Tips for driving in Madagascar

On the road

Madagascar is one big road trip paradise. You will cross so much different terrain, from smooth asphalt to red earth and deep sandy tracks, and you most probably have the roads to yourself. And on top of that, the Malagasy people are really, really friendly. Roadtrip fun guaranteed! 

This section contains important information for self-drive road trippers: 

  • How are the road conditions?
  • How does it work with navigation?
  • Travelling and driving safely in Madagascar
  • What happens in case of a break-down or accident?
  • Do I need an international driving license in Madagascar? 
  • How to deal with traffic police?

How are the road conditions in Madagascar? 

There is one asphalt road from north to south: the RN6 from Antananarivo (Tana) to Antsiranana (Diego Suarez international airport) at the northern tip of the island, and the RN7 from Tana to Tulear at the south west. For African standards, the RN7 is in pretty good condition. The RN6 becomes worse after Ankarafantsika. The road condition is poorest between Ambanja and Diego Suarez, with a lot of putholes. On this stretch, will not cover more than 30 km hour. There is also an asphalt road connecting Tana with Tamatave in the east (RN2) and with Morondava in the west (RN34 + RN35). Some sections contain a few more potholes, but overall the road is in good condition. 

Considering what car to rent for your Madagascar holiday? Our 4x4 Light category ( RAV4, Prado and Nissan X-Trail) are suitable for these roads. The RN7 is well developed for tourism, with plenty of petrol stations and places to stay and eat. The rest of these asphalt roads see very few travellers. 

The Western Coastal route from Tulear to Morondava is off-road driving and only possible with our Nissan Double Cab. We allow roadtrippers to self-drive the West Coast, but you need to asses for yourself if this is something you feel comfortable with /suits you. You have to be an experienced and confident off road driver, and not panic if you get lost / drive in remote area. Our vehicles are equipped with car trackers and panic button. In the unlikely event that you are stuck in the middle of nowhere where there is no telephone and internet reception, we can still locate you. You can call us 24/7 for roadside assistance in case you get into a mechanical problem with the car. We will direct you to the nearest workshop, send help or coach you through the phone what to do. But keep in mind that arranging and fixing one of the above takes some time to organise and might require some effort and patience from your side. We assume you know how to change a tyre. 

For less experienced and confident drivers, we strongly recommend to go with a ''pisteur'' (navigator). He knows the region by heart and can advise which track to follow, where to cross a river etc. He steps in at Tulear till Morondova (or vice versa). It is 3 to 4 driving days, but we advise 5-6 days to complete this track, to also enjoy some resting days. A pisteur costs € 25 / day and this covers all his expenses. Roadtrip Madagascar arranges the pisteur. When you fill out our online bookingsform, this is an option you can choose. 

How do I navigate in Madagascar and find my way? 

Offline navigation is easy if you install the the free App Maps.me on your smart phone and download the Madagascar Maps, before you travel to Madagascar. Combine driving on your GPS with Maps.me with Google Maps, and you will find your way. For the RN7, the roadmap that is included in your car rental is sufficient. The biggest mistake travellers make is rushing and trying to cover too much ground in one trip. Have a look at our suggested routes page for a realistic assessment of what you can cover during your road trip. You might get stuck after heavy rains and a flat tire can be part of the adventure. If you are trying to estimate your travel itinerary with Google Maps, increase travel time by 1/3. It is NOT possible to take short-cuts. 

Tips for travelling and driving safely in Madagascar 

  • We urge you to buy a local sim card to insert in your own smartphone and put airtime and an internet bundle. The Telma card is the best and cheapest. You can buy this simcard on arrival at the airport. The Telma shop is only open when there are incoming flights
  • When you exit a village, there is always a sign post indicating the distance to the next village and petrol station. Pay attention to this signpost. But as a rule of thumb, just always fuel up when you leave a village.
  • To bare in mind - trucks signal when its fine to overtake them. Super handy. If they don’t signal, than they probably haven't noticed you, so use your horn when you plan to overtake.
  • Beware of potholes! They damage the car if you hit them and can cause a flat tire.
  • In case you're spending the night at some local hostel in a town, make sure they have a secure car park on their property.
  • Avoid driving at night. Its get's dark around 6 PM.The potholes are difficult to see, approaching traffic uses blinding high-beams and its just not safe. We have car trackers and see that Roadtrippers at times still not reach their destination before dark. You can avoid this by simply leaving early on a travel day (6-7 AM). 
  • Always carry cash and some small notes ( 5-10,000 ariary), water and a charged mobile phone. Along the west coast you can expect a few unofficial stop points in villages where you have to pay 'toll''. 

What happens in case of a break-down or accident? 

In case of a mechanical problem, we will help you on your way as fast as we can. You can call us 24/7 for roadside assistance at +261 330 280 423. We will direct you to the nearest workshop or we will send help to assist you on the spot. Always contact us for authorisation prior to any repairs to the vehicle. Workshops in Madagascar are notorious for defrauding. We know how to handle this. In case the car cannot be repaired within 24 hours, a replacement car from Antananarivo will be provided. Please keep in mind that arranging one of the above takes some time to organise and might require some effort and patience from your side. So always factor in a spare day, to allow for the unexpected. Good to know that breakdowns are rare. 

In case of an accident, contact us immediately and we coach you through the process; take pictures of the damaged vehicle(s) and process and clear a police report.

Please refer to our policies, published on this website, for more information.

Do I need an international driving license in Madagascar? 

Yes, you need an international driving license, which you can obtain in your country of residence.  

How to deal with traffic police? 

There are not many traffic police in Madagascar. If you do see them, they are most likely either sleeping or smile and wave. On our latest 5 week road trip through the island, we were pulled over only once! Traffic police focus on trucks instead. Advice which comes in handy when dealing with any kind of government official is to remain patient and friendly, greet them politely in Malagasy or French, make a joke and you have a new friend. They will want to see your driver's license (a valid license from your own country of residence is accepted) and ID, check car papers and if the vehicle is insured. Of course that has been taken care of if you rent a car from Roadtrip Madagascar.

If you have committed an offence (speeding, dangerous overtaking or other), you’ll have to pay the fine. Officially this should be done at the nearest police station. That office can be miles away and can be a very time consuming procedure. Usually they will also offer a faster payment option and hint you buy them a soda (this is not something you propose though).