Madagascar Local Customs

  • Masqued Beauty
    Masqued Beauty
    by Orchid
  • "House tree" : )
    by rosequartzlover1
  • Local Customs
    by rosequartzlover1

Madagascar Local Customs

  • Natural Sunblock

    You will see many women with a yellow paste on their faces. This is a natural facial mask, used to protect and beautify the skin. I doubles as a sunblock and mosquito repellent! It is made from a special type of wood (the Tsiambara root).Some women will use it for decoration as well.It is reminiscent of the Thanaka used in Myanmar.


    Slash & Burn agriculture is just like it sounds. In Madagascar this traditional way of clearing land is called ‘Tavy’. Local farmers mark of a few acres of, often rain forest, and literally burn it all to the ground. They do this to plant rice field mostly. Rice is harvested for 1-2 year from the now cleared land and then left alone, or fallow, for...

  • When to go

    The best period to go is October and November (Spring time in Madagascar). The weather is nice, no more rain and still not too hot, flowers are in bloom and lemurs have babies.

  • Language

    Malagasy is derived from the Indonesian origin. It is the official language but for outstanders very difficult to speak. At least learn some words likeHello = SalamaGoodbye = VelomaThank you = MisaotraYou will make them smile when you say these words :-)French is spoken amongst the educated people and in tourism there are some people that can speak...

  • People

    It is said that the first people arrived in Madagascar some 2000 years ago from Indonesia, later people came from Africa and Arabia. Now there are about 15 tribes, of which the Merina tribe is the most important. They live in the highlands (around the capital) and are descendents from the Indonesians. In the South you will find the tribes of...


    Madagascar uses the standard ‘European’ 2 round pin plug and operates on 220 V 50 Hz. You may come across the safer plug with a male grounding pin, but not very often! British visitors can use a standard adapter like they do for Spain. Then there’s the weird bit. Some electrical items sold here and made in China have a flat 2 pin plug like those in...

  • Partying

    Malagasy people are amongst real partyers. I don't even talk about official, planned parties.Rather talk about the ability of getting it to party while few people are together. It happens so often that when you have a family meeting, one decides to play either live music either a Cd or even.. a cassette (!). Some begin dancing then one suggests to...

  • Whilst men use to pull and drag buckets,...

    ... women use to carry things on their heads. Be it water buckets, large baskets, women don't usually drag them, they weigh them on their head. I even saw women in the markets weighing their baskets with geese in them. They were browsing the marketplaces to sell their produce, the heads of the geese pending from the baskets. In brick-baking areas,...

  • Rural villages

    The rural villages we saw on the south end of Madagascar were made up of huts which were small and built of sticks with a thatched roof. In the Isalo Massif area the huts were made of clay with thatched roof and here we saw men wrapped in blankets carrying a spear walking down the clay roads. All of the villages have a market where things are...

  • Central Malagasy Farming Areas

    In the central area of Madagascar, farming in the mountains uses terraces which seems more oriental. There is one photo of this posted here. Also, the farm houses here were larger and constructed much differently than houses (huts) we had seen in other rural areas. These were made of red clay and were 2 story with a thatched roof. They have windows...

  • People are Very Friendly and Helpful to...

    The local people especially out in the countryside of Madagascar are quite poor as far as having material possessions. Yet they are friendly and kind. One evening at dusk our van broke an axle. We were over 100 km from our town. Our guide finally decided that we would have to try to flag down some vehicles and catch a ride with them back to the...

  • Food Served in the Field for the...

    When we were at Ankarafantsika Reserve, we were a long way from any civilization when lunch time came. Instead of having a bag lunch, I was surprised that the staff from the hotel in Mahujunga came down and cooked lunch for us in the field. They set up tables overlooking Lake Ravelobe complete with white table cloths and china. They cooked fried...

  • Religion- Belief system

    Although I've never been aware of this, not all Malagasy are Christians. It took me a stay in Brussels to meet a Muslim Malagasy woman for the first time (beside the Pakistani & Comoro communities, that is). The Moslem community accounts for 4% of Madagascar population. What surprised me lately was that the Christians don't even make up for half of...

