Antananarivo (AN-tan-AN-ah-REEV-oo) (City of a Thousand), also known as Tana, is the capital of Madagascar.
Antananarivo has a temperate climate, despite being situated in the Tropics, due to its high elevation of 1,300 to 1,400 metres (4,265 to 4,593 ft) above sea level. Antananarivo receives practically all of its average annual 1,400 mm (55.1 in) of rainfall between November and April. The dry season between May and October is pleasant and sunny, although somewhat chilly, especially during the nights, and in the mornings and evenings. Although frosts are rare in Antananarivo, they are common at higher elevations.
The daily and monthly temperature variations are quite small. Means range from 22.2 °C (72.0 °F) to 15.3 °C (59.5 °F).
Antananarivo is the main entry point for Madagascar and travel to the capital is covered in the main Madagascar page.
1 [dead link] Ivato International Airport (TNR IATA). This airport is Antananarivo's major airport and it is serviced by Ethiopian Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Air France, Air Mauritius, Interair South Africa, Kenya Airways, and Air Madagascar. Expect lengthy queues, numerous forms to fill out and chaotic handling for hygiene check, visa purchase and immigration. Once you get past baggage claim, expect a mass of individuals pestering you to "help" you with your luggage or to show you how to find a taxi. As it is not obvious who is a porter and who is a thief, hold on to your bags tightly and make sure you load them into your transport; anyone who can get a hand on your bag will then follow you demanding remuneration. If you do need help with your luggage, it is wise to arrange an airport pick-up before arrival.
There are two ATMs — BNI and BOA — in the international terminal and exchange windows both inside the international terminal and outside of the airport in a separate building adjacent to the parking lot. The exchange also works in case your plane arrives late in the evening. The BFV Mastercard ATM is outside the airport in Ivato town.
Transport in a private vehicle to the city center will cost 40,000-50,000 Ar (November 2017) - costs will be at the high end of the cost spectrum after daylight hours. It will take a half hour in the late evening and early morning to reach the city center, and usually more than an hour during other times when the roads are congested.
- A taxi brousse is the least expensive option, and should cost 1000 Ar from the airport to downtown.
For travelling by road, there are three options: a private vehicle hire, a scheduled bus service or taxi brousse (bush taxi).
Vehicles can be hired through various agencies in Antananarivo. Individuals that work as freelance driver-guides will also approach you while you walk around in the streets or sit in a café. Budget €60 per day if you wish to hire a driver, and clarify how the driver's expenses (food, accommodation) is handled if you hire the car for trips that last more than one day. You may need to sign a "contract" to be shown to police officers that may stop the car at checkpoints along the road. It is allowed to check the technical state of the vehicle before you agree.
There are several companies that operate scheduled bus services between Antananarivo and larger towns of Madagascar.
- 2 Cotisse Transport, IVM 12 TER AT, Ambodivona, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 06:00 – 20:30. Daily services to Mahajanga, Morondava, Fianarantsoa and Toamasina, vehicles in three categories. Departs on time even if the vehicle is not full. Does not take passengers along the route (unless the passenger has bought a ticket). The Mercedes Sprinter vehicles are in a better state than taxi-brousses. Entertainment (Malagasy pop music) and free Wifi on board. Timetables and prices are published on the web page; additional buses are run if demand is high. Requires the passengers to arrive one hour before departure; the hour can be spent in a decent restaurant with very clean toilets next to Cotisse's premises. Book ahead; if you can get a ticket, there is no reason why you should choose an ordinary taxi-brousse.
- 3 Transpost, Rue Ratsimilaho, ☎ . M-F 08:00-16:00; Sa 08:00-12:00. Early-morning services to Mahajanga three times a week. Inquire at the central post office.
- Besady Plus buses to Nosy Be and Sainte Marie Via Ambanja and Toamasina. tickets includes sea Tranfer. all Besady Plus buses have free wifi and go on time.
The taxis brousses link the capital to most other towns and depart from four major bus stations, which roughly correspond to the points of the compass, i.e. the northern bus station includes destinations such as Nosy Be and Antsiranana (Diego-Suarez), while the Eastern one (Gare Routiere de l'est) has destinations such as Andasibe. If you don't know which one you need ask a taxi driver to take you to the right one for your location.
