Accommodation

How can I reserve accommodation?

There are two methods to book accommodation during your trip:

1) Book the accommodation as you travel. This does not guarantee availability.

2) Book in advance through Drive Mada through our hotel reservation service. We recommend booking in advance especially during Madagascar’s peak tourist season (May to October) to ensure available accommodation.

Sim Cards

What sim card should I get?

The three main telecom providers in Madagascar are Orange, Telma and Airtel.

In Madagascar, sim cards are recharged using scratch-off cards or recharged over the counter by the shop attendant. Be aware that often there are promotions and deals which you activate by typing in special codes. These include things like cheaper call rates, bonus data, free talk time, free sms, etc.

If you fly into Antananarivo airport, buy a sim card before you exit.

Research phone & data plans here

Not sure which network to choose? We recommend Telma because it is the most widely used in Madagascar offering the most affordable and convenient plans.

How to Activate and Use Your Telma Sim Card!

Step 1: Go to the Telma kiosk in Tana Airport (or find a small stand on the street)

Step 2: Buy a Sim card for approximately 3,000 Ar. The kiosk attendant will activate the card for you.

Step 3: Purchase credit in the amount of 23,000 Ar total. 13,000 Ar is for data and 10,000Ar is for phone minutes. This will last approximately one week. You can easily buy more as you travel. Credit is sold as scratchers (like lotto tickets) in denominations of 10,000 / 5,000 / 2,000 and 1,000. For phone credit, you MUST buy it in denominations of 1,000 Ar because you will use one credit scratcher per day. For data, you will redeem it all at one time, so it is fastest to buy 10,000 Ar + 2,000 Ar + 1,000 Ar (13,000 Ar total).

Step 4: Load your phone with 13,000 Ar of credit for data usage. Follow the instructions on the back of the credit scratcher. After you have added a total of 13,000 Ar, type the promo code: *322*73# into your phone and press call. This will activate 1GB of data for 1 week.

Step 5: Load your phone with 1,000 Ar of credit for phone usage. Enter promo code: #322*21#. This will activate phone credit valid for 24 hours. The 1,000Ar will last for several short phone calls. Any unused portion expires at 24 hours. Add more credit as you need it with the same promo code.

Drivers & Vehicles

Why is Drive Mada not responsible for vehicle condition?

Drive Mada does not own, maintain, inspect, operate or control any of the vehicles on the website. All vehicles are independently owned by private individuals or companies. The vehicles remain solely the property and responsibility of the owner. Drive Mada does take customer safety seriously which depends on customer feedback and reviews.

Why is Drive Mada not responsible for driver’s availbility?

Currently, there is no automated method to update the availability of all the drivers on our website. A high percentage of drivers do not receive email or text messages, and calling each driver each day to is not feasible at this stage of development.

What happens if the vehicle breaks down?

Your driver is responsible for ensuring you complete your journey as agreed. In the event of a breakdown, Drive Mada can assist by finding nearby available drivers or organize alternative transport. We regularly call drivers for safety and status updates which allow us to keep track of vehicle breakdowns.

Can I drive the vehicle myself?

Generally, no you cannot drive the vehicle yourself. However, some vehicle owners do permit travelers to drive the vehicle. Nevertheless, Drive Mada does not endorse this for safety reasons and thus, we do not request or collect this information from our drivers.

Are drivers on Drive Mada insured?

Drive Mada does not provide insurance – this website is simply a directory to connect adventuresome travelers with local drivers. All vehicles are independently owned and operated, and as such, vehicle insurance is the responsibility of the vehicle owner. We recommend purchasing reliable travelers insurance to ensure any unforeseen travel expenses are covered, such as cancelled flights or medical costs.

Are vehicles inspected and certified as being fully roadworthy?

Drive Mada does not perform vehicle inspections or certifications for road-worthiness. This website is simply a directory to connect travelers with local drivers in Madagascar. All vehicles are independently owned and operated, and as such, vehicle repairs and maintenance is the vehicle owner’s responsibility. For your piece of mind, Drive Mada offers a check-in service where we monitor trip your progress to initiate an emergency response (e.g., replacement vehicle).

