Madagascar: A Gemologist’s Journey (FAQ)

Madagascar: Frequently asked questionsWhenever I give a presentation about the trip or tell friends about it, I’m always asked the same three questions: What are the accommodations like? What is the currency of Madagascar? and is it safe?

With regard to the accommodations, most of our hotels and bungalows where very nice with running water and electricity. Most of them had an Internet connection somewhere on the premises we could use. One of the places we stayed did not have running water, but we could flush the toilet with a bucket of water. The electricity in this place was powered by a generator and was only on for a few hours each evening to allow us to charge phones etc. In general, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the hotels were for our group.

With regard to the currency, the primary currency in Madagascar is the Malagasy Ariary (MGA). In my photo I am showing a stack of their largest bills. Each bill is 10,000 Ariary, which, at today’s exchange rate is about $3.77. For my $1,000 in US dollars, I received about 2,655,000 MGA and for the first time in my life, I was a multi-millionaire! It felt strange to be carrying around such a large stack of bills! It also became far too easy to just whip out 10,000 MGA for anything and anyone.

Just an FYI, decent rooms in Madagascar can start at about 25,000 MGA per person per night and on up. So housing is relatively inexpensive. For my return trip in three weeks, I found a nice, contemporary 2 bedroom apartment with all utilities and WIFI in Antananarivo for just $160 for the entire week.

As for safety, of course no matter where you go, whether it’s Madagascar or Kentucky, there is always a risk of some sort of danger. I didn’t feel unsafe or threatened in any way the entire three weeks I was in Madagascar. I’m not aware anyone else did either. But we were traveling in a large group. Nevertheless, when we toured the mines or shopped at the mineral markets, we had hired armed guards to accompany us. One must also be careful in the market places of pickpockets etc.

For my return trip, I have hired a full time body guard, who is also my driver, because I stick out like a sore thumb in Madagascar being a blonde hair, blue eyed, white woman traveling otherwise alone. A little common sense always goes a long way when traveling overseas.

In my next post, we begin our journey in Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar.

Author: Michelle M. Rahm is a GIA-trained Graduate Gemologist and is President of Colorado’s Mile High Chapter of the GIA Alumni Association. She has been selling gemstones and jewelry online since 1997. Visit her websites and

About mrahm

Michelle holds a Graduate Gemologist Diploma, Graduate Diamonds Diploma and Graduate Colored Stones Diploma through the Gemological Institute of America's distance education program. Michelle currently serves as President of the Mile High GIA Alumni Association. She also serves on the board of the Rocky Mountain Jeweler's Association and is a member of the American Gem Trade Association.
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