Safety and security
Robberies, theft and street crime occur frequently in towns and cities, in nature reserves and on beaches. Carjacking and theft from cars has become more frequent. Passengers in bush taxis have been robbed.
Never leave your bags unattended. Keep large amounts of money and valuable items including jewellery, cameras, computers and phones out of sight when walking outside. Use a hotel safe whenever possible to safeguard these items. Avoid walking alone in city centres after dark alone and be vigilant at all times.
Beware of pickpockets in crowded areas like street markets and airports. You should carry your passport with you, but keep it concealed and secure. Leave copies of your travel documents, especially passports and flight tickets, in a safe place (eg hotel safe) and further copies with friends or family in the UK.
Be alert to the possibility of acts of disorder by security personnel and avoid any actions that might antagonise them (eg taking photographs). If you’re stopped by the police, show respect and stay calm. Ask for ID as there have been reports of individuals falsely claiming to be police.
If you’re attacked, don’t resist. Stay calm and consider handing over a small sum of money. Report the incident to the police and take a copy of the police report.
Useful phone numbers
Police: 17 or 117 from a mobile phone (emergencies).
Fire Brigade: 18 or 118 from a mobile phone.
Gendarmerie: 19 or 119 from a mobile phone.
Antananarivo: +261 20 22 227 35/36 - +261 20 22 357 09/10 - +261 20 22 281 70;
Diego Suarez: +261 34 05 998 59
Mahajanga: +261 20 62 229 32 - +261 34 05 998 66
Toliara/Tuléar: +261 34 05 998 78
Fort Dauphin: +261 34 05 529 46
Morondava: +261 34 05 529 94
Antsirabé: +261 20 44 480 33 - +261 34 05 998 83
Fianarantsoa: +261 20 75 943 75 - +261 34 05 998 71
Tamatave: +261 20 53 320 17/305 78 - +261 34 05 998 54
There have been increasing instances of kidnapping for ransom in Madagascar. In 2016 there were reports of 1 to 2 kidnap for ransom cases per month in the Antananarivo area. The threat of kidnapping is increasing, often targeting wealthy foreign nationals and expatriates working for large international companies.
Be vigilant and keep a low profile when moving around the country. You’re advised to use a recognised tour operator. The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage-taking.
Since 2012 there have been a number of explosions in Antananarivo, including in June 2016 when a grenade attack killed 2 people and injured 86. Other small explosive devices and grenades have been found in the city. On 7 June 2018, criminals placed a homemade explosive device inside Galerie Smart, a shopping centre in Tanjombato, Antananarivo. Don’t touch any suspect packages.
Foreigners are preferred targets for pickpockets and muggers. You should be vigilant when travelling around the city.
A number of incidents involving violence and robberies targeting foreigners have occurred in Nosy Be and in Antsohihy, the port for Nosy Be on the mainland. Incidents have occurred during the day on beaches, on the private island of Tsarabanjana and at night in crowded areas. You should be vigilant and avoid carrying large amounts of money.
Use an official local guide and be vigilant if you’re visiting the ‘Montagne des Français’.
Violent incidents involving cattle rustlers (Dahalo) have caused fatalities to the north of Fort Dauphin, around the township of Betroka, along the west coast between Belo sur Tsiribihina and Toliara (Tuléar) and in the Commune of Ilakakabe (near Isalo National Park). Armed forces are active in these areas. Tourists have not been targeted but you should seek local advice before travelling and check road travel advice below. You’re advised to use a recognised tour operator.
Southern triangle between Ihosy, Toliara (Tuléar) and Fort-Dauphin
The security situation remains tense and the roads are in a very poor condition. You’re advised to use a recognised tour operator and avoid travelling at night in this area. If travelling to Fort Dauphin, you’re advised to travel by air. Do not stay overnight in the countryside.
Toliara (Tuléar) Beaches
There have been violent and fatal attacks on foreigners, most recently at Batterie Beach in 2013. This beach is fady. Seek local advice and guidance before visiting beaches. You should remain vigilant when visiting beaches to the South and North of Toliara (Tuléar) you should be vigilant as there have been attacks and robberies. Avoid visiting isolated and remote beaches, especially alone.
