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UK in Madagascar

London 12:37, 14 Mar 2011
Toamasina 15:37, 14 Mar 2011

Help for British nationals

Madagascar

Flag of Madagascar
Still current at: 14 March 2011
Updated: 04 March 2011

This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary and Safety and Security - Local Travel - Sea Travel section (advice against all but essential travel by yacht and pleasure craft on the high seas (more than 12 nautical miles from shore) in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and part of the Indian Ocean, which includes the Northern part of Madagascar, due to the threat from piracy).
    

(see travel advice legal disclaimer)

Travel advice for this country

Travel Summary


  • There has been continued political unrest in Madagascar since January 2009. The political situation remains fluid and is subject to unexpected change. See Safety and Security - Political Situation and Safety and Security - Local Travel.

  • The High Transitional Authority’s plans for unilateral elections, which started with a referendum on 17 November 2010, may provide grounds for further political unrest. You should exercise particular vigilance in Antananarivo and throughout the whole country during this time.

  • On Wednesday 10 November 2010, there were disturbances in the Antanimena area, including the burning of vehicles. The unrest  extended to Behoririka, Ankadifotsy and the Pochard market areas. Tear gas was used to disperse the demonstrations and some barricades were erected.

  • The situation in the centre of Antananarivo remains unstable and potentially volatile. Visitors should avoid any crowds or political gatherings which may occur. The Ambohijatovo, Lac Anosy, Antaninarenina and Analakely areas, as well as military barracks, are potential flash points and have been subject to such gatherings and outbreaks of violence.   You should remain vigilant and maintain a low profile while moving around, in particular if travelling alone.

  • We advise visitors to Madagascar to travel with established organisations or travel firms who have the capacity to monitor the local media and warn of possible trouble.  If travelling independently we advise that you monitor the local media closely and keep abreast of the situation for the duration of your visit.

  • You should remain alert to the possibility of acts of disorder by elements of the security forces and avoid any actions that might antagonise them, e.g. taking photographs of them.  You should also carry ID at all times and avoid travelling at night.  If night travel is essential, do so with care and lock vehicle doors.
  • We encourage all British citizens visiting Madagascar to register on  LOCATE so that our High Commission staff in Port Louis, Mauritius can provide assistance if needed.

  • There is no British Embassy in Madagascar, but there are Honorary British Consuls in Antananarivo and Toamasima.  We recommend that you contact our Honorary Consuls on arrival in Madagascar.  See General - Representation.

  • The cyclone season in Madagascar normally runs from January to March; coastal areas are particularly affected.  In February 2011, tropical cyclone Bingiza caused heavy rain, and extensive flooding in northern parts of Madagascar. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the National Hurricane Center.  See Natural Disasters .

  • Piracy is a significant threat in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean, and has occurred in excess of 1000 nautical miles from the coast of Somalia. Sailing vessels are particularly vulnerable. We therefore advise against all but essential travel by yacht and pleasure craft on the high seas (more than 12 nautical miles from shore) in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and part of the Indian Ocean, which includes the Northern part of Madagascar. See our Piracy in the Indian Ocean page.

  • In the period 31 March 2010 – 31 October 2010 a number of British citizens were robbed of money and passports. There is a significant risk of crime in Madagascar. See Safety and Security - Crime .

  • There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

  • You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See General - Insurance.

Safety and security

Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a low threat from terrorism. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which could be in public areas, including those frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.

See our Terrorism Abroad page.  

Safety and Security - Crime
The weakening of government authority and rising unemployment, muggings and robberies are occurring with increasing frequency, not only in urban areas but in nature reserves and on beaches. There have also been increasing numbers of robberies from bush taxi passengers. During the current political crisis, there have been a number of instances of large-scale looting of shops and stores. The potential for further similar instances remain. You should keep clear of any street disturbances. You should not leave your bags unattended, or go near unattended bags. You should keep large amounts of money, jewellery, cameras and cell phones out of sight when walking in town centres.  Avoid walking in city centres after dark. 

