Things to do in Antananarivo: Table of Contents
Antananarivo on C&C
Best Time To Visit Antananarivo
Where to Sleep
Let’s Go For a Drink
What to See and Do
Tipping in Antananarivo
Common Scams & What to Avoid
C&C’s Google Map of the City
Things to do in Antananarivo: Where, How?
Antananarivo, Madagascar, South-Eastern Africa, Africa
Currency: Malagasy Ariary (MGA)
Airport Notes: It is the largest airport in Madagascar. It is also known as Madagascar Airport or Tana Airport. It has only two terminals, each with a restaurant and
cafe. They are the best place to sit back and relax as you wait for your flight.
The international airlines available at Ivato Airport include Air Mauritius, Corsair International, Air Austral and Air France. For local flights, it is serviced by Air Madagascar, Comores Aviation, Airlink and Kenya Airways.
Transportation to-and-from the airport: There are airport taxis to the city center. You’ll need to negotiate a price at the taxi booth. Alternatively, you could use Narvette, an airport bus that will drop you at the doorstep of your hotel.
The main ways to get around Antananarivo are by bus, taxi or foot. The safest and most convenient means, however, is a taxi. If you are looking for something cheaper and don’t mind being crammed into a van with several other people, try the mini-buses referred to as ‘taxi-be’ but beware of pickpockets. You could take a walk around Analakely, it is fairly easy to maneuver on foot.
A Note on Taxis: Look out for the white taxis on the queue. They are the approved taxis and therefore a better than the cowboy taxis that are the majority at Ivato. Always negotiate and agree on fares with the driver before entering the vehicle.
Anatananarivo’s neighborhoods were originally divided by caste, religion and ethnicity. This separation is still evident to some extent today. In Haute Ville sits the pink Andafiavaratra Palace. Analakely is home to the popular Analakely market, a food market whose spaces you will enjoy walking through. Though not made for tourists, it is a must-visit.
Navigation tips: In case you get lost, you will not miss the imposing Rova of Antananarivo palace overlooking the city. At Antaninarenina and Ambondrona, are the city’s largest staircases with Analakely Market in the vicinity. You could also look out for Lake Anosy, a heart-shaped lake surrounded by jacaranda trees found at the heart of the city. These are famous landmarks could help you re-trace your steps and find your way.
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Things to do in Antananarivo: Personal Notes
What’s This Place About?
Antananarivo is the capital of Madagascar. It is a large, sprawling city – somewhat high up in the mountains – with a lot of different neighborhoods that are all very different from one another, mostly economically.
There are some poorer neighborhoods that have a lot of criminal activity where tourists might be targeted, and other neighborhoods where tourists are welcome. The highest physical point of Antananarivo is where the most affluent people live. This is also where tourists usually end up. Check out the location of Hotel Colbert and its vicinity, and then take a walk up the hill. It’s beautiful and a great way to get a feel of the city.
What’s Great and Fun?
The most fascinating thing about the city is seeing the differences in the way people live, depending on whether they live in the higher or lower parts of the city. There is a lot of interesting architecture, most if it linked to the country’s colonial past.
One of the colonial remnants is rum. There are a few brands and it’s all incredibly good.
The island itself has beautiful beaches, great mountains, and very unique flora and fauna.
There is exceptional scuba diving to be experienced there, as well. Check out the island of Sainte-Marie for both beaches and scuba diving.
The city itself, however, is somewhat gritty. There is a lot of poverty and there are certain neighborhoods you will want to avoid. Within the city, you have a choice. You can go where the locals go, where it is rougher but cheaper. Or you can go where the French expats and other expats from African countries go. They have their own restaurants, bars, and places to visit.
I’ve heard stories of tourists that went into the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time and ended up being robbed. I heard a story told by a hotel employee that a client ended up stripped naked by a bunch of kids with knives. The man came back to the hotel, scared, naked, crying. I always take these stories with a grain of salt, especially if I have not witnessed them first-hand, and I suggest that you do so as well. I didn’t feel in any danger at any time in Madagascar.
Things to do in Antananarivo: Where to Stay
Antananarivo has a lot to offer in terms of accommodation. From vacation rentals to guest houses and hostels to luxurious hotels, there is something for everyone.
If you are looking for something mid-range price-wise but very homey and cozy, try Hotel Niaouly. Ensure you book early as it is very popular.
Popular amongst French government officials and aid workers, Hotel Colbert is just the place for you if you are looking for a taste of luxury.
Luxury, history, a central location and a wonderful indoors pool? Hotel le Louvre.
And then, the top hostel in the country has to be Madagascar Underground. Great staff, great parties, clean premises.
Things to do in Antananarivo: Let’s Eat!
Things to do in Antananarivo – Famous Foods and Specialties:
- Vary (rice)
- Ravitoto (pork fried with cassava leaves)
- Sesika (sausage stuffed with poultry blood)
- Varanga (fried shreds of beef)
- Romazava (a type of beef stew)
- Soupe chinoise (“Chinese soup”, but it’s nothing to do with China!)
The Best Drunk Food:
- Sambos (samosas)
- Nems (spring rolls)
Our Suggestions – Dishes and Restaurants:
There is a major difference between where the locals will eat and live and where the expats will. There are a couple of restaurants downtown that are very well-liked by tourists and expats.