Why do some drivers have no reviews? Are they safe to choose?

We have personal experience with every driver on our website. In order to register the driver with Drive Mada they must complete an in-person interview with a member of our team. We must perform this interview so the drivers understand the concept and idea which forms the basis of Drive Mada; some drivers do not understand the internet, do not have an email address or trust in technology, so this personal step is important.
Unfortunately, our website is still quite basic and many functions are limited. We are in the process of performing a significant website update to fix these issues as well as offer incredible amounts of travel information and useful tools for travellers to plan their trip. Sadly, until that time many of our drivers missed out on reviews from previous work. We have created a work around specifically for reviews from previous travellers, but many travellers have not responded to our requests for an email based review.

 

Payment

How do we pay for fuel during our trip?

The driver will pick you up with a full tank of fuel in the vehicle. Along your route, you are responsible for paying for fuel as needed. Before final departure at the drop off point, you will return the tank back to full. For one-way trips, you will keep a record of the total fuel expense from pick up point to drop off point and pay this amount to the driver to return the vehicle to the pick up location.

How should we pay the driver?

Drivers accept cash in Malagasy Ariary (Ar) and some drivers accept Euros at a conversion rate established independent of Drive Mada.

The conventional way to pay your driver is 50% of the balance remaining upon pick-up and 50% of the balance remaining upon departure.

How can I be assured paying beforehand is a safe option?

Drive Mada requires a 10% deposit through the website to confirm the reservation with the driver. Upon pick-up, you will pay the driver half of the remaining rental balance and upon drop off, you will pay the final remaining half. This provides peace of mind that the driver will fulfill the journey to your satisfaction.

Is it possible to pay with credit cards?

Madagascar is a purely cash based country with the vast majority of transactions being conducted in the local currency – Ariary (MGA or Ar). There are some exceptions to this rule in Antananarivo where well-established hotels and bars accept major credit cards such as the Colbert Hotel. For safety and security, we recommend keeping as little cash as possible while travelling as ATMs are readily available in major cities – simply withdraw the amount required as needed.

Are there partial bookings to avoid daily costs when we do not require a driver some days?

No, partial bookings are not part of our service as with any vehicle rental service. Drive Mada aims to be fair to drivers as well as travellers and to ensure your driver is available we reserve them for the entire length of your trip. Drivers deserve to be compensated for their time, especially during long trips where they do not spend time with their families, which is incredibly important in Malagasy culture.

If, however, you plan on staying in one place for many days then you may choose to purchase two separate reservations. Please keep in mind that you would be responsible for the Return Costs of the vehicle.

ATM

Where can I find an ATM?

ATMs can be found in major cities (Antananarivo, Morondava, Fianarantsoa, Antsirabe, Nosy Be, Tamatave, Tulear, Isalo, and more).

Typically, a maximum of 400,000 Ar can be withdrawn per transaction. Amounts larger than 400,000 Ar can be withdrawn from within a bank by the attendant using your passport.

We recommend banks BNI or BFV for their reliability.

Depending on your bank you may be charged fees to withdraw money.

Reservations

How do I pay the deposit?

The deposit is paid through the Drive Mada website with your credit card. Transactions are securely processed using Stripe (PCI Service Provider Level 1).

Can I meet the driver prior to confirming the reservation?

Yes, drivers can certainly meet you before you book them. However, in Antananarivo, due to heavy traffic, it can take the driver many hours to arrive at the meeting point. Therefore, please be aware that some drivers will request you to pay their fuel and possibly 1-day rental to meet you. If you require this service, email your request to [email protected]

Does the rental price include fuel?

For Daily Rentals: the price does not include fuel.  You are responsible for paying fuel consumption because you are setting the itinerary route. 

For One-Way Direct Transfers: the price includes fuel. If you require a direct transfer, email us at [email protected]

Does the rental price include driver food and accommodation?

Yes. The price includes driver food and accommodation.

