Arrival at Tana airport
International flights from Europe to Tana are with Air France (via Paris CDG), Kenya Airways (via Nairobi), Corsair (via Paris Orly) or Air Mauritius (via Mauritius). The Air France flights arrive late at night; it should be about 10pm, but is often later. It may take a while to get through customs and collect bags so it is worth taking a bottle of water off the plane to drink while you wait as it could be quite hot and uncomfortable. (If you are travelling with Air France you will be able to help yourself to refreshments, including water, throughout the flight). Try not to get too frustrated while you wait!
Towards the end of the flight you are normally asked to complete an entry form for Madagascar, if not then do so on arrival. For your address in Madagascar write: Hopitaly Vaovao Mahafaly, 415 Mandritsara
For the purpose of your visit put: Visiting friends.????
On entering the arrivals hall the first decision is to get into the correct queue. There are three:
- Nationals (no visa required)
- Those with a visa (“Non-residents avec visa”)
- Those without a visa and requiring a tourist visa: 30, 60 or 90 days (“Non-residents sans visa”)
You should go to queue two (2) (“Non-residents avec visa”).
After passport control, the baggage reclaim area is on the right. There are trolleys available. It is rather cramped, especially if you have arrived on a large plane.
When you first arrive in the country, if you are carrying a computer or video camera the customs officers may want to charge you for these if they find them. For this reason you are advised to be discreet in the way you carry them. If they do find them, please inform the customs officer that this is your personal possession and is only for your personal use in Madagascar. Explain that you will be taking it with you when you leave the country, and ask them to write it on your papers so that they check that you do in fact take it with you when you go. Normally this will prevent you from being charged.
It is possible to walk through the customs section without noticing it if you are not alert. The ‘Nothing to declare’ channel is on the left. Hopefully you walk through with no problems. Smile sweetly, be calm, do whatever they ask. Tell them you are visiting HVM Mandritsara. There are normally no problems. If they ask for something they see (gift/bribe) smile sweetly and explain why you can’t.
Taxis and porters
Thankfully the system with porters improved greatly in 2015. So hopefully you will not be ‘ambushed’ as you try and leave! You can usually pick up your own trolley in the baggage hall if you need one, which should help you.
Normally we will have arranged a hotel minibus so you need to look out for their sign (with your name) as you walk through the customs area. Try and only deal with your arranged driver.
If you end up with a porter to help you with your luggage, you will need to pay them for their help. They will accept small change in Euros or Sterling (e.g. 50p, 50c), but will probably ask for £5 or €5.
Now that the situation in the airport has improved, it is possible to go to the BNI bank Cash point machine in the airport (but best not to do so at night).
Staying in Tana
If you are only planning to stay a night or two in Tana on your way to Mandritsara, we will normally book you into either Chez Jeanne (www.chezjeanne.net) or Meva Guest House (www.mevaguesthouse.com); both guesthouses are about 5 kms from the airport, just off the main road to the city centre. They are both close to a Shoprite supermarket and a Bank of Africa cash point. Single / double rooms are between 28,000Ar and 62,000Ar per night at Chez Jeanne, or 50,000Ar per night at Meva Guest House (special rate). If you are staying longer in Tana we will normally book you into Madame Vao’s Guest House in Mahazoarivo, closer to the city centre. The hospital has an office in Tana which is in the grounds of Madame Vao’s. See HVM Office in Tana below. Staying at Madame Vao’s will enable you to spend time with the office staff and have orientation to Tana, meeting key people in the FFBBM Church and being taken to church on Sunday. In any of these places, you will have to pay for your room, meals and airport transfers in cash (no credit or debit cards).
HVM Office in Tana
HVM has an office in Tana in the house of Mme Vao. The phone no is: (020) 22 388 74. The mobile phone no. is 033 07 340 28. From outside Madagascar you need to dial +261 (0)20 22 388 74 or + 261 (0)33 07 340 28. Nirina (Mrs) and Rija (Mr) are the workers there. They collect the post, deal with visas, buy supplies and many other things. You may have contact with them while you are in Tana depending what needs to be done and what your role is going to be. Always let the AM-FM Team Leader know if you have instructed them to do something.
Health issues while in Tana
Be careful not to get dehydrated if it is hot in Tana. Drink plenty. If you feel very tired, faint or nauseous, and are not ill with fever or diarrhoea, consider salt depletion heat exhaustion and take more salt. Oral rehydration solution works well. Avoid eating fresh fruit and salad. Drink only bottled or boiled water and drinks. Be careful to wash hands often.
If you have diarrhoea, drink plenty of fluids. If the diarrhoea is severe or if there is blood in your stool or you have a fever, speak to the Team Leader in Mandritsara in order to obtain medical advice.
You will be able to get cash from an ATM (cash machine) at the airport, near Shoprite in Talatamaty, or elsewhere in Tana using a debit card (preferably Visa). The large supermarkets take credit/debit cards. You can also exchange large denomination Euro notes (ideally 50 Euros) at guest houses but be aware that the exchange rate may not be as good as elsewhere.
