Tips for Travelling Solo in Madagascar
Even though Jennifer Godden had experience of travelling alone (in South America), she was slightly worried about booking a trip by herself to Madagascar. From her initial research, she could barely find any information or blogs about solo travel in Madagascar and whether this was recommended or even safe.
From doing some research online she could only find one hostel in the whole of the country, and no clear travelled route. Was it not a thing to do?
In this article Jennifer shares her experience of travelling independently in Madagascar with some top tips if you are thinking about doing something similar...
Deciding to Go to Madagascar
In my Bradt Madagascar guide book (highly recommended purchase by the way), I found a small paragraph on travelling alone, and an insert on females travelling alone. The good news is, it wasn’t entitled “whatever you do don’t travel on your own!”. So it had been done and wasn’t discouraged!
I decided that that was all I needed to know. My heart was set on Madagascar, and I didn’t have, and didn’t want to have anyone to go with. So I clung to that small paragraph and booked a flight.
I accepted in booking this trip, that I would probably be spending a lot of time alone, especially compared to booking an organised Madagascar tour for example. As I was now mentally prepared for it, I decided that it would be ok. I’d read books, I’d draw, who knows, maybe I’d even write a book (I didn’t). I would have to deal with being lost and not being understood without being able to fall back on a group, and without being able to laugh about it with them afterwards. But that would be my adventure.
My plan was broad: to spend three months in the country, and also volunteer in Madagascar for half of that time.
I had always heard stories of people going volunteering in Africa and having a life changing experience, so I was keen to see what it was like. There are lots of projects available, some people apply to teach in Madagascar but I was keen to help wildlife and conservation efforts.
I made sure to volunteer first to help me find my feet. And I’m glad I did. The volunteering experience was incredible, I did 6 weeks with the environmental charity Blue Ventures.
I learnt so much and had a great time. I even learnt some Vezo (the local dialect of the South West), and I got to know some locals which all made me feel much more confident about the next part of my trip. Much of our time was organised and scheduled, so after 6 weeks of living with a timetable I was looking forward to having no plans, and the challenge of having to organise everything myself again.
Once the volunteering part of my trip was over, I booked a few nights in a hotel in the nearest town, and went from there. By this time I knew which areas of the country I was most interested in, and I’d picked up advice along the way about how to get there. I only ever booked a few days in advance to make sure I could change my plans if I particularly liked somewhere and wanted to stay longer, or had had enough of something and was ready to move on.
Challenges of Solo Travel
I knew that making friends in Madagascar to travel with would be tricky. There isn’t an abundance of hostels filled with tourists also looking for people to travel with, and there definitely isn’t a beaten track to follow. Mainly because there are no decent roads that loop around the country. A lot of the tourists visiting Madagascar come as groups, booking tours that include a car, a driver and hotels.
Learn Basic French
Speaking French was very helpful to me, but most tourists I met didn’t speak a word of it and were getting by just fine. A lot of the locals don’t speak French either anyway, so expect to resort to pointing at what you are trying to buy or where you are trying to go.
Considering Travelling to Madagascar? Just Go For It!
If you are thinking of travelling alone on this beautiful island, I can reassure you, it will be great. Not least because all the locals I met along the way were friendly and helpful. I felt safer in Madagascar than any other country (still don’t wander alone at night though).
I did meet a few people along the way that I spent the odd day or week with. A few from the only hostel in Antananarivo, another that had booked a surf trip the same week as me. And I had some days alone nearer the end of my trip, which I enjoyed as much as the rest.
If you aren't keen on the idea of group tours in Africa, like a bit of adventure, huge spaces of untouched nature and incredibly rich culture, then you will never have time to feel lonely in Madagascar.
By Jennifer Godden
Looking to book a trip to Madagascar? The following websites are recommended: