How to take a cab in Madagascar
In this article we talk about city taxis only. One must make a distinction from the bush-taxi, locally known as taxi-brousse, that does long distance trip or the bus , locally known as taxi-be that does urban transit. For more information, click here.
Recognize THE taxi
Almost all major cities of Madagascar offer the taxi transportation. Few years ago, it was difficult to differentiate taxis from other cars. It was then their small lantern only whcich allowed to recognize them from a distance. Currently, a car paint color code was establish. Taxis in the Antananarivo are beige, those of Diego Suarez or Antsiranana are yellow. In other cities, this practice is not yet popularized but efforts of harmonization are adopted.
As elsewhere in the world, when needing a taxi, one can call them in the streets. Call centers for taxis are still rare in Madagascar. Thus, if no empty taxi will pass on your way and you do not have the phone number of a taxi in particular, too bad! Be prepared accordingly.
Availability at all times
Taxis are available 24/7 even if rare at night. Being out there alone with cash money from previous fares and a car is not safe. The payment of the stamp can be made only in the next morning so taxi drivers must keep their booty of the whole day with them. This may give ideas to many black minded people especially in these times of extreme poverty of the population. In fact, like many other businesses in Madagascar, the only payment option for taxi is cash. What about banks do you think? They are definitely closed at 4:30 pm or 5pm. These are banks!
Anyway, at evening and night, taxi drivers will have a partner to ensure a minimum security. The latter could sometimes get in the back to keep an eye on suspicious passengers. Smart move! Thinking about it, what’s the point if the two of them are attacked from behind without them realizing it?!
Madagascar taxis operate by neighborhood
Taxi drivers will not work by address or by street name, but by neighborhood. There won’t no north american well-ordered even numbers on one side and odd on the other … In Madagascar, neighborhoods and homes are rarely such “regular” and “regulated”. The housing numbers, as they are called, are rarely displayed at the gates or the front door so you can not use them to tell the driver your destination. The streets and lanes are so intertwined and intricated that it is difficult to use them as references… It is the same for the postman- do not worry!
Once in the neighborhood, you must tell the taximan in what blcok he must head to or in which street to turn. If you know any road-marker near where you want to go, tell him (usually it’s a him). The road-marker may be the town hall, a post office, the public market place, a monument, a house or building with specific colors or forms, etc..
It sometimes happens for a taxi to take other passengers on the road. It is a common practice in Madagascar so do not be offended. While there is room in the car, the driver will think about taking another client if possible en route. In a politically correct language, it is a “carpool”. If he is polite, the driver will ask if the situation suits you but he will surely leave you no choice.
The first customer is always driven first. If this is not the case, only then, you have the “right” to complain. In addition, the cost of your transport should normally decrease because the driver would have had more benefit for one trip. Think of it as a win-win situation and you will get through easily.
The cost of taxi transport in Madagascar is counted per trip. One trip is about 6 000 Ariary ( about 3 USD) in Antananarivo – beware of the”tourist” price – and maybe cheaper in the peripheral provinces. The cost will be calculated according to the relative number of “race” that would be made. The notion of “race” is like a general consesus among taxi-drivers with no really mesurable distance. The probable traffic also affects the price. It will be more expensive during peak hours and at night. Estimating these costs is highly subjective so do not forget to haggle. It is preferable to set the price with the driver before you get on board.
In Madagascar, the taxi driver may ask you to pay in advance so he could get some fuel. Often, its fuel tank is nearly empty before you embark. It will take just enough petrol to take you to your destination and so on for the next clients. Always to limit fuel consumption, they will also roll “stalled” or outright cut the engine when going downhill or in traffic. Do you like roller coasters?
Unlike North American taxis, vehicles used as taxis in Madagascar are generally recycled cars from european or even african dump or which are clearly at the end of their lives. The most common taxi vehicles are those which consume the least fuel like the Renault 4L, or the 2horses Volkswagen brand.
It may happen that a jerry actually inside the car will serve as a fuel tank. Hum! No Smoking. Sometimes, seat belts mandatory since recent years, is reduced to a non-functional harness suspended from the ceiling of the car and is only intended to bluff any police officers who check out on the taxi. The driver may ask you to proceed like him by pulling the harness on your shoulder when passing before an officer of the road. Finally, if there is an abrupt hill on your route and the taxi that you have consulted can not ride it, the driver will tell you and refer you to one of his colleague.
A unique and worthwhile experience
In contrast to the outdated vehicles, the driver may be a university graduate in physics, economics, management or any other impressive university discipline. Unemployment rate in town is so big, and entrepreneurship so unusual and expensive, that becoming a taxi driver is a more suitable option. Yet, it is not the case for the majority.
After reading this article, you think that taking a taxi is a unique experience in Madagascar? Wait untill you have to sit with five more people in a carseat originally designed for four people in a taxi-be … human contact garanteed!
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