A quick guide to traveling the Maldives on a budget. This guide includes tips on where to stay and how to cut down on daily costs.
The Maldives is a tropical archipelago nation situated smack in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It’s located southwest of Sri Lanka and India.
The country consists of more than 1100 islands, out of which around a little more than 200 are inhabited. In addition to these island paradises, there are 26 coral atolls which act as a magnet to visitors holidaying in the Maldives.
Most of the islands are private property, home to exclusive Maldives vacation rentals, which in turn provide a major boost to the economy of a country that thrives just on tourism. Having said that, there are many ways to travel around this super expensive island archipelago without having to break the bank that any vacationer can do.
Understanding Maldives: accommodation
The Maldives is basically made up of public islands—inhabited by locals—and private islands which houses the expensive resorts with jaw-dropping price tags. More recently, the government permitted the establishment of guesthouses on the local islands, making away with the necessity of having to book a room in a resort.
Guesthouses and homestays have changed travel in the Maldives. It’s now possible to vacation on an affordable budget in the Maldives.
Food on these public islands has more local flavor. It’s also inexpensive compared to the multinational resorts which charge upward of $200 per person for a meal!
Moreover, this newly introduced government policy has not only brought down prices of accommodation all over the island nation, but created a valuable source of income for locals. Not only is staying in a local guesthouse cheaper, but it’s also a more responsible travel choice.
The best way to go about finding accommodation is through Booking.com, which can get you a room with AC, breakfast, wifi, snorkeling gear, hot showers, and drinking water for around $60 per night.
Alternately, you can try out Airbnb which has plenty of rest houses from $50 to 100 per night. The Water Breeze Guesthouse at Maafushi, for example, offers rooms at about $65 per night with an enormous buffet breakfast spread and fancy rooms. So if you look at these prices, it’s clear that you can stay in the Maldives on a moderate budget.
Island hopping in the Maldives on a budget
Out of a huge chunk of the thousand-plus islands, here are a few local options ideal for the budget-conscious tourist.
The most popular of these islands is undoubtedly Maafushi on the south Male atoll, which can be reached in half an hour by speedboat from the international airport. The island has a wide range of cheap accommodation and food options. Maafushi is the ideal island for people who want to visit the Maldives on a budget.
Fulidhoo on the Vaavu atoll is great for scuba divers, or anyone interested in viewing underwater marine life. The place is less populated, laid back, and quiet, making it ideal for relaxation. Room wise, the Kinan Retreat is a perfect beachfront property at around $70 per night.
Ukulhas in North Ari Atoll is the best for getting up close to manta rays and hammerhead sharks when the season is right.
Things to do in the Maldives on a budget
Traveling to the Maldives is not just grabbing a drink and indulging at a fancy resort (unless that’s what you want). There is plenty of action available at a reasonable price.
The Maldives has some of the best surfing spots in the world. Places such as Cokes, Chicken, Sultan, and Pasta Point offer every level of surfing.
With a plethora of islands it is no wonder that scuba diving is a very popular sport in the Maldives. Places like South Ari Atoll and Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll are well-known spots to see manta rays during their annual migration. Diving at the mud range Cinnamon Resort, located on the local Fulidhoo island, is highly rewarding for viewing sharks and manta rays as well.
Day excursions in the Maldives
There are plenty of experiences to participate in apart from lazing around at the beach in the Maldives. Though they vary from place to place, there are many one-day trips available well worth the visit. Some of the most sought after trips include:
- Snorkeling tours
- Island hopping trips
- Dolphin watching tours
- Snorkeling with manta rays
- Snorkeling with whale sharks
- Picnic trips on the sand banks
Remember that the best way to book your trip is through the guesthouse you are staying in.
Transport in the Maldives on a budget
Access to resort islands is only by seaplane or speedboat… which can set you back by $300 to $500 for a short ride. In case you do want to visit a resort, inquire from the locals about the availability of a fishing boat that can do the job at a tenth of the cost.
Food in the Maldives
There is no dearth of good and cheap food in the Maldives, though options can be limited on smaller islands. Since almost every hotel and guest house has free breakfast, it’s best to stock up, then skip lunch. Restaurants charge up to $10 for dinner, with menus ranging from chicken to fish delicacies, which are quite reasonable.
The trick to traveling the Maldives on a budget
One thing is sure: the Maldives will never become a cheap Asian destination to tick off your bucket list. This incredibly beautiful island nation is definitely pricey. But with planning and effort, it can be visited at a very reasonable budget. The trick is to simply stick to the local islands for accommodation, food, and excursions since these will take up a major portion of the budget.
If you stay local, you’re guaranteed to bring back some unforgettable memories, and a strong urge to return to the paradise nation once more.
Yay transparency! There are affiliate links in this post. If you book something using my links, I’ll make a bit of change at no extra cost to you.