What? Maldives? Less than 85US$? A day?
Okay I have to catch my own fish and drink only water right? Shall I bring my own boat and mattress? No way!!
If the above was your first reaction – GREAT, read on!
Good news! Since the end of the Gayyoom era (1978-2008), Maldives increased drastically its position within the market of affordable luxury destinations. It is no longer a destination for only A-list celebrities, wealthy families and the superrich.
Located in the Indian Ocean just southwest of Sri Lanka and India, the Maldives consists of 1192 islands and stretches some 823km from north to south. It is no secret that the Maldives boasts the world’s most spectacular beaches, ranking continuously on top of international travel lists such as from National Geographic.
WHAT, if you know you could go by tomorrow? WHAT, if traveling to one of the world’s last paradises don’t need to happen anymore on the desktop in front of you?
Friends, family and strangers alike often telling us that a paradise like the Maldives is their absolute dream destination and a once-in-a-lifetime-must. Well, mostly we ask them back why only once?! Why don’t you fly twice per year? Suddenly you see shocks written all over their faces. Amusing.
CAUTION: Maldives makes addicted! We first left the Maldives after 1.5 years and soon started to miss the turquoise water, the small dhonis (traditional fishing boats) and the hospitality of the Maldivians.
But before we give you an exact breakdown and insider tips on how you can get affordable holidays in the Maldives, we will give you an EXTRA tip in advance:
HOW TO FLY TO THE MALDIVES
No, you don’t need to hire a private jet! Much easier (and cheaper). Lots of carriers flying straight from major hubs in Europe, the Middles East and Asia to Male (MLE), see below examples (there are many more).
But hold on- it get’s better: more and more affordable short-haul carriers open routes to Male:
TigerAir from Singapore
FlyDubai from Dubai
Bangkok Airways from …you guessed right, Bangkok
Skyscanner shows us above the first flight from Singapore to Male by TigerAir at only 283 US$ round-trip which is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.
In the next part we will show you how to best prepare in order to stay on a low budget and even your onward transportation within the Maldives, which tempt to be not the cheapest one if we consider sea plane fares starting in the higher hundreds (US$) for a 30minutes flight, ONE-WAY.
STEP ONE: AVOID THE HIGH SEASON!
Don’t travel during the high season from October-April. The low season from May until September is weather wise quite unpredictable in terms of occasional rains, but still worth traveling. Why? Prices are the double during the high season and the hotels/resorts are usually fully booked – not to mention the higher air fares.
STEP TWO: FIND A PLACE TO REST YOUR HEAD.
Option a): Write emails to hotels/resorts and ask for their Best Available Rate. Don’t be satisfied with their first offer and negotiate. Hotels/resorts have often many empty rooms, but still trying to make a good profit. Option b): Search on AirBnB. AirBnB is a relatively new way for people to rent out their apartments; rooms or entire homes with much better rates than hotels/resorts offering. Option C): Go for a Guest House / Bed ‘n’ Breakfast which you can look up via Hostelword.com or AGODA.
STEP THREE: YOUR ONWARD TRANSPORTATION FROM MALE
Unfortunately this is the biggest money eater when traveling within the Maldives. When you book a resort holiday from your trusted travel agent at home, most likely you have paid accommodation, boat -/ or flight transfers plus meal plan as package in advance. But since you are here on a budget we recommend to stay in the capital Male or Hulhumale.
The best solution for a cheap transport to almost any place in the Maldives is to join a supplier Dhoni (trad. boat), as long as time is not an option for you. There are countless private held companies in Male operating boats to supply supermarkets, restaurants, etc. for all inhabited islands. There isn’t much space, nor an AC or any small form of luxury on board. It gets freaking hot, but is worth a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It takes for example about 14 hours to cross the Maldives from Male to the northern-most atoll, Haa Alif. Prices one way are about US$20-25, depending on your haggling skills. We strongly recommend that you first stay 2-3 nights in Male and get to know some locals who can further help you to catch the right boat.
Dhoni – the traditional vessel in the Maldives comes in all shapes and sizes
For our example, we have chosen the island of Hulhumale:
Hulhumale is a large reclaimed island which is conveniently adjacent located to Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (MLE). It is widely considered as the new Male, however by far not as crowded. On our weekly off-day, we usually escaped to Hulhumale to enjoy the calm and serene surrounding. We love strolling on the beach or just laying underneath a coconut palm to read a book, meeting up our friends and enjoy eating mouth-watering freshly grilled red snapper.
How to get there:
From Male by speed boat for only 25 Rufiyaa ( less than US$2) the jetty is next to the Sea House Restaurant. It takes only 5-7 minutes or by slow ferry for as little as US$ 0.50. If you decide to come straight from the airport, you can take a bus for 15 Rufiyaa (US$1).