On arrival to the station you will be mobbed by touts trying to sell the services of every destination and route. Don't be intimidated as they do this to all arrivals to the station, local and tourist alike; rather look for a vehicle that seems reliable to you and which is almost full. Most stations are lined with ticket kioks with signs overhead advertising their locations. On the wall inside there should be a price list advertising locations, so make sure you don't pay more than this (and remember luggage is included). You can also ask to be dropped off on route before the final destination. After buying your ticket, the bus may not leave for a long time, as they will only leave when full. Try and avoid the back row of seating, this generally has the least leg room; you may buy an extra ticket (i.e. three tickets for two persons) if you want to have more space.
- 4 Gare routière du Nord (Northern bus station), Along Rue Docteur Raboto Raphael. Destinations include Antsiranana/Diego-Suarez (for Ankarana), Ambanja (for Nosy Be), Mahajanga (for Ankarafantsika) and Antsohihy among others. The minibuses line both sides of a road and display their location on a poster on the front. There is a public toilet at one end of the street and a number of street food vendors. For Ankarana National Park catch a bush-taxi with a destination of Antsiranana and ask to get dropped off by the park entrance. This involves a very painful 20 hour journey (~65,000 Ar in January 2012). You will likely stop over in Ambanja for half an hour (~14 hours into the journey). Ambanja is also where you need to change for Nosy Be. For Ankarafantsika National Park catch a taxi to Mahajanga and ask to be dropped off at the park (~9 hours, 30,000 Ar in January 2012).
- 5 Gare Routiere de l'est (Eastern Bus Station). Destinations include Moramanga (for Andasibe). Bush taxis depart from this comparatively modern station which includes an official kiosk where all tickets are bought from. There's also a toilet which costs a few ariary to use (amusingly it costs more for a 'pipi' than a 'caca' and you have to specify before you go in). You can buy food from street vendors or a snacks from a nearby petrol station. For Andasibe-Mantadia National Park travel first to Moramanga (5,000 Ar as of January 2012, 4 hours) then catch a connecting bus to Andasibe village (1000 Ar, 2 hours). Buses leave regularly, up to every hour.
- Farakana bus station. Destinations include Mananjary, Morondava and Ambositra among many more. This dusty station has a number of kiosks from which to buy tickets, and a few cafes where you can pass the time waiting. It's next to a market. For Ranomafana National Park catch a bus with an end destination of Mananjary or one of the other cities south of here. Journey time is about 14 hours (~60,000 Ar in January 2012.) These run less frequently with some services leaving in the afternoon. Don't worry if you get dropped off in the village in the middle of the night, at least one hotel, (Palmeria) has a night guard who can sort out a room for you. This is also the bus station wanted for Anja Reserve (~11 hours, 35,000 Ar in January 2012) and Isalo National Park. Most the buses will stop off in Ambositra where you can get a meal or use the toilet.
The colonial central station, 6 Gare Soarano, is located on Arabe Rainibertsimisaraka, at the northwestern end of Avenue de l'Independence. It has been converted into a small shopping mall as it sees no or very little passenger traffic. If the train to Toamasina runs, then it is not a mode of transport but an adventure for the lovers of rail transportation. Inquire at the decent Café de la gare.
There are three main methods of navigating the capital: taxi, bus and on foot.
- Taxis are preferred by most tourists and can be found easily. There are no meters, agree the rate with the driver before entering the taxi. Expect to be quoted 5,000 Ar for a short ride in town and 20,000 Ar for a longer ride; a one-way trip to the airport will be 50,000 Ar. A taxi can be hired for half a day or a day, expect to be quoted 150,000 Ar for half a day. You can bargain. That traffic tends to be heavy in Analakely (Antananrivo's centre and busiest area) during typical rush hour times, allow for extra time if you need to pass that area on your way to the airport.
- Taxi-bes typically are old and smoky Mercedes-Benz TN that go along a defined, numbered route. If you are comfortable being squeezed onto a van with other people, the buses, or Taxi-be, are the most affordable form of transportation, with prices around 500 Ar. There is no plan of the route system, nor is there a timetable, only locals use Taxi-be.
