Driving in Madiera - Altea Ego
Right - off to Madeira in September. Booked a hire car at Funchal Airport, staying at Ponta du Sol.

Driving, sightseeing and "must do" tips please.

Driving in Madiera - Alby Back
Nice place AE. My tip is hire something with a decent engine and handling. Very mountainous. I spent a week with a Seat Marbella. Think it might have been a 750cc. Miserable. Especially as the Rally of Madeira was imminent and people were practising the route while I was trying to get my wee car up the hills ! Eeeeeeekk !!!

PS - don't be tempted to try that black deep sea fish stuff. Can't remember what they call it but it's supposed to be a delicacy. It's 'orrible........

Have a good time !

Edited by Humph Backbridge on 19/07/2009 at 13:38

Driving in Madiera - Altea Ego
Alas I thnk i wil get a Chevrolet Matiz hairdryer.

I had one in Naples once and drove it to the top of Vesuvius. Didnt know if the smell was the Volcano or the Matiz,

Edited by Altea Ego on 19/07/2009 at 13:46

Driving in Madiera - Alby Back
Well, good luck, all I can add is that when you have been forced to the side of numerous sheer drops by dozens of crazed would be rally drivers all day the mechanical smells in the car are the least unpleasant ones you may have to deal with.......

Driving in Madiera - bimmer-driver
I'm going back for the fourth time this Sept aswell but not staying in the same place as you but Funchal itself. Drivings really easy, if you can do it in Naples, Madiera won't be any problem. When we go we don't really plan things to do, just get in the car and head out and see what we come across. You'll have a great time.
Driving in Madiera - Old Navy
Your hairdriers first and second gear will get a lot of use, I can reccomend the various botanical gardens if you enjoy that sort of thing, but they are steep and can be a physical effort. You may find it useful to get a bus pass, they can be topped up with "journeys", are cheap and the bus services are good. There is an octagonal hut on the promenade in Funchal (far end from port area, a short walk) which is a bus office, very helpful people. When driving in Funchal be careful of the "sledge route" where tourists can be returned from the botanical gardens to sea level at a fair speed cotrolled by a "steersman" with car tyre soled shoes, the only brake!
Driving in Madiera - CGNorwich

You will enjoy this road
Driving in Madeira - old crocks
I've been four times and love the place but have never managed to hire a car. Just stayed in Funchal and taken bus and coach trips around the island.

The interesting experiences start with the approach to the airport and just carry on!

The buses run precisely to time and provide a great white-knuckle ride. I was always impressed by their acceleration up the steepest of hills. You'll certainly be holding them up in a Matiz!

The Monte Palace Gardens, in Funchal, are my favourite, with a series of tiled panels showing the history of Portugal.

I think HB was just unlucky (or lucky?) with the rally and I think/hope CGN's video is the road in the northeast which has been replaced with something wider leaving small sections of the old road to frighten tourists!
Driving in Madiera - Altea Ego
You will enjoy this road


thats a veritable motorway

Driving in Madiera - Stuartli
If that's the road that runs along the northern area of the island, then it can prove quite exciting, especially if you get a large lorry or similar coming the other way....:-)

I've driven over most of Madeira, but it was about 12-15 years ago and no doubt there have been changes (I seem to remember a shortish stretch of new motorway to the west of Funchal).

At least the airport runway has been extended - the 737 pilots were always having to stand on the brakes from the moment the wheels hit the tarmac whenever I went.

Driving in Madiera - bathtub tom
I had great fun! Hired a Seicento(?), that's all we needed for the two of us. The island's over a mile high and about ten miles across the middle IIRC. That means if you're not going up a one in five, you're coming down one.

I first visited many years ago and once more after Portugal joined the EU. The infrastructure benefitted enormously from, presumably, EU funding. Wide, motorway standard roads in places, but second gear on some because of the incline (and the Seicento). A hire car's a necessity to see many of the ptettier places off the tourist, coach route.

I had a major problem with the older tunnels. I found that driving into them out of bright sunshine, I couldn't see a thing (they're not illuminated). If the tunnel was straight you could aim at the light at the far end and hope anything coming the other way would be silhouetted. On more than one occasion I found the tunnel had a bend, so I just stopped until my eyes adjusted and hoped nothing would ram me from behind. Headlamps weren't enough to compensate.

Walk at least one Levada! If you don't like it, then don't do any more.

I had no problem with the Espada (black slimy fish), but it's nothing special.

Do visit Funchal market. The flowers and fish are a wonderful sight.

Watch the planes trying to land at the airport on the side of a mountain (the runway's been extended on stilts!). Some make several attempts due to the evil wind - NOT recommended for nervous flyers.

