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Madeira

Europe > Portugal > Madeira

See: Why rent a car in Madeira ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Madeira?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Madeira?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Madeira car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Madeira with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Madeira? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Madeira, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

Please note that Carornocar.com is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Madeira is in car rental price band: 1/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Madeira? 

Yes. Extremely cheap car hire at quieter times and still good value year round.

Volatility:

Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Madeira between the peak and the off peak season?

3/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 2/10

Non car score:6/10

Balance: 6

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -

 

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.

Why? Visiting Madeira using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Madeira ?


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.

Why not? Visiting Madeira without a car

Why don't you need 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.

Ratings: How does Madeira compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Madeira? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Madeira, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?

 

 

Do you need to hire a car in Madeira? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Madeira (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Madeira? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel

 

Car hire basics:

 

Public transportation basics:

 

Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):

 

As you start ....

Does Madeira airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No

 

 

 

 


Changelog

Has our advice for Madeira car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 4

2019 - 4

2021 - 6

Average score - 5

Notes:

 

Canary Islands & Madeira Compared

How does Madeira compare with other islands in the Canaries? The Canary Islands and Madeira are a very popular year round travel destination, largely with visitors from Europe. Renting a car might often seem like the natural choice, but there are big differences in the road networks and in public transport standards between the different islands.

Overall Car or No Car Ratings

  CAR NO CAR BALANCE
El Hierro 6 5 6
Fuerteventura 4 4 6
Gran Canaria 7 4 2
La Gomera 2 5 5
La Palma 4 5 7
Lanzarote 8 7 5
Tenerife 8 7 2
 
Madeira 8 7 2

 

Based on Price Alone?

A more detailed price comparison will be done late in 2021, as more international travel is allowed. Generally speaking, price is not a significant factor in determining whether or not to rent a car in the Canary Islands.

Car rental in Madeira v other options:

  • Car hire is generally cheap.
  • Distances are short - every island can be driven around in one day or less.
  • Fuel is free from IVA (VAT) - except in Madeira.
  • Parking is usually free, or available in commercial car parks at reasonable rates.

Also:

  • Buses are widely available in most resort areas in Madeira.
  • Taxis are cheap compared to other parts of Spain and very cheap compared to Northern Europe.
  • Most hotels are near the coast with good access to beaches.
  • Resort areas in Madeira always have good facilities and easy access to shops.
  • Walking trails are widely available - both along coastal routes and inland.
  • It's usually easy to reach walking trails by bus.

 

Why compare the Canary Islands with renting a car in Madeira?

These islands all have similar characteristics - almost all visitors are arriving by air at the main airport on each island, and there is no rail based public transport, except for the tram in Tenerife. The islands have a year-round warm climate, and driving conditions are generally similar. Although there are seasonal variations in car rental prices, these tend to be driven by the demand to get away, rather than seasonal changes locally.

Even during the most popular holiday periods (especially around Christmas and Easter), car rental in Madeira is generally good value. Buses in Madeiraare still widely available, and taxis are usually cheap. 

Summary

Do you or don't you need a car in Madeira ?

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