Maldives on a budget. Seems impossible, right? Well, think again. When we conjure up an image of the Maldives we envisage exclusive over-water bungalows, pristine blue seas and all-inclusive luxury resorts – a honeymoon only destination.
So, want to find out how to turn a $6,300 weekly trip to a $350 trip (per person) to the Maldives.
In truth, the Maldives is hardly a place that screams cheap travel but, contrary to popular belief, it is perfectly possible to travel the Maldives on a budget! Plus you’ll still be enjoying exactly the same beaches, blue sea and marine life.
The Maldives is no longer a place that only the rich and famous can enjoy. Tourism is rapidly changing and allowing budget travellers to experience the Maldives too.
Travel in the Maldives isn’t that straight forward, and we (Russ) did do a lot of thorough research ahead of our trip. And even with this, we learned a lot along the way. So fret not, we are here to give you all the inside information and a full guide on how to travel the Maldives on a budget. And also let you know where we went wrong!
Travel the Maldives on a Budget – A Full Guide
Budget Travel to Maldives
Best Time to Visit Maldives
Where to Stay in Maldives
Budget Travel Around Maldives
Budget Accomodation In Maldives
Eating on a Budget in Maldives
Budget Excursions in Maldives
Other Things to Know Before you Travel Maldives
What made budget travel to the Maldives possible?
The reason for this is due to a change in government legislation allowing local residents to offer guest houses to tourists.
This means you can stay in the Maldives for as little as $40 a night. This is a little more expensive than other accommodation we have stayed in throughout our travels. However, it is completely worth it.
We stayed for around two and a half weeks in the Maldives. Originally this was meant to be a week, but a last minute change meant we could enjoy Fi’s birthday in paradise too.
This is the first budget friendly win for the Maldives. All passports gain a free entry 30 day visa to the Maldives. We made it through customs really easily with no questions asked but you are meant to have an outbound flight booked and is technically required to gain entry at the airport.
As we were staying in Sri Lanka, we found flights for two for around $150 per person to Male. Male is the capital of the Maldives. All international flights will be directed to Male, the main airport of the Maldives.
Colombo, Sri Lanka and Kuchi in Kerala, India are the closest international airports. You can find the best deals to fly to Male here.
Male airport itself is situated between Hulhumale, a man-made island, and Male, around 15 minutes from both destinations.
We visited in April. The Maldives season running from November to April it’s possible these are the cheapest and slightly quieter months to visit.
You can stay in Male or Hulhumale for a night if you arrive late. Or you can travel directly from the airport to connecting islands.
We arrived late evening from Sri Lanka – a cheaper time to fly – so booked a room near the airport. We opted for Hulhumale as we read it was nicer than Male. However, it is completely man made with a lot of construction everywhere.
In hindsight, we would have stayed in Male as this offers an insight into local Maldivian life. It is situated on the fisherman’s docks and has lots of cute coffee shops.
However, given the cost of the room at $70, we would have flown earlier in the day, so that we could travel straight to the local island. This would mean we would save a money and time.
But it’s not the end of the world if you have to stay, just be sure to know that Male and Hulhumale are a far cry from the paradise islands you’ll be travelling to!
When travelling to the local islands you can use; seaplanes, private speed boats, shared speed boats and public ferry boats. The latter two are the cheapest options.
The shared speed boat will cost around $25-$40 per passenger whereas the public ferry boat is roughly $3 per passenger. To book the shared speed boat, guest houses are usually very willing to assist. You will need to make your own arrangements for the public ferry boat – the schedule available here.
We visited three islands; Rasdhoo, Thoddoo and Thulusdhoo. All of which can be accessed via public ferry. This is your holy grail to budget travel in the Maldives.
Be sure to plan your route ahead to make the most of your time. And also ensure you don’t miss the shared speed boats or public ferry boats. A private speed boat/seaplane could be anywhere between $100-$500 per passenger!
