After being in Madagascar for nearly 2 months I’ve learned a few things about how to get around in relative safety and make the most of a trip; specifically in and around the Tulear region.
1) If you can afford it- just get a 4×4 and a driver. It’s the easiest, safest, quickest and sometimes only way to get places. Unfortunately, I fall under the category of people who can’t afford it and the only 4×4’s I’ve ever been in are the ones that we’ve hailed down on the RN7 (a national road). This leads me on two my second point…
2) Hitchhiking, especially on roads that are traveled relatively often by tourists (e.g the road between Tulear and Mangily), is actually pretty easy and safe. It also seems to be a lot easier for girls to get a ride that it is for guys (sorry boys). Sometimes it can take up to half an hour for a car to come along, but something always does.
3) The way I’ve traveled within Tulear is almost exclusively by pousse-pousse. Pousse-pousse are Malagasy rickshaws; a three-wheeled bicycle with room for two passengers on the back. You should never pay more than 2,000 Ariary from the outskirts to the center of town and no more than 1,000 Ariary anywhere in town. Pousse-pousse guys often don’t have change, so if your smallest note is 10,000 Ariary, I would recommend walking. Walking around Tulear is safe during the day and everything is closer than you think. It may take a while to get your bearings and figure out where everything is though.
4) Taxis: taxis are your best option for traveling around Tulear if there’s 3-4 people. You should not pay more than 3-4,000 Ariary during the day and a little more than that at night. Taxis can also take you further out away from the town, but be aware the initial price they give you is sometimes up to twice the amount it should be, so always haggle!
5) Traveling away from Tulear: as I mentioned before it is easiest to get a 4×4. But if you’re traveling on a budget your next best bet is a taxi-brousse. Not reliable, not comfortable and not quick but an experience all the same. Most taxi brousse offices have official prices on the wall so make sure you check them out before agreeing. Any time I’ve traveled out of Tulear we just turned up at the taxi brousse station and, believe me, there is ALWAYS someone to help you get on the right taxi-brousse. My number one bit of advice for traveling by taxi-brousse is don’t expect to be comfortable and always give yourself plenty of time, and something will always go wrong. If you do want to be more comfortable you can always book 2 seats next to each other and have a bit of room to stretch your legs.
This is by no means an extensive guide, and there are various other ways to travel. Since being here I’ve hitched with and spoken to many different people from different cultures, had some life-threatening experiences with particularly crazy pousse-pousse drivers, travelled well over 1,000km by taxi-brousse; often hanging off the back, in the front seat or in the back sat on a friends lap with a live chicken under my seat. Aside from these I’ve also traveled on the back of a motorbike, by pirogue, speedboat and zebu-cart.
Traveling in Madagascar is like nothing I’ve ever done before and although getting a 4×4 would’ve been easier, I wouldn’t change the experiences I’ve had for anything. For anyone who comes here I recommend traveling as much as possible.