I get a lot of questions from people who are planning their trips to Madagascar, thanks to the fact that I stalk the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree travel forum and other travel sites, answering questions and giving opinions. Many of the women who contact me want to know about traveling around Madagascar alone. I’ve done it a lot over the past few years, and there are some clear advantages and disadvantages, which I’m in the process of exploring.
- You can travel according to your own schedule.
- Most of your human interaction is with local people, so you start learning the language, making new friends, and having adventures pretty quickly!
- It’s easier to get single places in passing taxi-brousses that are already chock-full of people.
- This seems trivial, but you don’t have very many pictures of yourself when the trip is over. Of course, there are always the awkward double-chin self-shots featuring one arm extending toward the viewer. The self-timer is pretty convenient, or you could ask someone else to take a shot for you – keep in mind that the someone you ask might not know how to use a camera.
- When you have no one to share costs with, transportation (other than taxi-broussing or flying) can be very expensive – especially boats, 4x4s, canoes, taxis, etc. I went on a canoe trip recently that was priced for a minimum of 2 people, and I was just one. I thought the guy would cut me a deal (after all, wasn’t the canoe easier to paddle with just one person?), but he didn’t and I paid double. Guides in parks are pretty pricey as well, and going as a group lowers the cost per person, as does sharing hotel rooms.
- Taxibroussing alone for many hours gets boring and lonely, and is pretty terrible. Eating alone in restaurants can be the pits as well.
For women in particular:
- It’s not very safe/smart to go out alone after dark. In certain seasons this means you’re stuck in your hotel room for dinner, which is boring. If you’re traveling alone, you should stay in a hotel that has a restaurant so you don’t have to worry about leaving the premises.
- Many guys will make noises (tsst, tsst, for example) and yell things at you, say things to you, and try to flirt in general. Even if you don’t speak their language. They’re not dangerous, but can be incredibly annoying.
After looking at this list and thinking about it for awhile, it seems like I think traveling alone is for the birds. It really depends on the traveler – I’ve met several really independent people who love being by themselves, experiencing everything about a country on their own and spending more time with local people than other tourists. I like laughing about the silly stuff that happens during a journey with others, and some adventures I’ve had would not have been the same without my jolly companions (for example, the harrowing trip down the RN12 with Brett Massoud).
For me, traveling alone is a little different because I speak Malagasy, and those that speak French will be able to get along fine. If you don’t speak French or Malagasy, I’d recommend either going with a tour operator or joining others, even though there are more English-speakers than ever (and a few who speak Spanish, Italian, German, etc!).