- While the city is quite large, Analakely is fairly navigable on foot. Prepare for a slalom around market stalls, cars, holes and other obstacles, don't carry anything you need, in particular valuables.
There's no point being kind about this - there really is no tourist infrastructure to speak of in Antananarivo - for some folks that is part of the attraction!
- 1 Rova (Queen's palace). Royal palace complex and former residence of the rulers of the Merina Kingdom. A cab ride (or very long walk) from the hotel district, but be warned that it has been severely fire damaged by suspected arson in the late 1990s, and only the stone shell remains, together with some outbuildings, statues and a Chapel (the latter rebuilt with American money). Inte and then native Tana guides (usually university students with good English or French) may give a good account of the Rova's features in return for a gratuity. The site offers good panoramic views of the city. While walking up the hill towards the palace you may be told by local guides that the Rova is shut for the day and to follow them elsewhere to a different attraction but the likelihood is that the gate will be open as normal.
- 2 Prime Minister's Palace (Andafiavaratra Palace) (Near the Rova). Sa-Th 10:00-17:00. The palace of the prime minister during the reigns of the last queens is now a museum with an exhibition of precious items saved from the fire of the Rova in 1995, such as the red jacket of Radama I, the royal coral jewels, various royal portraits and the diadem of the last queen. 3,000 Ar.
- 3 Lemurs' Park, Route Nationale n°1, PK 22, Katsaoka Imerintsiatosika - Route d'Ampefy (25 km West of Antananarivo on RN1), ☎ . 09:00 - 17:00, last admittance 16:00. A conservation park established by a French-Japanese charity which hosts mostly lemurs rescued from illegal captivity or attempted smuggling. It aims at reintroducing a part of their animals into their natural habitat. Over 6000 trees have been planted in this 5 hectare park preserving a lot of important flora and fauna of Madagascar. The park gives an opportunity to see at close range a variety of lemurs, which would be much more difficult in one of Madagascar's National Parks or in a Western zoo. Apart from lemurs, it has cameleons, turtles and several species of birds. The park also gives valuable employment to graduates from the local university as guides and free tours to local school children. Taking a guide is compulsory. Carry local cash as they do not accept cards. There is no public transport back from the park (taxi-brousses into town are mostly full when they pass here), so hire a taxi for the round trip; the park also offers the service of picking you up in town (see webpage). 30,000 Ar/person including the guide.
- 4 Croc'Farm (10 minutes car ride from Ivato Airport,about 30 minutes' drive (25 km) outside Antananarivo), ☎ . 09:00-17:00. Located on more than 3 hectares of plants, trees and flowers of Madagascar. You can watch the crocodiles, 80 other species of animals (turtles, snakes, lemurs...) and the smallest chameleon in the world. The best time to see crocodiles in action is during feeding time. And for the brave, the Croc'Farm restaurant preparing several crocodile meat dishes and favorite dish is the "Croc burger". As the park also breeding crocodile for leather goods, you'll find in the shop belts, bags but also the Malagasy crafts. 25,000 Ar.
- Jean Be Tours, Lot IVD 63 Ter AA, Ambohibahiny, Ankaraobato, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Jean Be Tours is a concierge travel guide service. The owner Jean is an experienced tour guide for Madagascar who speaks English and French. On individually organized trips, one can meet local people, take photographs and collect souvenirs and memories.
The city centre is focused on Avenue de L'Independence. Restaurants and shops line both sides of the road and it's the place to go if you want to visit a restaurant or decent cafe, including a good pizzeria and a take-away pizza restaurant. There are also internet cafes and photo-printing facilities. Shops for the Maki and Baobab clothing brand shops can be found a few streets away. The main attraction for this area is the large central market, which includes a covered section selling bags, jewellery and clothing at relatively cheap prices (remember to haggle). Outside there's a plethora of fruit, vegetable and spice stalls, where large packs of vanilla pods can be bought for just a couple of thousand ariary (January 2012).
Outside the centre there is a dedicated tourist market which has about 30 stalls selling souvenirs and local crafts. Definitely worth a visit.
