Planning a Perfect Budget Trip to the Maldives
How To Travel The Maldives On a Budget
Updated September, 2019
The Maldives is a destination fast being added to many traveller's holiday bucket list. But how to enjoy a 5-star luxury Maldives vacation on a Budget? Would you believe me if I told you that an exotic island vacation in the incredibly picturesque Maldives is far more affordable than you may think?! Get ready for a quick break down. The Maldives is no longer an exclusive holiday playground reserved only for the rich and famous.
The tropical paradise on earth renown as Maldive Islands are famous for its powdery white sandy beaches. Prior to the introduction of budget tourism (Guest houses) in Maldives, lots of tourist around the world wished to enjoy a dream vacation in this beautiful paradise. However, to afford a holiday in the Maldives was far out reach for a budget traveler until 2008. After the Introduction of budget tourism, tourist arrival to Maldives has been increasing at a rapid rate, making way for a new chapter of adventure in life for those who seek to explore the natural beauty of earth both land life and underwater life. Today in fact, you can totally travel the Maldives on a budget. There has never been a better time than now to plan your own dream vacation to the worldwide known honeymoon islands than you can *actually* afford.
The Maldives is made up of over 1000 islands – sandbanks, private island resorts and local islands inhabited by Maldivian people. In addition to all the luxury resorts, there are also over 400 guesthouses scattered across the Maldives, designed to cater entirely for budget travelers. However, now the hard choice for all travelers who are looking to travel or take a long vacation in Maldives is having a hard time to choose the right place. The accommodation facilities has been increasing at rate of 100 new properties per year. All these properties are designed to cater various range of travelers by offering an unlimited amount of customized holiday packages to Maldives.
The costs of food and activities are minimal, especially compared to resort. For two people travelling and staying together for 7 nights on local island you might expect to spend around 600 USD per person plus flights. This includes accommodation, food and activities and is just an average, you could of course spend more or even less. Your search for budget lodging in the Maldives will surely point to guest houses. Here, you pay a fraction of what you would have paid for high end hotels but the scenery is still free! Keep in mind - the best Maldives experiences are found outside of your hotel windows – and not in the hotel room.
First Step - Find Cheap Flights
Flights to Maldives can be pricey. Because of this, it is very important to do all you can to find cheap flights to Maldives. You can also find cheap flights to Maldives by following some tips and tricks for getting the most for your money. Maldives flights are at their cheapest from April to November, which is the low season for the islands.
When booking airline tickets, you should keep in mind that FRIDAY in the Maldives is a day off and if you are planning a public ferry transfer to your island on the day of arrival - this time the ferries do not operate and you will have to stay one night in Male. This note does not apply to speedboats and seaplanes.
Almost every visitor to Maldives arrives at Velana International Airport (MLE), on Huihule island, 10 min by boat from the capital island, Male.
Two further airports in the country serve international flights: Hanimaadhoo International Airport, taht has a weekly flight to Trivandrum in India, and Gan International Airport, which has two flights a week to Colombo in Sri Lanka and Johannesburg.
Direct flights to Male you can catch from a some European air hubs: Rome, Istanbul, Moscow and Kiev.
Air Italy has announced plans to operate non-stop service to Maldives as part of its winter 2019/20 schedule. Operating from its hub at Milan Malpensa Airport, the Milan-Male route will be served three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Italian budget carrier Blue Panorama Airlines fron June 2019 began operating chartered flights between Poland and Maldives, connecting the central European nation and the Indian Ocean island holiday destination for the first time
Hong Kong Airlines from December 2019 intends to increase service to The Maldives, which would see the addition of 4th weekly Hong Kong – Male route. The proposed new flight is scheduled on Saturdays from 07th December 2019, although the new flight is not open for reservation.
Royal Jordanian in September and October 2019 plans to operate scheduled charter service to the Maldives, where it’ll offer Amman to Male nonstop service. From 27th September 2019 to 16th October 2019, a Boeing 787-8 aircraft will operate this route once a week.
Bahrain’s national airline, Gulf Air will begin flights between the two countries on October 28 this year, with six weekly flights operating via Male’-Bahrain and Male’-Colombo-Bahrain route.
Good to knew the fastest way to get from Australia to the Maldives is Singapore Airlines or by Air Asia via Kuala Lumpur. Return Flights from Perth can be as low as $1000AUD return, rising to $1,400-1,600AUD return from Sydney, the Gold Coast and Melbourne.
