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An update from Evaneos

The tip vs the right price

The trip to Madagascar represents more than a paltry budget compared to many other destinations. On the other hand, once you've arrived on the island, you'll feel as though you've suddenly inherited a fortune, dealing with wads of banknotes. Since the cost of living is extremely low, your expenses will be minimal (1 night for 1 to 2 pounds and a meal for £1), as long as you adapt to the local standard. So 200 pounds will be enough for a whole month's stay.

In Madagascar, the tip, a former French colonial tradition, is as widespread as the fady. It is given in exchange for any service provided. The amount given increases, of course, according to your level of satisfaction, and depends entirely on how much you're willing to give.

Money is not taboo, but the ariary does have significance and value...

If Madagascans pay out no more than 200 ariarys, or 10% of the lowest income, the tourist generally proves far more generous than he would be in his own country, giving from 1,000 to 10,000 ariarys.

Incoming agencies and tour operators will recommend that you give astronomical amounts: 5 to 10% of the bill in a restaurant, 1 to 2 pounds for baggage handlers, £3.50 per day for drivers and 8 pounds for a guide.

But if this isn't much of your Western budget, keep in mind that these figures are not at all realistic or proportional to the income and needs of the local population. This applies all the more if you are travelling in a group and everyone in it gives the same as you.

In multiplying the average amount by 15 or 20, you are encouraging begging and increasing the risk of tourists being harassed on every street corner.

Market in Madagascar

Advice on how to be a "good" Vazaha...

In airports, baggage handlers wearing the official waistcoat generally get 200 or 300 ariarys. In a restaurant, just leave 500 ariarys or perhaps 1,000 ariarys in a more upmarket restaurant. This will be enough to express your satisfaction. If you consider the official rate - the pound is worth 3,000 ariarys - offering a tip of one pound is equivalent to paying a quarter of the price of the meal just for the service: certainly a disproportionate gift in view of the cost of the latter!

During a trip to Madagascar, beyond this monetary tradition established during the colonial period, there is another means of thanks which will make someone more than happy: think of simple gestures such as giving shampoo, soap, candles, clothing or food in exchange for the service provided. For one thing, this will spare you the trouble of having to find a commodity that is rather rare, especially in the bush. Instead, here is something that will enrich your transaction with a human touch for far more useful ends and opportunities of interchange with a new friend!

Servane Rig
16 contributions
Updated 21 March 2016
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