Madagascar, and Antananarivo especially, was so far the worst place I’ve ever been to. Or to be specific, there wasn’t anything wrong with the place itself, and I’m sure Madagascar has a lot of beautiful places to visit. I was just so unlucky that I never got to see those places. From the day one, everything went wrong. I don’t want to seem like I’m complaining, but my time there was just miserable, and now I’m going to tell you why. If you follow me on social media, you probably already knew that I got robbed there, but this wasn’t the only reason why I had such a terrible time there. Here’s what happened:
I arrived in Madagascar in the middle of the night at 2 am. I had requested my hostel to arrange a taxi for me, and I was looking for the driver, but I couldn’t find anyone. I called the hostel, and they told me that they hadn’t seen my email, and I should find another taxi. There were a lot of taxi drivers offering me a ride, but they looked so dodgy that if I had gone with one of them, you would have read about it from the news the next day. I had two options: to stay at the airport until 5 am when they would have a bus going to the city center or take a taxi. Luckily, even though everything was closed, the information desk was open. I asked about the taxi, and they arranged a reliable driver for me.
I made it to my hostel, and everything was fine. Except that I was getting sick. I could feel my throat getting soarer and soarer, and it was hard to sleep. The next day, I wasn’t feeling any better and decided to walk to the pharmacy to buy some medicine.
Walking on the streets was uncomfortable because of the attention I got. I was dressed conservatively (long pants and a T-shirt, no cleavage showing) but I was still getting catcalled. Sadly, this is everyday life for a solo female traveler, and it happens everywhere – not just in Madagascar. If I’m sick/tired/hungry/exhausted, it’s just too overwhelming for me.
After walking around in the city center for a while, I was done. There’s not much to see in Tana. I decided that I’m going to get out of the city as soon as I was feeling a little bit better. I made plans with a South African girl staying in the same dorm that we would travel together to Andasibe as soon as I was feeling better.
I hadn’t been eating well because I had been sick and the restaurants near my hostel didn’t offer vegan options. The hostel was also quite far from the center. One afternoon, I decided to walk to the center, find a restaurant where they would have vegan options, and have a warm meal for the first time in Madagascar.
Before I left, I thought that maybe I should only take a small purse with me, and not my day bag. Perhaps I should just take a water bottle, tissues, a little bit of cash and my phone with me. This was the first time I had an instinct that maybe I could get robbed. I don’t know why I didn’t listen to my instincts. I should have stayed in.
When I was in Comoros, the locals were telling me that Madagascar is so dangerous and Tana is even more dangerous city than Johannesburg. Every time I mentioned that I was traveling to Madagascar, they warned me and told me stories of how people have gotten mugged and robbed.
I walked the same route I had walked before. It was a busy main street going to the city center. I walked through the tunnel, and maybe 50 meters after that, it happened. I could only see a guy coming from the side and grabbing my bag. He grabbed it so hard that I fell to my knees and he started dragging me because the bag was still slung across my body. Finally, he got the bag and started running up the hill. My sunglasses fell to the street, and my knees and elbows were bleeding. “Fuck it,” I thought, and started running after him. There were a lot of people around me. They could have stopped him, but no one helped me. Except for one guy who was already up on the hill, and he started to run after the criminal as well. I was behind them, trying to keep up but then the guy who was trying to help me got punched in the face. The criminal just kept on running, and I lost sight of him. There was no chance I would get my bag back.
I felt so sorry for the guy who was trying to help me. He was the only one who did something, and then he got hurt. He wasn’t feeling well because he had hit his head, but we made it to the police station together to file a report.
After that, the police officer took me back to my hostel. It was a two-minute walk from the station. I thanked him for taking me back, but he just stayed in the backyard. I thought that maybe he was just going to discuss with the hostel staff about the robbery. The next day I heard that the police officer had asked the hostel to pay for a ‘taxi’ which of course, we never took. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. You can’t even trust a police in Madagascar, and actually, the robbery happened almost next to the police station.
