What comes to mind when you dream about that ideal honeymoon with your partner? Our dreams were definitely made of pristine beaches, swaying palm trees and endless blue water, glistening in the golden sunshine. Neil and I wanted to visit a beach destination and we were immediately drawn to the beautiful island nation of Maldives. It eventually became our destination of choice for our honeymoon. And, why not? It is nothing short of a lovers’ paradise! With clear blue water and some of the most well-maintained and picturesque beaches in the world, it turned out to be the perfect spot for a laid-back honeymoon amidst abundant natural beauty.
However, choosing a honeymoon destination is one thing and actually planning a trip there on a limited budget another. From our initial research, it seemed that a budget trip to the Maldives may be impossible given how expensive accommodation can be on the island. But we were determined to make it happen and we did! So here’s all you need to know in order to plan a trip to Maldives on a budget.
How to reach Maldives on a budget
Neil and I started planning our trip well in advance. I have to admit, the early planning worked like a charm! If you are wondering how to go to Maldives from India, you will be delighted to know that there are several direct flights from India to Maldives that fly out of Bengaluru and Kochi. So if you are based in any other Indian city, your connecting flight is most likely to hop in either of these 2 cities.
So here’s a quick tip to help you figure out how to reach Maldives on a budget: Before booking one connecting flight for the entire journey, also check how much it would cost if you took 2 separate flights. For example, if your point of departure is Delhi, compare the prices of the Delhi-Maldives hopping flight against the Delhi-Bengaluru and Bengaluru-Maldives route. You’ll be surprised to see that this way you may end up saving quite a bit of money because sometimes it is cheaper to book 2 flights than one long connecting flight. This definitely works for those doing a Maldives trip from India but I would still suggest you try out the same trick even if you are departing from any other country. To add a cherry to this cake, Maldives visa for Indians and all other nationalities is available on arrival and absolutely free of cost! This visa is valid for a good 30 days and gives you good reason to plan this trip asap!
How to find budget accommodation in the Maldives
Next task in line is finding and booking accommodation to fit your budget. Preliminary research will tell you that there are two kinds of accommodation available in the Maldives – Resort islands (typically, one humongous resort per island), and smaller hotels on local islands (inhabited by Maldivians). Now, there are a few things you should keep in mind while choosing between the two kinds of accommodation if you are travelling to Maldives on a budget.
Broadly speaking, the smaller hotels on the local islands are cheaper than the resort islands (with a few exceptions, of course). The reasons are pretty obvious. The resorts give you privacy and exclusivity. You have access to beaches that other travellers do not have, just by virtue of putting up at a specific resort. You almost have access to an entire island minus overwhelming crowd. Moreover, these island properties and the private beaches are extremely well maintained. Some of these resorts even have a house reef (a coral reef surrounding the periphery of the island), that can be accessed all day long. No need to get on a boat to sail away in the middle of the ocean to find snorkelling spots!
But all that luxury obviously comes at a steep price. Room rates at some of these resort islands are can easily go upwards of USD 300 per night. And if you want to stay at one of those fancy overwater villas, which are undoubtedly gorgeous, easily expect to shell out more than USD 500 a night. If you have the budget, these are some of the most beautiful and luxurious accommodation options in the Maldives. But if you are on a tighter budget, accommodation on the local islands is much more reasonably priced, sometimes as low as USD 50 a night. Then there are also mid-range hotels priced from USD 80-100 for a night. So no matter what your budget, there is something for everyone in the Maldives as far as accommodation is concerned.
Check out the latest Maldives budget accommodation prices here.
2Access to alcohol
Excuse me, but before you judge me and roll your eyes, let me tell you, this is a potential deal-breaker for many tourists. Anyhow, in case you did not know, the Maldives is a Muslim state and has a ban on serving any kind of alcoholic beverages on any of its islands where locals reside. So if you are putting up at one of the local islands like Maaafushi and if you’d like to have a few drinks, you’ll have to head to one of the resort islands for a day trip. These islands only house resorts for tourists and hence hold alcohol permits. If you are staying at one of these, there will be no restriction on alcohol consumption other than the ones you self-impose! So let all those sundowner dreams on a remote island kick in right about now! 😉
This topic of discussion arises because despite being one of the most coveted island destinations in the world, being a Muslim country means that Maldives has some restrictions that you need to be aware of. So if you have decided to stay on one of the local islands for budget accommodation, do bear in mind that the public beaches do not allow visitors to wear swimsuits or bikinis. There are designated bikini beaches on those islands where you can dress as you like, but otherwise, you are expected to wear at least something like a pair of shorts with a t-shirt/top. On the contrary, the resort islands have no such restriction. You are free to dress as you wish all across the resort, though nudity is not permitted.
