The Maldives is well-known around the world as being one of the more expensive destinations to visit, but did you know it is possible to travel to the Maldives on a budget?
Travel in shoulder season
Peak season in the Maldives is December to January, with December being particularly expensive. This is when the weather is best, it is cooler and drier.
However, the shoulder season April-June and September-November is much more affordable. If you have flexibility in your dates, I would work my trip into April or November for the best likelihood of good weather.
Summer season in the Maldives is July and August and as it is the school holidays in the Northern Hemisphere, prices reflect this and are higher than shoulder season.
Visit a local island
Whilst most hotels are located on their own private island, there are plenty of smaller hotels and guest houses in the Maldives situated on ‘local islands’.
Local islands are exactly as you imagine, islands in which locals live. They still offer palm-fringed beaches and soft white sand, but you just share them with more people. There are over 200 islands to choose from, each with their own unique charm.
It’s generally agreed that the most beautiful local islands in the Maldives are those furthest from Male, however, seaplanes aren’t cheap so I would recommend settling for something in the middle that you can get a boat to.
Fulidhoo Island is a great one to visit, it’s one of the smaller options but comes with an abundance of authenticity, beauty and charm. The ferries to Fulidhoo Island from Male run a few times a week, you can find their full timetable here. The ferry takes around 3 and a half hours and costs just a few USD. If you want a private speedboat transfer to Fulidhoo it costs around $70 and takes just over an hour – this can be arranged with your accommodation
Stay in a beach villa
No matter which island you are visiting, unless there is some sort of epic promotion, the water villas are more costly than beach villas. The first time I went to the Maldives I research the cost of a beach villa vs a water villa and the difference over the whole trip was around £3000.
So many people think you have to stay in a water villa for the full Maldivian experience but it’s not true. Beach villas are just as great, you literally have your own private corner of the beach and can walk straight out your room and feel the sand between your toes, it’s amazing!
If you really REALLY want to stay in a water villa but can’t work it into your budget, split your stay across both room types so you aren’t paying for a water villa the whole time.
Alcohol in the Maldives is expensive, this is because it is imported from outside the country with high levels of taxes. If you really want a cocktail then pay attention to when happy hour is as you can often enjoy drinks for half the price or on 2 for 1 offers.
Leave the mini bar alone
Even if you are on an all inclusive stay, the mini bars aren’t always included so please check before you reach for a drink. Room service tends to be an extra cost also so it is worth walking to the bar to get your drink rather than just calling it to your room.
When I was booking a trip to the Maldives in November the direct flights with British Airways, although handy, were costly. I save over £500 by flying indirect with Emirates and it was a quick 1.5 hour layover. You can save even more by flying on smaller airlines such as Gulf Air and Sri Lankan Airlines too.
Important things to remember
The Maldives is a strict Muslim country and when visiting local islands instead of resorts you must respect the local laws and customs. Alcohol is strictly banned on local islands and you can be arrested if you are caught drinking.
You must also be respectful in your attire, bikinis outside of your private area and outside of tourist designated areas are a no go! Local islands offer ‘bikini beaches’, these are designated for tourists to enjoy the sand and water in their attire, but not all islands offer this so please check before you book.
You must plan ahead when planning a holiday to the Maldives, this is not somewhere you can just turn up in and look for accommodation. This is a huge exapanse of ocean filled with tiny islands and transfers get filled up, ferries don’t go every day. Please pre-book all your accommodation and transfers so you don’t get stranded on arrival.