For those seeking an off-the-beaten-track destination like no other, Madagascar is the perfect place to go. It is the fourth largest island in the world, and was torn away from the African and Indian landmasses millions of years ago after an earthquake that set it adrift. The result is a truly unique island, considered by some to be the most bio-diverse place on earth.
Much of Madagascar is still wild and undeveloped consisting of breathtaking mountains, lush forests and vibrant coral reefs beckoning to be explored. As stunning as this island is, however, travellers must arm themselves with the following information in order to remain safe during their journey.
Madagascar's government has experienced an upheaval and remains in a period of instability due to a recent military coup. In May 2010, armed clashes occurred in Antananarive between the military and the police force necessitating the use of tear gas and live ammunition. A number of fatalities and injuries resulted.
In November 2010, a referendum of a new constitution was held resulting in another attempted coup Although this rally was unsuccessful, there remains a high level of political tension throughout the country with the real possibility that the situation may deteriorate at any time.
Steer clear of any protests, demonstrations or political gatherings which can turn violent quickly. In addition, the Ambohijatovo, Lac Anosy, Antaninarenina and Analakely areas and military barracks should be avoided as they have been subject to political gatherings resulting in outbreaks of violence.
The overall crime rate in Madagascar is lower than many other African countries and is therefore considered safer for travel. Regardless of this reputation, however, the fallout of the political turmoil has led to increased unemployment rates resulting in a rise in crime, particularly muggings and robberies. It's important to note that these crimes not only occur in urban areas but also in nature reserves and beaches.
There has been an increase in violence, including armed robberies, around the capital, Antananarivo and southern districts of Toliara and Fianarantsoa provinces. If you plan to travel to these areas, you may want to consider hiring a reputable guide.
Be cautious when traveling in bush taxis (taxi-brousse) as there have been an increased number of robberies of passengers. If driving in a rented vehicle, keep in mind that the incidence of carjacking has also increased. Most of these crimes occur at night, so try to limit travel during evening hours.
Armed bandits often position themselves on major routes after dark to ambush vehicles. Criminals have also been known to stage breakdowns that block the roadway forcing drivers to slow down in order to victimize them.
Armed hold-ups have occurred on some of the main roads in Toliara province and in the township.
There have been increased reports of "smash and grab robberies" in which thieves will target cars stuck in traffic. Always keep your vehicle locked with the windows rolled up and make sure valuables are well hidden. Beware of local villagers who will often block the road by placing a tree log or other debris in the roadway. The villagers will then offer to assist the driver in return for monetary compensation. In addition, vehicle theft and theft from cars has become more frequent in recent months.
Instances of petty crime (mainly pickpocketing) often occur in crowded areas and airports. Foreigners are often targeted for these types of crime so take precautions when walking in street markets and urban areas.
It is highly recommended that you avoid walking at night in urban areas.
Avoid traveling alone to beach areas as this could increase your chance of being targeted for a crime.
Steer clear of street disturbances and keep in mind that large scale looting has been reported as a result of the political unrest the country is experiencing.
As in any country, it is important to never leave your bags unattended and never go near someone else's unattended bag.
A visit to Madagascar offers unique adventures and incredible experiences. It is rare to find a country that offers so much diversity. It is home to countless species of lush plants and indigenous wildlife that can't be found anywhere else on the planet. From Lemurs to unique bird species to colorful chameleons and humpback whales, a visit here is an experience not soon forgotten. Hit the spectacular beaches, dive and snorkel, trek through rain forest, desert areas or limestone karst formations. Whatever you choose to do in beautiful Madagascar, it's certain to be the time of your life. Remaining aware and cautious of the above concerns will assure a safe trip.
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