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Travel Warnings: Madagascar

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Travel Warnings: Madagascar

Madagascar - Consular Information Sheet
May 2, 2002
Travel Warning (Issued on April 12, 2002): This Travel Warning is being issued in light of the deteriorating security situation in Madagascar and the upgrading from authorized to ordered departure of eligible family members and personnel in non-emergency positions. There have been incidents of violence and the potential for more violence remains. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued March 1, 2002.
The Department of State warns Americans to defer travel to Madagascar. On April 12, 2002, the Department ordered the departure of eligible family members of Embassy staff and personnel in non-emergency positions. Due to recent events in Fianarantsoa Province, the Embassy also ordered all its personnel to depart this province. Americans currently in Madagascar should reevaluate their security situation in determining whether to remain in the country.
The complex and difficult political situation in Madagascar following the December 16, 2001 presidential election continues to evolve. There have been large demonstrations with occasional violence. The Government of Madagascar declared a national state of emergency, and on February 28, declared martial law in Antananarivo.
Commercial transportation to and from Madagascar is subject to interruption without warning. Airlines servicing the country are adjusting their flight schedules in response to changing circumstances. Fuel supplies are depleted. The destruction of four bridges leading to the capital and numerous roadblocks may delay or prevent travel. There are shortages of medical and food supplies in all parts of the country, and curfews in some areas.
There have been no reports of injuries to U.S. citizens, and demonstrations have not been aimed at foreign visitors or residents. However, at least 36 people have been killed since the political crisis began, including one Canadian citizen on April 12 during a violent clash in Fianarantsoa. The Embassy advises Americans to avoid the city and province of Fianaratsoa until the situation stabilizes. Americans should avoid demonstrations, and limit their travel.
The Department of State urges U.S. citizens residing in Madagascar to monitor media reports for current information. Safety and security information may also be obtained by contacting the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo on tel. 261-20-22-212-57.
From time to time, the Embassy may temporarily suspend public services to review its security posture. In those instances U.S. citizens who require emergency services may telephone the Embassy in Antananarivo on (261)(2022) 21257.
For further information concerning travel to Madagascar, travelers should consult the Department of State Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov, which includes the latest Consular Information Sheet for Madagascar.
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Madagascar, also known as the "Great Red Island," is a developing island nation off the east coast of Africa. The primary language is French. Antananarivo, the capital, enjoys a temperate climate, but the island has a wide range of microclimates ranging from rain forests in the northeast to desert in the southwest. Facilities for tourism are available, but they vary in quality.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Visas should be obtained in advance, although airport visas are available in Antananarivo, which is the only city with an international airport. Travelers who opt to obtain an airport visa should expect delays upon arrival. Evidence of yellow fever immunization is required for all travelers who have been in an infected zone within six months of their arrival in Madagascar.
Travelers may obtain the latest information and details on entry requirements from the Embassy of the Republic of Madagascar, 2374 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; telephone (202) 265-5525/6; web site: http://www.embassy.org/madagascar; or the Malagasy Consulate in New York City, telephone (212) 986-9491. Honorary consuls are located in Philadelphia, San Diego and Houston. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Malagasy embassy or consulate.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Madagascar completed a transition to a multi-party democracy in 1993 and held an orderly presidential election in 1996. The disputed 2001-2002 presidential election resulted in numerous large demonstrations and violence. Travelers should avoid political gatherings and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times. Visitors should not photograph airports or military installations.
CRIME: The major concerns for visitors to Antananarivo are street crime and theft from residences and vehicles. Although not generally violent, incidents involving violence by assailants, particularly when the victim resists, are on the rise. Walking at night, whether alone or in a group, is not considered safe in urban areas, including in the vicinity of Western-standard hotels. Organized gangs of bandits are known to patrol areas where foreigners who are perceived to be wealthy congregate. Wearing expensive jewelry or carrying expensive items such as cameras while on foot or while using public transportation is strongly discouraged. Valuable items should never be left in an unattended vehicle. Although crimes such as burglary do occur in areas outside the capital, the threat of confrontational crime is less common in rural areas. Night travel in private or public conveyances outside Antananarivo is discouraged due to poor lighting and road conditions.
In May 1999, there was a series of robberies at Libanona Beach and Peak Saint Louis, in the Fort Dauphin area, perpetrated by a person representing himself as a guide. U.S. citizens should hire only an authorized guide and be cautious when visiting Libanona Beach, Peak Saint Louis, or other isolated areas.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The pamphlets, "A Safe Trip Abroad" and "Tips for Travelers to Sub-Saharan Africa," provide useful information on protecting personal security while traveling abroad and on travel in the region in general. Both are available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
MEDICAL FACILITIES: There are foreign physicians in Antananarivo representing a broad range of specialties. The hospital infrastructure, however, is minimal and does not meet basic sanitary norms. A Seventh Day Adventist dental clinic offers emergency procedures and is similar to U.S. facilities in both procedures and cleanliness. There are also competent laboratory and X-ray facilities.
