When scrolling through images of the Maldives, it’s easy to quickly write it off as an unrealistic travel destination, with many of the photos making the island nation seem better suited for the Kardashians rather than [insert your name here]. So yes, for budget travelers the dream of the over-the-water bungalows on a private island resort isn’t going to happen; save it for the honeymoon…or the lottery. But a recent surge in independent travel and the country’s desire for further tourism has brought about opportunities to visit the Maldives for moderately cheaper prices. The potential is there, with the proper research, to break free of the isolated luxury resorts and travel the Maldives, the real Maldives, on a budget; this list should get some wheels turning.
Time of the Year
Perhaps the easiest, and the most overlooked way to reduce costs is to plan a visit during the low season. November to April is undoubtedly the peak season in the Maldives, so searching for those flights and hotel deals in May to October range could prove to be the difference in a few hundred dollars. While it will be cheaper, those looking at a trip to the Maldives during these months are risking the monsoon season but the chance could be worth it.
Places to Stay
Since the government of the Maldives relaxed on laws keeping tourists confined to deserted resort islands, there has been an explosion in the number of guesthouses opening across the country. These new accommodations are budget travelers’ BFF, but there are also some hotel options that give guests the illusion of a high-class resort with more achievable rates, often based on the location of the island they are on. It’s important to remember none of these prices are going to be Southeast Asia-esque but for a trip to paradise, they aren’t bad.
The southernmost island of the 1,200 islands making up the Maldives, Gan has the specific advantage of having a native Maldivian population, meaning hotels do not have to pay extra to have staff and other services shipped in every day. Budget travelers can also save by getting a direct flight to Gan from Sri Lanka rather than taking numerous smaller flights and/or ferries from the capital of Male.
One of the most populated islands, visitors can find guest houses, small resorts, and boutique hotels for as little as $45 per night (USD) here.
Many budget travelers highly recommend the Thundi Guest House, one of the few guesthouses on the island. Prices can dip as low as $55 per night.
Snorkeling — A much more affordable alternative to scuba diving, many of the reefs in the Maldives are incredibly shallow, so the brightly colored tropical fish, harmless sharks, and rays will be well within view.
Resort Crash — Many of the fancy all-inclusive luxury resorts and private island hotels have options to buy a day pass. Day passes plus transportation, to and from the hotels, will set someone back about $75, but to have the resort experience for $75 is pennies compared to $800 per night.
Island Hop — As mentioned there are well over a thousand islands in the Maldives. An advantage of traveling independently of resorts gives visitors an opportunity to see more of the country via day trips. Various local islands have different draws: whether surfing, Maldivian culture/food, or peaceful beaches.
Tips and Tricks
When it comes to a tight budget it’s always good to have every base covered. Keep in mind that to get virtually anywhere in the Maldives, taking a boat trip or two is going to be unavoidable. Make sure to check out the times ferries run from the airport as they are not a 24-hour service. Also, whenever possible opt for public ferries versus some of the speedboat transfers offered. The difference in price is astronomical. It should be noted before booking a trip to the Indian Ocean paradise that the Maldives is a rather strict Muslim country. So if guys and gals are hoping to show some skin to get their bronze on they will need to plan in advance to venture to a “bikini beach”, essentially beaches made for tourists with a more liberal dress code. This is especially important for those staying in cities or more populated islands, as it’s closer to an “anything goes” attitude amongst the resorts.