From US: If you're flying from the west coast, then the easiest stopovers would be Hong Kong or Singapore (which is more low key than HK but still a city break). From the east coast, then Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha. Otherwise, you could also go via London - guaranteed that won't be too hot for you! Cheap flights from the USA to Maldives are as low as $1,000USD (Aeroflot, Sri Lankan Air) round trip and fly out of major international hubs such as New York, Boston, Las Vegas, Washington & LA rising the $1,500USD return from San Fransisco, Chicago and Atlanta. Check HERE for the best deals available when you want to fly.
However, the most common combination for holidays is to twin the Maldives with Sri Lanka. India is also an option but the flight connections are a hassle, whereas Sri Lanka is only an hour's flight from the Maldives and has many flights a day. For very long journeys, it’s often cheaper to take a stopover.
Most of SE Asia is accessible from the Maldives. Best way to get Male from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Manila.
South African Airways (SAA) is set to commence direct flights between Johannesburg and Gan, Addu City. Operations between Johannesburg and Gan are set to be launched on November 2018.
A some international flights arrive in the Maldives close to midnight. After a lonf flight to the Maldives and a late night arrival, it may be more comfortable and far less expensive to stay on Hulhumale Island (airport island), than to be transported to your guesthouse right away. Check the Hulhumale Best Hotels
Below are the top tips which will save you a lot of money:
- For long-haul flights (e.g. from USA), you should book three to five months before your trip. For quick journeys (e.g. from Europe or Asia), it's a good idea to book about two months out.
- Sign up for low fare alerts. Expert Fare Analysts email you reports of the best fares, departing from your airports of choice.
- Use Incognito Window when searching the tickets. Usually booking sites track your cookies. They take notice of your searching patterns, and then they raise fares the next time you search for a flight. When searching for the best airfare, always make sure to open up an Incognito Window in Google Chrome. That way, booking sites won't be able to monitor your search history and cookie storage, and you'll end up with better, cheaper search results!
- When it comes to finding the best flight deals, Sunday is the new “it” day.
- Be flexible and use fare calendars, buy two one-way flights, book directly. Sometimes, it’s cheaper to book your flight directly through the airline’s website.
- Travel in the off season. If you decide to travel in the off/low season, when there’s less demand, you’ll save a big chunk of change!
- Use budget airlines. In any case, flying with budget airlines can be a great, easy way to pay less for airfare.
- Take the longer route. If you’d rather save money than time, choosing longer journeys can save you hundreds.
Find the best deals on flights to Maldives from the Europe, US and Asia with the best search engines. Our service is not only free, but quick and easy so you can search for the lowest flight prices then book directly by clicking through to the airline or travel agency site. Compare cheap flights from over 600 airlines and top travel agents to secure the best flight prices.
Visa Requirements for the Maldives
All travellers to Maldives must be in possession of a valid passport no less than 6 months of time prior to expiration and travel documents. Visitors with this documentation will be issued with tourist visas on arrival (VOA) for a period of 30 day, free of charge. Whilst the VOA is a predominantly stable system, it is always a good idea to check the current situation with your government agency prior to travel. Click for the latest government travel advisories from the USA, UK and Australia.
When to Go - Best Time to Visit The Maldives
The paradise islands always have good weather with almost constant 28-30 degrees Celsius (80F) all year round - any season is a nice month to visit the Maldives! There’s an average of 8 hours of sunshine every day and the water temperature barely falls below 25°C. However, accomodation rates fluctuate depending on the season. The hot season - from November to April - the most expensive in contrast to the rainy season from May to October, and the most peak months - between December and March.
Most travellers see this as the best time to go, but there are other factors to consider when choosing the time of year to travel here – like when to see specific marine life and when you’ll find the best value offers.
If you want to escape the crowds, the best time to visit the Maldives is from May to November. May to July and September to November tend to have higher rainfall and some cloud, but still see plenty of sunshine amid short downpours. While there is some rain, the storms move quickly and won't ruin an entire day. However, do not delay the "wet" period - considering that 99% of the territory of the Maldives is water here really is not all that wet! At least you can experience short showers that last less than an hour - or at most, a full day / night storm (which is pretty cool to watch). And if you're a scuba diver - it's like when you're under water, right?
