Budget Maldives. How to Save Money?
When on holidays, everyone wants to spend less and to get more. That’s OK, it’s typical of us. Speaking about Southeast Asia (Thailand, India, Indonesia, etc), we know that today spending holidays there is not that expensive. Affordable accommodation and quite low entertainment prices make this region an attractive destination for tourists from all over the world!
It wasn’t true to Maldives until recently. Staying on the sidelines, the islands were considered to be a paradise for tourists with purses filled with money. About 5 years ago the things changed, and today we have an opportunity to spend relatively cheap holidays in Maldives. So called ‘Budget Maldives’ appeared.
Why relatively? It’s because the whole trip to Maldives will cost you more, than to other regions of Asia, and there are a number of reasons for that. Nevertheless, there are ways how to save money on your holidays in Maldives. And I’m going to tell you about them.
Budget holidays in Maldives presuppose staying not in “luxury” hotels, but in guest houses. In fact, they are hotels, but they’re smaller in size, cost less and have no star-rating system. You’re not supposed to pay the extra money for a brand. The price depends on the location of the guest house, as well as on how far the island is located from the capital.
How To Choose a Guest House
The process of choosing a guest house begins after you have chosen a suitable island. About how to choose a local island and to stay delighted with your choice you can read here
While choosing a guest house, take into account the following things:
– the island, where the guest house is located, and the number of guest houses on it. They collect different taxes on different islands. So be ready that you’ll have to add 20-22% from the initial total amount to your expenses. Actually, the issue of prices and taxes on Maldives deserves an extra post.
– reviews on Tripadvisor, Booking, Agoda. The most substantial and actual reviews can be found on Tripadvisor, and pay a special attention to the negative ones,
– the date of posting the information about the guest house on Booking or Tripadvisor. New guest houses, which have no reviews and ratings, usually offer lower prices for accommodation than those that have a certain status. But in this case there is a risk to deal with an incompetent staff. But I should say that I’ve never heard of such cases.
Accommodation costs vary from $35 to $120 per day. And don’t expect that accommodation costs will decrease in the near future.
“Why is it so expensive?” – you can ask; in nearby Sri-Lanka, for example, one can find accommodation for $8-15 per day. There are a number of reasons for that. Here are the major ones:
– expensive electricity. It’s prodiced by a diesel-electric generator, which provides the whole island with electricity. Diesel is expensive.
– expensive construction materials, which are needed to build a guest house. It’s clear that owners are trying to cover their expenses for the building of the house.
– expensive water. All the tap water on the islands is rainwater or from underground, that’s why there is a lack of water, and it’s expensive. By the way, it’s not recommended to drink it, it’s better to buy bottled water.
– tourism taxes. It is another expense item of the owners of guest houses, which considerably affects prices.
– competition between guest houses. It’s clear: the more active competition on the island is, the lower prices you get. There are only 3-5 guest houses on the majority of islands, so they can establish any prices as they wish. Transport network being developed, the things are changing.
Where To Book Guest House?
It seems that the answer is obvious – on Booking, Agonda, etc. There are often discounts there, so it’s profitable to book there. That’s true, but other rules are applied to Maldivian guest houses (at least to the houses that have a high rating).
All the aggregator sites listed above collect interests from booking on these sites (about 15%).
Another important thing. On Booking you can book only accommodation, and guided tours and meals are paid on arrival. That’s why some guest houses suggest buying a full package. It includes accommodation, guided tours, meals and transfer. It’s very profitable, you can save up to $400! If a guest house doesn’t provide the information about the package on its website, feel free to ask them about it.
The lowest accommodation costs are in May-September, the highest ones – in December-March.
You see that Maldives is a quite expensive country. Apart from accommodation, meals require a lot of money to be spent on. It’s largely an import country, so the cost of products is rather high.
Every guest house has its own mini-restaurant offering local and continental cuisine. While booking a guest house, if you want meals to be included (lunch or dinner), it’ll cost you $10-15 per person. If you’re paying at the guest house itself, the cost will depend on the number of services you need, but it is usually higher than the cost stated above.
Children at the age of 2-12 are usually offered a discount on meals in a guest house.
