19 Jan Madagascar: Guide Book vs. Reality
Have you ever picked up a travel guide and eagerly devoured the words …only to realize that you can’t actually afford to do any of the things that are so beautifully described? Elegant restaurants, exciting moped tours, hand-made dresses, and the like? I have. Or…you scrounge up enough money to make it out to your destination, only to realize that the guidebook is totally wrong and outdated? There have been a fair number of moments, when these occurrences have or less made me cry! Still, against all odds, I finally found a way to become friends with my unfortunate travel companion.
Meet: Madagascar. Specifically, meet Diego Suarez (or Antsiranana, if you’re so inclined), which balances on the tip of the country and comes in as the fifth largest city on the island. More or less isolated by distance and dusty roads, it’s a bubble of tropical separation, and just a short flight away from the capital city. This magical place (for whatever reason) is so dirt cheap that you can do everything the guidebook wants you too, and surprisingly (again, for an unknown reason), the guidebooks actually make sense here.
The dining here is impeccable. Hit up French-owned Bodega for the best steak and mushroom sauce for a mere 5 USD, or stroll down the main promenade past dimly-lit European-style restaurants where the most expensive, three course meals never even come close to toeing the 10 dollar mark.
Activities, you say? They abound. Take a moped (rented for just 7 dollars/day) down to Sakalava where you can get windsurfing equipment from a chilled out Australian for 15 dollars, snorkel in the green-blue bay, or even hike to see a baobab tree rumored to be over 600 years old.
Accommodation is ridiculous. Check out the little known Hotel de la Poste; with huge rooms, air conditioning, wireless internet access, and an on-site restaurant (for only $15 per night!), the staff will know you by name almost immediately.
If all of this still doesn’t make you want to get out of your office chair and fly to Madagascar immediately, then listen to this; the cultural opportunities you can reap during your visit are limitless. For long-term travelers, you can take ten week French or Malagasy courses for just under 15 USD (total) at the French Cultural Center, you can lounge on the white beaches of Ramena, or drop by the numerous open-air bars (open early, close much later!) for chit chat with locals, football games, or just a well mixed Mojito.
How did I fair amongst all of this luxury? For the first time in my young life, I was able to beach it up, trek through a forest, and drink many (many many many) wonderfully mixed beverages. Basically, I had three awesome months in Madagascar for the cost of a week-trip to a big US city. Now, get out that guidebook and actually start planning!
This guest post was written by Kim Reuter from the backpacking chica blog (www.backpackingchica.com)