Hulhumale becomes more and more a favourite spot for expats to relax from the busy resort life (yes you read right, busy). The island offers already a good selection of nice Inn’s and guest houses to choose from. We usually stayed at the Fuana Inn, located direct by the beach.
• Fuana Inn: great location, rooms have a small balcony attached. Rates starting at US$ 57 incl. breakfast on AGODA.
• UI Inn: has 12 fully furnished room, along with AC, LCD TV, minibar, telephone and free WiFi. Rates starting in May at US$ 43.50 on hostelworld.com .
• Le Vieux Nice Inn: Ranks #1 on TripAdvisor. Rates starting currently at US$ 56 incl. breakfast on hostelworld.com .
What to eat:
Hulhumale has plenty of small, local restaurants. Maldivian cuisine is extremely fresh, delicious and especially healthy,
Garudiya: fish soup with tuna as base, onions and lemon.
Alui: sweet potatoes, actually a dise dish for fish meals
Gulhi bokibaa: sweet cake with many different herbs
Hiki mas: dried and chopped tuna
Mas huni: tuna salad with freshly grated coconut, onion and chilli
Kastad: very sweet pudding, named after the English ‘custard’
Kurumba: delicious and sweet young coconut
Riha: Fish in curry sauce
Fresh Kurumba and Mas Huni
Things to do:
We love snorkelling, especially in the morning hours. If you haven’t seen the underwater world, you haven’t seen the Maldives. And guess what? You don’t even need to go for diving! The best site for swimming or snorkelling is the beach which is parallel located to Dhigga Magu.
Since Hulhumale has by far lesser traffic than Male, its long and wide roads are ideal for cycling or jogging. Interested in water sports? Go for jet-skiing! There are a few water sport center on the island. We rented a jet-ski for 30min for just US$ 50. A resort will charge you about US$ 75 for 15min. You can do the math
Don’t like motorized water sports? Surfing might be your answer. As per our experience it’s a bit difficult to find a place for surfing in the Maldives, Hulhumale and Male offering so far the best conditions for surfing. You can book trips either through your hotel/guest house or a water sports center.
Another great spot to interact with locals is the BBQ area located by the beach at the junction of Kuredhimaa Hingun and Dhigga Magu (I know, the road names are not so easy to pronounce). At late afternoon/early evening, families and teenagers are hanging around over delicious grilled fishes – trust me, once tried a fish in the Maldives, it’s gonna be hard liking fish at any other place! Oh and yes, see the sunset. Every day. Only one word to describe it: BE-AUTI-FUL ! And on top, it’s for free.
Wanna go for a city tour to Male? Ferries leaving every 15 minutes to the bustling capital.
If you would like to see one of the famous resorts, you can do so by either asking a travel agent who has important contacts to a resort nearby or you search online for a resort located in the surrounding of Hulhumale or Male. Get in touch with the resort and ask them to join one of their guest transfers. Charges are applicable and vary very strong.
• US$ is widely accepted in the Maldives, though it has its own currency, the Maldivian Rufiyaa: 1$ = 15.37 MVR
• pork and alcohol is not available on local islands, only within resorts. Nudity is in geneal prohibited
• EVERY nationality is entitled to stay up to 30 days in the Maldives
• English is widely spoken; the national language however is Dhivehi which contains adoptions from English, Hindi & Arabic
• The Maldives consists of 1192 islands, 26 Atolls, 390.000 inhabitants and with the highest point at just 2 meters above the sea-level, it holds the world record of the flatest country. Visit Maldives offers in-depth information about the Maldives.
Please be aware that the Maldives is a 100% Muslim country, therefore it is prohibited to swim in bikinis around public beaches (that’s not an issue if you stay at a resort). Also getting booze is not possible in Hulhumale, Male or any other local island. The only place around which offers alcoholic beverages is the Hulhule Island Hotel, also widely known as HIH and is located next to the airport (again, at a resort it’s possible to get alcohol). Most shops are closed during the prayers, usually for 15-30 minutes.
LET’S DO THE SUM UP! A DAY IN THE MALDIVES ON LESS THAN US$85?
Room at Hulhumale Inn (incl. breakfast)
Service Charge (10%)
GST (Goods & Service Tax) 8%
Bicycle rent at noon
Mas Huni & Chapati plus water for lunch at a local restaurant
Hadhikaa, delcious short eats as afternoon snack from a local shop
Snorkeling equipment rental (half day) from Into Scuba dive center
Fresh Kurumba to rehydrate from a street seller
Fried tuna rice + juice for dinner at a local restaurant
0.5l water bottle from a kiosk in the evening
*bicycle rent for in-house guests is complimentary