Madagascar is an island in the Indian Ocean – but not just any island. Size-wise, it ranks the fourth in the world and it is also considered as the “eighth continent” by some ecologists, because of the diversity of flora and fauna of this country. There are around 10,000 plants that are native to Madagascar and out of these, only 10% can be found throughout the world.
It is also the home of a mixture of cultures, from Indian to Chinese and to Arabic. All of these and more contribute to the Malagasy way of life, which is a combination of cultures that is mostly expressed through fashion and appearance.
The east of Madagascar harbors tropical rainforests – a sight to see for every traveler and tourist. On the other side, the western and southern parts of this country are filled with deserts, tropical dry forests, xeric shrublands, and thorn forests. It is truly a country that’s home to many different environments that one would like to see during his or her life.
Along the coasts of Madagascar, you can expect a tropical climate, that turns temperate in the inland of the country, and arid one you start going down south.
You can also find here a lot of natural parks and reservations. For example, the Toliara Province has the Isalo National Park, the Mahajanga region has the Tsingy de Bemaraha Reserve, and the Fianarantsoa region is home of the Andringitra National Park. Of course, these were only a few of the wonders you can find in Madagascar.
But besides wonders, one is also susceptible to different forms of danger while visiting this country. That’s why we have done the research for you and come up with this Madagascar safety guide for you – so that you’ll know what to expect and what to do in case something unpleasant happens.
Without any further ado, let’s see what the situation in this country is and if Madagascar is safe to visit.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Madagascar
Overall Risks in Madagascar: MEDIUM
The coup d’état that took place in 2009 has left the country of Madagascar in a state of political instability. Furthermore, with the upcoming Presidential elections, that are to take place in the months of November and December of 2018, also comes a high risk of unrest, demonstrations, and protests.
As you can see here, all of Madagascar is relatively safe, though travel advice is recommended before you decide to travel inside the country. This is because, for example, there are reports of political demonstrations that take place in the center of the country’s capital, Antananarivo, quite often.
It is recommended that travelers and tourists avoid all of these demonstrations – large crowds of locals in general -, especially those taking place in “La Place du 13 mai”, known as the Independence Square, and in the Town Hall.
Some basic security measurements that you can take would be to travel with a reputed travel agency or company and also have a guide that knows about everything that’s going around in Madagascar. Taking these precautions will get you all set up and ready to explore, as most of the people visiting Madagascar had no incidents of sorts.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Madagascar: HIGH
You will have to be extra-vigilant on the streets of Madagascar. Common crime, such as theft and pickpocketing, happens quite frequently in this country. Furthermore, carjacking rates have also increased and seem to cause a lot of problems for tourists.
There’s also the chance that you might disrespect any locals, depending on the area you are visiting, or security guards of the many national parks of this country. Make sure you respect all of the rules once you enter a park or reservation – you should also get informed on the local customs and habits that the locals have just so you don’t get yourself into an embarrassing or even dangerous situation.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Madagascar?
Naturally, common measurements against theft should be taken. You should not display any jewelry of technology, especially if you find yourself within large crowds of people. Of course, it is recommended that you avoid these crowds at any costs, as the possibility for them to turn violent is quite high.
Furthermore, you should avoid traveling with any taxi-brousse, also known as a bush taxi, as there have been plenty of reports of people that have been robbed when inside one.
Batterie Beach, which can be found north of Toliara region, should be especially avoided. Violent attacks that had fatalities as well have been recently reported there. This is because this region has strict local customs and policies, which, when not respected, might anger the locals and result in a brawl. Moreover, there are some sources that advice against all travels in the entire Toliara region because of the frequency of these attacks.
If you are traveling by car, the Route Nationale 13 and 10 should also be avoided. There are reports of vehicles being attacked on these routes, especially during the night – so you should explore and discover the country during the day.
Pickpocketing takes place mostly in the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo – avoid crowds, as mentioned before, and be always aware of your surroundings.
Scam Risk in Madagascar: LOW to MEDIUM
While there have been no recent reports of tourists getting scammed on the streets of Madagascar, it is best that you are prepared in case something that could lead to such a thing happens.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Madagascar?
Of course, the one rule you should respect is not talking with any strangers and locals that approach you. They could have plenty of hidden intentions and you might find yourself short on some items from your backpack – in the best case. They usually approach you to offer their help, after which they normally ask you for payment for their services.
You should get informed on the common fraud schemes and try your best to avoid anything that could lead to any dangerous situation.
Usually, in Madagascar, people would just straight-forwardly try to pickpocket or rob you, than try to pull off some complex scam scheme. However, always be on your toes!
Kidnapping Risk: HIGH
In the year of 2016, one to two kidnap cases were reported – per month. Furthermore, all of them were ransom cases. The situation when it comes to kidnapping is expected to have worsened in the past few years, so you should be very careful when choosing the next place you want to visit.
