Travel tips for visiting Golden Triangle in India

Interested in visiting Golden Triangle in India by yourself and don’t know how and where to start? Here is an example of our February itinerary and some useful tips that will help you to get ready for this unique experience. If you haven’t visited India before, you need to prepare yourself for quite a rollercoaster, trust me.

HOW MANY DAYS YOU NEED FOR VISITING GOLDEN TRIANGLE

On the map it will seem like you can do the Golden Triangle within 3 days, but the reality is a bit different. First of all, the traffic in India is something beyond your imagination and you can easily spend 6 hours for just over 200 kilometers’ drive. There are a lot of agencies that offer “Daily trips from Delhi to Taj Mahal”, but that must be one hell of a ride. Not to mention the crowds you will encounter if you are not there first thing in the morning. I’d say that our 4-day (5 nights) Golden Triangle itinerary is perfect if you don’t want to spend too much time in India and rather combine your trip with visiting some other destination, like Maldives or Sri Lanka.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT

In terms of the weather the best time to visit Golden Triangle is from October to mid-April, if you want to avoid the unbearable heat of the summer and the downpour of monsoon season. We were there in the beginning of February and while daily temperatures were somewhere between 22-25°C, it was quite chilly during the nights – winter temperatures can easily drop below 10°C. Unfortunately, in the winter months air pollution rises and brings the smog, especially around Delhi. So, I’d rather chose March for visiting if I were you.

HOW TO TRAVEL

You can visit the Golden Triangle either by car, bus, train or airplane. The easiest way is to hire a driver through a local agent, like we did. He was our “shadow companion” during the whole trip – he picked us up at the airport and dropped us off for the return flight. Hiring a driver in India is a good option for several reasons: the service is relatively cheap, the drivers are very reliable and even if you decide to take a local flight you still need a transport to get to all the attractions. If I had to do it all over again, I would probably consider choosing a return flight from Jaipur to Delhi (check here for local flights) however, keep in mind that in winter months the smog can interfere with flight schedules.

HOW TO PICK THE RIGHT TAVEL GUIDE AND DRIVER

The best way is to contact any tour agency in India. There are plentiful of contacts on the internet, I found mine on Tripadvisor and I was really satisfied with the service. Mr. Deepak was actually the one who suggested the itinerary for us, after I had told him that I only wanted “just to see Taj Mahal”. I am grateful that I followed his advice because it would have been a shame to miss Jaipur and Agra fort. Besides arranging the driver, Deepak also advised us to take a guide in each city and that was another good idea – without them we would probably miss more than half of the sights on our way. We arranged everything via email and if you want his contact jus drop me a line. Anyway, make sure that you ask what is included in the price: fuel and tolls, taxes for crossing the state borders, insurance, driver’s expenses (his accommodation, food etc)… and also ask if the driver speaks English. That can be quite a challenge, espeically with their funny accent 😉

OUR GOLDEN TRIANGLE ITINERARY – BY CAR

  • DELHI – AGRA (230 km): We landed in Delhi Airport on Monday at 3 am, spent what was left of the night at the hotel and continued towards Agra at 11 am. We arrived to Agra around 4 pm which was perfect to stop at Mehtab Bagh and see the Taj Mahal across the river. If you are lucky you might catch a beautiful sunset.
  • AGRA – JAIPUR (240 km): We woke up in Agra at 5 am (I shit you not) to see Taj Mahal. You will need a couple of hours to see it properly, depending on your obsession with selfies and lust for historical details. After seeing Taj Mahal, we visited Agra Fort (another hour or so for the tour) and continued our trip (around 4 hour’s drive) towards Jaipur.
  • JAIPUR – DELHI (270 km): After seeing the most iconic sites of Jaipur (Hawa Mahal, Jal Mahal, Amber Fort and Planetarium) which took us about 4 hours, we returned to Delhi with over 6 hours’ ride that I will never forget. The traffic there is really unbelievable.
  • 2 NIGHTS IN DELHI: We stayed in the same hotel as on the night of our arrival and spent our last day to see a piece of Delhi. Unfortunately, we got stuck in the traffic so often that we had to skip a few things but hey, that’s life.