You should also take sensible precautions in crowded areas such as street markets and airports, where pick-pocketing is common. You should also be cautious on beaches where there have been reports of attacks and robberies. You should avoid visiting them alone.

Safeguard valuables, important documents and cash.  Deposit them in hotel safes, where practical.  Keep copies of important documents, including passports, in a separate place to the documents themselves.

Vehicle theft and theft from cars has become more frequent during recent months.

See our Victims of Crime Abroad page.


Safety and Security - Local Travel

On Wednesday 10 November, there were disturbances in the Antanimena area, including the burning of vehicles. The unrest extended to Behoririka, Ankadifotsy and the Pochard market areas. Tear gas was used to disperse the demonstrations and some barricades were erected.

The situation in the centre of Antananarivo remains unstable and potentially volatile. Visitors should avoid any crowds or political gatherings that may occur.  The Ambohijatovo, Lac Anosy, Antaninarenina and Analakely areas, as well as military barracks, are potential flashpoints and have been subject to such gatherings and outbreaks of violence for the duration of the political unrest.  On 20 May 2010, there were disturbances involving the armed forces in the Duchesne/Mausolee areas.  Four security personnel were killed and 15 injured.  Following the breakdown of negotiations on resolving the political crisis, there have been reports of renewed demonstrations in Antananarivo, with security personnel using tear gas to disperse crowds.

In April 2010 there were reports of two explosions at petrol stations in Antananarivo. There were no reported injuries. In October 2010, two grenades exploded in the grounds of the HAT Foreign Minister’s residence in Antananarivo. There were no reported injuries. In the same month, an explosive device killed one person and injured six others in Antsirabe. It is unclear who was responsible for these attacks.

Any movements around the city should be made with great care.  Avoid receiving or touching any parcels which may appear suspect.  Security in the city is deteriorating, with muggings, pick pocketing and burglary (usually involving armed bandits) increasing.  Where possible you should carry only the minimum of valuables.

There have been incidents of armed robbery in some National Parks. If you intend to visit a National Park, seek advice from a tour operator or from the park administration in advance.

If you plan to travel outside Antananarivo, you should re-confirm bookings before departure.  

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Road Travel

There have been frequent armed robberies on the main highways, particularly at night.  Where possible you should drive in convoy, and avoid driving outside urban areas after dark.  If night travel is essential, do so with care and lock vehicle doors. 

Road conditions vary greatly.  In the rainy season (December to April), most secondary roads are impassable (except by four-wheel-drive vehicles) and bridges are frequently washed away.  There has recently been a series of accidents resulting in fatalities involving bush taxis.  If you have concerns over the safety of the vehicle or the ability of the driver, you should use alternative methods of transport. 

Operation of river ferries may be irregular. Check with the local authorities before setting off to find out whether your chosen route is passable. 

Most of the major roads out of Antananarivo carry heavy freight traffic and have a number of steep gradients and sharp bends.  Drive with extreme caution. 

Malagasy regulations specify that foreigners driving in Madagascar require an international driving licence.

See our 
Driving Abroad page.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Air Travel

The EU has published a list of air carriers that are subject to an operating ban or restrictions within the community. You should check to see whether this will affect your travel - European Commission Transport - Air.

For more general information see Airline Security.

Safety and Security - Local Travel - Sea Travel
Piracy is a significant threat in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean and has occurred as far as 1000 nautical miles from the coast of Somalia. Sailing vessels are particularly vulnerable. We therefore advise against all but essential travel by yacht and pleasure craft on the high seas (more than 12 nautical miles from shore) in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and part of the Indian Ocean, which includes the Northern part of Madagascar. See our Piracy in the Indian Ocean page.