One type of restaurant that is popular with the locals is called a “hotely”. These small places have maybe four or five things on the menu and most of the time they are the same items. There are a lot of soups and grilled meats. One of the popular items is Chinese soup (soupe Chinoise). You will also find a lot of satays, though that’s not what they’re called. It is basically grilled skewers of meat on charcoal. You will find that a lot of these hotelys only have a coal or wood stove where they simply light a fire and put pots on top for the soup to boil. A lot of the cooking in the hotelys is very rudimentary.
You can also opt to go to the higher scale restaurants in Antananarivo. Kudeta is one of them.
Things to do in Antananarivo: Let’s Go For a Drink
Things to do in Antananarivo – What Do the Locals Drink?
Mostly beer (THB) and rum (Mangoustan or Dzama).
Drinking in Public
There are no rules…
Our Suggestions – Bars and Pubs:
Espace Dera (Arabe Jeneraly Charles de Gaulle) is a cool chill place you’d like if you are out to meet new people and make conversation. You will not have to shout over the music.
Le Glacier Analakely (48, avenue de l’Indépendance, Analakely), on the other hand, is just the spot for a wild night of dancing with friends. It is loud and packed, you will definitely have fun!
La Plage (Betongolo) is Antananarivo‘s most popular night club. This two story bâtiment has two large dance floors and smaller more exclusive one. The music played at La Plage is mostly French and American and on some nights there are live gigs. Being the town’s favorite, it is always filled to capacity.
As regular readers of this column know, I don’t know anything about clubs. Sorry!
Things to do in Antananarivo: What to See and Do
No better spot to get an all-round view of Tana and its dozen sacred hills than atop the great Rova Palace.
Musée Andafiavaratra now houses the little that was saved from the Rova Palace fire including old Merina monarchs’ memorabilia.
Take a walk north east of the Rova on the Avenue of Royal Trees whose noble roots are a nuisance but cannot be dug up because they are a symbol of nobility.
What better way to experience Malagasy culture, heritage and art than at the Madagascar Carnival held every June on the famous Independence Avenue?
Do you love jazz music? Madajazzcar is your opportunity to watch Malagasy’s jazz legends do what they do best.
Lake Anosy is a burst of purple colour surrounded by shady jacaranda trees. At its best in November, it is the ideal place to go and be alone with your thoughts.
You ought to stop by Lemurs’ park and Croc farm if you are into nature and wildlife.
Analakely Market, Antananarivo’s main market is a one-stop shop for all your shopping needs. They stock everything from clothes to household items to the widest variety of food products.
Tipping in Antananarivo
Just like in most of South Africa, it is generally expected to tip a small amount. Usually, 10-15% of the total cost of the bill is acceptable.
Things to do in Antananarivo: Common Scams & What to Avoid
If you take a taxi from the airport to anywhere in Antananarivo, it will mean that you will have to encounter some sort of scam. It appears that the taxi drivers share some of the money you must pay with the security guards at the airport. It can be quite complicated to get a straight answer to any question from these taxi drivers or security guards.
There are indeed pickpockets and you need to be very careful, especially next to the main market. I have heard stories of kids with knives that will try to slash your bags. I haven’t witnessed this first-hand, but still be careful.
Crime and homelessness are somewhat high in Antananarivo. Because of lack of infrastructure, it is quite difficult to know the exact numbers, or how often, tourists or expats have been targeted. Crime numbers, in general, are very vague. Always be careful, have your wits about yourself, and don’t get drunk because you become a target.
Taxis in the city are quite expensive for this part of the world and they are all beige, mostly older-model Renault cars. You need to negotiate ahead of time using your GPS. My trick here is the same as in every city. Find a destination, know exactly where you are going using your GPS, and give yourself a certain price per kilometer. My price in Antananarivo was 75 cents US per kilometer. Negotiate the price and you will be sure that you get to your destination.
To get from point “A” to point “B” in Madagascar as a country, you need to use the “taxi brousse” (basically “brush taxi” in English), a minivan fitted with as many seats as possible inside. The driver will throw your bags onto the roof, secure them, and then you get inside and go to your destination. You will pay the set price once you get there.
I suggest that you buy a second seat for yourself so you can put your bags there and keep it with you for the duration of the trip. You never know what is going to happen when your bags are on the roof. It could start raining, or someone could decide to take your bag at a stop.
Beware that if you go to one of the two or three taxi stations in Antananarivo, you will experience very aggressive touts. There will probably be five or six taxi drivers screaming at you, gesturing, and trying to physically wrangle you and your bags into their taxi.
Competition is very, very harsh. Be sure to negotiate the price first. Foreigners, in general, will pay between seven and 10 times more than the locals for a trip in a taxi brousse. You are a foreigner and so that means you need to pay more money. That’s just the way it is.
Police corruption is extreme in this country and these taxi drivers get stopped two or three times by different police, gendarme, and army when they enter and exit a city. At every single stop, they need to give a bribe to leave the checkpoint, no matter if they are in regulation or not. If they have a white person in the taxi, they must pay even more. So, you must pay much more because they need that money to give to the police.
How to Stay Safe: Tips and Tricks
Hang on to your bags tightly at the bus and taxi station. Be careful if you see a group of kids. Always negotiate whatever you buy. Be careful when you are out at night, especially in the city, and always take a taxi to your destination.
READ MORE: Travel Canada Advisory for Madagascar