Money-Ariary, FMG, $$$ - Euros- GBP....etc

Money Matters is certainly its own subject so will list this subject as a separate help group.

How to use the local currency. Ex pats have a real challenge in figuring out the math when it comes to their currency and the Malagasy currency. 
First off go to this site for up to date currency exchange.---

Today's date is 11/24/2016 so the USA $$$ is 3300 and the Euro is 3500  British Pound- 4100
other currencies listed as well.

The inflation rate has almost tripled since I got here some 15 years ago. However the IMF has looked into their crystal ball to proclaim that the Ariary will be stable in the first half of 2017.

Thank you for your thoughts and advise.

If you are a vazaha and a young green bud tourist, NGO or missionary just off the boat,  to the country or have just become a hermit  for the first 7 or more years then you will be talking in the terms of Ariary which is the official currency of Madagascar.   
The rest of this country of 25 million people still use and think in Franc Malagasy- FMG.
I always think in FMG and sometimes I get confused by something that seems so cheap I ask is this FMG?

Not to worry the Malagasy understand money and know Ariary and FMG and when they talk to a Vazaha they will speak mostly in Ariary which if you accept this you will be sure to be fleeced of your money. Considering that Malagasy speak to Malagasy or residents such as myself in FMG and we get the better price as a local does.  It is also easier to bargain in FMG than Ariary.

The point being is that if you care how your money is being used and wanting to save your money, then it is better to speak in FMG, not ariary. Even on most of the bills the large print is in Ariary and the small print will be FMG and the FMG is multiplied by 5.
Example 1,000 Ariary = 5,000 FMG

For Street markets and local restaurants and taxis, mom and pop local hotels you will use FMG

If you go to Vazaha hotels and Bars/restaurants  you will use Ariary--- and more expensive. The Food Supermarkets are higher priced for sure, and there are the Indian and Chinese merchants that cater to both the vasaha and upper middle class Malagasy will list their prices both in Ariary and FMG as well as hotels and restaurants.   A trick I have learn over time from being confused by the Ariary money listed and the merchant sees  I am figuring the price into FMG will convert the numbers for me into FMG. They know I am a local ( resident) and now the price become less, even when I have not started the process of bargaining. And yes the price goes even lower when we talk---this is supposed to be fun and building a relationship with the merchant that the Ex pat has little use for since the Ex pat is used to seeing prices listed.   Get over it, you are in Madagascar not in your home country--it is what it is!!!

Now if you go to a hotel that lists its prices in Euros, well, you should really just bend over. Why?  Labor costs here are about the cheapest on earth, plus local materials are used, and really do you see what you get- a thin mattress and you pay in Euros. and the person taking your money has a straight face ----sucker or a sucker born every minute. And  these Stars given are mostly as a decoration and don't relate to anything you have come to relate to,  and service is unschooled to the standards you are used to and has its own flavor that I have come to prefer and understand---- personally .
As for most things in Madagascar especially hotel rooms is you need to negotiate prices and I have gotten as much as 75% off room rates, usually for a week or more. But I almost always get a discount and in some cases a gift when I leave.
Some places will have a trip advisor  tag and the smart traveler already knows that is a gamed system and the clue is really!!! here in Madagascar.  Just google law suit and trip Advisor practices.

Madagascar is 90% cash Society and better to pay in cash rather than Credit Card- just a friendly warning.

The dollar right now is 3330 ariary to the dollar.  And I have found over the years that the best place to change dollar is at the  Tana airport, and sometimes domestic side of the airport has a better rate and closer to the central bank rate which would be the top rate of the day. I did go into tana and found out that the rate was alot lower at the banks in center town. But the best surprise for me is that BNI bank here in Mahajanga has a very good rate for the dollar and the Euro.  At about 3290 ariary to the dollar. BOA bank is about 3100 ariary to the dollar which stinks.   
What are the exchange rates for your banks in your neck of the woods.

What type of card do you use to take money from a ATM machine. International credit or debit Card? or a local bank card.   For the best rate I transfer money from my Bank in USA to my Bank in Madagascar thus getting the Madagascar Central Bank rate for the day. And you can set up with your bank to send monthly or quarterly installments from bank to bank.  I do like to have dollars with me to cash in as the rate for the dollar is very good now. I used to bring in travelers checks which got better rates in Madagascar than the dollar.  USA banks are cutting back on the service of Travelers checks. 
Travel outside of Madagascar I like to have dollars, but have thought it might be a good idea to have a Debit card. I used to have a debit card some 5 years ago but the bank mentioned that my money is at risk, unlike a credit card, if I do not check my account every month. It can be difficult to sign into my American account when my server is located in Africa and Madagascar!

  My question what type of card do you use and do you pay an interest rate.  I am looking into a Charles Schwab card because there is no charge for withdrawal from an ATM and even if the bank branch does have its own charge, Schwab will cover those fees as well.
Pulling money out of ATMs in Madagascar can be a problem as machines run out of money and you have to do multiple transactions just to get 2 million FMG which is the limit for a BOA account local card in a 24 hour cycle. Multiple transaction to get a small amount of cash can really add up those fees.  And even at times the cards get pulled and you need to go in to find out where is your card or the paper receipt is not given with your transaction which means they could short your bank account. This happened one time to me where they shorted my account by one million FMG and no paper work- the time it took to get this fixed with delays of staff out of the office, more than they are in the office just makes it easier to use check withdrawal from my account here or exchange cash/dollar.

What are your experiences with ATMs and banking in general and are there some banking shortcuts you have learned.

Any experience with black market money for better rates?

Hi Alex,

I have an account at the BOA in Maroantsetra, but I don't use ATMs in Madagascar. I just have to plan ahead to get the money from the US to my account here. The only place I use a credit card is in Tana (I'm not sure they'd know what it is here) but I feel it reduces the fees I pay as compared to the transfer.

One thing I did that has facilitated life a lot is set up an account with Orange Money. Yes, there are some fees, but it avoids all the hassles associated with going to the BOA, which during the vanilla and clove seasons, can take hours just to get some cash.


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