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 is the Antananarivo's major airport and it is serviced by Air Austral, Air Mauritius, Interair South Africa, and Air Madagascar. Arrival at the Ivato A irport in Tana is fairly scary for those used to US or European airports. First, you need to buy a visa using Euros or US dollars, and dealing with immigration folks, wherever they are, is always stressful. Once you get past baggage claim, the fun really starts as you are descended upon by a mass of "entrepreneurs" offering assistance with your luggage to the waiting taxis, in return for a gratuity of course. This may be helpful to some, but others may find the presence of the "Skycaps a la Tana" a little distracting as they try 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 the 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 onto 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.
There's no point being kind about this - there really is no tourist infrastructure to speak of in Antananarivo - for some folks that is part of the attraction!
Rova (Queen's palace). 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 American money). In 2005 visitors were paying a small entry fee to a kiosk and then being semi-officially "hijacked" by native Tana guides (usually University students with good English or French) who give a good account of the Rova's features in return for a gratuity.
Prime Minister's Palace ,near the Rova. In 2005, the situation here was even more uncertain, the Palace appeared to be closed, but a freelance guide let visitors in and gave a comprehensive account of the historical artifacts which were on show, again in return for a gratuity.
Go to the open air markets for all of the crafts.
La Table de Mariette, 11 rue George-V-Faravohitra, ☎ + 261 20 22 216 02. This is a good choice for high quality Malagasy food. More expensive than many other restaurants.
Le Saint-Laurent, . Simple and cheap. Near historical monument.
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 folks 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, 2 bars and an internet cafe, some rooms have nice views of the lake, and it is near the football (meaning soccer) stadium. 170 rooms.
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).
Beggars can also be a nuisance, especially groups of children. 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!). Try to avoid handing out cash, candy or trinkets to children...it simply encourages more begging.
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 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 excellant 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 Nosy 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!