People that are commonly targeted are rich tourists – or at least those that don’t listen to our recommendations and start flashing jewelry and expensive gadgets on the streets of the country they’re visiting. But there have been cases of expatriates that have been kidnapped, only due to the fact that they worked for international companies – which meant that they have a high-income and therefore worth kidnapping.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Madagascar?
It doesn’t matter what type of tourist you are, you should always keep in mind our Madagascar safety travel tips. Basically, you should keep a very low profile, and don’t try to attract the attention of the surrounding people.
Recordings or such should be done only when necessary, and even then, you should still be aware of your surroundings. Leave your high-valued possessions at your hotel and don’t venture into the bad parts of the towns you plan to visit.
As soon as the sun sets down, you should already be on your way back to your hotel, on a safe route and avoiding any shortcuts – namely, shady alleys that would facilitate kidnapping.
In case something happens, you should keep calm and try to alert the authorities as soon as possible. You can reach the police by dialing 117 or the gendarmerie by dialing 119.
Terrorism Risk in Madagascar: LOW to MEDIUM
So far, there’s no history of terrorist attacks in Madagascar. Overall, it is a quiet and peaceful country – the exception being the increasing rates of robberies and kidnapping.
However, our Madagascar safety guide recommends that you remain vigilant at all times, to ensure your safety.
- How to avoid terrorism in Madagascar?
In June 2018, a homemade explosive has been placed inside one of the shops in Tanjombato, Antananarivo – namely, in Galerie Smart. While there’s no information as to whether it was a terrorist attack or not, it’s better that you keep away from any suspicious, unattended packages, as the number of explosions has increased in the past year in Madagascar.
If you’re wondering how safe is Madagascar for tourists, the answer is simple. It’s as safe as you make it for you – and keeping away from remote and crowded areas makes it very safe. In June 2016, an attack with a grenade has injured 86 people – therefore you see why we strongly recommend you to stay away from crowds.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Madagascar: MEDIUM
If the question “is Madagascar safe for solo women travelers” has crossed your mind – well, you probably know its answer already. Given the fact that this country has such high rates of robbery, pickpocketing, and kidnapping, the fact that it is not safe for women that are traveling alone is quite clear.
Of course, one could take some precautions to ensure that their travels are without incidents if they are alone, but it is recommended that you are in the company of a group or of your guide at all times.
This will decrease the chances that you get robbed or pickpocketed – because, of course, criminals are likely to target people they see wandering around on their own, rather than ones that are accompanied.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Madagascar?
One of the tips on our Madagascar safety travel tips list is not to venture too far away from the populated areas of the towns, and especially not go on a trek in the suburbs or outside of the cities on your own.
Moreover, if you are traveling by car and you are alone, you should avoid the roads between Ihosy and Ambovombe and between Andranovory and Betioky. Attacks on vehicles have been reported here, as well as carjacking – and being a women traveling alone on these roads is very dangerous. However, if you want to visit For Dauphin, it’s better that you travel by air instead of choosing the first route we mentioned just a bit earlier.
Rape Risk in Madagascar: LOW
Sexual violence is a serious thing and should be treated accordingly. While there have been no recent reports of such cases in Madagascar, you should always be prepared in case something happens – or just to avoid any unpleasant situations.
- How to avoid getting raped in Madagascar?
It is recommended that you do not travel alone, especially during the night. The streets can be observer by suspicious individuals who you’d likely want to avoid. Stay in well-lit and fairly crowded areas in order to avoid any unwanted scenarios.
Risks for People Traveling With Children in Madagascar: LOW
If you’re wondering if Madagascar is safe to visit when you have children on-board, then the answer is yes – that if you take into account the responsibilities you are going to have. And we are not talking about the common ones you have at home.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
In Madagascar, and in any other foreign country, you should increase the level of attention you have on your children. They could get lost easily and you wouldn’t want to be looking for them, especially in a crowded place.
You should also be prepared to comfort them in case you’re driving through the Toliara region of the country. Due to the very poor condition of the roads and the fact that Toliara is, in general, a region reputed for the attacks made on vehicles, children could become restless and such. It is recommended that you travel in a convoy and be ready to take care of your children when required.
Natural Disaster Risks in Madagascar: MEDIUM
Next, on our Madagascar safety guide, we analyze the risk of natural disasters. In this country, there are two things that could make your travels less secure, namely, the rainy and the cyclone seasons.
The rainy season lasts from December to April and might render unusable the majority of the secondary roads – and there’s also the chance that the bridges get washed away. Therefore, you should plan your travel ahead and also check the weather reports to see what expects you once you leave your hotel.
The cyclone season, on the other hand, runs from November to April – so, if you don’t want any disturbances, you could just avoid traveling to Madagascar from November to April and avoid both the rainy and the cyclone season. However, the good news – kind of – is that the cyclones that could occur usually affect the coastal areas. As with the rainy season, you should check the news and weather reports to see the current condition of the country in terms of natural disasters.
