The Ride of a lifetime and very scary,the world-famous carro de cesto street toboggans, this is a must do ride, they attract thousands of tourists every year who want to make this exciting experience of sliding at high speed on narrow, winding streets down to Funchal. These two-seater wicker sledges glide on wooden runners, skilled drivers will push and steer your wicker sled through the streets and down three miles of steep winding roads traditionally dressed in white cotton clothes and a straw hat, using their rubber-soled boots as brakes.
The downhill journey to Funchal is made in about 10 minutes on a total course of 3miles, reaching at times a speed of 48 km/hour. Adventurous, yet safe, an ‘old-fashioned’ toboggan ride to make your way down from Monte is the perfect contrast to the high-technology cable car going up to Monte. Don’t miss out on it! The cost is about €12
This is, besides taking a taxi, the most convienient way of getting from the airport to Funchal. Unfortunately it doesn't run very often, only about very two hours.
The fare is 4 EUR, free if you've got a TAP boarding pass.
The airport of the Madeira island is 18 KM north east of Funchal.
There are a lot of cheap flights from Europe to Madeira.
Landing at the airport of Madeira island is quite spectacular.
After flying over Ponta de Sao Lourenco, coming from the north, you see the runway at your righthand side.
Then the plane had to make a sharpe curve of 180 degrees, just before the slopes with scattered houses. The plane had to land in the northern direction and to brake firmly.
We were warned by the pilot.
The airport Santa Catarina is built just at the shore of the ocean. Because of the mountaineous area it was necessary to built the runway on stilts in the ocean.
The first time we visited Madeira island, we went back to the airport the next day to have a look at its construction. We saw, they had started new construction works to extend the runway by building new stilts. By this extension it is possible, that also larger planes can come to Madeira.
From the air you have a great view at the runway just before landing.
In the marina near the pier in Funchal you can book several boattrips like half-day trips or full-day trips and cocktailcruises. On sea you have the opportunity to sea dolphins and turtles. There are also deep sea fishing trips. In the port also leaves the ferry for Porto Santo island .
The first boattrip I booked was a half day trip with the Santa Maria, a traditional, newly built ship, like the one of Columbus used a few centuries ago. Especially for kids it is a lot of fun.
The Santa Maria heads west till Cabo Giraõ. If you are lucky you can see dolphins like we did.
The boat leaves in the port, west of the marina. You can't miss it.
Several companies will offer you guided tour for levadas walking or island explorations. All companies offer the same price more or less 10% of difference. I prefer small group than large one so I could recommend this one Macaronesia-tours, they will pick you up from your hotel, you just need to book the tour the previous day. They have a special during my stay if you book 3 tours, they will offer one.
My native guide was multilanguage and knowlegable about the local fauna, plants, history, culture... and the driver was safe on the narrow mountain roads.
Enjoy the ride!
The best road from Moniz to Funchal is via Seixal, Sao Vicente and next by motorway (almost from Ribeira Brava). BY CAR it should take no more than 1 hour (obviously using the 3 km Encumeada tunnel). If you are going through mountains add 30-40 minutes).
Unfortunately there is really poor bus connection (september2006). The Rodoeste line has about 3-4 buses daily. First, give up from bus going along south coast via Calheta and Ponta do Pargo. The trip can last 3-4 hours.
Second and the main challange is that the time of buses does not match the tourists' needs.
Morning bus is starting to early (about 6.30 am), so you will miss the hotel breakfest. ANd next is to late (about 1 pm), so you are in Funchal about 2.30 pm and you lost the hours before noon.
The last bus from Funchal is at 7 pm. The time of bus trip between Funchal and Moniz is different. Once 1 hour 15 min was enough. But it happened that the trip lasted 2.45. So reserve about 1.45 for bus Funchal - Moniz.
Th Moniz bus stop is located near the police station (other stop is situated near the church) and in Funchal near the big balloon (Avenida do Mar). Be prepared that during the travel you will be change the bus. In Sao Vicente is the change-point for buses going to/from Sao Jorge and to/from Porto Moniz. Sometimes bus from Moniz takes the people from Sao Jorge, sometimes vice versa. The information about change you will hear from bus driver.
