Maldives for a price of vacation in Greece? Read this complete guide on how to do it.
Maldives are probably THE dream destination for everybody who likes, at least a little bit, beaches and swimming in the sea. Only until recently, these scattered tiny islands in the Indian ocean were unattainable for many and considered to be a holiday destination just for those rich guys. But now the luxury of the whitest sand and the bluest water in the world can be enjoyed by majority of you. I am not kidding, holiday on Maldives might cost you the same as anywhere by the sea in Europe, if you are willing to lower your demands.
How is it possible? What does it mean to lower your demands? Read along.
All those beautiful over-water bungalows with jetty in the middle which we are all dreaming about looking at the Maldives photos, are located on private islands. These luxurious small villas are built by hotel chains where rate for a night is very high and will not go down rapidly, not even due to covid-19 economic impact. You pay for luxury here, all inclusive services and meeting all your requests. But for those who did not win jackpot in euromilions, or do not want to spend all savings on one vacation, there is other alternative. As a matter of fact, president of Maldives allowed citizens on local islands to start their own business in tourism few years ago, and so people started to build hotels and guest-houses near their own houses. Beaches on local islands are exactly the same as on private resort islands with crystal clear turquoise water and white sand but accommodation is way more cheaper. Of course, you need to expect lower standard of services, basic food and some local restrictions (more about that later). On the other hand you have the opportunity to get to know the Maldivian culture, their local food or even try the local public transport. So it depends on you whether you are willing to give up luxury and you will travel on your own or you want to feel like VIP not worrying about anything, but in that case you need to start saving some money.
Good to know before you go
Before I get to the tips how to arrange transport and accommodation in a way to get to the budget of common holiday in Europe, I would like to start with some useful information to help you prepare for visiting Maldivian local islands on your own.
Tourists from most of the countries do not need visa when visiting Maldives within 30 days. Tourist visa are granted automatically and free of charge upon arrival. The only condition is to have passport valid for minimum 6 months and return flight ticket. I read on Ministry of Foreign Affairs that when leaving Maldives you have to pay so called 'departure tax' 25 USD but to be honest I do not remember that we paid such a fee and most probably this is included in the flight ticket price. Most of the airlines does it like this, but double-check it just to be sure.
BEST TIME TO GO
Simply all year round since temperature does not change much. Main season is dry season between November and April while in other months there is higher risk of rain. We were in Maldives in March and it was raining in the afternoon few days but only for half an hour and it was sunny the rest of the day.
There is no need nor requested to have any vaccination. In our case, we joined visiting Maldives with Sri Lanka, therefore we took hepatitis vaccine and typhoid but only because we wanted to try local cuisine in Sri Lanka.
Official currency in Maldives is rufiyaa (MVR - maledivian rupia), however US dollars are generally accepted and I would say more preferred. It`s good to have enough cash also to be able to pay for accommodation and trips because payment by card is associated with high service charge. It`s better to change dollars at your home country.
It is possible to buy a SIM card at the airport, or in Male (the capital) for 2 USD and 2GB data you can buy for around 15 USD. Majority of hotels and guest-houses has wifi included in the price, but the data transition is quite slow.
RESTRICTIONS ON LOCAL ISLANDS
Maldives is Muslim country therefore, when visiting local islands where local people live it is important to respect their culture and adhere some restrictions. First of all, it is prohibited to import any alcohol to the country and obviously it is impossible to buy it anywhere on the local islands. Second of all, according to islam women are always covered when outside and so it is required from tourist to wear shirts that cover shoulders up and skirt or trousers that cover knees up. Anyway, they will not point finger on you if you are in shorts and tank top or dress above knees. Nevertheless, walking on the streets in bikinis outside the beach separated for tourists would be really inappropriate.
OTHER USEFUL INFO
In order to charge electronic equipment you need to have adapter to British socket, so don`t forget to pack one. Don`t get too excited on collecting corals and shells to bring them home as a souvenir, it is not allowed to export it out of the country.
