Before we went to Madeira last week I had read all these scary posts about driving on their roads .
I voiced these to my partner and he wasnt buying into it at all so we hired a car and I have to say it was a total joy. We did 523 miles in the week and travelled all round. No issues whatsoever. We stayed in Calheta.
Yes, apart from the main motorway type roads ( which are superb) the roads are narrower than we're used to but the speeds are less too and you edge past each other if needs be.
I navigated our way round using the Discovery Walking guides Madeira Tour and trail map and it did me proud.
Yes, the roads can be windy and hilly but at no point were any dangerous and in early February most roads apart from the very main drags were pretty empty.
Yes, the driver misses out on some views but that's no different from driving anywhere on holiday
Yes, your low gears get used more than we would ever be used to, but that's just the inclines and not dangerous.
We only went to Funchal one day - Parked for free at the Botanical Gardens signed off the motorway- walked down into town and then came up via the two cable cars - which cost far more than parking in Funchal but much easier and enjoyable too.
I didnt much like the time up at the top when enclosed by clouds and couldn't see much past the front of the bonnet so we chose to go back down to where we could see and walk elsewhere in sunshine. In fairness I wouldn't have liked that on a coach, mini bus or taxi either- this way we could about turn at our own will,
At no point did we feel we'd made a bad choice and we paid about £200 for a 1.6 car and used 1 tank of fuel at 60Eu and went all over the island each day to levada walks , up to the top a couple of times and out to Porto Sao Lorenco. Porto Moniz etc We would never have afforded a taxi each day for the day
Of course - not a good idea if your driver has vertigo or a height issue but on the whole - just sayin' - it's not as bad as it can be portrayed.