The Maldives is one of those countries people never imagined that they would be able to visit. If you asked ten years ago if I would like to go to the Maldives, I would probably mock at you, not because thereâ€™s something wrong with the idea of being there but because I knew it would never ever happen. At the time, there were only three things that people knew about the Maldives:
- It is an archiplegic nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
- It has a lot of private luxury resorts that I could never afford.
- It is expensive to go and stay there.
But the universe has a way of surprising us. Now Maldives is notÂ a dream for us. And we can travel The Maldives on a Budget.
UNDERSTANDING THE MALDIVES
Beaches are what tourists come to the Maldives for, but you need to ask yourself what type of beach holiday you want to enjoy here. As far as cost is concerned, there are two ways of doing this: budget and luxury.
Need to tell you more about the islands. Located southwest of India and Sri Lanka, the Maldives is a tropical country, made up of 26 coral atolls that fragmented into 1,192 islands, only 200+ of which are inhabited. Tourism powers its economy. In fact, 80+ of the inhabited islands are exclusive luxury resorts, designed to attract tourists.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE MALDIVES
So basically, there are two types of islands: private and public. The public islands, also called â€œlocal islandsâ€, are those inhabited, meaning there are locals living there. This also means that there are establishments available to everyone such as grocery stores, tour agencies, shops, etc. The private islands are usually occupied by luxury resorts, most of which are open only to their guests and staff. Some of these private islands are open to non-guests who are staying elsewhere but on a day tour.
One of the key differences between the local and private islands other than the cost is that most restrictions do not apply to the latter. The Maldives is an Islamic nation that follows a strict dress code: shoulders and thighs must be covered even at the beach. (So nope, no bikinis.) But that rule isnâ€™t observed in private islands.
STAYING AT A PRIVATE ISLAND RESORT
If youâ€™re after luxury and privacy and you donâ€™t mind spending much on this trip, you might want to consider staying at an exclusive resort. This is a good option for honeymooners and those on romantic getaways.
Exclusive resorts come in all forms, too. Some charge thousands of dollars per night (the likes of Four Seasons). But those in the lower end of the spectrum are slightly more affordable. SomeÂ Resort offers beach rooms for only 200 USD (low season) and 300 USD (peak season).
Most exclusive resorts have two major types of accommodations: beach/land rooms and overwater bungalows (water villas). Of course, staying at a water bungalow looks tempting, but they are usually the priciest rooms. Those on the beach are much cheaper.
But before you book any resort or room, here are a few notes to consider:
- Donâ€™t take published rates at face value. Most do not include service charges, GST, and other taxes, a total of 23% of the published rates. AIRPORT TRANSFER isnâ€™t included either!
- Check the airport transfers arrangement. For some resorts, booking airport transfers with them is mandatory. But not all resorts are like that. some resorts booking, transfers can be arranged elsewhere, which means cheaper options.
- Consider your meal options. Being in a private island means your only food source is the resortâ€™s free breakfast, restaurants, and in-room dining service. Expect them to be overpriced, too. Rooms may be booked full-board, half-board, and bed-and-breakfast.
- Consider your tour options, too. Being at an exclusive resort means you can only hire them for your touring needs, and their tour rates are much higher than those outside.
STAYING IN A LOCAL ISLAND
But if youâ€™re budget conscious, itâ€™s best to stay in one of the local beaches or in areas near Male, the capital, and just go island-hopping from there. The public beaches here are gorgeous, too! And staying here means you have access to more restaurants and accommodations. There are guesthouses and lodges that offer rooms for as low as 30 USD in these areas.
The best part is, from these beaches, you can hire a boat or a speedboat to visit other islands on a day tour, even some of those that are considered private and exclusive.
Here are some provincial inhabited islands that are popular among tourists:
- Maafushi in South Male Atoll. This has become a tourism hub over the past years
- Thulusdhoo in Kaafu Atoll
- Fulidhoo in Vaavu Atoll
- Guraidhoo in Thaa Atoll
- Hulhumale. If youâ€™re looking for accommodations near the airport (just 10 minutes away).
If you choose to stay at a guesthouse or inn in a local island, prepare to shell out 50-100 USD per night.