The best months for diving and snorkeling are in the dry season from December/January to April/May during the Northeast Monsoon. The sea is calm, and the visibility is good. However, some divers love wet season because the waters less busy and there is also more underwater life going on. Also it's the best time to spot whale sharks and manta rays in the Maldives. Read More
Where to Go - Find an Island
Maldives consists of approximately 1,190 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, spread over roughly 90,000 square kilometers, making this one of the most disparate countries in the world. The Maldives remained largely unknown to tourists until the early 1970s. The first tourist resorts were opened in 1972 with Bandos island resort and Kurumba Village (the current name is Kurumba Maldives) that transformed the Maldives economy. There are two types of islands in the Maldives, private resort islands, and local islands. Up until 2009 tourists in the Maldives were only allowed to stay on private resort islands but now they can amongst locals on local islands. Today, only 185 local islands are home to its 300,000 inhabitants and budget tourism is serviced by morу then 450 guest houses in all Maldives.
Today in the Maldives there are many local islands where one can stay cheaply. The most popular islands are Male, Hulhumale, Maafushi, Guraidhoo, Thoddoo, Rasdhoo, Ukulhas, Dhigurah, Huraa, Mathivery, Thulusdhoo, Diffushi, Feridhoo, Goidhoo, Fehendhoo, Fulhadhoo, Thinadhoo. There are many others, but they are remote from the Male airport. See our list of the BEST BUDGET ISLANDS IN THE MALDIVES.
When choosing an island for a budget trip, you should consider some of its features. As for location - try to stay close to Male airport. Staying not far from the airport means that island speedboat transfers will be more cheap compared to islands further away, sometimes requiring a double transfer: domestic flight + speedboat. Must entertain no expectation by a competitive guesthouse price, on an island far away from the airport – you may just pay more for the transfer than the lodging! The Male atoll's islands have more frequent airport transfers than remote islands and you have a great chance to get to your island on the day of arrival to the Maldives. Also Kaafu Atoll (North Male atoll + South Male Atoll) has the largest selection of guest houses and economy hotels. When it comes to travelling by public ferry in the Maldives, island's location also works in your favor. Ferry routes cover several islands and you can hop from one island to another paying only $ 1-3 for transportation. You can cheaply visit a some places staying at each island for 2-3 nights.
Also, when choosing an island for fun beach holiday, one should think about its surroundings, is there any bikini beach, house reef snorkeling, choice of water sports or diving school (for some) and a different excursions on offer. Do a little research to find the island and guesthouse that best suits your Maldives holiday needs. Lets face it, some of us are the beach lovers with coconut in hand, whilst others like to be a little more adventurous and try the likes of surfing, fishing or diving.
Finding Cheap Accommodation
The first thing you need to know is that there aren’t any super cheap options for accommodation. You won’t find hostels in the Maldives, or a shabby $10 a night bungalow on the beach like you would in Southeast Asia. Instead, you will find plenty of budget guesthouses, and they’re surprisingly good value for money.
For $30-60 a night (depending on the season), you’ll receive an clean, modern, and spacious room with AC, TV, a hot shower, free breakfasts, snorkeling gear, a bottle of water each day, twice daily room cleaning, and hogh speed Wi-Fi. The rooms are really excellent!
Think bed and breakfast style accommodation and facilities or mini hotels, located on locally inhabited islands. Some guesthouses are more simple while others offer half/full board meal plans, four-star facilities with roof top infinity pools and views over palm tree fringed beaches. With almost 7700 beds across the country in this type of accommodation, guesthouses are your key to a Maldives dream vacation on a budget.
When it comes to the best Maldives holiday travel deals, vacationers and travelers should make use of the Internet to find the best possible rates on their hotel accommodation. The easiest way to find cheap accommodation in the Maldives is through is through Booking.com or Agoda. These sites are perfect for finding the absolute cheapest price for all of your accommodation.
Besides the fact that there are often special rates offered in the Internet only or discounts for making early reservations, you can compare tons of different offers that may not be available through a travel agent. If you want to book through a travel agent though, be sure to do your research online before booking to make sure you’re getting a decent deal.You can even reach out directly to the resort and ask if they have any package deals available.
Guest House or Resort?
For those with a bit more cash to splash and who dream a bit more luxury but without totally breaking your bank there are also some great mid range accommodation options throughout the Maldives. For private islands you can get some comfy rooms for around $120-170 which will get you a pretty nice setup and all the amenities you’d expect from a resort.
