Ivato Airport (TNR) is the Antananarivo's major airport and it is serviced by Air France, Air Austral, Airlink, Air Mauritius, Comores Aviation, Kenya Airways, Interair South Africa, and Air Madagascar.
All foreign visitors require an entry visa.
Initial visas are for up to 30 days, and your passport must be valid for at least six months after the last day of your stay. Any visa longer than three months must be referred to the Ministry of the Interior or Embassy in Antananarivo. It is a 24 hour process of pre-approval for an initial visa from South Africa and some other countries. Another option is to buy a visa upon arrival, and deal with immigration at the airport which can be stressful especially after a long trip, and then waiting to insure you will be admitted to the country.
Once you get past baggage claim, you will be greeted by a mass of entrepreneurs offering assistance with your luggage to the waiting taxis, in return for a gratuity, and offering directions to other services. This may be helpful to some, but others may find the presence of the "Skycaps a la Tana" a little distracting or worrisome. Remember to change money at the airport bank (which you have to do, since the Madagascar Ariary is not a convertible currency).
There are three main methods of navigating the capital: taxi, bus and on foot. Most tourists tend to use taxis as they are very practical. Make sure you agree on a rate with the driver before entering the taxi. Also, be aware that traffic tends to be heavy in Analakely (Antananrivo's center and busiest area) during typical rush hour times. If you are comfortable being squeezed into a van with other people, the buses, or 'taxi-be', are the most affordable form of transportation, with prices usually ranging from 1,000 fmg to 2,000 fmg (Compared to 25,000 fmg or more for a typical taxi ride). However, tourists are not usually familiar with taxi-be routes. While the city is quite large, Analakely is fairly navigable on foot.
To travel on from Tana there is only one real form of public transport, the taxi brousse or bush taxi. These link up 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 Nossi-Be (AKA Nosy-Be, Nosy Manitra) and Antsiranana (Diego-Suarez), while the Eastern one (Gare Routieie 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! They do this to all arrivals to the station, local and tourist alike. Most stations are lined with ticket kiosks 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. Another thing to note is that after buying your ticket the bus may not leave until hours after the quoted leaving time, as they will only leave when full. Try and avoid the back row seats, this generally has very little leg room.
Andasibe-Mantadia National Park - buses depart from the comparatively modern Gare Routieie de l'est. Travel first to Moramanga (5,000 ariary as of January 2012, 4 hours) then catch a connecting bus to Andasibe village (1000 ariary, 2 hours). Buses leave regularly, up to every hour.
Ranomafana National Park - from Farakana bus station 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 ariary in Jan 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 acquire a room for you. This is also the bus station wanted for Anja Reserve (~11 hours, 35,000 ariary in Jan 2012) and Isalo National Park.
Ankarana National Park - at the northern bus station catch one to Antsiranana (Diego-Suarez) and you can get dropped off outside the main entrance of the park. A very painful 20 hour journey (~65,000 ariary in Jan 2012). You will likely stop over in Ambanja (~14 hours into the journey). Ambanja is also where you need to change for Nossi-Be. This is also the station for Ankarafantsika National Park (~9 hours, 30,000 ariary in Jan 2012)
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).
There's no point being kind about this - there really is no tourist infrastructure to speak of in Antananarivo - for some that is part of the attraction!
Rova (Sovereigns or Queen's Palace of the Kingdom of Imerina, 17th and 18th century). 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 America's assistance). As of 2011 a semi-official fee of 10,000 ariary was being charged to access the site and then native Tana guides for a fee (usually university students who speak English or French) give a tour of Rova and its features. The site offers good panoramic views of the city, as it is on the highest point in the hills.
Prime Minister's Rainilaiarivony's Palace - near the Rova. In 2005, the situation here was uncertain, the Palace appeared to be closed, but a freelance guide let visitors in for a fee and gave a comprehensive account of the historical artifacts which were on display. No updated or current information has been located.
The Musée d’art et d’archéologie of Isoraka is also an institute of civilizations, which shows several archeological works. you can learn a lot about Madagascar's history, its people and its traditions, since 1st century to the present.
There are several ethnographic objects from all over the island and a lot of cookware. Its purpose is clearly to contribute to a better knowledge of the cultural history of Madagascar.
