Prices, Negotiating and Tips
The cost of travelling in Madagascar will depend on the type of trip you are on with more budget conscious independent travellers able to keep much of the day to day spending low. Holiday costs in Madagascar for people who go through an agency and require everything organised for them will be higher and I would recommend that budget conscious people compare packages before booking.
When it comes to paying for goods or services in prices are sometimes negotiable. This is particularly true in markets of all kinds, with taxi drivers and when negotiating with guides for longer hiking trips or multiple days spent using the same guide. National park offices will have prices for guides as well as an official list and I didn’t ask any guides to do any work below this price. However if you guide is organising a long hike over a number of days which includes meals and camping there may be a bit of leeway in this.
The money used in Madagascar is the Ariary but prices are sometimes quoted in the the old currency the Malagasy Franc. Street vendors sometimes quote in the old currency so, if you’re budget conscious, it is always best to specify you want prices in Ariary to avoid any confusion.
Guides, porters and cooks will expect a tip at the end of a trip and the amount you give them depends on how good you feel the service has been but in my whole time there I never came across one who didn’t deserve a decent tip.
Restaurants generally have menus with prices and if they don’t it is always better to ask before ordering to save any confusion afterwards. Prices for street food are often on display as well and most should not cost any more than 2000 ariary or 50 cents in Euro. Prices for small bite sized doughballs and the like should be cheaper than this.
Taxi brousse operators are required to have pricelist for their destinations which should be on display in the office and if you feel you are being overcharged it may be worth asking for this. Taxi be, or shorter distances buses, mostly don’t have any pricelist but I normally paid 1000-5000 Ariary depending on how far I was going. It can sometimes be difficult to figure out an exact price because if you are getting on one you may have to flag it down by the side of the road so you haven’t got time to enquire because they only stop for long enough to pick you up. I may have been overcharged on occasion but I never felt they were asking amounts way above what I thought the fare should be.
Most hotels have fixed rates, however it may be possible to bargain if you are staying in the more rural areas but regional accommodation tends to be cheaper anyway.
I never once saw a taxi driver with a meter in Madagascar so it is always better to agree a price beforehand. Often the first price quoted by a taxi drive can be reduced a few thousand Ariary. A trip in the centre of Antananarivo should cost around 7000 Ariary and will increase the further you go.
Budget cosnscious people do negotiate at markets and I saw this first hand at Analakely market in the capital as there were many heated conversations over the price of onions and any other produce on offer. In craft markets like the one in Tamatave on the east coast where I picked up a few handmade Citroen 2CV cars made from recycled metal the lady at the stall gave me a cheaper price per item when I bought a few.
The cost of living in Madagascar dictates that it is not an expensive country to travel independently and the priciest days will be the ones spent in national parks, which are also a bargain compared to prices in other countries, so as long as you feel you are not being overcharged it may not be necessary to bargain too much.