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Travel Security Advice for Madagascar

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madagascar_mapMadagascar_Overview


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Madagascar is a developing island nation off the east coast of Africa.  The primary languages are French and Malagasy.  French is less spoken outside of major cities.

Facilities for tourism are available, but vary in quality.  Travelers seeking high-end accommodations should make reservations in advance.  Read the Department of State Background Notes on Madagascar for additional information.

REGISTRATION:

U.S. citizens living or traveling in [country name] are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate at the Department of State travel registration page, so that they can obtain updated information on local travel and security.  U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.  Registration is important; it allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency. 

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:

A passport and visa are required.  Visas are available at all airports servicing international flights, but travelers who opt to obtain a visa at an airport should expect delays upon arrival.  Visas obtained at the airport cannot be extended.  All Americans must have at least one blank page and 6 months validity in their passport to gain admittance to Madagascar.  Visa fees can be paid in US dollars, Euros or Madagascar Ariary.  Credit cards are not accepted.  Most international flights arrive in Antananarivo, but there are some limited international flights to/from the nearby islands of Comoros, Mayotte and Reunion from airports in Mahajanga, Toamasina (Tamatave), Nosy Be, Tolagnaro (Ft. Dauphin) and Antsiranana (Diego Suarez).  There are also direct flights between Italy and Nosy Be.  Evidence of yellow fever immunization is required for all travelers who have been in an infected zone within 6 months of their arrival in Madagascar.

Until December 31, 2009, tourists staying in Madagascar for less than 30 days will be able to receive a free visa upon arrival.  Travelers staying for longer or who require a transformable visa are not eligible for this promotion.

Travelers may obtain the latest information and details on entry requirements from the Embassy of the Republic of Madagascar, 2374 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC  20008; telephone (202) 265-5525/6; or the Malagasy Consulate in New York City, (212) 986-9491.  Honorary consuls of Madagascar are located in Philadelphia, and San Diego.  Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Malagasy embassy or consulate.  Visit the Embassy of Madagascar’s website  at for the most current visa information.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Madagascar.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website.  For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.

THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY:

In early 2009, Madagascar experienced political demonstrations that on occasion became violent.  On March 17 the democratically elected government resigned in actions that the U.S. Government has termed a coup d’état and a tense security situation prevailed in the following weeks.   There has been some residual violence in the capital and in provincial areas since March, and there were clashes with security forces in most provincial capitals and other population centers around the country in January and early February.  Travelers should maintain security awareness at all times and should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations.  Certain large gatherings such as concerts or scenes of accidents also may pose a threat to foreigners. 

Travel in the provincial areas is generally safe but caution should be exercised at all times.  At the start of the political crisis, a number of provincial capitals experienced political demonstrations that had on occasions become violent resulting in clashes with security forces and looting.  A number of route national highways connecting provincial cities and the capital experienced temporary road blocks by political demonstrators resulting in travel delays.  In addition, banditry attacks on vehicles carrying goods and people have increased and the U.S. Embassy does not recommend night time travel outside the city of Antananarivo.

There are random police vehicle checkpoints throughout Madagascar, so all visitors should carry photo identification (i.e., U.S. passport) in the event of police questioning.  These check points are routine in nature, and should not result in vehicle and/or person searches as long as valid identification is shown.

CRIME:

The major concerns for visitors to Antananarivo are crimes of opportunity such as pick pocketing, purse snatching and residential and vehicular theft.  Although these incidents are generally non-violent, incidents involving violence by assailants do occur and are on the rise, particularly when the victim resists, and especially when multiple persons confront the victim.  The Embassy has received reports of physical attacks against foreigners, including Americans, particularly in coastal tourist areas.  A number of these attacks resulted in serious injuries and in some cases, fatalities.  Criminal elements in Antananarivo and throughout Madagascar are becoming bolder when selecting their victims, and are also committing more crimes in areas that are considered to be “safe” – those that are generally well lit and well traveled by pedestrians and vehicles.

