The Maldives on a budget!

26 atolls, 1200 islands whose 198 are public and inhabited by the Maldivians, and 60 exclusive resorts only, one beautiful and crystal clear sea. These are the Maldives, a paradise of therapeutic power and relaxing charm… like little pills, I would say homeopathic pills…

Now you are wondering, is it possible to travel to the Maldives on a Budget? If the Maldives were accessible to just upper-class people and unreachable for those of us traveling on a budget, nowadays guesthouses are springing up on a local island on a weekly basis, offering Goofballs travelers like us an affordable way to explore the country!

Instead of isolating yourself on a resort in a desert island, get out there exploring local life by giving you an insight into life in the REAL Maldives that very few people have experienced so far.

How much does it cost to travel to the Maldives on a budget? As little as $50 a day: $30 a day on a private room in a guesthouse; $10 a day on food and $10 a day on activities. It really depends on you and what are your visit purpose.  You’ll find that “affordable” is a relative concept and when talking about the Maldives I mean an economical budget compared to the typical $10,000 a week of private beach bungalows.

Everything is possible, even traveling the Maldives on a Budget!

Here is Giorgy aka G-Extreme dispelling the myth and revealing everything you need to know about experiencing the Maldives at a low cost.

NOTICE: The information here is updated as best we can in light of COVID-19. Please check before you go anywhere what modifications have taken place to avoid any inconvenience!

#1. FIND AFFORDABLE FLIGHTS

The Maldives is always seen as something unreachable and only honeymoon dreams; not true! Since it was a long time that the Maldives intrigued me and by chance one day I found myself browsing flights and destinations in these paradise islands.

The result? Well, I found a round-trip flight from Zurich, Switzerland to Malè with a stopover in Oman for $575.

Hotels? Well, I made a quick check of prices online showing me “Everything is possible”. Oh yes, I am in, they’re affordable if you search a bit. Well, both in the cart, seats booked, guys we’re off!

When the time had come, I have to be honest… flying with Oman Air? Fantastic. Very kind, polite and they stuffed us full of food. Everything went smoothly and the 4-hour layover went by in a flash.

Hey Goofball! Find affordable flights on the following link.

#2. COMFORTABLE BUT WAY LESS EXPENSIVE ACCOMMODATION

When you think of the Maldives you usually think of suspended bungalows and almost deserted islands with white beaches and blue water. Well, of course, these are certainly the options that most travelers dream of, but guys, let’s face it: every island shares the same sea, with or without suspended bungalows that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a day.

Just out of curiosity go and see how much an exclusive experience costs, I was amazed to find bungalows priced at $100,000 a night. (Editor’s note: Aaah how nice Monopoly money tho).

Anyway, you don’t necessarily have to spend that kind of money to enjoy the Maldives, in fact looking for accommodation on the “public” islands which are affordable but there aren’t really super cheap options for accommodation such as dorm rooms or a crappy $5 a night bungalow like you would in Southeast Asia.

Have you ever heard of Couchsurfing? I did few times, spending nothing on accommodation, and sharing an amazing experience with locals! Aside from it, there are still plenty of budget guesthouses and they’re surprisingly good value (for $30-50 dollars a night).

I contacted one of the Guest Houses found online via WhatsApp for an offer hoping to save some money compared to reserving through Trivago, Booking, or Expedia. In fact, we managed to agree on a price much lower than that listed on the classic travel sites. Great for the locals who benefited from the full revenue of the cost of my visit and for my pocket too.

Alternatively, Airbnb offers just as many accommodation options on the local islands. The price might vary and be higher: $100 – 150 a night.

Hey Goofball! Find here cheap accommodation in the Maldives.

Recommendations for DIVERS ~ the Maldives synonym underwater world!

While looking for an affordable place and at the same time optimal for the diver I came across Addu City Gan, a small island with Guest Houses, famous for the richness of its seas.

(Editor’s note: at the bottom of the sea,
at the bottom of the sea
if everything’s wet it is way better
trust me.)

