Madagascar — Transportation
Madagascar Taxis and Car Rental
Renting a four-wheel drive vehicle to get around Madagascar is the most sensible option as well as the most comfortable with reliable, international companies based at the airport. It’s normal for car rental companies to insist you get a local driver as well, considering the chronic state of the roads, the language barriers and poor signage. A driver can also act as a local guide and translator. Getting around by car is a lengthy process, but is often the only way to reach the more isolated regions of Madagascar. If you’re traveling with a group of friends or family, car hire is an economical way to share costs.
Most people use taxi-brousse as their main form of transportation for short and long trips in Madagascar (old minivans seating up to 15 people), with a journey between the capital Antananarivo (locally known as Tana) and Toliara taking a full day. Taxi-brousse travel is cramped, not air-conditioned, and dust in the dry season can be a problem, but getting aroudn this way is the perfect opportunity to interact with local people and find out more about their country and culture. In the cities, taxi-bes (larger minibuses) can be hailed, while licensed cabs are recognized by their beige color. Fares must be agreed in advance as there are no meters, but both ways are very cheap. Madasmiles (+261-34-135-1553) taxis can be booked by phone, and Antananarivo Taxis (+261-226-5163) are also reliable.
Madagascar Water Taxis
Coastal ferries operate between various port towns in Madagascar, although schedules seem virtually non-existent. While water travel can be scenic and relaxing, the condition of many of the boats is poor and often overcrowded.
Madagascar Trains and Buses
Antananarivo is the main rail hub offering limited service between towns in the vicinity of the capital, but the rest of the large island has no train access. The cars are old, slow and uncomfortable, and frequent delays are caused by breakdowns or track conditions. Other public transportation is by conventional large buses operated by a number of different companies or the taxi-brousse (bush taxi) minivans. Tana has four bus stations, Eastern, Northern, Southern and Western, served by both reliable and sketchy operators, but Kofimanga or Kofifi are recommended. Bus tickets are inexpensive, but you get what you pay for in regards to comfort.