An Extensive Digital Nomad Guide to Madeira Island.
The worldwide pandemic has changed the way most people work. Giving them a perspective of a different way of living and working and shown opportunities that just recently seemed out of reach.
With the ability to work from anywhere, not only nomads but now also remote workers, have chosen to travel to some of the most beautiful places in the world — following the sun and their inner calling for inspiration.
One of the places that has recently gotten a lot of both national and international coverage is the subtropical Madeira island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.
Is the hype real?
In just 2020 when spending a couple of few weeks in Madeira with groups of nomads we all agreed that it’s a truly amazing travel destination but lacks the main reason to stay for a longer term: community.
Now that different communities have made Madeira their base, does it have enough to make the location independent people stay for a longer period of time?
Pros and cons
Madeira, similarly to the Canary islands, has the best weather in the winter season in Europe. The average temperature is around 16–24C throughout the year.
- The nomad community
The StartUp Madeira’s initiative to invest in a structure that would attract location independent workers to the island has created communities in different parts of the island.
- Low number of Covid-19 cases
“The islands of Madeira and Porto Santo are a pioneer destination in the fight against COVID-19, being the first region in Portugal to have a Contingency Plan for Emerging Infections, to develop a best practices document and create an online platform for the registration of travellers.” (madeirasafe.com).
- Most locals speak english
Most of the people, especially in Funchal and Ponta do Sol, speak english very well. Use this video to learn some of the most common Portuguese phrases.
- Great flight connections
Daily flights from Lisbon and Porto with the ticket prices (Easyjet, TAP) being as low as 20€ one-way. Note that flights from mainland Portugal are inexpensive if you book them well in advance but their pricing goes up quick. Some other least expensive passages to Madeira are through either London or Barcelona.
- Reliable Internet speed
Madeira region has the best fixed-line speeds in Portugal according to The Original Madeira Island News Blog “Of the tests carried out on NET.mede on fixed accesses, half obtained a download speed of at least 49 Mbps and an upload speed of at least 23 Mbps. In average terms, speeds were around 89 Mbps and 44 Mbps.”
You can work from most of the places on the island.
- Diverse nature
Beaches, mountains, hundreds of hiking trails — most of them with an ocean view — all within a 30–60 minute car drive away. Some of the most popular hikes are Pico do Areeiro — Pico Ruivo and Ponta de São Lourenço.
“You can be swimming in the sea in the morning and hiking in the mountains in the same afternoon.”
- Not really walkable
If you’re not staying in Funchal or in the coastal villages, it’s highly advisable to rent a car to get around as a lot of the infrastructure is built upon tunnels that are mostly not accessible for pedestrians. The coastal roads are very steep and have narrow/non-existent sidewalks.
If you prefer not to rent a car you can get around (especially in and from Funchal) with an Uber or Bolt and in coastal villages you can use either the locals taxis or the bus line. Check some average prices from below.
- High humidity
Humidity ranges from 67% to 72%, which is quite mild and comfortable for most of the year but you might want to ask the accommodation host if there’s a dehumidifier in the house or you might be surprised by somewhat moldy conditions on the older houses.
The initiative, that started with Startup Madeira and Gonçalo Hall, has snowballed into turning Madeira one of the top destinations for nomads. There are several communities on the island that have been created either in specific locations or made their base here for a couple of months.
1) Ponta do sol — The Nomad Village
Ponta do Sol is situated on the south coast of the Madeira island and has about 8,200 inhabitants in its area of 43.3 km2. It’s considered one of the hottest municipalities on the island! :)
What has made Ponta do Sol a nomad hub is The Nomad Village project (February 1st — June 30th) that offers:
- Free Coworking Space
- Slack Community
- Exclusive Events
- List of Local Accommodations
- Local Host
According to the registration forms most of the 100+ people are staying between 1–6 months on the island. The project has also teamed up with local businesses, such as real estate, hotels and rental car companies, and therefore offers exclusive discounts to countless activities, rentals and other services on the island.
