7 facts you need to know about taxi rides in Madagascar
Once you’re tired of walking around a city, as a tourist, you may be tempted to have a taxi-ride… So let’s try to give you some tips in order to make it a memorable and funny ride
The following isn’t about the”agreed” taxis parking outside big hotels and at the airport , we’re talking here about the usual ones that you can hire just by putting your thumbs up.
Fact One: we don’t have mercedes taxi cabs …
Used to ride the well-maintained 5 years-old-max air-conditioned cab? Well, be prepared to a drastic change over here The old-plain 1970′s 2CV or 4L will try to get you to the destination :-) If not, you will generally find other 20 year old-vehicle where a screwdriver can be used as a mean to block the mirror from falling. If you are lucky, the cab may have some kind of radio hardly trying to air some malagasy music. For those who have no clue what a 2CV is, look at this thumbnail image on the left, it’s the first vehicle…Frankly speaking, 2CVs are not for those who want some kind of comfort during the ride, especially if you are tall. But it’s definitely worth a ride if you want to have a different sensation during your ride: plain-simple vehicle that hardly can climb Antananarivo’s hills and that is noisy when it comes to driving through some stone-paved roads (so do other taxi models too however …) It’s really hard hearing your ear-plugged mp3 player when driving through those stone-paved roads with most of the taxis by the way.
Fact two: they might not know exactly where you want to go
As surprising as it may be, I’ve found many taxi-drivers who don’t actually know where you’re asking them to drive you , and frankly speaking, unless you’ve written the name of the place you want to go to, your accent trying to correctly spell the name won’t help
If you’re in Antananarivo, although streets have names, don’t even try to refer to the place you want to go by the street names – very few taxi-drivers care about them (and citizens usually don’t too). They usually refer to a symbolic place- so you’re better off saying something like “next to ” than “rue Rapatsalahy Paul”…Moreover, the name of the street becomes a torture to pronounce when they are assigned a malagasy name Referring to street names in cities like Antsiranana may work though.
Fact three: On change and paying
In most cities, you won’t be charged on a per-mile basis. Unless you are in cities like Mahajanga or Antsirabe where taxi-fares are structured on a zone-basis (so you don’t bargain anymore), taxi-drivers establish their prices assuming different criteria (traffic-jam potential, fuel price, the place you want to go to or its surroundings and your “profile”). In cities like Antananarivo, they usually don’t go lower than 20% higher than the price of 1 litre of fuel per short ride. But given the fact that you are a tourist, you can expect that the price that they will announce will be at least twice the regular price. One rule-of-thumb: you’ve got to bargain (unless in cities where fee-structure are already defined as mentioned earlier)
Now that you’ve agreed on the price, not only will most of the taxi-drivers stop-by a gas-station during your ride, but they will ask you to pay for the fuel-refill I just remember a foreign friend who had his eyes rolling out of his glasses when he found out that I gave the money to pay the fuel-refill. The fact is that the majority of taxi-drivers only has the minimum fuel in their tank to get them to the next gas-station.
Fact four: Comfort and security is not the priority
We’ve already talked about the special use of the screwdriver, but as a general assumption, most taxi you’ll ride will not give you the best comfort you’re used to when riding a car (remember, those are usually 20 years old cars). This is where the fun comes as you can find a taxidriver who pretend to have his seat-belt on his chest while it is not tightened to anything below (he just want to fool the policeman as safety belt is mandatory for any car driver in antananarivo), you can also get into some taxi that has holes on their floor so that you can see the road scrolling between your legs, … and the list goes on …
As a rule of thumb, don’t you even lean on any taxi door during the ride.
Fact five: Communicating with the taxi-driver
Often times, your taxi-driver will be able to have small discussions with you, provided that you speak … french or in Malagasy
Fact six: We don’t have a Taxi-company
None of the taxi running in town are affiliated to a company, or an association. Most of them are owned or rented by their driver- they only have to possess a taxi-license given by the authorities. So concepts like “phone a taxi” usually don’t exist here (unless you personally have been given a taxidriver’s mobile phone number to call). Big hotels may have some “accredited” taxis that usually work with them, however, don’t expect to settle taxi fares to your hotel room.
Fact seven: being on a taxi sometimes doesn’t mean you’ll be the only customer inside
In cities like antsiranana (AKA Diego Suarez), it’s common to see a taxi full of people. When you were used to ride a taxi alone (or two persons at max) in the backseat, in this city, you can find a 4L with 8 or more people inside … Guess how this all fit together
Sounds scary? It’s not. I’m just trying to unstick you from your usual habits of hiring a cab attitudes you’ve acquired while you were in your hometown. The best way to handle this is to ask someone from your hotel to hire the cab for you, and if you are on your way back to your hotel, most taximen know where all the hotels are. Don’t worry, we don’t have highways in Madagascar, and most taxi drive below 40km/h (carefully chose however your taxi that will drive you to the airport as they may go over this 40km/h)
Other people will probably add to this list of 7 facts… Jump to the comment section and add yours.