I’ve been travelling again and it feels SO good.
After a nationwide lockdown and social distancing becoming the depressing ‘new normal’, I didn’t expect to be boarding a plane again in 2020. But there I was, sitting elbow-to-elbow with a stranger, our faces half-obscured by cloth masks, with the familiar flutter of pre-holiday excitement in my stomach.
I’d booked a £46 flight within the hour when Portugal was announced as a UK travel corridor destination. Right now, there’s always a risk but in my opinion, travel to Madeira felt like one of the safest options during COVID-19 so I wanted to create this post for anybody thinking of visiting the Portuguese island.
Who can travel to Madeira?
On 1 July 2020, Madeira and Porto Santo removed their mandatory quarantine on arrival. This means that tourists from any country can currently travel to Madeira!
As a small island, Madeira shut down quickly in response to COVID-19 so they’ve only had a few hundred coronavirus cases throughout the entire pandemic – most of which are imported and picked up by the airport screening system.
Travelling from the UK
As of September 2020, the UK government currently advise against all but essential travel to mainland Portugal. However this does NOT include Madeira and the Azores and if you are travelling to/from England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you currently do not need to quarantine when arriving back to the UK from Madeira. Sadly Scotland has not separated out Madeira from mainland Portugal in their restrictions so you will need to complete the 14 day quarantine if you live there.
What are Madeira’s entry requirements?
Madeira now has a few entry requirements but thankfully these are simple. Firstly, you must fill out a Regional Health Authority form within 48 hours before travel: this gives you a QR code to scan at the airport. If you don’t fill this out in advance, you can do so at the airport but you’ll have to queue a little longer then. Yes, they actually bother to check that you’ve filled in the form – unlike the UK government on our return to Manchester.
You have two options when it comes to testing: either display a negative test result from within the last 72 hours or take a free PCR swab test on arrival. You must quarantine in your accommodation until you receive the test results but they come quickly – within 12 hours usually. The airport is incredibly organised with plenty of helpful staff around.
I was nervous the test on arrival: obviously there’s always a risk that you could have COVID-19 and if you test positive, the mandatory government quarantine is 14 days. This is a factor to consider and a good reason to get tested before departure if possible. My flight landed in the evening so once I’d had my swab test, I went straight to the apartment for dinner, went to sleep and received my negative result by email at 5.30am.
Is Madeira safe to travel in 2020?
Speaking from myself and my family’s experience, Madeira feels extremely safe to travel right now.
Currently, Madeira has had less than 300 coronavirus cases in total. Despite this, similar restrictions to many countries across the world are in place including wearing face masks, social distancing and using hand sanitiser.
You need to wear facemasks indoors, for example in shops or when walking in/out of restaurants. In restaurants, you can remove your masks once sitting at your table and everything else feels pretty normal. There are no restrictions on how many people can dine together at once.
Madeira has many stunning outdoor attractions, from Levada walks to natural swimming pools and beaches. You don’t need to wear a mask at any of these places, although you do need to put your mask on when using public facilities here like toilets or showers. I forgot to wear my mask into the toilets in Porto Moniz’ natural swimming pools and felt very self-conscious as all the locals were very careful to wear them at the right time. The moral of the story – make sure you carry a mask with you at all times and you’ll be good!
Overall, I actually felt safer in Madeira than I do in the UK right now! Coronavirus isn’t widespread at all there, any new cases that come from abroad are quarantined immediately and the island has so many beautiful outdoor attractions to explore. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Madeira as a destination to anybody still wanting to travel abroad in these crazy times.
I’ll be sharing more about what we got up to soon – stay tuned!