Do you dream of travelling to Maldives? Here is a quick budget guide including tips on choosing local islands, ways to cut down cost and travel on an unbelievably affordable budget.
Maldives is a tropical country in the Indian Ocean composed of 26 ring-shaped atolls, which are made up of more than 1,000 coral islands. It is an Asian country which lies southwest of Sri Lanka and India and is known for its white sand beaches, luxury resort islands, blue lagoons and extensive reefs.
Quick Facts About Maldives
- Capital: Male
- Airport: Most visitors arrive at Velana International Airport in Male which is a gateway to other islands in Maldives
- Religion: Islam (Mandated by Law). Maldives was a Buddhist Kingdom & the ancient Maldivian Kings promoted Buddhism. In the 12th century with the increase in Arab traders in the Indian Ocean the conversion of the Maldivians to Islam happened.
- Language: Dhivehi is the official language. Maldivian people are called Dhivehin. Most of the Dhivehins can speak or understand English.
- Currency: Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) at the time of my visit 1 $ = 15 MVR (March 2019)
- Dressing: Dress conservatively. Always remember that Maldives is a Muslim country & we should respect it by at least covering shoulders & wearing knee length clothes on local islands. Bikinis are allowed only in bikini (Guest) beaches in local islands. In resort islands you need not dress conservatively.
Flights To Maldives: 8200 inr (120 $)
Maldives might be an expensive country but flying to Maldives is cheap especially if you are boarding from India. Average direct return ticket to Male from Kochi is 8000 – 10000 inr. From Bangalore around 12000 – 14000 inr. In between 15000 – 18000 inr if you are looking at options from Mumbai.
Tip: While booking flight tickets check on different sites for bank offers. I always get good discounts through these. At the time of my booking Kotak Bank Card had a flat 5000 inr discount on GoAir flights.
I only paid 8200 inr for direct return ticket from Bangalore to Male which otherwise would have costed me 13200 inr.
Maldives offers 30 days free visa on arrival at the airport with no questions asked. Just show your passport with at least 6 months validity and it’s stamped in no time.
Choosing the local islands
You can choose to stay in Resort islands or Local islands. Every luxury resort in Maldives is its own private island and there are over a 100 to choose from. But if you aren’t going to Maldives to stay in the resort islands then you are left to choose between the local islands that opened to tourists only from 2009.
Based on the proximity to Male, I have grouped some of the local inhabited islands within each Atoll. It is wise, cheap & easy to plan & travel within one atoll if you want to stay in more than one island during your trip.
- South Male Atoll: Maafushi, Guraidhoo, Gulhi
- North Male Atoll: Thulusdhoo, Dhiffushi, Himmafushi, Huraa, Hulhumale
- North Ari Atoll: Rasdhoo, Thoddoo, Mathiveri, Ukulhas
- South Ari Atoll: Mahibadoo, Omadhoo, Dhigurah
♦ Good To Know:
- Choose islands to visit, depending on your interests whether it is Scuba diving, surfing etc
- Local ferries usually ply from Male to islands within one Atoll. To save time & to travel on a budget it’s ideal to plan the islands to visit within one atoll. For example from Rashdoo if I have to go to Thoddoo I can take the local ferry that goes directly. But if I want to go to Maafushi from Rashdoo, I will have to first take a ferry to Male & from there take a ferry to Maafushi as Rashdoo & Maafushi are in different atolls unlike Rashdoo & Thoddoo which belong to the same North Ari Atoll.
- Maafushi & Hulhumale are the most populated local islands. If you want to experience Maldives culture and live amongst locals avoid these islands.
- I stayed in Rasdhoo, Thoddoo & Hulhumule, I also visited 1 sandbank & 2 uninhabited islands.
Internal Transfer: 2000 inr (28 $)
Depending on the time you have & your budget there are four options to hop between islands. Sea Planes, Private Speedboat, Local Speedboat & Local Ferry that runs from the airport / Male City.
- Private Speedboat & Sea Planes: To reach private island resorts you need to take a pricier speedboat or an expensive seaplane transfer depending on the distance from Male. This is the most expensive option and it can be booked at your convenient timing by the resort.
- Local Speedboat: Scheduled speed boats for wealthy locals & tourists to travel between islands. They are fast but not cheap if you are travelling on a low budget. For speed boat transfers you can book online or ask your guesthouse/hotel to book for you.
- Local Ferry: Cheapest and most comfortable but slow. You can buy tickets at the ticket counter in the ferry terminal. All the inhabited islands in the country are connected by ferry just a couple of times a week to another island in the atoll. Local ferries & local speedboat will not help you travel between resorts, as they only stop at inhabited islands. Check the latest ferry time table here : https://www.atolltransfer.com/
♦ Advantages & Disadvantage of local ferries over speed boats
- Comfortable: They are more comfortable than the speedboats as they are bigger in size.
- Cheap: What would cost you $35 in speedboat will cost you $3.5 only in a local ferry. This makes local speed boat way too expensive compared to a local ferry.
- Longer Time: If speed boats takes about an hour, local ferries would easily take about 3 hours to reach.
- Timing: Frequency of public ferries is less and they don’t run every day.
I took a bus from airport to Hulhumale, taxi from Hulhumale to Male, two local ferries and one speedboat during the trip. We would have easily spent 4000 inr in total. That is 2000 inr per person.
Budget Accommodation : 13000 inr (190 $)
Staying in a private resort island will cost you huge. Budget travel in Maldives is all about staying in guest houses/hotels in local islands. You will get a room on local islands for 2800 inr (40 $) per night with AC & Breakfast if you book at least a month or two in advance. Average room price on local islands is around 60-100 $ with AC & Breakfast for 2 people. High budget hotels/resorts on local islands are priced anywhere between 100-150 $ or upwards.
