At the taxi brousse station in Fiana,we immediately being surrounded by many taxi drivers try to get us as customer.When we asked price ,of course we got foreigner price which was "triple"..not double..but.. triple from the real price.I asked a nun who came with us all the way how much should it be...she help us to get only 2500 Ar. to our hotel Cotsoyannis.Actually to get to town it's not far at all,but after long ride and start to be a little fatique and hungry altogether with the mess scene at bus station , I decide to take taxi.It's ony 2 minutes ride but good decision cuz on the way to town was up hill road,in my condition like this it's better to take taxi rather than walking with backpack up hill.Let me fill up myself with some food and drink first ...
From what I knew the taxi brousse to Fiana will leave around 8am,via Antsirabe and Ambositra.Many travellers stop and visit Antsirabe as it's one of a "must visit" city for tourist.But for me I plan to visit Antsirabe later on the way back and cuz I have to catch the train from Fianaransoa to Manakara which leave only 3 times a week.
For my Sonatra bus ,this one end at Fianarantsoa,so people who join same bus as mine mostly go straight to Fiana.Only one passenger got off at Antsirabe.There are some other company go to Antsirabe and leave sooner and more frequent.People who want to go to Antsirabe chose another bus.My bus was in very good condition ,with head rest that helped me a lot to hold my head and neck when bus has to past long and winding road with thousand curves.
Around noon after Ansirabe,bus stop for everybody to have lunch for half an hour.There's small restaurant,many people already got almost all table.I didn't have anything,just take a glimpse of the food,look like it's the set menu,just oder one,and you'll be served a plate of rice with 2 small pieces of fried chicken (or meat ,whatever they have that day) and a soup.Look good ,and very cheap ,I saw price on the board 2000-3000 Ar. I just bought some snack from a small shop next to it.There's toilet behind the restaurant,it's a basic one ,bring your own tissue paper.The door has no lock or anything ,so anyone can open the door to say Hi to you while you are doing your thing : )
Show you some other pictures along the way to Fianaransoa.
1. One of passenger stop right in front of his house...nice...
2. Many small villages are along the road, not gather like a square area or group ,but mostly spread linear pararell to the road.
3. Arrving at taxi brousee station in Fianaransoa.If you'd like to go some where else next day,you better book the seat already now,especially if you'd like to sit in the front.The system of the booking is reliable,just keep your receipt to show them when getting on the bus.And again ,there will be many staff from many taxi brousse company come to you and ask you to buy ticket from them.You can walk around to see price first,but I checked already..,most company sell same price(price list are on the wall in the shop.)Most taxi brousse condition are about the same(old) but the one I had today was the best.. ever. Clean , not that old ,with head rest and good driver.I asked him to pull over along the way cuz I need to go to toilet,I mean "bush toilet" and he's kind to find a good spot that has some bush for women to hide ourselves.So all passenger took the same opportunity to go to bush toilet as well.
From Tana to Fianarantsoa ..The taxi brousse station (in Tana) to go to Fianarantsoa is located south west of town.I just called taxi from the road in front of my hotel,some taxi asked for 15,000Ar. but I tried another one who asked a fare price of 10,000 Ar..The map from some guide book it looks like station is not far but I have to be in taxi quite long, passed Anosy lake out of town.