The Startup Madeira’s coworking space in Ponta do Sol
The space can accommodate up to 100 remote workers and is free to use by anyone who has registered on the Digital Nomads Madeira website. It is located in the center of Ponta do Sol (John do Passos Cultural Centre) — a few steps from local cafes, restaurants and the beach bars — ideal for taking coffee and ice-cream breaks throughout the work day and watching the sunset after a productive day.
- Number of individual spaces to work indoors: 21
- Number of spaces to work outdoors in the patio: 20+ (18 tables)
- Number of spaces to work in the open-air balcony: 16+ (8 double-tables)
The indoors desks are quite large and have comfortable chairs plus a laptop stand to use. For having calls you can freely use the outdoor space.
Even with the coworking space being almost at full capacity at some days, the Internet speed is still blasting fast.
“In keeping with social distancing and the island’s Covid-19 rules, co-workers will use the space in shifts, with access to strong WiFi, a printer and the all-important coffee machine,” — Gonçalo Hall.
Most of the communication between people who are already on the island and people who are planning their travels happens within the Slack (you can register on the Digital Nomads Madeira website to receive an email with the access link) where there are different channels from accommodation and activities to advice and networking.
Example of a daily schedule of community events
- 8:00 Sunrise meditation
- 9:00 Yoga
- 10.30 Nomad Coffee Club
- 17:00 Community talk/workshops
- 17:30 Sweat & Swim
- 18:00 Happy hour and sunset
Community talks and workshops include Mastermind sessions, Sharing circles and Meet-ups. In addition there are weekend hikes and other activities planned weekly.
Everyone is welcome to suggest activities that they would like to do as a group (sailing, surfing, hiking, whale watching etc) or to suggest facilitating events (Masterminds, Workshops, Talks etc) to the community managers on spot.
Connect with the Digital Nomad Madeira on Instagram
If you prefer more of an urban lifestyle — renting an apartment, exploring different cafes and shopping options — Funchal might suit your needs. According to the Digital Nomads Madeira Slack group there are around 80+ nomads currently in Funchal in both shared housing and private apartments. 50+ of them have chosen the Savoy Palace in Funchal as their place to stay due to the exclusive offer aimed directly at digital nomads.
Coworking places to work from: Cowork Funchal (10% discount for the Digital Nomad Madeira community), Matika Funchal
Cafes to work from: Threehouse Rooftop Terrace, Well.com Coffee Bar, Muséu cafe, Loja de Cha.
> Google maps list with the above listed suggestions.
Calheta is a coastal town not too far from Ponta do Sol and was the first expansion from the Nomad Village framework. It has a small lovely beach and a promenade to enjoy sunset walks by the ocean. A group of nomads have booked their stay at Quinta das Vinhas and there are currently Ecstatic dance sessions on Wednesdays and Sundays.
From April 1st 50+ nomads from the Savoy Palace in Funchal will move to the Savoy Calheta.
4) Travel communities
Other existing communities have travelled to Madeira to organise community gatherings in a safer environment. Borderless Retreat community will be based in Madeira as well for a couple of months to run nomad retreats (20.03–27.03 & 28.03–04.04) and coliving experiences (11.04–01.05) as well as community events in Ponta do Sol.
Connect with the Borderless Retreat community on Instagram
Check the Highlight Madeira to get an insight to daily life on the island and in PdS.
Travelling to Madeira
Madeira is located just north of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, closer to Morocco than the European mainland and has the population of 270 000 people. It’s a tiny volcanic island that is warmed year-round by the Atlantic sun.
- Timezone: UTC (April — October UTC+1)
- Currency: EUR
- Average internet speed: 29 mbs
Can you travel to Madeira at the moment?
The island is currently considered one of the safest destinations in Europe and is open for tourism. Its preventive measures against the coronavirus are due to be reviewed on March 15. Anyone arriving in Madeira is required to present a negative PCR test performed 72 hours prior to arrival, or to take a test on arrival and quarantine at their accommodation for 3–12 hours as they await the result. Check a detailed travel experience description (Lisbon-Funchal) from this Instagram post.
Note that the Madeira island has different travel regulations and restrictions than mainland Portugal! Madeira has also created a green corridor for everyone with the Covid-19 vaccine.
