With its white beaches, turquoise waters, a wealth of marine life, and exotic overwater villas, Maldives is a luxury bucket list destination. Boasting with some of the most incredible 5-star hotels in the world, Maldives is also a popular location for honeymooners and anniversaries. However, with over 1.190 islands,Maldives can also be enjoyed in a more budget friendly option. In this post I will share 10 useful tips for visiting Maldives on a budget, without selling a kidney.
Maldives is known to be an incredibly expensive vacation destination and in the past it was reserved for privately-owned resort islands guests only. But since 2009, as a result of a change in the regulations, the local islands have open to tourism as well. Although I personally believe that Maldives deserve the “full package” (see this post to see what I mean), I am pretty sure a lot of people will appreciate the budget-friendly* option as well.
*Still, keep in mind that due to its unique geography and access, Maldives cannot be compared to Indonesia, Cambodia or Vietnam when it comes to travel costs.
That being said, here are 10 useful tips that will help you stay within your budget, no matter if you choose a private or local island:
1. Travel in the off season
The most popular time to travel to Maldives is between November and April, which is considered high season, hence the highest prices. The cheapest time to visit Maldives is from May to October, which is considered as the “monsoon season”. You’ll have to deal with more rain, though it tends to pour heavily and skies clear up quickly. The temperatures will still be around 25 – 31 °C, and if you are lucky, you’ll get a good portion of sun. During the monsoon period, many resorts and airlines offer good discounts. You can end up saving over $1000!
2. Book your flight in advance
When it comes to buying the cheapest airline ticket, don’t wait for last-minute deals. It has been known for a while now that airlines release the cheapest seats first and more expensive ones later, so when you book your flight matters a lot. Also, try to avoid business travel dates, such as mid-week, and check various departure dates within a week or even a month. Prices can vary up to 1000 USD within one single month so pick your departure date carefully.
3. Compare full board and All-inclusive Package Deals
If you stay on a private island, you don’t have any other option but to eat in a resort’s restaurants. Hence, the majority of resorts offer all-inclusive deals, which include 3 main meals, afternoon snacks, drinks (alcohol usually limited to selected brands) and some activities. If you need all of that and if you don’t want to worry about the final receipt, all-inclusive is indeed a smart choice.
However, if you are not a heavy drinker and don’t care for other activities besides sunbathing, you might consider a full-board, or even a half-board (breakfast and dinner) option. Usually drinking water is provided with every meal complimentary and sometimes also gym access comes free of charge. For me personally, a full-board is the best price-performance Maldives package option when it comes to resorts.
4. Check different booking websites
When it comes to booking the cheapest flight or hotel, I always check at least 3 different websites. I use Skyscanner or Expedia for airline tickets, and prices here can vary a lot. The same goes for the cheapest resorts – you wouldn’t believe how much you money can save if you are lucky. Hotels usually advertise a selected number of rooms in different booking sites. If they are sold out for example on Booking.com, they might still have some available in Agoda or Expedia. It also helps if you travel a lot and earn the “Genius” or “Elite” badge – discounts are sometimes quite attractive.
5. Check the price with a travel agency
I don’t often say this, but when it comes to Maldives, checking a “full package” with a travel agency might be a good idea, if you want to stay in a resort. Often agencies have better prices for selected resorts, and they also take care of the stressful things like island transfers. Plus, you will have peace of mind in case of flight delays or issues with your stay.
6. Stay on a local island
Staying on a local island is the best option to visit the Maldives on a budget. Since 2009 the Maldivian government has permitted locals to establish guest houses on around 70 local islands to serve as a cheaper alternative to resorts. By booking a guesthouse or hotel on a local island you’ll get to experience Maldivian culture, accessible by local ferry. The beaches in local islands are not “endless” and cleaned every day, however, you can still find some nice insta-worthy spots, as well as great snorkeling options.
You can find many blogs which will help you choose the best local island in Maldives. Maafushi was one of the first local islands in the Maldives to offer guesthouses, but others, like Rasdhoo, Ukulhas, Dhiffushi, Dhangethi, Dhigurah, are becoming popular as well.
7. Opt for Local transport
The most expensive option to travel to the islands is by seaplane, which is serviced by Trans Maldivian Airways to private resorts only. This one can cost up $ 500 per passenger! If the island is reasonably close to Male, the resort will also offer a speed boat transfer, which is much cheaper.
A bit cheaper option is taking a domestic flight to one of the smaller local airports, combined with a speed boat or ferry to a private or local island. Not all islands offer this option, so check the transfer details in the small print carefully. For me personally, this is the worst option, because you can end up waiting for hours in (small) Male airport for the domestic flight.
If you are on a budget, you’ll probably stay on a local island, hence you can take a public ferry. Both public ferries and boats don’t run frequently, but if you’re not in a rush, they can help you save hundreds of dollars. Check out this page for more information.
8. Check the distances from Male
After arriving to Male International airport, you can continue your journey to Maldives islands by sea, by air or by the combination of both. Depending on the island’s location you can save a lot of money if you choose an island closer to Male. Even if you stay in a resort, you can save money by taking a speedboat instead of a seaplane. Not to mention that you will even save time traveling – and time is money, right?
9. Plan a Day Trip to a Resort Island
Luxury resorts in the Maldives can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars a night. But you can still visit some of the islands for a day trip. Many private resorts offer tours that range from $100-$150 US depending on the duration. This way you can enjoy a day access to the resort with free-flow drinks, breakfast, buffet meals and excursions like snorkeling, swimming, and paddle-boarding.
10. Spend Money Wisely on Activities
A Maldives trip isn’t complete without experiencing water sports such as surfing, sea diving, or snorkeling. Many resorts offer non-motorized water activities for free; however, they do charge for special actions like scuba diving. If you’re staying in guest houses within the local area, local operators offer these activities at reasonable costs.
While snorkeling excursions cost about $ 30, almost each Maldivian island has an “in-house reef”. This means you can bring your snorkeling equipment and dive into the underwater world for free. On the other hand, an open-water diving class will cost about $500, depending on the location you stay in.
I believe I have covered all my tips for budget-friendly Maldives vacation. You can thank me by following me on Instagram. If you have any additional advice, you are welcome to let me know your magic in the comment below! 😉