Choosing the Best SIM Card at Tana Airport: A Madagascar Traveler's Guide

Discover the best SIM card and data options for travelers in Madagascar. Maximize data coverage for under US$12 for 30 days, compare top telcos, and get essential tips for staying connected.

Choosing the Best SIM Card at Tana Airport: A Madagascar Traveler's Guide
SIM card trifecta in Madagascar

Planning a trip to Madagascar and wondering how to stay connected during your travels? Navigating the world of SIM cards and data options can be challenging. This comprehensive guide covers practical information on SIM card and data choices in Madagascar. Discover a strategic approach to maximize data coverage for under US$12 for 30 days, learn about the top telcos and their offerings, and get essential tips to help you stay connected throughout your journey.

If you're arriving in Antanavario Ivarto Airport in Tana soon, check out a comprehensive guide covering immigration, exchanging money, ATM withdrawals, mobile wallets, and airport transfers.

The Basics

eSIM cards

You can either get an eSIM card before arrival, or a physical SIM card at the airport. eSIMs purchased overseas tend to be more expensive, and they might also be slower because they operate on a virtual network — although they operate off the three main networks (Telma, Orange, AirTel), customers with physical SIM cards will get network priority.

Physical SIM cards

The airport has kiosks that sell SIM cards from all three telcos. Which SIM card should you get? If you’re only visiting the capital Antananarivo, then all three carriers have excellent coverage so it won’t matter which you get. If you’re going to visit any other city outside of Tana (which you probably will be), and having data coverage is important to you, then I’d recommend getting SIM cards from all three carriers. Why? No single telco has definitively the best coverage. It’s a mishmash. This doesn’t mean you’ll have to spend a lot of money to get all three SIM cards. I’ll outline a strategy that lets you maximize data coverage for thirty days for under US$12!


You can use Telma and Orange to tether your devices and get internet access on your laptop or tablet. This is particularly useful in remote locations where many travelers are relying on the hotel's wifi service, which can get congested because the hotel itself is using mobile internet from Telma or Orange. In such situations, having your own dedicated hotspot can often provide faster speeds.

(Photo of Telco kiosks at Ivarto Airport)


If you could only get one SIM card, get Telma. The reasons are threefold: first, when I traveled along the RN7 with Telma and Orange, Telma had better coverage in some places where Orange had none. Second, in places served by both carriers, Telma had better service (LTE) compared to Orange that frequently reverted to 3G speeds. Third, having a Telma SIM card gives you access to MVOLA — Telma’s mobile wallet. For more information on mobile payments and cash, refer to Money Matters in Madagascar: Mastering MVola, Orange Money, ATMs, and Credit Card Payments.

Telma Plans and cost

A blank SIM card costs 1,000 Ar., and you’ll pay for the SIM card and data plan together at the Telma airport kiosk.

Telma’s pricing is confusing. There are four packages, and many tiers of services within each package to choose from. The four packages are: Telma Net, FIRST, Ye’low, and M’Ora.

Which plan should you get? Telma Net is the most useful package offering affordable data-only plans. I’d recommend getting the 30 day (30 j) 4 GB (4 Go) plan, which costs just ~US$5! There’s no discount with the 12GB plan — you’re better off paying-as-you-go and get several 4GB plans if you finish your data allocation. Besides, it’s not likely that you’ll use that much data — data speeds are rarely over 20mbps outside of Tana.

Here’s a table of the available Telma Net plans (refer to Telma for the latest rate plans)

The other three packages, FIRST, Ye’low, and M’Ora offers a combination of talktime, SMS, and data. I recommend just adding credit to your SIM card and paying as you go, since it’s unlikely that you’d be making a lot of calls or sending many text messages.

For travelers with newer phones, Telma offers eSIMs that must be activated at the time of purchase. Ask for an eSIM at the kiosk. You won’t be able to convert a physical SIM card to an eSIM.

Orange Madagascar

That said, I recommend getting an Orange SIM card and data plan together with Telma. This redundancy can be very useful if you’re stuck in an area that does not have Telma coverage.

Orange Madagascar Plans and cost

Like Telma, the Orange SIM card costs 1,000 Ar., and you’ll pay for the SIM card and data plan together at the Orange airport kiosk.

Orange also offers several packages. I recommend purchasing a data-only plan (Be Connect) and paying for calls and text messages separately. Orange’s Be Connect 4.5GB/30day plan costs 30,000 Ar. (~US$5). This is their cheapest 30-day plan.


If you have purchased the 4GB plans from Telma and Orange, you’d have only spent 57,000 Ar. (US$13)! If you’re paranoid about losing cell coverage like me, then get a blank SIM card from Airtel’s airport kiosk. Airtel SIM cards are very hard to find outside of the airport and Tana.

It comes in handy if you find yourself in an area without Telma or Orange coverage. Just head to the nearest Airtel kiosk to purchase a data plan. Rural areas will have an Airtel top up station, but you’re probably not going to be able to purchase a SIM card there. So getting a blank SIM card at the airport would’ve saved you a lot of hassle.

Airtel Plans and cost

Airtel is Madagascar’s newest telco, and they do not charge you for a SIM card. However, you need to load a minimum of 500 Ar. (US$0.11) -- not a bad price for a free SIM card!

For completeness, here is Airtel’s data-only plans. It’s priced similarly to Telma and Orange.


To wrap things up, maintaining a reliable connection while traveling through Madagascar can be achieved with a practical strategy. Start by purchasing a Telma SIM card, which offers the best coverage, service quality, and access to MVola, a mobile wallet service. Complement your Telma SIM card with an Orange SIM card as a backup to ensure you have coverage in areas where Telma might not be available. For those who want extra assurance, grab a free Airtel SIM card at the airport and keep it handy for any potential coverage gaps. By following this approach, you can secure dependable data coverage for under US$12 and focus on enjoying your Madagascan adventure with the peace of mind that you'll remain connected throughout your journey.