I think it’s pretty fair to say, that I knew very little about the island of Madeira before I travelled there.
And I guess if you’re reading this article, that might also be the case for you!
Yes, despite the fact that the capital of my home island (that’s St Helier in Jersey for those of you not in the know) is twinned with the capital of Madeira – Funchal – I shamefully have to admit that I knew next to nothing about this Atlantic ocean gem before I landed there.
But in my defence, despite being part of Portugal, this remote island situated in the Atlantic Ocean is far less visited than the neighbouring Spanish Canaries and is only really now beginning to make a serious splash on the travel scene.
And what a splash!
Yes, Madeira is one heck of a dramatic island filled with soaring mountains, lush green foliage, wild craggy cliffs and some seriously stunning views. Honestly, it felt more like being in Colombia than anyone else I’ve travelled (or as one of my adventure companions put it, “this place looks like Jurassic Park!”)
But neither Jurassic Park or Colombia sound particularly safe I hear you cry, and what if Madeira isn’t safe either?
Well, rest assured dear traveller, that Madeira certainly is very safe and here I’m bringing you all the reasons exactly why, as well as answers to other 11 top travel questions that will make planning your trip here even more of a breeze!
Let’s get started…
- Top 10 Things to Do in Funchal
- 5 Epic Madeira Hikes You Can’t Miss
- Ultimate Portugal Travel Itinerary
My stay at Quinta da Saraiva was kindly gifted but, as always, all views are my own.
This page contains affiliate links meaning Big World Small Pockets may receive a small commission on any purchases at no extra cost to you.
#1 Is Madeira Safe?
Well as I explained in the introduction, the resounding answer to this question is yes, Madeira is safe!
Following my time on this island as a female traveller – hiking, driving and adventuring across Madeira -I can absolutely attest to the fact that I felt (and was) very safe there the whole time.
First up, it pays to know that Madeira is part of Portugal and therefore although it lies off the coast of Africa, this island is politically part of Europe, meaning it has all the amenities, infrastructure and services of an economically developed country.
Accommodation standards are good, services are well-maintained and medical care is accessible.
In addition, because Madeira is an island (and a fairly small and remote one at that), crime here is pretty freaking low and not once, even walking in the capital at night, did I feel unsafe or like I needed to watch my back.
And the same goes for driving around the island because, despite the sometimes tight roads, sharp corners and steep streets, thankfully Madeirans drive at a pretty relaxed pace. In general, their driving is very non-aggressive and I didn’t even see that much speeding!
Roads are in good condition, the numerous tunnels are well-lit and motorways are well-signed.
And that’s true of their hiking trails too – well at least the well-signed and well-maintained bit – because across this island I was incredibly impressed with how good and comprehensive the hiking infrastructure was.
So good in fact that I barely needed to look at Maps.me to help find the route, instead clear markings (and even fences to help protect steep mountain trails) made it very obvious.
Add in the fact that phone signal coverage is great across the island (even when up a mountain on a trail) and it’s safe to say I felt completely safe in Madeira at all times.
Tap water is also safe to drink here, significantly lowering the chance of you getting sick, and you’ll be glad to know the island has no dangerous predators, not even many mosquitoes… and no snakes!
The fact that almost every local I met spoke excellent English meant I never felt I couldn’t ask for help and, in any case, I didn’t really need to, because almost all menus, signs and parking information is in English here too!
All this amounts to me totally rating Madeira as a very safe place to travel – solo female travellers included. I never received any hassle or unwanted attention.
The main thing to be careful of when you travel Madeira therefore, is just making sure you are sensible – don’t drink and drive, don’t speed, use a map app to help navigation and make sure you are adequately prepared with the right clothing.
And I say this because Madeira’s mountainous geography really means you can experience all 4 seasons in one day and you need to be prepared for this.
A former volcano (don’t worry no danger here, it’s temporarily dormant and last erupted 6500 years ago!), the climate in Madeira can be quite different depending whether you’re at the coast, up a mountain at 1800m, or whether you’re on the north side of the island. Therefore making sure you have everything you need when venturing out for the day here is key.
We’ll talk more about this in the climate and packing tips coming up, but basically a windproof / waterproof jacket is pretty essential, as is supportive footwear, a warm sweater, a good daypack + drinks and snacks.
The other thing you might want to prepare for your trip to Madeira is travel insurance.
World Nomads offers simple and flexible travel insurance. Buy at home or while travelling and claim online from anywhere in the world.
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So yes, being prepared is definitely key to staying safe and ensuring you have a great time in Madeira and to help you do this, here are 11 other of my top tips for travel there…
#2 When is the Best Time to Visit Madeira?
In my opinion, the best time to visit Madeira is during the late Spring month of May and the early autumn months of September and October.
These times of the year provide the best all round experience, with longer sunnier days that aren’t too hot and don’t usually have too high a rainfall either.
Learn more about the best time to visit Madeira, including an individual breakdown of when to visit for specific activities like hiking, wine-tasting or catching a tan, in this full article I wrote on the topic.
#3 How Long to Spend in Madeira?
It might be a fairly small island, but Madeira is really diverse and jampacked with things to do – from sightseeing to beach going, hiking to wine tasting, cannoning to 4wd-ing.
We’ll come on to my list of the top activities a little further on in this post, but the main point I want to make here is not to underestimate how long you might need to really get a good grasp of the island.
I would say 5 days is the absolute minimum amount of time you should visit Madeira for.
A week would be better and 10 days the best option if you want to see and do a lot!
