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5 Biggest Mistakes You Can Do in Madeira.


If you’re reading this, you’re probably visiting Madeira for the first time, or you’ve been before, fell in love, and want to come back “smarter” than before. In this article, I’ve taken the time to really think about what we as tour guides often see tourists doing wrong, let’s get into it!

1. Dressing inappropriately

Madeira is often advertised as the island of eternal spring, and as much as that is an accurate description, the climate of our beautiful island is nothing short of complicated! Yes, in the south side of the island, namely in the capital and the coastal regions of the southwest, sunshine and warmth is guaranteed almost year round, but as soon as you venture north, or upwards into the mountains, things change.

Very rarely is it warm everywhere, maybe in the hottest of months, July and August, but even then, at sunrise and sunset at the high peaks of 1818m above sea level, a slight breeze might get you searching for your jumper. If you’re going adventuring, its best to bring layers, closed shoes and long trousers on cold days.

PRO TIP: Check out our “Weather in Madeira” BLOG for more information on how to use the weather to your advantage;

a train traveling down a dirt road

2. Blindly following google maps

Navigating the streets of Madeira can be tough, the streets themselves are a handful and google doesn’t help. Often google maps is looking for “the fastest route”, many times this means straight up. On a screen it’s no worries, but once you’re staring down a steep, narrow road littered with obstacles, things get a bit more adventurous. Now I’m not the one to tell you not to drive in Madeira, of course I’d love to see you inside the comfort of one of our Land Rovers but I’m here to help regardless.

If you’re a confident driver, preferably someone who actually enjoys driving, you’ll be alright regardless, but if not, there is something you can do. I would recommend trying to “study the map” before you blindly set off, try and stick to main roads, roadsigns and if a road looks dodgy, see if you can re-route, it’s often possible.

If you’re renting a car in Madeira, make sure to take full insurance, accidents happen. In Portuguese we have a saying that whats starts cheap often ends expensive, you don’t want to deal with any headaches and losing precious time while on vacation, also, make sure to check your engine fluids; coolant and engine oil, before voyaging on your adventure through Madeira.

PRO TIP: Check out our “How to drive in Madeira” YouTube video for even more info;

3. Not carrying cash

As much as we’re all becoming more of a digital society, in some rural places in Madeira, you won’t find payment options by card. 95% of the places you’ll visit will have card machines, but you don’t want to be caught by surprise, to then have to go looking for an ATM and losing precious vacation time doing so.

Some places have a minimum card payment of 5 or 10 euros, so keep that in mind, also a lot of locals “prefer cash” so you’ll probably put a smile on their faces as well. Keep some euros on you just in case.

PRO TIP: Check out our “How to order a coffee in Madeira” YouTube video to make sure your cappuccino doesn’t come with cream;

4. Not taking a tour – learning from the locals

Get an insight into local life, customs, celebrations, humour and dare I say wisdom from the beautiful Madeiran people. Getting all your information from guide books or blogs, as helpful as they can be, is one thing, having someone show you around and explain things first hand is another. I would book a tour within the first couple of days, so you can get all those vital local insights on where to spend the rest of your days!

Also, having somebody who is quick on their feet, who knows the law of the land and is a professional at enhancing your experience on the island is the most effective way for you to truly experience and understand the beauty of this island. Have you got a plan B if the weather sucks? Our guides do 😉

PRO TIP: The best guides book out early, to avoid disappointment, book now! 

a car parked next to a body of water

5. Worrying too much about ticking off the boxes.

When setting goals for your vacation, it’s crucial to strike a balance between experiencing all the must-see places and ensuring a relaxed, pain-free journey. While following popular recommendations for the “best places” is common, rushing through without savouring the moments can detract from the overall enjoyment.

Opting for a guided tour can be a smart choice, allowing you to maximize your time without the stress of planning. Alternatively, if you prefer a more independent approach, meticulous research and trip planning are essential. For first-time visitors, Funchal is recommended, offering a diverse array of activities. Consider mixing adventurous excursions with leisurely days in Funchal, reserving a car rental only if staying farther from the center.

For those embracing a solo, do-it-yourself adventure, pre-booking activities and having backup plans for each adventure is wise. Communication with local connections, such as Airbnb hosts, is key for insider insights. Amidst the abundance of information on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, discerning accurate details becomes challenging.

Whether hiking or engaging in other activities, respecting closed routes and heeding weather warnings is crucial. Depending on the source of your hiking routes, misinformation could lead to unexpected challenges. It’s essential to gather reliable information and prioritize safety to ensure a memorable and trouble-free vacation experience.

PRO TIP: Follow our Patreon account for some extra resources to help you plan your vacation and to stay up to date with all the new things we have planned:


6. 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 😂

BONUS number 2:

We asked ChatGPT what it thought tourists got wrong and the answers aren’t bad at all! So if our 6 things aren’t enough, here’s some more for you;

CHATGPT: Here’s a list of common mistakes tourists make when visiting Madeira:

  1. Underestimating the steep and hilly terrain.
  2. Limiting exploration to just Funchal, the capital.
  3. Missing out on trying the local cuisine and drinks.
  4. Neglecting to experience the Levada walks, unique hiking trails.
  5. Depending solely on public transportation, limiting flexibility.
  6. Not planning for the changeable weather; pack accordingly.
  7. Overpacking, considering the relatively mild climate.
  8. Ignoring the diverse flora and fauna—Madeira is a nature paradise.
  9. Not visiting the charming smaller towns and villages around the island.
  10. Failing to book accommodations well in advance during peak seasons.
  11. Overlooking the stunning viewpoints scattered across the island.
  12. Not exploring the unique volcanic landscapes and lava pools.
  13. Underestimating the size of the island; distances may take longer to cover.
  14. Not learning a few basic Portuguese phrases for communication.
  15. Missing out on the local festivals and cultural events.
  16. Disregarding the importance of sunscreen due to the island’s latitude.
  17. Overlooking the local markets and artisanal crafts.
  18. Not experiencing the diverse range of outdoor activities available.
  19. Avoiding the Madeiran wine tastings and vineyard tours.
  20. Forgetting to respect the natural environment while exploring.

Finally, if you’re more of a “visual learner” here’s a video we made discussing the topic in detail with some beautiful visuals of Madeira;

Hope this helps!!

See you soon in Madeira!!

Let’s Hit The Road!!

– Jeff

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The East 4×4 tour has a bit of everything and is suitable for everyone. It’s a great “first tour” for anyone who isn’t sure where to start! See beautiful landscapes, culture, local food and drinks and much more. The perfect first tour!