WHERE TO STAY DURING THE TRIP

I followed my friend’s advice to book only 5-star hotels in order to avoid stomach problems (hygiene is a BIG problem in India!). However, we didn’t want to waste too much money just to spend the night in each city, so I went for the most affordable options: for Delhi I booked WelcomHotel Dwarka (relatively close to the airport but over 1 hour drive from the city center, so do your own math…), for Agra I hesitated a little about that Taj Mahal view but I am glad I didn’t pay that extra money (we wouldn’t have seen it anyway because of the smog/fog) so I picked Crystal Sarovar Premiere, and in Jaipur I booked Ramada Jaipur (let’s say it was ok for the money). I advise you to pre-book your hotels especially during high season – remember, Golden Triangle sights get crowded in seconds. And I am sure you can find some good options among 3 or 4-star hotels as well.

MEDICATION AND VACCINATION – HOW TO AVOID GETTING SICK

Honestly, I was terrified of this trip because of everything I had read and heard about hygiene standards in India. I didn’t want to risk even so much as a tiny digestion problem, especially because the best part of the trip (Maldives) was yet to come. I took Hepatitis A and B vaccinations (make sure you calculate the time you need between the intervals) because I plan to travel to Africa soon and I will need it anyway. I didn’t complicate with other vaccinations (no need for Malaria medication in this area, especially not in the dry period), but I did fill up my travel health kit with these extras: Carboline chewable tablets, soluble hydration tablets, hand sanitizers and (don’t laugh) rubber gloves. I also followed these simple rules: wash your hands all the time, drink only bottled water (I also washed my teeth with it), eat only fruits you can peel, eat only cooked or grilled food and flush everything with some whiskey from time to time. Worked for me perfectly 😉

WHAT TO WEAR IN INDIA

India is an extremely religious country so it is advised for the ladies to dress appropriately. There are no restrictions however and you will see a lot of half-naked women (mostly tourists) wandering around but if you want to avoid getting stared at, at least cover your shoulders. The most elegant way is to wear a scarf (or better yet buy one on one of the markets) and not too tight pants. If you are a solo female traveler, I advise you to follow these rules more carefully because there is a high level of violence against women in India.

AND FINALLY – TRAVEL COSTS AND FEES

  • Visa: 50$ (yes you need one, you apply online and it takes max 3 days to get it)
  • 5-star hotel: around 80$ for 2, breakfast included
  • The driver: 250$ for 4 days (plus drop off at the airport), tips included
  • Travel guides in each city: 20$, tips included
  • Dinner for 2 in 5-star hotel: 50-60$
  • Starbucks latte: 5$
  • Rickshaw ride in Delhi market (around 15 minutes): 200 rupees (3$)
  • Entrance fees: from 500 to 1000 rupees (8 to 15 $)
  • Usual tips: around 10%

If you want to save some money, follow the basic rules: bargain for the final price and try not to look like a naïve tourist, pick less expensive restaurants but be careful about what you eat, avoid “guide-recommended” places and shops (they get commission from it)… but make sure you tip your staff properly – it is quite a battle for survival down there.

You are welcome to follow my Facebook page where you can see the rest of my photos from India. Have I missed out something important? Got any questions or your own tips to share? Scroll down for comments, I will be happy to read them!

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Hotel review: Crystal Sarovar Premiere (Agra, India)

I was told that when it comes to India, you should stick to 5-star hotels for several reasons: they are safe, they are clean and you don’t have to worry about getting stomach problems because of food and kitchen hygiene. Since we only had 4 days to spend on our Golden Triangle trip (and the roads in India are definitely not a joyride if you are having digestion issues) we decided not to take the risk and went for 5-star hotels during the whole trip, including Agra. I chose Crystal Sarovar Premiere hotel because of good recommendations, proximity to the grand Taj Mahal and a decent price, which included breakfast and free Wi-Fi.

Location

First let me say there is probably no such place like fancy location in Agra, unless you chose a direct view of Agra Fort or Taj Mahal (and pay for it properly). The photo below shows the usual situation on the streets of Agra and Crystal Sarovar Premiere is surrounded with similar “sights”. The hotel is moved a bit away from the busy street but still in the middle of nowhere – meaning that you can forget about having a decent walk around it and enjoy the views. Unless you love cows. To reach Taj Mahal or Agra fort you will need a car (I do recommend to hire a driver for your Golden Triangle route) and I suppose you don’t want to be walking over half an hour early in the morning or late in the evening especially if your GPS is not 100% working.

