Guidance

Living in Madagascar

Advice for British people living in Madagascar, including information on health, education, residence requirements and more.

Introduction

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.

Health

It is essential that before you travel to Madagascar, you ensure to take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance to cover medical costs during your stay in Madagascar, including medical evacuation. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is not valid in Madagascar. Make sure that your policy provides for the following:

  • full medical coverage
  • medical evacuation: air ambulance to the UK or to a third country (e.g. Mauritius, Reunion Island, South Africa)
  • 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 treatment 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.

Depending on the gravity of the case, public hospitals in the provinces sometimes need to transfer patients to the capital. Public hospitals are generally in short supply of consumable materials. A patient scheduled for surgery would need to buy for everything (suture threads, bags of saline, etc.).

Patients are expected to have one person present to watch over them. Rare cases of robberies taking place in hospitals have been reported.

Not all public hospitals have a landline that you can call in case of emergency. Not all of them have an ambulance, and when they do the vehicle is used for the logistical needs of the hospital and not just for transporting patients.

Public hospitals are in general 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, Villa Eliane Michel – rue Rabearivelo Antsahavola (tel: 22 236 62 – cms@blueline.mg).

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 generally 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 organisation for workers working in the private sector, will also apply to British Nationals working on a local contract in Madagascar.

Education

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. Other schools based in the provinces and the Lycée Francais of Tamatave have signed a convention with the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE).

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 entry requirements section of our travel advice.

Information and administrative forms in Madagascar are generally written in either French or Malagasy, not in English.

Short stay tourist visa

A short-term visa (maximum 3 months) can be obtained upon arrival at the airport. A tourist visa doesn’t give capacity to engage in remunerative activities whilst in Madagascar. Since this type of visa is not extensible, you won’t be allowed to stay and must leave the country after 3 months.

There is no fine-based system in place. Overstaying your visa may lead to deportation and/or imprisonment, especially if you cannot afford to buy a return flight ticket.

Leaving the country and returning on the same day is not prohibited. There have been instances where people have chosen to travel to one of the neighbouring islands and return to Madagascar on the same day on a new tourist visa.

Long stay immigrant visa

You need to start your application whilst you are still in the UK by:

  1. Either applying for a 1-month “transformable visa” at the Embassy of Madagascar in Paris. Once you arrive in Madagascar, the next step would be to ‘transform’ this visa by applying for a long stay visa at the Ministry of the Interior (option 1).

  2. Or by applying for a 72-hour visa commonly known as “accord d’embarquement” at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Once you arrive in Madagascar, you will need to extend the 72-hour visa into a 1-month visa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Only then will you be able to apply for a long stay visa at the Ministry of the Interior (option 2).

Option 1

British nationals can only apply at the Embassy of Madagascar in Paris, unless you can provide proof of residence in another country where an Embassy of Madagascar is present.

Visa applications can be sent to the Embassy of Madagascar in Paris by post. They advise to send the application at least 2 weeks before your planned date of travel. All relevant information can be found on their website. There is a list of required documents and a form that can be downloaded.

You will need to provide a UK criminal record. You may wish to obtain more than one copy of your criminal record as it is also required for the next steps you need to take once you arrive in Madagascar.

Option 2

The 72-hour visa (‘accord d’embarquement’) must be obtained before arrival. Applications are to be submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For more information regarding the 72-hour visa application process, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at maevisas@gmail.com. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs generally requires for the applicant to have someone already in country who can liaise directly with them.

Applications for the long stay visa also known as immigrant visa are managed by the Ministry of the Interior. Relevant information can be found on their website.

Applicants can contact the Ministry of the Interior - Aliens Control Department (mi.belcanto@gmail.com - 034 14 522 60) for advice.

Please go through the list of applicable fees and required documents carefully as you may need to prepare for them while you are still in the UK.

Payment of fees in cash and taking of fingerprints can only be done in the capital.

Due to bureaucratic delays at Treasury level, payment of fees by bank transfer is not advisable. Payment in cash can be done at the Ministry of the Interior. The cash desk is open on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 a.m to noon. It is not uncommon for people to start queuing as early as 6 a.m to take a number. You are able to send someone to make payment on your behalf.

A proxy letter is needed if you are unable to retrieve your visa and biometric card in person. The resident card should be carried at all times.

Applicants who wish to renew their visa must submit their application while their visa is still valid (at least 3 months before the expiry date).

Benefits

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.

Finance

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.

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.

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 land 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”.

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.

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.

Homosexuality

Same sex marriages are prohibited in Madagascar.

Overt displays of affection, whether the couple is of the same or opposite sex, are considered to be culturally inappropriate.

Wills

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.

A prospective employer in the UK might ask for a police report for the time you spent in Madagascar. This should be considered while you are still in Madagascar as Malagasy authorities do not provide online services. The tribunal can issue a criminal record (“extrait de casier judiciaire”) to foreigners. You can also request a certificate of good conduct at your local police station.

Please note that household employees are to be provided with a work certificate following the end of their contract. Before leaving Madagascar, it would be useful to inform the nearest community office (Fokontany), if you were registered with them.

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 Antananarivo 101 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 : edbm@edbm.mg Website: www.edbm.mg

Disclaimer

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.

Published 9 November 2017
Last updated 26 February 2018 + show all updates
  1. document updated
  2. First published.