A natural wonder and home to mesmerizing sunsets, white sand beaches, fresh seafood and plentiful marine life… Paradise? Yes.
The 1200 islands belonging to Maldives are everything that anyone could hope for in an island getaway. The peaceful atmosphere combined with influence from surrounding countries in Asia and Africa, as well as the kind locals and delicious food, the island nation is a beautiful and magical place.
Like most people, the Maldives was always a place that I would only visit in my sweetest dreams. A vacation destination full of luxury hotels and resorts that are far, far beyond my budget. Or is it? Hmmm…
Upon my arrival in Male, I got to talking to the hotel owners. They encouraged me to visit a more local and low key island, Rasdhoo. I figured they knew better than I did and went for it!
Rasdhoo was beautiful and the guesthouse owner treated me like family. I went fishing and enjoyed home cooked meals made by his wife, went snorkeling and swam with all kinds of underwater creatures, and truly had an authentic Maldivian experience. In the five days there, I spent about $100 per day. Some days more, some days left. If I had a friend along with me, that could be cut down significantly.
Okay, so it’s definitely not your typical Asian daily budget, but you could visit the Maldives on $100-$200 per day, and this place is worth every penny. Promise.
Getting There & Accomodation
Fly: My best advice would be to visit the Maldives as an add on to an already planned trip throughout Asia or the Middle East. Flights will likely be on Sri Lankan, Emirates and Qatar airlines, though many other airlines fly there as well.
In my case, I flew in from Sri Lanka. $150 and 3 hour flight time total. Round trip. If you’re not in Sri Lanka (and most people aren’t, but should be, HA!) start looking into flights from India, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai, Singapore, just have look around!
Arrive: Most flights will land in Maldives late in the evening. Take the ferry to Male and spend the night. The boat ride is no more than 5 to 10 minutes and will run you $1 US or 10 Maldivian ruffiya.
Come morning time, head to an island of your choice! The local ferry will cost less than $5, depending on how far you go. If you’re prone to sea sickness and can spare the extra dough, high speed boat can cost as much as $40, cutting the time down quite a bit. For all you big spenders out there, take the sea plane! I can’t speak from experience, but the views are said to be unreal.
A lot of travelers (especially on a budget) will head to Maafushi which is less than 27 KM from Male. This was one of the first islands to open guest houses for foreign tourists. Souvenir and other shopping, as well as countless activities are all available.
If you want a bit more of a local experience (like me) head to a smaller island, like Rasdhoo. It’s small and quiet, but you’re likely to have an authentic experience.
Depending on your budget, you should be able to find a variety of guest houses starting as low as $30 per night. Both dorms and private rooms are available, most with private bathrooms and flat screen TVs. If you’ve got the dough, look into the resorts for an all inclusive trip.
• Diving– The waters surrounding the Maldives are incredible and all you divers are sure to have a field day. Whether you’ve got your open water certification or want to go on a discovery dive, this experience is sure to leave you speechless.
• Snorkeling– Not a diver? No worries, snorkeling is the next best thing. You’ll still be in awe from the underwater world, even from the surface. Watch the sharks, sea turtles, and variety of fish swimming below and all around you.
• Night Fishing– Sure, you can go fishing any time of day, but something about night fishing is just that much better! The moon lights up the starry skies above while you bring in some fresh catch. Grill it up and enjoy some fresh fish for dinner!
• Sunbathing– Just chill! Take a break from all that spending and tiring activity. Grab a towel… Better yet, find a hammock! Head to the beach and relax under the sun. Don’t forget a water bottle.
• Sandbank & Picnic Island– Grab some snorkeling masks from your guest house, hire a boat and head to the sandbank. Spend the day exploring the waters around and swim or walk to picnic island. Stick around. You won’t want to miss the sun set as the moon rises from the sandbank.
• Resort– Don’t forget, you’re on vacation! Head to the resorts for the day and relax by the pool. Have a few drinks, you deserve it!
The list of activities goes on. From jet skiing, parasailing, kite surfing, visiting the different reefs and observing the underwater wildlife. It’s like a playground that never ends.
(Tip: Stay in touch with your guest house owners). They’ll likely be joining in on your daily excursions and can take you to some of their favorite spots. Not only that, but they will probably ask you to join in on their adventures too. Meet their families, stay for dinner. You won’t be disappointed. They take a lot of pride in their island home and want to show it off. Wouldn’t you?)
Eat: Local cuisine is delicious and just about as fresh as it gets. Whether it’s red snapper, tuna, or some beautiful fish that you’ve never heard of, you won’t be disappointed. Need a break from seafood? No problem. Order a plate of Nasi Goreng or Bami Goreng (fried rice/noodles). You won’t spend more than $5, $10 if you’re picky. If you’re craving western food, spend the extra few bucks.
To make the most of your time in Maldives, it is important to do your research and be well-informed. This is a muslim country with a fairly conservative way of life. Respect their rules and culture.
Bikini Beach -if you wish to swim and sunbath, please note that there are designated areas for tourists to wear bikinis. It is ok to swim outside of these areas, but you will need to be fully clothed.
Alcohol– drinking is prohibited on the local islands. If you wish to have a drink, make your way to one of the resorts to do so.