How to choose an island
The most important thing in planning process of your Maldives vacation is to choose the right island based on your preferences. Be clear on what do you want to experience, either it is calm and relaxed holiday on small island where you are not exposed to load disco bar and restaurants and the contact with locals is much more intense. Or you want to have the option of dining in various restaurants, choosing trips from many agencies and other fun enjoyment. Compromise is also possible, you can spend few days on both types of islands. When doing your research don`t forget that island should have separate bikini beach for tourists where you can swim and sunbath in swimsuits without problems. When walking around rest of the beaches you need to be covered, the same as locals.
In Maldives we have visited island Fulidhoo in Vaavu Atol and Maafushi in Kaafu Atol, but to be honest I would rather spent whole 10 days on Fulidhoo. I felt like in paradise, even without luxury bungalows and served wine with dinner, yet with dreamy beach and rich underwater world. Lubos always says he has not seen that many fishes anywhere else. Fulidhoo is relatively small island with area of 675m x 200m and 300 inhabitants. It was so peaceful there, great time for relieve and relaxation. The beach for tourists is wide enough, but we met just around 10 other foreigners on the island anyway, and each group was on the beach in different time. There is also a school, mosque and two souvenir shops with groceries on the island. Those are open just a few hours a day without any weekly schedule and the selection of products is of course quite limited. The owner of one shop was always happy to see us because everytime we were on our daily walk around the island and her shop was open, we bought at least some ice-cream. For our loyalty she gave us a present twice :) Options for dining on such a small island are limited to one bistro and "pub" if we can call it like that. However, most of the time we had a dinner on our guest-house. Local people were very friendly, smiling and were greeting us every day. Three years ago when we were on Fulidhoo, there was just one hotel and I think three guest-houses, but we saw 2 new buildings being built, so most probably there are more accommodations by now. Similar non-touristy islands with bikini beach you can find for instance on Omadhoo, Feridhoo, Mandhoo, Fulhadhoo, Gaafaru, Dharavandhoo.
On the other hand Maafushi was totally different cup of tea. Hotel over hotel, whatever restaurant you can think of you would probably find there but also beach was totally full of people. Maafushi has that 'live vibe', it`s more of a party island. The advantage might be wider selection of trips for better price and better hotels with services. There was even an option of paid trip to the party boat anchored near the coast where you can drink bear and cocktails (if somebody would miss it so much). Islands with similar vibe are for instance Huraa, Dhigurah, Mathiveri, Thoddoo, Ukulhas.
No doubt, flight ticket is the most expensive item of the whole trip to Maldives. It is common that flight ticket costs around 600-800 Eur but luckily some airlines quite often promote deals for a certain period of time when you can fly to Male for 350 Eur, for instance. You just need to follow websites or Facebook pages which are dedicated to searching flight deals in your country or set up 'flight radar' by email from travel search sites skyscanner, google flights or fly4free. We managed to buy combo ticket Maldives - Sri Lanka - and back from Prague for 450 Eur with FlyDubai, so without Sri Lanka it might have been even below 350 Eur. The question is how the price of tickets will change as a consequence of corona spreading in the world this year/in near future.
Pro Tip: Definitely don`t go hungry to the Male airport and don`t rely on getting to eat there because there are only 3 restaurants (one of them is Burger King) which are extremely expensive. And when I say extremely, I mean that for example whopper in BK costs 18 USD.
Transportation from Male to the paradise islands is another budget line item where you can save a lot of money. Type of transport depends on your flexibility and preferences of course. The cheapest form of transportation is 'dhoni' which is a public ferry used by local people predominantly. Dhoni is extremely cheap from 1-4 USD, on the other hand it runs only certain days of the week in certain hours and it`s quite slow. For example, dhoni from Male to Fulidhoo runs only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 10 am and it takes 3,5 hours to get there. To get back to Male you need to take dhoni on Mondays, Wednesdays or Saturdays at 11 am.
Second option how to get to the islands is by shared or private speedboat. It is obviously more expensive but on Fulidhoo you can be within one hour, for instance. Shared speedboat costs around 40 USD and private will set you back 500 USD. Advantage is that speedboats run twice a day, every day except Friday. It is also possible to fly to some bigger islands if island has an airport. This form of domestic transport would cost you hundreds of dollars. You have probably noticed that seaplanes are very popular and fancy way of getting quickly to the dream destination but those fly only to resorts unfortunately.
