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Toamasina (Tamatave)

This town of 70,000 is home to the country’s largest port. Its once-fine colonial houses give Toamasina (Tamatave) a shabby elegance. It is a busy place with sailors and tourists, offering a variety of bars, restaurants and hotels. Most visitors spend only a day or two in town as the attractions are really found outside in the country. Visit the colorful market, where vendors display a wide array of produce, seafood and spices such as vanilla, cloves and black pepper, and locally made quality straw goods. A tour by rickshaw, the common local transportation, is a fun way to explore the town and get a glimpse into the daily life and activities of its people. Be prepared to bargain with the driver when establishing the fare. The official language is Malagasy, with French as the second language, spoken mainly in the cities.