What do we think of when someone says they'd like to visit the Maldives - overwater villas, swimming with marine life, and a truly luxurious experience with an unforgettable seaside view to match? This collection of islands has become a popular destination for couples and families alike in recent years but it's also gained a slight reputation for being a particularly pricey trip!
To help make that island getaway a reality, here are 8 cost-saving tips to help you enjoy the beauty of the Maldives without breaking the bank!
1. Keep an eye out for cheap flights
Credit: @ptcreativepictures on Instagram
When you're planning a budget-conscious trip, securing an affordable flight to your destination is already half the battle won! Thankfully since the Maldives are already so close to Southeast Asia, you can find direct full-service return flights for less than USD500 on carriers such as Silkair and Singapore Airlines via Singapore's Changi Airport. ? AirAsia also operates direct flights from KL to Malé from just USD300 during off-peak season!
2. Travel off-peak for amazing bargains
Credit: Gangehi Island Resort on Facebook
The off-peak season for the Maldives is from the April-September monsoon season so keep an eye out for affordable tickets for this period - accommodations such as the Gangehi Resort that cost USD600/night during the peak season can go as low as USD80/night if you book it well in advance! You'll be able to stay in a gorgeous overwater villa for a fraction of the usual price! ?
#HHWT Tip: Do note that while this is the monsoon season, you might not even see rain during a 5-7 day trip as it'll really depend from island to island. ? Even if it does rain, you'll still have plenty of fun enjoying in-house activities at your accommodations or exploring the teahouses and eateries to meet local Maldivians. July and September are said to be the wettest months, so you might want to pre-plan your days just a little if you're visiting then.
3. Stay on a local island near Malé
We usually think of the Maldives as a single location, but did you know that the tropical nation is actually made up of many atolls that consist of several islands each? Malé is the capital of the Maldives and is also where the Velana International Airport is located. When picking your accommodations, look for one closer to Malé as those tend to be more affordable.
Credit: @edmund.ani on Instagram
Maafushi island in Kaafu Atoll as one of the local islands you can consider as a 'home base' during your trip. Not only is it really close to Malé, but there are a variety of hotels and guesthouses on it to give you that beautiful seaside view without breaking the bank. Activities such as fishing, snorkelling, canoeing are widely available, and there are even 2 island mosques and plenty of cafes where you can meet the locals! Check out this 4D3N Maafushi itinerary for under RM2800 to get started!
P.S. If you're up for some island-hopping, you can also maximise your local island experience by picking an atoll with more islands and trying out a new hotel every 1-2 nights.
4. Choose an island you can get to via boat and not seaplane
Credit: @saifsotti on Instagram
Maafushi is perfect for this as it's accessible from Malé via ferry (average USD1.40-2/trip) or speedboat (USD20-75/trip). Staying on a local island also means you'll avoid the expensive transfer fees that are part of staying at a private resort. Just remember to be at the ferry port at least 30-45 minutes before departure time as the ferries refuse entry once the boat is full.
5. Book budget-friendly accommodation that won't break the bank
Private resorts - think bright-blue waters and overwater villas with private docks - are the most iconic type of accommodation in the Maldives, but they're also the most expensive with prices ranging from as high as USD800-1200 for a single night's stay during the peak travel period. ? The Maldives also has a sales/tourist tax for accommodations that adds USD3 or USD6 to your bill per night, so make sure to calculate this when you're deciding on a budget for your trip.
Credit: Liberty Guesthouse
In comparison, you could get a room in a guesthouse or Airbnbs for between USD30-70 (SGD40-100) per night year-round! That leaves you with enough of your budget to spend on day tours and exciting activities such as whale watching, diving, or paddleboarding. Staying in a guesthouse or Airbnb with a local host is also a great way to get closer to the local culture and learn more about local habits, customs, and recommendations! ?
Credit: @renzinsdoh on Instagram
If you prefer something more catered to tourists, the Kaani hotel chain is a popular hotel option that's also budget-friendly. Spanning 5 properties across the islands, you'll be able to enjoy the seaside view from your bedroom as well as the heavenly buffets and activities prepared by the hotel!
#HHWT Tip: For more budget-friendly accommodations with a touch of luxury, check out these 10 Muslim-friendly resorts with nightly rates ranging between just USD52-129!
6. Travel in groups to get the best rates
It's usually couples who visit the Maldives together, but the country is a great destination for families or groups of friends too! Whether you're bringing the kids for a beachside getaway or deciding to up your beach vacay game, having at least 4-5 people in your party will actually help you get the best rates for day trips and tours!
Credit: @gigi.weng on Instagram
This is because tour operators tend to charge an additional or higher fee for a 2-person group as they haven't had enough people to fit their quota. Some tours may even cancel on the day itself if they don't have enough people - and if you're already travelling off-peak you won't want to end up having to stay indoors during your trip!
Credit: @het_maldives on Instagram
Thankfully with the tourism industry in the Maldives booming there's no shortage of agencies you can look at if you really want to find a tour that suits you. But it would also be amazing to see the brilliant blue ocean and assortment of marine life with your kids or friends - so why not give it a shot and plan your next big group vacay together? ?
7. Book a day tour to a resort for a touch of luxury
If you really, really want to experience that glamorous Maldivian resort life, plan a day trip for visiting one to soak in the luxury experience. Day tours to resorts are becoming increasingly more popular, and since transport between the different islands is fairly accessible you can have your pick too!
Credit: @zico_007 on Instagram
Day tours usually require you to pay the resort day pass as well as a transport fee, but do remember to pre-book if possible as some tours have limited number of spots per day. From Maafushi, take a boat ride over to Kandoomaa Fushi to enjoy a day out at the Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma Maldives. There you can enjoy the resort's delicious meal spreads, relaxing spa facilities, and other exciting activities before heading back to your accommodation at the end of the day.
#HHWT Tip: If you plan your budget carefully, you could even stay on a local island for most of your trip and just spend the last 1-2 days at a private one to enjoy the best of both worlds.
8. Skip the buffet and dine at local eateries
The Maldives is an Islamic country so almost all of the restaurants and eateries are Muslim-owned or use only halal ingredients. Alcohol and pork are also prohibited within the islands so you'll be able to find halal and affordable (think USD5 or less for almost every meal) local cuisine all throughout your trip without any worry!
Disclaimer: Eateries in some private resorts may serve pork and/or alcohol, but they will be clearly indicated and prepared or served separately from halal dishes. If in doubt, we advise you to contact the resort or accommodation directly beforehand to clarify.
Credit: Suzi's cafe' quench on Facebook
If you're looking to squeeze the most out of a smaller budget, avoid accommodations with meal plans and opt for local eateries and teahouses instead. Suzis Cafe Quench (Maafushi) is a popular spot where you can fuel up on local Maldivian rice, noodles, and seafood for prices as low as USD1! ? Maldivian meals are also pretty simple - make sure to try the local Roshi (flatbread similar to Roti) with fish curry for breakfast to eat just like the locals there.
P.S. Do note that there are fairly high goods and services taxes across the maldives (up to 10%) that there are fairly high taxes applied across the Maldives, since the starting prices are already so low you won't feel too much of a pinch.