I was lucky that I wasn’t carrying a lot of valuables with me. Would have been awful to lose my wallet with all the credit cards, passport or camera. But still losing my iPhone sucked because I need it for everything: for calling, texting, keeping in touch with my friends, GPS and maps, Instagram, etc. I needed to buy a new phone, and I was pretty sure that they don’t sell iPhones in Madagascar (or at least I didn’t want to take a risk that I would buy either a stolen or fake iPhone).
On my first day in Madagascar I had also heard that because of the rainy season, some of the roads and national parks are closed. There was one thing I wanted to see so badly in Madagascar, and that was Tsingy National Park. Unfortunately, that was one of those parks that were closed. Because of that, I had already decided to cut my time short and come back after the rainy season.
After I had got robbed, I knew that I needed to fly to South Africa to buy a new phone. So I changed my plans completely, decided to skip Mauritius as well and booked flights to Cape Town.
I didn’t think it could get any worse, but on my last night, it did. I had booked a female dorm, but because the hostel was full and there was only one girl besides me, the hostel staff asked if they could move two guys to the female dorm. They were two French guys, and I really didn’t like the other one. The moment I saw him for the first time, I knew that he was a douchebag. You know, one of those greasy guys who talk a lot of shit.
So the French guys and the South African girl, went out. They asked me to come with them, but I was too busy trying to make a claim to my insurance company (thank God, I had a travel insurance from World Nomads!), and I was still sick. They came back late in the evening, drunk as hell. The girl was so drunk that she couldn’t walk on her own and the guys took her to her bed. They left the girl there and were about leave again when the douchebag shouted at me: “You take care of her or shut the fuck up!”
I hadn’t said a single word, I was ready to go to sleep, and he was telling me to shut the fuck up? Who the hell did he think he was?
“Yeah. I’ll take care of her,” I answered calmly.
“Just shut the fuck up! Did you hear me?? Shut the fuck up, or I’m gonna show you! I’m gonna punch you in the fucking face! Do you understand?” he shouted back at me.
That was the last straw for me. I was already so pissed of about everything that had happened in Madagascar, and I had so much anger towards men after getting robbed and catcalled by them, and now there was some fucking French guy in a female dorm threatening me and telling me to ‘shut the fuck up.’
“Alright, that’s enough! Can YOU shut the fuck up when I’m trying to sleep here? I paid for the female dorm, and I kindly let you stay in this dorm, and you come here to tell me to shut the fuck up?! You are the ones who are gonna get kicked out of this dorm if something happens.”
“You see any females here? No, we are men! And you just have to deal with us so shut the fuck up”, he just continued.
I’ve had enough. I went down to the reception to explain the situation. The guys followed me and tried to apologize. Of course, now they were afraid of getting kicked out of the hostel. I let them stay in the dorm, and I spent a night listening to their snoring… The next morning I left for the airport, and I’ve never been happier to leave a country.
I’m still hoping to revisit Madagascar and see all the places I wanted to, but I never want to go to Tana again. Even though I’ve been taking minibusses all around Africa, I don’t want to take them in Madagascar because there are frequent armed robberies on main roads. The risk is just too high. When I go back, I’ll fly straight to the west coast and just travel around that area.
It’s unfortunate that things turned out this way because Madagascar has been a dream destination for me since I was a child. There are so many natural wonders, exotic animals, and plants, and I’m just really hoping that one day I’ll see those things.
Update: Now I’m actually happy that I got robbed because otherwise, I wouldn’ have left earlier. If you’ve read my Monthly Recap, you know that my condition got even worse when I got to South Africa. What I didn’t tell here, is that I also had a terrible nose bleeding problem and I was unable to travel anywhere from Tana because my nose was bleeding heavily several times a day. When I got to South Africa, I also had a high fever, and I was feeling very sick but being sick in South Africa is much better than in Madagascar! I got my nose cauterized, some strong antibiotics and other medicine for the unknown tropical disease, and after a month I’m feeling better.