A trip to the Maldives has long been the impossible travel dream I placed solidly into the far future. In my mind, it was a destination for a special anniversary, occasion, or second honeymoon. Or at the very least, something to be put off until I won the lottery.
With it’s reputation for being the ultimate far-flung luxury destination, there are not many of us, who can splash out $500-1000 per night for an over-water bungalow, without thinking better of it. This is especially true for us budget or mid-range travellers, who want to maximize our travel dollars, with as many destinations as possible. I mean, why visit 1 country, when you can visit 3 for the same price? At least that’s how I think about things…
So, how the heck did we end up in the Maldives? A country I had dismissed as way too expensive to visit.
Blame it on the weather.
Since this babymoon would be our last big trip for quite some time, I wanted to make it pretty special. And for us, that meant beach time. The problem? Most of Asia is covered in monsoons over the summer months, and perfect beach weather is hardly guaranteed. Every country I checked – Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia – seemed to have awful forecasts for our dates. And while I don’t put too much stock in weather forecasts, since they’re usually wrong, I just didn’t want to take any chances.
So I started looking at places I wouldn’t normally consider. And that’s when I discovered that the Maldives gets an average of 7 hours of sunshine per day, even in the rainy season. Further research led me to blogs on Never Ending Footsteps about traveling the Maldives on a budget, and I was sold!
Since Lauren visited sometime in 2014, it seems like the local tourism industry has developed a lot. There are now 47 guesthouses and hotels on Maafushi alone (probably the most developed of the islands), with more being built every day. Other local islands are following suit, and the entire country seems to want in on this new, lucrative, tourism opportunity.
Until recently, tourism in the Maldives was limited to expensive resort islands, owned by huge hotel groups. Though it was always possible to visit and stay in the capital, Male, independently, trust me, it’s not really a place you want to spend a lot of time. This meant that you were stuck with the super expensive, and frankly overpriced speedboat or seaplane rides required to reach your particular resort island.
On top of that, these islands could essentially charge whatever they wanted for food, drinks, and activities, since you’d basically be a captive of the island. Of course, no one was complaining, but you could look at it like a extremely luxurious gilded cage that happens to be surrounded by an insanely beautiful natural environment.
In 2009, this all changed. After the devastation of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, the government of the Maldives finally allowed local residents to open guesthouses, in order to help them rebuild their homes and lives, and the independent travel industry in the Maldives was born.
And thank goodness for that! because now it’s possible for the average person to visit the Maldives, affordably and independently.
Over the next week, I’ll be writing a “Budget Traveler’s Guide to the Maldives,” based on our experiences in Hulhumale, Maafushi, and Male, that includes information about geography, transport links, approximate costs, lodging options, what to eat, and what to expect, in general.
Stay tuned… 🙂
Have you ever dreamed about visiting the Maldives? Are you surprised that you can visit without breaking the bank?