Medications, generally of French origin, were readily available in Antananarivo before the current crisis broke out. Supplies of medicine are now low. If one needs to refill a prescription from home, it may be difficult to determine the French equivalent of the medication unless the active ingredient is listed on one's previous medication. Outside of Antananarivo, medications may not be available. Travelers should have a supply of any needed medication before arriving in Madagascar. Americans who will be carrying medications with them to Madagascar should contact the Malagasy Embassy in Washington, D.C. regarding any restrictions on imports.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas, including emergency services.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties, whereas travelers who have purchased overseas medical insurance have found it to be life-saving when a medical emergency has occurred. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, "Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad," available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Malaria is prevalent, particularly in the coastal regions. There is also a highly reported incidence of sexually transmitted diseases.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Madagascar is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor to Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor
In Madagascar, one drives on the right side of the road, yielding the right of way to vehicles coming in from the left. Most major intersections and traffic circles have police directing traffic. If the policeman has his back to you at an intersection, you are required to stop. Seat belts, child safety seats, and motorcycle helmets are not required in Madagascar. If you are caught driving under the influence of alcohol, your car will be impounded for a few days, and you will have to pay a fine. If you are involved in an accident involving injuries and/or deaths, there is a mandatory court case. The losing party of the court case must then pay all costs.
Except for Antananarivo's main streets and a few well-maintained routes to outlying cities, most roads are in disrepair. For those traveling by road between cities, travel at night is not recommended. Roads tend to be narrow and winding with many one-lane bridges and blind curves. Most vehicles tend to drive in the center of the road unless another vehicle is present. Local practice is to blow the horn before going around a curve, to let others know of one's presence. Few pedestrian crosswalks or working traffic signals exist.
Travel within Antananarivo can be difficult with poor road signage and an abundance of one-way streets. Taxis are plentiful, and they are generally reasonably priced. Expect to bargain for the fare prior to getting into the vehicle. Most accidents are pedestrian-related, due to narrow roads and lack of sidewalks on many streets.
Rental cars generally come with a driver who is responsible for maintaining the vehicle and sometimes acts as a tour guide. Public transportation is unreliable, and the vehicles are poorly maintained. Rail services are very limited and undependable. The Malagasy presidential election in 2001-2002 has led to large demonstrations and a slowdown in the transportation system. However, arrangements can be made for a private train to travel to certain destinations.
The Ministry of Public Works (tel. [261] (20) 22-318-02) is Madagascar's authority responsible for road safety. During an emergency, visitors to Antananarivo can contact local police by telephoning 17, by dialing 22-227-35, or by dialing 030-23-801-40 (cellular). American citizens can also call the U.S. Embassy at telephone 22-212-57/58/59 if assistance is needed in communicating with law enforcement officials. Ambulance services are available in Antananarivo only with Espace Medical at telephone 22-625-66 or 22-219-72.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, please see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. Information is also available at the Embassy of the Republic of Madagascar's web site at www.embassy.org/madagascar.
AIR TRAVEL: As there is no direct commercial air service by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service between the United States and Madagascar, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Madagascar's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards.
For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the United States at telephone 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at telephone (618) 229-4801.
Domestic and international air services operate regularly, but they are subject to delays and occasional breakdowns. Air Madagascar often changes in-country flight schedules, based on how full the flight is, with little or no prior warning to passengers. Overbooking is also common.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Malagasy law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Madagascar are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Madagascar is prone to tropical storms. Storm season is generally January through the end of February. Storms primarily affect the eastern coast, although large storms may reach the capital of Antananarivo. Storms which affect the shipping ports may limit fuel and food supplies elsewhere in the country. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Local water may not be potable. It is recommended that one drink only bottled water or carbonated beverages. Water purification tablets may be used as necessary.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children, international parental child abduction, and international child support enforcement issues, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_issues.html or telephone (202) 736-7000.
REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo, and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Madagascar. The U.S. Embassy is located at 14-16 Rue Rainitovo, Antsahavola, Antananarivo. The mailing address is B.P. 620, Antsahavola, Antananarivo, Madagascar; telephone [261] (20) 22-212-57; fax [261] (20) 22-345-39.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated February 8, 2001 to include the Travel Warning of April 12, 2002 and to update the sections on Safety and Security, Crime, Medical Facilities, Health Information, and Special Circumstances.