There are many large western style supermarkets notable the chains Shoprite, 'Jumboscore', Leader price. and Supermaki. any taxi driver can take you to one. However, most stock is imported from abroad and so include a significant mark up (although most goods are still below European prices). For fresh goods like fruit and vegetables, significant savings can be made by buying them from the local markets stalls dotted throughout the city.
Buy a local SIM (Telma, Orange, Airtel.) to access calls at the national rate. Both Sim cards and credit are easily obtainable throughout the country, and one of the few things you can easily get hold of (aside from Coca Cola, THB beer and coconut flavoured biscuits) in provincial towns and small rural villages. As with most countries, the cheapest way to receive calls from abroad is to use a local SIM and get someone to ring the number using Skype (or similar software), as it will be free for you (the receiver) and cheap for them.
Most banks have an ATM, although they often limit you to how much you can draw out at once. It's relatively simple to change money from euros and dollars to ariary, and you often get a better rate than at the airport. Some banks will also accept pound sterling.
Shopping malls & supermarkets
- Shoprite Supermarket, Rue James Adrianisa. 08:00-20:00. Shoprite South Africa have six stores in Antanarivo. lower price.
- Tana Water Front Mall, ☎ . 09:00-20:00. Shopping mall with a food court and Shoprite supermarket.
- Leader Price hypermarket, ankorodrano. 09:00-19:30.
- Jumbo Score Hypermarket, Enceinte cora Ankorondrano, ☎ . 09:30-19:30. A large hypermarket.
- L A City Mall, Alarobia (3 km north of down town). 09:30-19:30. This is the largest shopping mall in Tana with 52 stores. There are stores for Orange, Airtel and Telma, there is also a Madagasikara airways and Air Madagacar ticket offices and a Shoprite Hypermarket.
- Akoor Digue Shopping mall, Amkazomanga. 09:00-19:00. a mall with a Jumbo score Hypermarket. has a bank with an ATM.
- Supermaki. 07:00-23:00. A large chain of convenience stores all over Madagascar.
Banks & ATMs
- BNI Bank, Arabenny 26 Jona 1960. 24 hours. BNI ATMs only take Visa cards. Their website shows all their ATM locations in Madagascar.
- BFV Societe Generale bank. 24 hours. BFV ATMs take Mastercard. Their website shows all their ATM locations in Madagascar.
- Bank of Africa, Arabe Andrinampoinimeina. 24 hours. BOA ATMs take only Visa card.
- MBC Mauritius commercial bank, RUE Solombavambohaka Frantsay 77. 24 hours. MBC ATMs take Mastercard.
- La Table de Mariette, 11 rue George-V-Faravohitra, ☎ . This is a good choice for high quality Malagasy food. More expensive than many other restaurants.
- Ile Bourbon.
- La Brasserie at the France Hotel, 34 Ave de l'Independence. Very good and inexpensive. Try the calamari. Also vegetarian (non vegan) dishes, a very cheesy veg lasagne for 13,000 Ar.
- Grill De Rova, Near Palace de Rova. Small Menu. Great Zebu!
- Ku de Ta, 16 rue de la Reunion, ☎ . A slick setting for excellent French-influenced Malagasy food.
- Cookie Soph. French and English is spoken here. Good cappuccino, milkshakes, and bagels.
- Jasmin, Palace Analakely 101 Antananarivo (Behind BNI bank). Lovely veg meal with tofu. Perhaps a bit pricey. €7 for two courses and drink.
- 1 Café de la Gare, Arabe Rainibertsimisaraka (North-western end of Avenue de l'Indépendence), ☎ . Stylish café with good French food, occasionally hosts live music. Quiet garden setting not far away from Tana's busy city centre. Expect 20,000 Ar for a main dish.
- Lots of bottled water (no tap water!), the main brand is Pura Vida, relatively expensive, with a 1.5 L bottle costs about 3000 Ar
- THB (Three Horses Beer). Multi-awarded beer.
- Madagascar wine - variable but so much cheaper than the alternative (imported French wine).
- Bonbon Anglais - very sweet, bubble gum tasting soft drink, similar to South American Inka Cola. Excellent if you mix it with a little bit of THB. You may be presented with this when asking for limonade.
