It’s no secret the Maldives are a notoriously expensive destination. The Indian Ocean archipelago is famed for coral reefs, intense beauty, snorkelling, Asia’s top diving sites and luxurious resort islands. With the average night costing several hundred dollars, the Maldives were out of reach for budget travellers. But not anymore. Today, the islands burst with mid-range tourists and the occasional backpacker visiting the Maldives on a budget.
The simple rule to make the Maldives affordable goes something like this: Stay in a guesthouse on a local island. The Maldives have approximately 100 inhabited islands. Maafushi, located 25 kilometres (15 miles) and a ferry or speedboat ride south of the capital Male, is the most popular. Maldivians are capitalising on more relaxed tourism laws which now allow tourists to visit inhabited local islands, instead of being confined to the ultra-expensive resorts. Visitors can save a fortune by staying at one of the growing number of guesthouses on local islands, such as Maafushi, Guraidhoo, Dhigurah or Thoddoo. But remember costs are relative. Don’t expect the same prices as South and Southeast Asia.
After arriving at Velena International Airport in Male, either take the local ferry via Male or the speedboat. The former costs approximately $3 but operates on a sparse timetable. Private speedboats have regular departures charging $25 per person. A typical guesthouse on local islands like Maafushi have nightly prices between $50 and $70. Day trips to resort islands range from $70 to $150 per person. Activities, such as night fishing, snorkelling and half-day trips are anywhere from $25 to $60. Food is surprisingly affordable, with meals costing just a few dollars for a single meal and up to $15 for buffet-style barbeques.
Tourists travelling to the Maldives on a budget can experience five-star luxury without spending hundreds of dollars per night. While staying at the local islands, you can get a day pass to the resorts. The pass, about $100 per person on average, includes a return speedboat transfer, entrance fees and full access to the resort’s facilities. Many offer a lunch buffet and unlimited drinks, including free-flowing cocktails, wine and beer.
Couples who stay at one of Maafushi’s guesthouses and take a day trip to the resort islands will spend about $260 and still have access to the facilities and amenities, rather than paying $800 or more per night. Tourists have the advantage of visiting more than one resort too. So yes, travelling to the Maldives on a budget is possible. A dream vacation in one of the world’s most beautiful spots won’t break the bank.