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE MALDIVES
December to April is considered â€œhigh season,â€ with the December-February period being its peak. This period is when the most favorable weather happens. Expectedly, it is also during this time that most tourists flock the islands. The downside: higher prices of accommodations, transfers, and tours, especially during Christmas and New Year.
May to November is considered â€œlow seasonâ€ â€” rates are at their lowest â€” but storms are likely. For some reason, the prices rise again in August, most likely because of European summer break.
HOW TO GET TO THE MALDIVES
MalÃ© International Airport (formally known as Ibrahim Nasir International Airport) on HulhulÃ© Island is the primary gateway to the Maldives. It is connected to a number of airports by several commercial airlines. But if youâ€™re coming from Southeast Asia, you can connect in the following cities through these low-cost carriers:
- Singapore â€“ Tiger Airways
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia â€“ AirAsia
You may also connect in Colombo, Sri Lanka, via Sri Lankan Air.
Hereâ€™s a list of cities that you can fly to or from Male :
Abu Dhabi, UAE â€“ Etihad Airways
Bangalore, India â€“ Air India
Bangkok, Thailand â€“ Bangkok Airways, Maldivian, Mega Maldives
Beijing, China â€“ Beijing Capital Airlines, Mega Maldives,
Changsha, China â€“ Maldivian
Chengdu, China â€“ Maldivian, Sichuan Airlines
Chennai, India â€“ Air India, Maldivian
Chongqing, China â€“ Maldivian
Colombo, Sri Lanka â€“ China Eastern Airlines, Emirates, flydubai, Korean Air, Sri Lankan Airlines, Mihin Lanka
Dhaka, Bangladesh â€“ Maldivian
Doha, Qatar â€“ Qatar Airways
Dubai, UAE â€“ Emirates, flydubai
Frankfurt, Germany â€“ Condor
Fuzhou, China â€“ Maldivian
Guangzhou, China â€“ China Southern Airlines
Hong Kong â€“ Cathay Pacific, Mega Maldives
Istanbul â€“ Turkish Airlines
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia â€“ Mega Maldives
Kochi, India â€“ SpiceJet
Koror, Palau â€“ Mega Maldives
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia â€“ AirAsia, Mega Maldives
Kunming, China â€“ China Eastern Airlines
London, UK â€“ British Airways
Macau â€“ Mega Maldives
Moscow, Russia â€“ Aeroflot
Nanjing, China â€“ Maldivian
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia â€“ Saudia1
Seoul-Incheon â€“ Korean Air
Shanghai-Pudong â€“ Mega Maldives, Shanghai Airlines
Singapore â€“ SilkAir, Singapore Airlines, Tiger Air
Thiruvananthapuram, India â€“ Air India, Maldivian
Tokyo, Japan â€“ Mega Maldives
Wuhan, China â€“ Maldivian
Xiâ€™an â€“ Maldivian
HOW TO GET TO YOUR RESORT OR HOTEL FROM MALE AIRPORT
- Airport to Private Resort. If youâ€™re staying at a private island resort, check if you are required to book airport transfers with them. If not, good for you, you can find cheaper alternatives especially if you will be staying at a local beach first.
- Airport to Hulhumale. You may travel by bus, which runs all day and all night except on Fridays and Saturdays 12:00-13:00. Fare is 20 MVR (1.3 USD).
- Airport to Male. Go to the dock near the domestic terminal. Thereâ€™s a ferry going to Male every 10-15 minutes. Fare is around 10 MVR.
- Airport to Maafushi. Make your way to Male (see instructions above). From the Male Port you may choose to take another ferry (Fare 3.25 MVR) or take a taxi (25 MVR) to Vilingili Port. From Vilingili, board the ferry to Maafushi (22 MVR) which leaves at 3pm daily (except Friday). Thereâ€™s another ferry that operates on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday and leaves Male at 10am. (53 MVR, 3.5 USD)
- Airport to Thulusdhoo. Go to Male (see instructions above) then take a taxi to MarryBrown Restaurant. Opposite the restaurant, you will find Tharika-2, a ferry that will take you straight to Thulusdhoo Island (32 MVR). The ferry leaves Male at 3:30pm on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Thursday; 2pm on Tuesday; and 10pm on Friday.
For more information about bus and ferry schedules, visit the MTCC site.