Rooms

The perks of being a travel blogger sometimes include free room upgrades, though I am not sure if that wouldn’t have happened anyway as the hotel was not fully booked. The staff at the reception as well as in other facilities was super friendly and I believe that was not a coincidence – you can see they try very hard to please their guests. Our room was fantastic and it came with very cozy bed, free tea & coffee, bottled water, plentiful of free toiletries, and most important: it was very clean. There was a glass window between the bed and the bathroom but since you probably don’t want to observe every move of your partner, it came with a curtain as well 😊

Food & Dining

Breakfast in the main restaurant was fantastic and we decided to have dinner in the hotel as well. Crystal Sarovar Premiere hotel has 3 different restaurants: besides the main one you can chose from Lattice (multi-cuisine) and Sky Grill on the rooftop with a very nice ambient (we even had a romantic live music) and most importantly – fantastic food and great choice of wine. Have to warn you though, such dinners do not come cheap in India at all. You need to add taxes to the prices shown in the price list, so in the end a dinner for two (just soup and main course) costs around 50€.

Other facilities

We only stayed at Crystal Sarovar Premiere for one night, so we didn’t use any facilities apart from the Sky Grill, but the hotel has fitness and a nice rooftop pool (unfortunately we only saw it in the evening) from where you can actually see Taj Mahal – but only if you are really lucky with clear skies, which is kind of rare in Agra I guess. Wi-Fi worked well and we didn’t have any complaints during our stay at all.

Anda’s rate: 9 from 10

Bottom line: Crystal Sarovar Premiere hotel is a very good choice for travelers who want to stay in Agra for one night and have their transport taken care of. The hotel has everything you need and the prices are very decent for 5-star hotel standards. If you are not picky about the location and prefer a good service to “walking distance” to one of the 7th world wonder, I definitely recommend staying here.

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Maldives Fairytale

Ah, Maldives. What can be said about this tropical paradise that hasn’t already been written? Or better yet, are words even enough to describe this heaven on Earth? Well, for one thing – every island is a little bit different and each traveler has his own idea of paradise. I have visited Maldives 3 times and I can say with no doubt in my mind that I will keep coming back. After all I have added the islands in my travel favorites list. Because Maldives represent everything that a beach lover like me needs to recover from everyday stress I have to put up with.

SHORT INTRODUCTION

Maldives lie in the middle of Indian Ocean, southwest of India, comprising a territory of around 300 square kilometers, 26 atolls (collections of islands) and around 1200 islands of which only around 100 are open for tourism. Maldives main Velana international airport lies on a separate island next to its capital Male which inhabits around one third of Maldives’ total population (altogether around 420.000 inhabitants). Maldives are very religious country – over 98% of people are committed to Islam, which reflects in the culture, architecture and their way of life. As a tourist you won’t feel any of this, unless you decide to visit Male where women need to dress properly (covering their shoulders and knees) and no alcohol or pork are served in the restaurants.

WHEN TO VISIT

Maldives have a tropical monsoon climate which means relative high humidity and pleasant temperatures around 30°C year-round. If you want to avoid being wet every day (which actually has its own charm as the rain is always warm and you can jump into the ocean just for the fun of it), you should escape the continental winter and visit the islands from January to May.

 

GETTING THERE AND AROUND

Usually people book Maldives vacation “in package” which includes the flight from your home destination. The more fun way is to book the flight yourself so you can be more flexible and you can combine your trip with Sri Lanka or India, which are popular destinations as well. In any case you will land in Velana International airport and from there you need to get to your final destination – the island or resort, whatever you want to call it. If you book the package with an agency it is highly likely that the transfer is included in your package. Make sure you get this confirmation because the cost of aerial transfer can be as high as 400 USD per person! Boat transfers are cheaper but can be a real pain for your stomach when the sea is rough and if the ride takes more than 30 minutes. Plus, you will miss all the fun watching other islands from above. Do your math and choose wisely!

WHICH ISLAND TO CHOOSE

First let me say that each island is actually a resort and most of them are owned by foreign companies. This means only you (and other resort guests) and the staff are on the island and nobody else. Which island to choose depends on your idea of paradise and the depth of your wallet. Prices for 7 nights all-inclusive plan in 4-star resort vary from 1400 – 2000€ per person, depending on which type of villa you rent. By choosing a 3-star resort (in some cases they are well worth the money!) or decreasing your meal option to half board, you can save a few 100€ and still get a good service. Just keep in mind that the drinks will be on you! If you want to save 15€ you can book your hotel through this link.

When it comes to choosing the island, I always follow these steps: 1. the resort has to offer all-inclusive plan (I want my Maldives to be wallet-free), 2. I want to stay in beach villa with direct access to the ocean, 3. I want a gym for my ass to stay fantastic even during vacation, 4. I want free Wi-Fi to communicate with my followers 24/7 (actually it is because of my job, but who would believe me) and 5. The island has to be rated with at least 4 (or better 4.5) stars on TripAdvisor. Of course I look after my budget as well – I usually chose 4-star resorts, and here is one that I can highly recommend: Adaaran Select Meedhupparu.