At station there were chaos surrounding my taxi even before my taxi stop.There were many people ran along my taxi.I have to admit that I was quite scared of the scene.But afterwards I understand that they are staff (formal and not formal)from mini bus company trying to work their job ,they all want customer for their company,that's why they tried to get any one arriving the station to their ticket booth,or buy ticket from them.So ..just get off taxi calmly and smile to all..that's it..don't be rude to them cuz they are ok.I insisted to carry my own bag and tell them that I prefer to buy ticket from the booth...They still kept walking along with us and ask where I wanted to go ,we asked them price while walking.Mostly they'll say same price but now it depend on what you need..if you need to go now ,ask for the one that promise to leave now ,it means that the bus were nearly full soon and you probably have seat at the back.But I need ONLY the one in the front row behind the driver because today it'll be a very long day so I need a little comfort.I asked them if it's possible to buy an empty seat next to us cuz my partner has long leg ,it can be little cramp if sit in one narrow space without moving for long so we decided to try this way,buy 3 tickets for 2 of us (from Sonatra company).Price was 23,000Ar. per seat.So we got seat number 3,4,5 (1 and 2 is next to driver)with the receipt ,keep this receipt well to show them that we really bought 3 seats (cuz sometime it happened that they force to let some other people sit on it anyway ).Luckily for this trip it'a smooth trip,no argue.I know that it's hard feeling to do so (cuz some local along the way may need to join ride but we have to say it's full and this empty seat was ours..!! )but I heard that some did this before and their staffs also confirm to us that we can do this ,so...we did.
But the bus that still has front seat available also mean that it might take a while before leaving.They 'll leave when full.So be prepare for the waiting time which can be only 20 minutes to 1-2 hours depend on how big and famous city the end station is.In this case the ride was between 2 big cities so bus will be full soon.I waited for only 40 minutes,watching them cleaning the bus and have time for small breakfast and to use public toilet(have to pay,may be about 50-100Ar.if need tissue paper another 50Ar.If I'm not sure about the price)
There were many people walking around selling so many things,anything that they can carry ,from sunglass,tools,utensils,bread,food,blanket,toy,vegetables including big umblella for your garden!
Pictures 2-5 are atmosphere at Tana station as I mentioned.
Madagascar. Air Mad liaises Antananarivo (Tana) with main Malagasy cities. See weekly time-schedule for that.
A tip in the tip: it seems that it is cheaper to book your internal flights while booking your international flight to Madagascar. Ask TOs and travel agencies about that.
While touring in Madagascar, bring extra fuel supply (in jerry cans) as you would sometimes travel in desert areas with noone around (neither oil station).
While having a stop over villages, fill up as you can... or be sure your chauffeur thinks of it... Sounds weird but you would see, sometimes, cars (esp. taxi-brousse and taxi-be) that are hanging around on roadsides, waiting for fuel to come from another convoy of taxi-brousses. Well, it would be nice to rest or walk a bit, take pictures but what if it's dark and isolated? Scarry, he...
So as for bottled (and sealed) water, only one you can afford to drink BTW. Same tip applies for extra tyres.
++Update Jan 2004: Notwithstand with all of that, taxi-brousses and railtripping are nice and cheaper alternatives to internal flights. I had some reserve regarding trains in Madagascar but recent developments made me optimisitc. The rail company has nearly collapsed in the 90s. Now, lines are being rebuilt and some are functionning again. Click here to read my insight of taxi-brousses and train rides. For sure, you will have to plan internal trips when visting this big country.
Plus, there are some nice railtrips to be done in Madagascar. Fianarantsoa-Cote Est (FCE) is one of them. The low speed (20-35km/hour) allows you to appreciate the landscape, from thick forests to bamboo forests and ricefields. A real turning off!++
They are my favourite transportation means to go to a city to another since they allow you to see landscapes. Besides, travelling by taxi-brousse with other passengers is a good way to know about Malagasy people since this transortation means is used by Malagasy of all kinds.
Book seats within taxi-brousse companies or associations in Tana. Be careful to book in advance since this is a really sought-after means (cheaper, adventure). It's quite strange but they are professional (on time, in contrary of other services). Taxi-brousses are often cars like a sedan with 8-9 seats or vans.
OR, rent a sedan car with a chauffeur-guide who will show you around cities. This was our choice to travel from Center to South of Madagascar.
In Tana, book your seats at taxi-brousses station in Anosibe. This station is dealing with roadtrips to Southern parts (Antsirabe, Fianarantsoa, Toliara, Taolagnaro, Morondava..).
Antananarivo-Fianarantsoa: 417 km.
PS: Tip applies for travelling AROUND as well.