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Antananarivo

Photo © baluba

Travel Guide Africa Madagascar Antananarivo

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Introduction

Antananarivo, or 'Tana', as it is known by most, is what you would expect from any capital city: lively, bustling and with the usual traffic and pollution problems.

Madagascar's capital is also the kind of place where you will find many beggars and street vendors. Brace yourself before venturing out and expect a constant onslaught of small children running behind you asking for money or food, vendors shoving vanilla and hand made cards under your nose. You can however, pick up some lovely fruit and flowers, but beware that once you buy from one, the rest will not leave you alone. Having said all that, most are good natured and a polite 'No thank you' usually suffices.

Restaurants and cafés abound, likewise the ubiquitous 'Baobab' and 'Maki' clothing stores. For souvenirs, head to the craft market on the way out to the airport, or, for more relaxed shopping, take a taxi to 'Lice Boutique'. Pickpockets are very much in evidence so watch your bags. Shop staff are very on the ball and will warn you if they have been seen in the area or if they think you bag is insecure.

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Sights and Activities

  • The huge and colourful markets are an absolute must where you can buy anything from T shirts to live frogs. On the copious amounts of steps (Tana is built on a hill) you can buy the Malagasy favourite, the rubber stamp. Intricately hand carved you can choose your own design and it will be made for you in less than an hour.
  • Take a visit to the 'Rova', the royal palace. It is currently closed for renovations following a fire but the views from up here are magnificent. Remember not to point at the palace or the tombs as this is considered 'fady' or taboo.

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Events and Festivals

Labour Day

Labour Day, held on May 1, is a national holiday, with city folks taking the time to visit the countryside and beaches for picnics and a day of relaxation.

Independence Day

Independence Day in Madagascar is June 26, a national holiday which commemorates the country’s final shaking of colonial rule. It’s celebrated all across the archipelago with feasting, drinking, music, and dance.

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Weather

Antananarivo has warm and pleasant weather most of the year, but from November to March is rainy season. The rest of the year is fairly dry, like most of the inland parts of the country. Temperatures are around 27 °C during summer, 21 °C in winter. Nights can drop to below 10 degrees during this period.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max27.7 °C25.9 °C25.4 °C24.8 °C22.9 °C20.9 °C20.2 °C20.6 °C23 °C25.2 °C26 °C25.8 °C
Avg Min16.6 °C16.9 °C16.3 °C15.2 °C12.9 °C10.8 °C10.3 °C10.3 °C11.3 °C13.4 °C15.1 °C16.3 °C
Rainfall270.4 mm256.9 mm183.1 mm50.5 mm20.1 mm7.2 mm11.1 mm15 mm9.5 mm66.6 mm170.8 mm304.1 mm
Rain Days18171796689481420

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Getting There

By Plane

Air Madagascar is the national airline of the country with its base at Ivato International Airport (TNR) near Antananarivo. International destinations include those to and from Bangkok, Johannesburg, Marseille, Mauritius, Milan, Moroni, Nairobi, Paris and Reunion. Air France and Corsairfly have flights from Paris and a few other airlines serve South Africa, Mauritius and Reunion as well.
Air Madagascar has a comprehensive domestic network with regular and often daily flights to most major towns.

By Train

Antananarivo is the hub of Madagascar's small and quite dilapidated rail network. Service from Toamasina is available a few times a week, the journey offers plenty of exciting views but is gruesomely slow. The colonial central station, Gare Soarano, is located on Arabe Rainibertsimisaraka.

By Car

Travel by road requires either a private vehicle hire or travel by taxi brousse (bush taxi), see below).

By Bus

The taxi brousse link up the capital to most other towns and depart from four major bus stations, which roughly correspond to the points of the compass; i.e. the northern bus station includes destinations such as Nosy Be and Antsiranana (Diego-Suarez), while the Eastern one (Gare Routiere de l'est) has destinations such as Andasibe. If you don't know which one you need ask a taxi driver to take you to the right one for your location.

On arrival to the station you will be mobbed by touts trying to sell the services of every destination and route, don't be intimidated they do this to all arrivals to the station, local and tourist alike. Most stations are lined with ticket kioks with signs overhead advertising their locations. On the wall inside there should be a price list advertising locations, so make sure you don't pay more than this (and remember luggage is included). You can also ask to be dropped off on route before the final destination. Another thing to note that after buying your ticket the bus may not leave until hours after the quoted leaving time, as they will only leave when full. Try and avoid the back row of seating, this generally has the least leg room.

