When you think of Maldives, one can only picture relaxing in the infinity pools of the stunning over water bungalows perched on the pristine white sands overlooking the transparent turquoise blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Post that, reality sinks in making this the most expensive destination of our lives. Well, we too like all of you got stuck with this reality check when Donald surprised me by booking the flight tickets to the Maldives for my birthday not knowing what lies ahead.
So in this blog, we will be sharing all the tips and tricks to travel on a budget and when we say budget that means under 45000 INR per person. Yes, you heard it right and it is absolutely possible. If we can make it happen, so can you and we are always here to help you guys.
So lets begin the Journey to the ultimate Dream Destination… India to Maldives!!!
Maldives: As you already know, this beautiful country is located in the Indian Ocean and is a cluster of around 1200 islands categorized into 26 atolls derived from the Maldivian word “atholhu” meaning dual island chains. The Capital of this country is Male.
Things to know before you go to Maldives:
- Maldives is an Islamic dominated country and hence one should respectfully follow the rules of the country which includes dressing moderately (knees and hands covered) when outside the tourist spots and no indulgence in any kind of alcohol (except the private luxury resorts which have the license to serve. )
- Language: Dhivehi is the local language of the Maldivians, however, English is widely spoken being a popular tourist country.
- Locals: Maldivians are very hospitable, friendly and caring people and we are sure you will love to strike a conversation with them and make friends for a lifetime.
- Currency: Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) is the actual currency of Maldives however USD is used across all the islands. But we would suggest keeping some MVR handy in case of any local grocery shopping/eating.
- ATM’s: Most of the ATM’s are available only in Male, Hulhumale, and Maafushi being the most popular and commercial ones.
- Visa: Visa on Arrival process is quite quick in Maldives. It hardly took us 10 mins to finish the process. An immigration form is provided to you on most of the flights so you can fill it up and keep it ready in advance. Visa on Arrival facility is available to all Indians. Be sure to carry the following, (a) photocopy of your return flight tickets, (b) photocopy of all the hotel bookings and (c) photocopies of your 6 months bank statement and of course your passport 😉
- Sim Cards: There are two popular mobile carriers Oreedu and Dhirragu. We picked up a 7-day sim card for $15 USD from Oreedu which included 4 GB of data and unlimited local calls. Well, you can opt not taking a sim card as well if you’re going for less than 5 days as most of the hotels and restaurants have free WiFi available.
- Food: Maldivian food mostly consists of seafood especially tuna however you will get both veg and non-veg options on all of the islands.
- Medicines: Since you will be transporting only through ferry boats or speedboats while moving to and fro between islands and airport, please carry your medicines if you suffer from motion sickness.
- Forex Exchange: USD is the preferred currency to carry while visiting Maldives hence we exchanged Forex from local agencies in Mumbai itself. Also, you can carry a travel Forex card if available. We used Weizmann for Forex exchange who gave us a good exchange value.
Best Time to Visit:
November to April would be the ideal time to visit the Maldives owing to the dry season and the weather is also bearable however it is the peak season so expect the peak pricing in all tariffs too. May to October is considered the wet season and the influx of tourists is less too but if you’re ready to bear the sun and stronger winds and rain, then this would be the best non-peak time with low prices everywhere. This experience narrated by us is during the peak season. That means during the off-peak season one may travel here for less than 35000 INR.
How to book you Flight:
We booked our return flights for both for Rs. 30000 from Indigo airlines through Yatra mobile app. We generally prefer booking our flights at least 45 days in advance however since the Maldives was a last minute decision we ended up booking it just 15 days prior and still ended up getting a good deal. We suggest checking your flight trends on Skyscanner to help you book the cheapest flight.
