01 Jul

Madeira Island, with its lush landscapes, dramatic cliffs, and picturesque towns, is a popular tourist destination. Many visitors are tempted to rent a car to explore the island at their own pace. However, this is often not the best idea and can lead to more hassle than convenience. Here are the top reasons why you should avoid renting a car on Madeira Island:

1. Narrow and Winding Roads - The roads on Madeira are notoriously narrow and winding, hugging the cliffs and mountains. This can be quite daunting for inexperienced drivers, especially those used to wider, more forgiving roads. Navigating these roads safely requires excellent driving skills and nerves of steel.

2. Steep Hills and Steep Inclines - In addition to the winding roads, Madeira is extremely hilly. You'll encounter steep inclines and descents that can be tricky to manage, especially in a rental car. The risk of losing control of the vehicle is high.

3. Limited Parking - Parking is at a premium, especially in the main towns and villages. Finding a spot to park your rental car can be a real challenge, and you may end up having to park far away from your destination. 
Also, many locals are now struggling to park their cars to go home or go to work because car rentals are taking all the available parking spaces.

4. The narrow, winding roads and limited parking around the popular Pico do Areeiro and around other hiking trails in Madeira have led to significant issues with rent-a-cars being parked poorly and obstructing traffic. Many visitors renting cars to access these scenic areas end up leaving their vehicles haphazardly along the roadside, often blocking the flow of other vehicles and pedestrians.
This poor parking creates several problems:

- Traffic congestion - The illegally or badly parked rental cars clog the roads, making it difficult for other drivers, buses, and emergency vehicles to pass through smoothly. This can lead to lengthy delays and gridlock.

- Pedestrian safety hazards - With cars parked on the shoulders and roadsides, there is less space and visibility for hikers and walkers to safely navigate the area, increasing the risk of accidents.

- Damage to the landscape - The proliferation of parked cars in undesignated areas damages the natural environment and scenic beauty of areas that are meant to be unspoiled natural attraction.

- Accessibility issues - Poorly parked rental cars block access for disabled visitors and make it harder for them to reach the trailhead and viewpoints.

4. Driving on the "Other" Side of the Road - As a Portuguese territory, Madeira follows the European standard of driving on the right side of the road. This can be disorienting for visitors from countries where driving is done on the left side.

5. Traffic - The influx of visitors with rent-a-cars combined with the local population can lead to frustrating traffic jams and lengthy delays.
The situation is exacerbated by the limited road infrastructure on the island, which was not initially designed to accommodate the growing number of vehicles. This can cause bottlenecks, especially at key intersections and popular attractions.

6. Costs - When renting a car, most people focus on the base rental rate and any potential add-ons like insurance coverage. However, there are other costs associated with renting a vehicle that are often overlooked. These "hidden" expenses can add up quickly and significantly impact the overall cost of your rental.

Fuel Costs is one of the biggest uncalculated costs is fuel. Rental car companies typically provide the vehicle with a full tank of gas, expecting you to return it the same way. However, if you drive around the island, you’ll have to fuel the car, which will add to your expenses.

Parking Fees - Parking is another area where costs can quickly escalate when renting a car. Depending on your rental location, you may need to pay for parking at your hotel, at your destinations, or in city centers. 

There are many ways to explore the island without renting a car.

Madeira has a great offer of touristic activities, for all ages and budgets.

You can go on mini-bus tours to explore the main sites of the island or go on adventurous 4x4 tours.

Here are some recommended companies for Mini-bus tours:

Lido Tours;

Bearded Madeira 

ToursMadeira Island Tours

Here are some recommended companies for amazing 4x4 adventures:

Hit the Road MadeiraMadeira 

Roots Tours


There is a great offer of guided walks and hikes, where you find not only a means of transportation, but also valuable information about the hikes and nature.

Here are some companies we recommend for the walks and hikes:

Madeira Adventure Kingdom;

Lido Tours;

Free Spirit Madeira

If you prefer, nowadays there is also the possibility of self guided walks. Companies such as Pico Transfers, Get to Hikes Madeira and Levadas In&Out offer transfer services to some of the main hikes of Madeira.

If you want to go on a proper hike, out of the beaten path, you have the following companies to guide you and look after you:

Madeira Trekking on Demand

Pure Spirit Adventures

Madeira Wonder Hikes

João Let’s Hike

Ultimately, while renting a car may seem like a convenient option, the unique challenges of driving on Madeira's roads make it a better idea to let someone else do the navigating. Your vacation will be much more enjoyable if you leave the driving to the professionals.

Enjoy Madeira!

Lisa Camacho

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