By the way – recently Maldives changed the tourism law which means that locals can rent their homes and guestrooms as well. So there is also an option for low cost vacation. But in that case don’t expect that you will have direct beach access, that phenomenal ocean view, the beach won’t be cleaned every day, alcohol will probably be off limits… to sum up – don’t do Maldives on budget, that is my advice. You deserve better!

THINGS TO DO IN MALDIVES

Besides the obvious – swimming in crystal clear ocean, drinking cocktails in the shade of your private palm, reading a good book and making selfies in your pink flamingo – there is so much more you can do. Atolls are rich with marine life and if your island is surrounded by a coral reef: get under water and snorkel until you drop! I can spend hours under water (make sure you wear heavy sunscreen or a T-shirt), especially in the company of cute little reef sharks. If you are fond of them as well, check my review of Royal Island Resort & Spa.

Following the water activities – most of the resorts offer water sports like kayaking, surfing, kiting and SUPing (not all of them are included in all-inclusive plan though), so plenty of stuff there to keep you awake. If you get tired of the sun you can always sweat in the gym or play pools in the bar. You can also take one of the excursions like deep sea fishing, night fishing or visiting Male. So, make sure your MasterCard or Visa is with you all the time 😉

DRESS CODE AND OTHER TIPS

Dress code depends on the type of the island you visit – sometimes all the facilities are paved with sand so you won’t need shoes your entire vacation. But usually normal clothing (like shorts and skirts) are necessary for the main restaurants, while you can wear your flip flops throughout the day. My rule when in Maldives is: no makeup and no high heels. And trust me, you don’t need any sweaters, even at night, no matter which month you are visiting.

Do bring adapter for electricity as you might need one and make sure you take a lot of sunscreen and the basic first aid kit (you can check mine here). If your island is covered with corals, you might want to bring water shoes (you probably won’t wear it but just to put your mind at rest).  Keep in mind that there is not much to do in Maldives after sunsets (which is around 6 – 7 pm), so it won’t hurt to bring some books… in my case I brought the first season of The Blacklist and watched it on my computer 😉

 

SAFETY

This one is tricky. Maldives are known to have had a lot of political issues in the past decades, and current situation is unfortunately no different. You can read about the latest events which call for “state of emergency” here. However, this only reflects to the capital Male and I can say from the first hand that the situation doesn’t interfere with tourism on the islands. Still, it might be wise to avoid visiting Male for a while. If you do, make sure you avoid the crowds and try not to stand out too much. Again let me remind you that women should wear proper clothes, as this shows respect to their religion and tradition.

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT MALDIVES AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

If you are a beach lover who appreciates pristine beaches, crystal clear water in 50 shades of blue, the serenity of nature in the middle of the ocean and a touch of luxury while pampering yourself with great culinary experience (Maldives cuisine is a mixture of Indian and Thai food, rich in fish, vegetables and tropical fruits), then start saving the money and get your ass to this little piece of heaven before it disappears due to the climate change which we all hold responsibility for. In fact, around 100 islands have disappeared already! So don’t only ask yourself what Maldives can do for you but what you can do for Maldives.

Got any questions or comments? Scroll down for a comment, I will be happy to read your thoughts! You are also kindly invited to like my Facebook page where you can follow my updates from all over the world 😉

 

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Sanjski Maldivi – nasveti za brezskrbne počitnice

“Kako spet Maldivi, a nisi tam že bila?” in “Pa kaj vidiš na teh Maldivih, a ni tam en sam dolgčas?” sta tipična komentarja prijateljev, ko izvejo, da grem “spet” tja. Ko kasneje na družbenih omrežjih objavim kakšno fotografijo, se plošča hitro obrne: “Packa, ti na plaži, pri nas pa kidamo!”, “Kako sem ti fouš, uživaj še zame!” in “Koliko pa stane en teden na Maldivih? Jaz bi tudi!”.

Okusi so seveda različni in tudi žepi niso vedno dovolj globoki, da bi si lahko privoščili pobeg v ta mali raj sredi Indijskega oceana. Če pa koga vseeno zamika in želi Maldive obiskati še preden izginejo (zaradi podnebnih sprememb naj bi bila večina otokov pod vodo do leta 2100), sem pripravila nekaj nasvetov in odgovorov na najpogostejša vprašanja, ki vam bodo pomagali pri vaši odločitvi.

