The unit of money is the ariary. 1 â¬ is about 2900 ariary and 1 US$ is about 2000 ariary as of 2010. The value of the ariary has been rather stable for a few years. The currency system was overhauled in 2006. Prior to 2006 the unit of currency was the Malagasy Franc Franc Malgache and was worth 1/5 of an ariary, for example, 1 Euro = 2'900 Ariary = 14'500 Francs. However, old banknotes in Francs are still legal tender. Whenever negotiating a price, always confirm the amount in ariary. Unscrupulous merchants have been known to state the amount due without specifying the currency so that buyers are duped into paying 5 times the amount due because of Franc/Ariary confusion.
You can withdraw money from ATM's in the cities, using a Visa or Visa Electron card. Mastercard can be used with ATM's of the BNI bank.
Vanilla and other spices are cheap in Madagascar compared to Europe or elsewhere, and the quality especially of vanilla is very good. Vanilla is about â¬2 for 10 pods in Mada, compared to â¬3 for 2 pods in France.