How to choose your Hotel :
The Maldives is a huge island country comprising of 26 atolls and for a first-timer, it can be quite overwhelming and intimidating as to which island to choose. Well since we were going for 7 days we decided to choose 2 islands, Rasdhoo – a remote secluded island and Maafushi – a popular commercial island. Well, you can choose just one island if you’re going for less than a week, however, if you planning to do water activities in any remote islands, then you may end up paying more than the popular ones. So choose wisely where you stay as your entire budget revolves around the location you are eventually going to be put up at. We suggest to choose from Dhiffushi, Thulusdhoo, Fulidhoo, and Rasdhoo among the less crowded remote islands and combine it with Maafushi being the popular commercial one as staying in Maafushi was the cheapest till now. We generally prefer booking from Agoda, Booking or Expedia when traveling overseas.
Links to our Hotels: Bookings made from Agoda.com
- Hulhumale Island Near Airport: Koamas Lodge for one-night stay including breakfast (Rs. 3276 per night)
- Rasdhoo Island: Banana Residence for a 1-night stay (Rs. 3072 per night)
- Maafushi Island: Ciritorno View Guesthouse 3 night stay (Rs. 2526 per night)
- Maafushi Island: Arora Inn 1 night (Rs. 3749 per night) booked last minute
The only mode of transportation in the Maldives is a public ferry, speed boats, and seaplane where the latter being the most expensive. We spent around $250 only in public speedboat which ate up most of our budget however it was a faster option. You can opt to take the public ferries which cost around $2-3 per person however do check their availability in advance. I have attached the latest public ferries image for your reference. Also, remember that public ferries don’t fly on Fridays as being a public holiday.
ICOM Tours Speedboat and Ferry Service: $20 USD from Male to Maafushi per person one way
Coral Speedboat Maldives: $35 USD per person one way from Male Jetty No 6 to Rasdhoo
Our Budget Breakup Table for the Entire Trip
Our 7 days detailed itinerary:
Day 1: Mumbai to Male International Airport
Heading finally to the Maldives our Dream Destination! We took the 1.20 pm Indigo Flight from Mumbai International Airport and landed at Velana International Airport, Male previously known as Ibrahim Nasir International Airport at 5 pm. Our flight was delayed by almost 2 hours due to which we missed our onward island transfer to Rasdhoo Island as the last ferry to that island departs at 4.30 pm. We completed our immigration process within 10 mins since Indians have the benefit of visa on arrival in the Maldives. We exchanged some local Maldivian currency at the airport exchange counter Bank of Maldives where the exchange rate was 15 MVR = 1 USD however we suggest exchanging currency within local popular islands of Male, Hulhumale, and Maafushi as the currency exchange rate is better 15.4 MVR for 1 USD. We also picked up a local sim card for $15 USD with 4 GB data and unlimited local calls from Oreedo at the airport. Since we missed our island transfer, we had no option but to stay that night at Hulhumale or Male city and we opted for the former as it is comparatively less crowded. So we booked Koamas Lodge for $46 USD through Agoda app and took a cab till the hotel which cost us 100 MVR ($10 USD). You can also opt for the Airport shuttle to Hulhumale city in case you don’t want to hire a car. The drive to our hotel was beautiful as we could only see the ocean on both sides lined with palm trees. Checked into our hotel and rushed to the opposite W-Mart store and picked some readymade snacks as we were dying of hunger. We relaxed in our hotel for a while and then headed for a walk around the Hulhumale city. We stopped by the Hulhumale beach and had some fast food dinner at Ze.NR .