- Betsa-betsa - alcohol made from coconut water. Stronger than beer but not quite as potent as hard liquor.
- Litchel (or Vin Litchi in French) - lychee wine. Some brands are off-dry and quite nice, others are sickeningly sweet.
- Saint Claude - a local brand of rum with a hint of vanilla.
If you are overnighting in Tana while traveling through the airport, it is at least 30 minutes, and closer to an hour with traffic, to travel from the airport to the downtown area, and that the cost of the transfer in a private taxi is 60,000 Ar (one-way), so a hotel near the airport may be a good option. Hotels close to the airport are generally significantly more expensive than a similar hotel downtown.
- 1 Tana Jacaranda, Rue Arabe Rainitsarovy, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. This is a place to stay without breaking your budget. The rooms are small, facilities are old and partly improvised but everything is very clean. There is no restaurant, but decent food can be ordered and is served in the shared areas. The staff is super friendly. WiFi provided in the whole building. You are likely to meet fellow travellers or researchers here. You can pay with Mastercard or Visa card. Bed in a dorm 26 000 Ar, single 36 000 Ar, double 50,000 Ar.
- Madagascar Underground Backpackers Hostel, 18 Lalana Rainitovo, ☎ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. 6-bed dorms and double rooms. A clean place for backpackers and travellers to stay in Antananarivo. Dorm beds 30,000 Ar per person. Double rooms from 50,000 Ar.
- Hotel Moonlight, 62 Rue Rainandriamampandry, ☎ . Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. clean low-price single & double rooms. most rooms have brand new bathrooms . two communal terraces. friendly staff. from 25,000 Ar.
- Hotel Niaouly, Laiana Tsiombikibo, ☎ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. 22 single/double rooms with own bathroom. From 35,000 Ar.
- Hotel Chez Francis, Soarana, ☎ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. 12 single/double rooms with own bathroom. From 40,000 Ar.
- Hotel Isoraka, 11 Ave Gal Ramanantsoa, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Single/double room with own bathroom 40,000 Ar.
- Hotel Ile Bourbon, 12 Rue Benyowski Tsaralanana, ☎ . Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 12:00. Single/double rooms with own bathrooms 35,000 Ar.
- Ivato Airport Studios, 90 Bis K5 Quartier Antanimarina Ivato (one km from the airport). Check-in: any time, check-out: 12:00. A good low-cost place to stay near the airport. You can book a room online. Double 35,000 Ar.
- Irianja Guest House. A Malagasy-owned and -managed hotel. Excellent value, 7-course Royal Traditional Malagasy dinner, well appointed rooms. Very friendly.
- 2 Le Logis. Résidence Hôtel.
- 3 Karibotel (boulevard independence). Good alternative for Sakamange. More locals than tourists. €40 for double.
- 4 La Maison du Pyla. This bed and breakfast is popular with researchers and NGOs, which makes for interesting conversation at meal times. The owner bakes homemade bread at breakfast time and is very attentive to guest needs and can help with travel arrangements including airport shuttles and reservation confirmations. The three-story building is a bit old, but is kept clean and in good repair. Meals are generous, the wi-fi works well, and the homemade infused rums are well worth a try. 105,000 Ar for a double room with ensuite bathroom.
- 5 Relais des Plateaux, Lot 66 B Antanetibe Ivato, ☎ . The main draw of this hotel is its location ten minutes from the airport and its free shuttle, saving travelers with stopovers the headache of spending an hour in traffic trying to reach a downtown hotel. It is clean, has a pool, a decent restaurant, hot showers, working wi-fi, and the amenities one would expect in a good hotel. The downside is that it is very expensive for what you get, with small, pod-like rooms, no extra amenities, and little to see or do in the immediate neighborhood. 381,000 Ar for a double, 530,000 Ar for a deluxe room. Day-use prices are 214,000 Ar and 304,000 Ar for a double or deluxe room, respectively.
- 6 La Ribaudière. A good mid-range option. Very popular, good restaurant.
- 7 Le Saint-Laurent. Simple and cheap. Near historical monument. Free Wi-Fi. Food available.
