Just to confirm that Taxi Drivers are dishonest bastards and scum of the earth – they are waiting for you when you get off the plane. They have organised ‘Official’ Taxi Rates on laminated cards. This is completely untrue, a criminal enterprise and a practice that is the shame of Madagascar. They told me I would have to pay about $10 to go 1 km to my nearby hotel. I got so fed up with them I hired a local man (pictured) for $5 to carry my luggage across fields and rice patties to get to my hotel.
Do not get abusive, they will gang up on you. Keep cool. The centre of Antananarivo is 12km and only costs $10 maximum. I got it for $8 through persistent haggling coming from town back to the airport. If you are an arrival, just wait until all the other passengers have left. There are then a lot of taxis and just you. Then they will negotiate.
Please remember to abuse them verbally once you have safely removed yourself and your bags at the hotel. There are hundreds of taxis in town and a few almost reasonable drivers.
There isn’t much in the way of alternatives into the centre of town. The local bus does not run here and local buses can be unsafe at night. The airport is in an area called Ivato and the bus station is 2kms away. They call the busses ‘Taxi-Brousses’ and it is cheap to get into town. You could negotiate a cheap taxi ride there then the bus if you have the time. Just only during the day.
When returning to your hotel or lodge, esp. in urban areas like Tana, you'd better do it by cab or "taxi"... for safety purpose.
Never expect to walk in Tana streets at night. One can experience it but one would never know what may happen.
Unique Suggestions: Ask people to bring you back, by car... or bring as many persons as you can while wallking in the streets...
Fun Alternatives: Taxi is the alternative.
Many taxis use to wait at the doors & parking lots of clubs, restaurants. So, with probably some exceptions, it is easy to catch one.
Only beige taxis are official taxis, the others, clandestine..
No mystery, begging is everywhere in Madagascar, especially in big cities... And especially, when tourists (mainly White men and Japanese) are there.
It may sound weird that I recommend you not to give money to beggars. In fact, two reasons for that:
- First, if you give to a person, be sure that others will not come afterwards, asking for their parts, as they are spying each other, and you will soon be surrounded by beggars. I witnessed some times beggars fighting each other if everybody is not equally treated and the weakest ones get wounded sometimes;
- Second, as one says "The hand that gives is always above one who receives".
Unique Suggestions: At least, give food to kiddies, not to adults...
Or even better, participate as volunteers in development programs, or assist NGOs that try to give poor families possibilities (jobs, training, education) for better children's education, for instance.
Fun Alternatives: Tell them (the adults, that is) to work!! Since there are poor people who struggle to work and not to beg... Think of skinny old men in Tana streets climbing slopes with a ricksaw loaded with wood-lumbs and iron bars... they work hard. Instead, you have sometimes adults (24-40) doing nothing, just waiting for people to give money. For sure, both richer ones and governments should do something (esp. the government(s)) but when I see the old men pulling 200 kg of wood-lumbers, struggling, I know there should be some work. I don't say it is about comfortable jobs but some job for younger adults to feed their kids.
I try not to be judgemental but I know that if they can find money for alcohol & drugs, they can feed those street kids. They are cute, aren't they ?
Antananarivo does not exist anymore. Although you'll still find it mentioned in many guides. On Fridays a huge square would be filled with goods and people. It has been abolished recently because it became too dangerous. There are still stalls but even our Malagasy hosts would not take us there.
Unique Suggestions: Be very careful to hide your valuables and wear no jewelry when in Antananarivo. You'll find many people jump at you for some money but they never harass you.
QUEENS PALACE burned out. The Queens Palace that dominates the Antananarivo skyline, built on top of the moment, was burned out a few years ago. Only the outer walls remain. Such a pity! It is usually named in the travel guides. You can still go and visit it.
Unique Suggestions: There will be people outside the palace who will guide you for a fee. I didn't go inside as we were actually headed outside town to another palace.