Madagascar is a really little-known land. It is a country that hasn’t received technology yet and has a peculiar way to deal with things. The official language is French, but there’s also the local language, Malgaxe. The people are receptive and friendly, we saw a lot of grit and struggle to get a space, but it doesn’t stop them from being happy, we always listened to them singing and laughing.
Right in the beginning of our arrival, at the capital city Antananarivo, it was possible to identify the offer of services and dealing to serve us. We stayed in ‘Tana’ (affectionate name given to the capital) for only one night. Although that city is big, it has almost no infrastructure, we stayed at a guest house and we started our challenges and experiences here.
Airport and Visa
When we got off the plane in the airport, we were directed to the immigration to request the entrance visa to the country. It was a little slow, but we’ll describe the step-by-step here.
1. Get into the queue and fill out a form (take a pen with you);
2. The attendant compares the passport and the form and creates a slip to pay the rate, $37.00 each person (only money, dollar or euro accepted). It’s paid in the same place;
3. Then you go to another queue to pay for the visa, with a local officer, that will accept or refuse your entrance (refuses hardly ever happen);
4. Your visa is approved for 30 days, so that you can access your baggage, and you still pass by an X-ray of your suitcases in the way out, and the security guard checks your passport, then you are free.
Tips: Don’t accept help from the security guards, because you have to pay some money to them (bribe, an illegal act).
The airport has almost no infrastructure, we found restrooms, a snack bar, stores, exchange offices (don’t change money with people in the street, because some bills may be counterfeit) and car rental companies. You’d better have already planned how you’re going to leave the airport, knowing where your hotel is and with the local guidebook. If you take a taxi, deal the price before, because they charge the price they want, there’s no chart or Uber
Our adventure until Nosy Be island
When we got to ‘Tana’, in the afternoon, we were said that there wouldn’t be transportation to the island in the same day. So, we needed to stay in the capital city for one night, to keep on the trip in the following day.
As the city has no structure, they have options of rooms in guest houses, all really simple, a bed and a restroom (the restroom had no shower, only a hose, but at least it had warm water) lol. In the following morning, a local guide recommended by our host in Airbnb followed us to an exchange office in downtown and the station of taxi-brousse (van that transport people and loads). The guide had already bought our tickets in the previous day and, trust me, it was a long 20-hour trip (Yes! Crazy!) until Nosy Be island, as there are 850 kilometers and the accesses are paved, but they have no maintenance, so there are tracts with craters (big holes).
Guide Xavier, from the city of Antananarivo, contact number +032 5800 732
The cost per person for that range was Ar120,000 thousand ariary in the local currency, corresponding to about R$ 120.00 (including a taxi-brousse and a boat). Alright!! Let’s face it and follow the trip.
Tips: Don’t keep bills under $10 dollars, you might hardly change them;
Avoid eating in the street, as they don’t have water treatment;
Buy industrialized water and food;
Choose a window place;
The company Besady does that kind of trip, we used their services during the return, it’s the same but the van is a little better and the price is cheaper, Ar90,000 ariary, about R$ 80.00 per person
Taxi-Brousse Station in the Capital City
As we were getting closer to the island, the landscape got more and more beautiful. We got off in the port and we were soon greeted by our host Julien of airbnb. We stayed at an old hotel in renovation, but the room was comfortable, with a restroom and air-conditioned. That was enough to rest. The place where we stayed is in downtown (Hell-Ville), which has all the infrastructure of the island.
In the following morning, we left to Ambatoloaka, a kind of a neighborhood where you can find a scooter to rent, access the beaches, pubs and resorts.
But we’re going to flesh out every place below
Vista de uma praia
view of a beach
Coconut Palms in the Wind
That’s the downtown, close to the port and where there are stores, banks, markets, restaurants, drugstores, tourism agencies, and much more. We recommend Nosy Be and Shanpion markets if you need some item such as water (always buy mineral water, because there is no water treatment). There is a very cool public market, where you can buy fruits, vegetables and local spices (it’s fairly crowded, but possible to be visited). We also visited a store with chocolates from Madagascar, Casa Mada, which sells natural products and even vanilla.
Concerning pubs and restaurants, we recommend Nandipos, which has a great service, good food and beverage, good price and even better atmosphere.
The menu is quite varied, you can order zebu meat and half pizza with salad (delicious), to follow a rather iced biére THB.
Half Pizza with Salad
Nandipo Rest. Front
Local Beer THB
That beach in Nosy Be island is very busy, we went there by tuk-tuk. As it is 9.2 kilometers far from Hell-Ville, we paid about AR20,000. There, we found a lot of stores, restaurants, pubs in front of the sea and we rented a scooter for AR40,000 for all day long, from 8:00am to 6:00pm, but it’s also common to rent quad bikes. A license is necessary to rent it, sometimes they may charge a price as an assurance, but it didn’t happen in our case. A tip: drive it wearing glasses because of the flies in the middle of the way.
We visited a lot of beaches that day: Andilana, Palm Beach, Madirokely and Ambatoloaka.