Does the rental price include insurance?

Drive Mada does not offer vehicle or personal insurance. We recommend travelers purchase travel insurance before arriving in Madagascar and ensure your private auto insurance covers travel in Madagascar.

Does the rental price include taxes?

Yes. The price includes taxes.

What happens if I need to cancel my reservation part-way through the trip?

Drivers are reserved for the entire length of your trip and as cannot receive additional business during that time. If you choose to cancel your trip part-way through (or before the drop-off date) then you will be responsible for paying the driver the full reservation amount owed, plus any additional Return Costs (if required).

Is the itinerary flexible or fixed?

We do our best to assist you with creating an itinerary that suits your travel dreams and desires. Nevertheless, you are free to change the itinerary as you see fit within the following limitations:

  • Vehicle type: some destinations can only be accessed by a 4×4 vehicle. If you do not select a 4×4 vehicle you will not be able to visit these destinations.
  • Time: you may change your itinerary if there is enough time to complete the new itinerary. If there is not enough time to complete the new itinerary then you will either need to purchase additional rental days or complete the original itinerary.
  • Adventure Roads: you may change your itinerary to include an Adventure Road only if the driver has displayed this Adventure Road on their profile and there is enough time to include the Adventure Road. If the Adventure Road is not listed on the driver’s profile then you cannot add this to your itinerary, even if the vehicle is a 4×4. Additionally, you will be responsible for the Adventure Road fee.

Drive Mada also offers an Expert Travel Concierge. 90% of Madagascar’s wildlife in only found in Madagascar. Experience a once in a lifetime adventure. Don’t miss out on anything!

  • Professional itinerary tailored to your personal interests
  • Optimized experiences selected for your dates of travel
  • Leverage local knowledge to explore Mada’s best-kept secrets
  • Accommodation suggestions suited to your budget and preferences
  • Driver recommendations perfect for your adventure

Sample of Drive Mada Itinerary

All changes to the itinerary are subject to additional Return Costs and the Cancellation Policy if applicable.

Safety & Security

Is Madagascar safe?

With plethora of information online relating to Madagascar’s current security status it is hard to decipher the true situation. We advise an overall increased degree of caution with more detailed information below.

Antananarivo

The capital city is generally safe during the day with petty crime being the only concern. Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings and belongings. Keep your money, wallet and phone in your front pockets. When travelling in a taxi, make sure to wind the windows up as robberies have occurred where articles have been taken through the gap in a window. Do not walk the streets at night unless absolutely necessary and leave preciously belongings in the safe at your hotel.

Is driving safe in Madagascar?

To get around Madagascar you need to hire both a driver and vehicle. Despite what many other travel sites or forums advise (including TripAdvisor), tourists are not allowed to hire a vehicle and drive themselves around the country. Nor should it be advised. If you plan to rent from major car rental agencies such as Avis or Hertz, you will only be allowed to drive within the city of Antananarivo.

Madagascar’s roads are in quite poor condition, with potholes, cracks and ditches being quite common. Additionally, other drivers on the road pose a significant danger as road rules are either ignored or non-existent. An experienced driver will keep you safe on the road.

Is it safe to drive at night in Madagascar?

Driving within a major city, such as Antananarivo, is perfectly safe, however, you require your passport at night as police regularly perform security checks.

Driving between cities at night is dangerous. Numerous attacks by bandits, known as the Dahalo, are a real threat to your safety. Currently the high risk areas are between:

  • Antsirabe to Morondava
  • Southern Madagascar, which includes any road from the RN7 to Taolagnaro (Fort Dauphin)

Travelling between dawn and dusk is the safest way to avoid these problems – approximately 6 am to 6 pm.

Customer Service

Do you have FaceBook?

Yes, you can find us on FaceBook at www.facebook.com/drivemada. Send us a message, we’d love to hear from you.

Do you have a phone number I can call?

Yes, we have local numbers. 032 878 8238 (Orange) and 034 436 7081 (Telma). To dial internationally, call: +261 32 878 8238 or +261 34 436 7081.

