ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Life on Madeira as an Erasmus student

Updated on August 2, 2013


This story is based on an experience through Erasmus program, studying IT at the University of Madeira during one semester. It includes information about different possibilities for living in Madeira, Funchal (the capital), also about nature, some interesting facts and the author's story.

The purpose of the story is to share information with all the people, who want to study at the University of Madeira or want to travel here or are just interested in the life and culture of Madeira!

Interesting facts about Madeira

During the time spent on Madeira, we (me and my colleague) found out some notable facts about the place and culture.

  • Population of Madeira is about 350 000, but the number of people registered as living there, is almost one million.
  • Number one income of the island is tourism, the second biggest income are the 'donations' that people living somewhere else, send home to their families.
  • The person, who has the most influence in Madeira's government, has remained the same for more than 25 years.
  • The only animals living freely on Madeira, are rabbits, and they were brought to the island by humans.
  • The ocean floor depth is over 3000m just about 5km off shore.
  • The most popular fish there - black scabbardfish, lives about 1000-2000m deep. Fishermen often go out to the ocean with their boats for 3-4 days to catch the fish - they show light from their boats to make the fish come higher. The fishing rope is about 500m long and it can have many hundreds of fishhooks. If the fishing rope is pulled back from the depth, all the fish are already dead due to the pressure change.
  • In February and March, it rains a lot. For example, in year 2010, about 40 people drowned in a shopping center's underground car park.
  • On Madeira Island, there are no natural sand-beaches with white sand - sand is black and there are lots of stones in some beaches. Since there are also quite big waves, that move the stones, it might be quite painful to get into the water. Once we saw a tourist, whose legs were bleeding, coming out of the water.
  • Weather on the north side and the south side of the island is totally different. The south side is sunny, warm and dry and the north side is cloudy, rainy and much colder.
  • It is the second of December and the temperature is 21 degrees right now and the sun is shining.
  • The water temperature of the south side does not go under 16-17 degrees.

Funeral customs

In my opinion, one of the most surprising things to know, was the procedure of burying the dead on Madeira. As we know, Madeira is a quite small island - about 750 km². That is the reason, why funerals are held a little bit differently there. If a person dies, he/she is buried in the first 24 hours - due to the warm climate. The funeral part, where people come together and commemorate the person, is held in a week. Now comes the different part - after 5 years, the grave is dug up and the body is checked - if he/she is decomposed enough, the bones are cleaned and given to the family members. If there is no family left - bones are put to a communal grave. If the body is not decomposed enough - the person is buried again. Maximum time for a person being buried is 10 years - no room in graveyards. Cremating isn't very popular here - it's a catholic island.


Where to live in Funchal, Madeira

There are different possibilities to stay during the studies or just visiting for a longer period.

  1. Student Residence - one month is about 150 EUR per student, water and electricity included (due to the climate, no heating systems in the buildings and therefor no paying for it). Rooms are meant for two/three persons, living room and kitchen are shared - one of each for each floor. Beds are mostly two-storeyd. Rooms are quite small and meant mostly for keeping your stuff and sleeping.
  2. Renting an apartment with binding contract - seemed to be the most comfortable possibility at first. Apartments with reasonable prices can be found only on Portuguese web-sites/local newspapers etc. (300-600EUR in the center of Funchal). You have to take into consideration, that according to Portuguese law, you will have to make the contract at least for 6 months. You can leave earlier, but will not get your warranty money back.
  3. Renting an apartment without a binding contract - very comfortable! We did not know that it is possible, but there are certain places offer such form of accommodation - 450 EUR month, everything included and no warranty money needed.
  4. In a hotel - if you have a lot of money, why not! Probably, for a longer period and not during the high season, you can bargain a nice hotel room for month for 800-1200 EUR.

Tourism on Madeira and places to visit

Madeira is being visited by tourists practically all-year-long. As the local people told us, British people visit Madeira all the time. There is nothing to wonder - it is possible to get London-Madeira-London plane tickets for as low as 70 EUR. Late in the autumn, Scandinavian tourists are visiting Madeira and also the Portuguese from Mainland Portugal. Madeira is a very popular place to celebrate the New Years Eve.

Most of the tourist groups are staying in Funchal, the capital. There is a touristic region, Lido, next to the center, which is actually really beautiful, although full of hotels and restaurants. Most of the tourists are over 40-50 years old and go to Madeira for culture trips. Young people usually don't spend their vacation on Madeira and that's why the night-life is not the primary attraction there. People go out mostly on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays - most of the places are closed on other nights. There is probably some activity in the Student Residence though.

Places to visit:

  • Cabo Girão - European highest sea cliff - 580m
  • Pico Arieiro - one of the highest peaks of the island - 1818m
  • Porto Moniz - little city on the north side. Famous for its out-door pools in the ocean.
  • Hiking routes - there are many of them in the Island. For example the only way to get to the highest point on the island, is to follow a route from Pico Arieiro.
  • Eira do Serrado - place with really impressive views in the mountains.
  • Go to the mountains, above the clouds, and watch the sunset! Quite a view!