Options such as Medhufushi Island Resort, Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives, Malahini Kuda Bandos Resort, Biyadhoo Island Resort, Filitheyo Island Resort, Olhuveli Beach & Spa, Equator Village Resort, Adaaran Select Meedhupparu, Embudu Village Resort, Reethi Beach Resort, Ellaidhoo Maldives by Cinnamon and more are great examples of these. Check our list of 10 Best Maldives Value Hotels
Keep an eye out on Booking.com for deals of the day and flash deals to nab yourself a bargain and also be aware that these prices will fluctuate with the seasons too!
Transfers: Seaplane, Domestic Flight, Speedboad or Ferry - How to Get Your Hotel from Male
When you arrive in the Maldives, you must already have booked all island transfers (except public ferry) to get your destination, whether it is a resort or a local island (budget accomodation). Most hotels will assist you in booking these transfers and for some it may be included in the price. But it’s nice to know what options are available.
Avoid the seaplane if you’re travelling on a budget — these type of transfer is the most expensive in the Maldives and usually cost around $500 round trip for a 20 minute journey. They are only able to operate during daylight hours, so dependent on the time of your international arrival, it may not be the transfer option for you.
Domestic flights are cheap in comparison, and often this is the only option for transportation to remote islands. If you want to save on a transfer, book flights through your hotel or guest house (not via airline website direct), that give you a big discounts for domestic flights at a special, low price. They are also able to fly after sunset so if your international flight arrives late in the evening, you can still get to resort the same day. Prices range from $110-300USD per person dependent on distance to travel.
Travelling by speedboat too, is, on its own a fun adventure. Speedboat Transfers are designed for transportation on short distances (usually up to 2 hours). Speed boats operate 24 hours a day and transfers are priced between $25-80USD per person dependent on the distance. These transfers will be arranged by the hotel based on your arrival/departure time.
Public ferries are the best way to save money on a budget trip and will give you a real idea of Maldives local culture. The ticket price starts from 2 USD one way, and successfully compensates for the loss of time for a long trip. An inexpensive trip by public ferry requires some organization and knowledge of local information. There are no public ferries to/from resorts in Maldives and boats run on a somewhat infrequent schedule. READ MORE
Don't forget grab a local sim card for your Insta shots! Many guesthouses and resorts have wifi though, but if you need to stay connected its best to grab one before you leave Male, as you’ll have a much faster and reliable connection. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that not only is mobile data pretty cheap in the Maldives, it’s also super reliable too! So you can easily Instagram your slice of paradise and make everyone jealous! You can buy a local SIM card and pre load it with data just outside the arrival hall at Velana airport (come out and take a right).
What to Wear in the Maldives on Local Islands
The Maldives is a Muslim country and care needs to be taken in relation to the dress code on local islands. Whilst it is acceptable for men to wear T Shirts and shorts or swim shorts; females should avoid causing offence by maintaining a more conservative approach to clothes by wearing T Shirts, loose shorts or sarongs and avoid wearing bikinis and swimwear unless on an un- inhabited island, picnic island, sandbank, dive boat or resort island. Some guesthouses do provide private sunbathing areas on a tourist beach or on the terrace of the guesthouse, however, it is not acceptable to walk around the island wearing a bikini.
Maldivians, as Muslims, are prohibited from consuming alcohol; hence there is a total restriction on alcohol being available on inhabited local islands, which includes the capital Male. Please don’t bring alcohol through the airport as it will be confiscated. Don’t even try the vodka in a water bottle trick! If you are visiting a resort or a safari boat where alcohol is readily available for tourists, consume and enjoy whilst you are there but avoid bringing it back with you to your guesthouse.
Food and Drinks - Eat Like a Locals
The general rule, the smaller the island, the less food options there are, and you’ll likely be eating at your guesthouse for most meals. Food will save you around $5-10 per meal, but with most guesthouses offering an hearty free breakfast, you can skip a lunch and only pay for dinner. You won’t complain about loosing $5 a day on food! Many guest houses include in the room price half board / full board meal plans, that is also very convenient. Often this can push the cost of the accommodation out, however in low season it can be offered as a sweetener and is a massive added bonus if you’re on a budget.
For exemple chicken fried rice, curry and rice, or a gigantic fish barbecue on the smallest island wiil be cost $10. However, you'll enjoyed eating out at local restaurants and they all charged the same price — for the touristsand it cost about $4-5 for a local style dish and up to about $10 for a more Western style meal or $15 for buffet-style barbeques. This price does vary quite a bit depending on the island you’re heading to though.