If you do use the buses, make sure you sit down as soon as possible. They've fearful acceleration and the drivers use it. I suppose they're geared for the hills.

My navigator! slotted me onto the road the cruise boat tourists get pushed down the hill in those basket things. I was not popular. I was giving the one behind as much room as possible (I knew they'd got no brakes) whilst getting glared at by the one in front for being right up his chuff.
Driving in Madiera - NARU
Loads and loads of new infrastucture. I'm sure it slashes journey times and accident rates but its worth seeking out the old roads - they are lovely to drive.
Driving in Madiera - Happy Blue!
I had no problem with the Espada (black slimy fish), but it's nothing special.

I admit to being many things (including being special) a black slimy fish is not one of them!
Driving in Madiera - Alby Back
Well, I'm more than sure you are a fine fellow Espada but that fish.......yeugh....!!

They have it in the fish markets too. Nightmarish appearance. The posh hotel in Funchal, I forget the name, is good for a very civilised afternoon cuppa. You can sit there feeling like an extra from an Agatha Christie novel. Do a runner if poss though.

Driving in Madiera - CGNorwich
The posh hotel in Funchal, I forget the name

That would be Reid's

Espada fish normally served with banana - quite tasty really. Don't confuse with Espetada which is another local dish - steak grilled on a skewer.

Although I like driving I don't normally bother with a car as you really don't get to see much when driving - You need to concentrate!. I normally use a combination of buses and taxis. - You can negotiate a deal to get use of taxi for whole day and they will take you to places you might not find otherwise. Buses are good. Beware there are 5 bus Companies in Funchal, sometimes using the same numbers! - One company serves Funchal and the others run from Funchal to other parts of the island. You can get a timetable for all routes form the Tourist Information Centre. Best guide is the Sunflower guide which detail walks and drives.
Funchal is a lovely town, one of the most civilised I know
Driving in Madiera - Martin Devon
The posh hotel in Funchal I forget the name
That would be Reid's

Part of a big chain now apparently. Quite sad really.

Don't confuse with Espetada which is another local dish - steak grilled on a skewer.

Delicious. Never had a bad bit of 'Beef' in Madeira.

Funchal is a lovely town one of the most civilised I know.

And I believe one, if not the most populated city/town/place on earth per square doofer.
A lot of poverty that you rarely see though. I know a couple of waiters there.

Best regards............Martin D
Driving in Madiera - Andrew-T
I haven't done that for a few years, AE. If you haven't been before, remember the island is about 20 miles across and 6000 feet high, so be prepared for steep hills and continuous hairpins. That means a small vehicle so you can pass the tourist buses which you will meet on blind corners. Many drivers seem to rely on Das Wunderhorn - if you sound the horn energetically at each bend, no car will be coming the other way.

Funchal now has an M-way bypass, but everywhere else roads are very tight, and most residents routinely turn their mirrors in and park in contact (almost) with the wall.

Weather conditions on north and south sides are usually different, so go over the top for better weather if necessary. The top part is rather pleasant, when it appears out of the cloud which often sits there.

Enjoy! ...
Driving in Madiera - Martin Devon
The Ayatollah-at-Homei and I have been Fourteen times.

Best fireworks in the world at New year.

You MUST visit Nun's Valley. You don't need to know anymore as I don't want to spoil it. Don't even google it. Just go. If it's no good then bill me.

Do an easy Levada walk unless you are an accomplished hiker. Lots of folk disappear for ever (and their bodies are NEVER recovered) on the serious Levada walks!!

Flash floods ARE a major problem and I mean FLASH. many a motorist has been taken out to sea and recovery sometimes never happens although there were one or two incidences when the car turned up months later.

Many years ago we met and retained as a great friend, a Madeiran taxi driver. We've even been to dinner at his abode. Smashing chap so I never drive anywhere. The one thing that I have always noticed when travelling with him is that he is always mindful of rockfalls, of which there are many and I would never consider driving there with a sun roof open. Even a pebble from a certain height will kill you. This is a serious consideration.

EU funding has given them tunnels everywhere and smooth blacktop, but there are some serious motorway accidents, a lot of which you hear nothing about. Whether driving or being driven try the old coast roads having read their construction history and don't think of the coach in The Italian Job.

If you enjoy a drink and a good lunch and are not the touristy type go to where the local Businessmen go if in Funchal. Just watch any back street and it will soon become apparent where they're heading. We have always been looked after and have emerged after a couple of hours, full up with solids and liquids and been relieved of £15.00 the last time, admittedly five years ago, but hey!

Visit the main market in Funchal and make sure you visit the fish section.

Madeira is a fantastic place..............ENJOY.

Best regards..........Martin D
Driving in Madiera - Martin Devon
Oh and be serious about brake fade coming down from the mountains...seriously.

