15 TIPS to Visit Madeira in 2023!
Madeira is one of the most beautiful or in my opinion, the most beautiful island in the world and is no stranger to the adventurous tourist, below I’ve compiled 15 Tips for anyone visiting Madeira for the first time, or the regular visitor who might be looking for a local tour guide perspective. I hope you find value, and looking forward to seeing you in Madeira in 2023!
1 Plan for the weather, expect anything.
The weather is a topic all on it’s own on the beautiful island of Madeira but to try and sum it up quickly, South is warmer than North. It’s also sunnier, has less rain. As you gain altitude you lose heat and there’s 20 something microclimates (I keep hearing different figures) which means it can be raining as well as sunny and bright, in the same place lol.
Make sure you got the correct clothing for the season, for the mountains, for hiking, etc.
PRO TIP: Check out our “Weather in Madeira” BLOG for more information on how to use the weather to your advantage;
2 Choose the Correct Transport.
The island is more diverse than ever, from local busses to rent a cars, off’-roaders to VIP “limos” you’ve got it all in Madeira! A couple of tips; if you’re renting a car make sure you actually know how to drive. The best way around in Funchal is by taxi. Local buses can be fun and adventurous as well as long and time consuming. There are budget tours and experiences which will be great, but we all know what BUDGET gets in every country, in every sector. If you planning on spending most of your time hiking, renting a car may not always be cheaper and certainly will be much harder as well. Personally I would only rent a car if I was staying outside of Funchal or somewhere remote. Get driven by locals, you won’t regret it!
PRO TIP: Check out our “How to drive in Madeira” YouTube video for even more info;
3 Take a Tour
You cant begin to even negotiate how much value a local will have over your own research, app, driving, eating, etc… Let a local show you all these things, they’re experts! If you’re only taking one tour, get it on one of the first days of your trip. That way you’ll have an expert with you for the day that can direct you to local bars, restaurants, coffees, trails, friends who teach surf lessons, friends in high places lol. You’ll also have more time to change your plan should you decide to have another day out with some fun locals!
TIP: Contact your guides, restaurants, hotels and airbnbs DIRECTLY instead of the official apps we all know in the Online Travel Agencies (OTAs)
4 Book Early.
Since the pandemic, Madeira has encountered a bit of a boom. There are new markets emerging and the island has never been as diverse or as popular as it is now, with records to prove so. So far, January and February of 2023 have been record months for the majority of the people I speak with. Don’t miss your chance to book with the greatest tour company in the world, book now, ask questions later!
TIP: Remember, the only people who truly know this island are those that live here, it would be ignorant of anyone to think they can discover the true essence of Madeira without the help of a local.
5 Bring A Smile 🙂
The local Madeiran People are some of the friendliest people I know. You’ll find many humorous, passionate, kind and selfless people on the island, always prepared to help and most importantly always in the mood for a good laugh! Now I know we can’t say everybody’s friendly and so on, it’s not politically correct, what I am saying is, interact with the locals, with respect and a smile and 99% of the time you will be rewarded with the same.
TIP: Remember people have jobs, schedules and so on, be considerate of those who are busy. Not everybody is on vacation 😉
6 Be prepared for EPIC food!
Foodies are going to love Madeira’s gastronomy scene. From century old cooking recipes to Michelin Star dining, Madeira has it all, or at least Funchal does! If you find yourself intolerant of certain foods; meat, fish, gluten or of course you follow a religious diet, I highly suggest planning trips outside of Funchal with your own food supply. It can be very hard to find food “less typical” of madeiran cooking of which has gluten, meat, fish, etc…
We love our meat, fish, potatoes, vegetables, breads, beers and wines, all the good stuff I call it. But if you’re on a “limited diet” there are few places, in the countryside, that will service you. Always make sure your tour provider is looking after you and your dietary requirements and make sure to book your fancy restaurants in Funchal early, the best vegan and vegetarian places are usually fully booked 😉
PRO TIP: our favourite Vegan restaurant in Funchal is called Terra; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3upvOyJEys
7 Don’t buy bottled poncha!
Poncha is what we call one of our local poisons. It’s a “cocktail” of orange and lemon juice, with a decent serving of local white rum eloquently mixed with honey. Some say it is medicinal, some say it is essential, I say I love it!
When you try it, make sure it isn’t out of a plastic bottle. The real stuff has to be made fresh!