Day 2 : Hulhumale to Rasdhoo Island
Woke up early next morning as we had to take the 10.30 am ferry from Male Jetty. We had our English breakfast, checked out of the hotel and hired a taxi for 100 MVR to Male Jetty. This happened to be a shared taxi which dropped a few to the Male airport and then took us to the Jetty No 6. We boarded the speedboat named Coral Queen which costed us $35 USD per person one way. Our speedboat started on time and then made a quick stop at Male Airport to pick up rest of the passengers which took about 45 mins. We made a mistake here as we could have taken this ferry from the airport itself rather than renting a taxi all the way till the jetty. So this is something you might wanna keep in mind when you take the public speedboat to any island, take it directly from outside the airport unless your taking a public ferry for which you will have to come to Male Jetty. You can take a public boat from Airport to Male Jetty which would cost around 25 MVR per person. We reached Rasdhoo island in 1.5 hrs (around 60 kms by sea). We reached the tiny beautiful island of Rasdhoo where the waters were turquoise nothing compared to what we seen in Hulhumale or Male. Our guesthouse staff received us at the Rashdoo Jetty and we finally reached Banana Residence. This cozy little guesthouse was all we needed as it gave us a Bob Marley tropical beach feeling surrounded with white sand and palm trees. We were welcomed with a refreshing mock-tail and cold compressed towel which was such a relief. We completed the check in formalities, freshened up and headed for lunch to Coffee Ole which is quite popular in Rashdoo. This island has a population of around 1000 people so you can imagine how small and beautiful it might have been. Being a popular cafe, we had to wait for an hour to be served here and the food was scrumptious. We ordered for a tuna sandwich and a Nasi Goreng which was quite filling. Then we picked up some snacks for the evening from ‘This or That’ store and headed back to our guesthouse where Switch our hotel manager (Yes that’s his name) was waiting to take us for a sandbank and snorkeling trip. We had a quick change of clothes and headed to our first snorkeling practice session on the sandbank. The waters were quite choppy and although the sandbank was quite near, it definitely looked afar due to the strong water currents. We tried our snorkeling gears and headed to practice in the shallow waters. To be honest, Diana didn’t even know to swim and it was the first ever snorkeling activity of our lives but we were super excited about it. Switch was quite patient with us and eventually after 30 mins of teaching we got comfortable with the process and loved watching the underwater colorful fishes. It was quite magical. Post snorkeling, we relaxed on the sandbank and watched the most gorgeous sunset. Imagine being transported to an island surrounded by turquoise blue waters and the pink skies with no one around but you, that feeling is just out of the world and that is how we felt. We, then bumped into Dogukan and Lary @experienceofus, a travel couple from Germany and had a great conversation until we reached our guesthouse and relaxed for a while. Around 9 pm we left for LemonDrop cafe to meet a Swedish travel couple, who also happened to be in Rasdhoo at the same time. We had an amazing dinner and exchanged our travel stories with Pajam and Ophelia from @followusbeyond and made some new friends never to be forgotten.
Day 3 : Rasdhoo Island to Maafushi Island
We woke up the next morning and had our first Maldivian breakfast which included Kotthu Roshi (Roti) and Mas Huni (Composed of finely chopped tuna, onion, coconut, and chili). We headed for our second snorkeling session with turtles in deep waters and we were shit scared. We met Alok, an Indian travel vlogger @backpackers guide who was also staying at our guesthouse. This is the best part about traveling and staying in budget hotels and hostels where you get to interact and share experiences with fellow travelers. After our snorkeling experience in deep waters, while heading back to the sandbank, we happened to spot 3 sea turtles and were so excited to capture them on our GoPro. We then snorkeled and relaxed at the sandbank for a few hours and returned back to our guesthouse at 12 pm. With just an hour left to take our next ferry to Maafushi island, against all odds we quickly decided to rush to the nearby Bikini beach to try our luck with Sharks or Manta Rays and guess what, we spotted at least 5 baby Sharks swimming around a school of fish. Looks like it was their lunch hour too 😉 We also spotted a Maldivian Heron posing to be clicked. Finally, we checked out of the guesthouse as happy travelers and took our next ferry to Maafushi island at 1.30 pm. We wished we had a few more days to spend time on this island but someday we will surely return. We loved the hospitality of Banana Residence and we definitely recommend this guesthouse. We reached Male Jetty at 3.30 pm and missed the connecting public ferry to Maafushi which leaves every day at 3 pm which departs from Villingili Ferry Terminal located 2 km away from Jetty No 6 hence we had no option but to take the public speedboat which cost us $20 USD each one way. We reached Maafushi island in 30 minutes and checked in at CiRitorno View Guesthouse. Since we were starving, we decided to visit Amigos Cafe and had the yummiest tuna grilled fish and Nasi Goreng. Post lunch we strolled around the island and watched the beautiful sunset and chilled by the Bikini beach.