Fees & Charges

What are the costs if my pick-up location and drop-off location are different?

You are responsible for the return costs of bringing the vehicle back to the pick-up location. This includes fuel, ferries and vehicle rental. Drivers typically operate 10 hours per day. You can calculate the number of vehicle rental return days by estimating the number of driving hours required to return the vehicle.

What are the Return Costs and how are they calculated?

Return Costs are additional fees applied to the reservation if the pick-up and drop-off locations are different. The additional fee is required to return the vehicle and driver to their home location OR to pick-up the traveller at a location outside the driver’s home location.

Return Costs are calculated from:

  1. Vehicle rental: based on the driver’s daily rate and the number of days to return
  2. Fuel: based on the entire trip (not one-way)
  3. Adventure Road rates: based on the number of days required to drive on an Adventure Road

You are required to pay the driver the return costs upon departure.

What are Return Costs?

Return Costs are costs involved with returning the vehicle to its home location, or, for the vehicle to pick-up in a location other than its home location (see examples below). Return costs include the required number of rental days plus fuel for the trip.

Example #1: Pickup in Antananarivo and drop-off in Morondava

In this example, the driver lives in Antananarivo. This journey takes 4 days to complete in total

  • Antananarivo to Morondava, 2 days
  • Morondava to Antananarivo, 2 days

The traveller is responsible for the cost of the entire trip, not just one-way. Since the driver lives in Antananarivo, first he will pick up the traveller and drive to Morondava and requires compensation for this part of the trip – 2 rental days and fuel. Then he will return to Antananarivo and requires compensation for this part of the trip – 2 rental day and fuel.

Example #1: Pickup in Antananarivo and drop-off in Tamatave

In this example, the driver lives in Tamatave. This journey takes 2 days to complete in total

  • Antananarivo to Tamatave, 1 day
  • Tamataveto Antananarivo, 1 day

The traveller is responsible for the cost of the entire trip, not just one-way. Since the driver lives in Tamatave, first he will drive to Antananarivo to pick up the traveller and requires compensation for this part of the trip – 1 rental day and fuel. Then the traveller and driver will drive back to Tamatave to complete the trip – 1 rental day and fuel.

What are Adventure Roads?

Adventure Roads are not roads at all, but rather beach or desert where drivers create their own route. Only select drivers who are experienced with these routes and specifically offer the Adventure Road on their profiles.

Are Adventure Roads Safe?

These routes are dangerous during any time of year and usually impossible to travel during rainy season (November-April). Some routes present security concerns as local bandits prey on broken down vehicles particularly in the south of Madagascar between Toliara and Fort Dauphin. Snorkels are required for some routes as there are many river crossings. Drive Mada recommends avoiding these routes and encourages you to seek alternative transportation. If you must take one of these routes, go by convoy so there is a second vehicle if one breaks down. Research these routes significantly before attempting to travel them.

Additional Cost of Adventure Roads

Travelling on Adventure Roads incurs a higher daily rate due to the excessive wear and tear on the vehicle – it is a real ADVENTURE.

Map of Roads in Madagascar

Power Plugs & Sockets

What power plug / socket / outlet are in Madagascar?

Electricity in Madagascar is 220V, with a frequency of 50hz. The power sockets used are of type C, D, E, J and K. Check out the following pictures.

Travel Prep

What currency is used in Madagascar?

Malagasy Ariary (MGA or Ar)

What travel documents are required to travel in Madagascar?

Passport, visa (usually purchased upon arrival) and Yellow Fever card (if required).

 

What vaccinations & medications are recommended?

Always consult your Travel Doctor prior to using any vaccinations or medications.

Vaccinations

Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR), Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis, Varicella (Chickenpox), Polio,  Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Malaria and Yellow Fever.

Note: Yellow Fever vaccination is required only if travelling from a country that is at risk of Yellow Fever.

Medications

Diarrhoea (Imodium and hydrating formula), hand-sanitizer, antibiotic (Ciproflaxin), Antihistamine, Mild sedative, headache, antibacterial ointments, antiseptic wound cleanser.

