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Madagascar travel guide

About Madagascar

Undoubtedly one of the world’s most fascinating destinations, Madagascar floats off the coast of Mozambique, in the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, and is home to some of the weirdest, most wonderful wildlife in existence. A cliché it may be, but there really is nowhere quite like it.

Up to 90% of the flora and fauna found in Madagascar is unique to the island, which was cut adrift from the African mainland millions of years ago and has evolved in sweet isolation since. Mother Nature had a chance to experiment in Madagascar, and experiment she did.

Nowadays the island is home to around a quarter of our planet’s primates and they exist in glorious variety: big and small, social and solitary, adorably cute and downright freaky. The primates’ story is played out across the animal groups: there are several hundred types of frog, dozens of bats, over a hundred snakes (mostly small, all harmless) and almost half of the world’s chameleons. It’s a similar story where flora is concerned, too.

But Madagascar is not just a nirvana for naturalists: the island offers splendid beaches, scuba diving and surfing; gnarly rock climbing and caving; lazy river trips; spectacular scenery; and warm, welcoming people with interesting beliefs and cultural practices.

The island is divided along its middle by a high plateau. Lush rainforest runs in a band down the eastern side, while drier deciduous forests lie to the west. In the far south is the unique arid spiny forest, home to the island’s wackiest plant life. Giant baobab trees populate the western regions.

A mix of influences provides telltale evidence of the Polynesian settlers, Arabic presence, Bantu tribes-folk and European arrivals of the past, all of which have culminated in a fascinating cultural melting pot. For sheer diversity, Madagascar hard to beat.

Key facts


587,041 sq km (226,658 sq miles).


24,890,000 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

40.6 per sq km.





Head of state:

President Andry Rajoelina since 2023.

Head of government:

Prime Minister Christian Ntsay since 2018.

Travel Advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice

Before you travel 

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and any specific travel advice that applies to you: 

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.  

Travel insurance 

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency. 

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Madagascar set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Embassy of Madagascar in London

COVID-19 rules 

There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering Madagascar. 

Passport validity requirements 

To enter Madagascar, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive. It must also have at least 2 blank pages.  

Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.  

You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.

Visa requirements 

You can visit Madagascar for up to 15 days without a visa. You must pay a 10-euro administration fee on arrival and be ready to show your onward or return tickets. 

Applying for a visa 

If you want to stay longer than 15 days, you can buy a 30- or 60-day single-entry tourist visa on arrival at the airport with US dollars, euros or Malagasy ariary.  

You can also apply in advance to the Embassy of Madagascar in London for a tourist or immigrant visa. 

Make sure you get your passport stamped.

You can extend either of these visas to a maximum total stay of 90 days while you are in Madagascar. If you overstay, you may be detained or deported.  

Travelling with children 

A child aged 17 or under, travelling without one or either parent must carry written authorisation from the absent parent or parents when leaving Madagascar. 

Vaccination requirements  

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need in TravelHealthPro’s Madagascar guide

Depending on your circumstances, these may include: 

  • a yellow fever vaccination certificate 
  • a polio vaccination certificate 

Health screening


If you are entering Madagascar from a Cholera-affected country, you may be asked by airport authorities to take an anti-cholera drug (Doxcyline). Anyone who is unable to take Doxcyline should be offered an alternative medication by the health authorities.

Alternative medication will be provided to those that: 

  • are pregnant 
  • are under 8 years old  
  • have a pre existing medical condition

You are likely to be asked to leave contact details with the health authorities and they may follow up with you after 3-5 days.

Customs rules 

There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of Madagascar. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty. 

Taking food into and out of Madagascar 

Do not take in any food, including fruit, as this is illegal. 

When leaving Madagascar you may, after declaring and showing receipts, take out: 

  • up to 2kg of vanilla 
  • up to 1kg of pepper or cloves 

You may only export other plant and animal products if you get permission.

Taking money into Madagascar 

You can take up to 400,000 Malagasy ariary into Madagascar.  

Declare foreign cash or travellers cheques if the value is 7,500 euros or more. You will get a certified declaration to show you brought it with you. If you do not, your money could be seized when you leave. 

This guide also has safety advice for regions of Madagascar


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.    

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Madagascar 

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Madagascar, attacks cannot be ruled out.

Political situation  

Madagascar will hold Parliamentary elections on 29 May.

Politically linked rallies and protests can turn violent. Security forces in central Antananarivo may close roads and can use tear gas in response to demonstrations. Avoid large gatherings and political demonstrations, including those taking place in central Antananarivo.  


Robberies and thefts are commonplace throughout Madagascar. Foreigners are targets for pickpockets and muggers.  

