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Madagascar, or Republic of Madagascar (older name Malagasy Republic), is an island nation in the Indian Ocean off the southeastern coast of Africa. The main island, also called Madagascar, is the fourth-largest island in the world, and is home to 5% of the world's plant and animal species, of which more than 80% are endemic to Madagascar. They include the lemur infraorder of primates, the carnivorous fossa, three bird families and six baobab species.
Madagascar, as part of East Gondwana, split from Africa approximately 160 million years ago; the island of Madagascar was created when it separated from India 80 to 100 million years ago. Archaeologists estimate human settlement of Madagascar to be between 200 and 500 A.D., when seafarers from southeast Asia (probably from Borneo or the southern Celebes) arrived in outrigger sailing canoes. Bantu settlers probably crossed the Mozambique Channel to Madagascar at about the same time or shortly afterwards
The written history of Madagascar begins in the 7th century, when Muslims established trading posts along the northwest coast and first transcribed the Malagasy language into Sorabe.
During the middle Ages, the chiefs began to extend their power through trade with Indian Ocean neighbors, notably East Africa, the Middle East and India. Large chiefdoms began to dominate considerable areas of the island. Among these were the Sakalava chiefdoms of the Menabe, centred in what is now the town of Morondava, and of Boina, centred in what is now the provincial capital of Mahajanga (Majunga). The influence of the Sakalava extended across what is now the province of Antsiranana, Mahajanga and Toliara.
European contact began in the year 1500, when Portuguese sea captain Diego Dias sighted the island after his ship separated from a fleet going to India. The Portuguese continued trading with the islanders and named the island as "Sao Lourenço" (St. Lawrence). In 1665, Francois Caron, the Director General of the newly formed French East India Company, sailed to Madagascar. The Company failed to establish a colony on Madagascar but established ports on the nearby islands of Bourbon and Ile-de-France (today's Reunion and Mauritius). In the late 17th century, the French established trading posts along the east coast.
From about 1774 to 1824, Madagascar was a favourite haunt for pirates, including Americans, one of whom brought Malagasy rice to South Carolina. Many European sailors were shipwrecked on the coasts of the island, among them Robert Drury whose journal is one of the only written depictions of life in southern Madagascar during the 18th century.
Air Madagascar (MD) www.airmadagascar.com is the national airline of Madagascar. Other airlines flying into Madagascar include: Air Austral/Air Mauritius, Air France, Kenya Airways, Corsair, and Interair.
Air travel is a good way to get around this vast country, especially if time is short. Almost anywhere in Madagascar can be reached by air, apart from a few locations in the central highlands. Air Madagascar offers some good deals and extensive coverage, flying to over 50 cities and towns throughout the country.
Airport: The main airport is Antananarivo Airport (TNR), which is located 17km (11 miles) from the city. Facilities located at the airport include restaurants; bureaux de change and car hire offices. Other airports around the country like Arivonimamo, Nosy Bé , Toamasina….
Transfers: Transfer to/from Ivato Airport in Air-conditioned minibus, Sedan, can be arranged
Passport: Only Malagasy citizens can travel to Madagascar without a visa. All other nationalities are required to have a visa upon entering Madagascar. You will need a passport that is valid for at least the next 6 months. The tourist Visa is 0 € when you stay less than 30 days. Payable in €, $, £ and Ariary
Most of the products that are created from Malagasy flora or fauna (including dried flowers) require export permits.
Tax: A tax and tourist vignette is charged on the price of the rooms. There is no departure tax.
Health requirements: Foreign tourists should be in possession of Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate conforming to International Health Regulations, if they are originating or transiting through Yellow Fever endemic countries (Africa and South America).
Weather: July to September is the hot/dry season, and is the ideal time to come to Antananarivo. October to April is the rainy season, Madagascar’s cool/wet season. The highest levels of rainfall occur from November to January. Temperatures remain relatively constant throughout the year, ranging from 18 to 27 degrees Celsius. The rainy season can make travelling on less than perfect roads even more difficult.
Click on this Weather link to view the current weather in Madagascar: www.bbc.co.uk/weather/5day.shtml?world=1022 or www.lameteo.org/madagascar.html
Clothes: Light casual clothes for summer, sweaters for the winter mornings and evenings (from June to August). Do bring some good walking shoes.
Electricity: Madagascar runs off a 127/220 Volt, 50 Hz system. Two types of sockets are used, with both the two round pin European style and South African/Indian two round pins above a larger circular grounding pin in usage.
Health: It is strongly recommended to take anti malaria tablets before, during and after the travel (please see your doctor for advise) You must have medication and sticking plaster. Don't forget cream for mosquito and for the sun. It is advised to drink water in bottle, to eat cooked or boiled food and to wash one's hands before the meals.
Currency: The currency unit is the Ariary, denoted by the symbol Ar. Before the depart, take traveller's cheque or bank note with you. Banks are open between 8h00 and 15h00 from Monday to Friday.