We recommend to visit the pub GARTE DES BOISSONS, which has options for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a very attractive price
View of the beach Ambatoloaka
View above that same beach
That place has a vantage point of view of some beaches in the region and its lakes are fabulously blue, well paved streets upward and easily accessible place, as there are a lot of indication signs. It is 326 meters high, we paid 10 reais to enter the belvedere, and there are places for resting, restrooms and local handicraft little stores up there
Mont Passot Entrance
View of the Island
Tour in islands Surrounding
We had an amazing experience that day, we visited the islands surrounding Nosy Bee, we went diving with the turtles and saw a region with corals and fish, it was wonderful. That tour lasts all day long, they first took us to the region where green turtles usually have their meals and, there, we could go snorkeling and visualize a lot of ones. After about one hour and a half, they take us to another point, where there are a canal, corals and wonderful fish, for more one-hour time. After catching a glimpse of the sea, we visited a small village named Sakatia in the island, where there are local handicrafts little stores and pubs to buy some coolers. After some minutes and close to noon, they take us to a private beach of the company, where they greet us with delicious natural avocado and cane juice, and we also ordered a coconut water to rebuild our energies, with lunch ready. They explain us meticulously everything about dishes that are served, they use natural seasonings, such as turmeric, pepper, salt and some fruits as mango, coconut and papaya, delicious flavors and colors to enjoy the beach until the time to return, at 4:00pm.
Tip: you’d better take water, towel, extra clothes, sunscreen lotion, a hat or a cap.
The full price of the tour is AR121,000 (90 reais), every cent is worthwhile, including: round-trip transfer until the exit of the boat, guide, snorkel equipment, boats, lunch, beverages, visit to the village and a private beach.
Snorkel and Fish
In Nosy Be island, there are a lot of lemurs and native animals’ reservations. Lokobe and Lemur Land are the biggest ones, with an average admission fee of AR45,000.
There are a lot of resorts over the island, you can also pay for a day use there, taking pleasure in the place and the beach peacefully, with restaurants and pubs in front of the sea.
Hangout for Tour
Be Attentive to the Tides
To enjoy better the beach, be attentive to the hour of the tides, because that totally influences the routine to go to the beach or take a boat tour. For helping, see the site that we used a lot, pt.tideschart.com. It’s very easy to check, because when the tide is low, the water gets to decrease 5 meters tall, corresponding to almost 100 to 200 meters of retreat of the water.
Means of Transportation
The system has taxi-brousse, which is not so good. The trips are long (18 hours to some places), and you pay for the range you take. You need to buy the ticket in advance in the station.
Taxi-brousse is a van which take people and loads, with no air-conditioned, the highway is paved, but some parts are bad (in maintenance). But the value is worthwhile, it costs120 reais each person, including van + motorboat.
In the return, we used the services of the company Besady (it has Facebook), it’s possible to book to do the transfer among the cities. The service is a little better and cheaper, it costs 90 reais each person, including van + motorboat. The airport was in the way to Besady headquarters, we asked to stop as close as possible, in Talatamaty, to save in taxis, on which we paid AR20,000 to the airport.
There’s also Taxi Be, a small van that ranges only inside the city, and the well-known tuk-tuk.
Uber doesn’t work in that country.
And, of course, there are flights to some cities (only twice a week), but they have such a high price, about 4,000 mil reais each person (round-trip).
Tips: if you take a taxi-brousse, take mineral water, snacks, cookies and fruits;
Don’t eat in the street, they don’t have water treatment;
They stop every 4 hours, but there are no restrooms in the places (you’d better take some paper for emergencies).
Got to the port, named Ankifi, there are 03 ways of transportation:
– Ferry with 5-hour trip (it takes cars and people);
– Boat with 2-hour trip (it takes people and small loads);
– Motorboat with 45-minute trip (it takes people and baggage).
The taxi-brousse ticket already includes the price of the motorboat.
Besady Company of Taxi-Brousse
Safety of the City
We thought it’s very safe during the time we stayed there. We saw few cops, but it was fine. Sure, as we are a couple, we didn’t stay in the street after 8:00pm, we went to a close pub at most, and we took the tours during the daytime. We didn’t feel at risk, but we are always attentive.
See below the route we took to get to Mozambique, almost 3-whole-day trip.
Exit route from Madagascar
Kind of Currency
The local currency of Madagascar is AR (Ariary), and the exchange in dollar for February/2019 is $1,00 to AR3,530.00. We recommend to exchange the currency in a safe place such as an airport or at Exchange, a bank in the city. It’s always good to have the local currency, because they may accept dollar, but you lose in change or conversion.
Local Currency – Aryari
Expenses in Nosy Be
Our expenses in currency (REAIS) in Nosy Be during 10 days for the couple were the following:
Feeding: R$278.00 (market, snacks drinks)
Transportation: R$775.00 (taxi-brousse, tuk-tuk, boat, scooter)
Lodging: R$390.00 (airbnb)
Tours: R$ 230.00 (snorkeling, islands)
Visa: R$280.00 (couple)
Our days in Madagascar and mainly in Nosy Be islands will always be in our minds, once it’s a totally different place of everything we had already seen and researched about. That experience is unique and you need to pass by it, to understand how wonderful visiting that place is, and still there are a lot of natural beauty landscapes. The moments were amazing!