Take a moment to browse through this page before you travel to Madagascar. It contains tips, practical information and frequently asked questions, that help to prepare for your road trip to Madagascar. Is the answer to your question not found here? Drop us a line, we are happy to help you plan for your self-drive holiday.
Is Madagascar safe for self-drive?
We occasionally get that question. The answer is yes. We would not want to be in the self drive business in a country where it is not considered safe. Than we would choose another destination. The Malagasy people are really, really friendly. Armed attacks towards tourists are unheard of and car break-ins or hotel room theft is much less common than in the rest of East Africa. But keep in mind that Madagascar is one big, remote and ''wild'' island. Read the suggested page carefully and do not simply wonder off, as you might get lost without finding fuel, ATM's or villages to stock up supplies. Wild camping is not allowed nor sensible to do. Always park your car at a private parking lot.
How are the road conditions?
Madagascar is a roadtrip paradise. You will cross so much different terrain and landscapes with spectacular vistas, from smooth asphalt to red earth and sandy tracks. And there are hardly any other road users, a real pleasure. But enjoy it sensibly. ALWAYS fuel up you car when you can, leave with a charged phone with credit, carry sufficient water and food and have cash money. It does come in handy if you speak some French. As for the roads, there is one fairly good asphalt road running from north to south ( RN4 + RN7) and from east ( RN2) to West ( RN34/ 35). The rest is off road driving. The RN7 is well developed for tourism, with plenty petrol stations and places to stay and eat. The Western Coastal route is remote and a real 4x4 off road adventure. We allow roadtrippers to self-drive the West Coast, but 4x4 driving experience is necessary. For less experienced and confident drivers, we recommend to go with a ''pisteur''. He knows the region by heart and can advice which track to follow, where to cross a river etc. He steps in at Tulear till Morondova ( or vice versa). It is 3 to 4 driving days, but we advise a minimum of 6 days to complete this track, to also enjoy some resting days. The additional costs for the pisteur are € 15 / per day.
How does it work with navigation?
The biggest mistake travellers make is rushing it and trying to cover too much in one trip. Have a look at our suggested routes page for a realistic assessment of what you can cover during your roadtrip. You might get stuck after heavy rains and a flat tire can be part of the adventure. If you are trying to estimate your travel itinerary with Google Maps, increase travel time by 1/3. Offline navigation is easy if you download Maps.me at your smart phone before you go. We are personally fan to take it slow. So if you have that luxury, rather stick around at a place a bit longer to explore hidden gems and allow for the unexpected, than try to squeeze in another ''highlight’’.
What happens in case of a break down?
Our Nissan's are brand new, so mechanical problems are very unlikely. In case of a mechanical problem, contact us first. Our phone number is available 24h/7 and we will try to solve the problem to the best of our ability. Always contact us for authorization prior to any repairs to the vehicle. Workshops in Madagascar are notorious for defrauding. We know how to handle this. In case the car cannot be repaired within 24 hours, a replacement car will be provided and paid for. Kindly note that replacement cars will have to come from Antananarivo and that back up support in the more remote areas of Madagascar are challenging and can take a while. So factor in a spare day, to allow for the unexpected. In case of an accident, contact us immediately and we coach you through the process; take pictures of the damaged vehicle(s) and process and clear a police report.
How to deal with traffic police?
There is not much traffic police in Madagascar. And if you do see them, their most likely either sleeping or smile and wave. On our latest 5 week roadtrip through the island, we were pulled over only once! They focus on trucks instead. Advice which comes in handy when dealing with any kind of government official in East Africa is to remain patient and friendly, greet them, make a joke and you have a new friend. They will want to see your driver's license and ID, and check if the vehicle is insured and the car papers. Of course that has been taken care of if you rent a car from Roadtrip Madagascar.
Are there restricted areas for self-drive?
Off-limit areas for independent travel are the RN5 beyond Soanierana - Ivongo, the RN 12 beyond Manakara to Fort Dauphin and the RN13 from Ihosy to Ambovombe. Let us know if you are interested to explore these remote areas, as we do organize trackings into these areas in convoy. We allow our clients to self-drive the Western coastal route from May till November, but 4x4 driving experience is necessary. For less experienced drivers, we strongly recommend to go with a pisteur. And also during travel at the beginning (May) and the end of the season (November), when road conditions are more challenging. The pisteur steps in at Tulear to Morondova (or vice versa). Roadtrip Madagascar arranges the pisteur, the costs are for the Hirer.
Cost of living
To arrive to Madagascar is for most a costly affair, but when you're here you live in clover , ''als een god in Frankrijk'', whilst spending little. A tasty French meal at a restaurant / lodge costs between €5 and €10. Accommodation is a fraction of what it costs in the rest of East Africa, let alone Europe or the USA. There are many small-scale, owner managed lodges and quality standards are high. Real value for money. Budget is up to €15 for a double room, mid-range up to € 50 and the most luxurious lodge is unlikely to costs more than €125 per room. A 10% tip is considered high and received with great gratitude. If you're happy with the service, please be generous. Tips at most places are equally shared among all staff.
When is the best time to visit Madagascar?
The RN7 is possible to travel year round, also during the rainy season (Jan-March) when most other parts of the country are not surpassable and lodges close down. Travel along the West coast and Tsingy de Bemaraha is possible from May till November. The east is possible to visit from April to December. The coolest months are June and July. Winter daytime temperatures are still very pleasant and even warm at the coast, but the night time temperature drops to 5-10C in the highlands ( Antananarivo, Andasibe, Antsirabe) and the evening are cool at the coast. July and August is peak season, when some of the parks along the RN7 can feel crowded. Many of the lodges are fully booked well in advance. With the camp gear set in the back of your Roadtrip car, you're still flexible. July to September is the best time to see humpback whales and dolphins. The island of Ille Saint Marie is the prime whale watching location, but they also pass the west coast from Tuléar up to Belo sur Mer.
Do I need to book my accommodation in advance?
Depends what kind of traveller you are. If you don't like to fix you're schedule ahead of time and don't mind to look for alternatives when something is full, you will be fine. If you're travelling into a remote area where there are not so many accommodation options, it is wise to call ahead during peak season ( July-Sept). If you are travelling with a family / group, reserve ahead.
How much are the park entrance fees?
Rates per person: Isalo € 18 Bemahara, Ranamofana, Montagne d'Ambre:€ 15 Andasibe, Andringitra, Kirindy: € 13 Guiding fees are also regulated by the National Parks and depend on the number of hours. Usually it is around €15 for a couple of hours up to € 33 for a full day, for a group up to four. A percentage goes to the guide, how much differs per park. Porter fee are €11. Tipping is polite.
How does it work with visa, withdrawing money and insurance?
You can buy a tourist visa on arrival. The costs are € 24 and ''sometimes'' tourist tax is charged of € 10. The local currency is Madagascar is a cash economy. It is good to bring euro's as a back up, which you can change to ariary, the local currency, at the bigger towns. You can only withdraw money with your debit card ( Maestro) at branches of Mauritius Bank (MCB). They have ATM's in Antananarivo and Tamatave. So bring your Mastercard and Visa. The car is comprehensive insured with Assurance Aro against damage as a result of accident or fire, and third party liability to property and bodily injury due to a car accident. Excess claims beyond the maximum insured by Aro shall be the responsibility of the Hirer. Personal injury and possessions are not covered and fall under your medical and travel insurance.