Beautiful ocean villas, endless sandy beaches, turquoise waters and idyllic coastlines – you sigh, smile and start dreaming. The Maldives is one of the most luxurious and expensive countries in the world to visit. At least, that’s what we are told. But it is not necessarily true.
So, I did a little digging and put together the best travel tips for the Maldives when being on a budget.
Don’t go for the mega-resorts. Rather try to stay local. Oneika Raymond from the Huffington Post has the perfect tips for you: “The Maldivian government allowed locals to open up guesthouses on their islands, finally providing an alternative to the expensive resorts mentioned above and thus making independent travel accessible to the budget traveler. Now, as far as I saw and researched, $5 USD hostel beds just don’t exist here, and you’re not going to be able to eat for $2 USD a day. However, simple guesthouses/hotels with affordable nightly rates ($40-$100 USD for a double room) have been springing up on the islands of Maafushi, Hulhumale, Guraidhoo, and Fulidhoo. While the market is small, we discovered quite a few options on TripAdvisor and Airbnb.
After a fair bit of research, we decided to lay our heads at the Arena Beach Hotel, found on the local island of Maafushi. While on the more expensive end of the “budget” range (we paid $120 USD a night for their Deluxe Double room), we had a spacious “penthouse” boudoir with a sprawling balcony and a wicked sea view. Basic but clean, the hotel is located steps from the beach, and we were able to frolic in the ocean without making much of an effort to get there. Our reservation included a hearty continental breakfast which gave us all the energy we needed to luxuriate in the sun. In retrospect, however, there were nicer, newer, and slightly cheaper options on Maafushi that had me briefly regretting our choice, like the Kaani and the Crystal Sands Hotel. Still, the Arena Beach was a perfectly good place to stay.” (Oneika Raymond)
Kristin from Be My Travel Muse also stayed with a local family in a guest house. ” The Maldives had only recently passed legislation that allowed locals to open up their own guest houses, so I was amongst the first wave of backpackers to visit the Maldives. I felt like I had stumbled upon some huge secret! Everyone seemed to think that you needed to be a millionare to visit the Maldives but there I was with a backpack and not much else to my name. I swam with Manta Rays and whale sharks, we rented scuba equipment from sea cucumber fisherman. We ate with our hands.
There were some things missing, though. I couldn’t have any alcohol or wear a bikini on the local islands. The Maldives is a strict muslim country and those two things are no-nos there. I could get over the alcohol, but it was a bummer that I couldn’t swim until I left the island.” (Kristin)
My opinion: This definitely could be an option. And regarding the beachwear: Some guest houses in the Maldives have private beaches – very few, though. So make sure you get it in writing from the guest house you are staying in, that they have a private beach.
Check out Erin’s blog post to find more good local guest houses.
Here’s what to be aware of the local customs: Alcohol, pork, dogs, pornography, and idols of worship are not allowed into the country. Mosques broadcast the call to prayer five times a day. Many shops close for 15 minutes at these times to allow staff to pray. Women should cover their shoulders and knees. Men should wear a t-shirt away from the beach. On Fridays, most shops are closed and no ferries run.
Day-trip to a luxury resort
It is possible to book day trips to certain resort islands so you can get a taste of luxury! Day passes usually allow for an 8-hour stay, include transportation to and from the resort, and sometimes buffet lunch. Costs: around $300 USD.
Once again, go local! Transfers to your accommodation from the Maldivian capital of Malé can be VERY expensive, if arranged through your hotel or resort. “If you’re not in a rush, using local ferries can potentially save you hundreds of dollars. The ferry from the island the airport is on to Malé proper is only $1 USD per person. Luckily this runs frequently. But the ferries to the local islands, while also cheap, are often sporadic, running at odd times and on alternate days (see schedules here). Upon our departure from the Maldives, we took a local ferry from Maafushi to Male for the low low price of $2 USD per person — a huge savings from the speedboat transfer Arena Beach Hotel wanted to charge us $175 USD for! The 1.5 hour ride on the public ferry was relatively comfortable and I highly recommend it.” (Oneika Raymond)
By now, you probably got the picture – go for the local cuisine! Maldivian cuisine is heavy on seafood, various curries and loads of coconut recipes. This way you can save a lot of money!
What else should you know?
Visa: To enter the Maldives no pre-arrival visa is required. A thirty day free visa is issued on arrival for all Nationalities, provided that you:
- posses a valid passport with Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) -(standard ICAO Annex 9, chapter 3.10.1) and should have at least 6 months validity
- have a valid ticket to continue the journey out of Maldives
- have enough funds to cover the expenses for duration of the stay in Maldives (US$100 + $50 dollars per day) and a confirmation of reservation in a Tourist Resort or a Hotel. The latter is pretty important when you haven’t booked a holiday package.
Travel Insurance: The Maldives islands are remote so make sure you have travel insurance—for medical emergencies you’ll need to be evacuated by plane, which is very expensive.
Money: The local currency is the Maldivian rufiyaa, which you can withdraw from ATMs at the airport of Malé. Most other local islands don’t have ATMs, so you need to make sure you have enough cash. It would be best, if you brought plenty of US dollars and only withdraw a small amount of rufiyaa. Accommodation, activities, and some restaurants quote their prices in US dollars.
Be aware that taxes and service charges are added to quoted prices (around 22%).
“All in all, the Maldives is not just for the rich anymore. With some planning and a bit of sacrifice, you can make your dreams of a Maldivian holiday come true!”