#4 What are the Entry Requirements?
Madeira is part of Portugal and part of the EU – therefore the same entry requirements apply.
Whatever visa you need (or don’t need) to enter Portugal will also apply to Madeira.
For many travellers from outside Europe, this will involve a Schengen visa.
For EU nationals, no visas are required.
For British passport holders, visas are not required for stays in Madeira of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
#5 How to Get to Madeira?
Being an island located quite far from mainland Europe, it’s far to say that the vast majority of travellers fly to the island.
Funchal international airport hosts many flights, including those with budget airlines Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz Air.
For the best deals, I always check Skyscanner who include budget airlines in their price comparison searches.
Known as the Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport (after Madeira’s most famous export,, obvs!) the airport is actually located quite a distance from Funchal, but there is a bus service you can get into the capital, that runs hourly and takes around 45 minutes.
Many car hire services operate out of the airport and there’s taxis outside arrivals you can use too.
The airport is built right on the coast and the runway is actually suspended above the sea, which means you’ll get amazing and close views of the coast as you land!
#6 Where to Stay?
There’s loads of choices when it comes to accommodation options in Madeira, but I’ve found the perfect place!
A family-run, heritage property that has been lovingly restored, the boutique hotel of Quinta da Saraiva is located just up the hill behind the bobbing fishing boats of Câmara de Lobos – a cute village on Madeira’s south coast.
Set amidst banana plantations and vineyards, with stunning coastal and countryside views from the gorgeous pool, this is seriously the best place to stay on the island with balcony views to die for, friendly staff, amazing breakfasts and a jacuzzi where you can enjoy a relaxing soak under the stars!
Oh and they have free charging for your electric hire vehicle too… it just gets better!
Owner Juan offers visitors to Madeira a truly special time at Quinta da Saraiva and with my exclusive code BigWorldSmallPockets you can now receive a €50 discount on any 4 night stay.
So go on, what are you waiting for?
Book your amazing stay in Madeira here – you won’t get a better price!
#7 How to Get Around the Island?
There is a public bus service you can use to get around Madeira, however it’s not that helpful if you really want to get off the beaten track and explore the best views and hikes this island has to offer.
In this instance, you’d be best to base yourself in Funchal and enjoy some of the great day trips that run to the island’s most idyllic spots from the capital.
Learn more here.
However, the best option of all in my opinion is to rent a hire car (and even better if you can get an electric).
Having your own vehicle really allow you to explore the island at your own pace and offer you the freedom to discover as much of it as you can.
I rented an electric car in Madeira (care of Quinta da Saraiva) and it was definitely the best option. Pick up and drop off at the airport was really smooth.
Check out the best car hire options for Madeira here.
#8 Top Things to Do There
Gosh, well where do I start?
Honestly, the best thing you can do when it comes to learning about the unmissable things to do on this island, is to head across to my list of the best 21 things to do in Madeira – a jampacked post that gives you the ultimate lowdown.
But safe to say, as means of a round up, my top picks include hiking in the mountains, drinking ponchas whilst watching the sunset, relaxing on the beach, taking in the views, discovering cute coastal villages and sliding down into Funchal in a wicker basket… yes that’s right!
#9 Food & Drink
Madeiran cuisine is big on the meat and the fish, so be prepared that, if you’re a vegetarian like me, you probably won’t be travelling to Madeira for the food.
That said, I did got loads of fresh salad while I was there – which made me happy! – plus a lot of the local garlic bread – bolo do caco!
Meat eaters can feast on espetadas and there’s plenty of fresh fish to be enjoyed in restaurants across this island community too.
#10 Money & Currency
Madeira uses the euro currency and there are many ATMs across the island you can use to draw out cash.
Otherwise, almost everywhere accepts card payments, including supermarkets, cafes and restaurants.
Don’t get stung on the exchange rate however (or get charged overseas transaction fees) and instead sign up for a Wise card like I did.
The easy way to spend abroad with the real exchange rates, no markups, no sneaky transaction fees and a free Euro account, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card in Madeira… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold!
Get yours here.
#11 How Much Does it Cost to Travel Madeira?
I’ve written a whole post about what I spent travelling in Madeira, which gives a full breakdown of all the costs I incurred and how much you can expect a trip here to set you back.
Check it out here.
Otherwise, you’ll want to factor in between €20-80 a night for Airbnb or hotel accommodation per person, €65 a day for a hire car and around €25 a day for food and drinks.
Travelling with a group and sharing car hire / fuel costs, is a great way to keep prices down as food and accommodation can be picked up for some pretty good rates.
To get rid of all your fuel charges, opt for an electric vehicle and stay at Quinta da Saraiva where you can charge your vehicle up for free – winning!
#12 Key Packing Items
And last we come to the key packing item you’ll need for Madeira.
Making sure you’re prepared here will be absolutely key to ensuring you have a great trip.
For a full inventory, check out my complete packing list for Madeira, which gives you an item-by-item breakdown, otherwise this list below covers the essentials!
- Beach Towel / Sarong
- Sunglasses & Sunscreen
- Cap or Sun Hat
- Hiking Boots / Shoes
- Good Day Pack
- Dry Bag
- Thin Waterproof and Windproof Jacket
- Warm Fleece or Sweater
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And there you have it, my guide to whether Madeira is safe, plus answers to 11 other top questions travellers face when considering a trip there.
Are you heading to this glorious island?
Have any other questions about travelling there?
Then please drop them into the comments box and I’ll get back to you 🙂