Madagascar

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 31 December 2013.   It contains new information in the Summary and under Safety and security: Civil unrest/political tension (ongoing risk of violent protests associated with December 2013 elections), Crime (reports of armed robberies in national parks; reports of abductions targeting foreign nationals) and Health (reports of deaths from bubonic plague). We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Madagascar due to the unpredictable political situation.

Madagascar overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Madagascar at this time due to the unpredictable political situation.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media and other local sources of information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • Political tensions remain and the security situation could deteriorate without warning. See Safety and security: Civil unrest / political tension for more information.
  • The second round of presidential and legislative elections were held on 20 December 2013. There is an ongoing risk of violent protests and demonstrations associated with the elections, particularly in Antananarivo.
  • Australians should avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may turn violent.
  • Cyclone season is November to April. See the Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate section below for more detailed advice.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Madagascar. The Australian High Commission in Mauritius provides consular assistance to Australians in Madagascar.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) change regularly. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Madagascar for the most up to date information.

A valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate is requested on arrival in Madagascar for all travellers arriving from a yellow fever infected area/country. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a list of countries where yellow fever is endemic.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. You can find more information about this threat in our General advice to Australian travellers.

Civil unrest/Political tension

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Madagascar at this time due to the unpredictable political situation. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media and other local sources of information about possible new safety or security risks.

The security situation remains calm, however, political tensions have not been resolved and the security situation could deteriorate rapidly without warning. Demonstrations and protests can occur with little warning.

The second round of presidential and legislative elections were held on 20 December 2013. There is an ongoing risk of violent protests and demonstrations associated with the elections, particularly in Antananarivo.

You should avoid all protests and demonstrations throughout Madagascar, especially in central Antananarivo, as they may become violent and attract a heavy response from security forces. The Ambohijatovo, Lac Anosy, Ankatso and Analakely areas, as well as military barracks, are potential flashpoints and have been subject to such gatherings and outbreaks of violence. You should be alert and maintain a low profile while moving around, in particular if travelling alone. Australians could be caught up in violence directed at others.

On 5 September 2013, a small bomb exploded in front of the Plaza Hotel on the Avenue d l’Independence in Antananarivo. A second unexploded device was found nearby. Similar incidents also occurred in 2012.

On 22 July 2012, different elements of Madagascar’s Armed Forces clashed at a military base near the airport of Antananarivo. Three people were killed and four were injured. As a precaution, airlines suspended flights in and out of the capital for 24 hours.

Anosy Region: Since September 2012, violent clashes between bandits (Dahalo) and security forces have increased in the southern region of Anosy. Australians travelling in the region should exercise extreme vigilance, follow the instructions of local authorities, and seek local security advice. Driving at night is not recommended. The road between Ilosy and Fort Dauphin (RN13) is particularly dangerous and it is recommended that Australians fly to Fort Dauphin rather than drive.

Crime

The incidence of armed robberies and violence has increased in Madagascar, particularly in and around Antananarivo and southern districts of Toliara and Fianarantsoa provinces. Armed robberies have been committed along main highways at night and beaches. Hiring authorised guides may reduce the risk of robbery.

There have been a number of recent reports of robberies in national parks in Madagascar. We recommend extreme caution when visiting national parks where confirmed armed robberies have been reported, including Andohahela National Park, Montagne d’Ambre and Ankarana in northern Madagascar. You should check with your tour operator for latest information on safety in these areas.

In October 2013, two foreigners were killed during riots in the town of Hell-Ville on the south side of the island of Nosy Be. Foreigners were also targeted in violent armed robberies later in the area in October 2013. We advise Australians to exercise extreme vigilance if visiting Nosy Be, and monitor local media for regular updates.

Carjackings, home invasions, kidnappings for ransom and attacks on taxis/public transport are frequent, especially at night, and have increased as the economic situation worsens due to political instability. Kidnapping cases are often reported in Madagascar, including cases where foreign nationals have been abducted and held for ransom by violent criminals. Recent cases demonstrate that criminals continue to target foreigners and kidnappings have spread to provincial towns such as Toamasina and Mahajanga.

Armed hold-ups have occurred along some of the main roads in Toliara province and in the township of Toliara. Avoid travelling at night outside urban areas. Avoid remote locations. Thieves have targeted cars stuck in traffic for smash and grab robberies. When driving keep your windows up, doors locked and valuables out of sight.

Petty crime, including pickpocketing at airports and in crowded tourist areas, occurs. Thieves are known to target foreigners. Avoid walking at night, either alone or in groups, in urban areas. In addition, armed banditry attacks on vehicles carrying goods and people, specifically “taxi be” and “taxi brousse” have increased and are now a regular occurrence.

Emergency assistance can be contacted by calling 117. The police in Antananarivo can be contacted on +261 20 22 227 35 and +261 20 22 281 70. An English speaker may not be available.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money in Madagascar, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Consult with your bank to find out which is the most appropriate currency to carry and whether your ATM card will work overseas. Credit cards are accepted at a growing number of outlets in Antananarivo and in the provinces, but their use is still not widespread. Travellers’ cheques are accepted by some stores, hotels and banks in the capital and in major cities. Euros are accepted in hotels and restaurants.