Safety and Security - Political Situation

Madagascar Country Profile

There has been political unrest in Madagascar since January 2009, which has resulted in a number of violent incidents (including a number of deaths) and lootings in Antananarivo and regional centres. President Ravalomanana resigned in March 2009 and Andry Rajoelina was installed as head of a transitional government, the “High Transitional Authority” (HAT). On 9 August and 7 November 2009 the key Malagasy political parties signed agreements to form an inclusive transitional government and to hold elections within fifteen months of the initial agreement. However these agreements broke down during December 2009, with Andry Rajoelina unilaterally announcing plans to replace the previously agreed transitional leadership with his own nominees, and hold parliamentary elections. This led to further demonstrations and renewed unrest.

The African Union (AU) set a deadline of 16 March 2010 for the Malagasy political leaders formally to accept an agreement.  As an agreement could not be reached, on 17 March the AU announced targeted sanctions on a number of political figures in Madagascar, including all the members of the HAT.

The HAT’s unilateral plans for elections, starting with a referendum on 17 November 2010, may provide grounds for further political unrest. The political situation remains fluid and subject to unexpected change. You should exercise particular vigilance throughout the whole country during this time.

Local laws and customs

In some parts of Madagascar aspects of daily life are regulated by taboos, known as fady.  These vary from one region to another.  Fady can range from forbidden foods to restrictions in clothing. Some areas subject to fady may be forbidden to foreigners, but these are mainly in remote parts of the country.  If you intend to visit remote areas, you should seek prior advice either locally or from your tour operator and respect local fady wherever possible to avoid causing offence.

Drug smuggling is a serious offence.  Punishments can be severe.

There are no laws against homosexuality.

The Malagasy Authorities have recently introduced laws against consorting with female prostitutes. The campaign against sexual abuse of under age children (under 18 years) is strictly enforced with particular regard to foreign tourists.

You should carry some form of identification with you at all time. The police can and do stop vehicles and pedestrians to check papers, particularly late at night.

The import and export of foodstuffs (including fruit), protected plants and animals is illegal.  Visitors should note that from 24 July 2010 the National Environment Office has imposed a six-month ban on the export of all crocodile products.  Non-residents may take up to 1 kilogram of precious and semi-precious stones out of the country provided proper receipts are produced; residents are restricted to taking 250 grams out of Madagascar.  You may only take out 100 grams of vanilla. 

For more general information for different types of travellers see our Your trip page.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements - Visas
Visas are required for entry to Madagascar.  30-day tourist visas may be obtained at the airport on arrival.  If obtaining a visa at the airport, you should ensure that an entry stamp is recorded in your passport.  The visa fee is currently suspended. The Embassy of Madagascar in London will be closing at the end of February 2011, and will be covered by the Embassy of Madagascar in Paris, which offers a visa service.
Please ensure that your visa is valid for the period and purpose of your journey.  Overstaying can lead to detention and eventual deportation.

Please ensure that your visa is valid for the period and purpose of your journey.  Overstaying can lead to detention and eventual deportation.

Entry Requirements - Passport Validity

Your passport must be valid for a minimum of six months from the date of your departure from Madagascar.  You should have at least two blank pages in your passport on arrival.

Entry Requirements - Return air ticket

Malagasy law requires that visitors have a return air ticket.  You will be asked for evidence of this at check-in in the UK and on arrival in Madagascar.

Entry Requirements - Travelling with children

Minors already in possession of a visa do not need further parental approval for travel.

Entry Requirements - Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate
If you have previously visited a country where yellow fever is prevalent, you will need to produce a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever on entry.  If you cannot produce a certificate, you will be required to visit the Institut Pasteur in Antananarivo to be vaccinated.

Health

Although there are a number of public and private hospitals in Antananarivo, only routine operations can be handled.  If complex surgery is required you will be evacuated either to South Africa or La Reunion.  Bilharzia, tuberculosis, rabies, bubonic plague and malaria are common to Madagascar.  There have also been reported cases of dengue fever and Chikungunya virus.  Outbreaks of cholera occur, particularly during the rainy season (December-April).  You should drink or use only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. If you suffer from diarrhoea during a visit to Madagascar you should seek immediate medical attention.

