Madeira is one of the most beautiful islands in Europe and the perfect place to rent a car. A rental car is the best way to discover the island and on top of that Madeira is a beautiful place to drive. The roads on Madeira may not be for the most faint of heart but they do lead to the most beautiful places on the island.
During your drives you’ll come across waterfalls, ravines, lush jungles, high cliffs and astonishing views over the island and ocean. You can bet on it that you’ll want to park your car on the side of the road after every single turn.
Together with my mom I spent one week on this wonderful island and during that time we tried to explore every little corner of Madeira. Within this guide you’ll find all the information that you’ll need to help you prepare for your trip to Madeira and how to safely drive around the island.
After reading this article you’ll be totally ready to go on an epic road trip on Madeira!
Tips For Driving And Renting A Car On Madeira
Why you should rent a car on Madeira
If you’ve followed any of my previous travels then you know that I an absolute sucker for a good road trip. Renting a car gives you the freedom to go anywhere you want, whenever you want. You want to go on a sunrise mission to Pico do Arieiro, you’ll need a rental car. You want to admire the sunset over Ponta de São Lourenço, you’ll need a rental car.
The best way to get the most out of your time on the island is to rent a car. You’ll have all of the flexibility that you can dream of and you don’t need to rely on public transportation. Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything I hate more than using public transportation.
If you don’t have a rental car and you want to see certain parts of the island you’ll depend on taxi’s, busses and tours. These are either very expensive options or also pretty unreliable when it comes to the public transportation on Madeira. It will take a lot longer to reach several destinations in one day and if you’ve booked a full day tour you’re also stuck if the weather turns out to be a complete disaster that day.
Plan your trip to Madeira
🏨 Find the best accommodations on Booking.com
💰 Get reliable travel insurance from World Nomads
👩 Find a reliable tour guide, such as this Madeira Canyoning Adventure or this Dolphin & Whale watching tour from Funchal
Is it safe to drive on Madeira?
While I was doing research for my own trip 2 years ago I came across a lot of different opinions. And honestly some of them were pretty extreme claiming that driving on Madeira could be a life threatening experience…
I will ease your mind. While driving on Madeira isn’t for the most faint of heart it’s also not that hard if you are careful and an experienced driver.
In some places the roads can be pretty narrow and winding but there’s always enough place to even stop for a while or to turn around.
In Belgium we’re used to driving our flat and wide roads but the driving conditions on Madeira are very different from what we’re used to. The slopes can get pretty steep and at times you’ll drive with low visibility due to clouds or fog rolling in.
But I can reassure you, if you have experience with driving on mountain roads then you’re good to go to rent a car on Madeira.
💸Madeira Travel Insurance
I highly recommend you to get a travel insurance before your trip cause the risks are never worth the costs. If you’re going on a more adventurous trip you can always get yourself injured! So far I have sprained my ankle in Jordan, got food poisoning in India, turned snow blind in the Dolomites and have fallen multiple times during many hikes. It’s always best to be safe than sorry in such cases and with a good travel insurance you don’t have to worry about medical bills piling up.
I personally love World Nomads, their prices are affordable, their coverage is great, and they also offer 24/7 on-call customer service! When I got super sick in India they even covered an extra night for me at the hotel that I was staying it and rearranged my flight home at no extra cost!
🚘 Tips for driving and renting a car on Madeira
Watch out for cattle – Chances are high that at one point you’ll “bump into” cows on the road. If you’re driving in the early morning your chances will always be higher, especially around the area of Fanal. The best thing to do is to stop and simply wait for the cow or herd of cows to get off the road.
Take it easy – At times you’ll have to deal with low visibility on the road. The best thing you can do is to drive at your own pace and don’t let yourself get riled up by other cars.
Enjoy the ride – One of my favorite things to do on the island of Madeira was to simply drive around. Every 5 minutes I pushed my face against the car window just to take in all of the scenic views.
Getting on the highway – The lane to get on the highway is very short. If you want to get on it you’ll have to stop and wait until there are no more cars.