NEKAJ OSNOVNIH PODATKOV

Maldivi ležijo sredi indijskega oceana, jugozahodno od Indije in so najmanjša Azijska država, tako po površini (nekaj manj kot 300 km2), kot po številu prebivalstva (430.000). Njihovo ozemlje sestavlja več kot 1200 otočkov, od tega jih je za turizem na voljo le okoli 100. Glavno mesto leži na prenatrpanem otoku Male, kjer živi okoli 150.000 prebivalcev, mednarodno letališče Velana pa je na sosednjem otoku, na katerega lahko pridete z mini trajektom (vozi vsakih 15 minut). Maldivi so strogo muslimanska država in več kot 98% prebivalcev je zavezanih islamu. To pomeni nič alkohola, svinjine in razgaljenosti na glavnem otoku. Na turističnih otokih je sicer (v mejah normale) dovoljeno vse, razen nudizma. Časovna razlika s Slovenijo je + 4 ure, kar je z vidika »jet laga« zelo sprejemljivo.

KDAJ OBISKATI MALDIVE

Maldivi ležijo v tropskem pasu, zato se temperatura skozi vse leto giblje okoli 30°C, kar je idealno za vse letne čase. Nekoliko manj idealna je vlaga v zraku, zaradi katere je lahko občasno tudi zelo vroče, nikakor pa to ni Dubaj ali Indija, kjer se lahko temperature povzpnejo tudi do 50°C. Najmanj dežja je februarja, nekoliko več pa v jesenskem času (september – december). Sama sem doslej Maldive vedno obiskala pozimi in dežja praktično nisem zaznala – dežuje večinoma ponoči ali pa za par minut podnevi, kar nikakor ni moteče. Dež je topel, ozračje je toplo, skok v morje in hakuna matata 😉

KAKO PRITI DO TJA IN KOLIKO STANE LETALSKA KARTA

Slovencem najbližje in najugodnejše letalske povezave so ponavadi preko Istanbula, Dubaja ali Abu Dhabija, vendar je pred tem potrebno prestopiti še kje znotraj Evrope (odvisno od letalske družbe). Sama najraje letim iz Ljubljane, saj dodatne cestnine, parkirnina in utrujenost na poti ne odtehtajo morebitne razlike v ceni karte z bližnjih letališč. Splača se preveriti morda še odhode iz Zagreba, od koder letita Emirates in Etihad Airways direktno do Abu Dhabija (let traja okoli 5 ur), nato pa še 4 ure do Maldivov. Letalske karte stanejo okoli 700€, z malo sreče in fleksibilnosti pri datumih pa jih lahko dobite tudi pod 500€. Nekaj nasvetov o nakupu letalske karte si lahko preberete tu.

 

 

KATERI OTOK IZBRATI

Naprej pojasnilo: otok je v bistvu »resort« in le-ti so večinoma v lasti tujcev. To pomeni, da ste na otoku samo vi (in ostali gostje resorta) ter osebje, ki vas razvaja. Tipična velikost otoka je okoli 300 x 800 metrov. Katerega izbrati, je seveda povezano z vašim proračunom in prehranjevalnimi navadami. Jaz sem pri izbiri vedno pozorna na naslednje stvari: 1. da ponuja opcijo all inclusive (kar pomeni, da imaš vključeno vso hrano, pijačo in večino športnih aktivnosti), 2. da ponuja bodisi panoramski polet do otoka, bodisi kratko vožnjo s čolnom (dolgotrajna vožnja v primeru velikih valov je lahko zelo neprijetna), 3. da je plaža okoli celotnega otoka peščena in kar se da široka (nekateri otoki so že malce »načeti« zaradi podnebnih sprememb), 4. da so vile oziroma bungalovi neposredno na plaži (direkten dostop do morja) in 5. da je na Tripadvisorju ocenjen vsaj s štirimi krogci, kar je relativno dobra orientacija za kvaliteto storitev, ki jih resort ponuja. Sama sem Maldive doslej obiskala 3-krat (prvič pred več kot 15 leti, zato se podrobnosti ne spomnim), zadnja dva resorta pa sta bila Royal Island Resort & Spa in Adaaran Select Meedhupparu. Vse tri izbire so bile odlične! Če želite prihraniti 15€ pri rezervaciji hotela, lahko to storite preko te povezave.

