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Madagascar Scuba Diving Travel and Accommodations

 General Information
Area: 587,041 sq km (226,658 sq miles).

Population: 14,260,000 (1998).

Population Density: 24.3 per sq km.

Capital: Antananarivo (formerly Tananarive). Population: 2,000,000 (1998).

Geography: Madagascar, the fourth-largest island in the world, lies in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique. It includes several much smaller islands. A central chain of high mountains, the Hauts Plateaux, occupies more than half of the main island and is responsible for the marked differences - ethnically, climatically and scenically - between the east and west coasts. The narrow strip of lowlands on the east coast, settled from the sixth century by Polynesian seafarers, is largely covered by dense rainforests, whereas the broader west-coast landscape, once covered by dry deciduous forests, is now mostly savannah. The east coast receives the monsoon and, on both coasts, the climate is wetter towards the north. The southern tip of the island is semi-desert, with great forests of cactus-like plants. The capital, Antananarivo, is high up in the Hauts Plateaux near the island's centre. Much of Madagascar's flora and fauna is unique to the island. There are 3000 endemic species of butterfly; the many endemic species of lemurs fill the niches occupied elsewhere by animals as varied as racoons, monkeys, marmots, bushbabies, sloths and even (though this variant is now extinct) bears; there is a similar diversity of reptiles, amphibians and birds (especially ducks), and also at all levels of plant life.

Government: Republic since 1992. Gained independence from France in 1960. Head of State: President Didier Ratsiraka since 1997. Head of Government: Prime Minister René Tantely Andrianarivo since 1998.

Language: The official languages are Malagasy (which is related to Indonesian) and French. Local dialects are also spoken. Very little English is spoken.

Religion: 51 per cent follow Animist beliefs, about 43 per cent Christian; remainder Muslim.

Time: GMT + 3.

Electricity: Mostly 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are generally 2-pin.


Telephone: IDD is available to major towns. Country code: 261, followed by two-digit number for access provider: 20 for TELMA (the most reliable), 30 for Telecel, 31 for Sacel, 32 for SRR and 33 for Madacom. (A standard dialling code is expected to be introduced soon.) After the international and access codes, numbers should be 7 digits including 2 initial digits for geographical area. Outgoing international code: 16.

Mobile telephone: GSM 900 network in use. Madacom is the main network provider; coverage reaches major cities and main roads.

Internet/E-mail: Public Internet access exists in large cities; there is one cybercafé in Antananarivo.

Telegram: The main post office (PTT) in Antananarivo offers a 24-hour telegram transmission service.

Postal: Facilities at main post offices are the most reliable option. Airmail to USA or Europe takes at least seven to ten days and surface mail three to four months.

Press: There are no English-language newspapers; six dailies are published in French and/or Malagasy.
AIR: Madagascar's national airline is Air Madagascar (MD).

INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS: Antananarivo (TNR), 17km (11 miles) from the city. Airport facilities include restaurant and bureau de change (open during arrivals and departures of international flights). It is linked by a regular bus service to the Air Madagascar office and the Hilton Hotel (the centre for Madagascar Airtours). Taxis asking special higher rates are also available at the airport.
Further airports are at Nossi Bé (links to the Seychelles);
Mahajanga (links to East Africa and the Comoro Islands);
Toamasina (links to Mauritius and Réunion islands);
and Arivonimamo (international standby airport), which is 45km (28 miles) from the capital.

DEPARTURE TAX: None; a tax of US$30 should now be included in any ticket.

SEA: International tour operators promote Madagascar as a stopping place on extended cruises of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans. Expensive private cruises can be arranged from the USA and Europe. Toamasina is the main port.
  Passport Visa Return Ticket Required
Australian  Yes  Yes  Yes
British  Yes  Yes  Yes
Canadian  Yes  Yes  Yes
Japanese  Yes  Yes  Yes
Other EU  Yes  Yes  Yes
USA  Yes  Yes  Yes
Restricted entry: Madagascar does not recognise passports issued by the Palestinian Government.

PASSPORTS: Passports valid for 6 months after date of entry required by all.

VISAS: Required by all except:
Transit passengers continuing their journey by the same or first connecting aircraft within 24 hours provided holding onward or return documentation and not leaving the airport.

Additional Visa Information:
 Misc. Info.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Madagascar completed a transition to a multi-party democracy in 1993 and held an orderly presidential election in 1996. Travelers should nonetheless avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. Do not photograph airports or military installations.

CRIME: The major concerns for visitors to Antananarivo are street crime and theft from residences and vehicles. Walking at night, whether alone or in a group, is not considered safe in urban areas, including in the vicinity of western-standard hotels. Wearing expensive jewelry or carrying other expensive items while on foot or using public transportation is strongly discouraged. Valuable items should never be left in an unattended vehicle. Although crimes such as burglary do occur in areas outside the capital, the threat of confrontational crime is less common in rural areas. Night travel in private or public conveyances outside Antananarivo is discouraged due to poor lighting and road conditions.

In May 1999, there was a series of robberies at Libanona Beach and Peak Saint Louis, in theFort Dauphin area, perpetrated by a person representing himself as a guide. U.S. citizens should hire only an authorized guide and be cautious when visiting Libanona Beach, Peak Saint Louis, or other isolated areas.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: There are a number of competent foreign physicians in Antananarivo, representing a broad range of specialties. The hospital infrastructure, however, is minimal and does not meet basic sanitary norms. A Seventh Day Adventist dental clinic offers emergency procedures and is similar to U.S. facilities in both procedures and cleanliness. There are also competent laboratory and X-ray facilities. Most medications are available on the local market and are mainly of French origin.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Madagascar is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor to Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

In Madagascar, one drives on the right side of the road, yielding the right of way to vehicles coming in from the left. Most major intersections and traffic circles have police directing traffic. If the policeman has his back to you at an intersection, you are required to stop. Seat belts, child safety seats, and motorcycle helmets are not required in Madagascar. If you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol your car will be impounded for a few days and you will have to pay a fine. If you are involved in an accident involving injuries and/or deaths, there is a mandatory court case. The losing party of the court case must then pay all costs.

Except for Antananarivo's main streets and a few well-maintained routes to outlying cities, most roads are in disrepair. For those traveling by road between cities, travel at night is not recommended. Roads tend to be narrow and winding with many one-lane bridges and blind curves. Most vehicles tend to drive in the center of the road unless another vehicle is present. Local practice is to blow the horn before going around a curve, to let others know of one's presence. Few pedestrian crosswalks or working traffic signals exist.

Travel within Antananarivo can be difficult with poor road signage and an abundance of one-way streets. Taxis are plentiful and are generally reasonably priced. Expect to bargain for the fare prior to getting into the vehicle. Most accidents are pedestrian-related, due to narrow roads and lack of sidewalks on many streets.

Rental cars generally come with a driver who is responsible for maintaining the vehicle and sometimes acting as a tour guide. Public transportation is unreliable and the vehicles are poorly maintained. Rail services are very limited and undependable. However, arrangements can be made for a private train to travel to certain destinations.


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