How to Stay Safe in Madagascar
Madagascar is one of the most stable countries in Africa and travelling from day to day presents no real dangers. However there are precautions that should be taken to ensure an enjoyable and trouble free adventure. Below I explain how to stay safe in Madagascar.
The main danger for travellers in Madagascar is the possibility of robbery, be it pick pocketing or more blatant approaches but I have never heard of any violent robberies of travellers. Take particular care in the markets of Antananarivo and around Avenue de l’Independance where there are large crowds most of the day with people often pressed together which presents opportunities for pickpockets. When out and about leave all you valuables at the accommodation but it is a good idea to have a photocopy of you passport on you. Some hotels have safes to leave valuables. Airbnb apartments are generally secure as the last thing an owner wants is to have someone’s goods stolen.
I suggest having items likes large cameras strapped to you in some way to discourage snatching or else just use a small pocket camera and pull it out only when necessary. Care is also necessary at the larger bus stations or wherever large crowds are milling around.
Being out alone at night is not advisable in any of the larger urban areas. A combination of lack of street lighting and widespread poverty, particularly in the capital, mean it is necessary to get a taxi during the hours of darkness unless otherwise advised by your hotel. Some parts of Antananarivo are fine for short walks to and from restaurants after dark but always double check.
To stay safe in Madagascar, also try to avoid travelling at night on buses where possible as robberies take place on some of the main highways. Some buses now travel in convoys with a member of the gendarmerie (part of the security forces) on board. Others stop for a few hours during the night in a village or town until first light. An exception to this are the camion brousse. I know from personal experience they keep going through the night but it is always best to ask locally before taking an overnight trip. I found local knowledge was always best instead of relying on information in Antananarivo.
When travelling in regional rural areas, particularly in the south bottled water may not be always be available. Bringing water purification tablets will allow you to drink the water from rivers and also prevent the need to carry large amounts on longer hikes.
Food and waterborne illness affects many travellers to the country but in most cases is not serious. Taking precautions like drinking only purified or bottled water and not eating products with things like dairy based dressings will help you stay safe in Madagascar.
Drug use is very low in Madagascar and I have not heard of any foreigners caught with illegal substances. That being said I would strongly advise against either bringing drugs into the country or buying them while there. I wouldn’t imagine the inside of a Malagasy prison is a good place to be. I would also recommend having any prescription medication labelled to prevent confusion.
Overall I found Madagascar a very safe and easy going place to be and use of common sense will keep you safe in Madagascar in most cases.