The bus-stops (called 'paragem')are very common and don't be suprised when bus turns from the main road and goes 20 minutes to the stops surrounded by 2 old houses. ANd do not expect the timetables hanging in the bus shelters. About arrivals and departures ask (in Moniz) in tourist office (friendly and well-prepared girl is working there. thanx for help) and (in Funchal) in Rodoeste kiosk (green one located near the big balloon bus stop - English can be not enough to get info ;)
The ticket PM - Funchal costs about 4 Euro.
My Porto Moniz page
Madeira's new Intercontinental Airport, with a runway of 2.781 meters length, has given the island a new image in this new millennium.
The new airport capacity is 3.5 million passengers/year and all classes of passenger aircraft are now able to land and take off from Madeira Airport.
This is one of the most ambitious constructions, especially if one considers the characteristics like 60 meters tall pillars that are also 60 meters deep under sea level.
All the times we came to Madeira island we hired a car.
The first time we came to Madeira, we had a pre-booked roundtrip with hotels at four different places at the island.
The other times we booked a fly-drive or a flight and a car at home, so we could pick up the car at the airport.
The bussystem at Madeira Island is also good and extensive, but many places we visited can't be reached by bus.
In Funchal it's also very easy to hire a car.
There are many agencies.
On our first day ever at Madeira Island in 1996 we drove in the snow. It was the first and the last time.
If landing in Madeira a few years ago was synonymous with 'dread' due to the size of the "mini" runway, nowadays you can sit relaxed while the pilot makes the final landing manoeuvres, due to a huge engenering construction. Madeira's new Intercontinental Airport, with a runway of 2.781 meters length, has given the Island a new image in this new millennium safe enough i assure yu,
still, hands clapping is always heard on the plane when the landing finishes...
In Funchal you can take the cable car to Monte, just in the mountains. It takes about 15 minutes.
There are 41 cabins with 8 seats each. So there can be transported 800 persons per hour !
We were lucky and the only persons in the cabine, when we go up, so we had very good views all around, at the mountains, the city, the harrbour, the ocean. It was also very nice to have a close look at Funchal from above.
One way: 8 euro
Roundtrip: 13 euro
Children 4-14 years: half money
Children 0-4 years: free
Operation schedule: 10.00 am to 7.00 pm
a wonderfull 3 hours travel from madeira island to porto santo island. a ferry boat with all acomodation for that purpose. a restaurant a bar and a recreation room if yu get tired of sailing 3 hours. almost similar to "the love boat" tv series.
a very pleasant ride.
To see a lot of the island in a day there are several companies offering tours of the east, west and fishing villages of Madeira. Although there is a fair amount of travelling time involved you will see far more of the landscapes of Madeira than would be possible with the public transport schedules -so if limited for time and car hire is not an option this is a good alternative.
Be warned that many companies may look as if their tours are cheap - the price to pay is having to tour a timeshare complex!
One company who we found not linked to timeshare promotions and one of the few recognised by the governemnet are Strawberry world. We read good reports of them on the web before we arrived so we were delighted to find they had an office just below our hotel! They use mountain minibuses for their tours - so you will not be in huge groups. We took day trips to the east, west and Curral das Freiras as well as a guided levada walk with them. We had no complaints with their service, indeed they were friendly and knowledgable of the area, customs and flora.
The airport runway has been extened in recent years so larger planes can now land here rather than at the neighbouring island of Port Santo (15 mins flying time away). Indeed the runway extension is built on stilts in the atlantic ocean so its rather a nervy landing for some people! The pilot even warns those on the seaward side not to worry if it looks like the wing is touching the water - its perfectly OK!!
Fasten your seat belt and be ready for landing...
Madeira Airport (FNC) is located 20km from Funchal. In 2000 the runway was extended to 2.8 km long compared to the previous (too) short 1.6km and able to welcome Boeing 747 and Airbus A340. Capacity is 3.5 millions passengers with 40 check-in counters and 16 boarding gates. On top floor you could find the bar/restaurant and enjoy landing or take-off from the observation deck.
This airport use to have a bad reputation because of an accident in 1977. After 2 unsuccessful attempts to land the boeing 727, the aircraft overran the runway after an aquaplanning due to difficult weather conditions (heavy rain and wind). 131 people were killed. Recent improvments have strongly reduce the risks.
In 2008, 2.4 millions passengers fly to/from the island thanks to 22'800 flights operated by 30 airlines and from/to 45 destinations. So who's next ;-)