Thousands of expats are living in Madeira. Could you become one of them? Know all about living on the Portuguese island.

Last Updated on May 5, 2022 by Letícia Melo

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira Island is a Portuguese jewel. With a pleasant climate, fascinating natural landscapes, and some of the lowest prices in Europe, living in Madeira is an object of desire for many foreigners.

Portugal has long been known for its above-average hospitality but is now becoming home to retired expats, families, and investors. In today’s article, we’ll tell you all about living in Madeira, the cost of living, better neighborhoods, and much more. Follow the text to the end!

Living in Madeira: day by day

Have you ever thought about living on a tropical island with the security of Europe, below-average prices, and a relaxed pace of life? No, it’s not a dream, it’s Madeira Island!

Living in Madeira

This little Portuguese paradise is 1077 km (669 mi) off the mainland coast, in the middle of the Atlantic. Home to Cristiano Ronaldo, the island has received increasing recognition from the world in recent years as a luxury destination.

Living in Madeira is like living a green dream of peace and calm, without losing the comforts of modern life. The Portuguese are friendly, the expat community grows every day, especially British. And the days go by in pleasant temperatures with outdoor meals.

Who lives on Madeira Island?

As the largest island in the Madeira archipelago, the island of Madeira has around 245,000 inhabitants in 2021. Of these, 105,000 live in the capital, the city of Funchal.

In Madeira, 69.8% of the population is of working age and 3.7% is formed by foreigners with legal status of residence. However, in reality, this number tends to be much higher than on paper.

Why are expats moving to Madeira?

The attractions of the island of Madeira, as already mentioned, are quite obvious. It’s a fantastic place to live with quality of life to spare.

But beyond that, some things make Madeira an even more attractive destination for foreigners to relocate. Like for example:

  • Visa and residency programs that make moving from abroad easier
  • Tax Benefits for Non-Habitual Residents
  • Possibility of getting a Golden Visa with real estate investment
  • Cost of living much lower than the European average
  • It is halfway between the United States and the United Kingdom

So, as in most regions of Portugal, the question should be: Why not move to Madeira?

What is the cost of living in Madeira?

When you’re living in Madeira, you find that prices are much lower than in major European cities or even islands.

We will present you, in the table below, the averages of the cost of living in the main city of Madeira, Funchal. Averages are estimates provided by the Numbeo website.

ExpensesCosts
A single person estimated monthly costs (without rent)534.29€
Family of four estimated monthly costs (without rent)1,904.70€
1-bedroom apartment rental in the City Center621.88€
3-bedroom apartment rental in the City Center1,066.67€

In case you are wondering, the cost of living in Funchal is, on average, 33.96% lower than in Lisbon. Likewise, rent tends to be around 7.58% cheaper.

What are the best neighborhoods to live in Madeira?

Although the entire island of Madeira is a great place to live, get to know the areas that most attract foreigners to relocate. Before we go any further, get to know the island of Madeira better by exploring the map below.

According to official data available on Pordata, these are the neighborhoods in Madeira with the biggest percentage of foreign population.

Calheta

The parish of Estreito da Calheta, southwest of Madeira, is the expats’ #1 area of choice to live. In the last few years, it has attracted many investors in the tourism sector, thanks to its beautiful settings and one of the few sandy beaches on the island. It is located at 35 km from the capital, Funchal, which is not too close and not too far from a bigger city.

Living in Calheta Madeira Island

In Calheta, there is a calm lifestyle, surrounded by nature, surfing beaches, and non-invasive tourism. A great place to live retired, for example.

  • Resident population is 10,913 people
  • 8,4% of the inhabitants are foreigners
  • A 50 m² 1-bedroom apartment rental costs on average 400€ per month

Ponta do Sol

Living in the south of Madeira Island, in the village of Ponta do Sol, also has its advantages. Here, as the name indicates (point of the sun), it is the warmest part of Madeira. Ponta do Sol is another very charming coastal village, surrounded by agriculture and some tourism companies, which is worth considering when establishing a new home.

Living in Madeira Ponta do Sol

Ponta do Sol is really an amazing place, 24 km from Funchal, that invites visitors to stay forever. Why wouldn’t they?

  • Resident population is 8,367 people
  • 5,3% of the inhabitants are foreigners
  • A 50 m² 1-bedroom apartment rental costs on average 280€ per month

Funchal

Capital and largest city on the island of Madeira, Funchal is also a fantastic place to live. It is here, in the heart of Madeira, that you have the greatest purchasing power on the island and that you can find the main services. Schools, university, hospitals, and airports are all here.

Funchal is the biggest city on the island

To reach the island, Funchal is, therefore, the gateway. Flights to Madeira depart frequently from Lisbon, London and Paris. It’s not a bad place to live at all. In fact, it makes perfect sense to be at the top of your list!

  • Resident population is of 105,000 people
  • 5,7% of the inhabitants are foreigners
  • A 50 m² 1-bedroom apartment rental costs on average 425€ per month

Porto Moniz

The small village of Porto Moniz is home to one of the most emblematic settings of Madeira. Located in the northwestern part of the island, this remote area has natural lava pools that attract some tourists. Even so, everyday life in Porto Moniz is marked by tranquility, where everyone knows each other, and a bit of exclusivity.

