Customs and Traditions in Madagascar

20 Aug 2015 by Olga Brighton

Travelling to Madagascar

Madagascar is a unique territory where Africa and Oceania meet, which results its traditions and customs being diverse. Each region of Madagascar has its own tales, legends, and taboos. Foreigners are recommended to find out as much as possible about Madagascar traditions and customs in the region they plan to visit  to avoid any unpleasant situations and offending the local people.


On the whole, there are more than 20 different ethnic groups on Madagascar most of whom are Malagasy. Their appearances resemble Arabs, Africans, Vietnamese, Japanese and other nationalities. Also, don’t be surprised to meet immigrants from China, UAE, France, India and Pakistan.

The citizens are divided into highlanders and those living along the seaside. Madagascar citizens speak Malagasy language while service sector workers usually speak French and English.


Madagascar religion

The majority of locals confess the ancient religion which is worshiping the deceased ancestors. Also, there are many Christians (up to 40%) and some Muslims (7%).


Since locals believe that the souls of the deceased can transmigrate into animals, they highly respect them and forbid any sort of harming the animals.

Be ready to hear ‘to the North’ or ‘to the South-East’ instead of to the left and to the right because there are no notions like the latter on Madagascar.

If you happen to be invited to a religious ceremony, treat it as a high honour and don’t even think of refusing an invitation. Don't be surprised to see some people walking with yellow paste mask on their faces that are meant to beautify and protect the skin.

All men and women are considered to be equal in Malagasy society, so women often work as chief managers, directors, and architects, etc. Also, you can see many women carrying heavy weights on their heads be it a basket of products, or even sand, bricks and other heavy materials. From the other side, few European walk with such grace and straight back as Malagasy women do.


Madagascar manners
  • Keep calm and reserved, take care of nature, don’t smoke and avoid eating pork in religious and worshiping places.
  • Sluggishness is common everywhere, so be ready for a slow service, transport delay and postponing events.
  • It is forbidden to take pictures of military and police objects as well as the police officers.
  • Greeting people on the street including complete strangers is a norm. This refers specifically to the seniors.
  • Whenever in a national park, don’t pick flowers or any plants and don’t feed animals. Follow the guide instructions only.


Modesty and moderation are the best features of Madagascar traditional clothing, so stick to that when choosing the clothing items to be worn on Madagascar. Try to wear closed shoes, light shirt and trousers making sure you cover your arms and legs. The police may arrest you for wearing shorts or anything khaki.

Women are not allowed to wear trousers while visiting sacred places.

Always have repellents and a flashlight since in tropical countries it gets dark very fast and early.

Research Madagascar culture and traditions before going on your next trip there. Travel wisely and stay safe with Globelink Travel Insurance!

Read also: Vaccination Needed to Travel to Madagascar

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