Living in Madagascar
Advice for British people living in Madagascar, including information on health, education, residence requirements and more.
This guide sets out essential information for British Nationals residing in Madagascar, including advice on health, education, benefits, residence requirements and more. We are unable to provide any guidance on general lifestyle enquiries apart from the information or links listed below. Our travel advice also provides useful information about living in Madagascar. British nationals wishing to obtain definitive information should contact the relevant Malagasy authorities.
It is essential that before you travel you ensure to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover medical costs during your stay in Madagascar, including medical evacuation, before you travel to Madagascar. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is not valid in Madagascar. Make sure that your policy provides for the following:
- Medical evacuation: air ambulance to the UK or to a third country (e.g. Mauritius, Reunion Island, South Africa);
- Full medical coverage;
- the cost of repatriating the body, in the event of death
- the cost of bringing your family home, in the event of illness, injury or death
In general medical services in Madagascar are poor. There are adequate general medical services available from private clinics but these are not of a standard expected in the United Kingdom. They are however generally adequate to provide routine and minor medical care or stabilisation prior to medevac. Although the range of medical services available in Madagascar is quite broad it is advisable to arrange anything but the most basic of treatments outside the country. Serious illnesses, accidents, or complicated cases may require evacuation to Reunion Island, Mauritius or South Africa. Please be aware that a number of surgery procedures are not available in Madagascar and some serious cases may also require an evacuation. While surgeons are qualified and capable of coping with an emergency, due to inadequate nursing care and poor support staff and lack of hygiene, the system is precarious. The State-owned hospitals in the main cities like Diego-Suarez, Nosy Be, Mahajanga, Tuléar, Fort-Dauphin, Antsirabe and Tamatave are poorly equipped, understaffed and are avoided by foreigners due to overcrowding and lack of privacy and comfort. EU Citizens have access to the French Centre Medico Social, 19 rue Dr Villette, Isoraka (tel: 22 236 62). Medical bills, which can be very expensive, need to be paid right away as otherwise treatment will not be given. A list of medical facilities/practitioners who may be able to help you in Madagascar is available on our website. Ambulances are scarce and poorly equipped; they rarely carry oxygen cylinders or other equipment necessary for cardiac arrest or road traffic accidents, and the training of attendants is inadequate. Therefore, emergency cases can present problems because response times are slow due to traffic jams and the distance to the nearest hospital. Often a private car may be the sole option. Assistance Plus has an air ambulance capacity for remote and less accessible regions of the country. Contact numbers for some commonly used ambulance services are as follows:
- Assistance Plus: +261 (0) 20 22 487 47 / +261 (0) 07 846 69
- Polyclinique d’Ilafy: +261(0) 20 22 425 66/ +261(0) 20 22 425 69/ +261 (0) 33 11 073 91/ + 261 (0) 32 07 243 28
- Espace Médical : +261 (0) 20 22 625 66/ +261 (0) 34 02 088 16/ +261 (0) 34 02 009 11/+ 261 (0) 34 05 625 66
- Centre de Diagnostic Médical d’Urgences (CDU) : +261 (0)20 22 329 56
Adherence to OSTIE, the health organization for workers working in the private sector, will also apply to British Nationals working on a local contract in Madagascar.
The quality of education in Madagascar is overall not up to international standards and tuitions vary greatly from one private school to another. The official teaching languages are Malagasy and French. Some private schools teach English as a foreign language from the age of 2+. Public primary schools (EPP) are spread over the country. Public and private high schools and universities are mainly concentrated in the big cities. The American School (ASA), the British School, four official French primary schools as well as the French Lycée Francais are based in Antananarivo only. Fee paying nursery schools and day-care centres are also available. Not all locally employed nannies speak English.
Employment and recognised qualifications
All foreign nationals wishing to work and live in Madagascar are required to have an immigrant visa and a work permit. Only temporary visas obtained at one of the Malagasy Embassies abroad or from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can be turned into immigrant visas. The immigrant visa is issued by the Ministry of the Interior whereas work permits are issued by the Ministry of Labour. A resident card is issued along the immigrant visa and should be carried at all times. Overstaying your visa may lead to detention, potentially resulting in deportation at your own expense. British Nationals wishing to set-up their own company are advised to get in contact with the “Economic Development Board of Madagascar” (EDBM) which gives guidance on how to set up a business in Madagascar and on how to obtain an “investor’s visa”.