Please see the sites of the Madagascar Tourism Board for comprehensive information:
Croc'Farm - near the Airport of Ivato. 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.
Lots of bottled water (no tap water!), the main brand is Pura Vida, relatively expensive, with a 1.5l bottle costs about 3000 ariary (~£1)
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.
Lemur Hostel (firstname.lastname@example.org), LOT VG 26 Ter Antsahabe Rue Andrianaivoravelona Antananarivo, Madagascar (From Ivato International Airport, take a shuttle (10,000 Ariary) to our hostel. Alternatively, taxi will cost 40,000-50,000 Ariary.), ☎ +261 32 66 091 20, . checkin: 1300; checkout: 1100. Built by travelers for travelers, the Lemur Hostel Antananarivo is located in Antananarivo’s city centre and offers free wifi, breakfast, walking tours, sim card, towels, and so much more. Lemur Hostel offers dormitory and private rooms. Please visit www.lemurhostel.com for more details. Opening date: May 20, 2015. 20,000 Ariary or $7USD. edit
Irianja Guest House (email@example.com), AVB 100 Avarabohitra Antananarivo, ☎ (0) 33 11 546 56, . A Malagasy owned and managed hotel. Excellent value, 7 course Royal Traditional Malagasy Dinner, well appointed rooms. Very friendly. Phytotherapy and aromatherapy. Hosts offer tours in the garden and massages with Malagasy essential oils. Setting: a botanical garden. Room price breakfast included at 25 €edit
Le Karthala, Faravohitra, Antananarivo, Madagascar (Lot 2 B 60), ☎ (0)3 311 971 56, . 9 rooms with bathrooms. Nice views. Breakfast included.18 Euros. edit
Tana-Jacaranda, 24 Arabe Rainitsarovy, Antananarivo, Madagascar, ☎ (0)20 22 562 39, . A locally owned hotel with Vegetarian food. Free wifi.Free use of the lobby computer.Terrace with view of city and the Presidents Palace.Central location.Breakfast available on the terrace.$13-$36. edit
Homelidays guest house (firstname.lastname@example.org), lot kI 139 Ivato Aeroporto (in front of the airport international), ☎ 0331155162, . have 5 rooms clean,discreet,quite;the nearest guest house of the airport 2minutes on foot;also the lowest price; the owner speak english, deuscht. Guest house favourable for tourist who have flight at dawn; breakfast 3euro; organise tours around the island, rent cars;15euro. edit
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.
Hotel Colbert, . French run, and situated close to the government ministries. Aid workers and French government staff 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.
Hotel Carlton, . This hotel was formerly the Hilton Madagascar, and is now a member hotel within Summit Hotels & Resorts. It is not known whether the new affiliation has caused significant changes. The Carlton boasts 2 restaurants, coffee shop internet cafe, and 2 bars. Some rooms have nice views of the lake, and it is near the football (meaning soccer) stadium. 170 rooms. Attracts professional and business clients and those wishing to stay in a place with mid-range upscale Western amenities.
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).
Street children are present here. Beggars also. 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!). Avoid handing out cash, candy or trinkets to beggars and children - it provides no solution to the social problem and encourages begging and theft.
Be wary of groups of older children begging in the centre, they are often ready to steal/snatch exposed jewelry, saleable items or bags. They are often involved in: mifoka (drogue)- miloka (games/gambling)- migoka (alcohol)- mivarotena (prostitution) as often were the parents who abandoned them.
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.
The Malagasy currency was devalued recently. The former Malagasy Franc (Franc Malgache) is now obsolete. The new currency is called the Ariary (Ar-ee-ar) and is worth 5 Francs. For example, 10,000 Francs = 2000 Ariary. When negotiating a price, ALWAYS CONFIRM THE AMOUNT IN ARIARY. Many locals take advantage of tourists by simply stating the amount due without specifying the currency, so many tourists are duped into paying 5 times the actual amount due because of Dollar/Franc/Ariary confusion.
It is generally not advisable for non-French speaking tourists to wander around the city unaccompanied by a guide or local. 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.
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 barter 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. Contrary to the main Madagascar article, as of 2005 there was 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 carrier Air Madagascar. But of course air is more expensive. Recommended next stops are Morondava and/or Nossi-Be.
This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!