To reduce the risk of being victimized, travel in groups and avoid wearing expensive jewelry or carrying high cost electronic items (iPods, digital cameras, or high end cell phones) with you in public. Valuable items should never be left in an unattended vehicle or at a hotel (unless locked in the hotel safe). Walking at night, whether alone or in a group is not considered safe in urban areas, including in the vicinity of Western-standard hotels, restaurants and night clubs. Visitors are strongly discouraged from traveling outside of Antananarivo after dark due to banditry, lack of lighting, and poor road conditions. In the last six months there have been several incidents involving nighttime criminal activity that targeted vehicles outside of town.  These events have involved villages designing a “trap” of either sand, a tree log or some other substance or condition that makes the only viable road impassible.  Local villagers then “assist” the stranded vehicle and expect monetary compensation. Others have involved armed criminals who stage a “breakdown” that blocks the roadway, forcing the victimized driver to slow down, and hence become more vulnerable.

Criminal gangs comprised of felons, ex-military and police from the former regime are known to commit home invasions and kidnappings, sometimes targeting foreigners.  Organized gangs of bandits are known to patrol areas where foreigners, who are perceived to be wealthy, tend to congregate.  Crimes such as burglary and robbery do occur in areas outside the capital and the threat of confrontational and violent crime has increased in rural and isolated areas throughout the last year.  Specifically, Amboasary, a town in the southeast, has experienced a surge in armed robberies targeting not-governmental organizations (NGO)s.  However, Americans visiting Madagascar should not expect to experience any hostility or aggression solely because of their citizenship.

In major cities, the National Police is charged with maintaining peace and security. Outside of major cities, the Gendarmerie is primarily responsible for these duties. Due to lack of resources available to both law enforcement agencies, police response to victims of a crime is often limited, slow and ineffective.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.  In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. 

VICTIMS OF CRIME:

If you are the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate (see end of this sheet or see the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates).  This includes the loss or theft of a U.S. passport.  The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds may be transferred.  Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Madagascar  is 117.  The police can also be reached in Antananarivo at 22-227-35 and 22-281-70.  We recommend you use these numbers only if you speak good Malagasy or French.  Otherwise, please contact the US Embassy in case of emergency.

Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.  Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.  Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:

It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Madagascar in Washington or one of Madagascar's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.  In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.  Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.  Taking photographs of airports or military installations is prohibited.

Madagascar is renowned for its natural resources.  These include a wide variety of gemstones.  The Government of Madagascar recently imposed restrictions on the export of precious gems; before purchasing or transporting any gemstones it is advisable to seek clarification of the applicable laws.

Madagascar is primarily a cash-driven economy.  Although some high-end establishments catering to tourists accept credit cards, normally only Visa-logo cards, most shops and restaurants are cash only.  Although the government changed the local currency from the Malagasy Franc (FMG) to the Ariary several years ago, many Malagasy still think in terms of FMG.  When talking about prices, it is important to quantify whether the price is in Ariary or FMG. (1 Ariary = 5 FMG).  ATMs are available in large cities.  Dollars are not widely accepted.

Please see our Customs Information.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:

Standards of healthcare throughout Madagascar are well below U.S. standards.  However, there are foreign physicians in Antananarivo representing a broad range of specialties, but their training is variable and often not to U.S. standards.  The hospitals in Antananarivo vary greatly in standards of care.  Medical care outside of Antananarivo is generally well below the care available in the capital city.  Caution and good judgment should be exercised when seeking hospital and medical services.  The Embassy maintains a list of hospitals and specialists.  A Seventh Day Adventist dental clinic offers emergency procedures and x-ray facilities.

Some medications, generally of French origin, are available in Antananarivo.  If you need to refill a prescription from home, it is important to carry a prescription from your doctor listing the medicine's generic name.  There is limited availability of both prescription and over the counter medications, and outside of Antananarivo, medications may not be available.  Travelers should have a supply of any needed medication sufficient for the entire length of a visit before arriving in Madagascar.  Americans who will be carrying medications with them to Madagascar may wish to contact the Malagasy Embassy in Washington, D.C. regarding any restrictions on imports.

Ambulance services are available in Antananarivo with Polyclinique Ilafy at 22-425-66/69 or 033 11 458 48 / 032 07 409 38; Espace Medical at 22-625-66, 22-219-72, or 032-02-088-16 (cellular); and CDU (Centre de Diagnostic Medical d’Urgences) at 22 329 56 or 032 07 822 28 or 033 11 822 28.  However, due to traffic jams, response times are often dangerously slow. 

Malaria is prevalent, particularly in the coastal regions.  Using preventive measures and malaria prophylaxis is strongly recommended.  Rabies is endemic and there are many street dogs.  It is recommended travelers have the pre-exposure vaccination series prior to arrival in Madagascar.  If bitten by an animal, the effected area should immediately be washed with soap and running water for ten minutes.  Seek medical care immediately.  Plague is also endemic to Madagascar.  While the reported HIV prevalence rate is low, particularly by African standards, Madagascar suffers from a very high reported incidence of other sexually transmitted diseases.

