Pretty much all towns in Madagascar have a Bank of Africa branch, but the ATM only accepts Visa. In larger towns such as Tana, Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa and Tulear you can also find other banks, accepting Mastercard. Maestro is only accepted at Société Générale which is even rarer. So, save yourself a hassle and get a Visa card if you haven’t got one yet!
Malaria tablets yes, malaria tablets no? Better safe than sorry. Malaria is not only present in Madagascar; it is a high risk throughout the country all year. Dengue fever is also present, so don’t take this lightly. In any case you should seek medical advice from your local health practitioner before traveling to Madagascar and ensure that you receive all of the appropriate vaccinations. As a guide Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Diptheria and Polio are recommended.
Beach resorts are relatively new to Madagascar but are reasonably developed on the islands of Nosy Be and Ile Ste Marie in the north and around Fort Dauphin and Tulear in the south. Take local advice before swimming on deserted beaches: some have sharks.
The Malagasy are generally friendly but open up once they realize you’re not from France: most cordially dislike their colonial overlords.
Food hygiene standards in Madagascar may differ to what you are used to backing home so to avoid getting sick take extra precautions with your food. Ensure that all hot food is served piping hot rather than lukewarm. If something looks poorly prepared, especially meat or fish, it is better not to eat it. When it comes to street food, don’t eat anything that might have been sat in the sun for too long. Avoid ice that has been made with tap water as well as salad and unpeeled fruit, which might have been washed in it.
Tipping in Madagascar is a nice gesture but is by no means compulsory. A tip of 10% or so at a restaurant would be incredibly generous by Malagasy standards but if the service has been up to standard then there is no reason not to leave that much. Bell boys and housekeeping in nice hotels should get around USD 1 per bag/day of cleaning. Tour guides and drivers should be tipped anything between USD 5-10 per day, depending on the quality of the service they provided. Tipping is not expected by taxi drivers but rounding up the fare is a good way of showing your appreciation of good service.
Most women do not encounter any problems during their solo travel through Madagascar. Hospitality and kindness to strangers is a prominent part of Malagasy culture and most travelers to the country find that they are warmly welcomed by everyone they meet. Nevertheless, women should dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention and to blend in better with the locals. Women should also be wary of being alone in isolated places at night.