Q. I am going to Madeira in May and would like to the prices for eating out, and also the cost of drinks.

Karen Eaton

A. May is a perfect month to visit this rugged, lush and characterful island. I have been lucky enough to visit Madeira several times, and I am always cheered to discover that prices are lower than travellers have a right to expect.

Conventional economic wisdom suggests that the costs of getting goods to a small Atlantic island a couple of hundred miles west of the coast of North Africa would push up prices. But in my experience, living costs for holidaymakers are just about as low as they are in mainland Portugal - which is the cheapest western European nation in the euro area.

The price of a beer is usually a pretty good indicator of relative costs. A bottle of Coral at the atmospheric and central Café do Teatro in the capital, Funchal, cost just €1.70 (a glass of wine is €2.50). Taxis, accommodation and attractions are all very reasonably priced.

Incidentally, prices in the Azores - even more far-flung fragments of Portugal, in mid-Atlantic - are also low, even though by rights they should be some of the highest on the planet.

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