You do not need to get cash out to cover your whole stay as there is now a bank in Mandritsara with an ATM (Visa only)
The maximum you can get from a cash machine depends on the type of machine. Assuming the bank has 10,000Ar notes available, the maximum in a single transaction is 200,000Ar to 400,000Ar.
Watch out for pickpockets in Tana – especially walking around, or if in crowded areas such as in the market or if you are in a minibus taxi (taxi be). Be careful with a bag on your shoulder – it is better to carry your bag in front of you. Do not wear jewellery that can be snatched. If you do not need a watch, leave it at home, it may be snatched off your wrist.
Shopping in Tana
You may wish to purchase a mobile SIM card for use while in Madagascar. These are widely available. Ask staff at Chez Jeanne, Meva Guest House or Madame Vao’s where you can get one. They cost ~2,000Ar. Most people here use Airtel. You will need to buy scratch cards for phone credit. If you did not bring an unlocked phone, you can buy cheap ones locally. If you get a phone number, please let us know so that we can then contact you if we need to.
There are two main supermarket chains in Tana:
- Shoprite, a South African chain, in Talatamaty quite near to Chez Jeanne and Meva Guest House (5-10 minutes’ walk). There are taxis in the Shoprite car park if you need one. If you do not wish to buy too much, then a visit to Shoprite would be sufficient.
- Jumbo score is a French chain which has a wider range but can be more expensive. Score Digue is a 30-40 minute taxi-ride away from Talatamaty. At the checkouts you can ask for cardboard boxes (‘cartons’) which are useful if you are packing rather than carrier bags.
If you buy a lot, then non-perishables can be sent by road. You will need to organise this with the AM-FM Team Leader and the Tana Office. Refrigerated or fragile items should be sent by plane. Please note: that you will be charged a minimum of 4,000Ar per kilo for all luggage over 20kg if travelling on the larger plane. If you are travelling by the smaller plane your weight allowance will be small and some items will have to come by road.
See the next section for a list of things you may want to consider buying. You can survive without any of this of course, but reading the list will give you an idea of what is and isn’t available in Mandritsara.
Things you may want to buy in Tana
In some cases a specific supermarket is mentioned, otherwise available in either store.
- Strasbourg style sausages, packs of 10 (Score)
- Lardons (chopped bacon) (Score)
- Cereal and oats (buy oats in plastic bags if possible – less chance of weevils)
- Spreads e.g. Marmite, peanut butter, marmalade (jam and chocolate spread available in Mandritsara)
- Golden syrup (Shoprite)
- Sauces, herbs, spices, gravy, packet soups
- Olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar/ wine vinegar
- Cornichons (gherkins), olives, capers
- Lasagne sheets (can get normal pasta in Mandritsara, shapes and spaghetti)
- Tins of pâté
- Moirs custard powder (Shoprite)
- Vanilla essence
- Cocoa powder
- Chocolate and sweets
- Raisins and dried fruit (Shoprite Safari brand good as they come in thick plastic bags)
- Tea (tea bags, fruits teas, etc.)
- Foil, cling film, Ziplock and freezer bags
- Cleaning products – toilet duck, scourers, washing up brushes, bathroom cleaner
- Stationery, Pritt sticks
Places to visit in/near Tana
You could visit a hotel with a pool (can be cool in the winter)– Relais des Plateaux is on the Airport (Ivato) road and you could actually walk there from the main Chez Jeanne or Meva Guest House – about 20 minutes, or get a taxi. From Shoprite, walk up to the main junction (roundabout) by the petrol station and take the road towards the airport and walk for about 500m. You’ll see a little sign on the left for the hotel. You can pay to use the pool for a whole day and then sit around, relax, eat bar snacks etc. The restaurant is nice and if you buy a two course meal you get a cheaper rate for the pool.
Lemurs Park – Both Chez Jeanne and Meva Guest House can arrange a driver and car at a set rate for the day. You could go to the Lemurs Park which is west of Tana – about 1.5 h depending on traffic. It is a nice place and there is a restaurant. You could always combine this with a sightseeing tour of Tana, for example, driving up to see the Queen’s palace (Rova). Beware that Tana gets very congested early in the morning until about 9am and from about 4-6pm so try not to travel during these times if possible.
Crocodile Park – this is near the airport and there are other animals as well as the crocs!
Sightseeing in town – see guidebooks. Note: drivers are available from Chez Jeanne or Meva Guest House, or you could ask about public buses or hire a taxi.
Places to eat:
- There is a limited menu at Chez Jeanne or you can buy food at Shoprite supermarket
- City Pizza on Ivato road (walkable from Chez Jeanne) or further along Aero Pizza – can eat in or order a take-away to be delivered
- La Rotisserie – on the Ivato road, has a small pool
- Savannah Cafe – also on the Ivato road