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The Maldives are known as an exclusive luxury destination popular with honeymooners and couples. When looking for a resort the options are endless, each one more impressive than the other. Your own butler, a private pool or an underwater restaurant- all that sounds too good to be true but the only downside is that it comes at a price. A night in a resort can easily cost up to a 1000 $ a night. Therefore for a lot of people the Maldives seem unreachable.
However it is possible to enjoy a holiday in this island paradise even on a small budget, though it is more difficult to find that compared to other destinations.
1. Plan ahead
In order to find good deals it is wise to start looking early and be flexible with the dates. Check different comparison sites for the best offers. I can also recommend the German website urlaubspiraten- they put the best deals together for you and a lot of the times you can find a 10 day stay in a good resort including return flights for around 1500 Euros a person if you can go in a specific period- a great deal, if you consider that you can pay that price alone for just one or two nights in a luxury resort.
2. Booking your flights
A general rule is always to book your flights 3 months ahead to secure the best price. Sometimes you might be able to secure a good deal very last minute, however when I was checking they always seemed to be way more expensive than if you would have booked in advance.
If you get a good deal with accommodation and flight I would suggest you to book it if you are happy with the accommodation offered- otherwise you might want to continue searching.
Another trick is to not fly to the Maldives from Europe but take a flight to the Maldives from Asia. There are a lot of budget options and the flight isn’t that long. Sri Lanka is super close to the Maldives, so why not combine a backpacking trip through the beautiful country of Sri Lanka with some relaxing time on the Maldives.
3. When to visit?
High season in the Maldives is from December to February. The weather is known to be the best in that period and with Christmas and New Year this results in huge price hikes. Avoid those times if you don’t want to spend big times.
Try to visit between May to October instead. That is the low season since it is summer in Europe, so there are less tourists. That time is also known as rainy season however that mostly means a heavy rain shower for 15 minutes a day and then it is sunny again. I stayed in the Maldives for one week in July and only had one day of bad weather. I got told that the maximum you can have is two days of bad weather, but then it is nice again.
4. Where to stay? Local Island vs. Resort Island
Most people believe that the Maldives are very expensive, however that is only on the resort islands that are privately owned.
Life in general on the local islands and also in the capital Malé is quite cheap compared to our standards.
Malé, the capital, is definitely worth a day trip. The city is known as being the most populated city on earth with over 153.000 people living on an area of just 5.8 square kilometers. Wander around the city and check out the small streets, shops and the local fresh and fish market. It is also really nice to come here in the evening to have dinner in one of the numerous, inexpensive restaurants. However I wouldn’t recommend you to stay here in a hotel since it is a busy place and there isn’t really a big beach.
When traveling to the Maldives you need to know that a majority of the population is Muslim. So if you are staying on a local island, women need to wear modest clothes- that means at least a shirt that covers her shoulders and shorts that are knee length to avoid offending locals or even getting in trouble. On most public beaches women are also not allowed to just be there in swim wear. I would suggest to wear a long shirt for bathing. Also alcohol is not allowed and can’t be bought there.
The small local islands are still a great alternative to the expensive resorts islands since they opened to tourist in the recent years. You will find small guest houses and hotels there for as cheap as 25 $ a night. On the islands you can do activities like snorkeling and scuba diving and book tours to go out for fishing or a sunset cruise for a good price. Just keep in mind that the local islands might not be as clean or well maintained as the resort islands who have a lot of staff to look after the property.
Small islands I have heard of are:
– Maafushi: Maafushi can be reached by ferry within two hours from Malé. This one is the most well known local island and already quite developed for tourists. There are a lot of options for hotels and guest houses that also organize dinners and excursions. There are also other cheap restaurants and tour operators on the island so you won’t get bored there. I even heard that they have a tourist beach where it is allowed to be there in a bikini.
– Villingili: It only takes 10 minutes by boat from Malé to get to Villingi and the ticket is around 25 cents. Therefore it is a great option for a day trip or a few nights. It is quite small so I wouldn’t recommend to book a long vacation there. There is a beach with a relaxed vibe where you can rent out kites, jet skis etc., however women are not allowed to be there in swimwear. We also found a newly opened dive base there which offer PADI courses, excursions by boat or dives in the house reef. For a dive in the house reef we payed as little as 20$ each including equipment and a dive guide.
–Hulhumale: since it is attached to the airport island it is good to stay here before a flight or if you want to book tours at the airport, there are several small hotels and you can rent watersport equipment and do several excursions.
I am sure that there are also other options and if you have any suggestions please comment below.
5. Day Trips to Resort Islands
Did you know that it is possible to spend a day on an exclusive resort island as a visitor? No? Now you know!
I heard about that on my first visit to the Maldives that you can actually visit some of the resorts for a day for quite a reasonable price. At the Malé airport you will find all the desks from the big resorts and what you can do is ask there if they offer a day trip. Usually the boat times are finalized one day in advance, so it makes sense to ask one day before you want to do the tour. We have been able to get day trips to the nearer resort islands from around 50 dollars to around 100 or 150 dollars. That includes the speedboat transfer, entry fee and sometimes lunch or even all inclusive. I did quite a few day trips to numerous resort islands and sometimes managed to stay between 8 am until 8 pm, spending the entire day at the resort and having the beach and the facilities almost for myself. Enjoy a snorkel or a dip in the pool or go on a beach walk. It is also a great chance to take those photos for the people at home from those picture perfect Maldivian islands we all know from all the travel magazines.
6. Do what the locals do, go where the locals go
This is a rule you should always follow when traveling- and is also my hot tip for the Maldives.
In the restaurants on Malé we payed around 5 $ for a main course, but spend around 10 $ for a smoothie in the bar of a big tourist hotel. Therefore look out for places where also locals go to, take the public boats or ferries that are mostly just a few dollars or even less. Budget options are always available if you search for them.
Since budget tourism is relatively new on the Maldives, there aren’t that many options available compared to other countries like Thailand. However it is possible to have a lovely vacation in the Maldives if you are willing to put a little bit of effort into planning your trip ahead or if you spend your vacation on a local island. I am pretty sure that in the coming years it will become even more and more easy with more options coming up.