The East African Indian Ocean islands have seen a rise in the cases of Chikungunya.  As with Malaria, Chikungunya and Dengue are transmitted by mosquitoes.  Every effort should be made to use repellants, proper clothing and barriers that discourage/prevent mosquito bites.  The CDC website contains further information on Chikungunya and Dengue.

Travelers should drink bottled water or carbonated beverages.  Local water is not generally potable.  Water purification tablets may be used as necessary.  Bottled water is readily available in Antananarivo but is less so outside the city.

For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) websiteThe WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:

The Department of State strongly urges U.S. citizens to consult their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to determine whether the policy applies overseas and whether it covers emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.  For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.  The information below concerning Madagascar is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

In Madagascar, one drives on the right side of the road, generally yielding the right of way to vehicles coming in from the left.  Some major intersections and traffic circles have police directing traffic.  If a policeman has his back to you at an intersection, you are required to stop.  Laws make seatbelt use mandatory and prohibit cell phone use while driving, even with a hands-free attachment.  Child safety seats and motorcycle helmets are not required in Madagascar.  If you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol, your car will be impounded for a few days and you will have to pay a fine.  If you are involved in an accident involving injuries and/or deaths, there is a mandatory court case.  The losing party of the court case must then pay all costs.

Except for Antananarivo’s main streets and a few well-maintained routes to outlying cities, many roads are in various states of disrepair.  Some may be impassable during the rainy season.  Night travel by private or public transportation outside Antananarivo is strongly discouraged due to poor lighting and road conditions.  Roads tend to be narrow and winding with many one-lane bridges and blind curves.  Most vehicles tend to drive in the center of the road unless another vehicle is present.  It is common to find livestock or human-drawn carts in the middle of the road, even at night.  Local practice is to blow the horn before going around a curve, to let others know of one's presence.  Few pedestrian crosswalks or working traffic signals exist.

Travel within Antananarivo can be difficult with poor road signage, streets congested with pedestrians, bicycles, animal carts, and vehicular traffic, and an abundance of one-way streets.  Taxis are plentiful and are generally reasonably priced.  Bargain for the fare prior to getting into a vehicle.  Most accidents are pedestrian-related, due to narrow roads and lack of sidewalks on many streets.  When traveling between cities, travelers must have clear directions as there are rarely signs indicating where one must turn to reach a destination.  Conditions of rural roads can degrade significantly and with little notice during the rainy season.

Rental cars generally come with a driver who is responsible for maintaining the vehicle and sometimes acts as a tour guide.  Public transportation is unreliable and vehicles are poorly maintained.  Rail services are extremely limited and unreliable.

The Ministry of Public Works, telephone (20) 22-318-02, is Madagascar's authority responsible for road safety.  During an emergency, visitors to Antananarivo can contact local police by dialing 117, 22-227-35, 22-357-09/10.  American citizens can also call the U.S. Embassy at 22-212-57/58/59 if assistance is needed in communicating with law enforcement officials.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Madagascar the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Madagascar’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.

Domestic and international air services operate regularly but are subject to delays and occasional breakdowns.  Air Madagascar often changes in-country flight schedules based on demand; flights that are not full may be cancelled with little or no prior warning to passengers.  Overbooking is also common.  Reconfirmation of tickets prior to flight day is recommended, especially when flying from provincial airports.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:

Please see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

EMBASSY LOCATION:

Local embassy information is available below and at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.

U.S. Embassy Antananarivo


14-16 Rue Rainitovo, Antsahavola, Antananarivo 
Mailing address:B.P. 620, Antsahavola, Antananarivo, Madagascar
Telephone: [261] (20) 22-212-57 (available 24 hours a day in the event of Emergency)
Fax [261] (20) 22-345-39.

This replaces the Country Specific Information dated June 2, 2008, to update the sections on Crime and Threats to Safety and Security.


The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office also has information regarding travel to Madagascar HERE....

Looking for an Embassy ?, You can also check out our World Wide Embassies Listings Section HERE (For US Citizens) or HERE (For UK Citizens).........

There is a Malaria Warning for Madagascar provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention HERE.....

Regards

The SW Team....

 

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