Exchange rates: can be found by visiting www.banque-centrale.mg the currency site. Foreign currency can be exchanged at local banks and Bureaux de changes.
Carte de Credit: International Credit cards can be used only in Major hotels and in banks in the larger cities. Visa is the most widely accepted and American Express is also taken in some outlets. MasterCard is rarely accepted anywhere and Diners Club is also difficult to use. In general we recommend clients to be adequately prepared to live without a Credit Card once outside Antananarivo.
Credits cards : Most major international credits cards such as visa card, American express, master card, diners club are accepted for most purchases
Tipping : Tips are warmly received for service.
Language: The official language of Antananarivo is Malagasy, which is spoken by 90 percent of the population. French and English are also spoken, mostly in larger cities and towns and popular tourist destinations.
Phone: The country code to dial into Madagascar from overseas is 261, followed by the area code (Antananarivo is 20 22 and Antsirabe 20 44). Cellular phone codes begin with either 33 or 32.
Phone calls can be made at the telecom offices. Phone cards are sold in different denominations, and range from €1.50 - €30.
Internet cafes are readily available in the major centres, and they offer quite reasonable rates.
Car : Traffic drives on the right. Car hire is not very common; driving can be quite a stressful experience. If you do choose to drive yourself, a national driving licence is normally sufficient, but make sure to have it detailed. The best option is to hire a car and a driver. The road network in Madagascar is quite poor. Tarred roads are normally only used to link major towns in the most populated areas, with the remainder still dirt roads. These are often impassable in the rainy season, which runs from November to March.
Taxi and others transportation: In everywhere except Antananarivo and Fianarantsoa, taxis charge flat fares for rides. In the two cities mentioned, it depends on whether the ride is staying in the ‘lower town’ or continues on to the ‘upper town’.
There are others types of taxis in Madagascar much more like buses. One is the taxi-be, normally very crowded which works in the inner city and around, and the other is the taxi-brousse (bush taxi), which is cheap, slow, crowded and normally operates on cross-country routes. You should agree on the fare before commencing your journey.
The pousse-pousse (rickshaw) is a common way of getting around within cities and towns. Prices are not set, and will vary depending on the distance of the journey. They should also be agreed upon in advance.
Time: It lies in the GMT/UTC +3 hour’s time zone. To view the current time in Antananarivo, click on this link to www.timeanddate.com
Public Holidays : 1 January - New year's day, 8 March - National Women's Day, March 29- The uprising against French rule - Easter -1 May - Worker's Day; 26 June - Independence Day, 15 August - Assumption Day,1 November - All Soul's Day, 25 December - Christmas Day ; 31 December - New Year's Eve
Madagascar's diversity is reflected in its plentiful colourful festivals. Alahamady Be opens the traditional Malagasy year, followed by the rice harvest (May) and Donia, a celebration of traditional music on Nosy Be resort island (May/June). The 'turning of the bones' (July-September) and 'cleansing of the relics' (September-November) ceremonies fill out the calendar. Alongside the old traditions are the Catholic spiritual calendar - Easter, Assumption (August 15th), All Saints Day (November 1st) and of course, Christmas - and the calendar of political milestones: the 1947 uprising against French rule (March 29th), Independence Day (June 26th), with the Republic's Anniversary on New Year's Eve bringing in the New Year.
Opening time : Most businesses and shops operate between 08h00 hrs and 18h00 hrs, Monday to Friday, closed from 12h000 to 1400 hrs.
Banks Opening hours in Antananarivo vary from:
• 08h00 to 16h00 – Monday to Friday.
Banks are closed the day before public Holidays
Food : Current day cuisine is generally quite flavoursome, prepared in a simple manner without too much spice. The main course will usually consist of one main dish of meat, poultry or fish, as well as side dishes of vegetables and a bowl of rice, which will accompany almost every meal. Ron'akoho is something you should try, and is basically chicken bouillon (chicken stock) with ginger. Meat in Madagascar is generally much less fatty than in western countries, and is often much more organic. The only drink traditionally served with meals is ranonapango, a burned-rice drink. Desserts are often just some of the delicious local fruits, normally with some sugar sprinkled on top, and then flavoured with vanilla.
Water : It is advised to drink water in bottle.
Shopping: Some of the main handicrafts include lamba, which consists of traditional squares of cloth and woven fabrics in various colourful designs; silverwork crafted into things such as mahafaly crosses and vangavanga bracelets; jewellery made from precious and semi-precious stones; items woven out of materials such as reeds, raffia and straw; Antemoro paper, which is decorated with dried flowers; and embroidery.
Security: leave all your valuable jewelleries home or you must keep them in an individual safe in the hotel. The prudence is recommended in urban zones. Beware of entry scams: do not be scammed by anyone who insists that you need their help to get a visa. Only the Embassy is able to provide this service.
Member of Tourism Board of Madagascar (ONTM) and TOP Madagascar
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