Visas, the Airport and ATMs
Often a daunting experience, but landing at the airport and getting you visa is relatively straightforward in Madagascar. It is possible to apply for visas before travelling but it is much easier to get one on arrival at the airport. It is worth checking with the nearest Malagasy embassy before travel as things sometimes change. A passport valid for at least 6 months is required and proof of an onward ticket may be asked for but wasn’t in my case. When I arrived in November 2018 the tourist visas had recently been changed to allow just 30 and 60 day visas with the 90 day visas no longer available. Luckily for me it was possible to extend it for another month so I got the 3 months but it does involve a few trips to the ministry of the interior in Antananarivo and takes a few days to sort.
A yellow fever card is only needed if you have spent time in a yellow fever affected area in the last 3 months.
When you have your visas and are waiting to collect your bag you will be approached by baggage porters who carry your bags for you while you queue up to have them scanned before leaving the airport. They wear yellow jackets and are optional. I didn’t need one and a polite refusal was all that was needed for them to try elsewhere. If you are in a hurry it may be a good idea as they seem to have priority over people without a porter in the scanning line.
Once immigration and bag scanning is complete there are kiosks selling SIM cards and phone plans which may be useful. I didn’t get one here and waited until I was in the city to pick one up.
There are also money exchanges and an ATM at the airport. I used a Visa card for all of my money withdrawals but have heard that MasterCard can be a bit trickier with which ATMs they work in. There are ATMs scattered through Antananarivo but I went to ones directly attached to banks most of the time as they usually had money and gave it out in larger notes. It is worth bearing in mind that the largest note available is 20,000 Ariary which is about 5 Euro so if you need to take out enough notes to organise a week long hike for example you could have quite a wad. This bundle will get noticeably bulkier if you end up taking it out in smaller denominations. There are ATMs in all larger towns and they usually work fairly well but I was limited to 400,000 Ariary or roughly 100 Euro per transaction so I often had to do multiple transactions to get the amount I needed.
Euros are widely accepted by many hotels and some tour guides will be happy with them also. Card will be accepted for payment in in some restaurants and hotels but a surcharge may apply. Most bus tickets, meals, taxis and day to day grocery shopping is paid for in cash and it is a good idea to keep some small bills on you for picking up little items as well as for tips for people who have been of help (if someone helps you find a bus in the chaos of the taxi brousse station).
At the time of writing there is no ATM in the village of Ranohira. This is where the trips to Isalo and Makay are organised from. There is one in the mining town of Ilakaka about 30km away which is normally working and is a nice drive with views of Isalo and jutting rock formations on the way.
There was a shuttle bus running between the airport and the city which dropped you off at your accommodation but as of January 2019 this seems to have shut down and I can’t find any evidence of one having replaced it. It is possible to arrange a pick up by your hotel which may be a good idea especially if you are arriving late at night. There are numerous taxis outside the airport which will take you into the city or if it is during daylight hours outside the airport on the main road there are taxi be (cramped urban minibuses) which you can hail to the city.