Life hacks in Toamasina or in Antananarivo

@Julien thanks for giving us newbies platform to share.

So I've come to Toamasina twice now and its an incredible experience. Just some tips of how to get around and get yourself settled. If anyone else has anything to add, please do.

So first of all, transport is really cheap. You can get around anywhere in town with a tuktuk or pushpush. Most foreigners get completely ripped off. Don't ask for the price up front, because everyone seems to know the price. You can go just about anywhere around town in a tuktuk for 1500ar per person during the day. The rate goes up to 2500ar per person at night, but i have been given discounts for shorter distances at night before. The pushpush is typically 1000ar per person during the day. I've never taken them at night, just to be safe. If you get out and the driver doesn't give you change straight away. Ask him for the change, because sometimes they try their luck. Show them that you know the normal price. Also keep in mind that going further distances like the airport or ambatovy might cost you a bit more, but i heard its not that much more. And if you stop somewhere you might get charged for two trips.

Another thing ive learned is where to by food. Most of the time i would go to shoprite or score in town. But somethings can be found for much cheaper, if you are willing to go to the local markets. Bazar be in town is a smaller market, and bazar kelly is a much bigger one. Most of our vegetables and fruit we would by at bazar. Generally they are quite honest with their prices, but you can bargain them down a little. If you want to buy eggs you can get them in bazar kelly near score for about 550ar per egg. Also if you want to by appliances and kitchen ware, hit bazar kelly. Its also the best place to by pasta or rice or grain. I havent tried the meat from there though. It just looks like it will make me sick, so for now i get most of the meat from shoprite, nicely packaged.

If you are looking for places to eat, there are quite a few to choose from. Biggy is a burger joint behind score which is nice. If you want a fancy dinner and nice environment head to neptune hotel restaurant la brasse. If you want to grab nice lunch theres a place in town called fortuna express which has mexican style food. And El barco near shoprite is also a nice place for an evening bite.

If you need to withdraw money from a bank, it might be a challenge. Ive run around to about 5 or 6 banks to try to withdraw from an international card. The only two that worked were bank africa opposite score on independence avenue. The fee per withdrawal is 10200ar and i could only get a maximum of 800,000ar out at a time. The society general bank opposite el barco was much better, with bank fee of 8000ar per withdrawal but still i could only ever get 800,000 out at a time. Not convenient if you need to pay for rent in cash.

Also, new tip unlocked is the visa extension. When you arrive at the airport you can only get a 60day visa, but in toamasina its pretty easy to extend it. Bring your passport, a copy of it, a copy of your visa, two ID photos, your return ticket, and 120,000ar. I got my passport back the next day. The immigration office is inside the main city hall in the middle of independence avenue. You cannot miss it. It has a nice mansion like feature. Then when you go in to the front door, head down the halway on your right and you'll find thr immigration office on the third door to your left. Make sure you great the receptionist and let then know where you are going. Also keep in mind that most of the office workers take lunch between 1 and 2pm so you wont find them there. Sometimes they will come back late from lunch.

Getting an apartment wasn't too bad either, if you look well. There are a few agencies, one at streamliner, one near the beach, another two in town. I managed to get a 1 bedroom appartment for 1,700,000ar pm in the building next to bruno glacier which is pretty good. But there are many nice places available. Generally the rent doesnt include water and electricity. And your first payment includes a month deposit and an extra month rent for the agent fee.

Also don't drink the tap water, you might get sick. I generally don't even cook with the tap water. We buy water bottles at score. There is a brand that is 2700ar for 2 litres which is pretty decent.

Anyway thats my experience so far. I'd like to hear from some others about your life hacks here in Toamasina or in Antananarivo.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Fyi this post is March 2023

Hello Britsvz,

Thank you for such a detailed post. I am sure members will benefit from your output. I have taken the liberty to create a new thread from your post on the Madagascar forum so that members can share their experience on this new thread.

All the very best


Britsvz, thank you for sharing your latest comprehensive details!  I've lived in Tana for 7 months back in 2007, and visited the beautiful country twice afterwards.  Hope to move back once I retire from teaching. 

Seems like getting the visa extended is much easier in other port towns other than Tana.  Glad to know that the rental of a place is still cheaper in these days...

I hope to start a new business as well as provide empowerment for the deaf community there which barely exists due to society's taboos. 

Anyhow, thank you for sharing, Britsvz!