Latest updates: 24daily new cases on 19/04/2021. In total there are 8944 confirmed cases in Madeira island in comparison to 831 000 cases in the mainland Portugal.
Cost of living
- Rent in Funchal is, on average, 36.82% lower than in Lisbon.
- Inexpensive dinner around 6–8€.
- Uber from Funchal center to Ponta do Sol is around 23€.
- Bus ticket from Funchal center to Ponta do Sol is around 3€.
- Coworking spot for a month in Funchal: starting from 98€.
- For more costs of living check Numbeo.com.
Good to know
- Currently there’s a curfew from 7pm on the weekdays and 6pm on weekends.
- Restaurants and supermarkets close at 6pm on the weekdays and 5pm on the weekends. Check Glovo and UberEats for delivery (mostly Funchal).
- Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere in Funchal but it’s highly advisable to have some change in hand when exploring the island.
- If you’re interested in staying longer than 6 months in Madeira — For a fee, island lawyers can also help digital nomads stay longer on the island by guiding them through applications for non tourist visas, including Portugal’s Golden Visa and D7 resident permit.
- Amazon does deliver in Madeira ;)
Where to live
When choosing a place to live, keep in mind that the South coast is warmer and gets most of the sunlight. The top coastal town are as following:
- Ponta do Sol
- Madalena do Mar
- Jardim do Mar (currently there are roadworks that make the access to the town more difficult and time consuming)
Note that the higher up you go in altitude the colder the weather conditions get. For example the weather in Calheta is almost always warmer than in Arco de Calheta.
Although it’s highly advisable to rent a car note that both Bolt and Uber can work even in remote areas such as Arco da Calheta with the average wait time being around 10–20 minutes. Another transportation app that is used in Madeira is TaxiIn Portugal. Street parking in Funchal is quite limited and paid, outside of Funchal it’s mostly street or private parking with low or non-existent costs. Tip: use Parkopedia to find parking options.
One of the local bus lines connects Funchal — Ponta do Sol — Arco de Calheta — Ponta do Pargo and runs around 7 times per day for the Ponta do Pargo — Funchal direction and around 9 times per day for the Funchal — Ponta do Pargo direction. On the weekends the bus runs around 2–3 times per day.
The connection between Funchal and Ponta do Sol is more frequent on the timetable.
Tip from the Nomad Village community: Use the site XtraCars.pt for car rental and use the code “XTRADIGITALNOMADSMADEIRA” to get an exclusive Nomad Village discount.
Accommodation owners are adapting their housing prices to monthly rates for digital nomads and offering long term car rental rates. Monthly prices on several platforms (like Airbnb) are more affordable than weekly prices.
Where to look for accommodations?
- NomadX (a.ka Flatio) is the official international partner for accommodation for the 1st Global Nomad Village in Madeira. Book your accommodation in Madeira and use the promo code “DigitalNomadsMadeira” to get a 25% discount on the service fee.
- The Nomad Village Slack group has an #accommodation channel where people who are already on the island post if they are looking for accommodation or looking for flatmates. There is an excel spreadsheet that has all this information listed.
- List of accommodations from the Nomad Village — updated regularly.
- Madeira AL — similar to airbnb.
- Madeira Rental Holiday — villas and houses.
- Post to the Digital Nomads in Madeira group that you’re looking for accommodation and include your intro, the dates and price range to the post.
Tip: ask the host to send you a screenshot of an Internet speed test. If the connection still fails on spot you can always go over to the Ponta do Sol working space’s patio.
While a few years back Madeira was a popular holiday destination for senior tourism the island is now reinventing itself as a diverse destination that appeals to a younger crowd with the different initiatives to attract remote workers to the island.
Ponta do Sol is the pilot for this unique project but the communities have already expanded to the neighbouring municipalities and there are more and more weekly events being scheduled for the increasing number of nomads who arrive on the island.
From months of experience in living and working in Madeira as well as hosting nomad retreats and events we would definitely confirm that the subtropical island ticks most of the boxes on the list for both nomads and remote workers. We would highly recommend staying for a minimum 2 months to really get the best of the community, nature and climate.