Anyone lucky enough to have a window seat when landing at the amazingly engineered airport that serves Madeira’s capital Funchal will notice not just that the airport is incredibly close to the city centre, but that all of the resort areas on the southern side of the island are very tightly packed together. This is hardly surprising, given that the rugged terrain on Madeira makes it difficult to build anywhere in the island’s interior.
Although there are no fixed rail train services anywhere on the island of Madeira, local and regional bus services are available through a variety of different bus companies, and with a bit of planning it is possible to travel pretty much throughout the whole island by bus. Many resorts will also offer guided bus tours of the island’s interior.
Naturally, as with any island destination with no regular rail service, a hire car can be quite useful in Madeira. However, in an island that is so well known for its plant life, the two most impressive gardens on the island are both within the urban area of Funchal itself. You might not fancy walking up to these gardens in the heat, but buses are still widely available, and you might still prefer the breezy walk down.
If your plan is to hire a car in Madeira, but just to get one for a day or two, then it’s always worth checking the rental terms – a full week hire might be much better value than a shorter hire period if the rental contract is on a full tank to empty tank basis. However, if you are staying in the centre of Funchal, it’s always worth checking parking arrangements first.
So, do I need to hire a car in Madeira? On balance, our Madeira car hire advice is that this is the sort of island it’s actually very easy to get around just by using local buses, walking in places, and probably making a few journeys by taxi, but it’s unlikely really to be worth justifying getting a hire car, unless you are staying well away from the urban area of Funchal.