Maldives is as beautiful as the pictures say and yes it is expensive as hell. That being said it is completely possible to travel Maldives without being a high flyer or emptying your last penny. Before heading into the guide here’s what we did.
Flights to Maldives
We booked our flights some 4 months in advance when one of the aggregators launched a deal. Our return tickets cost us under 100$ for both of us, using our miles. Our flights were ex Kochi and we were in Hyderabad. A lot if last minute things happened including airlines rescheduling their flights. We had to opt for a last minute flight change which is the reason we had a hop flight from Kochi to Hyderabad on our way back. Could we have avoided that if we had booked our flights straight from Hyderabad? Maybe but we were not sure where we would be in August and if we had moved out before that we would be in a similar situation.
Accommodation in Maldives
This was one of our completely booked trips. except for our last night in Huhumale we had our stays booked way in advance. Most properties are new and pretty well maintained and most of our stays were pretty comfortable. We spent around 21K for accommodation all of which included breakfast, had air-conditioning, hot shower and clean linen.
Food in Maldives
I am a vegetarian Ajay is not but he isn’t big on meat and enjoys vegetarian food a lot. This meant most of the local delicacies were out of our food choices right from roshi and mashuni in breakfast to grilled fish in dinner. Most of our breakfast as a result was bread, spreads, and fruits. Snacks were another limiting thing because you will see everyone around you eating some king of pastry, bread or fried something. If you have no problems with animal products you will be in heaven and definitely eat cheaper than we did.
Plan your trip to Maldives
Where you can go depends on two factors, time you have and money you are willing to spend. To visit some of the far flung atolls from Male you would either be hiring a private boat, paying for a domestic flight, taking a sea plane transfer or sit on long ferry rides. Chances are you would be doing more than one of these for the really far ones. If you have some moolah just take the sea plane or domestic flight; for those with shallow pockets hopping ferries is the only way.
Be prudent about your choice of Islands and spend atleast two nights in a place. Less than that and you will not get a chance to sleep in as most ferries run around 7-9 am.
Special note to those going to thoddhoo island, the night ferry runs from fish market not from the vilingli jetty.
Getting in Maldives is a breeze since it does not ask for a visa and you are just stamped in when you get there. We did not see anyone being denied and personally we were stamped in less than a minute.
Accommodation in Maldives
This can be the single biggest expense and totally depends on your comfort and taste. Simply put, if you want to keep your expenses low, select clean and cheap accommodation. Here are the options which will help you keep your expenses low and get the most out of your money.
This was the first time we used Airbnb outside India and it was not as smooth as we would have liked. We had one last stay to book and we had not heard back form the couch requests we had sent earlier. So we booked a room in Huhumale through Airbnb. Apart from it being the most expensive room on the trip it was simply disappointing. I am sure we could have had a better room booking through other sites. Still Airbnb is a good option if you need last minute bookings and with these 25$ credit you might find your prices comfortable. Important thing to remember is to contact your host before you book and make sure that your basic requirements are met.
Cheap hotels/ Guest house
We thought we would stay in those swanky water bungalows for one night, looking at 500$ a night we came down a notch and decided to just stay in a regular room in the resort. The problem is even if you can find a deal on the resort like we did you will still be paying for island transfer to one of these remote islands. One of the ways to lower transfers cost is to arrange your own transport. For that choose a resort which is near a local inhabited island. Many resort tours run from local island and you can also rent a dhoni (local boat) which would definitely be cheaper. Make arrangements for pick up too, even if you end up paying 20-25$ per person each way you will be spending far less than 150$ per person each way.
Do keep in mind that it is not just the bed and transport that is expensive, every single thing is expensive when you are in the resort. From 8$ a beer to 5$ water bottles you are in for a rude shock.
Transport in Maldives
Islands are small, like really teeny tiny small; including male. If you like walking and are not carrying bricks in your backpack you should find it easy and will probably not need any on land transport. For reference the outer periphery road of Male is less than 6km. For those who don’t want to walk there are taxis available in Male and they run on flat charge of 20MVR. In both Thoddhoo and Rasdhoo you don’t need a taxi and we did not find any.
Inter Island Transport
There are a few ways of getting form one island to another and they vary form cheap 2$ ferries to 300$ seal planes. Your choice should depend on how many days you have, your budget and more importantly where you want to go.
These are the slowest options of all and by that logic the cheapest. Prices start around 1 $ for airport to Male ferry and are around 3$ for Rasdhoo to Male. No ferry runs on Fridays and most ferries don’t run daily. Most ferries run from Villingli Jetty on the other end of the island. If like us you are planning to go to thoddoo and catch the night ferry then you have to head to fish market. Ferry runs everyday except Friday at midnight and charges 10$ per person. We slept on the upper deck on one of the mattresses being transported, while others took one of the mats that had been laid out. This ferry is a cargo ferry and definitely not for those who are looking for luxury though we slept like a baby being tired walking around the whole day.