You can also get some crabs (the beach is full of them after the sunset) and ask somebody to grill them. The locals don’t eat them for religious reasons.
There are cafes for the locals almost on each island, where you can try Maldivian cuisine at low prices. For example, the main course and a fresh will cost you $7-12. The only drawback is that all the dishes are really spicy.
I’d recommend you to take half-board (breakfast and lunch or dinner) and sometimes to go to cafes. In this case you’ll be able to compare and choose the best variant for you.
One prefers active holidays, others like to lie in the sun. The second option seems to be much cheaper, but in this case you won’t be able to enjoy a stunning beauty of Maldives to the fullest, because it’s not only about white beach, bright sun and turquoise-colored waters.
The magnificent underwater world gives an unforgettable experience about Maldives!
In general, the list of activities is almost the same on different islands. But does it mean that, for example, diving on one island is better than on another one? Actually yes, spots for snorkeling can be better on one island than in other. Each island and its surroundings are unique, so it’s hard to choose the best one.
Let us consider the main activities on the islands:
Fishing. There are several kinds of fishing: morning fishing ($30), mid-day fishing ($30), evening fishing ($35), night fishing ($35), big game fishing ($100 or more). The prices differ also depending on what fish you’re going to catch. Evening and night fishing are the most expensive ones because your chances to catch a large fish obviously grow!
Freshly caught fish can be cooked in the kitchen of your guest house. And that’s absolutely for free! But you need to inform your manager in advance so as to avoid any problems.
Snorkeling. It’s the simplest and the most popular activity, and you’re usually not expected to pay for it. Why? It’s because near every island there is a house reef, where you can go swimming when you wish. But the most interesting points are located outside home reefs, and you need to go there by boat. The cost of such a trip is $20 or more, it includes visiting minimum 3 different points. The trip itself lasts about 3 hours. And it’s more than enough, trust me.
I was on such trip to Rasdhoo. At that time the ocean was really rough, but everything was quiet underwater. The water itself was as clear as usual. We were taken to the outer side of the reef, and there current was really strong! I’d recommend this kind of activity to those people, who prefer beach holidays without any activities.
On various islands, depending on the season, you can be offered snorkeling with manta rays, turtles and whale sharks. The cost is quite the same.
Diving. Thousands of divers from all over the world visit Maldives every year to enjoy the unique and stunning underwater life. Clear warm water here makes diving open for everyone. There are one or more diving centers on almost each island. The prices there don’t differ much, but the lowest ones are where your guest house is located, but things can vary.
Read also: Diving in Maldives
If you have never experienced diving in your life and you have no certificate, you’ll be offered to take a beginner’s course. You’ll be diving with an instructor. The cost of it is $70 or more (depending on the island). What concerns more experienced divers, who have certificates, the cost of diving for them starts from $35 (a guide, a boat and equipment are included), group diving is cheaper.
Picnic island. There are tiny uninhabited islands near most of the local islands. Tourists are taken there every day, and usually for the whole day. The price starts from $30. Transfer by boat, BBQ, and cool drinks are included.
On some islands, they offer “Robinson Crusoe” option. The thing is that you’re taken to an uninhabited island and left there alone for a night. It costs $150. The only island offer it is Omadhoo.
Resort visiting. Resorts are located near to most of the local islands. But guided tours are organized not to all of them. It’s because of some restrictions. Nevertheless, paying some amount of money (starting from $25, but usually it’s $100), you can visit this stunning place (transfer, meals and drinks, alcohol are included). At extra cost you can stay there for a night or take spa treatments.
Dolphin watching trips and romantic dinners. The cost of cruising starts from $60 (a boat and drinks included). A trip is usually organized in the evening, at sunset.
A romantic dinner can be organized either on the beach, sandbank, picnic island, or on the guest house garden, or on an uninhabited island (if there is any nearby). Such a dinner will cost $90 or more. It’s an unforgettable experience for couples, especially to have a breakfast on sunrise or dinner on sunset on the uninhabited island.
I’ve described only the main activities and guided tours, apart from this you can also be offered to do water skiing, ride a jet ski or a kayak (a great opportunity to explore the whole island), to take a cruise on a sailing catamaran, etc. On request you’ll be sent a price list with all services.
