Madagascar Transport and Traffic

By | May 5, 2021

Madagascar is located off the east coast of Mozambique in the Indian Ocean and is the second largest island nation in the world. The island impresses with its unique flora and fauna, most of which are endemic and therefore particularly worthy of protection. But the country’s diverse problems threaten the population, natural space and development of Madagascar.


The period of Madagascar as a French colony was marked by rebel movements and uprisings of the population until the island nation finally gained independence in 1960. After several presidents and bloody unrest, today’s government is internationally legitimized and characterized by fundamental political stability.


According to cheeroutdoor, Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. The country’s economic structure shows typical characteristics of a developing country. Political instability, corruption and the destruction of the natural environment are the main reasons for the general poverty of the island state.


Malagasy society is made up of a large number of different ethnic groups, which differ in their traditions but have developed a common language – Malagasy – as a social identity. The main population groups include the Merina with 26%, the Betsileo with 13% and the Betsimisaraka with 12% of the total population.


Madagascar is extraordinarily diverse in terms of its natural surroundings and therefore a strong attraction for tourists from all over the world. In addition, the presence of France, the cultural diversity and the willingness to help of the Malagasy people shape everyday economic and socio-cultural life in Madagascar.

Madagascar has almost 60,000 km of roads, of which only around 6,000 km are asphalted. Another 12,000 km are paved slopes. Following the French model, the island’s paved main roads, also known as Routes Nationales (RN), run in a star shape to the various regions of the island. The RN 1 connects Antananarivo with the western highlands (Tsiroanomandidy), where it becomes a slope (RN1b) to the west coast (Maintirano). The RN 2 connects the capital with the important port city of Tamatave on the east coast, while the RN 4 runs north about 600 km to the port city of Mahajanga. With up to 1000 km the RN 7 is to the souththe longest paved road in Madagascar. In the rainy season, the asphalt roads in Madagascar are not always passable. Landslides or floods prevent rapid progress, but the condition of the roads due to poor road maintenance also means that many regions are difficult to reach. The lack of functionality of the infrastructure is a major obstacle to the development of peripheral regions and isolated villages. Overall, road traffic can hardly be compared with European traffic.

The so-called taxi brousse (bush taxis) are the most important means of transport in Madagascar. Anything that is still driving can be used as a taxi brousse. The bush taxis often leave late, are often overcrowded and often involved in accidents or assaults. So-called. Taxi-Be are a bit safer; Usually it is a car. The normal taxis in the cities are usually painted yellow and orange and are relatively safe. However, there is no specific price per route. A traditional and typical means of transport for the cities of Madagascar are the pousse-pousse (Mad.: Posyposy). They are very popular, at least in Antsirabe, Toliara and Toamasina, and are correspondingly frequent.

Madagascar has eleven national airports, the only international airport is Ivato Airport in Antananarivo. There are also smaller landing areas for charter planes, as many people also use domestic flights due to the great distances and poor road quality. In addition to the traditional Malagasy international airline Air Madagascar, there has recently also been Madagasikara Airways, which operates almost exclusively nationally.

The railroad is rather insignificant in Madagascar. During the colonial period, some lines were built, but then mainly used for freight traffic. There are short railway lines in the north, e.g. between Antananarivo and Toamasina or from Moramanga to Ambatondrazaka. But even when the trains are running, they are overcrowded, unpunctual and slow. The only important railway line for the Malagasy people and attractive for tourists is the one from Fianarantsoa to Manakara. This old narrow-gauge railway – also known as the jungle express- represents an important connection for the population from their highland villages to the coast, but due to the age of the FCE (Ligne Fianarantsoa-Côte Est, built 1926-1936) it takes at least 10 hours and is obviously not entirely harmless. The train passes a total of 67 bridges and 48 tunnels. Everything that can be taken is transported. There is also a “slow train” from Moramanga to Ambatondrazaka, which, like the train ride from Fianarantsoa to Manakara, is old and takes 170 km. Here, too, it is interesting for the rural population, but also for tourists.

Much of the container ship traffic and international sea trade is handled via the port of Toamasina (port principal), the island’s most important sea port. Other important ports are in Tolagnaro, Mahajanga, Toliara, Antsiranana and Nosy Be. Cruise ships also dock in Nosy Be.

The Pangalan Canal, which runs parallel to the Indian Ocean on the east coast of Madagascar from Toamasina (Tamatave) to Farafangana, is the longest waterway in the world with over 600 km. It is still one of the most important transport links in Madagascar and is mainly used to transport agricultural products. But tourists are also drawn to the canal.

Madagascar Transport