  • Northern bus station - Destinations include Antsiranana/Diego-Suarez (for Ankarana), Ambanja (for Nosy Be), Mahajanga (for Ankarafantsika) and Antsohihy among others. The minibuses line both sides of a road and display their location on a poster on the front. There is a public toilet at one end of the street and a number of street food vendors. For Ankarana National Park catch a bush-taxi with a destination of Antsiranana and ask to get dropped off by the park entrance. This involves a very painful 20 hour journey. You will likely stop over in Ambanja for half an hour (14 hours into the journey). Ambanja is also where you need to change for Nosy Be. For Ankarafantsika National Park catch a taxi to Mahajanga and ask to be dropped off at the park (9 hours)
  • Gare Routiere de l'est - Destinations include Moramanga (for Andasibe). Bush taxis depart from this comparatively modern station which includes an official kiosk where all tickets are bought from. There's also a toilet which costs a few ariary to use (amusingly it costs more for a 'pipi' than a 'caca' and you have to specify before you go in). You can buy food from street vendors or a snacks from a nearby petrol station. For Andasibe-Mantadia National Park travel first to Moramanga (4 hours) then catch a connecting bus to Andasibe village (2 hours). Buses leave regularly, up to every hour.
  • Farakana bus station - Destinations include Mananjary, Morondava and Ambositra among many more. This dusty station has a number of kiosks from which to buy tickets, and a few cafes where you can pass the time waiting. It's next to a market. For Ranomafana National Park catch a bus with an end destination of Mananjary or one of the other cities south of here. Journey time is about 14 hours. These run less frequently with some services leaving in the afternoon. Don't worry if you get dropped off in the village in the middle of the night, at least one hotel, (Palmeria) has a night guard who can sort out a room for you. This is also the bus station wanted for Anja Reserve (~11 hours) and Isalo National Park. Most the buses will stop off in Ambositra where you can get a meal or use the toilet. edit

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Getting Around

By Car

Getting around in the city is by way of a taxi, a cream coloured Renault 4, there are hundreds of them and in various states of disrepair. Make sure you agree the rate with the driver before entering the taxi. Also, be aware that traffic tends to be heavy in Analakely (Antananrivo's centre and busiest area) during typical rush hour times.

By Public Transport

If you are comfortable being squeezed onto a van with other people, the buses, or 'taxi be', are the most affordable form of transportation.
However, tourists are not usually familiar with taxi be routes.

By Foot

While the city is quite large, Analakely is fairly navigable on foot.

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Eat

  • La Table de Mariette, 11 rue George-V-Faravohitra, ☎ +261 20 22 216 02 - This is a good choice for high quality Malagasy food. More expensive than many other restaurants.
  • Ile Bourbon.
  • La Brasserie at the France Hotel, 34 Ave de l'Independence - Very good and inexpensive. Try the calamari. Also vegetarian (non vegan) dishes, a very cheesy veg lasagne for 13,000 Ar.
  • Grill De Rova, Near Palace de Rova - Small Menu. Great Zebu!
  • Ku de Ta, 16 rue de la Reunion, ☎ +261 20 22 281 54 - A relatively new and a slick setting for excellent French influenced Malagasy food.
  • Cookie Soph - French and English is spoken here. Good cappuccino, milkshakes, and bagels.
  • Jasmin, Palace Analakely 101 Antananarivo (Behind BNI bank) - Lovely veg meal with tofu. Perhaps a bit pricey. €7 for two courses and drink.

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Drink

  • Lots of bottled water (no tap water!), the main brand is Pura Vida, relatively expensive, with a 1.5l bottle costs about 3000 ariary (~£1)
  • THB (Three Horses Beer). Multi-awarded beer.
  • Madagascar wine - variable but so much cheaper than the alternative (imported French wine).
  • Bonbon Anglais - very sweet, bubble gum tasting soft drink, similar to South American Inka Cola. Excellent if you mix it with a little bit of THB. You may be presented with this when asking for limonade.
  • Betsa-betsa - alcohol made from coconut water. Stronger than beer but not quite as potent as hard liquor.
  • Litchel (or Vin Litchi in French) - lychee wine. Some brands are off-dry and quite nice, others are sickeningly sweet.
  • Saint Claude - a local brand of rum with a hint of vanilla.

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Sleep

If you are merely overnighting in Tana while traveling through the airport, keep in mind that it is at least thirty minutes, and closer to an hour with traffic, to travel from the airport to the downtown area, and that the cost of the transfer in a private taxi is 60,000 Ar (one-way), so a hotel near the airport may be a good option. Note, however, that hotels located in close proximity to the airport are generally significantly more expensive than a similar hotel downtown.

Budget

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Les Hautes Terres HotelPK12 Rte Aeroport Ivato, AntananarivoHotel-
Tana-Jacaranda24 rue Rainitsarovy Antsahamanitra ANTANANARIVOHotel-
Le KarthalaLot II B 60 FaravohitraGUESTHOUSE80

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Keep Connected

Internet

There are internet cafes in most major towns but dont expect broadband!

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

Abundant phone booths almost everywhere. You can pick up cards in most shops. Calling home can be pretty cheap this way. Mobile phones can be used in towns but rarely in rural areas. You can pick up local sim cards really cheap. Opt for Orange, they have the best coverage. Again, a cheap way of calling home. Pick up top up cards almost everywhere, available from 2,000ar to 50,000ar.

Post

You can have mail sent to you 'poste restante' but takes an eternity with the possibility of not receiving it at all. Likewise sending mail home. Postcards are ok but I have had several letters go amiss.
It is possible to send parcels but make sure you have a post office approved box, take it to the post office, then to the administrative building to have the contents listed, then to customs to have it checked and sealed, then back to the post office. You can not send anything consisting of stuff made up of animals, vegetables or minerals. Better to give all your old clothes to the orphanage and take any souvenirs in your bag with you.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: -13.366667
  • Longitude: 49.716667

Accommodation in Antananarivo

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as well as baluba (8%), Peter (3%), dr.pepper (3%), hasbeen (2%)

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This is version 17. Last edited at 7:42 on May 26, 17 by Utrecht. 11 articles link to this page.

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