Getting around Madeira with no car: it’s easy!

If you’re looking to get around Madeira with no car, this blog post for you!

The beautiful volcanic island of Madeira is becoming an increasingly popular destination, particularly among nature lovers.

But all Madeira-focused blog posts seem to suggest that you can’t visit the island without a car.

After a trip to Madeira with no car, I can attest that this isn’t true!

Here’s how to travel in Madeira with public transport and through tours.

Getting around Madeira with no car: the best way to do so

Whether you can’t drive or don’t want to operate a car on Madeira’s windy mountain roads (I’m a fairly confident driver, but I’m glad I didn’t have to drive on them!), there are some excellent ways to travel around Madeira with no car.

They include:

  • buses from Funchal and around Madeira
  • cable cars around Funchal
  • Get Your Guide to book both tours and transfers.
  • Bolt works well around Funchal as well, although you might not be able to pick it up elsewhere

Here are all my top tips!

Stay in Funchal 

I’d recommend staying in Funchal if you’re visiting Madeira with no car. It’s near the airport, most tours depart from here and are on most of the bus routes! 

I stayed in the city centre of Funchal in an Airbnb.

There aren’t many hotels in the centre of Funchal, but here are a few recommendations of highly-rated apartments to check out which are close to the city centre and cable car (where most tours depart from and from where you’ll travel to Monte). 

You can click through on each accommodation name to go to its page.

If you’re a backpacker, Santa Maria Hostel comes highly recommended.

Travelling from the airport

There is a bus from Madeira Airport to Funchal city centre, which costs €3.50 per person and takes around 45-50 minutes. It drops off at many major hotels and in the city centre. 

However, we took a Bolt taxi for just €10 – as there were two of us, it was only €3 more and it took just 20 minutes. 

Exploring Funchal

You can easily explore Funchal on two feet; it’s a small, very walkable city, so you can head to the Funchal Farmer’s Market, Funchal Cathedral and Blandy’s Wine Lodge without needing a car or taxis!

You can also take the cable car up to Monte, which is a suburb of Funchal known for its wonderful views, church and toboggan rides back to the city! 

Toboggan rides

We didn’t opt for a toboggan ride, but we did take a look at them – they looked fun, but they were €27.50 for a ride for a single person and when the ride ends, you have to take another bus back to the city (or walk!). 

That said, you can do a tour involving the toboggan ride which works out much better value for money.

Take a look at this one on Get Your Guide.

Cable car

If you want to take the cable car both ways (this is what we did) it costs €18 for a return trip on the cable car.

Buses in Funchal

For longer journeys, buses link the centre with places like Funchal Botanic Gardens and Reid’s Hotel – it’s €1.95 for a bus anywhere in the city and we just paid with cash (they don’t accept contactless). 

If you’re doing a lot of journeys, it is cheaper to use a Giro card.

You can buy these at many of the newspaper shops in the city centre and the more tickets you buy, the cheaper they are. 

So, this will save you some money, and it’s also more convenient than needing to have cash all the time, but you do usually need to pay for the Giro card in cash anyway!

Buses around Funchal 

One of the best money-saving hacks for Madeira is that it’s also €1.95 to take a bus to places like Ponta de São Lourenço, the easternmost point of the island, and Santana, which is famous for being the home of the traditional Madeiran houses. 

So, you can see some spots around Funchal for extremely budget-friendly prices! 

That said, these buses aren’t that regular so I would recommend double-checking bus times before you go. 

  • Bus 113 goes to Madeira’s East, including close to Ponta de you can then take the PR8 hike which leads right to the easternmost point of Madeira. 
  • Bus 103 leads to Santana, crossing part of the island and bypassing the start of some of the Levada walks – so you can take these buses for hiking! Just be mindful of the times for the buses back and have a backup plan in case you miss it. 

Get Your Guide Tours

Another excellent option to see the island is to book a tour with Get Your Guide – you can see virtually the whole island by guided tour. 

Many people do feel a little resistant about going on guided tours, but the ones we took in Madeira had free time at pretty much every stop so it didn’t feel like we were being herded around with a group!

We did these two tours: 

Madeira’s West Highlights Tour

This went to Cabo Girão Skywalk, which is the highest in Europe.

Then we visited the Ribeira Brava and Serra D’Água, stopping for a coffee.

We crossed a mountain pass and the highest plateau in Madeira before heading to Porto Moniz to see its volcanic swimming pools (it’s possible to swim here!).

Then we went to Paul da Serra, which is one of the largest natural reserves on the globe!

Click here to see more information about the tour.

Madeira’s East Highlights Tour

We started this tour by driving to the viewpoint of Terreiro da Luta which is close to Funchal.

We then drove to Pico do Arieiro (which I’d already been to on my hike the day before!) this is the third-highest peak, and the highest driveable peak, in Madeira!

We drove through a stunning forest and went to Ribeiro Frio, a popular starting point for some of the levada walks.

We then went to Santana, which is famous for its traditional Madeiran houses and had lunch there. Then, we headed to Ponta de São Lourenço which is the easternmost peninsula of the island.

Finally, we took in the view over the town of Machico, home to one of the only sandy beaches in Madeira!

Click here to read more about it.

Transfer tours for hikes 

Madeira is one of the best places in Europe for hiking, and you don’t need a car to explore some of its best walks either!

In fact, I’d recommend you don’t come with a car because many of the hikes are one-way only – so you’d need to do the walk in reverse to get back to the start point! 

When I did the Pico do Arieiro to Pico Ruivo hike, I purchased this transfer service.

It wasn’t a guided hike (although these are available as well – take a look at one here), but I was picked up from my accommodation at 5am and along with some other travellers was taken up to the start point of Pico do Arieiro. 

The company provided me with maps and directions via WhatsApp, and when we arrived at Pico do Arieiro the driver gave us full instructions. 

I watched the sunset and then started the hike to Pico Ruivo – it’s around 8.3km, so not too long but there’s a lot of uphill with some of the summits just being ladders built into the mountains! 

Cars can’t access Pico Ruivo, so after I submitted the mountain I walked to Achada do Teixeira (another 1.7km) which is the nearest place for cars to reach and meet the transfer there. 

I had five hours in total to complete the entire walk, and my total moving time was three hours, so I could plan my stops accordingly.

We were warned that if we took longer than five hours the transfer would leave without us, but the driver said on average it takes people 3 hours and 30 minutes. 

This was one of the best hikes I’ve ever done, and I would highly recommend visiting Madeira just to do it!

Click here to read more about it and book.

Are you ready to explore Madeira?

As you can see, it’s easy to explore Madeira with no car!

With a combination of buses, tours and transfers you can easily explore the island without having to get behind the wheel.

Take a look at my YouTube video for more information.