Stay Safe in Madagascar
Madagascar is a relatively safe destination. You must, however, adhere to a few basic guidelines:
- In Antananarivo, don’t go out late at night (other cities are pretty safe).
- Don’t show off your riches (cameras, jewels, …).
- Similarly, have a modest amount of cash with you at all times. Paying with big denomination bills flaunts your riches, offends the vendor since they won’t have change, and puts you at risk of being a criminal target.
- When using public transportation or visiting marketplaces where pickpockets abound, keep a watch on your valuables.
- “Mpangalatra,” pronounced “Pun-gul-ah-tra,” is the Malagasy term meaning thief. Scream this if someone is attempting to rob you in a crowded market. The fact that a vazaha is shouting thief will both frighten the thief and alert nearby people to assist.
- When uttered in low tones, always listen for the phrases “vazaha” or “vazongo.” If you hear these words, know that they are being spoken about you, for better or worse!
It’s also worth noting that, like in any poor nation, the presence of beggars is never overlooked. Tourists may find this unsettling, but these folks should be honored nonetheless. They are drawn to outsiders, as expected, and will not hesitate to beg for a handout. A simple “Non, merci” or “Tsy Misy (tsee-meesh)” (I have nothing) would enough if you don’t want to be harassed. If they continue, yell “Mandehana!” (man-day-han) which means “Go Away!” It is preferable to offer something practical than than money, such as a banana or a slice of bread. It is generally received with appreciation, and if the beggar is a kid, he will grin and run away. It is critical not to promote begging; the people of Madagascar do not believe in receiving anything for free and will almost always give you something first. Consider photographing a chameleon.
Madagascar is currently classified as “Exercise a high degree of caution” by the Australian government. Keep in mind that, as the political situation evolves, it has previously been classified as “Reconsider your need to travel.”
Stay Healthy in Madagascar
A wide range of health issues should be considered by visitors visiting Madagascar. In Madagascar, diseases like the plague, which are virtually unheard of elsewhere, still exist. For foreigners, drinking water should almost always be treated or bottled, and salads or meals with unpeeled fruits or vegetables should be avoided. While the AIDS pandemic has not yet reached the catastrophic levels seen in many southern African nations, it is generally believed that AIDS is underreported and on the rise, therefore you should take no chances and avoid unprotected sex at all costs. When swimming, keep an eye out for human waste in the water, which may cause cholera, typhoid, and a variety of other illnesses. Insects such as leeches and tropical parasites are also a problem.
Investigate malaria prophylactic alternatives and take action. If you’re not taking any preventatives, be sure to sleep with a mosquito net and use insect repellents as darkness falls. On-skin repellent (only repellents containing at least 40% DEET, such as NoBite, Azeron Before Tropics, and others) is effective, but it should be used in conjunction with on-clothes repellent (i.e. NoBite). The clothing repellant is odorless after about an hour, and it may be washed up to four times before it has to be re-applied. You will be very safe against mosquito bites if you wear long-sleeved clothing treated with the repellent and apply on-skin repellent to the skin parts not covered. You will be able to avoid the prophylaxis with its notorious side effects if you wear long-sleeved clothing treated with the repellent and apply on-skin repellent to the skin parts not covered. However, be careful to take the repellent problem seriously, since it’s all too easy to slip into a more’relaxed’ attitude after you’ve been in the nation for a while.
Human-populated areas will always have a significant number of stray dogs. Avoid stray dogs, and although bites are uncommon, if you are bitten, get medical attention right away since rabies is not unheard of.
Remember that Madagascar is in the tropics, so sunburn and heat exhaustion are significant concerns. Keep hydrated and use plenty of sunscreen. Remember that just because it’s overcast outside doesn’t mean you won’t get sunburned.