Porto Moniz is a beautiful place to live

Access to Porto Moniz from Funchal, 50 km away, is via cinematographic roads, with occasional waterfalls and sections of tunnels. A little paradise is hidden at the tip of the island.

  • Resident population is of 2,521 people
  • 4,5% of the inhabitants are foreigners
  • A 50 m² 1-bedroom apartment rental costs on average 260€ per month

Câmara de Lobos

At only 9 km from central Funchal, Câmara de Lobos is the second-biggest city in Madeira. It was the first village built on the island by its Portuguese discoverer, in 1420, and is very important for the locals.

Camara de Lobos is a great place to live in Portugal

The city is, therefore, mostly made up of Madeirans and, to survive here, one must know how to speak Portuguese and understand the local accent. Some say that this is where the true Madeiran experience is lived. Interested? Read about the experience of an expatriate who decided to live in Camara de Lobos in her very interesting article.

  • Resident population is of 32,175 people
  • 1,2% of the inhabitants are foreigners
  • A 50 m² 1-bedroom apartment rental costs on average 310€ per month

How much does it cost to buy a house on Madeira Island?

See the average prices to buy a house in different areas of Madeira Island in the table below:

Region of Madeira Island Average price for a property of 100 m²
Calheta192,500€
Ponta do Sol137,100€
Funchal207,600€
Porto Moniz127,800€
Câmara de Lobos152,400€

Table data are taken from Idealista‘s housing market price report on September 2021.

Also according to Idealista, real estate market prices in Madeira rose 17.4% between September 2020 and September 2021.

With the new Golden Visa rules on real estate investment favoring the Madeira region in 2022, the estimate is that the value of properties here will increase greatly.

Learn more about obtaining a Golden Visa in our full article on the subject.

How is the public and private healthcare in Madeira?

On the island of Madeira, there are several public health centers serving residents and tourists, mostly in the Funchal area. Emergency cases are referred to the Hospital da Cruz de Carvalho, in the capital.

Although the Portuguese public health service is recognized for its quality, you may want faster and more targeted care, so that’s where it’s a good idea to have health insurance. There are many quality private hospitals on the island, such as the Hospital Particular da Madeira and the Hospital da Luz.

How is the labor market in Madeira?

The labor market in Madeira is almost entirely linked to tourism. The hotels, restaurants, and tourist experiences in the region are top-notch. Likewise, with the advance of real estate developments on the island, civil construction is also on the rise. The region’s traditional agriculture, viticulture, and fishing also remain strong and part of the Madeiran identity. In 2019, the average wage on the island was around 992€ per month.

Not only that, but the island of Madeira has attracted many digital nomads to live and work from paradise. A Digital Nomad Village was even built-in Ponta do Sol for remote workers, through Startup Madeira and the local government. So it means that you can take your job with you to the beautiful Madeira!

Can foreigners study in the University of Madeira?

For foreigners who want to take a higher-level course in wood, good news. The University of Madeira accepts international students in both mobility programs and degrees.

The tip is to know the university’s offer in advance and plan from the application to the student visa application. A great setting to learn, isn’t it?

If you would like to enroll your children in an English language school, there are two international schools on the island. The International School of Madeira and the International Sharing School of Madeira.

What can you do for leisure in Madeira?

Outdoor lovers will love Madeira. Not only are there incredible views of the sea, but the island has an impressive interior, full of Atlantic forest, levadas, and history. Check out the Visit Madeira official video:

Among the most unmissable destinations in Madeira, here is a list of the best things to see:

  • Cabo Girão Cape
  • Curral das Freiras
  • Natural lava pools of Porto Moniz
  • Mercado dos Lavradores Market
  • Santa Clara Convent
  • Wine Museum of Madeira
  • Pico do Areeiro
  • Madeira’s Botanic Garden
  • Grutas de São Vicente Caves
  • Cristiano Ronaldo Museum

What’s the weather like in Madeira?

The Madeira Island is marked by warm and temperate climates and pleasant days throughout the year. Take a look at the table below with the data provided by the Climate Data website.

DataSpringSummerFallWinter
Average temperature14.6 °C
(58.28 °F)
20 °C
(68 °F)
18.2 °C
(64.76 °F)
13.7 °C
(56.66 °F)
Average Rainfall35 mm(1.3 in)11 mm
(0.4 in)
62.3 mm
(2.4 in)
70 mm
(2.7 in)

The days are humid, as you would expect on an Atlantic island, but pleasant. It is never too hot, let alone cold.

What about the other islands of the Madeira archipelago?

The only two of the 4 islands in the Madeira archipelago are inhabited, Madeira and Porto Santo. The latter, however, has only about 5,000 inhabitants and has a completely different landscape from its bigger sister.

Living in Porto Santo is also not a bad idea at all, but is especially suggested to those looking for absolute quiet and isolation. Sailors are a frequent apparition to this island, well located in the middle of the route from Europe to the Caribbean.

Is it worth living in Madeira?

Living in Madeira represents, as you now know, a world of possibilities. Of course, moving here is your choice, and only you can tell if your case is valid.

But the island of Madeira certainly has everything to be your ideal place in the world. Quality of life, safety, prices, benefits, sea breeze, and mild temperature… So yes, it is worth living in Madeira!

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