- 8 Sakamanga, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A good mid-range option located in the center of the downtown area, but secluded from the streets. Rooms have air conditioning, wi-fi works well, there is a very nice pool, and the restaurant/bar serves drinks and light meals. Very popular, so book ahead. 32 rooms, reception open 24 hours. €19-98, breakfast not included, Visa accepted.
The two best known accommodations in the capital are the Colbert (pronounced like the Comedy Central show!) and the Carlton (formerly Hilton). However, in addition to being well known, these hotels are quite expensive, especially relative to other accommodations.
- 9 Hotel Carlton. This hotel is a member hotel of Summit Hotels & Resorts. It is a great hotel by European standards. The Carlton has 2 restaurants (Cafe Charly is reportedly excellent), 2 bars and an internet cafe, some rooms have nice views of the lake, and it is near the football (meaning soccer) stadium. 170 rooms.
- 10 Hotel Colbert. French-run, and situated close to the government ministries. Aid workers and French government folks will customarily stay there. There are old and new wings, the old wing is certainly inferior to the Carlton, the new wing on a par or better. The Colbert has a lovely spa, two restaurants and a coffee shop/patisserie. The efficient and knowledgeable staff will help you navigate the challenges of the city. 140 rooms.
- Beware of dogs! Tana is loaded with stray dogs, some of whom will occasionally harass passers-by for scraps or bark, growl and chase humans off their territory. If accosted by a stray dog, look for a rock or bottle or something to throw at it, then let fly. If nothing is available start screaming and clapping your hands. If this doesn't work, run. These animals also leave their marks behind... many locals refer to Tana as "Antaybe" (place of much poop).
- Beggars can also be a nuisance, especially groups of children. A polite but firm "Non, merci" or "Tsy misy (tsee meesh)" (add "Tompoko (toom-pook)" when speaking to anyone older than you) should do the trick. If not, shout "Mandehana! (man-day-han)" (Go Away!). Try to avoid handing out cash, candy or trinkets to children, it simply encourages more begging.
- Be wary of groups of older children begging in the centre, they may try and snatch exposed jewellery or bags.
- Don't be alarmed by taxis or vehicles with holes in the floor, springs poking out of the seats, missing mirrors or broken windows. Malagasy motor vehicles may not be much to look at and not much fun to ride in, but for the most part they run well and the engines are well-maintained.
- There have been incidents in which gangs have robbed tourists when it was clear that they are not familiar with their surroundings. There have also been incidents of kidnappings of tourists for ransom money. That said, in daylight hours you should be fine, as long as you don't carry too many valuables.
Embassies & consulates
- Egypt, LOT MD 378 Ambalatokanana Mandrosoa Ivato, ☎ , fax: .
- Greece, Β.P. 1442, Antananarivo, Madagascar, ☎ , fax: .
- Japan, Villa Chrysantheme III, Ambohijatovo-Analamahitsy, ☎ .
There is a lot of hustle and bustle but not really much for the casual tourist to do, and you run the gauntlet of aggressive beggars if you frequent the central shopping area. Also, due to the altitude, the capital is significantly colder than the coastal areas. Probably sensible to allocate no more than a couple of days to Tana.
There are actually a number of things to do in Tana and, if you can see beyond the poverty, the city is really attractive and a photographers dream. The architecture is a mix of French Countryside and Indonesia. Rice paddies scattered all over the city add a brilliant green to the pastel terracotta of the buildings. The market is wonderful offering many unique souvenirs and if you do not want to bargain then try Lisy, a collection of shops with similar produce to the market at excellent prices. The Lemur Park, 45 minutes out of Tana, is well worth a visit and for gourmets there are some surprisingly good restaurants.
Travel out of the capital is by two modes: road or air. As of 2017 there is no passenger rail service from the capital. Road transport is by bus to limited destinations, taxi-brousse (shared taxi) to a variety of destinations or by car rental (usually with driver). Although travel by taxi-brousse is guaranteed to try one's patience and sanity, there is quite possibly no better way to meet and interact with the locals and experience Madagascar as the Malagasy do. Air travel is the recommended method, due to the poor state of many roads, and Antananarivo is the hub city for the national carriers Air Madagascar & Madagasikara Airways. But of course air is more expensive.
Recommended next stops are Morondava and/or Nosy Be.