Beaches and islands 

Avoid visiting isolated and remote beaches, especially alone. Get local advice or use an experienced travel operator when visiting any beach. There have been violent robberies and assaults even in the daytime in many popular coastal locations including: 

  • Nosy Be island  
  • Ankify Port  
  • Ambanja  
  • beaches to the south and north of Toliara (Tuléar) 

Protecting yourself and your belongings 

To reduce the risk of street crime: 

  • avoid walking alone in city centres or poorly lit urban areas after dark  
  • use pre-booked taxis or hotel transport  
  • be alert even in nature reserves, national parks and beaches 
  • be wary of people approaching you in an over-friendly manner 
  • be on the alert for criminals acting in pairs 
  • do not use your mobile or show cash while on the street 

Vehicle crime 

There are frequent armed robberies on main roads, particularly at night. Where possible, drive in a convoy and avoid driving outside major towns after dark. Either use a recognised tour operator or ask your hotel to arrange transport. Always keep car doors locked and windows closed, particularly in Antananarivo. 

See regional risks to find out which roads are particularly dangerous. 

Due to the risk of robbery, avoid using multi-passenger taxi vans (‘taxi-brousses’ or ‘bush taxis’). If you’re attacked in any vehicle, do not resist or argue as the criminal could be armed. Stay calm and agree to their demands.  

If you are stopped by security personnel or police, ask for ID as there have been reports of criminals falsely claiming to be police. 

Report any incident to the police if possible. Take a copy of the police report if you need it for an insurance claim. 

Criminal kidnaps 

There have been occasional instances of kidnapping for ransom in Madagascar. These often target wealthy foreign nationals and foreign nationals working for large international companies.

Laws and cultural differences  

Local taboos (‘fady’)  

In many parts of Madagascar, aspects of daily life are regulated by taboos, known as ‘fady’. These vary from one region to another. Fady can range from forbidden foods to restrictions on clothing.  

If you plan to visit remote rural areas, get advice from your tour operator or a local guide. They can advise you about how to behave in certain locations.  

If you plan a longer stay in a village, first check if you should inform the head of the local authority (‘Fokontany’) and the village head or wise man (‘Ray aman-dreny’). 

Personal ID 

Always carry your passport with you, as police randomly make ID checks and do not always accept copies. Keep a copy of your passport’s photo page, visa and insurance details somewhere safe, and leave further copies with family or friends in the UK. 

Public offences 

Paying for sex is illegal. The penalty is a fine of 1,500 to 7,000 euros and possibly a prison sentence of up to 10 years.  

The law against sexual abuse of underage children (aged 17 and under) is strictly enforced, especially for incidents that involve foreign tourists. Underage sex workers may carry fake identity cards. You could be prosecuted or bribed in this situation. 

Illegal drugs and prison sentences 

Drug smuggling is a serious offence. Punishments can be severe and prison conditions are harsh and life-threatening. 

Security personnel and police 

Be alert to the possibility of over-reaction by security personnel. Avoid actions that might provoke them, such as taking photographs of them. If you’re stopped by the police, show respect and stay calm.  

LGBT+ travellers 

Same-sex sexual activity is legal among persons of at least 21 years old. However public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and showing affection in public may receive negative attention. 

Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers

Wildlife, animal products and souvenirs 

It’s illegal to collect, buy or export protected animals, plants or products made from them. This includes certain woods such as items made of rosewood. If you buy anything made of wild animal skin or shell, check with the vendor exactly what information you can give to customs if they ask for details. 

Stadiums and venues 

Security and safety standards at stadiums and venues in Madagascar may be lower than in the UK. If you go to a large-scale event, make sure you know the location of fire exits and check exit routes. On 25 August 2023 there was a crush at the gates of Mahamasina Stadium in the capital, Antananarivo, where at least 12 people were killed.

Transport risks  

Road travel  

If you are planning to drive in Madagascar, see information on driving abroad. You need to have both the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) and your UK driving licence with you in the car.

You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel.

Road conditions vary greatly and are often poor. Many roads outside Antananarivo have steep gradients and sharp bends. Heavy freight trucks use the roads. Drive with extreme care as drivers often fail to signal and pull out sharply. Avoid driving at night as vehicles often have no lights and few roads are lit. 

In the rainy season, from December to April, many secondary roads are impassable except by 4-wheel-drive vehicles and bridges are often washed away.  

Do not stop if you’re involved in, or see, an accident. Call the police on 117 or drive to the next town and report to the police directly. 


There are frequent road deaths involving multi-passenger taxi vans (‘taxi-brousses’ or ‘bush taxis’).  

Use pre-booked taxis or hotel transport. If you have concerns about the safety of a vehicle or the ability of a driver, ask for a different driver.  

River and sea travel 

Armed criminals have boarded boats on the Tsiribihina River in western Madagascar and robbed the passengers. Seek alternative routes. 