It is important to mention that international airport Velana in Male is located on the separate island close by, Hulhumale. It means that you need to get to Male first, either by dhoni or by speedboat. Be aware that dhoni gets you off in Airport Ferry port / Hulhumale Ferry Terminal in Male on the opposite site of the island from where other dhoni to local islands depart. So you need to take a taxi to Villingili Ferry Terminal. If you také a speedboat from the airport it will gets you off directly on Villingili Ferry Terminal.
There is quite wide range of accommodation options on local islands from budget friendly to higher standards hotels and guest houses. Prices therefore vary, but in average the rate for a night is very similar to European standards. If you dream about overwater bungalows only then you will be disappointed because you can`t find them on local islands, only resorts.
We were absolutely satisfied with our guesthouse Sancia Lodge on Fulidhoo that cost us 40 USD per night for two (if you write an email directly to the guest house you can arrange it for even better price). There were only four rooms, furnished very basic but clean (cleaned every day). Our host Tibeg was very friendly, talkative and with personal approach to guests, like we were his friends. He took us on snorkeling trip and sandbank and he even went to buy a fish to feed manta rays just for us since we missed the official feeding the night before. Bikini beach is just 5 minutes walk from Sancia Lodge but the guesthouse itself is directly at the beach, literally just a few steps from the ocean.
Majority of hotels and guesthouses offers breakfast included in the room price. You can order lunch or dinner directly at the place if you are on small island or go to the restaurants if you are on bigger island.
In Sancia Lodge we had local breakfast that was very unusual. Combination of tuna and coconut sounds crazy but you would not believe how tasty it is. If you want to know more read this blog about Maldivian breakfast. Even though it was the same every day we did not mind because it was super delicious. Rather opposite, we were looking forward to breakfast every day and we asked for a recipe to be able to prepare it back at home as well. Of course, not everybody must be a fan of this strange combination so in that case they will offer you eggs or something continental. Since Fulidhoo is very small island with only one restaurant (besides hotels) there is not much opportunities to go for a special dining. Therefore we usually ordered dinner in guest house where we could choose from basic meals like fried rice or noodles with vegetables for 5-6 USD or grilled fish with big bowl of rice and salat for 15 USD (enough for two). Similar meals and prices were also in that one restaurant on the island.
On the other hand Maafushi has wide selection of restaurants and meals for decent price or even less than small islands. You can even find outdoor routs, all you can eat dining or live cooking dinners. But that is of course with dozens of other guests.
The offer of trips on small islands is adequate. I would say that to go on a trip from small island is even better because you go with just a few people from guesthouse and it is almost like a private trip. On the other hand, the selection of trips on bigger island is obviously wider with better prices, but you need to be aware that you will go in a big group.
From Fulidhoo we went snorkeling to coral reef and to the turtle point with our host from Sancia Lodge. In addition, he took us also to swim with sharks (baby sharks) and to a sandbank, all for 35 USD per person while we were only three tourists on the boat. It was unforgettable experience and Tibeg`s personal approach made this trip the trip with friends. Moreover, you know that those money goes directly to him and his family. On Maafushi we paid 25 USD for the similar snorkeling trip just without sandbank and instead of sharks we swam with dolphins. Other trips that you can take is, for example picnic on sandbank at sunset or fishing trip during the day or night. For those who would really like to experience how is it to be on a private island at least for a day and drink cocktails you can go for it. Some resorts offer one-day entrance where you have access to the bar and restaurant area and around the island. Admission fee depends on resort but usually it is around 100+ dollars per person where you have some food or drink included in the price.
So let`s summarize it. You can count with following costs when planning your vacation on Maldivian local islands on your own:
If we take away flight ticket for a moment, the sum of cost is 380 Eur for 10 days/9 nights of vacation in paradise. And with flight ticket and trips included it is around 800 Eur and that is really common price for vacation within Europe.
I hope that this guide allows you to dream about Maldives more realistically and that you will pack your bags to visit this beautiful piece of land at first possible occasion :)