Asia

Experience Maldives on Budget

This trip is special to me because it is my sort-of very first backpacking trip. I learn a lot from this trip.

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Maldives

Why Maldives?

I wasn’t planning to go to Maldives because I thought that will be way over my budget for a trip. So as I was searching, one of the website I was browsing shows ad on flight to Maldives and the price was surprisingly affordable. I was like are you for real? Maldives has always been one the place I (and majority of people) dream of visiting one day. Coming to Maldives will be a satisfying tick in my to-go list and wouldn’t it be great if I can tick it off sooner than expected.

Since Maldives has become affordable with the guesthouse option I never thought of anything else but to try the guest house. Booking was challenging as there are countless accommodation rate starts from $60 to $2000.

Here are tips that will be useful for anyone who are planning a Maldives trip for the first time and for anyone considering whether to go all out on luxurious resort, budget or somewhere in between.

Things to Do in Maldives

Maldives cater for adrenaline junkie as well as those afraid of the sun (we won’t judge you), there will be something for everyone. Below are some the things you can do in Maldives.

1. Explore Male City

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Male

From the airport to your island, you have to transit in Male and you can choose to do Male City tour. There are a lot of affordable hotels too so you can stay here overnight. Male city is the capital of Maldives. In hindsight it is a small messy city, jam packed with small shops and buildings. Here you can learn the history of Maldives.

2. Snorkeling

Usually resorts will provide good quality snorkelling gear and you can snorkel around your resort. If you stay in a guest house, the boat will take you to snorkelling spots in open sea. For safety, always wear a life vest.

3. Visit the Bikini Beach

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Bikini Beach

Every Island has a bikini beach – since Maldives is a Muslim country, for the ladies you are not suppose to show your shoulder and anything above the knee. Bikini beach is a section of every Island that people are allowed to wear bikini. It has been provided with lounge chair.

4. Diving

You need a diving license to be able to dive. Diving is the must do in Maldives for many people for the underwater world is unlike any other part in the world. Make sure you are a certified diver before coming here and have an acceptable diving skill. You can learn how to dive elsewhere easier and cheaper like some other islands in South East Asia.

5. Picnic at inhabited island


6. Sandbanks Hopping

7. Fishing (Boat and on shore)

8. Crabbing

We let the expert do the catching for us and we do all the eating. There are many crabs around the island and locals catch them using bare hand. These buddies are full of flesh and taste so sweet and juicy.

9. Swim with Manta Rays (Not Guaranteed sighting)

10. Whaleshark Watching (Seasonal)

11. Dive with baby Shark

There are plenty of harmless and cute baby sharks in Maldives. You can just spot them from on shore. For all of these activities, you need to have a decent diving skill.

12. Sunset Cruise

13. Relax at Resort

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Overwater Bungalow

Though you stay at a guesthouse and doesn’t stay at resort, you can spend a day chilling there that will cost you about $150.

14. Romantic Dinner on the sand

15. Underwater Dining – At the Conrad Resort.

If you don’t stay here, you’d need to use the speedboat to get here. The private speedboat cost at least $200.

16. Explore your island

We stayed at Huraa and in this tiny island surprisingly there is a town centre. There are many small supermarket selling snacks, drinks, and all you need here at affordable price.

17. Ride a Seaplane

You can ride a seaplane for a breathtaking bird-eye view of Maldives. Book ahead for this activity from at the Airport as seats are limited. I suggest you ask them when you reach the airport, or plan before arrival.

18. Water activities

There will be other water activities depending on the accommodation. There are resort that offers extensive range of water activities that may include banana boats, parasailing, clear canoeing, windsurfing and other water activities.

Maldives Food

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Male Restaurant

We bought an all inclusive package that includes a buffet meal 3 times a day. There are not a lot of restaurants in our island so this option makes sense. A full-board option is often preferred as inclusive meal is the cheapest option. Local Maldives food is very similar to Malaya food with a home cooked feel and at least one curry. If you stay at luxurious resort is where your dish will be a festive array of seafood with beautifully presented condiments. If you order food from a restaurant, Maldives are very laid back in their service, prepare to wait for up to an hour for your food.

Getting Around

Airport ferry transfer to Male

Cost: 10 Maldivian money ($0.80)

Maldives airport is an island on its own. From there you have to catch a ferry to get to Male, the capital city

Public ferry

Cost: $2-$3

Only from Male you can catch the public ferry to your chosen Island. This is the cheapest mode of transport to get to the island where you plan to stay. This mode is all good but it is not very flexible. There is only one ferry a day so plan ahead and you can’t miss it. (If you miss it you can catch speedboat to get to your island, but cost a lot more)

There are two ferry stations on the opposite side of Male, reachable by taxi. Each station goes to different islands.

