The Big Madeira Rip-Off !

The big Madeira rip-off culture for foreigners and tourists is still alive and well I see, as having gone several months with nothing of note (partly because I choose carefully where I go and who I trust), the sting was definately on me … or was I totally mistaken?

Before I go any further with this, it is important to say that I am not labelling every business on the island as racist and fraudulent, because I know plenty that definately are not … I just wish they had red beacons and sirens, so I could spot them easily!

OK, with the disclaimer out of the way, I continue. I am not going to name the bar/restaurant concerned, because what they were doing was almost entirely legal, but for the purpose of this story I am going to use a pseudonym instead. So lets call this establishment The noD sLuí Restaurant in a non-existent town called Bibeira Rrava.

The noD sLuí is a place I have been several times before, and the normal waiter there is a nice guy, and I never had any problems before, aside from the fact that the normal prices were a bit expensive anyway, but I knew that and I could choose to go there or not, depending on the cash flow.

However, the nice guy waiter was on his night off, so the manager of the restaurant was incorrectly primed about the ethnic status of his customer and friend who had sat down to watch the football (you can only watch the TV from outside).

According to the price list (which I notice was promptly removed after our verbal scuffle), a medium glass of beer (balão) was one euro. So logic would say that the three beers consumed would cost three euros. On asking for the bill, I was presented with a bill for FIVE EUROS and FOURTY CENTS.

I asked to see the price list, and was invited inside by the manager, to look at a list (at that time pinned to a wall, away from public view). I don’t speak Portuguese so well, but enough to know that he was telling me that was the price being charged was for outside service. Now that is legal, I know, and I don’t have an issue with it, as on occasions I have to pay TEN CENTS more for the privilege of outside service. But this was a mark-up of EIGHTY PERCENT.

Now the noD sLuí, let me explain, is a bar/restaurant, where the actual and only bar service area is on the outside of the building. So although you can sit down inside, you either have to call a waiter or go outside and ask for your tipple, and go back in and sit down again. This way allcomers can achieve normal price apparently. However, if you sit outside where the waiter is normally based, and life is infact so much easier for him, then you will suffer an 80% uplift in prices. The locals seem to tolerate this policy remarkably well, because it is a well busy bar at times, and all the customers sit outside. Next to my table was a group of 4 children, enjoying a drink and some ice cream. Obviously they were not short of pocket money, and didn’t mind paying the 80% uplift for outside service, as I could still hear them laughing as left after paying their bill.

The story has a temporary happy ending, in that in return for giving back the incriminating overinflated receipt, I was then charged the same price the locals pay … oh, sorry, I meant to say the indoors price. 

The government knows it goes on, the department of tourism, knows it goes on, and the people of Madeira know it goes on (thanks and respect to those locals who occasionally write letters to the local press on the matter). It is about time the authorities took control of this issue and cleaned up Madeira’s image.

Imagine the joy of someone who can now find a very cheap flight to Madeira, stay in prebooked decent quality low budget accommodation. Within a few minutes of leaving the airport, they pay near double the rate they should pay in taxi fares, followed by lunch and drinks with double helpings of rip-off for afters.

The stories are endless, 6 euros for a bottle of water, 20 euros for a cheap baseball cap, oh sorry I forgot your change sir. I am now thinking of getting some t-shirts made “OK, I am a foreigner and I can’t help that, but I have lived here xx years, please don’t rip me off” Can someone please translate that into Portuguese for me.

8 thoughts on “The Big Madeira Rip-Off !”

  1. The Big Madeira Rip-Off ! ( I DON’T THING SO !!!! )
    Well coming from Africa I visit Madeira Yearly and this year I decided to spent a week in London ( nice place ).As far as I can tell you the average going price for a pint of bear in Madeira is 50 to 70 cent where in London its 3 £ ( YES THREE POUNDS which equals FOUR EUROS and FIFTY CENTS ), A pack of 20s B&H Cigarettes FIVE POUNDS FIFTY but yet I have not written any column to criticize London.


  2. You miss the whole point Joe. I am not talking about expensive places, or the cost of things, I am talking about why should I have to pay 80% more than the person on the next table because I am english. When you are a foreigner in London, you are sat next to english people who also have to pay £3 for a pint of 'bear' and £5.50 for a pack of cigarettes … the same as you?

  3. We got ripped off in a bar in Curral das Freiras at the chestnut festival. We also live here, are English and normally choose to drink locally where it is cheaper and we pay the same as the locals do.
    The bar we were in was heaving with locals and we ordered a plate of chestnuts, a cup of vin Sec(the local homemade wine) and a whiskey, but when we wanted to order another drink the waiter wanted us to pay for the fist round and quoted us 9.50 euros. We ordered another whiskey and a water with gas and after decided to pay the bill and leave but were astonished to find that our bill for the first round which was suposed to be 9.50 went up to 19.40 euros! So our water and whiskey had nearly cost us an extra 10 bucks! The mistake we made was that when we ordered the second round we spoke in Portuguese and then when we asked for the bill we spoke in English, hence the inflated price. I asked for a receipt and quibbled the extortionate bill and the waiter just strugged was very rude and walked off.
    It soured the day for us and made us really upset that this still happens, when we drink locally a glass of vin sec is usually around 50-60 cents, we paid 2.50 euros and for the whiskey it's 1.40 for a large measure we got charged 4euros for a half measure. One would expect these prices in the Hotels and larger establishments in Funchal but not at a sleepy village festa in the Nun's Valley.
    Don't these people realise that they alienate the tourism industry with their greed and make us resent spending our hard earned money in establishments that seem to think we are stupid, are rolling in it and while we sit there we have to pay for the privalage whilst our local neighbour doesn't???
    We veto these places now and only support the places where we are treated with respect and where our money is as greatfully accepted alongside the banana mans money and without having to pay the extra charge for being a foreigner!

  4. Yes the Hairdressers are at it to. I went into a place in Funchal and they said a cut and blowdry would be €13.50 but it came to €18.20. I had to pay extra for conditioner €2.90 and lacquer €1.80. I think it was because I was a tourist. Never been charged extra, anywhere for this before.

  5. I am sorry guys but the fact is, everyone who is a tourist will get ripped off no matter where you go in the world… For the ultimate RIP-OFF try Egypt….

  6. my partner has a time share in maderia and I was invited to a 2 week holiday and as usual we had rip off after rip off.
    beautiful place, just get rid of those fcking pervs and rip off merchants.
    like most countries these fcks are only after your money and your women.


Leave a comment

Translate »