What You Need To Know
Toamasina, meaning “like salt” or “salty”, unofficially and in French also Tamatave, is the capital of the Atsinanana region on the east coast of Madagascar on the Indian Ocean. The city is the chief seaport of the country, situated 215 km (134 mi) northeast of its capital and biggest city Antananarivo, near the centre of the eastern coast at 18 10 S, 49 32 E.
Area: 7.722 mi²
Population: 274,667 (2013)
- Madagascar changed its currency from the Malagasy franc (FMG) to the ariary (Ar) in 2005. But despite having had a few years to get used to the new currency, many Malagasies still count in FMG (one ariary is worth five FMG), so it is essential you clarify which currency a price is being quoted in, particularly in rural areas.
- All banks change foreign currencies, and most will change travellers cheques and offer cash advances on credit cards (both Visa and MasterCard). Virtually all now have reliable ATMs although some aren’t accessible outside banking hours.
If you have a credit card be aware that the Visa sign is better known than Maestro for example. And even if you have a Visa card, the use of credit/debit cards are generally limited to upscale hotels and restaurants frequented by tourists. The better option is to carry enough cash and only use your card for bigger value purchases or for ATM/cash point withdrawals.
- Toamasina features a tropical rainforest climate under the Köppen climate classification. While Toamasina has no true dry season month where less than 60 mm (2.4 in) of precipitation (on average) falls, the seaport has noticeably wetter and drier periods of the year.
- September–November is the driest period of the year, while February–April is the wettest time of the year. Average temperatures are relatively constant throughout the course of the year, though it is slightly cooler in the months of July and August, where average highs hover around 24 degrees Celsius and warmer in the months of January and February, where high temperatures on average reaches 30 degrees Celsius.
Malagasy the national language, a language of Malayo-Polynesian origin, which is generally spoken throughout the island and all Malagasy are supposed to understand. French is the second official language, English is also spoken in Madagascar.
Pousse: Toamasina may just be the bicycle pousse capital of the world. Thanks to the city’s flat, wide streets, pousse-pousses are the most popular and cheapest way to get around. You shouldn’t have to look far to find one, no matter where you are. Beware though, as the drivers are all to eager to take advantage of a confused tourist. Be sure to agree on a price before getting in. Standard rides should range from 1000-2000 Ar depending on distance. Night fares are usually higher.
Taxi: Toamasina has standard taxis too. Be sure to bargain and agree on a price before going anywhere. At night, it’s best to take taxis as a measure of security. Fares will range from 5000-10000Ar, depending on distance and time of day.
Taxi-Brousse: If you are leaving the city limits and don’t have your own vehicle, you will likely have to take a taxi-brousse. To get to the station, just tell your taxi or pousse-pousse driver to go to the “gare-routiere.” Upon arrival, be prepared to be mobbed by hawkers trying to pull you into their taxi. Protip: Always try to find the vehicle with the most people in it heading for your destination. Despite what the hawkers will tell you, taxi-brousses only leave when they are full.