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5 Things I wish I knew before moving to Madeira

Madeira is an incredible place to visit, and I still can't believe that for the last two years, I could call it home. Although we made a thorough research to learn everything about Madeira before moving here, but some things you'll come across while living here can only be learned from your own experiences. And here are a few things I wish I knew before moving to Madeira!

Having a car is essential to explore Madeira

While the public transportation on Madeira covers all areas of the island and could take you to most places you want to visit, it might not be very efficient for a traveler here for a short stay. We spent our first half-year on Madeira using only public transportation and occasionally renting a car for 2-3 days. Although we could get around well and travel to new places every week, it was only when we rented a car long-term that we truly experienced all the benefits of living on Madeira.

Especially with Madeira's ever-changing weather, booking a car wasn't always practical for us, as flexibility is key. Many times, we booked the car a week ahead and ended up staying at home because of the rain.

The prices for car rentals vary depending on demand, jumping from 30 euros in winter to even 100 euros per day in the high season or during holidays.

Just recently, a new business opened that provides transportation to the two main hiking areas on the island. This can be a fine addition to your trip or a way to save some money on a few days of car rental, but if you plan to stay on Madeira long-term to explore the island, getting your own four wheels is still advisable.

Madeira's Facebook groups aren't objective

Many people may dislike me for revealing this secret, but before I knew about it myself, my decision-making was also influenced by advice from these groups. So, I think it's important for everyone to be aware of it.

What's the problem with these groups? They are privately owned by travel agencies and local rental shops. I don't want to complain about the services offered in the groups, as some of them could be perfectly fine, as you'll find many real positive recommendations shared in comments by the group members.

My point is that these groups don't allow their competition to promote their services, making it difficult for group members to compare services between different agencies. You also won't find any negative opinions about these companies because the administrators simply don't accept negative comments.

These groups mostly focus on organising trips around the island, AirBnB, and car rentals. Promoting other services like photography, hiking, surfing classes, etc., often requires discussion with the group admins, who may later receive a percentage from every sale.

These groups are still a great place to connect with other travellers and get authentic advice for your trip to Madeira, but you must be open-minded about the information you find there.

The roads on Madeira are very good

Before your visit to Madeira, you've probably heard a lot about some of the steepest roads in the world or how skilled you have to be while driving on Madeira.

Of course, there are many challenging roads on the island, especially if you go to less popular locations or drive to small neighborhoods in the hills above Funchal. However, most of the places that a typical tourist would like to visit are very accessible.

There's a highway connecting East to West along the southern coast where you can go up to 90km/h. There are many tunnels and bridges allowing for a good connection around the island. The north doesn't have a highway, but the road is fairly new, and you can easily travel the circuit around the island.

Madeira's government is putting a lot of effort into making traveling around the island fast and comfortable, and currently, only the area of Boaventura in the north doesn't have the new roads yet. Even though the roads there are narrow, curvy, and can cause motion sickness in your fellow passengers, I didn't find them to require any special driving skills. If this still doesn't make you feel comfortable about driving on Madeira, you can rent an automatic car, which will be easier to drive on mountain roads, or join an island tour and enjoy driving around the island from the backseat of an off-road car.

Hikers on top of Pico Grande, Madeira

Madeira is not a walk in the park

Most tourists choose to visit Madeira because of its incredible nature, for which Madeira is so popular. I don't know why it's like that, but too many people underestimate the power of Mother Nature here. If you follow Madeira's news, almost every week you can hear about rescue missions in the mountains or even deaths of tourists.

The hiking paths and levadas on Madeira are well-prepared, according to the standards you'd expect from a hiking trail, but they aren't by any means like paths in the park! To visit these places, you have to have at least a minimum experience in walking in the mountains on your own, be confident, have proper shoes and clothes, and be well aware of the challenge you're planning to attempt.

Most accidents are caused by inexperienced hikers who often underestimate the weather and slip from the trail or get lost and stay out too late.

This shouldn't keep you from experiencing the beauty of hiking on Madeira, but, as with every new thing you do in life, you'll benefit the most when someone with greater experience helps you make your first steps. This could be a trip leader or a hiking guide who can take care of your safety in the mountains and later, after seeing your performance, can advise you on places you could visit on your own.

Sunrise at Maiata Beach, Madeira

Not famous for the best beaches

This isn't a secret anymore, as many now know that Madeira has amazing beaches and can be surely signed up as a beach destination. But a few years ago, when we visited Madeira for the first time, we had very low expectations. We knew about the pebble beaches and were just hoping we'd be able to get to the water in our swimming shoes (which we never wore).

There are a few beaches with volcanic black sand like Seixal or even golden yellow sand created by bringing sand from the Sahara Desert to Machico and Calheta. Still, we chose to swim and enjoy the pebble beaches of Garajau and Formosa.

Besides the beaches, Madeira is famous for the natural swimming pools, which are incredible places to spend the whole afternoon in the water.

Other Articles about Madeira you'd might like

Madeira is such an amazing place to visit, and we still can't believe we've been able to call it home for the past two years. During our stay, we explored all the best spots on the island and tried all the most exciting activities, many of them more than once! This helped us create these comprehensive guides that will help you plan your own trip to Madeira.



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