There are a lot of beautiful places all around the island, it is a good idea to rent a car and drive around the island. For example, we were in the mountains, came out of the car and stopped the engine. We suddenly realized that there was not a single voice anywhere to hear - total silence! No bugs, no animals, no people talking, no cars, nothing! There is almost no population higher in the mountains - people probably do not want to live in a cloud all the time.

Our experience

Me and my colleague - we took part of the Erasmus program at the same time. We wrote almost a month before arriving, to ask if we have a place in the Student Residence. No answer. We wrote twice more. Still no answer. We were already in London (stopped off for one day) and we wrote again to say that we are arriving already the next day and do we have a place? Just before leaving for Madeira, we finally got an answer - yes, we had the place.

After arriving, we asked about the Student Residence, but no-one knew, where it was. Fortunately we checked from Google the day before and knew the region, where it was supposed to be - Madeira addresses were not correct in Google Map at that time. Finally, we made it to the Student Residence, where we were told that persons from different gender can not stay in one room, because "what happens, if you will not get along anymore etc". Funny explanation, but what can you do. Also - there was no reliable internet connection, but we needed it for an Estonian project development.

It took a few days to find a suitable apartment to rent - 380 EUR for a really nice apartment in the central of Funchal with a fantastic view to the city, mountains and ocean. Superb! The real estate agent also promised the warranty money back. The home-search was over and we started to think about the school. We had no information about anything - where to go first, where to get the information, what kind of activities there are for Erasmus students.

We googled the location of University of Madeira. First we went to the Student Help Office. Wrong place, we were sent to some other place. After 2 hours of waiting - wrong place again! We were sent to another building in another part of the town! Luckily it was the correct place! We also had lack of information about all the courses, but got used to it as the time passed. Everything just seems to work that way on Madeira - even most of the clocks in public places, also in the university, are totally wrong.

After that, we rented a car, drove around the island, saw many breathtaking views and places, talked to the local people and got all kinds of information about the culture, people, island and life on Madeira.

When we finally wanted to leave the apartment and pay the last month from warranty money - we were told by landlord, that it is not possible! We had a quite funny communication with our agent before already - on the first day, he promised to bring us some things we needed for the apartment. He did not. And did not pick up the phone for a week. At last he did pick up the phone, promised again to bring everything the next day - nothing. AND did not pick up the phone for a week. We asked for the contract all the time - same story - promises, no contract, ignoring phone calls. It started to look like a big joke already, especially listening him 'sincerely' promising all the things. Well - the story ended with us moving out and living the last month in another apartment - without binding contract, everything included.

Except for the landlord not giving back the warranty money, everything was really enjoyable and great. And to think back - the memories about the apartment rental and the real estate agent are quite amusing!

Some pictures

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Porto Moniz and the ocean poolAbove the cloudsOn the way to Porto MonizPorto MonizPico do ArieiroQuite common pedestrian crossingView from Gabo Girao
Porto Moniz and the ocean pool
Porto Moniz and the ocean pool
Above the clouds
Above the clouds
On the way to Porto Moniz
On the way to Porto Moniz
Porto Moniz
Porto Moniz
Pico do Arieiro
Pico do Arieiro
Quite common pedestrian crossing
Quite common pedestrian crossing
View from Gabo Girao
View from Gabo Girao


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image 

      19 months ago


      I am from Czech Republic and I look for internship at Funchal too. Could anyone give me some tips for any companies or institutions please? Thank you for your help. I have already sent an email to University of Madeira. I am skilled in IT but I don't mind to work in different field, manual work, sport, etc... I love sport :-) Thank You!

    • profile image


      3 years ago


      I am on the search of an Erasmus internship in Madeira. Do you know any agricultural business or institute there? Or organization that has to do with rural development?

    • Phils-Haven profile image


      5 years ago from Porto Moniz, Madeira

      Madeira, definitely a paradise. Moved there from France and now living in Funchal.

      For all searching for a cheap place, you can check out Phil's Haven Hostel.

      Bunk Beds starting 12 EUR and also has weekly and monthly discounts.

    • profile image

      Pieter Van Herck 

      6 years ago

      Damn, that's a bummer!

      But thanks 4 the info pall!


    • otsipaku profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Estonia


      They were very strict. If not married, can not stay in one room.

      It was quite easy to find under 500 EUR appartment - took about 3 hours :]


    • profile image

      Pieter Van Herck 

      6 years ago

      I'm planning an Erasmus internship this summer along with my girlfriend. And we were hoping getting a double room at the student residence, but you guys say that is not possible.. Were they very strict concerning that rule? And if yes did you guys easily found a pleasant/decent/minus500euros appartment?


      Pieter Van Herck

    • otsipaku profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Estonia

      Thank you! It is really different from what I am used to, but a very good experience and a very good choice to take part of the Erasmus program.

    • Carolus profile image


      6 years ago from USA /Portugal

      Madeira is a great island, and Portuguese people from there are the best! Glad you're making the most of it!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)