April to September/October, as this is Malagasy winter and dry season. The climate is tropical, but pleasant during these months, with few mosquitoes biting at night.
October is a good month for animal watching, as many species, including the lemurs have their babies. The rest of the year can be quite wet and roads are even less accessible than in dry season.
A few words about the roads…
The size alone makes travelling in Madagascar more time consuming than one might expect. Along the main roads it takes between 3 and 4 full days of driving to get from the capital of Antananarivo to the coast in Tulear. Flying the same distance will cost you about an hour of travel time.
Roads are not only windy but scattered with holes and bumps throughout the country – and only about 10 percent is paved at all. To give you an idea, the coastal road between Tulear and Salary Bay is described as being in OK condition – it takes about 4 hours to drive 75 kilometres.
Travel Madagascar 2019: What Are My Options?
It is possible to travel Madagascar on public transport – but we don’t recommend it. As typical backpackers, we usually prefer to experience travel the slow way and save money where possible, but travelling public transport in Madagascar would take FOREVER.
In Madagascar, travelling by public transport – the so-called taxi brousse – is simply uncomfortable, extremely slow, and possibly dangerous. If being squeezed in the back of a rough looking vehicle, with your luggage hopefully tied to the roof, stopping & starting for 10+ hours a day in a hot and sweaty vehicle is your thing… then the public transport in Madagascar is for you!
Hire a Local Driver
Your second option is to hire a private driver to get from one place to another. Having your own vehicle is certainly more comfortable and probably safer, as drivers are the ones to trust. They are paid relatively well and will keep an eye on your luggage whenever you would like to leave the vehicle for a bit.
Hiring a driver also comes with the advantage of local knowledge for places to eat, shop, not to stop, etc. Ask a local travel agency to help you arrange a guide for your tour. This is a great alternative to a fully organised tour, especially if you like to travel independently, not worry about dates, and change your itinerary as you go!
Book a Private Tour
From our own experience, an organised tour is definitely the most comfortable way of traveling Madagascar in 2019. You might pay a bit more to have an agency plan everything for you, but the relative comfort is certainly worth a bit of extra cash. If you wish to see the stunning diversity of landscapes in Madagascar, you will have to be ready for some long driving days. However its nice to know that at the end of the long days there is a clean bed waiting for you, and this can make all the difference.
When choosing a travel agency, make sure to go with a local operator. Our trip with Mora Travel was fantastic and we can recommend their services for several reasons. Not only did we feel secure and looked after throughout our whole trip, we also had great accommodation, a diverse travel program and a very competent driver.
Prior to our trip to Madagascar, Greg and I were searching for a local partner with a sustainable approach to tourism. Mora Travel works with local hotel operators, guides and drivers only, facilitating jobs and creating opportunity.
One of Madagascar’s biggest problem lies in land destruction and decrease in natural resources. Mora Travel supports valuable community projects such as the Anja Park Lemur Reserve and a tree planting initiative in Ranohira outside Isalo National Park.
Learning about the immense environmental impact of deforestation, water pollution and general poverty in this country was shocking, but it was great to see sustainable tourism initiatives making a difference.
For those of you who are social butterflies, organised group tours are the way to go. GAdventures has quite a few different itineraries on offer, so you will be able to find a tour that best suits your time & interests. They also work closely with Mora Travel and other local tour operators, supporting community-based tourism.
What to expect from travelling Madagascar in 2019
Now that you know a bit more on traveling Madagascar in 2019, we would like to give you a short introduction on what to expect from your visit. Madagascar is a country incredibly diverse and beautiful, with unique landscape, flora and fauna.
To see at least the main attractions such as the Baobab Alley, Ranomafana & Isalo Nationlpark, you should plan at least 14 days. Having more time will allow you to travel slower and split up some long driving days.
Madagascar is poor and you will be confronted with begging and some pretty challenging insights on how people live here. However, everyone is incredibly friendly, open and curious towards tourists. There is no real reason to be too concerned about robbery or theft, unless you leave your belongings unattended or carry them around with you all too obvious.
People in Madagascar are very kind and always willing to help you. You must however expect that they ask for some money in return. Giving a few notes to someone who helped you carry your luggage or give you advice won’t hurt you. And for them, it can mean the world!
Last but not least, bring some French language skills with you! Colonialism has clearly had an impact on Malagasy Culture and many local people are bilingual if not tri. English however is less popular and you will be lucky to find a driver or guide with fluent English.
Madagascar is a beautifully diverse and resourceful country and it needs tourism, now more than ever. We hope that this post has raised your interest in traveling Madagascar in 2019.
Save travels and have fun, it’s all about the adventure!!
Greg and Nellie