Transportation Risks in Madagascar: MEDIUM to HIGH
Reportedly, the number of violent highway robberies is continuously increasing, making it much harder for tourists to explore the country without employing a registered tour guide/ operator. If you are not traveling with a tour operator, then you should stay away from the western regions of Madagascar - between Morombe and Besalampy -, including the RN1 and RN35. Be vigilant when driving/ traveling on the following roads as well: RN34, RN10, RN27, RN7.
It is recommended that you avoid traveling during the night if you plan to exit the city and move on the highway. The far south region of the country - between Tulear and Fort Dauphin - should be explored only with a recognized/ registered tour operator. Again, traveling during the night in this area is not recommended. Moreover, governments advise travelers to travel to Fort Dauphin by air, rather than by road.
The main roads witness tens of crimes every single night - armed robberies, young women that block the traffic, jump in cars, and then accuse men of sexual harassment, and so on. In short, your car should be locked/ secured at all times and you should not stop unless you are pulled over by the authorities or stopped at a checkpoint.
It is not recommended that you rely on multi-passenger taxi vans - your fellow passenger might be a criminal. This applies for any other foreign country: do not share your taxi with strangers/ locals.
When it comes to public transportation, keep in mind that the Antananarivo airport comes with officially set taxi fees - before getting inside a cab, you have the right to request to see the fee table. However, at other airports and within major cities, haggling over the fee is a normal thing - we advise you to agree with the driver upon a fare before they start driving.
Also, if you are traveling anytime between December and April, keep in mind that this is when the rainy season runs. As a result, most secondary roads are rendered impassable - unless you are driving a FWD vehicle -, with bridges usually washed away.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Madagascar: LOW
There are no reports telling of foreigners/ tourists being assaulted or attacked in night-clubs, pubs, or bars. This is most likely because of the country's local laws and customs, specifically the fady, or taboos. In short, aspects of Madagascar's daily life are regulated by taboos, ranging from restrictions on clothing or forbidden foods.
Basically, everyone respects these taboos, in order not to offend other locals or the elders. Naturally, you must do so as well - be aware that some taboo areas might be forbidden to tourists; it is recommended that, before you travel to a remote area or such, you consult with your tour operator and make sure that you are allowed to go there.
Long story short, there have been no notable incidents within Madagascar's night-clubs, pubs, or bars. However, we still recommend you to stick to the ones located in major cities or the ones that come with a trustworthy reputation. Make sure to avoid any scams by asking for the menu before you order and keep an eye on your drinks while they are being prepared and after that as well.
Health Risks in Madagascar
There are around 500 cases of plague reported in a year, due to the seasonal outbreaks of plague that occur mainly during the rainy season. Usually, these outbreaks occur in rural areas; however, in 2017 - the latest outbreak -, the statistics have changed a bit, showing an increase in the number of cases in several urban areas, including Antananarivo. The 2017 outbreak has been contained on the 27th of November, 2017.
The outbreak had caused 209 death - none of them were tourists/ foreigners.
Antananarivo comes with both private and public hospitals. However, they can handle routine operations only and, in case of a serious injury/ complex surgery, you will most likely have to be evacuated to South Africa, Mauritius, or La Reunion.
Avoid drinking tap water or drinks with ice in them. Have a constant supply of either bottled or boiled water, especially if you plan a long-distance trip.
As always, it is recommended that you have proper travel health insurance and enough funds with you to cover the costs of any medicine, treatment, or even emergency evacuation that you might have to pay for. In case of an injury or treatment referral, you should contact your medical assistance company as soon as possible.
List of Vaccines You Need in Madagascar
As with any exotic country, it is recommended that you do your research and get the vaccines and immunizations you need before starting your travels. What follows is a list of the recommended vaccines:
- MMR Primary Boosters
- Hepatitis A
- Malaria and Dengue – high risk in Madagascar; avoid mosquito bites by using mosquito nets and proper body sprays or such.
Most Dangerous Areas in Madagascar
- Antananarivo - several explosions since 2012; a grenade attack in 2016; homemade explosive device inside Galerie Smart in 2018; be vigilant and cautious; the city is overall safe but beware of any suspect packages.
- Northern Madagascar - violence, robberies, mainly targeting foreigners; Nosy Be and Antsohihy.
- Southern Madagascar - north of Fort Dauphin; township of Betroka; Commune of Ilakakabe; armed forces are present in these areas; while tourists have not been targeted, it is recommended to seek local advice before traveling to these areas.
Concluding Remarks: Is Madagascar Safe to Visit?
As we are running out of Madagascar safety travel tips, we tell you that, as long as you take the required precautions and are aware of your surroundings, you should have a great holiday in Madagascar.
The one thing that you have to be careful about – because it’s the one occurring the most here – is theft of all forms. But if you take our advice and tread with caution, you can be sure that you will be safe.