KOLIKO STANE 1 TEDEN NA MALDIVIH

Spet odvisno od vaših potreb in navad. Še ne dolgo nazaj je bil turizem na Maldivih strogo omejen samo na resorte, odkar so spremenili zakon, ki omogoča namestitve tudi pri »lokalcih«, pa se na nekaterih otokih najde tudi kakšna poceni namestitev, kot je hostel ali soba. Vendar vam tega ne priporočam. Lepe plaže imate namreč tudi na Hrvaškem ali pa v Grčiji (sicer tudi tiste niso ravno poceni) – in če niste resnično ljubitelj belega peska, palm, tropskih ribic in kristalno čistega morja, potem raje izberite kakšno cenejšo možnost za zimski oddih. Maldivi so namreč destinacija, ki si zasluži, da jo zajamete s polno žlico. Za 1 teden all inclusive počitnic (otok 4 zvezdice) boste odšteli okoli 1.500€ na osebo. Za začetek morda lahko izberete tudi kak cenejši otok (tudi resorti s 3 zvezdicami so lahko zelo spodobni), ali pa vzamete pol penzion, si pri zajtrku po »slovensko« žepe nabašete s hrano in s tem prihranite še par 100€. Kot rečeno, 15€ popusta lahko dobite z rezervacijo preko te povezave.

ALI ITI V LASTNI REŽIJI ALI Z AGENCIJO

Tole mi bo šlo stežka od rok, ampak Maldive se splača rezervirati preko agencije. Če ste malo bolj avanturističnega duha in boste obisk Maldivov združili s kakšno drugo destinacijo (popularna je kombinacija s Šri Lanko ali Indijo), potem lahko letalsko karto kupite sami, bivanje na otoku pa le vplačajte prek agenta, saj je res pomembno, da si priskrbite tudi prevoz do otoka. Sama sem počitnice na Maldivih že dvakrat rezervirala pri agenciji iz Beograda, vendar sem kasneje slišala, da so postali precej neodzivni. Za kontakt mi lahko pišete in vas bom poskusila povezati.

DOKUMENTI IN OSTALE STVARI, NA KATERE NE SMETE POZABITI

Za vstop na Maldive potrebujemo potni list in vizo, ki pa je brezplačna in jo izpolniš na letališču. Da te spustijo v državo, moraš na obrazec obvezno vpisati, na katerem otoku boš dopustoval (naslov) in pa datum povratka. V državo ne smeš prinesti alkohola in svinjine, zato bodite pozorni vsaj na ročno prtljago (kovčke redko pregledujejo). Na turističnih otokih alkohol točijo normalno, brez skrbi. Tam je tudi bikini normalno dovoljen (ne pa topless), kar pa ne velja za glavni otok – tam morajo imeti ženske pokrita ramena (princip »več je bolje«). Zaradi drugačnih vtičnic je fino imeti s seboj adapter, čeprav jih imajo nekateri boljši hoteli že v sobi. Za plačevanje na otoku lahko uporabljate kartico, ali pa ameriške dolarje – menjava denarja v lokalno valuto zato ni potrebna. Ne pozabite tudi na UV zaščito, saj je sonce močno skozi vse leto (sicer se kreme kupijo tudi na otokih, vendar so precej dražje kot pri nas).

KAKŠNA OBLAČILA IN OBUTEV VZETI S SABO

Najprej apeliram na vse ženske – prosim pozabite na make-up in visoke petke. Na Maldivih smo zato, da se sprostimo in uživamo. Za fotografije si nadenete sončna očala in nasmeh, pa je stvar rešena 😉 Kar se tiče oblačil in obutve je fino preveriti, kakšna so »dress code« pravila. Moj prvi obisk Maldivov se je končal tako, da sem 3/4 oblek prinesla nazaj neuporabljenih. Otok je bil namreč popolnoma v pesku – tudi glavna restavracija – zato smo bili 24 ur praktično »goli in bosi«, tudi na večerji. Sicer za restavracije običajno veljajo pravila, da ne smeš biti v kopalkah in bos, so pa dovolj kratke hlače ali krila ter obutev za na plažo. Če boste šli na kak bolj ekskluziven otok, potem se seveda spodobi, da se za večerje malo bolje »spedenate«… ampak mene tam ne boste našli 😉

KAJ POČETI NA OTOKU

Kako prosim? Kaj pa če bi enostavno »izklopili« in samo uživali v brezdelju? Ker točno to se na Maldivih počne – brezskrbno kopanje v kristalno čisti vodi, uživanje ob branju dobre knjige na ležalniku pod palmo, srkanje koktejla ob pogledu na 50 odtenkov modre in preživljanje »kvalitetnega« časa z vašim partnerjem. Ali pa z mamo – tudi takšnih »parov« je kar precej 🙂

