Maldives on a Budget: Yes, it’s Possible!
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?
This was a great read! My wife and I went to Club Faru (now closed) in 2012. An amazing stay even though the hotel wasn’t very fancy. We thought we’d never be able to return since we now have two kids and it would cost us a leg and an arm… 😀 But now it is possible again, with this kind of travel! Thank you for a great read! Hope the child birth went well!
Awww fantastic! It’s not only possible and cheaper, but honestly think more fun for kids to stay on local islands I think. I can’t wait to head back there with my little one myself.
Oh and the baby – she came early at 34 weeks, I had to have an emergency C-section, and she slept in a huge tupperware box for a few weeks while we got ourselves organized. We had prepped NOTHING. Haha…she all good though. Thanks for the good wishes. 🙂
Aww, great to hear you and she’s fine! I went through the same when I was born, weak heart, mom’s told me about it.
Yes, as someone who loves meeting locals, this kind of staying is a lot better than being shut off from the world in some resort. That, coupled with a cheaper stay just makes it even better! Never thought we could return to that beautiful place…
Good luck with everything now!!!
Sarah @ Expat of the World
Great, I’m glad you visited!! I was lucky enough to live there for almost a year– if you or anyone is interested, I’ve just written a post on 6 lovely local islands to visit for paradise on a budget! 🙂 thanks for sharing
I’d definitely love to head back and check out a few more local islands there. We’d initially wanted to visit a few (Thoddoo was our other choice), but since I was pregnant at the time, figured it was easier to stay in one place. BTW, I’m unable to click your name to get to your blog – I think you need to change your settings so it shows up as a hyperlink… 🙂
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Ami (Yearful of Sundays)
I’d love to visit this beautiful island country some day! It’s great to know that it’s possible on a budget, too, now 🙂 Lovely pics!
Thanks Ami! I was so happy when I discovered that I could actually afford to visit there, visit totally bankrupting myself! And even happier that it was as beautiful as I hoped it would be. 🙂
This was a place we considered for our honeymoon destination, but Japan won in the end! Would love to know more about doing it on a reasonable budget though 🙂
Maldives is amazing and definitely worth a visit! Perfect for a honeymoon for sure, but at the same time, by the end, I was craving a little more action. There’s really nothing to do, but relax by the beach (which wasn’t a problem obviously!), but as an independent traveler, I usually need a bit more than just beach… I think I’d pick Japan over Maldives too! 🙂
You know, I have never really thought of visiting the Maldives… until seeing your pictures and reading your posts! Now I want to go!
It’s totally worth a trip! Definitely the best water and beach I’ve seen in the entire world. And you’re pretty close from Thailand…would be a pretty easy trek for you. 🙂
Yes, I’ve dreamed about it and yes, I am surprised I could do it affordably … once there! For me, the biggest expense would be getting there, in terms of both time and money. But I hope to combine it with a wider Asia itinerary one of these days!
A lot of people we met on Maafushi were combining their Maldives trip with Sri Lanka or India…and I think the cheapest flights were from Colombo on Maldivian Air. We kind of did everything last minute, so flights were a bit more expensive, but with advance planning, I think it could definitely be very affordable – even the getting there part… 🙂
Wonderful, looking forward to the next post!
I hope I’ll be able to provide you with some useful info!! 🙂
Oh indeed you did! Now I need to wait for your next post and th apply something for my own little family 🙂
I had the choice to move to the Maldives or Bangladesh for work, and I’m off to Dhaka in a month. I based my decision on the difference between holidaying in a country and living there.
I am a bit upset the miss out on the beaches though.
That’s interesting, because there were so many Bangladeshis working on Maafushi. In fact, most of the staff in restaurants, guesthouses etc…were from Bangladesh! But totally hear you on the holidaying in a country vs. living there decision…Maldives was truly an amazing vacation destination, but I’m not sure how I’d feel about living there…
That’s right – there is a significant number of Bangladeshi people working in construction and tourism on the Maldives, not always under the best of circumstances…
I work in counter-human trafficking (mainly counter-sex and labour trafficking), so another big part of my decision was thinking about working in a trafficking source or a destination country. I’m in Viet Nam now, which is a mainly a trafficked persons source country, as is Bangladesh. Maybe I’ll work in a trafficked persons destination country next time.
Yes, we had a lot of conversations with workers there, and they definitely weren’t dealing with the best conditions. Many only got to see there families for 3 days a year and worked 12 -14 hour days…
Now you make me think to visit Maldives. I saw some offers to Maldives within our budget range before but then usually during low season – which we don’t mind but then not good period for scuba diving..I am looking forward to read your next post!!
You would absolutely love it there! The water was amazing clear and there was so much marine life everywhere! We were there at the end of low season and it only rained for 1 out of the 12 days we were there. Lucky I guess!! 🙂
.never thought the Maldives was doable…..now I will have to check into it! Great post
Me neither!! I was so pumped when I found out about these local islands. I mean, the water’s the same, right? 🙂