Taxi

Cost: flat rate of 25 Maldivian Money ($2-$3).

Speedboat

Cost: $200 – $600 (try to bargain) for a much speedy more private transport to your island.

Seaplane

Cost: $200-$300 per person to take you to your island – best to get to island that is really far from male.

Type of Accommodation

Mainly there are 4 types of accommodation in Maldives

1. Live on Boat

2. Resorts

3. Guesthouse

4. Hotel

Tips for first time traveller considering what type of accommodation to stay in Maldives:

1. Keep an open mind

If you plan to stay in a guesthouse, forget about all the picture you’ve seen about Maldives especially those in the glossy magazines. Unfortunately those are all mostly best of the best of luxurious villa, overwater bungalows and 5 star food. If you decide to stay in a guesthouse come with an open heart, enjoy nature, expect a laid back experience and embrace learning about the locals.

2. Decide your budget

Overwater bungalows cost at least $500 a night with other room in the same resort cost much less starting from $200. You can experience the facility staying in normal room and mixing it with a night or two in overwater bungalow to reduce cost. unlike island where you can go to shops, Staying at resort often means you are stuck there so you may want to bring a lot of snacks to resort. On top of it, there will extra cost for activities.

3. Consider packages

Stay at resort that inclusive with the transport to get there with a seaplane. It cost $100 for 15 minutes ride and cost $200-$300 per person to get to your island, might as well right. Keep looks out on what the accommodation offer activities included like perhaps free snorkelling gear hire and sunset cruise.

4. Mix Accomodations

You can mix accommodations like one night in Male to try the restaurants, Male city tour, find out information, and then onto an island with your budget of choice and spend a few nights in an overwater bungalow resorts. You can stay on boat for a few nights with the Live on Boat option.

5. Stay at Maafushi Island

For my next visit I will definitely check out MAAFUSHI Island. We hear from our host and other tourist that this is the biggest island near Male – many options of guesthouse, hotels, restaurants and resorts. With many restaurants there is no need to go for full board option and you can jump from one guesthouse to another or to resort with ease without getting back to Male.

6. Low budget island Hopping

If you have enough days you can move places in Maldives by getting to Male and catch another Ferry from Male but that will be almost one day gone.

7. Know where you are staying

Note that there are many islands in Maldives and some are extremely far from Male. These islands are best reached using a seaplane. Since the mode of transport between islands is inconvenient, plan ahead where you want to spend your time.

When to go

It is important to plan when to go to Maldives because one of the most extraordinary things about Maldives is the underwater scenes and you need the best clarity underwater. Generally Maldives is humid and hot all year around with unpredictability of rain as its is tropical Island. The best time to visit Maldives is during summer which is between November to April. This is also the high season so it is best to secure accommodation ahead.

Costs

The summary of our total cost for 1 person (Converted to USD as of 21/08/2015 rate):

Jakarta-Singapore Tigerair AUD 50.60 = USD 36.94
Train fee from Airport to overnight accomodation SGD 2.50 = USD 1.77
I happened to be returning on Singapore 50th Birthday so all public transport were few of charge on that day
Singapore overnight at Rucksack Inn @ Lavender Street AUD 23.50 = USD 17.15
Singapore-Maldive-Singapore (Return Tix) Tigerair SGD 394.47 = USD 287.96
3 Nights at Huraa (a double room divided by 2) FULLBOARD EURO 170.50 = USD 190.25
Snorkle x 2 USD30
Inhabited Island USD 25
Taxi Ride from arrival ferry to departure ferry USD 3
Public ferry ride x 2 USD 4
Airport Transfer Ride USD 1.60
Singapore- Jakarta Jetstar AUD 88 = USD 64.24

TOTAL : USD 662.26

Things to know if you decide to stay in Guesthouse:

  • Maldivian are majority Muslim and is a Muslim country so dress appropriately. Short needs to be below the knee and female can’t expose their shoulder.
  • Take your time in Male airport (while keeping a track on time if you are catching public ferry) and check out the tourist info there. You can purchase sunscreen and after sun gel from the airport.
  • Carry Maldivian money and some USD. Maldivian Money ends up cheaper for everything like ferry ride, taxi ride, food and activities.
  • You may want to invest in your own snorkelling gear.

My personal Tips:

  • If you like to explore like me stay longer for 7-10 days and try different islands and accommodations.
  • Since I have a sensitive skin I get sunburnt easily so next time I’ll wear UV protective long sleeve and long pants wet suit for any water activities
  • Re-apply good quality sunscreen and no matter what apply aloe vera after-sun.
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