Toamasina is a port city of approximately 145,000 on the east coast of Madagascar. It is still commonly called Tamatave, which was its official name until 1977.
Toamasina is Madagascar's port, and second largest city by population. It is also a former pirate-haven. The rows of palm trees of the city's main thoroughfare, l'Avenue de l'Independence, give it a distinct tropical feel. However, the dirty buildings and streets coupled with casinos and rampant prostitution create a sordid vibe. For the average tourist, there is little reason to spend a lot of time here. It is a convenient stopping point for those headed to St. Marie, however.
The Postal Service operates a cheap and fast Taxi Brouse from Tamatave to Antananarivo. Look for the van parked outside the post office.
Pousse: Toamasina may just be the bicycle pousse capital of the world. Thanks to the city's flat, wide streets, pousse-pousses are the most popular and cheapest way to get around. You shouldn't have to look far to find one, no matter where you are. Beware though, as the drivers are all to eager to take advantage of a confused tourist. Be sure to agree on a price before getting in. Standard rides should range from 1000-2000 Ar depending on distance. Night fares are usually higher.
Taxi: Toamasina has standard taxis too. Be sure to bargain and agree on a price before going anywhere. At night, it's best to take taxis as a measure of security. Fares will range from 5000-10000Ar, depending on distance and time of day.
Taxi-Brousse: If you are leaving the city limits and don't have your own vehicle, you will likely have to take a taxi-brousse. To get to the station, just tell your taxi or pousse-pousse driver to go to the "gare-routiere." Upon arrival, be prepared to be mobbed by hawkers trying to pull you into their taxi. Protip: Always try to find the vehicle with the most people in it heading for your destination. Despite what the hawkers will tell you, taxi-brousses only leave when they are full.
Canal des Pangalanes. There are overnight trips on this amazing man made and natural canal that effectively extends half way down the east coast of Madagascar. Ask at the Hotel Joffre or the travel agents nearby. The boat service is run by a French man who only runs services when there is sufficient clientele. A brief history and photos of Pangalanes can be found at .
Bazary Be This tourist market is called the "big market" in Malagasy, but in actuality it is the small market. It is located one block west of Blvd Joffre. If you're on the look out for souvenirs, this is the place to go. Be sure to bargain hard before pulling out any money.
XL Bar A decent bar by western standards, open most nights with all the kinds of liquor and beer you'll likely be able to find in Madagascar. It is frequented by expats, though at times can be quiet empty. It's on Blvd Joffre very close to Hotel Joffre.
Eden Hotel: Located at the far end of Blvd Joffre near the CMOI Bank and Adam & Eve Snack Bar. It's convenient to many restaurants, banks, the port, and the tourist market(Bazary Be). Rooms are clean enough, though the hotel is somewhat old. Electrical wiring in each room is a little sketchy. Mosquito nets and hot water included with every room, though guests share public bathrooms. There are two types of rooms, small with just a bed and desk (16,000 Ar), and large with a bed, private shower, and second floor balcony overlooking the street (25,000).
Sinbad Hotel Off a side street on Blvd Joffre and behind Hotel Joffre, Sinbad is another inexpensive option for tourists on a budget. It is very convenient to restaurants, banks, and the tourist market (Bazary Be). The rooms provide good security with iron bars on the windows. Mosquito nets are included in each room. Unfortunately the cheaper rooms only provide cold water bucket baths (21,000 Ar). The more expensive rooms (31,000-36,000 Ar) offer hot water and an extra bed. Staff are friendly enough. There is a restaurant in the hotel that open infrequently.
Taomasina Hotel: Also known as Hotel Pousse-Pousse by most taxi drivers. Not too far from the Joffre Boulevard. Staff is friendly, there is air conditioning and hot water and clean sheets. Expect to find some cockroaches and some insects about in your room as well as geckos around. The air conditioning will most likely smell of cigarettes but you can expect it to work. Also, turning on the air conditioning will prevent mosquitoes. Rooms are around 50,000 Ariary (25$) with air conditioning. There is cheap breakfast available in the morning but choices are very limited.
Melville Hotel: A small hotel recently renovated on the Melville Boulevard. Air conditioning and hot water are available. Very cheap (30,000 ariary per night) though the rooms are quite small and not very well insulated for sound. Loud guests frequent the hotel, will be heard, and complaints may be inconclusive. Expect noise.
Hotel Joffre , BP 160 18 Bd Joffre, 501 Tamatave, Madagascar. Tél: (261-20) 53 323 90, Fax: (261-20) 53 332 94. Hotel Joffre is an excellent mid-range hotel. Classic old-style fully renovated hotel in downtown with excellent French restaurant. Try to get the 1st floor rooms - the top floor rooms get very hot from sun on the roof.
Java Hotel One of the higher end options in Tamatave, Java hotel is located on Blvd Joffre. Rooms are clean, have hot water, AC, TV, Wifi, and parking. The restaurant and bar downstairs is also excellent. Staff is friendly and speaks English. Prices range from 140,000 to 280,000 Ar.