You should avoid mosquito bites and contact with domestic animals such as cows, goats and sheep and the blood, organs or bodily fluids of such animals.

In the 2010 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 23,000 adults aged 15 or over in Madagascar were living with HIV; the prevalence percentage was estimated at around 0.2% of the adult population, which equals the prevalence percentage in the UK. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.  See our HIV and AIDS page.

You should seek medical advice before travelling to Madagascar and ensure that all appropriate vaccinations are up to date.  For further information on vaccination requirements, health outbreaks and general disease protection and prevention you should visit the websites of the National Travel Heath Network and Centre NaTHNaC and NHS Scotland's Fit For Travel or call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47.

See our Travel Health and Pandemic Influenza pages.

Natural disasters

The cyclone season in Madagascar normally runs from January to March. Coastal areas are particularly affected. In February 2011, tropical cyclone Bingiza caused heavy rain, and extensive flooding in northern parts of Madagascar. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and the National Hurricane Center. See our Tropical cyclones page.

The capital Antananarivo is not seriously affected by cyclones.

General

General - Insurance
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.  This should include cover for medical evacuation by air ambulance.  You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for all the activities you want to undertake.  See our Travel Insurance page. If things do go wrong when you are overseas then see our When Things Go Wrong page.

General - Representation

There is no British Embassy in Madagascar, but there are Honorary British Consuls in Antananarivo (tel: +261 20 2452180 or e-mail:
ricana@moov.mg) and Toamasima (tel: +261 20 5332548 or e-mail: sealtmm@moov.mg), who can be contacted by people in either region in emergencies only.  All other enquiries should be directed to the British High Commission in Port Louis, Mauritius, which covers Madagascar (see contact details).

General - Registration

Register with our LOCATE service to tell us when and where you are travelling abroad or where you live abroad so our consular and crisis staff can provide better assistance to you in an emergency.

More information about registering with LOCATE.

General - Money
Limits on the amount of money which can be changed at one time are in place, although these are gradually being relaxed.  You should check with individual banks.  Western Union operates for inward currency transfers only. You should also check opening hours of Western Union agencies as these may vary.  Some banks will only change Euros or US Dollars.  Travellers' cheques are accepted by most banks. However, there have been cases of fraudulent American Express travellers’ cheques in circulation and some banks now refuse to accept them.  The local bank, BMOI, will not accept travellers’ cheques issued by Thomas Cook.  Credit cards are accepted at a growing number of outlets in Antananarivo and in the provinces, but their use is still not widespread.  A charge of up to 7% of the transaction value is levied.  ATM's are increasingly available around the capital and in some of the larger towns.  A charge of about 1.5% is made.

The maximum amount of Malagasy currency you can withdraw at a time is 400,000 Ariary (approximately £120).  Some banks will not exchange local currency back into foreign currency.  You should ensure you are not left with large amounts of Malagasy Ariary at the end of your stay.  Keep transaction slips showing amounts of foreign currency transferred into local currency.  Foreign currency of more than 7,500 Euros in value must be declared on arrival.

General – Consular Assistance
In the period 1 January - 31 December 2010 there were three instances of British citizens reporting lost or stolen passports. There is a significant risk of crime in Madagascar. See Safety and Security - Crime.

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Contacts

Mauritius

Address:

7th Floor
Les Cascades Building
Edith Cavell Street
Port Louis

Tel: (230) 202 9400
Fax: (230) 202 9408


Telephone:

(230) 202 9400

Fax:

(230) 202 9408
(230) 202 9407 Consular/Visa

Email: bhc@intnet.mu

Office hours:

Monday to Thursday
0745 - 1545

Friday 0745 - 1330

Visa and passport applications are received only between

Monday, Tuesday and Thursday
0815 – 0930

Wednesday
0900 - 1030

Friday
Applications cannot be submitted on Fridays

Visa telephone enquiries
+(230 ) 202 9400

Monday – Thursday
1330 1530

Friday
1200 - 1300

Website: http://ukinmauritius.fco.gov.uk/en

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