OK First you need to put your prices in FMG, only newbies and tourists quote prices in Ariary ( from travel guides) when some 95% of the population uses FMG. Others will use Malagasy numbers that include Arairy such as Diman Jato ariary or 500 FMG. Talking in Ariary is a clue that you are vazaha fresh ( Malagasy expression) and you will be taken advantage of by being charged higher prices. It is easier to get discounts in FMG. Also best to speak in Malagasy in the marketplace, I have seen French people speaking french in the market place and using ariary and they are charged 20% more than me even though we are standing one meter apart. They do not know how to negotiate which is important and done in all transactions and is the social fabric of the community and prices are almost never posted, each transaction requires you to ask how much for each product. Bazary be is more expensive because they cater to upscale Malagasy and Vazaha that do not want to deal with the crowded dirty atmosphere in bazary small ( kely ) which is actually very big. Bazary Be ( big ) merchants buy from Bazary kely and resell in Bazary be hence the higher prices. Tuc Tuc and pousse pousee can always be negotiated for less and the price of 7,500 fmg you mentioned is for one person., I have seen 12 people fit into a tuc tuc and that is =not the electric tuc tuc that can hold more people Housing can also be negotiated, I got a house that has three floors which includes a roof top terrace that is Four bedrooms and three bath and each floor is 10 by 12 meters. We got the price down to paying 9 million FMG for every two months, ( we pay every two months) or 4,500,000fmg for one month) and that includes electricity and water and a place to park my car and a guardian inside this deal. This is in an upscale neighborhood Tanamakoa and about 75 meters from the front gate of the French high school where my children go. Do not go to an Agency like that in Streamliner, they are overpriced and you pay one month's rent for their contact. Instead go to the neighborhood you like and ask around, everyone is a middle man as they will only charge you 50% of the first month's rent.

I wash my fruit and veggies with tap water and collect rainwater for drinking and now have a two month's supply but it is O K to boil tap water for drinking.

I am a resident but have heard that a visa extension is easy, easier, and faster with corruption money called gift money.

I have a local bank card but if you use your international card then get a Schwab account and they pay all transaction fees as in no penalties that you may acquire.

A few good restaurants I like is L 7 and Mariana hotel, and for excellent Indian food ---Namaste. ( be careful when you use this word as maste means asshole)  And remember Madagascar is not a tipping country . You pay your bill and go. If any tipping is done is small leftover change like up to 5% but in reality, the merchant will tip the client with extra gifts like extra shrimp or tomatoes....extra brochette.... etc to gain you as a regular client. Also, many restaurant owners do not allow their service staff to keep any tips and any tips go to the management, you get caught keeping tips you risk losing your job as it is considered stealing from the restaurant owner  I learned this tipping rule 20 years ago when I was at the seaside restaurant eating brochettes and left a tip on the table and was called after to come to get my money they thought I had left behind by accident. However, the tour guide industry which is corrupt will say to the tourist to give them 20% , I swear tour guides are cut from the same cloth or born from the same mother as the Taxi drivers.

You will only need to learn about 100 Malagasy words and the French numbers to conduct your business and be sociable,

@millenario thanks for the uselful information! Will definitely be putting a lot of it into practice!

@Britsvz I should also mention that  I know tourists have been quoted prices in FMG from merchants and the tourists pay in ariary---the locals do not correct the mistake they just steal the money, they enjoy this trick that they know they play on Vazaha, even I and my wife at rare times have to ask if the price is "in Franc-"--for short. way to ask.     

@Britsvz Another Hack we use, is rather than take my car we can rent a tuc tuc for one hour for 50,000fmg for the both of us. Also, something I learned and continue to use from the covid lockdown is to give our Tuc tuc ( called a bajaja in Mahajanag) driver a list of products to buy at bazary kely. At times we know the merchant and call her and give her the list of items,so all the tuc tuc driver has to do is pick up and pay. Or if we need gas to cook or from the pharmacy....etc price is the same 50,000 fmg per hour ( if it one hour and 15 minutes the tuc tuc driver will gift us the 15 minutes) and I do not have to make the trip and can use my time for other projects.  the Advantage of having a Malagasy buy our products we are sure to get the local price for when they see me they like to make the price higher as well as my wife for she is the wife of vazaha, so if she makes the market alone she will dress-down to appear poorer.  Not making the price that is the same for everyone is a form of corruption , price issues are also for transportation.

Also, do not buy honey on the street or market---you really have to know the seller as many bottles that look like honey is really mostly sugar water. After it sits on your table for a month you will see about an inch of sugar that has settled and hardened on the bottom of the plastic bottle. I just bought honey today from a real honey merchant and the price was 90,000FMG for one liter. I also bought 5 coconuts for a total of 25,000 Fmg and was given two free coconuts as we are regular customers. We have her phone number so she can have our coconuts ready to go ( without the green shell) . We also have her number so that we can send a pousse pousse driver to do a pickup for 5,000 fmg ,  You have seen these coconut sellers on the Tamatave seaside---the trick is to get a coconut seller that has sweet juice and her coconuts come from Mahambo ( as well as the honey)