Introduction

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Land Area and geographical situation

Madagascar has a total surface of 587,040 km², being the 4th largest island in the world (comparable to the size of Kenya or France). It has 1550 km from North to South and 575 from West to East, and almost 5.000 km of coast! The highest peak is the Mount Maromokotra (2,880 m. high), located on the Tsaranana Masive on the northern part of the country. Madagascar is separated from the African Continent by the Mozambique Channel (about 400 km) and crossed by the Tropic of Capricorn.

Climate

Madagascar has several climatic zones depending on the altitude and location. In general, the climate goes from humid tropical to semi-arid, with a rainy season from November to April and a dry one the rest of the year.

Population

about 22,000,000 (estimate), 70 % living in rural areas and 30 % in cities; 0,15 % are foreign residents, specially from France, India and the Comoros. 45 % of the total population are under 15 and only 3 % are older than 65. The popuplation density is 35 inh. /km², occupying the position 173 on the list of countries by population density (2009).

Life Expectancy

60 years for males, 64 years for females; mortality rate is 8% and child mortality over 50%.

Population growth

2,84 %; a Malagasy woman gives birth to 5 children in average; birth rate is around 37%.

Capital

Antananarivo, about 3,000,000 inhabitants

Main cities

Fianarantsoa, 300,000; Antsiranana (Diégo-Suarez), 220,000; Toamasina, 230,000; Antsirabe, 220,000; and Mahajanga (Majunga), 200,000

Provinces

Madagascar was traditionally divided in six autonomous provinces (Antananarivo, Fianarantsoa, Antsiranana, Mahajanga, Toamasina and Toliara). After a referendum in 2007, these provinces were dissolved and subdivided in 22 smaller regions called faritra. Thus, the former Antananarivo is divided now into Analamanga, Itasy, Bongolava and Vakinankaratra, Fianarantsoa into Amoron’i Mania, Atsimo-Atsinanana, Haute-Matsiatra, Ihorombe and Vatovavy-Fitovinany; Antsiranana was replaced by Diana and Sava; Mahajanga spans Betsiboka, Melaky, Boeny and Sofia; Toamasina is divided into Alaotra-Mangoro, Analanjirofo and Atsinanana; and finally Toliara into Anosy, Androy, Atsimo-Andrefana and Menabe.

Economy

the main economic resources are the textile and mining industry (chrome, graphite, bauxite, precious stones), agriculture (vanilla, sugar and cofee) and tourism. GPD is 8,551 millions of USD after the 2009 List published by the International Monetary Fund. More than 50 % of the population survive with less than a dollar a day.

Time

Sunrise is in Madagascar at 6:30 am in winter and at 5:30 am in summer. In winter the sun gets down at 17:30 pm and in summer at 18:30 pm. The time difference
compared with Western Europe is only +1 hour during summer and in winter +2 hours (one hour more for UK).

Electricity

Electrical current is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are generally two-pin. Power blackouts are usual so take a torch with you. In rural areas there is still no electricity, so that most hotels operate an own generator, which runs normaly in the late afternoon and in the early morning.

Weights & measures

Metric .

Currency

Ariary (Ar).

Language

Malagasy is the official language, but French is used in business and government and is widely spoken in the main cities, but not in the rural areas. A few people involved in the tourism industry might be able to speak some English, but it is not widely spoken.

Literacy

The official literacy rate is 70,7 % (place 141 on the list of countries by literacy rate made by the UNO in 2009), but it is estimated that more than half of the Malagasy people cannot write or read.

Religion

About 45% of the Malagasy are Christian, divided almost evenly between Catholics and Protestants. 8-12% of the population are Muslim. The rest of the country’s population practices traditional religions.

When to go

When planning a trip to Madagascar, travellers should have in mind what they do not want to miss from this extraordinary land and which their personal interests are, since each season has its own highlights.

In general, the period between May to October (winter in the southern hemisphere) is the most pleasant time to travel to Madagascar, with cooler temperatures and little rain. However, since the last years the traditional weather pattern is no longer reliable due to global climatic changes. You can have plenty of rain during the dry season and vice versa, so be ready for anything!

The touristic season begins in April after the cyclones. The rainy season is almost over but some areas are still hard to reach because of the terrible roads after the rainfalls. Until June it is “low season”, so prices are cheaper now than during the following months. This is the season of the rice crops on the highlands, a real impressive event to see.

The months of July and August are the peak of the “high season” because it is the time when most tourists come here since they are on holidays. So if you are planning to visitMadagascar during “our summer” in Europe and USA, you should book in advance (both plane tickets and accommodation in busy beach areas). July and August are the “coolest” months of the year, which is not bad at all in the coastal regions where you can perfectly bath without being burnt by the sun. For nature lovers there are good and bad news: it is the whale season on the east season but at the same time many reptiles and small mammals are hibernating. You can never have it all!

Climate

The climate of Madagascar is subtropical, with a hot and rainy season between November and April (summer), and a cooler dry season from May to October (winter). However there is a big temperature variation depending on altitude and geographical position. The west coast is drier than the east coast, whilst the far south and south west is a semi-desert region that experiences very little rainfall. Temperatures are much cooler in the highlands. Night temperatures in Antsirabe can descend below 5°C, so do not leave a warm pullover at home.Antananarivo has a pleasant, temperate climate thanks to its 1300 m altitude. Along the coast temperatures are much higher than in the capital and range from 27°C to 32°C in the wet season and 18°C to 22°C in the dry season. If you are travelling to the Eastern region, do not forget your rain gear: rainfalls are expected to happen the whole year. On theMasoala Peninsula and around Maroantsetra the wettest months are from July to September.

Entry requirements

Passports of all visitors must be valid for at least six months. Visas valid for 90 days can be issued on arrival, but it is recommended that visitors obtain visas prior to arrival if possible. Fee for visa obtained on arrival is $30. Return or onward tickets are generally required. You do not need any pictures for it. If you are planning to stay over three months it is compulsory to apply for the visa in advance.