Marvelous Maldives On a Low Budget
“If you think adventure is dangerous try routine, it is lethal!” Paul Coelho
The Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort
I have wanted to go to the Maldives for as long as I can remember. This destination has been high up on my bucket list as it may well be for most people. The water bungalows on a private island and the turquoise waters against blue skies backdrop are a huge draw for many. However, these incredible views and experience do not come cheap! The overall cost can be a huge deterrent.
After slow traveling in Eastern Europe and Africa for about 8 months, I came back to Atlanta for a close friend’s wedding without future travel plans. While shopping for wedding accessories, I found an outfit that screamed island vibe. I bought the outfit and told my best friend that I would wear it someday while in the Maldives to which she chuckled! It was just a crazy fantasy that stayed with me. In no time, I was looking up flights and accommodation options for this destination.
I booked the trip as a solo ride knowing full well that this destination calls for a companion. I am a very well adjusted solo traveler. It’s my preferred way to travel BUT I cannot tell you how glad I am that a friend decided to join me at the last minute. There was no entertainment other than water sports and scuba diving of which I do not partake. Most activities were limited to the private island. Having a friend there made all the difference.
Lost in paradise…do not send help
WHAT I LEARNED
As can be expected, this is not a solo travel destination. It’s ranked highly as a honeymoon destination with good reason. It does live up to the expectation and looks just as real as the screen savers we see and day dream about. Having a companion helps a great deal! Ideally someone special to share the beauty and splendor of the island with. Or to simply help you capture the memories.
Everything is expensive on the island! Everything! Let’s start with transportation. If you’re considering a trip here keep in mind how far your resort is from the airport. There is only one way out from the airport: boat taxi or sea plane. A return trip by sea plane (45 minutes) could run you up to $800 – $1000 per person adding to your overall cost. We used a boat taxi as our resort was only 20 minutes from Velana International Airport. It cost us $136 each.
The only two transportation options from the airport
Maldives is made up of 2000 islands that vary in size. Each resort is on it’s own private island. Our resort was located on Furanafushi Island. Some of the islands are disappearing due to erosion from the sea and rising water levels. More reason for you to visit before they are gone.
Aerial view of our resort
Maldives has a 100 percent Muslim population and rules can be strict. No public displays of affection, bathing suits or alcohol are allowed on the mainland in Male. This does not apply to your stay at the resorts as they are on private land. We traveled during the month-long holy fast of Ramadan. This kept us on our island as there was nothing much to do on the mainland. We never ventured out to the capital for a tour.
Do NOT bring alcohol to the island. This includes any acquired at Duty Free during your transit. It will be confiscated at the airport. Do not try to sneak it in as it is prohibited and customs are strict about it. Your luggage is scanned at the airport upon arrival. Alcohol will be served at your resort but do keep in mind it will be at an inflated cost. Almost 3-4 times what you pay at home. If you can get an all inclusive package, I highly recommend it! As said everything is pricey. For perspective a small soda bottle (300ml) is $8. The cheapest bottle of wine is $80. You would pay $10-$15 for the same bottle at home. Dinner buffet at our resort was $90 per person.
For accommodation, you have options depending on where you choose to stay. Some resorts have two options – water bungalow or villa. I highly recommend getting the water bungalow. It will cost more but it is the stuff dreams are made of. When you think of Maldives, water bungalows come to mind. You get unobstructed views of the Indian Ocean and private access to the ocean: via steps from your bungalow – ideal for skinny dipping (after dark). I’m pretty sure we broke the rules here as it is advised not to swim in the ocean after certain hours.
Private access to the ocean – care for a dip in these turquoise waters?
We stayed at the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort. It is a bit dated but I can’t praise the staff enough! They were attentive and always cheerful. No request we made was too big. The rooms and grounds were kept immaculate. I loved the fact that this resort was only 20 minutes from the airport making our return trip affordable. A sea plane transfer would have changed our budget dramatically! On the flip side, being closer to the mainland meant there were parts of the island that had the view of industrial construction close by that was an eyesore. Thankfully it was limited to a side we hardly visited.
HOW I MADE THE TRIP AFFORDABLE
The joy of conquering an expensive destination on a low budget is unparalleled!
The local currency is Maldivian Rufiyaa. We never needed to use it as we had prepaid for accommodation and boat taxi. The resorts accept US Dollars – cash or charge.
We traveled to the Maldives during the low season. It’s rainy season in June and occupancy is low which meant lower accommodation costs. Don’t let the words rainy season deter you, we experienced a slight passing rain which was still beautiful.
I work at a large hotel chain & was able to get employee discount on accommodation. I chose to stay in a water bungalow for two nights at $350 per night & in the villa for two nights at $149 per night to experience both options. Breakfast was included in the rate and it was quite the feast that included traditional, Asian and Indian cuisine variety. Accommodation was prepaid prior to arrival which is mandatory. We got a complimentary upgrade at no additional charges. We never had to move to the villa after all.
Yes, two more nights in the water bungalow please. Thanks!
TIP: When making an upgrade request, be polite & leave the sense of entitlement at home! Be prepared to hear no and take it graciously. We were fortunate that the resort was at a low occupancy and the request could be granted.
Being able to split the cost of accommodation with a friend made it very affordable. It was about $730 pp including the return boat taxi ($136). The only additional costs we incurred were on dinner – a-la-carte. We didn’t go the buffet route as we found it to be excessive at $90 per person. The Thai restaurant on site was our favorite as servings were huge (enough to share between two people) and was reasonably priced. We also bought a few bottles of wine and champagne. Bringing our total expenses to about $1250 each. That wine tab added up quickly!
Transportation – return ticket to Male from Atlanta was about $1450. I had about 100K points earned as a bonus for signing up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card last year. This is one of my favorite travel credit cards but I digress. The bonus points were worth $1500 if redeemed for travel at the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel portal. I redeemed about 96K points for the return flight to Male on Turkish Airways. This cost me nothing. Boat transfer from Velena International Airport to our resort was $136 per person which was prepaid with the accommodation.
Free trip anyone?
When traveling long distance and have a layover, take advantage of the opportunity to check out your transit city. Some cities provide short local tours and issue visitors visa at little to no cost if required. You give yourself a chance to travel to another destination for the price of one trip. Two for one! We were able to visit Istanbul during our 9 hr layover over there.
To conclude, I highly recommend a trip to the Maldives. It can be done without breaking the bank. This was the most relaxing vacation I have been on. Despite the distance and time difference from Atlanta, I came back home without the usual travel fatigue. I would recommend being on the island for about 4-6 days. A shorter time will deny you the experience and a longer time would be excessive.