Local buses and Hitchhiking in Madeira

Dreaming of Madeira

On a rainy summer day I usually daydream of sunny islands. Right now I would love to be back on Madeira Island. Great food, nice people, cheap delicious desserts in local cake shops. And of course stunning views from the mountain roads to the not so friendly looking sea waves. And all those banana palm trees everywhere. I personally don’t like store bought bananas, but fresh ones, that haven’t travelled across the world in containers. They taste so much better.

Full morning bus on Madeira, Funchal.

Morning bus, full of young at heart tourists/hikers.

Me and my hubby were on Madeira in March. While there was still winter in Slovenia, In Madeira it was mostly sunny and warm. Not warm enough for sunbathing but perfect for hiking the levadas. Those are trails along the paths beside the mini-canals that zig zag through most of the islands hills.

Levada on Madeira Island

Somewhere on the 11 km hike on Levada do Furado. A long way to go to Portela.

But the real challenge was the local transport in Madeira. As long as you stay in the capital Funchal, everything is great. There were buses every ten or fifteen minutes to any destination of your heart desire. Or you can use Hop on hop off bus for a tour around the island.
It gets a bit more complicated if you decide to be creative and go to places, which are a bit off the usual tourist route. Or when you are trying to get somewhere during the weekend. We spent ten days there. So, more than one Sunday, when there are almost no buses.



You mean tomorrow?

That was the answer we got from a shop clerk when we asked if the bus back to Sao Vincente comes at five or six o’clock on Saturday. We were in a small village half way to Porto Moniz. So, we had a nice long hike back. Technically, the old mountain road we hiked on was not really open for human use, and there were some rock avalanches in the middle of it, but the views were definitely stunning.

Next to the green door, near the church. Across the bridge.

That was the answer to my question: Excuse me, where is the bus stop, please? Basically, locals know where the bus stops are, since their ancestors knew, but for visitors, there is now way of finding the bus stop on your own. No signs. Zero. We were joking, that the bus stops radiate some special type of aura, and the bus driver feels it and knows where to stop.

You should have called the bus driver to pick you up. He won’t drive down to the valley otherwise.

We were stuck in a small mountain village. After a while, we found a local, who could speak some English. He sent us to a local taxi driver. The only taxi driver in the area was currently in London, probably something to do with the Portuguese economy. So we decided to take the bus, which was supposed to go through the village in half an hour. But, surprise, a bus driver only drives down to the village, if they call the central bus station in advance. Or when someone comes back from Funchal. And the neighbour, who sometimes goes there, came back yesterday.

A plastic bag, fast.

That was me, desperately reaching for a plastic bag, in the middle of a very fast scenic bus drive from the capital city, over the mountain area, somewhere around Santana. Judging by the reactions of the other passengers, tourists throwing up after the adrenaline filled journey, are nothing unusual.

Eira do Serrado sign

A regular bus stop.

We will crash. It can’t be done.

Yes, it can be. You wouldn’t believe where two local busses can meet. Ignoring laws of physics and common sense, the pass each other on the scariest, the narrowest part of the road, in a fog, without slowing down or even blinking.

No more buses this week. We will hitchhike from this village to civilisation.

At one point we gave up. We were willing to pay for the journey, but no one wanted to take our money. So we were standing there, hoping for some traffic to appear. Local granddads in front of the only pub and shop in the village were smiling in our direction while sipping on their evening beer. We were that evening’s entertainment. One offered to drive us to the next village 2 km down the road after he finished his next beer. We didn’t give up yet. And then two very chatty British tourists with a very small rented car appeared and picked us up. Later I read online, that locals don’t usually pick up hitchhikers. So we were lucky.

mini electric car

What we could use, but did’t.

What did we learn?

We learnt, that Madeira is one of the places, where renting a car might be a good idea. Unless you enjoy tourists busses and only go to main tourists attractions. Maybe a long distance walk is your cup of tea. Which on subtropical islands can be healthy and fun, as long as you remember to bring enough water and wear plenty of suncream.

Since goblins love to travel, but usually do it on a budget, we use Airbnb. By using this link to subscribe, you get a discount on your first trip, and we get one on our next. If you are not into Airbnb, there is a Booking.com link on the right side of our page. Find cheap rooms in hostels or hotels, and … travel as much as you can. Booking airport transfer in Europe? Get 5 euro discount for first ride with GoOpti shuttle bus or private ride here.


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9 Comments

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