Criminal gangs are known to have attacked vehicles travelling in convoy on the RN7 (between Antananarivo and Toliara/Tuléar). Be vigilant when visiting night clubs in Toliara (Tuléar), as an armed robbery took place outside one in January 2016.
If you intend to visit a National Park, seek advice from a tour operator or from the park administration in advance. Maintain vigilance during your visit and avoid carrying valuable items. There have been armed attacks and robberies, including fatalities, most recently on 13 and 17 June in Bekopa and Mahabo Morondava, involving tourists visiting the Tsingy of Bemahara. You should take extra care when travelling in this area and use an official guide. You should not travel at night.
Owing to reports of an increasing number of violent highway robberies, you should maintain a particularly high level of vigilance and use a recognised tour operator when travelling by road to or within western regions of Madagascar (the regions between Besalampy and Morombe) including the RN35 and RN1 (between Tsiroanomandidy and Maintirano). You should also maintain a high level of vigilance if you travel on the following roads: RN7, RN27, RN10 and RN34. You should avoid travelling at night.
You should travel with a recognised tour operator if travelling by road in the far south (the region between Tulear and Fort Dauphin) and avoid travelling at night. We advise travellers to Fort Dauphin to travel by air, rather than by road from any direction.
There are frequent armed robberies on main roads, particularly at night. Lock car doors and keep windows closed at all times particularly in the capital, Antananarivo. There have been attempts by young women using traffic jams to jump into vehicles and accuse men of sexual harassment. Where possible drive in convoy. Avoid driving outside major towns after dark. You should avoid travelling in multi-passenger taxi vans (known locally as taxi-brousses).
Don’t stop if you’ve been involved in, or see an accident. Call the police (117) or drive to the next town and report to the police directly. Road conditions vary greatly. Most main roads outside Antananarivo carry heavy freight traffic, and have steep gradients and sharp bends. Drive with extreme care, especially on bridges.
In the rainy season (December to April), many secondary roads are impassable (except by four-wheel-drive vehicles) and bridges are often washed away. There are frequent road deaths involving bush taxis. If you have concerns over the safety of a vehicle or the ability of the driver, use alternative transport.
If you wish to drive in Madagascar you will need to get an International Driving Permit. or apply to convert your driving licence to a Malagasy one. The import and use of right-hand drive vehicles is now banned in Madagascar.
You should be prepared to be hassled by taxi drivers. At Antananarivo airport (but not in the city), taxi fees have been officially set. Ask the taxi driver to show you the fee table. At other airports in Madagascar, haggling over the taxi fee with the driver is normal. You should agree the fare before setting off.
Air Madagascar has been removed from the list of airlines banned from operating within the European Union. Air Madagascar and Madagasikara Airways both operate internal flights within Madagascar.
A list of recent incidents and accidents can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation has carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Madagascar.
River and sea travel
There has been an increase in armed robberies on the Tsiribihina River in western Madagascar. If you’re travelling in the region you’re advised to use alternative modes of transport. Operation of river ferries may be irregular. Seek local advice on ferries from Tamatave- Sonierana to Sainte Marie Island and the West Coast (Toliara/Tuléar, Morondava, Mahajanga and Nosy Be). There have been several reported accidents with casualities due to overcrowding, poor maintenance, poor crew training and unexpected squalls. Check weather conditions locally before travelling.
Recent piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden highlight that the threat of piracy related activity and armed robbery in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean remains significant. Reports of attacks on local fishing dhows in the area around the Gulf of Aden and Horn of Africa continue. The combined threat assessment of the international Naval Counter Piracy Forces remains that all sailing yachts under their own passage should remain out of the designated High Risk Area or face the risk of being hijacked and held hostage for ransom. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.
The coup of 2009 was followed by 5 years of political unrest during which, according to the World Bank, Madagascar became the poorest country in the world not in conflict. The Presidential elections in 2013 were won by Mr Hery Rajaonarimampianina. In his investiture speech, President Rajaonarimampianina undertook to improve the country’s security situation. However, the situation remains fragile. The next Presidential elections should take place in November and December 2018.