Driving in Madiera - daveyjp
We went at Christmas about 6 years ago. A lot of Madeirans are on long holidays then so not many mad drivers at that time of year. We had a 1.3 Yaris which coped well.

Lots of fantastic views wherever you go, although low cloud is a feature of the island so try and choose a day when it's clear to go to the central mountainous areas.

Lots of new roads were being built which take out the old hairpin routes, but you can still use many of the old routes. The longest tunnel on Portugal is on Madeira and links north and south - very impressive.

Some of the highest cliffs in Europe are just down the coast from Funchal - Cabo Girao - 580m from top to the sea below.

Nuns Valley - I'll leave you to find it then report back. We went on Christams Day and I had the best piece of apple pie in the cafe on the square.

The only place I would avoid is Funchal - it's a nightmare to drive in. We spent an hour trying to get out of the place as what appears to be a main road going where you want it to soon becomes a narrow road which takes you back where you have come from!

Just let anyone who wants to pass do so and you'll have a good time.

BTW - if you can, get a window seat on the right hand side of the aircraft to experience the unusual approach in all it's glory!

Edited by daveyjp on 19/07/2009 at 20:47

Driving in Madiera - bimmer-driver
Nothing wrong with Reid's Palace being part of a chain when its the 'Leading Hotels Of The World' chain. This will be my fourth time staying there, and it doesn't really get any better.
Driving in Madiera - Martin Devon
Nothing wrong with Reid's Palace being part of a chain when its the 'Leading Hotels
Of The World' chain. This will be my fourth time staying there and it doesn't
really get any better.

Thanks for the update. I have previously had sad reports.

Driving in Madiera - Stuartli
The time I stayed at Reid's is the only occasion in my lifetime that I've ever been in a lift that stuck midway between floors - it took nearly an hour to be freed and was not something I'd like to go through again in a hurry...:-)
Driving in Madiera - Armitage Shanks {p}
The black fish is known as Scabbard Fish - the skin is rough and black, thus scabbard, but the fish itself is a normal flaky fleshed white fish. The fish market is amazing, the first time I went there I wondered why they were cutting up logs of mahogony - it was tuna!

Many of the levada walks are very easy and interesting and many of them can be done by public transport. Catch a bus to the start, do the walk and get another bus back to base. Tourist Info has leaflets

The swanky tea is at Reids Hotel - about £24 a head and push for a seat on the balcony, not indoors. Same idea as tea at the Ritz or Claridges in London - some thing one should do once. Another thing that used to be fun was to have lunch at the Hotel Training School; lunch cooked and served by the students and good food at a good price. The odd foul-up with thumbs in the soup and dropped wine glasses, but an interesting experience.

Driving in Madiera - bathtub tom
Forgot to mention:

As you walk into Funchal of an evening, the 'greeters' will be outside every eating place you pass with a tray of glasses of Madeira wine.

We found they're not your normal pushy type.

We tried saying politely 'we ate here the other night and thought we'd try so-and-so down the road'. They'd probably recommend a dish served at so-and-so and insist you had a glass anyway!

I'm sure SWMBO and me forgot why we'd come out of an evening more than once, hic! ;>)
Driving in Madiera - Altea Ego
I used to work in Gibraltar. When the Spanish blocked the airspace over Algiciras bay to GB airways flights, the approach there was a bit hairy. Once I was at next to Sir Joshua Hassan, the Gibraltar PM. The spanish airforce were flying on one side of the plane, and the RAF on the other.
Driving in Madiera - bathtub tom
And another thing ;>)

The Portuguese are probably the friendliest people I've ever come across - perhaps because they're the only european country Great Britain has never been at war with.

In many car park areas in picturesque locations you'll find permanent BBQ fixings (brick built with iron bars). We found that if you stopped at any of these to park and stroll around, any locals would pounce on you to share their BBQ (espetada, pork kebabs usually?). We found it hard to accept as we had nothing to give in return. On subsequent visits we always packed a couple of bags of 'mini treats', Cadbury's flake, whisper, buttons etc. These went down very well and were generously accepted as fair return.
Driving in Madiera - Reentrant
Worth noting:-
- the north tends to be much cloudier than the south.
- get a right-hand window seat on the plane for the best view of the landing approach.
- if you're into walking, there aren't too many circular walks so it's worth booking a guided one with transport back at the end.
Driving in Madiera - Snakey
I've never bothered hiring a car in Madeira as the taxis are cheap, plentiful, friendly and in excellent condition.

Well worth taking the cable car up to the botanical gardens. Take a picnic and make a day of it. Eating your sandwiches looking out over the sea is a lasting memory I have!