There are two ways to get to Madeira; by plane or by boat. This article will focus on the boat trip and will present information about the journey, a small section about the journey for those who have never been to Madeira before, what to expect when you come here and tips for future journeys.
Cruise ships arrive at Funchal’s pier between May and October this is because this is also the best time of year for visiting many parts of the island although like everything else in life there is no definite best time of year.
Madeira Arrivals Information Desk: To ensure the smooth arrival of the many thousands of cruise passengers that arrive once a month, there is an arrivals information desk at Funchal pier. There you can get information about the island, public transport and places of interest to visit.
How to arrive by Cruise Ship
Funchal is by far the most popular port for arrival not only in terms of visitors but also cruise ships, there are between three and five cruise ships on average every month all arriving into Funchal’s pier. This means that during summer you will see dozens of these vessels moored along the pier side as far as the eye can see. Cruises often come from Hamburg, Venice, Barcelona and all major European cities, but also from the Caribbean and south America. Cruises have separate customs and immigration bays for passengers only so arrival is relatively easy and smooth.
The Tourist Office in the Port
The tourist office has information about making a reservation for a taxi to Funchal’s airport or ferry port, renting a car or hiring a bicycle. If you are using this service you will collect your passport at the desk in the Tourist Office adjacent to the pier (which is open 7 days a week) in order to be charged an extra fee of R$25 payable by credit card or cash. If you are arriving on a cruise, do not pay this charge as you will be able to collect your passport at the cruise ship check-in counter. (More information about how to get around Madeira by plane and boat is available later in this section).
If you arrive on a cruise ship or other large vessel into Funchal’s port you should then either take a taxi (there is a taxi rank next to the Tourist Office which sometimes has long queues) or the local bus which departs from outside the port across the road from where all the buses depart for Ponta da Calheta and Porto Moniz and costs €0.70 per adult each way (children travel free). Buses leave about every 15 minutes but it is advisable to check the timetable at the bus depot just next to the tourist office.
The “Airport Line” number 1 bus is the only one that stops at Funchal’s airport which is on the way from the port to the centre of town. If you do not catch this line please ask a local how to get there (Buzios do Sul in Portuguese) as everyone knows where it is. The airport has a restaurant, a shop and parking (€4 for 8 hours) and is pretty easy to get around although you may have to ask a local for help as some signs are not that clear.
Airport transfers with a taxi are also possible although this is very costly (€100-€120) for example from Funchal port to the nearby Madeira Airport and you should be aware of this if you are booking your holiday from overseas. Taxi drivers in the port will take you to any town on the island as long as you have a destination in mind.
Airport information address: Aeroporto Internacional da Madeira, Apartado 134, 9000–901 Funchal, Madeira Portugal.
The main local bus line for the island, Caminho Madeira, runs from the port (actually on Funchal’s outskirts) to Ponta da Calheta and Porto Moniz. This route takes all day to complete and is €0.70 per adult each way, a child travelling free. The bus only runs weekly in high season so if you are arriving between May and October then it is best to take a taxi which can be booked at the Tourist Office or other local hotel desks if you are not staying in town. You will have to ask for this information as they will not tell you where you can get a taxi when you are in their office. If you are visiting on a cruise, then the bus will be your only option.
If you are driving to Funchal take note that there are speed bumps throughout town as well as a huge number of kerbstones and chicanes (small humps made out of uneven concrete) so keep an eye on the road and go slowly. A GPS is essential as many roads are one way, people drive fast and signals can be few and far between.
There is a parking fee of €4 for 8 hours in Funchal’s airport (which can be paid by credit card or cash) but this has been increased to €5 since our last visit.
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