Unless you have at least $500 per night, staying at one of the Maldives resorts isn’t possible. The resorts come with a hefty price tag which often includes a tourism tax of nearly 100% practically doubling the price advertised by the resorts plus a small fixed green tax fee.
These resort islands in the Maldives are actually privately owned by the resorts. However, once you explore further to the local islands, you will come to realise there are a lot of alternative options for a lower budget.
Guesthouse prices can vary from $40 to $150 a night and a single bed hostel for around $20 a night. The tourism tax on the local islands seems to be about 10% plus the small fixed green tax amount. But most importantly you are supporting sustainable travel in the Maldives.
Depending on the island you visit, will determine the food options you have to eat. For some of the islands lesser known, Rasdhoo and Thoddoo, there are only a handful of restaurants to choose from. Thulusdhoo had quite a number of restaurants which you could eat at.
The Maldives isn’t the place for those looking for culinary delights. Expect fried chicken / fish, rice and vegetables for most meals. Make sure you try the local breakfast of chapatti, tuna and egg. Also, the tropical fruits are delicious. When eating out we were spending around $10-$20 for two, depending on how hungry we were.
If you visit Rasdhoo, make sure to eat at Rasdhoo Dive Centre, as they have a range of fresh seafood you can select from, as well as a local rice and noodle dishes. We even indulged in the freshest and biggest portion (literally a whole full sized plate) of tuna sashimi for $10!
Usually your guest house or hotel will offer excursions but often there will be an excess for arranging the activity with a tour operator.
The best bet is to visit the operators on the beach or dive centres to get the best deal and haggle as much as you can. If the trip requires a private boat then you can make big savings if you travel as a group.
We paid around $30 per person for two afternoon snorkelling excursions. But one of the days mother nature served us a strom, so we only had to pay $15 per person as since we completed only one excursion.
Although we didn’t do it ourselves diving was around $50-$60 per person.
Alternatively, there are many house reefs you can explore by yourself. Most accomodation offers free snorkel equiprment and often you don’t have to go far to see the best marine life you’ve seen.
Remember to snorkel responsbily to ensure we protect our marine life and coral gardens.
As well as the local currency – the Maldivian rufiyaa, most places accept USD dollars too. In fact, some places even prefer dollars to Maldivian rufiyaa so it’s worth bringing this with you.
Most guest houses do take card (with a 3% fee. Male has a plethora of ATM’s and some larger local islands such as Thulusdhoo have one too.
The smaller islands do not have ATM’s so ensure you get cash out beforehand.
The Maldives is a strict Muslim country which prohibits the sale of alcohol. As the resort islands are privately owned by the resorts they are able to offer alcohol but on the local islands alcohol it’s definitely not available.
With this in mind ladies also have to ensure they’re covered up while walking around the streets. The locals are very welcoming, but you will receive some unwanted looks if you are too exposed. Ensure your shoulders are covered down to the knee, as to not cause offence.
Most local island then have a designated bikini beach where you are free to strip off… to your bikini.
HOW MUCH WILL BUDGET TRIP TO THE MALDIVES COST?
|BUDGET MALDIVES||LUXURY MALDIVES|
|Food & Drink||$140||n/a**|
Price in USD, minimum expected to pay one person for one week. Price excludes flights to and from Male.
* Some resorts sometimes including transfer transport to and from accomodation in overall cost. ** Accomoadtion may include all inclusive food and drink.
Final word on budgeting for the Maldives
We had an amazing time at all three islands we visited and we’ll follow up shortly with another post on recommendations for places to go and things to do.
The Maldives is comprised of over 1,200 islands so there is endless opportunity to plan a unique travel route. Just be sure not to get too overwhelmed and bear in mind that to keep Maldives travel cheap the key is to travel by local ferry and plan your route ahead to avoid being bitten in the bum by private taxi boat fairs.
But, that’s how we travelled the Maldives on a budget. It is significantly cheaper than you’d have imagined. Most importantly, enjoy this paradise! Maldives is a very special place, and it can be travelled to on a budget.