The Maldives conjure up images of pristine beaches, reef-ringed atolls, and luxurious bungalows on the water where lucky guests can observe fish through glass floors and jump in to the sea from their balcony.
This island nation is definitely on my “bucket list,” so when I made a decision to visit Sri Lanka and Dubai last month, the Maldives was a logical and obvious addition to my itinerary.
Especially, since there’s now a budding budget travel scene in the united states.
In ’09 2009, the Maldivian government allowed locals to open their own guesthouses and restaurants to tourists. Whereas before, travelers were limited by the resort islands, now they are able to visit and stick to any nearby island they choose to. Suddenly, homestays, hotels, and guesthouses have started showing up.
It had been a momentous shift in policy that finally allowed locals a bit of the economic pie.
Though I needed to see everyday life, these idyllic images rippled through my mind. There is no way I possibly could miss a chance at experiencing that sort of luxury.
Splitting my nine-day visit into two parts, I made a decision to spend four days in a resort and five days on the “real” islands.
Life on the TOP QUALITY
With a Dubai friend in tow, I landed at the Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa resort, 150km south of the administrative centre, Malé. Like all resorts, the hotel is alone private island that boasts overwater bungalows, their own restaurant, bar, spa, and operated tours. Like the majority of resorts here, meals and drinks are contained in the cost of the area.
Cinnamon is on the low end of the purchase price spectrum, costing me $356 USD per night. Without super budget-friendly, it’s a whole lot cheaper compared to the other resorts. For instance, the Park Hyatt is $850 USD per night, the Taj is $1,050 USD, the W is $1,300 USD, the St. Regis is $1,600 USD, and the Four-Seasons is an impressive $2,000 USD per night!
If you don’t learn to travel hack, a click here could be prohibitively expensive.
As I was itching for an overdue vacation and work detox, my visit was precisely what the physician ordered: a tropical island with limited Internet and a pal whose job it had been to keep me from working.
I spent my days trying never to get yourself a sun burn on the beach, reading books (I recommend A Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell), drinking wine, stuffing my face, and retiring for more reading or a movie.
Life on the island was easy. In the resort bubble, you don’t need to worry about making your way around, meals, or how to proceed.
It had been a vacation.
The staff was super friendly, they knew steps to make an excellent drink, and there is always food around. Meals were buffet style (if you don’t paid extra for the romantic crab restaurant or the lunchtime cooking class, that i did. Start to see the awesome meal I cooked in the picture below).
Benefiting from a few of the hotel’s tours, we went dolphin watching (so many dolphins!), snorkeled every day, and visited several the nearby islands.
Since resorts in the united states are aimed toward families or couples, there are few solo travelers or non-couples beyond your dive resorts. My pal and I were the only non-couple on the island.
I came across there wasn’t a whole lot of guest interaction but since everywhere there is on holiday, I’m not surprised.
After four days, my pal and I were both a bit prepared to move on. I could only take vacation life for a couple of days before I get bored. The high life was what I thought it will be — relaxing opulence — but I was itching to start to see the real Maldives, to see life on the neighborhood islands, and to speak to a few locals.
Life just how IT OUGHT TO BE
After time for Malé and seeing my pal off at the airport, I hopped right into a speedboat and headed to Maafushi, ground zero for the Maldives’ burgeoning independent travel industry, to start out my island-hopping adventure.
It had been a horrible place. I am hoping never to return.
Maafushi, once a sleepy little island, is currently the victim of uncontrolled development.
There are hotels increasing left and right, boats making frequent trips to Malé to get tour groups, and one small over-crowded and overbuilt beach. The few restaurants on the island cater mostly to tourists, and beyond your area cleaned up for visitors, it’s one trash-covered dump.
You can observe the writing on the wall — this place may be the next Ko Phi Phi. As a guesthouse owner on another island said, “Soon you will see forget about locals there. They’ll simply book their land and proceed to Malé.”
But Maafushi is wonderful for a couple of things: diving, snorkeling, and acting as a launching pad to prettier, quieter islands like Gulhi and Fulidhoo.
After a few days, I escaped to Mahibadhoo. Kristin, our amazing solo female travel writer, stayed there a couple of years ago, therefore i was wanting to visit to check out the Amazing Noovilu, praised as “most likely the best guesthouse in the Maldives.” (It had been really nice. Just a little expensive for my taste however the service, food, and activities provided by the staff was resort quality. Incredible focus on detail and I would recommend staying there.)
Unlike Maafushi, I liked Mahibadhoo.
It had been clean (local women volunteer to completely clean the island once weekly), and the buildings were more colorful, having a rainbow of pastel-colored structures. There is more life here too (I watched local soccer games every night). Overall, the vibe was just nicer.
The island, despite having speedboat usage of Malé, has escaped (for the present time) the mass development of Maafushi. Though it doesn’t have a “bikini beach” (as the beaches for foreigners are called), there is good snorkeling right offshore (which is what I did so), and it’s a launching pad for day trips to deserted atolls, sandbars, and quieter islands like Dhanbidhoo, Kalhaidhoo, and Isdhoo.
Although islands the locals inhabit are adding guesthouses, they often times aren’t setup for tourists. Ferry service is infrequent to all or any but a number of the islands, & most don’t have many restaurants, and even beaches to lay on. There are always a couple known reasons for this.
First, bikini beaches exist for tourists. The Maldives is a Muslim country and, while there are public beaches, you should be covered up for them. A lot of the local islands don’t have white sandy beaches, so many built special ones simply for the tourists that are hidden from view and visitors could be more scantily dressed (hence the bikini name).
