Antananarivo (AN-tan-AN-ah-REEV-oo) (City of a Thousand), also known as Tana, is the capital of Madagascar.
Antananarivo is the main entry point for Madagascar and travel to the capital is covered in the main Madagascar page.
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!
Please see the sites of the Madagascar Tourism Board for comprehensive information:
Go to the open air markets for all of the crafts.
Eat Vegetarian. The many Chinese restaurants serve excellent Chinese vegetarian and vegan food
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.
Tana Street Children's Center (to assist)
Embassies & Consulates
Algeria Embassy- Austria Honorary Consulate- Belgium Honorary Consulate- United Kingdom Consulate- China Embassy- Denmark Consulate-General- Netherlands Honorary Consulate- Egypt Embassy- France Embassy- Germany Embassy- India Embassy- Indonesia Embassy- Iran Embassy- Malta Honorary Consulate- Mauritius Embassy- Morocco Embassy- Pakistan Honorary Consulate- Poland Honorary Consulate- Russia Embassy- Senegal Embassy- Seychelles Honorary Consulate- South Africa Embassy- Switzerland Embassy- Thailand Consulate-General- Turkey Embassy Visit: http://embassy-finder.com/in_antananarivo_madagascar for contact information.
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.