Če izberete otok, ki je obdan s koralnim grebenom, potem boste gotovo uživali tudi v opazovanju bogatega podvodnega sveta. Snorkljanje na Maldivih je »must«, še posebej, če so zraven prisotne tudi mante in mali morski »kužki«. Oboji so nenevarni, brez skrbi. Opremo lahko najamete na otoku (pri all inclusive ponudbi je vključena v ceno), jaz pa jo najraje vzamem kar s sabo. Sama pod vodo lahko preživim tudi par ur na dan (slike lahko pogledate tukaj. ). Večina otokov ponuja tudi ostale vodne športe (kajak, SUP, kajtanje, surfanje), fitnes, odbojko na mivki, namizni tenis itd. Če ste vsaj malo športnika po duši, vam zagotovo ne bo dolgčas.

IZLET NA GLAVNI OTOK MALE IN VARNOST

Bližnji otoki običajno ponujajo izlet na glavni otok Male, ki pa po mojem mnenju pride v poštev samo, če se res »nimate kam dati«. Boljša opcija je, da ta izlet izkoristite ob povratku, če boste na odhodni let čakali več kot 4 ure. Po tem, ko vas bo otoški prevoz spravil do letališča, spravite prtljago v varovan prostor (za to boste plačali 10$) in poiščite znak za »ferry to Male« – do tja vas bo pripeljal mini trajekt, ki vozi vsakih 15 minut, cena za povratno vožnjo pa je zgolj 2$. Velika verjetnost je, da vas bo na poti ujel kak lokalni vodič, ki vam bo ponudil spremstvo in vodenje po glavnih točkah – ker niso predragi, se vam jih splača vzeti. Če želite, mi pišite za direkten in preverjen kontakt. Na Maleju lahko obiščete ribjo tržnico, mošejo, parlament in spomenik revolucije… ni ne vem kaj, a še vedno bolje kot čakati na letališču. Ženske, ne pozabite zakriti ramen in po možnosti tudi kolena!

V času pisanja tega članka je bila politična situacija na Maldivih precej napeta. Samoizvoljeni predsednik je namreč za kratek čas (februar 2018) razglasil izredne razmere zaradi protestnikov, ki želijo izpustitev oziroma oprostitev političnih zapornikov, med drugim tudi prvega demokratično izvoljenega predsednika, ki je moral prebegniti iz države. ZDA, Nemčija in Velika Britanija zaradi trenutne situacije celo odsvetuje obisk Maldivov, vendar lahko iz prve roke potrdim, da napetosti na otokih ni čutiti. Vsi se namreč zelo dobro zavedajo, da je otočje zelo odvisno od turizma in bodo naredili vse, da se razmere ne zaostrijo.

Sem vas prepričala ali odvrnila od obiska Maldivov? Imate morda kakšne drugačne izkušnje? Sem kaj pozabila? Zapišite spodaj v komentar, z veseljem vam bom odgovorila 😉 Vabljeni tudi na mojo Facebook stran, kjer lahko najdete več fotografij z Maldivov. 

 

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Resort review: Royal Island Resort & Spa (Baa Atoll, Maldives)

We visited Maldives in combination with India’s Golden Triangle for my birthday in February. Since this was my 3rd time to visit the islands, I knew exactly what I wanted: 1. air transfer to the island, 2. all-inclusive option with Wi-Fi and fitness facilities, 3. private beach villa with sea-view, 4. an island big enough to have a decent walk around it and 5. reef sharks – I am in love with the little beasts. Royal Island Resort & Spa seemed to have it all so I booked a 6 nights vacation through a travel agency which has helped me with my last Maldives booking. If you want to do the reservation yourself, you can get 15€ discount by booking through this link.

LOCATION AND GETTING THERE

Royal Island Resort & Spa is a five star resort located in the Horubadhoo island (200 x 800 in width and lenght) and you have two options of getting there: by speed boat (which takes around 2,5 hours) or by plane. Unfortunately I didn’t know that »by plane« means by a real aircraft, landing at a domestic Dharavandhoo Airport. This means you have to go to local departures terminal on Velana International and wait for your next flight (in our case the waiting time was a bit over 2 hours). The local flight takes only 20 minutes but is not as exciting as a seaplane “atoll transfer” which offers better aerial view of other islands thanks to lower altitude of flying. After landing you are picked up by a shuttle bus and transferred to a boat for a 10 minutes’ ride to the island. So be prepared for quite a journey…

VILLAS AND ROOMS

There are 3 types of villas on Royal Island Resort & Spa, all with direct beach access but none of them are located on the water directly. If you want a bit more luxury experience you can book a superior villa with a small private pool and a bit more space but to me it didn’t seem worth the money.

