If you're planning a trip to Madagascar, you're in for one of the most incredible, wild adventures of your life. Madagascar has something for adventure travelers or visitors who are looking for a relaxing getaway. No matter what you're doing here, you'll need to know a bit about the culture, laws and etiquette before you go.
This is a country inhabited by Indonesian and African settlers, but also a former French colony with a colorful history of influences from Arabs, Indians and Jewish immigrants. These influences have melded together to create a unique, culturally diverse destination.
But the fascinating mix of cultures also makes it necessary for travelers to familiarize themselves with the local laws and customs. Here's what you need to know.
Madagascar is not only known for its unique, one-of-kind plant and animal species, but is also home to many unique customs and beliefs. Each part of the island is populated by a different cultural group, and each has their own distinct customs.
Madagascar is regulated by numerous local taboos, known as "Fady". Because of the diverse cultural make-up, the Fady vary from region to region, so you should educate yourself on any local taboos before traveling to a new region so you can remain respectful and avoid offending anyone.
Fady are not based on religious beliefs, but are attributed to Malagasy ancestors. As a result, the local people exhibit extreme respect and are devout in their adherence to these taboos.
Some Fady concern forbidden foods (pork, lemur, turtle) while others prohibit wearing certain colored clothing, or forbid bathing in rivers or lakes.
Observance of Fady is mostly limited to rural areas and therefore, travelers staying in major towns are not likely to run into any problems. Larger towns such as Antananarivo do observe some Fady, but are more likely to excuse foreigners who don't adhere to their taboos. It is essential to respect all Fady and avoid violating local customs in Madagascar.
There are several customs that are universal on the island and should be respected while you are traveling here.
The Malagasy people don't approve of visitors taking photos without permission. As breathtakingly beautiful and fascinating as the surroundings may seem, be sure to ask for permission prior to snapping your pictures. Be especially careful to never take photos of a tomb without permission.
Remember: Ask first, capture the photo later.
The local currency is the Ariary, but many locals still think in terms of the previous currency, the Malagasy Franc (FMG). It is important to clarify whether the price is Ariary or FMG (one Ariary is equal to five FMG).
Madagascar is primarily a cash-driven economy. Some higher-end establishments may accept credit cards, but usually only Visa cards. Most shops and restaurants are cash only, so be sure to plan accordingly and come with cash.
Madagascar recently introduced laws targeting prostitution, which prohibits consorting with female prostitutes. Avoid engaging with any sex-workers in Madagascar. In addition, a campaign against sexual abuse of underage children (under 18 years) is strictly enforced.
As contrasting as the population of this beautiful country is, the geography and activities travelers can do on the island are even more diverse.
Tour sugarcane plantations with a taste or two from local rum distilleries, or explore the rainforest filled with rare and unique wildlife. Witness the migration of humpback whales, bask on a quiet, tranquil beach or observe several species of lemurs and other amazing animals as you trek through the many nature trails.
This is not a lackluster vacation destination by any means but one that will always be remembered as an experience of a lifetime.
With a little knowledge, and a lot of respect for customs and laws of Madagascar's people, you will no doubt have an incredible, safe time exploring this one-of-a-kind island.
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