Secondly, “eating dinner out” isn’t something in the Maldives. Locals mostly cook for themselves. There are cafes but few restaurants. You usually eat at the guesthouses, who cook up meals (contained in the price) for guests. However, you may get a whole lot of good food in this manner as much guesthouses cook up curried fish, rice, and other local delicacies. The fare is easy but very tasty.
And, as the communities are still racking your brains on how to approach tourism, I was sad to leave and wish I had additional time to explore the nooks and crannies of the atolls. Everyone here was friendly and curious and it could have been nice to access dig deeper into local life and culture.
Travel Tips for the Maldives
As the Maldives doesn’t need to break your budget, it’s vital that you know a couple of things prior to going — or you’ll make some costly mistakes:
Ferries require planning (and don’t always come) — The Maldives’ atolls are served by some ferries from Malé. Most cost $2-5 USD, however, their schedule is unreliable. I was designed to take one which never arrived.
Many only travel once a day, so if one doesn’t come, you’ll need to fork over money for a speedboat ($25 USD) or await another day’s departure.
While you are visiting the Maldives, research the ferries beforehand which means you know when and where you are able to go next. Island hopping is quite difficult without planning. I smudged by not looking at the ferry system before I arrived; because of this, I missed a few islands I needed to go to. I wrongly assumed there will be frequent ferries between your islands — I was sorely mistaken.
Inter-island ferry schedules are available here.
Speedboats are your friend — From Malé, you may take speedboats to some of the nearby capital islands of surrounding atolls. They cost $25-30 USD but also leave infrequently, usually once a day (Maafushi may be the only island I came across with multiple speedboat departures). If you’re not with limited funds and want to save lots of time, grab a speedboat.
There is absolutely no alcohol — As the Maldives is a Muslim country, you can’t get alcohol anywhere except on the resort islands that have a particular exemption.
Flying isn’t cheap — Flying is incredibly expensive here. Flights from Malé to surrounding atolls can cost up to $350 USD each way. Skip this.
Take plenty of USD — Although Maldives has its currency (the rufiyaa), US dollars are widely accepted and you often get yourself a better price in the event that you pay in USD. This varies in one restaurant or shop to some other, therefore i carried both currencies with me and paid in whatever currency had less price. (Though you’re talking the difference of $.50 cents, so don’t stress an excessive amount of)
However, Maldivian ATMs charge hefty fees (up to $6.50 USD) per withdrawal. Taking cash or making one large withdrawal eliminates or reduces those fees (therefore does having a bank that reimburses those fees).
And don’t worry — the Maldives is quite safe. No one will probably steal all that cash. I never once felt uneasy about having a lot of money on me.
At resorts, everything will be charged to your credit card so be sure to have a ‘no forex fee’ card!
Could it be best for solo travelers? Yes, in the event that you just want to learn, relax, and concentrate on you.
While you’ll visit a large amount of travelers in Malé going to dive boats or bouncing from island to island, it’s all friends, couples, and families. Regardless of the cheap cost of travel, the Maldives continues to be not on the solo traveler radar.
May be the Maldives cheap?
It might be! Though they import a whole lot of goods, in the event that you adhere to local ferries, guesthouses, and local food (fish, rice, curry), you can find by at under $75 USD a day (even less for anyone who is sharing accommodation). This will not incorporate airfare and travel cover though.
Since there’s no alcohol on the hawaiian islands, you don’t need to worry about drinking away your budget. Below are a few typical costs in 2020:
- Single room in an area guesthouse: $45-55 USD per night
- Public ferry: $2-5 USD per ride
- Airport ferry to Malé: $1 USD
- Speedboats: $25-35 USD per ride
- Tea: $.50 USD
- Snorkel rental : $8 USD/day
- Diving for whale sharks: $200 USD
- Meals: $9-11 USD each
- Buffet dinners: $15-20 USD each
- Sandwich on Male: $4-5 USD
- Bottle of water: $0.40-0.70 USD
In my own four days, my biggest expense was the $120 USD I paid to rent a whole speedboat back again to Malé when my ferry didn’t arrive. Beyond that, I came across the hawaiian islands to be quite the bargain!
We think about the Maldives as a budget-busting, high-end place however they don’t need to be. The united states is cheaper than a number of the popular destinations in the Caribbean and even Southeast Asia!
1 day I hope to come back and spend additional time island-hopping. There’s more I would like to see and do here.
I recommend visiting the Maldives prior to the islands become too overdeveloped, the beaches get swallowed up by the ocean (climate change and coral bleaching were both hot topics with the locals I spoke with), or the world catches to how budget-friendly the united states is really.
Book Your Visit to the Maldives: Logistical Guidelines
Book Your Flight Look for a cheap flight through the use of Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite se’s, because they search websites and airlines around the world and that means you always know no stone has been left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation You can book your hostel with Hostelworld because they have the biggest inventory. If you would like to remain somewher eother when compared to a hotel, use Booking.com, because they consistently return the least expensive rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
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Looking to discover the best companies to save lots of money with? Have a look at my resource page to get the best companies to use when you travel! I list all of the ones I use to save lots of money when I travel — and I believe they will assist you to too!
Looking to find out more on visiting the Maldives? Have a look at my in-depth destination guide to the Maldives with an increase of tips on what things to see and do, costs, methods to save, and much, a lot more!
Note : Cinnamon Hakuraa covered the expense of the area at the resort (including food and beverages). The others of my trip, inclu