4Getting to the islands – Local transportation in Maldives
Another cost centre you need to consider while choosing between local islands and resort islands is the mode of transport needed to get to your destination from Male. If you plan to stay on one of the local islands, you have the option of taking a public ferry, which costs less than USD 5 per person and is the cheapest mode of transport between various local islands. The downside of this is that they are usually very crowded and also take a long time to reach their destination. The other option to get to local islands is hopping on a shared speedboat from Male. It costs a little more, around USD 20 per person but is much faster and more convenient.
However, if you are slated to put up at one of the resort islands, the resort will probably have its own private speedboat to whiz you off into paradise land. But that comes at a hefty price. Depending on how far the island is from Male, you may have to pay at least USD 300 per person. So based on these local transportation options in Maldives and what fits your budget, take a call on whether it makes sense to choose a local or resort island.
Things to do in Maldives on a budget
Finding cheap things to do in Maldives is probably one of the key criteria in order to plan a budget trip to Maldives. The resort islands are pretty self-sufficient, more so if they have a house reef. Sun-bathing, snorkelling, jet-skiing etc. are sorted and can be done with minimal effort right on the island. Activities like snorkelling are reasonably priced too since all you need to do is rent the equipment. Depending on the resort, daily rental rates for snorkelling gear starts from around USD 15. So you can spend all your day snorkelling around the island looking at beautiful marine life and come back to the beach to soak in the sun! Apart from that, resorts also have other activities like jet-skiing and scuba diving if that interests you. The only things missing here are access to some kind of shopping (apart from the resort’s souvenir shop) or restaurant hopping.
However, the local islands are a little different. They have lots of restaurants and a number of souvenir as well as convenience stores. Maafushi island, especially, is known for a variety of restaurants that you can possibly try out during your stay. But a stay on a local island would also need you to plan some additional outdoor activities like snorkelling/scuba diving trips, island hopping or visits to one of the resort islands. Most hotels will have their own tour/activity packages that you can pick and choose from. Water sports and activities are widely available through vendors all over these islands so you can compare services and prices and choose one that fits your budget and needs. As a day trip, you could also consider visiting one of the fancy resort islands to access their private beaches, bars and other amenities. Though this will easily set you back by USD 150-200 per person depending on which resort you want to explore.
How to plan a Maldives trip from India (or from anywhere else!)
So you are dreaming of this exotic trip to Maldives from India and wondering how to go about it or whether it is even possible to do it within a restrictive budget. The answer is a very big YES! Like I said earlier, Neil and I made this our honeymoon destination and we managed to complete the entire trip within approximately USD 1600 inclusive of air tickets from Pune (our home location), accommodation for 5 nights on a resort island, food, drinks, activities, all of it for the 2 of us. Were we able to splurge? Of course not. We were mindful of all our expenses and that’s something we always do before and during our travels. But that did not take away anything from our Maldives experience and we wouldn’t have it any other way!
So here are a few quick tips to plan a trip to Maldives on a budget from India or anywhere else for that matter:
- Plan ahead – I cannot stress this enough because this really helps you to compare prices and book air tickets or accommodation for much better rates.
- Set up price alerts – No matter which portal you use to book flights and hotels, price alerts are really handy in helping you catch the best price whenever it drops.
- Get creative – Try different permutations & combinations of flights instead of sticking to the usuals, depending on your base location.
- Compare local & resort islands even if you have a tight budget – Why am I saying this when it is pretty evident that the resorts are more expensive? Because, guys, the internet is one mad place where sometimes crazy things do happen! So our preliminary search for hotels made the resorts seem way beyond our budget, and we almost convinced ourselves to stick to a reasonably priced hotel on the very popular local island, Maafushi. UNTIL, Neil came across a small island in the North Male Atoll which housed one of the quaintest, most charming beach resorts called Eriyadu! The resort happened to be running a flash deal of 60% discount on their room rates when we spotted it, and that was it. What we actually paid for the resort was as good as what we would have had to pay for a smaller hotel. So don’t give up before you’ve done your research!
If you have always pushed aside thoughts of planning a budget trip to Maldives thinking that it’s not possible, I hope this has helped to break some myths. So what are you waiting for? This is the time to get to work and make those dreams of holidaying on pretty islands come true!
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