Although the terrain makes railway building difficult and expensive, there are four main railroads, all publicly operated, covering 893 km (555 mi). These run from Toamasina to Antananarivo, with a branch from Moramanga to Lake Alaotra; from Antananarivo to Antsirabe; and from Fianarantsoa to Manakara on the east coast.
There are about 49,837 km (30,969 mi) of motor roads on the island, of which 5,781 km (3,592 mi) were paved in 2002. The main roads radiate from Antananarivo to Mahajanga and Antsiranana, to Toamasina, to Fianarantsoa, and to Ihosy, from which one branch goes to Toliara (Tuléar) and another to Tolänaro (Fort Dauphin). The road from Antananarivo to Fianarantsoa is tarred, as are portions of the other main routes. In 2000, there were 39,900 passenger automobiles and 54,200 commercial vehicles in use.
The three major ports are Toamasina, Nosy Be, and Mahajanga; Toliara and Antsiranana are also important. There are at least 13 other ports, engaged mainly in coastal trade. There was considerable freight traffic along the Pangalanes Canal, which runs parallel to the east coast from Toamasina to Farafangana for a distance of 700 km (435 mi). The canal was closed in 1979, however, because of silting; dredging had begun by 1985. The merchant fleet consisted of 15 vessels, with gross weight of 27,199 tons in 2002.
In 2001, there were 130 airports, 29 of which had paved runways. The principal international airport is at Ivato, near Antananarivo. Air Madagascar (the national airline), Air France, Alitalia, Aeroflot, Air Mauritius, and Air Tanzania also provide international service. Air Madagascar, which is owned partly by Air France, also services internal locations. In 2001, 315,500 passengers were carried on domestic and international flights.