With perfect white beaches and crystalline waters the Maldives had always been a dream destination for me. I’d always had the impression this would be a once in a lifetime destination because of how expensive it would be. Well, that’s not true and I’m going to share my tips to experience this paradise on a budget!
Budget accommodation is a relatively new addition to the travel landscape of the Maldives. Since the government allowed tourists to stay on local islands, the number of guesthouses available has exploded.
For around $70 a night you can get a clean spacious room with air-conditioning, a hot shower, wifi and breakfast included. There are a number of options available for less than this, especially on Maafushi which I would say is the hub of budget travel in the Maldives. However, I feel that the rooms in this range are comfortable and provide the best value for money.
I found that Airbnb has the best selection of accommodation on local islands and is a great way to find out what kind of place is within your budget.
Including the resorts we stayed at, my favourite place I stayed in the Maldives was Thundi Guesthouse! I won’t talk about it too much as I already raved about this in my post about Fulidhoo, but my stay was nothing short of amazing and they have outdoor bathrooms – which I adore. I would go back in a heartbeat.
I found the restaurant options in the Maldives to be very reasonably priced. If you are eating local dishes it will naturally tend to be cheaper than western options (if they are even available).
On some of the smaller islands, you will find there are a limited number of restaurants and it’s likely you will eat at your guesthouse. In Fulidhoo there are only 2 restaurants, so we often had dinner at our guesthouse. The price remained the same no matter what was served. It was around $15 for a large main, salad, fruit and drinks – incredible value. The most memorable meal was when we were served a huge BBQ reef fish and the bones were blue!
Like I previously mentioned Maafushi is the busiest island we visited and this had many food options, so this would be an ideal base if you are on a tight budget.
Using local transport is seriously cheap. The ferries are only a few dollars no matter where you are travelling to.
If you are looking to get to your destination at a faster pace, it is possible to take a speedboat transfer. While this is a more expensive option, it’s more flexible than the ferry schedule.
The cheapest way to arrange an activity will be through a guesthouse – don’t feel obliged to book where you are staying, though. Do a comparison of other operators, as some trips will include extras such as lunch or drinks for the same price. It’s worth shopping around to find the best deal.
The best trip I took was island hopping around the atoll on a speedboat. There were only a handful of people on the boat and we stopped on an uninhabited island with an incredible reef, where we were treated to a BBQ lunch. It was seriously amazing and great value.
Depending on where you are staying, if there is a reef you may be able to snorkel straight from the beach. The clear water and range of tropical fish makes snorkelling in the Maldives so awesome. Also, a lot guesthouses offer free use of snorkelling equipment.
Other activities available are visiting a sandbank, snorkelling and fishing. The prices were generally around $50/pp.
There are a few things to take into consideration if you are planning on staying on a local island:
- The ferry system is a bit difficult to navigate, some ferries don’t run everyday and getting between different islands could include multiple changes. Also, all ferries do not run on Fridays. My advice would be to ask your guesthouse, they will have the most up-to-date information about how to get there.
- The Maldives is a Muslim country. Therefore, there is no alcohol allowed outside of the resorts and no pork. This wasn’t a huge deal for me, but if you are looking to spend your trip relaxing with a cocktail in hand – it’s better to head for a resort.
- There is a dress code! This is for both men and women, but I must admit, I did see quite a few guys walking around shirtless, so who knows… In general, shoulders and thighs must be covered when walking around the islands. This does include while you are on the beach! However, on the islands I visited there were ‘bikini beaches’ which as the name suggests are designated for use of tourists, where you can sunbathe and swim in a bikini.
- These are islands where people live and therefore they are not pristinely manicured in the same way resorts are. Of course the beaches and sea are AMAZING. But, you will see schools, mosques, trash and everyday life taking place. This is a great way to experience the culture of the Maldives, but I also think you need to make sure you have the right expectations of what these islands are like.
Luxury Resort on a Budget
If like me, when you think of the Maldives you immediately picture a bungalow over turquoise crystal waters, then staying at a resort is probably going to be on your itinerary.
I decided to split my time in the Maldives between local islands and resorts, the best of both worlds if you will. Here are a few tips on how to experience the luxurious side of the Maldives affordably.
When picking which resort you want to visit, keep in mind that resorts closer to the capital of Male tend to be more affordable than the more remote resorts. Perhaps this is because at some resorts the city is visible in the distance… I’m not really sure the exact reason, it’s just a trend I noticed when I was researching where to stay.
Again, staying in a resort closer to Male will help reduce your budget as you will be able to get there by boat. Seaplanes can cost anywhere between $500-$900 depending on how far you are going, so if you are on a budget, it’s best to stay at an easily accessible resort to avoid this additional cost.
A great way to stay within your budget is to stay in an all inclusive resort. This means that all your food and beverages are included in the price of your room, so you won’t have any unexpected charges. It is also worth checking if any special offers are available on the hotel website, often resorts will offer promotional deals by booking directly with them.
If staying in a resort is just totally outside of your budget, but you still want to have that experience, many resorts offer day passes. One of the excursions available on local islands is a day pass to a resort – I believe this includes transfers, use of the facilities, lunch and drinks. I think the cost is around $100/pp and I saw many different resorts advertised when I was in Maafushi. This is a great idea if you’re on a tight budget, as you will still get to experience what a resort offers, just without staying there.
Overall, it is possible to enjoy a luxurious stay in the Maldives without a huge budget. Of course if you stay in a secluded 5* resort, you are going to pay for that exclusivity. However, I’ve already shared a review of staying in a 4* resort, that exceeded my expectations. It very much comes down to personal preference and your own budget.
Whether you’re a backpacker that has never considered the Maldives before or a luxury travel addict. I hope that you have found my tips useful and don’t forget to subscribe!
Are the Maldives on your travel list now? Leave me a comment letting me know. I hope to go back and visit some different places there soon!