Madagascar is an exotic, enticing place to visit, but the existing info on the internet about entry requirements is sparse and inconclusive, which can easily dampen an excited tourist's ambitions to actually make the trek over to this far-flung island.
In terms of comprehensive, first-person resources, Nomadic Matt put together a budget travel guide and wrote an article on the best flight connections/tips on travelling within the country. As for hard-copy guides, Bradt is your best bet. Without buying the guide itself, you can still access useful, up-to-date Madagascar info on their website.
When it came to researching the visa process, I was confronted with conflicting information. I usually consult government/embassy websites (in my case, the Canadian government's country-specific profiles, as a Canadian passport holder). Although it's possible (in theory) to obtain an e-visa ("or landing authorization") on the Madagascan government website prior to arrival, in practice this wasn't the case (note: I never apply for e-visas through third-party sites).
Over a week later, I emailed the address given on the website to check my application status, with no response, and then again after a few more weeks––again to no avail––despite receiving an automated email after submitting my application informing me that I would receive my visa result within two days. I've written about bar-lowering in Africa before with respect to punctuality and functionality, and admin is no exception. Applying Western standards to these things is futile.
However, I was reassured by Bradt's claim that it was easy to obtain a visa on arrival (VOA). The only question was how long I could actually stay in Madagascar––according to different sources, the length of a tourist visa ranges from 30 to 90 days, with some sources stating a 60-day maximum stay.
So, to be on the safe side, I booked my return flight for just under the two-month mark (proof of a return flight/onward ticket is an entry condition). The VOA isn't discriminatory––it's available to passport holders of almost every country. No-fee VOAs are apparently available to South Africans and those of the other neighbouring island nations for stays of up to 30 days.
On arrival, I was pleasantly surprised with the level of organization at Ivato International Airport in Antananarivo. The VOA desks are to the right of the customs hall, and there were three agents waiting, even at 2 am. As one of the only foreigners on my flight, I didn't have to wait in line. I was also pleasantly surprised that debit/credit cards were accepted for the visa payment (45 USD for a two-month visa).
Given that the customs agents asked me if I wanted a one- or two-month visa, I assume that 60 days is the maximum period allowed for tourists at the time of writing. I should have asked at the time if three months was possible, but I'll confirm when I exit the country and update this article.
I was in South Africa at the time of booking my flight, so it was relatively easy for me. However, although there's normally a direct flight between Johannesburg and Antananarivo operated by Airlink, it hasn't been an option since earlier this this year due to a spat between the South African and Madagascan governments over smuggled gold. Hopefully this situation is only temporary and will be resolved soon.
As such, my route was roundabout: I flew with Kenya Airways through Nairobi. I had no issues with my connection or the airline, and this was a slightly cheaper option than flying with Ethiopian Airlines through Addis Ababa. It felt a bit ridiculous to have to fly northwards and then southwards again (and the extra carbon emissions weighed a on my conscience), but so be it.
Aside from a passport validity of six months beyond your arrival date and two blank pages, you'll need:
A PCR test taken 72 hours in advance of boarding your direct flight (or first flight if you have connections)
A return flight/onward ticket (this is a hack for booking a noncommittal, legit onward ticket)
Cash in EUR (€15), USD ($20), or MGA (equivalent) for the Covid rapid test on arrival
Note: Yellow fever vaccination proof isn't required unless you're arriving from (or have a longer than 12-hour layover in) a high-yellow-fever-risk country