Getting around Madagascar
Most of Madagascar can be reached by air, the exceptions being a few towns in the central highlands. Air Madagascar (MD) (www.airmadagascar.com) flies to many locations throughout the island and offers a 50% discount on domestic flights to passengers using the airline to travel to Madagascar. Eight private companies based in Antananarivo provide flights on request.
Rickshaw: The pousse-pousse (rickshaw) takes passengers except where traffic or gradient renders it impractical. Prices are not controlled and vary according to distance.
Stagecoach: A few covered wagons continue to take passengers in Antananarivo.
Since 2002, 3,000km (1,864 miles) of roads have been resurfaced. Tarred roads of varying quality link the main towns in the central highlands and continue to the most populous parts of the east and northwest coasts.
The route from Antananarivo to Toliara has reduced travel time between these destinations from three to two days.
There are isolated sections of tarred road, but dirt tracks are more common.
Many roads are impassable in the rainy season (November to March).
Car hire: This is not widespread and car hire agencies can only be found in the main tourist towns. It is advisable to make enquiries in advance about insurance requirements for car hire.
Taxi: Flat fares apply except in Antananarivo and Fianarantsoa, where fare is calculated according to whether the ride is confined to the 'lower town' or goes on to the 'upper town'. There are two types of taxi: the taxi-be, which is quick and comfortable, and the taxi-brousse (bush taxi), which is cheaper, slower, makes more stops and generally operates on cross-country routes. Fares should be agreed in advance and tipping is unnecessary.
The only railway lines to take passengers are those linking Moranga with Ambila Lemaitso and the east coast line between Fianarantsoa and Mankara, which travels through mountains, rainforests and quaint villages. The island's railways were rebuilt after severe cyclone damage in 2000. First-class carriages are air conditioned. Light refreshments are sometimes available. Children under four years old travel free. Children aged four to six years old pay half fare.
Madagascar has a strong maritime tradition and there are many coastal transport services. Rapids render many of the rivers unnavigable; local tour operators can organise small-boat safaris on the Betsiboka and the Tsiribihina. The Pangalanes Canal runs for almost 600km (370 miles) along the east coast. Much of it is currently too clogged with silt for commercial traffic; the tourist board can arrange sailing holidays.