Given the terrible condition of many roads, Air Madagascar services a number of locations across the country, making it a considerably quicker alternative than driving. Air Madagascar is known for abruptly altering flight schedules and canceling flights. In the event of a cancellation, the airline will supply you with a hotel and put you on the next available flight; however, avoid scheduling tight connections and confirm your departure schedule the night before.
Passengers arriving in Madagascar on a long-haul trip with Air Madagascar may receive a 25% discount on the company’s internal flights if they phone and ask for it while booking their domestic flights.
As of 2014, it seems that there is no service linking Antananarivo with the rest of Madagascar. For more precise information, go to madarail.
In Madagascar, there are four rail lines:
- Antananarivo-Ambatondrazaka – You may take the train from Moramanga to Ambatondrazaka via Moramanga.
- Fianarantsoa-Manakara three times a week for both directions.
- Antananarivo-Toamasina: usually twice a week, individuals may travel between Moramanga and Tomasina.
Breakdowns are common owing to inadequate maintenance on the Malagasy railway network, which dates from the colonial period, and a line may be stopped for many weeks.
The train is neither the quickest or most pleasant mode of transportation, but it allows you to take in the breathtaking scenery (particularly on the route between Fianarantsoa and Manakara) and sample the Malagasy fruits and cuisines available at each stop. Crayfish, bananas, cinnamon apples, sambos, zebu sausages, oranges… are all available in season at a low price.
Train travel is inexpensive (first class from Fianarantsoa to Manakara is MGA25,000, or less than €10). You want to pick a 1st class seat; or you want to wake up very early if you want to be sure of getting a 2nd class ticket since it is usually very busy (the train is the sole mode of transportation for many villages) and no reservations are available in 2nd class. Unfortunately, owing to poor track conditions, the train that travels between Manakara and Fianarantsoa has been less dependable recently (early 2007).
You may be able to board a freight train for short journeys. Simply ask the driver, but make sure you exit the train before entering any major cities, since this mode of transportation is not entirely allowed.
The roads in Madagascar are nearly all of a very low slope (with the exception of 2 routes leading out of Tana). During the rainy season, many roads are clogged with potholes and become quagmires. Be aware that traveling by car will almost always take considerably longer than you anticipate. The cost of renting a 4WD vehicle will be greater, but it will still be extremely cost efficient if you are not traveling alone and can divide the rental price among your party members (at least USD70/day/car, revised October 2014). A vehicle rental almost always includes the cost of a driver and his lodging, but double-check before making your reservation; most businesses will not rent a car without a driver, and in many instances, the driver may also serve as your guide and interpreter.
The majority of locals move throughout the nation in this manner. The RN7 from Tana to Toliara, the RN2 from Tana to Tomasina (via Brickaville), and the RN4 from Tana to Mahajanga are the three main modern highways in the nation. Going between those cities takes approximately a day, while traveling between Tana and Taolagnaro, a south-eastern coastal town, takes 3 or 4 days owing to road conditions. Expect a tight journey with no air conditioning. During the dry season, expect dust to be an issue. Traveling by Taxi-Brousse will challenge your patience and sanity, but there is probably no better way to meet and connect with the people and see Madagascar as the Malagasy do.
The cheapest mode of transportation is a taxi-brousse, but don’t expect to depart or arrive on time. Indeed, the drivers wait until their 15-seat tiny buses are completely filled before departing, so a delay of a few hours is never ruled out. However, it enables you to enjoy Madagascar’s beautiful scenery while on the journey. Most national parks and villages are accessible from “Antananarivo,” and vehicles will gladly drop you off on their way to their ultimate destination.
Madagascar is a fantastic location to cycle through, and stopping in tiny towns and villages along the route allows you to get a true feel of the country. Because the roads may be in bad to catastrophic condition, a mountain bike or heavy duty tourer is needed at the very least. The major North-South road on the East coast may become inaccessible during the wet season, perhaps resulting in a two-day trek – through soft sand in one stretch – this is not an easily rideable path. There is usually little to no traffic, which makes driving about a lot of fun. The locals are very welcoming, and you’ll be welcomed in every hamlet by groups of youngsters screaming ‘Vazaha.’
There are little or no amenities for bicycles, so be prepared to sleep in extremely modest guesthouses or camp rough (ask if it is someone’s property and never camp too close to a family cemetery). You will almost certainly be asked to stay at people’s homes. Bring a spare tire, a puncture kit, a chain, a brake/gear cable, a derailleur, and any necessary equipment.