Get local advice on ferries from Tamatave-Sonierana to Sainte Marie Island and the west coast (Toliara/Tuléar, Morondava, Mahajanga and Nosy Be). There have been accidents with causalities due to overcrowding, poor maintenance, poor crew training and unexpected squalls. Check weather conditions locally before travelling. 

There is a significant risk of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. Pirates can attack up to 1,000 nautical miles from the Somali coast or more. The threat assessment of the combined international naval counter-piracy forces is that sailing yachts should not enter the designated high-risk area, due to the risk of hijacking.

Extreme weather and natural disasters  


The cyclone season in Madagascar normally runs from November to April. Coastal areas are particularly at risk. Storms can cut access to remote parts of the country and contaminate water supplies.  

Monitor local news and check World Meteorological Organization weather warnings for Madagascar, Meteo Madagascar (French) or Cyclone Océan Indien (French, Malagasy). 

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to cyclone warnings

This section has safety advice for regions of Madagascar. It only covers regions where FCDO has specific advice.  

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice and safety and security advice.  

Central Madagascar 

In 2022, over 30 people were killed when criminals (often referred to as ‘dahalo’) set fire to buildings in a village in Ankazobe District, north-west of Antananarivo. Armed forces are active in the area. Dahalo have not targeted tourists but you should seek local advice before travelling there. 

Northern Madagascar 

Use an official local guide if you’re visiting the Montagne des Français protected area. Take local advice if visiting beaches as there have been opportunistic attacks on tourists. 

Cyclone Gamane 

Cyclone Gamane struck areas of north and northeast Madagascar on 27 March, causing damage to the road network in the districts of Analanjirofo, Diana, Atsinanana and Sava. Check the latest information if planning to drive through these areas.

Southern Madagascar 

Violent incidents involving cattle rustlers (‘dahalo’) in southern Madagascar have resulted in fatalities. Tourists have not been targeted, but you should avoid staying in rural areas without security arrangements. Madagascar’s armed forces are active in southern Madagascar. 

In 2021, a large-scale attack on 3 villages in Midongy District resulted in the deaths of 17 civilians and 2 military officers. Other attacks have taken place: 

  • to the north of Fort Dauphin 
  • around the township of Betroka 
  • along the west coast between Belo sur Tsiribihina and Toliara (Tuléar)  
  • in the Commune of Ilakakabe (near Isalo National Park) 

The security situation in the southern triangle between Ihosy, Toliara (Tuléar) and Fort Dauphin remains tense, and the roads are in a poor condition. You should use a recognised tour operator and avoid travelling at night in this area. If travelling to Fort Dauphin, you should travel by air. 

Criminal gangs have attacked vehicles travelling in convoy on the RN7 (between Antananarivo and Toliara (Tuléar).  

Be vigilant when visiting night clubs in Toliara (Tuléar). 

On 3 July 2023, demonstrations in the Lanirano area to the east of Fort Dauphin turned violent with reports of gunfire and injury to civilians. 

Western Madagascar 

Due to the risk of violent highway robberies, you should use a recognised tour operator when travelling in the region between Besalampy and Morombe, including the RN35 and RN1 (between Tsiroanomandidy and Maintirano). You should also maintain a high level of vigilance if you travel on the following roads: RN7, RN27, RN10 and RN34. Avoid travelling at night. 

Before you travel check that: 

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need 
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation 

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant. 

Emergency medical number 

Call 117 from a mobile or 17 from a landline and ask for an ambulance. 

Contact your insurance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment. 

Vaccinations and health risks 

At least 8 weeks before your trip check: 

Altitude sickness is a risk in parts of Madagascar. Read more about altitude sickness on TravelHealthPro.  

Tap water in Madagascar is unsafe. You should drink and use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. There are high levels of syphilis in Madagascar.


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. 

Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad

Healthcare facilities in Madagascar 

Although there are public and private hospitals in Antananarivo, they can only handle routine operations. For complex surgery, patients are flown to Mauritius, South Africa or Réunion. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation. 

FCDO has a list of English-speaking doctors in Madagascar

There is also guidance on healthcare if you’re living in Madagascar.  

Travel and mental health 

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel. 

Emergency services in Madagascar 

Ambulance or police emergency 

Telephone: 17  

Mobile: 117  

To contact the police station directly, call 19, or 119 from a mobile phone. 


Telephone: 18  

Mobile: 118 

Contact your travel provider and insurer 

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do. 

Refunds and changes to travel 

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first. 

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including: 

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider 
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO 

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including: 

Contacting FCDO 

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated. 

You can also contact FCDO online

Help abroad in an emergency 

If you’re in Madagascar and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Antananarivo

FCDO in London 

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad. 

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours) 

Find out about call charges 

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