  • Grinding Rice

    A local custom that is closely related to food tips. For it to be rarely seen in urban areas, I present it here as local custom, that it accurately is.Every Malagasy diner is likely to include rice as staple food. In countryside, families cultivate their ricefields & store their harvests in their basement. Then, periodically, they bring some kilos...

  • No office neither shop opens on June 26,...

    No office neither shop neither museum opens on June 26, it is Independance day.If you go there in 2010, do expect a huge 50-anniversary celebration. Well, I hope.Same thing as for March 29. In March 29, 1947 MDRM (Mouvement Democratique de Renovation Malgache) executives undertook a strike in order to actually apply an existing text in French...

  • belgianchocolate's Local Custom Tip

    Every journey has to have it's priceless moment , right?This was one of ours. When we visited the national parc of Mantadia , we also went to see Andasibe. A little loggers village , where the train station is still a witness of it's former glorie. These kids came shy after us and asked Frederik if he wanted to take a picture of them. Of course he...

  • Hold the duck upside down...

    What would you do?You had a hard day at the office , worked longer then you wanted...had hunderds of long calls - all day long. AND then on top of all that your wife calls. She orders fresh duck for dinner and she insists that it will be very fresh. Very very fresh. This was the freshest duck you could get your hands on!I'm sure of that. We giggled...

  • Asking and showing the way...

    While asking your way, you would notice something strange. Malagasy people show the way related to cardinal points. They rather speak in terms of "South, North, West, East" than "Left, Right".Personnally, I have problems in quickly distinguishing left from right. Even worse, I cannot manage to work with a compass neither.Funny enough, locals tend...

  • Paraky

    Tobacco chewing (sucking ?) is customary in some parts of the island. I don't know about the others but it is so in my region, Tana. I've never noticed people sucking paraky in other regions.Paraky is powdered (micronized) tobacco that is sold in bags (like our tea bags). The bag contains a certain quantity that the user uses to partition in...

  • Witness and participate in the zebu...

    The zebu is a unique cow species of Madagascar because it has a hump like a camel. One of the zebu species in Madagascar is omby volavita, a zebu with a red coat, white spots on the legs and on the forehead. You must see zebu on the feast to claim that you have been to Madagascar.On the third day of Alahamady is the zebu feast known as the saotra...

  • Splashing water in Madagascar...

    On the second day of Alahamady is the day of the Fandroana (the bath day), which marks the New Year. Wishes for a happy new year are then exchanged.In each Malagasy family, the symbolic rite of "misafo rano" which literally means "touch water" is practised, You can splash water to each other with water while exchanging wishes.It was a custom to...

  • Participate on the first day of Malagasy...

    On the first day of Alahamady, the Malagasy New Year, adults and children have a portion of chicken - the vodiakoho (rump) for the adults and elders, and fenakoho (chicken's leg) for the children. This testifies the mutual respect paid by each family member on the one hand,and the strenthening of family ties on the other.A Malagasy family gathers....

  • We ALWAYS smile, ALWAYS !

    Be it in happiness, in harsh situation, we always smile. This is a constant element all over the island. We don't laugh without reason, we smile.Even in embarrassing situation, we smile. Foreigners use to mistake about it. When a Malagasy pedestrian crosses the street out of zebra crossing area (: meaning he/she is faultive) and nearly triggers an...

  • On the Beach

    Taomasina apparently had the status of being the main tourist resort for middle-class Malagasy. So the beach was crowded....Strange thing, though, was that on the beach definitely meant on the beach here. No one dared to venture into the water.Local culture or had it something to do with the harbour and slaughterhouse right next to the beach?

  • Famadihana, ancestor worship rite

    Hmmm... You are entering here in one of our mysterious local customs, that, most of time, only Malagasy people understand.Textually, "Famadihana" means "Returning sthg" (the mortal remains, in this case). This custom is a rite of the two tribes of central highlands: the Merina (from Tana province) and Betsileo (from Fianarantsoa) people. The tip...

  • Know and respect fady

    Before going in specific areas, get to know how people may react. On your arrival, at least, ask a briefing on local dos and donts... Know and respect forbidden things (fady), places you cannot go, pics you cannot take, pounds you cannot bath in... or at least, ask local spiritual authorities, ask people before taking pictures of human ... Pay...