#3. FIGURING OUT THE BEST AND MOST AFFORDABLE TRANSPORT 

Once in Malè, I had to get to Gan. If you happen to be planning a vacation in the Maldives, you will discover that there are several ways to get around the islands:

  • Local ferries: run on a somewhat infrequent schedule but it cost $2-10 depending on where you are heading to (not recommended for those who are seasick or on a limited time period).
  • Speedboat: these are made for reaching a resort as the local ferries don’t stop there. These speedboats cost you an arm and a leg. This could be $280 – 350 for a return trip ticket. (If you are up for adventures, I’d ask a local fisherman whether he’s willing to take you across on his boat lol).
  • Seaplanes: I have to admit that the seaplane has its reason and is very scenic, but it is also the most expensive option for moving between the islands – these will usually cost around $500 return for a 20-minute journey.
  • Domestic flights: less expensive than a Seaplane and the only way to reach a long-distance island. Round tickets cost around $250 – 350 per person.

In my case, I had little choice other than to take a domestic flight 1h30 for reaching Gan Island.

Hey Goofball! I want to share a curiosity about this domestic flight. Halfway through the flight, you will receive a certificate… guys, you’ve just crossed the equator! Bucket list: checked. Okay, not really.. enough pretending to be aware of it. I was almost asleep, but NOPE… they woke me up for congratulating me on crossing the equator LOL.

#4. THE MALDIVIANS ARE FASCINATINGLY KIND

The Maldivians are very friendly, throughout my whole stay they asked about me, advised me on what to do, and talked to me, always in an extremely polite manner.

Even when I arrived at the airport when my transfer to the guest house happened to be delayed, they immediately came to help me by calling to make sure someone would come to pick me up.

They certainly showed their expertise in making tourists feel comfortable.

#5. IT’S A STRICT MUSLIM COUNTRY

If you happen to visit the Maldives there are several things you will have to take into account.

First of all: alcohol and pork are BANNED. You will find that there are some exceptions, such as in private resorts or on cruises. Also, materials deemed contrary to Islam including ‘idols for worship’, bibles, pork products are not allowed in the Maldives.

There are also NO dogs in the Maldives as they are considered dirty animals, but you will find a lot of kittens.

In Maldives weekend happens to be Friday and Saturday, with Friday being a day of rest. So, everything but restaurants closes down on Fridays and any transportations cease to run.

In addition, the Maldives, like many other countries in the world are very religious, which implies that as a tourist you must show respect for local customs. With that said, for both females and males bikinis are allowed but only on dedicated beaches (usually called Bikini Beach). Shoulders and thighs have to be covered at all times even around the guest houses as well as in the rest of the island, even when entering the water or on the beach. Exceptions are made when you are going away on an excursion away from the local islands; then you can wear whatever you want!

Hey Goofball! Did you know that tourism, in general, is relatively new to the Maldives? Due to the culture or for preserving the real beauty of the remote islands, the government changed its regulations to allow guesthouses to open on the local islands, allowing tourists to stay for the very first time with locals! Indeed when I visited I felt like the only backpacker in sight, carrying a huge backpack and not being held by any travel agent greeting us, and being the only non-locals taking a domestic flight. At times, I even remember feeling kind of invading the islands against the locals’ wishes.

#6. FINDING CHEAP EXCURSIONS

Go on the Guesthouse- hoping to find out the best affordable price for excursions and do not forget what’s all included in the price! Some included lunch, water, and a soft drink, others nothing extra at all.

As for activities, on the island of Gan, the cost of guided tours varies between 25 and 100$ and includes lots of snorkeling. If you happen to be around manta ray and whale shark season, you might be lucky enough to see them!

Other Kinds of Activities

  • Fishing trips ($50 per person);
  • Day trips to the resorts (daily price between $80 and 150$; do not forget they are going to charge you $30 per person entrance fee);
  • Sandbanks trips ($25 per person);
  • Island hopping around the atoll ($50 per person);
  • If you are looking for sailing tours – G Adventures might be the best and most sustainable option for ya!

Diving Paradise

As I said, the Maldives for me means diving so I did not take part in any organized tour. Diving in this area is quite expensive but worth every penny.

The Maldives is in fact a marine paradise and diving here you can meet, as we did, giant manta rays, sea turtles, sharks, or almost get attacked by a triggerfish. A breathtaking spectacle (except for the heart attack given by the fish, thanks friend). For my dives and diving course, I relied on the Aquaventure.

#7. MALDIVIAN FOOD IS DIVINE

Since our guest house only offered half-board service, I so then took advantage of having lung at small local restaurants.

The island offers a wide variety of specialty, restaurants, and gift shops and it costs around $5-10 per meal. You can’t complain about spending an extra $5 a day on food; it is mostly all local and lots of fish-based meals!