Sharing the room & splitting cost equally, on an average I spent 13000 inr (190 $) for 7 nights to stay in a double room, with AC & breakfast. That is 1850 inr (27 $) per night per person incl tax.
Note: Stay & Food is what shoots up your Maldives budget and is unavoidable.
- It will work out cheaper to travel with someone to split the room cost than travelling solo.
- Look out for guest houses/hotels which are new with no or less reviews as their prices might be low compared to others.
- Sadly, there aren’t any hostels in Maldives. You can book stay through Booking.com, Agonda & Airbnb.
- If you have time, email or talk directly with the guest house/hotel to make your bookings. They offer lower prices than what you see online.
- Off season prices will be low, but I wouldn’t recommend this for budget travelers as there could be sudden cancellations in public ferries & speedboats between the islands due to bad weather.
- While booking accommodation, make sure to double check on the price – including all taxes, as the taxes in Maldives is pretty high.
Food In Maldives: 8000 inr (115 $)
If you are staying in Male, Hulhumale or Maafushi there are plenty of restaurants with different cuisines, as these islands are populated with tourists. Other local islands like Rasdhoo, Thoddoo, Huraa etc have around 4-5 restaurants with limited options.
Popular local food in Maldives include Tuna fish. Neither am I a fan of Tuna or Maldivian food. However here are some of the traditional dishes in Maldives eaten by locals.
- Garudhiya: Fish soup cooked using fish, water and salt. It is served with lime, rice and chillies.
- Mas Huni: This is the most popular breakfast dish. Made by mixing shredded Tuna, grated coconuts, pepper and onions, eaten with Roshi (Chapati)
- Grilled Reef Fish
- Fish Curry & Rice: served with chilli paste & poppadoms (Papad)
Breakfast is mostly included in room rates. Therefore you will be eating out only two meals a day. On an average a main course with a juice should cost you 700 inr (10 $). Fried Rice / Noodles/ Pasta/ Kothu : 4 to 8$. Rice & Curry: 6 to 10 $. Reef fish & sea food is a bit expensive.
♦ Good To Know:
- Restaurants take service charge of 12% on food.
- While I was browsing for places to stay, I didn’t come across any property with common/shared kitchen that lets you cook.
- Almost all guesthouses/hotels provide complimentary coffee/tea throughout the day.
- In all the 3 guest houses that I stayed in 3 different islands, they provided unlimited drinking water without charging extra.
- Alcohol is banned in local islands.
I spent 5 out of 8 days in Rasdhoo. People working in restaurants here were friendly Bangladeshis who would definitely start a conversation with us. Either they recognized us as Indians or mistook us to be locals. Three out of the five restaurants that I usually went to eat in Rasdhoo offered us free juice and sometimes fruits. I am not sure if it’s given as complimentary to everyone who comes to eat, but I definitely saved up pretty much.
All the islands have supermarkets. I stoked up eatables, fruits & juices for mid-day snacks & to avoid going to bed hungry whenever I got lazy to pull myself out of bed after diving.
For 8 days on an average I spent 8000 inr for food.
Activities: 13000 inr (180 USD)
Local islands offer similar activities and prices can vary significantly depending on the island & number of people going for it. Some of the popular activities/tours are:
- Sand Bank & Snorkel Tours: 20 $ onwards
- Scuba dive: 65 $ onward for Discover Scuba Dive for non-divers. 45 $ onward for certified scuba divers. I did PADI OPEN Water Certification in Rasdhoo Island with Rasdhoo Scuba (More about Scuba diving in the upcoming blog)
- Day & Night Fishing: 25 $ onward
- Paddle Board Hire: 10 $
- Jet Skis
- Wind Surfing, Parasailing, Kite Surfing etc
- Resort Island Day Trips/Pass: 100 $ onward (includes transfer to/from Resort Island, unlimited lunch in the restaurant, use of swimming pool and other activities). I didn’t go for the resort day trip.
Activities like sand bank & snorkel tour, Jet Skiing, fun dive for certified divers, paddle boarding would have costed me approx 180 $ in total. (Note: As I collaborated I got a good offer and paid less than 180 $)
- More the number of people, lesser the price per head for the activities.
- I carried my own snorkel gear & saved money on rental every time I went out to snorkel. The bikini beaches in most of the islands is shallow & great for snorkelling. I spent most of the evening’s snorkelling in Rashdoo after the dive trips.
Also Read : [ Why you should visit Naousa ]
Sim: 1000 inr (15 $)
I prefer picking a sim card whenever I travel to a different county, as I always plan the trip myself and would require internet for navigation, on the go planning, browsing and to stay connected on social media. I walked straight into the store at the airport and picked up a sim with 7 days validity & 5 gb data at 15 $.
Note: All the guesthouses/hotels in Maldives provide free wifi, but the speed will be low.
You can carry dollars as it’s accepted everywhere. You don’t really need local currency. However as a practice I exchanged few dollars to Maldivian Ruffian at the airport.
Most of the local islands will have a Bank with ATM. But note that not all places accept credit cards. When I ran out of dollars, I used credit card for which 3.5% processing fee was charged everywhere.
Friends here is the affordable Maldives Budget that will make you plan a trip to Maldives soon.
- Flights To Maldives: 8200 inr
- Visa: Free
- Internal Transfer: 2000 inr
- Accommodation: 13000 inr
- Eating Out: 8000 inr
- Activities: 13000 inr
- Sim: 1000 inr
[ Total: 45000 inr ]
*Note: The prices have been rounded off
Maldives may not be as cheap as India, Thailand or Indonesia, but with cheap flight tickets & proper planning it is possible to travel on an affordable budget. Complete detail on 8 Days Maldives Itinerary & Getting Scuba Certified in Maldives will be up on the blog soon.
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