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Facts About the Malagasy Ariary (2023 Currency Overview)

- Published on 14th December 2023

current Malagasy Ariary banknotes

Exciting news from us here at Leftover Currency! We’ve recently added the Malagasy Ariary to our ever-growing list of exchangeable currencies. Our collection keeps growing and we are proud to offer more options for your travel adventures.

Origins of Madagascar’s Currency: From Francs to Ariary

The official currency of Madagascar, the ariary, falls under the currency code MGA and is notable as one of only two non-decimal currencies in the world.

Madagascar’s currency journey is quite a tale. Before establishing a standardised currency, the communities engaged in trade using various forms of currency. These included items like shells, beads, and, later, coins from foreign lands brought by traders and settlers over the centuries.

During the French colonial era in 1883, Madagascar started using the Malagasy franc. After gaining independence in 1960, Madagascar established its own monetary identity. 

In 1961, the ariary was introduced. Unique in its non-decimal structure, the ariary was initially equivalent to 5 Malagasy francs. 

However, since its introduction, the ariary has become more prominent. By 2005, it took over as the primary and official currency of Madagascar. 

Safe to say, the Malagasy ariary has a fair bit of history behind it – and some notable designs across the coins and notes which have changed and adapted over the years.

But how much do you really need to know about the currency?

Madagascar is a real hotspot with travellers around the world. For modern adventurers visiting this beautiful island, it’s super convenient because credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid travel cards are as widely accepted as cash.

With all the cool tech and online payment options available, sometimes we forget about good old cash. But it’s still essential, especially when you’re curious about unique currencies like the Malagasy ariary.

Which is why we’ve created this blog. 

Having some ariary travel money when visiting Madagascar will help you pay small businesses and minimise any transaction fees your bank charges. 

It will also help you immerse yourself in the local culture – and for those of our followers who, like us, are foreign currency enthusiasts, it’s interesting to learn more about how overseas denominations work.

So, we’ve compiled a handful of facts about the Malagasy ariary, to make your currency exchange that little bit more interesting.

100 Malagasy Ariary banknote.

The Malagasy ariary replaced the franc

Starting simple, as we mentioned earlier in the blog, the Malagasy ariary was first introduced in 1961 and was eventually rolled out to replace the franc as the official currency in Madagascar.

Banknotes were released first, and for the first time, they showed the value in both ariary and francs.

Coins followed in 1965. Initially, they mentioned their value in iriambilanja, and a year later, they started showing the value in ariary too.

It’s important to note here that the ariary rollout was staggered and released in tandem with the introduction of the iriambilanja. 

This denomination, smaller than an ariary, equates to one-fifth of a single ariary. With the ariary equal to 5 francs or 5 iriambilanja, the franc and the iriambilanja boast the same monetary value.

The Malagasy ariary is not the smallest denomination

As you will have already guessed from the previous point, the Malagasy ariary is not the smallest denomination available in Madagascar.

To help you understand the value of different ariary coins alongside their subunits and the original value in francs, see the list below:

·        1⁄5 ariary, official name Iraimbilanja = 1 franc

·        2⁄5 ariary, official name Venty sy Kirobo  = 2 francs

·        1 ariary, official name Ariary = 5 francs

·        2 ariary, official name Ariary Roa = 10 francs

·        4 ariary, official name Ariary Efatra = 20 francs

·        5 ariary, official name Ariary Dimy = 25 francs

·        10 ariary, official name Ariary Folo = 50 francs

·        20 ariary, official name Ariary Roapolo = 100 francs

·        50 ariary, official name Ariary Dimampolo = 250 francs

The structure of banknotes is different – but more on that in the next section.

The rollout of ariary bank notes was a multi-stage process

When the Malagasy ariary was first introduced in 1961, the value in ariary was printed as an overlay on existing notes from the Bank of Madagascar – adding the ariary value alongside the value in francs.

Between 1963 and 1969 the value in ariary was added to the original print of banknotes, but only written out in words rather than added as a numerical value. This was likely done to keep the denomination simple to understand for locals, while gradually introducing the rollout to ariary.

From 1975 onwards, some smaller banknotes citing the value in francs were discontinued. In 1993, notes for 500 ariary and 1000 ariary were introduced, with the value displayed in numbers alongside that in francs.

500 Malagasy Ariary banknote.
1000 Malagasy Ariary banknote.

By 2003, new notes were introduced with the value in ariary from 100 up to 10,000. In 2017, a 20,000 ariary note was introduced, and the 2,000 ariary note was discontinued.

In current circulation are seven ariary notes: 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000, 1000, 20000.

20000 Malagasy Ariary banknote.

The ariary is one of only two non-decimal currencies in the world

One of the most exciting things about the ariary is that it is one of only two currencies in the world considered non-decimal. This means the main currency unit is not divided into smaller units based on tens.

By this, we mean that because 1 ariary = 5 iriambilanja, the subunit of the ariary does not equate to an even ‘power of 10’ decimal as has become the standard across most currencies. So, it is considered a non-decimal currency – Mauritian ouguiya is the only other in the world.

Where can I get Malagasy ariary in the UK?

Suppose you want to take your Malagasy ariary coins and notes with you on your next trip to Madagascar, or you’re curious to get your hands on the design-centric notes boasting various illustrations from the Malagasy culture and landscape. In that case, there are a few options available to you:

You can exchange foreign currency at various locations. Traditional options include banks, which often offer competitive rates but may have limited hours of operation. 

Alternatively, currency exchange offices, both physical and online, specialise in providing a range of currencies and may offer more extended hours. 

Additionally, you can explore online platforms that allow you to exchange currency conveniently from the comfort of your home. When considering where to exchange foreign currency, it’s essential to compare rates, fees, and accessibility to ensure you get the best value for your money.

Finally, for those looking to exchange Malagasy ariary back into pounds again, Leftover Currency offers internet-leading exchange rates and a wide selection of options to customers, from straight conversion to donation and more. 

Have you encountered any currencies we don’t offer at Leftover Currency?

Here at Leftover Currency, we are proud to offer an extensive and ever-growing selection of currencies for exchange. If you find a currency we don’t exchange on our site, let us know, and we’ll explore adding it to our growing collection!


Mario Van Poppel

Mario Van Poppel is the founder and director of Leftover Currency. What started as a hobby, collecting world banknotes, evolved into a fulltime job, running a successful online bureau de change. Mario is still a collector of pre-Euro banknotes and a member of the IBNS.