#8. DISCONNECT FROM THE SOCIAL LIFE

There is the possibility to buy a SIM card in order to have internet access outside Malè airport for prices ranging between 15 and 50$ per week.

Away from Malé, you will have no way to purchase SIM cards to surf the internet. We did not know this and in fact, were disconnected for our entire stay (a great thing to do).

#9. WHAT IS MALDIVIAN RUFIYAA?

I was convinced that I had to use American dollars, but instead, I was simply using the local currency: Rufiyaa.

Keep in mind, going on a local island in restaurants, local ferries, and in the local shops, everything has to pay in the local currency.

The only ATMs in the country are in Male, so make sure to withdraw enough money to reduce the risk of running out of money! Make sure your card allows you to get enough money for your entire stay too.

#10. THE WEATHER IS HARD TO PREDICT

The wettest month is in September? June? August? Either way, remember the certificate of crossing the equator? You have to know that equator = long exposures to the sun at any time.

Every time is even hard to predict the weather because each island has its own climate. But keep this in mind: by dousing myself with maximum protection sunscreen every hour I still managed to burn myself.

Be sure to protect yourself, this advice is coming from the silly who usually doesn’t use sunscreen and who in a few years will remember the power of sunscreen when her skin starts to get weird tones…

#11. THE TRUTH BEHIND THE MALDIVIAN RESORTS

As I said, it was truly amazing, besides knowing the real truth behind the “Maldivian resorts”: trash!!

As magnificent as the island was, at the same time it was terribly dirty: garbage, plastic, and trash everywhere.

I saw some birds stuck in bottles accompanied by so much sadness. Maybe you might like getting choked but I’m sure they don’t.

It was even sadder to discover that most of this garbage comes from the resorts on the nearby islands. Let’s talk about it: many of the islands that host the resorts are actually artificial sand piles, put there on purpose and decorated with tropical plants placed perfectly between one building and another.

With that said guys wherever you go please pick up your trash, thanks. Despite everything, my experience in the Maldives was fantastic.

Hey Goofball! GRAYL water bottle helps you save money on drinking while also helping protect the Maldive’s environment!

#12. NOT REALLY IDEAL FOR SOLO TRAVELER

I wouldn’t go there to meet other travelers but I would definitely come back for the calm, the silence, the sun, and the magnificent sea.

If you travel to meet new people, in the Maldives you will be disappointed. 99% of the tourists are couples or families.

Asia and South America are definitely better suited to the backpacker or solo traveler life. The Maldives is definitely more for relaxing and enjoying the sea life.

#13. IT WON’T BE LIKE THIS FOREVER

The Maldives is a place considered at risk due to rising seas and it is estimated that in the next decade hundreds of beloved beaches will disappear completely …

Well then if in the next 10 years you want to go to the Maldives and do not know who to go with, just holler! I already have my suitcases at hand.

#14. WHAT AM I BRINGING BACK HOME WITH ME

Honestly, these days flew by.. scuba diving got really interesting each dive I did and the rest of the time I spent biking around the island in order to find hidden gems. It was really amazing, this is what I also lived, discovered, and will take back home with me:

The days in the Maldives flew by between diving and cycling wandering to discover the beauty of the island.

It was an incredible experience and I take home several discoveries from this trip:

  • It doesn’t matter where you are, the ocean’s shades of blue are endless and beautiful;
  • Not only does the sea wears in thousand of endlessly beautiful shades;
  • Hermit crabs are endless fun, although you barely see them between all the rocks (Editor note: plsss do not eat them);
  • A Maldivian fisherman earns on average more than the president of the Maldives itself (you’ll thank me later);
  • Wearing a bikini next to other women covered head to toe made me uncomfortable. Only with appropriate clothing did I feel comfortable. Guys, please respect the dress code!
  • The inhabitants of the island leave the trail of perfume;
  • The “bats”, size of an eagle, are very shy and I was definitely more scared of them than vice-versa;
  • As tourists don’t be a dickhead and please respect the local traditions. It happened to me several times to see tourists have attitudes not very decent towards the inhabitants of this small and precious island!

I hope it was helpful and you have more faith in reaching your Maldives paradise dream and being part of that little group of people who have experienced the REAL Maldives so far.

I really did my best to cover up everything possible for traveling the Maldives on a Budget. In case there’s something I missed out on, what would you add to this list? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

Read More: Tips for Female Travelers