Entry and residence requirements
Please see the section of our travel advice for entry requirements for Madagascar. A resident card is issued along the immigrant visa and should be carried at all times. British nationals who wish to renew their visa must submit their application while their visa is still valid (3 months before the expiry date). Once settled, a courtesy visit to the Head of the Fokontany (neighbourhood of residence) or to the village chief is normal practice. At the Fokontany, you will be asked to pay a village fee in exchange for a village/Fokontany card and you may be asked to contribute to activities specific to your location (e.g. payment for road cleaning activities, etc.). Such contributions are usually made annually and will be noted in a booklet which will be handed out to the customer.
British Nationals working on a local contract in Madagascar will be required to contribute to the National Social Security Fund (CNAPS) and are entitled to receive family allowances, work accidents and retirement allowances from CNAPS. Please note however that allowances paid through CNAPS are often deemed insignificant. For UK benefits, please visit the following website. If you are retiring abroad, please visit the following website.
Driving licences and vehicles
Our travel advice includes information about road safety in Madagascar.
Driving is on the right side. The minimum age required to drive is 18. There are only few road markers and signage.
An International Driving Licence is accepted.
You can apply for a Malagasy driving licence with the Centre Immatriculateur (CIM) in Ambohidahy.
You can also convert your UK driving licence into a Malagasy driving licence which can be done at the same institution. However, the applicant must have a residence visa of at least 6 months and the application for conversion into Malagasy driving licence must be approved and authorised by the Immigration Office.
Car registration for foreigners must be done both at CIM and at the Immigration Office. Please note that the British Embassy cannot issue or renew a UK driving licence. Please contact the DVLA for information about renewing or applying for a new licence. If stopped by the police, you should ask the police officer to show his official badge. Police may request the following:
- Driver’s Licence;
- Car registration document (“Carte Grise”) ;
- Insurance document.
If charged with a traffic fine, only car registration documents should be handed over to the police. You may keep the other documents after presentation to the police officer. Payments should be made at the police station only.
The Ariary (MGA) is not an internationally renowned currency; it cannot be exchanged outside the country. EUR and USD are widely accepted and can be exchanged at local hotels, banks and airports. We would advise against exchanging currencies with black market traders (found at the airport or roaming the streets) as it is illegal. International banks available in the country are BOA (Bank of Africa), BNI MADAGASCAR (Groupe Crédit Agricole), BMOI (Groupe BPCE), BFV-SG (Groupe Société Générale). Other commercial banks include MCB, SBM, BGFI, BM. Accès Banque is the main operator in micro finance in Madagascar. It is possible to open EUR or USD accounts to which money can be transferred to from abroad. To open a bank account, a residence permit and the latest Jirama utility bill has to be provided. Payment by Visa card (not Mastercard) is accepted but mostly in the capital Antananarivo and only in restaurants, hotels, travel agencies and large shops. Cash or cheques are still the preferred mode of payment in the capital, even more so in the regions. ATMs are available in the capital and bigger cities. Only up to 70£ in local currency (300.000 to 400.000 MGA) can be taken out at once. Western Union and Money Gram provide moneys transfer services via local banks. By using mobile phones, it is also possible to transfer and receive money, to purchase some goods and services, to pay certain bills as well as to top up mobile phone airtime credits. Customers need to open a special account at Orange, Telma or Airtel shops. Money sent will be received in the account instantly, even after banking hours and also on bank holidays.
Guidance on bringing medication into Madagascar
It is strongly advised to take out comprehensive medical insurance before travelling to Madagascar. To receive health treatment, payment often in cash has to be made beforehand. Medical fees can be expensive. Bringing in specialized medication for personal use is allowed by the Malagasy Custom authorities, provided it is a reasonable amount and in accordance with the doctor’s prescription. The doctor’s prescription must be carried with the medicine. Most medication, generally of French or South African origin, is available in pharmacies in the capital and in larger cities. In the capital, some pharmacies can order medication from abroad. If travelling to malarial areas, you are advised to carry a supply of anti-malaria medication with you.