For a busy islands, such as Maafushi or Ukulhas, there are plenty of food options. There are maybe a dozen restaurants (including restaurants in the hotels) on the island, all offering reasonably priced dinners. Check our list of 10 Best Maafushi Restaurants.
Whilst the Maldivian food is delicious it’s not the major draw card for travelling here, so save your dollars by visiting where the locals love to eat on local islands and stocking up on fresh fruits and other goodies that can be found at the local supermarkets.
Maldivian food consists mainly of fish and curry, and some people may not be used to the spiciness of the food. The main carbohydrate source is either rice or roti (a kind of flatbread). Coconut is also featured heavily on the menu, be it in the form of coconut milk or grated coconut. Maldives is surrounded by the sea, so it is not surprising that fish (mainly tuna) is the most important staple of the Maldivian diet. The cuisine is influenced by a mix of Arabic, Indian, Sri Lankan and Oriental food.
You might think the Maldives is all about lazing on beaches and soaking cup paradise – but in actual fact there’s quite a lot to do, especially for those who love the ocean! From world class surf breaks to breath taking scuba diving – so if you like your travels filled with stuff to do there’s no reason the Maldives cant offer you what you want!
Most resorts and guesthouses offer excursions and activities at an extra cost and the cost of activities can be huge. If you can save money in this area you’ve done a good well with creating a budget trip. The cheapest way to go on an excursion is to book it through your guesthouse. Don’t be afraid to shop around for low prices, though! Wander into four or five places and check for their prices before you make a decision. Also check to see what’s included in the price — some offerings will include food and drinks, some won’t include any extras. From guesthouses you can expect to pay from $20 per person for a day boat trip for snorkelling or from $30 per person for a day at a deserted island, just as a couple examples.
If you are a diver, then surely show interest in knowing how you can dive in the Maldives on a cheap. If you decide to dive through your guesthouse, or arrange it through a dive shop on a local island, you’ll be looking at paying not less than $100 for two dives. Despite the fact that the price for each subsequent dive will fall, the cheapest option for scuba diving in the Maldives, however, is join on a liveaboard trip.
Other options for fun activities include lots of snorkeling trips. If you’re lucky to be visiting during manta ray or whale shark season, you’ll be able to arrange a trip to see them. Most guesthouses will also arrange fishing trips ($50 per person), or day trips to the resorts. You can also take trips to sand banks ($25 per person) and go island hopping around the atoll ($50 per person).
Day Trips to Resort Islands
It's a long way to fully understand what barefoot luxury is in the Maldives and, although the local islands offer stunning natural beauty and a great way to travel the islands on a budget, the over-water living experience still needs to be done once in you're life. Good news, many of the major exclusive resort islands recognise this and in fact offer quite good value day trips to their exclusive resorts. It will blow out your budget a little bit, but for less than US$120-150 you can get a full day access to some of the Maldives most luxurious resort islands fully inclusive of all the food, drinks and water sports equipment you can get your hands on for that day. If you only do one of these trips during your stay in the Maldives than you'll still get the amazing experience and save yourself a pretty penny by not forking out for the experience daily.
If you want to experience the resort life but are unable to fork out the amount of money to stay for one night, you can go to one of the resort islands on a day trip. There are two time slots, 9am–6pm (with lunch) or 2pm–11pm (with dinner).
For a fraction of the cost of staying overnight, you can indulge in free-flow alcohol, buffet lunch/dinner (depending on the time slot that you choose) and all-inclusive activities (such as swimming, snorkelling, paddle-boarding) and access to their facilities like gym and spa. Trust us, this trip will be worth your money
What to Pack
Knowing what your accommodation does and doesn’t include before you leave will allow you to pack appropriately.Some hotels have unlimited gear hire such as snorkels, surfboards and diving gear, but some will charge you every time you borrow something – this can be the case with more budget style accommodation. The Maldives temperature barely varies throughout the year and the most you might need is a light pull over for evenings, so pack minimal clothing and consider perhaps bringing your own snorkel and fin set or surfboard, and pack your clothes into your board bag. Also, bare in mind the geographical isolation of some of these islands, as it does affect the price you will pay for basic necessities on the island. Items such as toiletries, surf wax, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and other general necessities must be brought to the island via boat, which means transport costs put the prices up. Rather than rely on local stores for these items, it would be wise to pack these with you for the trip.
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