What things should I pack in my bag?

Mosquito repellant, mosquito bed net, water purifier, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, Hand sanitizer or wipes,  good quality shoes for hikes.

Reviews

How can we leave a driver review?

Log in to your account at www.drivemada.com/login then navigate to your “Profile” (top right corner). Then, click on the “Review This Driver” button for the driver you wish to leave a review. At this time, you can only complete a driver review from your computer, not a mobile phone. 

Transport

How can I get around by taxi-brousse? And how safe is this transport?

Taxi-brousse are the most common mode of transport for locals. They offer a cheap means of getting around the country. However, this comes at the cost of time. Taxi-brousse only leave once full which means an uncertain amount of waiting – it could be 15 mins or it could be 4 hours, literally!

Taxi-brousse are relatively safe to travel on and if you choose this method, we recommend purchasing the front seats near the driver – they are the most comfortable usually.
Safety Concern – taxi-brousse STATIONS are known for theft, so be vigilant and keep your belongings secure and within eye-sight. This is especially the case for Antananarivo’s taxi-brousse stations.

Souvenirs

Where can I find souvenirs in Madagascar?

Souvenirs can be found throughout the country, from exceptionally hand-crafted wooden Baobab trees in Morondava, or model sailing boats in Ifaty.

There is a fantastic store in Antananarivo which holds a large range of unique and interesting gifts for friends and family.

If you are travelling south from Antananarivo then you must go to the ‘souvenir town’ – Ambositra. Here you will find an excellent selection of gifts to bring home with you – full-size wooden carvings, masks, crystals and much more

There are is a great souvenir shop you can visit called Lisy Art Gallery.

When to Visit

Oct – Nov: Lemur Safaris

Best time of year to head to Andasibe, Ranomafana, Isalo or Lokobe NP for lemurs, birds, and chameleons. Stay up late and venture into the darkness on a guided night safaris.

Jul – Sep: Whale Watching

Head north to Diego-Suarez and Nosy Be for some spectacular sights of whales breaching the water in a wonderful display of playfulness and curiosity

What seasonal fruits should I try and when can I find them?

Avocado
January- April

Banana
All year round

Baobab Fruit
November

Mango
December – January

Lychee
September – January

Papaya
September – January

When should I visit Madagascar according to weather patterns?

Apr – Nov: Best Weather

With no severe weather conditions, this is the perfect time to explore the country of Madagascar. Bring plenty of water because it can get quite hot.


Jan – Mar: Cyclone Season (Wet Season)

Travel is still possible along the RN7, however, expect heavy delays. Low season means some National Parks and tourism businesses may close, however, you will likely have the park and guides to yourself

Culture

What table manners should I be aware of when dining?

Western restaurants observe continental, particularly French, dining etiquette. Fork in left hand; knife in right. Don’t switch.

In traditional restaurants & homes, elders & men are the first to be served. You may be served from a communal pot.

What are the “do’s” for Madagascar culture?

Shake with your right hand while your left hand holds your right arm below the wrist.

Offer gifts, not money, if hosted in a local village.

What are the “donts” of Madagascar culture?

Don’t point with a straight index finger

Is haggling appropriate in Madagascar?

Haggling is expected in Madagascar, especially at the souvenir markets.

What amount should I tip when travelling Madagascar?

Waitstaff – 10%

Porters – 2,500 Ar per bag

Taxi drivers – Round up to the nearest 1,000 Ar. Agree on the price before proceeding.

Bartenders – 10%

Tour guides (full day service) – 20,000 Ar

No need to tip if a service charge is included

What are some basic phrases to learn so I can become fluent in Malagasy?

Hello / mah-nah-hah-AH-nah

Goodbye / veh-LOOM-ah

Please / ah-za-FAH-dee

Thank You / mee-sah-OH-trah

You’re Welcome / tsee mis-ee-fees-OH-ra-na

Pardon Me / ah-zah-FAH-dee

English / an-GLEE-zee

Yes / eh-nee / yah

No / TSEE-ah