I always had the impression, along with some of my friends who like to travel, that Maldives was an incredibly expensive destination. Then I chanced across Svetlana’s Maldives posts on a budget. That was a complete blessing, as it showed me that Maldives on budget was possible. Now, that I have done the trip here are my tips for doing Maldives on budget.
Flight Costs: I had actually applied for leaves to visit Maldives in March. But then I was late in looking for flight tickets. I usually search on multiple aggregating websites and then go and check the fare on the airline website as well. I found the Spicejet Delhi-Mumbai-Kochi and then Kochi-Male flight to be cheapest. In March I was getting 21 thousand Indian rupees return fare. I was hesitating to spend 42K for two people just on the airfare. In the end, when I got the tickets for April I paid 17K each as the return fare. If I had leaves I would have taken the flight from Kochi, but what to do, with a full time job leaves are precious as I have to make them last for one full year. Being in academics helps as I get a bit more leaves than others but I still treat my leaves with enormous care.
Visa On Arrival: For Indians, Maldives has visa on arrival. The good news is that it is free of cost! When we arrived at least 3 flights landed and there was a queue. It would have taken us 30-40 minutes to get out. I had all the documents they recommend but they didn’t ask for any. Having said that I know of people who were asked for the documents. So, please do carry the required documents like return flight ticket, hotel reservation etc.
Finding an Island: I zeroed down at Maafushi because I searched for budget islands in Maldives and this one was popular. There are two type of islands in Maldives, resort islands and budget islands. Resort Islands have existed for a long time, I am told budget islands were opened about three years before. I am not sure about the time frame at all, it could be that Maafushi opened to the tourists three years before. The resort islands are expensive. For example I cannot find anything under US dollars 200 (without taxes) on the resort side. Whereas on the budget side you can find accommodations starting from $50. There are many more budget islands in Maldives.
Taxes: When a person quotes a price in Maldives, the actual price will be invariably more. They have a 8% tax on almost everything. Then there could be a 10% extra tax. So when you are planning your Maldives trip do keep in mind that you will pay more than the quoted price most of the time.
Finding a Hotel: I found the hotel via Tripadvisor. I stayed at Picnic Inn which is a basic guesthouse. There are cheaper hotels than Picnic Inn at Maafushi. But while researching at Tripadvisor I realized that the lower priced ones were in close proximity to the jail on the island. I decided to stay mid way. The hotels on the beach side are more expensive, the hotels closer to the jail less so. I booked directly through the hotel. I finally went with them because they were very prompt in answering my queries. I wrote to a few others but found them slow in providing information to me.
Speed Boats are Expensive: Maldives is an island nation. So you take boats to go from one place to another. The local ferries are cheap but not frequent. There are no ferries on Fridays as well. The speed boats are really expensive. I was quoted 200 dollar for the speedboat transfer from Male Airport to Maafushi. The ferry was at 3.00 pm from Male city. My flight landed at 2.10 pm. With visa on arrival I knew there was no way we could take the ferry. So I agreed to the speed boat transfer. If there are more than 5 people sharing a speed boat they charge you $39. I was lucky that the hotel had another group coming by the same flight and I paid $39 per head in the end. But this was just luck. For the Fihalhohi Resort Island trip the speedboat cost was $65 per head. For comparison entry fee with lunch at the resort was $48 per head.
The alternative was to stay at Male and take the ferry to Maafushi the next day. I realized the speedboat costs quite close to my trip and I was not willing to go and search for another hotel in Male. The ferry cost is about $3 and I took it on my return leg from Maafushi to Male.
Money Matters: On the islands everyone accepted dollars so I never exchanged currency. We were offered 15.4 Maldivian Rufiyaa for a dollar. Now that Indian rupee is about 60 to a dollar I was not thrilled. Some of the shopkeepers return you the local currency for the change even if you paid in dollars and that is how we had local currency with us in the end to pay on the ferry.
Food and Water: On budget islands there is no liquor available. The resort islands have no such restrictions. On an average we paid $20 for a a meal for two with fruit juice. In the tropics it is impossible to stay away from juices.Tap water is not potable. A 1.5 liter water bottle costs $1.
Excursions: At Maldives the temptation is to go on other side excursions like diving, snorkeling, sunset cruise and island hopping to name a few. All these are expensive. The prices will vary but do keep a budget for it.
From my side I have tried to give an idea about various costs. If you think I have missed out on something important do let me know, I will try to update the post.