Since March 21, 2009, following the resignation of the President of the Republic, Madagascar has a President of the transition who is not recognized by the International Community. It is true that we see peaceful rallies against the seizure of power in some places but it is always calm and police forces provide security in all major cities. There is no curfew, all of the hotels and restaurants are open, all of the excursions are feasible, tours and national roads are passable without any problems. In short, everything is back to normal.
During these troubled times, the French community (and Westerners) never felt threatened in any ways whatsoever. These events have demonstrated how much the Malagasy people are peaceful. One just needs to observe the same kind of conflict in other African countries or elsewhere, inevitably this leads to a bloody civil war, to violent actions against foreigners, often designated as scapegoats or endless acts of guerrilla. Of course there have been some attempts of incitation to racism, rather inter-ethnic and anti-African than anti-French for that matter, but tell me what country does not have at least its 2% of morons.
But we must never forget the basic precautions that can be applied everywhere: do not walk alone at night but if you still have to get around, use taxis. You can trust them since they always take you to your destination. You will pay a little more money than the natives but it will still be very cheap (around 1.5€ gratuities), taxis are very happy to have foreigners as clients. During the day, although the zero risk does not exist, you are not more at risk in Madagascar than elsewhere. Simply follow some rules: do not openly show you have a large amount of money with you, that would multiply your risk of being attacked, do not disrespect anyone, respect the customs, religious prohibitions or other. The safety of a person, first, depends on his behavior towards the local population, someone respectful and humble will never be bothered by a Malagasy. Even the numerous hasty vendors will leave you alone if you politely decline their requests.
In Antananarivo: All of the general rules mentioned above are valid in Antananarivo. Be especially careful if you go through “steps” after sunset, also avoid the slums, in any case do not move around alone at night, take taxis. However, walking during the day presents no risk provided you do not tempt any pickpockets or bag snatchers with your pockets obviously full of money. Do not change money on the street or at your arrival at the airport.
In the Countryside: The risk of aggression is almost zero in the countryside of Madagascar; only the routes between the cities may have some risks of attack against countryside taxis that run at night. So, always choose rental cars with which you have the freedom and the availability of your time.
In the Coastal areas: Like in the countryside, the risks of aggression are low in the coastal areas of Madagascar, always apply the same rules: no ostentation and respect to be respected. The night is not more dangerous in Majunga, Tamatave Tulear than in Marseille, Nice or Biarritz, you can safely return from clubs in a rickshaw (accompanied or not) at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning.
The food risk: Food hygiene is not the forte of Madagascar. The cold chain is not always respected, so you must be very careful. If you come to Madagascar with a tour operator, you do not risk much, these travel professionals run smoothly and always take you to restaurants where hygiene is impeccable and where you will be served fresh food. Nevertheless, here are some suggestions: never eat what is sold on the street, your stomach will not bear it, never drink tap water even at the hotel, make sure to use ice cubes made with mineral water, if you buy supermarket products, always check the sell-by dates (You will be surprised) and in restaurants, avoid raw vegetables, unpeeled fruits and all kinds of ice cream.
Automobile traffic: This paragraph is to warn about the risk you take if you choose the countryside taxis to get around. Traffic on major roads is very dangerous, especially on the busy road Tana-Tamatave. Vehicles are often poorly maintained, tires are almost all smooth, there is little or no markings on roads and countryside taxi drivers drive fast, ride along trucks without visibility…
Madagascar and poverty: In Madagascar, many people are very poor and it is not by choice. “We do not choose the sidewalks of Manila …” rightly said of the song of Maxime Le Forestier, these people deserve to be respected more than others. If you want to do something for them, save a few kilos of your luggage for clothes or shoes that you can give to a local charity or an orphanage or just the cleaning lady at your hotel or the small snack man on the corner of the road.
The behavior towards beggars: If it is an adult, everyone does as he feels, one must think that you symbolize money for them, just watch their behavior, when Malagasy people pass before them, they do not react, but when a “vazaha” (the term for Western foreigners) passes by them, they immediately ask for money. You can give them your coins or small notes, that is nothing for you and much for them, always keep in mind the conversion MGA / EUR, 100 Ar is 0.04€. Of course you cannot give to everyone, it is not even recommended because you will no more be able to walk in peace, you will be quickly spotted and always followed and harassed by a gang of beggars (true or false). Concerning children beggars, you need to be careful about the attitude to adopt, sometimes they are forced into begging by their own parents or even leased by them to exploiters of children. Be careful not to judge this situation, you have no idea what poverty and hunger can cause. Giving money to these children may be regarded as encouraging this form of slavery and we see many tourists who have found no other solution than to ignore them. From time to time, we can give them something to eat, a packet of cake, samosas, bread or any food we can find at any street corners in Madagascar.
We hope that these tips will erase the fears you might have after reading alarming, contradictory and almost always unverified information that has been disclosed in the French media (television, radio, newspapers and especially the internet).