Look outside – If you’re a co-pilot do not waste your time scrolling through your phone. You don’t want to miss any of these scenic roads that Madeira has to offer!
Credit Card – Make sure you bring a credit card with you in the same name of the person who has booked the rental car. This is very important when you pick up your vehicle so they can block the deposit on your credit card. If you don’t have a credit card with you or there’s not enough money on it you won’t be able to rent the car.
Getting gas – Watch out when you pump gas! The Portuguese words for Diesel petrol and gasoline are very much alike. Gasoline is Gasolina and Diesel petrol is gasóleo.
Google Maps – For navigating around the island it’s best to use Google Maps. This will also keep working if you loose cell service when you’re driving through one of the many tunnels on Madeira.
⛔️Traffic rules & regulations on Madeira
Speed Limit – The speed limit on Madeira is 50km/h in the populated areas, 80km/h on secondary roads and 120km/h on the highways.
Seat Belt – You’re required to wear a seat belt at all times.
Drive on the right side – On Madeira people drive on the right side of the road just like in most other places in Europe.
Children – Kids under 12 years old are not allowed to sit in the front seats of the vehicle.
Valid drivers license – Always check if your drivers license is valid if you’re renting a car in a foreign country. In Madeira my Belgian driver’s license was valid. The country is part of the European Union. That means you may need an international license to be allowed to drive on the roads.
From what age can you rent a car on Madeira?
The age from which you can rent a car on Madeira all depends on the car rental company that you choose. In most cases the minimum age for renting a car is 25 years. If you’re between 21 and 24 years old you’ll most likely still be able to rent a car but you’ll have to pay an extra fee. All of this information can be found while you’re completing your booking.
🚙 What kind of car do you need on Madeira?
In contrary to other destinations you don’t need a 4×4 on Madeira. Honestly, you don’t want a car that’s too big because a lot of the roads up in the mountains can be very narrow. I do highly recommend you to book a car with an automatic transmission. The slopes can be very, very steep. Honestly at one point my mom was driving and the road was so steep that I was also trying to push in the gas on my side of the car…
With an automatic transmission you don’t have to worry about anything and even if you don’t have a lot of experience with driving in the mountains you’ll be able to navigate around the island.
If you’re a very experienced driver it’s totally ok to rent a car with manual transmission but the choice is completely up to you. I preferred to keep my focus on the road instead of on the clutch.
It’s better to rent a car with a little more power as well. A lot of people rent the smallest car available because it’s usually the cheapest. However, the roads on Madeira can be very steep and a small car like that will have more trouble driving up.
For my second trip in Madeira I opted for a Volkswagen T-Cross and it was an amazing car to discover the island with!
How much does it cost to rent a car on Madeira?
You can already rent a car on Madeira for only €27 per day, insurance included. This for instance is the price per day for 1 week in March. But the price of a rental car totally depends on the time of year and how early you book your car. So if you already know when you’ll travel to Madeira it’s best to book your rental car as soon as possible. I always use SunnyCars when choosing a rental car because there’s never any hidden costs with them. Their price is transparent and everything is included. And yes, really everything you need is included in our all-inclusive car rental formula:
- Unlimited mileage and a fair fuel arrangement
- Third-party insurance of at least €7.5 million,
- Damage insurance
- Theft insurance
- Towing cost if your car breaks down
These days it’s also important that you can cancel or change your reservation without any hassle. This is also possible withSunnyCars. And yes, sometimes you pay a few euros more compared to other rental companies but at least with this one you’re certain that there are no more hidden costs.
💡 TIP – Sometimes the local rental company will try to make you pay for additional insurance. This is in no way necessary causeSunnyCars offers you full coverage.
More Madeira Travel Inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this blog post about renting a car in Madeira and what it’s like driving in Madeira!
For more information about Madeira, head over to my other travel blogs:
- The 14 most epic hikes in Madeira
- The 14 best places to stay in Madeira
- The perfect 7 day Madeira road trip itinerary
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