Sponsoring family members
If you would like to sponsor family members in Madagascar, you are able to send money via Western Union or Money Gram. If you reside in Madagascar and you would like to invite family members from the UK, you should make sure that they have the appropriate Visa. A short term Visa for less than 90 days can be obtained at the airport.
Property and property disputes
Foreigners are not allowed to acquire a property in Madagascar. Long leases are permitted but business owners are advised to contact the “Economic Development Board of Madagascar” (EDBM) for further information. The Malagasy civil court generally has jurisdiction on property disputes matters. A list of local lawyers and local translators/interpreters can be found on our website.
Social ethics and traditions
Please follow our travel advice section about “Local laws and customs”. Malagasy people are known for their rich tradition and cultural beliefs (circumcision, traditional medicine etc.). New residents are encouraged to learn as much as they can about their new country, its history, customs, heritage, values and way of life. The Famadihana ceremony, which involves exhuming the dead to re-wrap their bones and give thanks for their blessing, is undoubtedly one of the most peculiar Malagasy traditions there is, given that the majority of the population is Christian. Malagasy and French are the official languages of Madagascar. English is not common and spoken in the main cities only. It is much appreciated when foreigners try to communicate in the local language. There are about eighteen to twenty ethnic groups in Madagascar, each with its own distinct territory and its own variation of the Malagasy language. But the division between people living in coastal areas “Cotiers” and those who live in the central highlands “Merina” is of great importance in understanding social and political competition. “Vazaha” is used to qualify a Caucasian white person. There is no negative meaning linked to it. A ‘Fady’ is a taboo. It varies from one region to another. Fady can range from forbidden foods to restrictions on clothing. Some areas subject to fady may be forbidden to foreigners. If you intend to visit remote areas, seek advice locally. Respect local fady to avoid causing offence. Disrespect can result in serious actions against you by the local community. The Malagasy society is a patriarchal society and families tend to be largely extended. Parents and the elderly are respected and held in high esteem. To pay a visit to the local village chief (Chef de Fokontany) and to the wise village man (Raiamandreny) shows sensitivity to local customs. To get married in Madagascar local laws and customs are to be followed. More information is available from the local mayor’s office. A “Certificate of Singleness” demanded by the local authorities can be obtained directly from the General Register Office in the UK. The document can be ordered online and will be sent to you directly. Your marriage or civil partnership should be recognized in the UK if you follow the correct process according to local law - you won’t need to register it in the UK. No British marriage certificate will be provided (further information can be found on this website). The local marriage certificate can be used to apply for the partner’s visa to the UK.
There are no laws against homosexuality but there is some prejudice in Madagascar. Overt displays of affection, whether the couple is of the same or opposite sex, are considered to be culturally inappropriate.
British citizens resident in Madagascar who wish to make a will, or wish to make settlements in respect of the estates of deceased foreign nationals living in Madagascar, need a Notarial Deed and should therefore contact a Public Notary. A list of local lawyers and public notaries can be found on our website.
Returning to the UK
If you live in Madagascar and are considering returning to live in the UK, you should consider how you will support yourself and how non-British members of your family may be able to accompany you. If you have not made full National Insurance (NI) contributions, remember you may not be eligible for state benefits or support. HM Revenue & Customs provide some useful information on returning to live in the UK, including how to make NI contributions from abroad. The UK Border Agency has information on returning to the UK. Please visit the UK Border Agency website. Please note that household employees are to be provided with a work certificate and to be deregistered from CNAPS before you return home. Before leaving Madagascar, it would be useful to inform the nearest community office called Fokontany, if you were registered with them.
Useful links and contact details:
Malagasy Government Portal: http://www.madagascar.gov.mg
Health Organisation for private workers in Antananarivo (OSTIE): http://ostie.mg/
The National Tourism Board (ONTM)
Lot IBG 29C Antsahavola – B.P. 1780
Tel. +261 20 22 661 15
Website : www.ontm.mg/en
Economic Development Board of Madagascar (EDBM)
Immeuble EDBM Avenue
Rue Général Gabriel Ramanantsoa, Antaninarenina
Antananarivo 101 Tel. +261 20 22 670 40 / +261 20 22 681 21 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : www.edbm.mg
This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to British Embassy in Antananarivo by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British Embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authorities.