PRO TIP: if you want to take the spirit of poncha back with you, buy some white rum and a “poncha stick” and make it at home to impress your friends, or cheer up your better half, works wonders in my house 😂
8 Take home a real souvenir
Aside from all the memories, you want to make sure you’re taking something back with you to share with others. Personally my favourite gifts are; bolo de mel (honey cake), liquors, rums, madeira wine, poncha sticks, wicker baskets, etc. The Funchal market can be a mad tourist trap, the fruit is crazy expensive, careful! Also, there’s loads of “made in china stuff” which I guess can be cool as well 😂
9 Take a free walking tour of Funchal
Our good friend Lisa runs her business; Free Walking Tours Funchal also known as WTF, and we highly recommend it. Lisa is one of Madeira’s brightest young stars and her passion transcends into her work. A tour with her is an adventure back in time discovering all of Funchal’s hidden corners. A great couple of hours to spend in town with a young local who loves the city and her island.
PRO TIP: book early, she’s very popular: https://www.freewalkingtoursfunchal.com/
10 Join our Patreon Account
If only you had a friend in Madeira who had your back. Someone who could lead you the way to the promised land! My friends, the promise land is our Patreon account.
Patreon is a social media platform that allows fans to support creators financially, in return for exclusive content, of which we’ve introduced the Hit The Road “VIP CLUB” where you can not only find travel tip guides to help you plan your perfect vacation, but also resource lists, early access to exclusive new tours, and much more.
For only 4.50 euros a month, you can “buy us a poncha” and we’ll reward you with all the tools you need to navigate your way around Madeira. We’re also giving away an all expenses paid vacation (accommodation and tours) to one lucky Patreon member this year! So join now!!
PRO TIP: book early, stick around to stay up to date with all the new things we have planned: https://www.patreon.com/hittheroadmadeira
11 Catch a sunrise mission or a sunset at the beach
A Sunrise mission in Madeira can be a very adventurous thing. From waking up early, to packing a snack, to navigating the local roads and paths, it always feels like you’re moving with purpose and that hope to see one of the most beautiful things you’ll see on the island, the sun rise above the clouds, in the forrest or on one of our many cliff edge viewpoints.
There’s a lot of planning, guessing and improvising that may or may not be needed to conduct a successful sunrise mission. You need to know where the sun will be, where the good viewpoints are (according to the season because the sun doesn’t always rise from the same location of course) and how it will take to get there, with room to improvise if needed. An expert can help, so check out our Sunrise Tours for more information.
Sunsets are a lot easier to plan. You can easily see where the good weather is in Madeira during daylight hours and judge where a good sunset will be or if you’re lucky, the best sunset you’ve seen in your life. A sunset in Pico do Areiro is one hell of a thing but you of course get great sunsets from your hotel/airbnb views, the city, the beach, on the road, in the mountains, camping, hiking, etc. Plan for the most adventurous ones or take a tour or make your own way there, Sunsets in Madeira are stunning!
TIP: Check the webcams for where the weather is good (western regions of the island of course)
12 Have some madeira
Madeira was once the finest wine in the land, written about by Shakespeare and enjoyed by those of high status. As the world changed and culture shifted, madeira lost it’s authority on an international scale, but in no means has it lost what first made it famous. Firstly, madeira wine is origin protected, meaning no other wine produced in any other location can be considered madeira wine. It’s a fortified wine and it’s full of Madeira passion! A strong wine that was famous for putting sailors to work at higher energy levels! Whenever I’m needing some energy, madeira wine is where I go, should the circumstances permit of course 😉
PRO TIP: check out our YouTube Vlog for a full breakdown on which wine is for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_OwSa06esM
13 Stay the night in Porto Santo
Porto Santo is my sacred safe haven, as is the case for many madeirans. If you’re for the best beach in our waters, Porto Santo is the all time winner. Many people choose to visit only for the day, taking the daily ferry ride across. The journey takes roughly 2.5 hours. Problem with visiting for the day is the short period of time you get to enjoy the island. If you’re going to go, at the very least, stay the night.
14 Learn a little
I consider myself more of an active learner than that of a “philomath” 😂 I do however love to learn about my island and her history! Thankfully there’s a vast array of museums scattered over the island. Everything from culture to art, Madeira is full of stories. Make sure to ask questions to your guide, local people you meet and fellow travellers, Madeira’s story is so exciting and interesting, it shouldn’t just be forgotten about 😉
PRO TIP: Lisa is the best historian I know, she’s very popular, book early: https://www.freewalkingtoursfunchal.com/
15 Take it all in, go with the flow
I see too many people “distracted” by their phones! lol but seriously, take in the moment, use the moment to connect, to nature, to each other, to yourself. You should come out of this trip better than you came in, make sure it’s not just selfies you take back with you 😉
Hope to see you in Madeira soon, Let’s Hit The Road!