  • Hospitality in Madagascar

    The Malagasy are very hospitable. And food is an important part of it. Photo This feast was prepared for us in Tuléar where a French couple of our group was to receive a medal for their project Ny Faribolana which develops a center for multihandicapped children and a doctor's post.

  • Greetings in Madagascar

    Friends and acquaintances kiss each other 2, 3 or 4 times on each cheek every time they see each other.Goodbye Veloma!Photo Football is also taken seriously here...

  • as you go out of the capital,...

    as you go out of the capital, you will get stirred at. many people have not seen a white person before. at first you may feel scared by this but as you realise the locals are just curious it becomes ok.people and children will automatically think your french and start saying bonjour

  • This was a gift from our hosts...

    This was a gift from our hosts in Madagascar. There is an amazing variety of (semi)precious gemstones here inclulding a rare dark blue aquamarine, but also all sorts of quartz, garnets, moonstone, amazonite etc. The largest crystal ever found came from Madagascar and weighed more than 380 tons (I got all this from a guide).You'll find 100s of...

  • Delicate, papyrus like, handmade paper

    Delicate, papyrus like, handmade Antaimoro paper decorated with pressed, dried and embedded wild flowers. This is a gift card and makes a very good suitcase-friendly souvenir.

  • Life in Madagascar

    Life in Madagascar is by history very French. The language is French, and the breakfasts too. So at least that can be familiar to some tourists.The hundreds of little stalls along the roads bear the names 'Boucherie', 'Epicerie', but you don't want to buy any food there except bottled drinks.

  • If you are in Tana or its...

    If you are in Tana or its surroundings on a sunday afternoon, be sure to visit 'Hira Gasy': an open-air music-dance-storytelling performance. A group of artists tells the audience in a quite spectacular and entertaining way about the do's and don'ts in life.

  • LEMURS... are everywhere! ...

    LEMURS... are everywhere! This one allowed himself to be photographed after accepting a piece of bread and butter from me. :)

  • MALAGASY TOMBS display amazing...

    MALAGASY TOMBS display amazing carvings and sculpture, as can be seen from this photo by Jean Philippe Vidal (in the book Les Sourires de Madagascar). Special thanks to VT member raharinjato for sending me this picture !

  • FAMADIHANA or 'Turning of the...

    FAMADIHANA or 'Turning of the Bones', is primarily a custom of the Merina tribe. Ancestors are worshipped, remaining part of the family after death and playing just as important a role in family life as when they were alive. When a family feels the need to visit a particular ancestor, or lays to rest the body of a family member who died elsewhere,...

  • This is one square from a...

    This is one square from a typical sheet of cloth used by women as an all-around 'wrap-around' type of garment known as a lamba.There are all different colors and patterns, many of which include a Malagasy proverb. This one reads:Ho avy tsy ho ela zaho hanaraka anao or I have come, I am here, I shall follow you....

  • Ask a Question

    Got a question about Madagascar? Get an answer from our Location locals and frequent travelers
  • Write a Review

    Have you been to Madagascar? Write about Madagascar to help travelers.

Madagascar Hotels

Top Madagascar Hotels

Antananarivo Hotels
192 Reviews - 470 Photos
Mahajanga Hotels
24 Reviews - 68 Photos
Antsirabe Hotels
43 Reviews - 147 Photos
Tolanaro Hotels
6 Reviews - 17 Photos
Sambava Hotels
See nearby hotels
Nosy Be Hotels
22 Reviews - 38 Photos
Morondava Hotels
49 Reviews - 179 Photos
Mananjary Hotels
1 Review - 2 Photos
Manakara Hotels
3 Reviews - 15 Photos
Mahavelona Hotels
7 Reviews - 16 Photos
Isalo Hotels
4 Reviews - 19 Photos
Ifaty Hotels
7 Reviews - 31 Photos
Andasibe Hotels
21 Reviews - 102 Photos

Instant Answers: Madagascar

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

33 travelers online now


Madagascar Local Customs

Reviews and photos of Madagascar local customs posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Madagascar sightseeing.
Map of Madagascar