I emailed the resort prior to my arrival and asked for a beach villa on the sunset part of the island as I wanted to jump to the beach to catch the fireball on the sky whenever needed (oh the tough life on an instagrammer 😉 ). They gave us villa number 193 which was nice from several perspectives: the beach was wide and clean, we had plenty of shade, we could see the sunset and it was a short walk to the restaurant – which was handy for stretching our legs from snorkeling.

The villa was quite spacious and had everything we needed: bed was comfy, AC was working well (it would be even better if it wasn’t located directly above the bed), Wi-Fi and TV did their jobs, the bathroom had 2 showers (we only used the “outer one” which is much more romantic) with basic toiletries, and the best part was the veranda with comfortable chairs and 2 sunbeds (beach towels changed every day).  Minibar was refilled every day with free bottle of water, Coca-Cola and mango juice.

THE BEACH

The beach is fantastic throughout the island and you can walk round and round it in about 20 minutes (stops for photos included). There are small parts where you can see that the ocean has done some damage with the waves and global warming but even there the water access is very smooth and nice. The lagoon with its turquoise colors is so tempting you can hardly walk around the island without a short swim. There are a lot of broken corals in the water however, so be careful and if you are not fond by that, you might take swimming shoes with you.

ALL INCLUSIVE PACKAGE

You can choose from 3 options: half board, full board and all inclusive. With all inclusive package you get free meals in the main Maakana restaurant (breakfast, lunch, dinner), afternoon snacks in the main bar by the pool, free drinks throughout the day (alcohol limited to “local” brands, but the choice is not bad – you can get free Carlsberg as well), basic water sports gear (kayak and snorkeling equipment), access to fitness center, squash, badminton, tennis and volleyball playground and table tennis. For Spa access and everything within it you have to pay.

RESTAURANTS

The food in the main Maakana restaurant is absolutely fantastic. Fresh tropical fruits for all meals, excellent choice of Mediterranean and Asian soups, a variety of vegetables, meat and fish – each day prepared a bit differently and with a lot of care. Not to mention the sweets and the decoration. There was no need to book the other restaurant on the beach (for which you have to pay extra and is definitely not cheap) … I probably wouldn’t get bored of Maakana even after 14 days. Compliments to the chef indeed!

Also the ambient in Maakana with a big pool in the middle is very nice. On Valentine’s evening they covered it with hearts and for Chinese New Year the decoration was thematic again. You can see a lot of effort and care is put into making people happy.

SNORKELING

Horubadhoo island is a part of Baa Atoll which supports one of the largest groups of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean and was designated as a part of UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve due to its rich marine life. Snorkeling around the island is therefore a must. It is also very easy and safe since the island is surrounded by a coral reef and you can easily spot different types of tropical fish anywhere. And yes, sharkies are there too. The small reef sharks are swimming within the reef around the island all the time so you can spot them from the beach or the piers any time. You can check some of my underwater photos in my Facebook album.

THE STAFF

We didn’t have much needs during our stay but from what I could see the staff was very kind and helpful – from the waiters to housekeeping and the reception. At one point I got the feeling there was more staff on the island than guests which means they really try hard to please you on every step of the way.

THE “BUT” PART

As you will see in the bottom I am rating the resort with an 8,5 only. Why? Because for my taste the atmosphere was not as cozy as in Adaaran Select, and because somehow we always felt pressured to buy something extra – either Valentine’s day couple masage (I think it was over 300$), a romantic dinner (over 200$ per couple, wine not included), the “cocktail of the day”, boat trips… not a day went by without someone offering us something. It’s not that we can’t afford it but when you pay a small fortune for 6 nights all inclusive, you really don’t want to look around your shoulder all the time. What I also missed was a beach bar – and I mean a bar directly on the beach. With a relaxed athmosphere and cozy chairs in the shade of palm trees. At last but not the least, for 5 stars resort I would expect to have more than 1 bottle of water in the villa (we had to get extra bottles from the bar all the time), a wider range of bathroom toiletries (like hair conditioner) and at least the Spa basics, like a free entrance to hot tub or sauna.

Anda’s rate: 8,5 from 10

Bottom line: If you are Maldives first timer and want to feel the touch of luxury, Royal Island Resort and Spa is definitely the place to be. I loved the food, the beach and snorkeling, which is exactly what I wanted from this vacation. But for a 5 star resort there is still some room for improvement. Check my other photos on my Facebook page – welcome to follow me 😉

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