Make two photocopies of valuable documents such as your passport, tickets, visas and travellers' cheques. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original and leave another copy with someone at home.

While travelling, don't carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery, cameras, mobile phones and electronic equipment may be tempting targets for thieves.

As a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft, lock your luggage. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

You are required to pay an additional fee to have a lost or stolen passport replaced. In some cases, the Government may also restrict the length of validity or type of replacement passports.

Local travel

The road between Ilosy and Fort Dauphin (RN13) is particularly dangerous and it is recommended that Australians fly to Fort Dauphin rather than drive.

All foreigners driving in Madagascar must have an International Driving Permit. Australians staying in Madagascar for a long period can make an application for a local driving licence at the Ministry of Interior on presentation of an International Driving Permit.

Driving can be hazardous, particularly at night, due to poorly maintained roads and vehicles, insufficient street lighting, pedestrians and roaming animals. For further advice, see our road travel page.

The police conduct random vehicle and pedestrian checks throughout the country and you may be required to show identity documentation and vehicle registration and ownership papers.

To the north of Madagascar, the threat of attacks by pirates against all forms of shipping around Somalia's waters and the Gulf of Aden is significant. Sailing vessels are particularly vulnerable. For more information about piracy, see our piracy bulletin. The International Maritime Bureau issues piracy reports on its website.

Airline safety

In November 2011, the European Commission banned a number of aircraft operated by Air Madagascar from flying within the European Union zone. The Commission expressed concerns about the overall safety of Air Madagascar, as well as the safety oversight capability of civil aviation authorities. Please refer to our air travel page for information about aviation safety and security.

Domestic flights in Madagascar may be cancelled with little or no notice to passengers if flights are not full. We recommend you contact you airline to confirm flight details, especially when flying from provincial airports.

Laws

When you are in Madagascar, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Penalties for drug offences, including 'soft drugs', include prison sentences.

Homosexual acts are illegal in Madagascar and punishable by fine or imprisonment. See our LGBTI travellers page.

Photography of military installations and airports is prohibited.

Local authorities have detained people for wearing military style clothing.

Export permits are required if exporting gemstones or vanilla for commercial purposes. For gemstones, travellers should contact the Ministry of Mining for an export permit and for vanilla they should contact the Ministry of Agriculture. It is illegal to export protected plants and animals without approval.

It is recommended you carry photo identification with you at all times. The police can stop pedestrians to check papers, especially late at night.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides information for dual nationals.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of medical facilities in the capital Antananarivo is limited and extremely limited outside the capital. Most visitors seek treatment at private clinics where up-front payment is required. Ambulance services are available in Antananarivo with Assistance Plus at +261 32 07 801 10 or +261 20 22 487 47; Polyclinique d’Ilafy at +261 20 22 425 73; Espace Medical at +261 20 22 625 66 or +261 34 02 00 911; and Centre de Diagnostic Medical d’Urgences (CDU) on +261 20 22 329 56. Be aware that English speakers may not be available. Ambulance response times may not be the same as expected in Australia.

While routine medical operations can be carried out in Antananarivo, medical evacuation (usually to South Africa or Reunion) may be required in the event of a serious illness or accident.

In December 2013, there were reports of deaths from bubonic plague in a number of districts in Madagascar. Australians should exercise a high degree of caution when visiting the northern region of Madagascar – where most deaths attributed to the plague have been reported.

There are no decompression chambers in Madagascar.

Malaria is endemic in Madagascar and outbreaks of other mosquito-borne diseases (including dengue fever, chikungunya fever, Rift Valley fever and filariasis) occur in many areas. Cases of dengue fever have been reported in north-eastern Madagascar, particularly in Antalaha and Sambava regions. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting and light coloured clothing, and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, cholera, hepatitis, bilharzia, tuberculosis, and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes, raw and undercooked food, and unpasteurised dairy products. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in Madagascar. You can obtain consular assistance from the nearest Australian High Commission which is in Mauritius:

Australian High Commission, Port Louis

2nd Floor, Rogers House
5 President John Kennedy Street
Port Louis, Mauritius
Telephone (230) 202 0160
Facsimile (230) 208 8878
E-mail ahc.portlouis@dfat.gov.au

If you are travelling to Madagascar, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the above mission, you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural Disasters, Severe Weather and Climate

The rainy and cyclone seasons extend from November to April, when flooding and disruptions to essential services may occur. Roads and bridges may become impassable and ferry services disrupted. When planning coastal ferry trips, you should consider weather conditions carefully. Cyclone information for the Indian Ocean region is available from the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies. Information about severe weather is also available at the World Meteorological Organization Severe Weather Information Centre website.

If you are travelling during cyclone season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

In the event of an approaching cyclone, you should identify your local shelter. We encourage Australians in affected areas to follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor the media for the latest developments. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. The cyclone could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe cyclone may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo identification) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our severe weather page.

All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.

For parents

For general information and tips on travelling with children see our Travelling with children page.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.