On a budget? You and me both.
"Traveling it leaves you speechless then turns you into a story teller."
I'm here to tell you the story (logistics) of how I spent two days in this island that left me speechless with no rental car and very low budget.
pro tip- Flights from Lisbon Portugal to Madeira are very affordable so perhaps consider flying through Lisbon (maybe you give yourself a few days to explore Lisbon in that case totally reference my "a perfect weekend in Lisbon" post...shamelessly self promoting)
There is a bus from the airport to Funchal. Funchal is the islands capital and has the most hotels/ hostels and restaurants. Stay in Funchal as your home base.
Eat and Drink in Funchal:
-Prima Caju for healthy breakfast/ lunch
-Vantastic Food Truck and Juice Mixology: healthy food truck
-Poncha!!! Of course, Madeira's traditional cocktail that will have you walking zig zags within a few sips of lemony sugar drink. It might not taste strong but give it some time. They sell this everywhere.
Excursions and how to:
-Lets begin with the iconic must do hike. The Pico Arieiro to Pico Ruivo PR1. This hike is INSANE! You are surrounded by massive luming cliffs full of greenery and rocks. During the hike you get to walk through around 7 tunnels through rocks and emerge back into the impressive valley. This hike is 3 hours one way and 6 hours if you were to do there and back. Those who do there and back are normally the ones with rental cars who have to walk back the start to return to their car. This is when us budgeters win out. I booked with "get your guide" and for only 30 euros! I got picked up from my accommodation and brought to the start of the hike at sunrise. I liked this option because it was more of a glorified uber driver. You did not hike with your group you took your own time and had a time to meet the bus at the parking lot at Pico Ruivo the other peak that the hike ends at. Rather than backtracking I got to take my time and do the hike one way then hop into the waiting A/C van. The car then takes you to Santana where you stop at one of the historical houses (they look like cute ginger bread houses), you get a free shot of a locals homemade alcohol then get dropped back off in the early afternoon to your accommodation. Great mix of information and learning during the car rides and freedom as you hike and marvel on your own.
pro tip: I did not have enough time to do another excursion with them but if you have the gift of time book another adventure. They also run rides to 25 Fontes Falls which looks incredible.
-Busing to a hike? say less. The Pr 8 Vereda da Longa de São Lourenço hike can be reached via public transportation. Music to my ears. The SAM bus drops you off and picks you up in the parking lot for the trail head. This bus passes the airport on its way back to Funchal so if your feeling wild like I was you could do this hike then get on the bus to get to your flight. When staying in Funchal you want to go to Edificio 2000 to catch this bus. The earliest one should be 7:30 and they come every hour or so. Of course always double check with the bus driver that he's headed to São Lourenço. Now that we've gotten the logistics out of the way...This hike is SOMETHING. It takes around 2 1/2 hours round trip (its an out and back hike). You are walking along cliffs against the ocean.
pro tip: At the end by the cafe you will reach a sign that says "recommended trail ends here," KEEP GOING! Only 1o minutes further you get a really cool view and it's not a sketchy/ scary climb at all.
When to come?
Fun fact Madeira had the biggest New Years Eve firework show in the world! Then Sydney stepped up their game. But anyways New Years Eve can be a special time to visit! The great thing about this green vibrant island is you can visit it whenever throughout the year.
It is possible to travel cheap! Get out there and let nature fill you up with endless stories to tell :)