If you reach male later than 3 pm chances are you will probably have to stay back the day and catch a morning ferry atleast for some of the main islands. Don’t go without researching ferry timings, you might want to book a night in Male if your ferry does not run on the day you reach or the times do not suit you.
Speed boats are available for all the near by islands and are of two types, shared and chartered. Needless to say shared speed boats are quite cheap compared to a chartered one, they also have definite time of plying. If you are looking to reduce your time on the sea or you get sea sick these are the way to go. Best way to book one is through your guest house or hotel. Lowest prices we came across was 55$ one way.
I have been dreaming about this since Talespin and Baloo. Even when we went to Andaman I wanted to get a ride on one of these, but they were really expensive and in Maldives one trip is more than our per person expense. If you are planning to live in a distant resort chances are you will be flying in one of these. You can book tickets online here or through your resort. There is usually a luggage limit of 20 Kgs and you are charged for any weight above this.
Maldives has nine domestic airports linking Male with distant atolls there are two domestic airlines plying between these routes. Maldivian Aero and Flyme. The flights are around 150$(9500/-) return and fly multiple times daily so even if you land later than 3 pm you still have a chance to catch the flights.
Eat and Drink in Maldives
Let me just say it upfront there is no booze on regular islands. If you need or want booze head over to one of the island resorts for a day trip or head to the Hulhule Island Hotel near the airport. Some islands have a floating which is nothing but a boat which floats some distance from the islands. Your guest house would probably have excursion to these displayed somewhere around the common area. If the only reason you are not going to Maldives is because you will not find booze, you are doing it wrong.
If you are a vegetarian you night face a bit of a problem, especially if you don’t eat eggs like me. Make sure to clearly and repeatedly say no eggs, no meat no tuna. Tuna is used here the way spices are used in India, it’s everywhere. On the resort islands you should have no problem but it gets difficult as the island gets remote. In Male you will find quite a few options, we especially loved these
1. City Garden: food was good and portion sizes were sufficient too. They had a lot of vegetarian options and the best part it was around 150 MYR for both of us for a bowl of soup, fried noodles and garlic bread. even if you go splurging you would probably end up around 10-12$ per person with drinks(non alcoholic obviously). Another plus is it’s location, it was our choice for dinner on the first night before we caught ferry from nearby fish market and our drink stop on our way back to the airport.
2. Seahouse Brassiere: This one takes the bill with it’s awesome and well thought location. It is right opposit the villingli ferry teminal and almost every one who got off from our ferry headed straight to this cafe. The food was nice probably a bit better than City garden and again they have a few vegetarian options to choose from.
What to Do and See in Maldives
If you are big on sights you should spend a day walking around the capital island of Male. This tiny island city is busy yet relaxed at the same time and walking is a great way to get the hang of it. We spent our first and last day walking around and it was nice except for the hot sun. Most of the mosques and government run campuses required you to be modestly dressed and polite.
Don’t expect to gain entrance in a mosque wearing shorts and tank tops. Most places are closed on Fridays for sure and many even on the weekends. Make sure you check the opening times and days of the places you want to visit before planning your day in Male. We were there on weekend and could only walk around the mosque and other areas but couldn’t enter.
If there is something you should invest in before landing here then it is a pair of snorkel and mask. You will enjoy every single island much much better simply by swimming around the beaches with a mask and snorkel. I previously read that you would find them for free in most islands but we didn’t have the luck and ended up paying 5$ for and hour or so. Swimming goggles just don’t work the same way so get a set to truly enjoy the islands and the sea. For those who wouldn’t be bothered go snorkeling at least one morning, you don’t need to take a boat or anything. It’s right off the beach especially in islands like Rasdhoo.
We have dived all around India but the kind of clarity we saw in Maldives is unparalleled. Our guide still said it was not as good but we were dumbstruck. We saw eagle rays, sharks, and huge schools of fish almost as if they were suspended in space. Add to that the bioluminescence in the night, I would dive again and again here if my budget and time would permit. Maldives was our first night dive experience and we were both pretty nervous. Once we got the hang of it the silence of night sea along with the sights which looked completely different in a day dive simply captured us. Seeing fish as they are about to sleep or seeing a huge grouper is something you can’t forget with the bio luminescence and the thrill of being deep in the sea in night, it was awesome.
If you don’t have your certification Maldives is an expensive place to get it, even if the seas are ideal. I would recommend you get your certification at home and fo for a pleasure dive here. From what we found out Rasdhoo is the place to dive also with 3-4 dive schools it is cheaper than other smaller islands.
Big game fishing and night fishing is a big deal in Maldives. As expected we did not go fishing but most resorts and guest houses would arrange a trip if you are so interested.
Go sailing or kayaking
Bring a sun screen from home. It doesn’t matter where you are coming from it will be definitely cheaper from what you will have to but here. Sun is really strong so get some kind of hat or umbrella as well.