The costs of activities vary depending on the island and on the guest house, there are no general standards, they set their own prices. The Maldivians like to bargain, so feel free to ask for a discount!
I can say that the major thing that hinders development of local tourism is transfer system between islands. Transfers are carried out regularly, but not so often. The situation is changing, but there is a lot to be improved.
That’s why transfer costs vary considerably according to the type of transfer. Let’s consider possible variants.
Private or public ferry. It’s the cheapest and slowest type of transfer. It costs $3-10. Its travelling time is 1,5 – 10 hours. Not a speedy type, is it? Today you can get by ferry not to every island, remote islands can be reached only by local airlines, which I’ll be speaking about later.
Another advantage of this means of transport is the fact that within one atoll you can go to the neighboring local islands in the morning and get back in the evening.
Speedboat. It goes between the islands according to the timetable. Now there are a lot of routes between Male and local islands. The cost of ticket is $25-80 depending on the island. The traveling time is up to 3 hours. Notes: you should book your eticket in advance, otherwise there is a high chance the boat will be full.
Seaplane. It’s a speedy, but not cheap transfer. It’s usually offered to those tourists, who’re planning their trips to resorts. The cost starts from $250 per person, besides there are certain luggage limitations. The travelling time is 20-40 minutes. Another advantage is the fact that you can get a magnificent view of the Maldivian islands at a low height! This type of transfer is available on request, the flights are carried out only in daylight hours.
Local airlines. Today there are 11 airports in Maldives (7 local and 4 international). There are a number of connecting flights between them. You can travel to some remote islands (for example, Gan or Hanimaadhoo) only by local airlines. The cost of transfer depends on where you’re booking your ticket. If you’re doing it through your guest house, it’ll be cheaper, because they have contract with airline. In this case a return ticket will cost $160-400
Private speedboat. At request every guest house can provide you with a speedboat. The cost of transfer starts from $250 for a speedboat. This type of transfer is profitable, if you have a group transfer and you don’t want to wait for a ferry. Actually, nowadays you can get to almost every Maldivian island by one or several transfer. It’s all about money.
Also remember that on Fridays public ferries are not available. Speedboats are availble, but not to all islands. But it’s better to avoid to come or depart from Maldives on Fridays.
Here we’ll talk about souvenirs, groceries, mobile services and Internet.
Souvenirs. It’s hard to imagine being in Maldives and not buying some pretty little souvenirs. If you’re in two minds whether to buy souvenirs in Male or on local islands, I’d recommend you the latter. There several gift shops on every local island. You can find there various souvenirs, usually they’re made of wood or coconut with parts of fishbones and shark teeth. Simple magnets cost $1-2. A number of souvenirs are hand-made by shop owners.
When in such a shop, I asked the owner to paint my T-shirt, and he was pleased to do it! And it was absolutely for free. They readily communicate with you and on your request can make an exclusive souvenir. And remember to ask for a discount.
Groceries and other staff. There are usually several grocery and hardware stores on the islands. In grocery stores you can buy fruit, juices, sweets, etc. The prices there are reasonable and on the whole correspond to our prices (in dollars). The product range is also a welcome surprise, and don’t be confused by a bit messy arrangement of goods, it’s normal for them.
You can pay in rufiyaas or dollars. The exchange rate is $1=15 rufiyaas.
Mobile services and Internet. In most cases, Internet on the territory of guest houses is free, speed can be enough to watch movies online. As an alternative, you can buy a SIM-card from one of the two Maldivian operators. 2 Gb of Internet cost $20. Another option is to rent a modem from one of the Internet service providers, the cost is almost the same.
You’d better deal with this issue on arrival, because Internet and mobile operators can be found not on every island.
So, from all that has been said we can draw the following conclusion:
1) The cheapest accommodation is in low season (May-September).
2) Alternate between meals in a guest house and meals in local cafes.
3) The cheapest and slowest transfer between islands is by ferry. But there is always a chance that it will be canceled, so speedboat is more stable transfer.
4) It’s better to buy souvenirs on local islands, not in Male. You can get a discount.
5) The total cost of budget holidays in Maldives starts from $500 for two persons.