Day 4 : Maafushi Island – Snorkeling and Night Fishing
We woke up to an English breakfast and then headed for some snorkeling at the local beach. We spotted some colorful fishes and also watched other windsurf, para-sail and kite surf on the beach. We then booked the night fishing activity for $20 USD per person. You can inquire for packages at Salt Beach Hotel and ask for Kalam, he is quite a helpful person and can also offer some discount on the packages. We returned to our hotel and freshened up. Then we went for lunch at Mama Mia’s for a yummilicious pizza. Later that evening we went for our first-night fishing activity. We were around 15 people in the tour and were taken in a traditional fishing boat amidst the deep seas and post anchoring the boat, the local fishermen gave each one of us their traditional fishing line with a hook and a bait (fish food). Some were lucky, some were not but we all had a wonderful time catching plenty of fishes and watching yet another amazing sunset. We returned at 8 pm and then were served barbecued fish for dinner with a candlelight setup which was quite interesting. We returned to our hotel and Donald arranged for a cake and flowers on my birthday eve. So sweet of him!!
Day 5 : Maafushi Island – Aadaran Club Ranalhi Day Visit :
Today we were heading to a luxury resort Aadaran Club Ranalhi as Donald planned to surprise me for my birthday. This day visit costs $100 USD per person which was all inclusive of unlimited drinks, cocktails, mocktails, morning and evening snacks, buffet lunch, access to the private beach, use of sunbeds and return transfer to the hotel. We reached the resort at 9 am and were greeted with a welcome drink. Then we had some morning snacks, a couple of drinks and headed to snorkel on the private beach. Had a scrumptious buffet lunch, relaxed and chilled at the hotel and then had high tea snacks and returned back to our hotel at 6 pm. It was definitely once in a lifetime experience. We had booked this package too from Salt beach Hotel through Kalam in case you are interested too.
Day 6 : Maafushi Island – Scuba Diving and Crab Race
Today we decided to relax as it was our last day on the island. We checked out of CiRitorno View Guesthouse and checked in at Arora Inn as we had booked this hotel last minute for our final day. Initially, we were supposed to go back to Male and stay there for one night and head to Mumbai however we happened to find out that there are early morning airport transfers at 6.30 am from Maafushi itself and hence we decided to cancel the Male city stay and extend one night at Maafushi itself. We booked our airport transfer from Go Maafushi for $20 USD per person. One of our friends had signed up for Open Scuba Dive from Maafushi Dive. We too wanted to attempt Scuba diving however the instructor suggested it wouldn’t be recommended for Diana due to her chronic sinusitis issue and Donald was not keeping well that day. We will definitely have this checked off our bucket-list next time for sure.
Cost for Open Dive : $70 per person (duration : 2 hours)
We wanted to go for some island tour however Friday being a public holiday, everything was shut post 1 pm. Later that evening we went for souvenir shopping and a quick stroll on the Bikini beach. We must say, we had never seen so many people at the same time on the Bikini beach in all these days. All thanks to Friday!! Then we headed for a safari boat ride where they serve beer and wine. We had a few drinks and headed back to participate in the Crab race which only happens every Friday at Active Watersport Maafushi. It was a fun activity where each participant is given a numbered crab. These crabs are placed at the center of a huge circle made on the ground where they have to find their way out of the circle. The first one to cross the finish line is the winner. Although we didn’t win, we had a fun experience. We concluded our last dinner in the Maldives at Amigos Cafe.
Day 7 : Maafushi Island to Mumbai
We woke up at 5 am to take our island airport ferry at 6.30 am. Had our English breakfast and checked out of the hotel to make our trip to the airport. It is always sad to leave any place but that is the way of life. We definitely took back some wonderful memories, amazing conversations not only with the locals but also with fellow travelers, and lifelong friends until we return back to this blue magical island again. Until then “Dhanee Maldives”