When we think about the Maldives, we picture beautiful overwater bungalows surrounded by the clearest water you have ever seen. We also think of Maldives as a “dream destination” only. However, Maldives doesn’t have to be a destination that you requires you to save half of your life and then break the bank on. If you want to know how to travel to Maldives alone AND on a budget, then continue reading.
Stay on a local Maldives island: The assumption is that when you venture to the Maldives, you have to stay on a private island in a all-inclusive resort. That assumption is wrong! Around 2011-2012, the Maldives government opened up tourism on the local islands. Once it was approved, locals islands such as Maafushi, began building new hotels and resorts to accomodate guests. The great thing about this is you get newer resorts for a fraction of the cost of what you would pay on a private island. Most, if not all, of the local island hotels and resorts offer all-inclusive options or at the very least free breakfast each day.
Invest in resort day passes: Another great perk of staying on a local island, is the option to visit one of the private island resorts for a day. You can book directly with the front desk of any hotel, especially in Maafushi. The price of the day pass is dependent upon the resort that you want to visit. They range from $50-$90 for the day, plus a $30 speedboat transfer fee. With the private island day passes you get a nice lunch, drinks including alcohol, access to all amenities on the island, towels, and access to showers. Some resorts host tours of the overwater villas during the day so you can see inside of one. Either way, you will still be on the premises and you will be able to take all the photos you want in front of the villas. This tour option lasts all day, leaving at 9am and returning at 6pm.
Book tours once you arrive: If you are a planner, it’s your norm to book tours and excursions in advance. However, I suggest to wait until you arrive in Maldives. For one, the weather in Maldives is very unpredictable. You don’t want to plan out an entire itinerary only for things to get switched around due to weather. Also, since many of the hotels on the local islands are new, they may not always have their tour packages listed or set up to be booked online. This leaves you with limited options on companies to book through, and it tends to be companies that will charge a bit more than your hotel. Don’t worry about tours filling up, literally every hotel on the local island offers the same tours so you can join from any one.
Eat local: All of the popular hotels on the local islands have in-house restaurants. The most popular resort, Arena Beach Hotel, has the most popular restaurant in Maafushi. It is beacuse they offer a themed buffet each night. While the price of $15 isn’t too steep, you can eat for a lot less at smaller places. You can get local cuisine at restaurants for a fraction of what you will pay at an actual resort. The meals are cooked to order and come in nice portion sizes. They even offer free wifi while you eat. YES!
Follow the local customs: Maldives is a Muslim country. This means that if you choose to stay in a local island there will be certain rules to follow. While the islands accommodate tremendously for tourism, it is still inhabited by locals. There certain areas and beaches in which tourist can wear bikinis and beachwear. If you are not in one of those areas, you will need to cover up, especially women. Also, alcohol is not served anywhere on local islands. You can take a short ferry ride out to a “party boat” that is docked near Maafushi island. The boat serves alcohol, beer, and wine until about 2 am each morning.
As you can see, a trip to the Maldives doesn’t only have to be a dream. So, don’t hesitate to book your vacation on a local island.