As I sat in the speed boat, surrounded by turquoise waters, I saw the dolphins race against the waves, the ocean breeze caress my face and hair and that’s when I realised – I want these moments often in life.
It was peaceful.
The charm of Maldives had done its magic.
I always knew it was a beautiful place; what I was unaware that it would have an impact on my thinking. Most of the islands and places in the Maldives are still pristine and that explains why it still has an abundance of positive energy. The water is significantly clear and blue. The people are honest and welcoming. Every experience is so worthwhile that you will willingly want to reciprocate the hospitality and love.
The fast and merciless city life tests your patience and character every single day. Maldives makes you a better person. You will gladly be patient and respectful of the other person. You will learn to not litter because you don’t want to dirty the scenic islands. There is an added bonus for people who are not cat-lovers: you will get familiar with these cute animals because you will see them almost everywhere on the Maldivian isles.
I found a home, away from home, and when it was time to leave, I was sad. Before this trip, after every travel, I was always happy about returning to my country but splitting ways from the Maldives was tough. I had gotten used to an uncomplicated routine.
One of the best parts of our trip was to break the taboo that the Maldives was meant only for a couple-vacation. I explored the island nation with my husband and sister. Always travel with people you love and these two are the most favourite people of mine and have been great travel companions.
In fact, you can also plan a girls trip to the Maldives. There cannot be a better combination than that of girl-pals and beach-days. As far as safety is concerned, I have never felt as safe as I did in the Maldives, even in the dark. The people there mind their own business and that’s their best quality.
Visiting the Maldives certainly was an experience for life and all we needed was a thorough and a well-researched plan to make this trip a successful and smooth journey.
The Maldives comprises of more than 1,000 islands – sandbanks, private resorts and local islands – but not all are accessible. Earlier, tourism in the Maldives was restricted to the private island resorts on the uninhabited islands and those cost a BOMB.
It’s not the case anymore. The Maldives is no longer an exclusive holiday reserved only for the rich or celebrities. There has never been a better time to plan your vacation to a dreamy place like the Maldives. Yes, you can actually afford it!
It was around in 2010, the Maldivian govt relaxed the rules that opened doors to the independent travel culture. Now, there are over 400 guesthouses/hotels to cater for the budget travellers. We have always believed in making our bookings at least two or three months in advance. It was no different for our Maldives trip and we got a superb deal for five nights with free breakfast – it was around INR 11K for two guests. (Exclusive of taxes – USD 3 per person per night – payable at the hotel)
Maafushi – base island
There are several local islands like Gulhi, Maafushi, Fulidhoo and Guraidhoo. Since Maafushi has more accommodation options than the others, we would suggest you to make Maafushi as your base. We booked Ethereal Inn in Maafushi. Due to a certain issue on our arrival day, the owner put us in its sister hotel, the White Sand Lodge at no extra cost.
While Ethereal Inn was closer to the beach, White Sand Lodge was a bigger property with better facilities. It was sweet of Mr Fox, the owner, to let us stay there for the rest of the trip as well. It worked out well for us.
Activities: Compare the deals
Since tourism is the largest economic industry in the Maldives, the hotel/guest house owners are responsive. It’s always better to get in touch and enquire about all the activities you would be interested in. I spoke to Mr Fox and Maafushi Tours, the tour company that organised various activities. When I compared, I found the former’s deals better and that way we saved a lot of money.
Your hotel owners or the tour travels will offer you a variety of packages but I suggest you make your own itinerary. That way, you’ll only spend on things you want to do. We spent USD 25 per person in a half-day excursion that included snorkelling at two points (Nemo and Turtle), dolphin cruise and lunch at a Sandbank. This was also inclusive of the speedboat transfers. They even provide the snorkelling equipment and free GoPro photographs during the day.
I would like to warn you that the lunch they provide is not that great so please do not have any great expectations for the same. It consisted of a ham sandwich, dirty fries, fruits and soft drinks.
The Maldives has the same humid but pleasant weather throughout the year. Apart from the monsoon months – June and July – you can visit it at any time of the year. Since its closer to the equator and the sun rays fall almost at an angle of 90 degrees, the afternoons are going to be hot, irrespective of the month. We booked our flight tickets four months in advance and got an excellent deal of INR 28K to and fro for two!
When to go
If you consider season-wise, the low season runs from May to September. By October, the prices begin to double and the hotels get sold out in no time. We travelled to the Maldives in the low season of August. At the other local islands like Gulhi, we hardly saw tourists. On Maafushi, the island with the largest amount of guest houses, there were around 10 people on the Bikini Beach at once so it did not feel crowded there either.
Try and avoid the period from November to April as you’ll find these islands crowded and as well as expensive due to the peak season.
Visa on arrival
This is one of the easiest visas you will ever get. The Maldives offers a free visa on arrival to Indians. You have to fill the arrival card, which you’ll receive at the airport’s check-in counter. It took less than 3 minutes at Male Airport’s immigration counter. Basically, until you have a return ticket and the accommodation voucher to show, you should not have an issue.
You can always buy a sim card on your respective local island but that will cost you more than the actual price. There are several stores at the airport. As soon as you walk out of arrivals, the Ooredoo and the Dhiraagu shop are on the right-hand side and can’t be missed. We went to Ooredoo.
We bought two sim cards: one for 15 USD that had 4GB data and the other for 20 USD with 17GB data.
You don’t have to buy an international sim. Just buy a local sim card. You will get aq sim only if you have your passport with you. A driver’s license, a copy of your passport or any other photo ID ill not be accepted. Since we used Ooredoo, we will definitely recommend that.
Ferry over speed boats
Taking a ferry is cheaper but slower when compared to speed boats. For example, from the Velana Airport to Maafushi island, the ferries cost just USD 2 or 3 per person and the journey is close to two hours. But, if you take a speed boat, it’ll cost you USD 20 per person and you’ll reach in half an hour. We did not take a ferry during our trip but you can always try if you want to experience it and have a tight budget.
Carry a lot of food
Except for alcohol and pork, there are no restrictions on any food item. We carried a variety of food juices, chips, biscuits, cheese, butter, bread (you don’t get a brown bread in Maafushi!) and soup packets. This way, we didn’t always have to spend money whenever we were hungry and trust me, we never realise we spend a lot on food. So, this helped our pocket, big time.
Make a budget
As an independent traveller, I always make a budget in an excel sheet before a trip. From our transportation to shopping to even every meal, I assign a budget and we try to stick to it. It might be a lot to do when you are going to just relax but this is how you move ahead in budget travelling. We always aim at bringing back some money and when you manage to do so, it’s a different level of satisfaction.
Day trip to island resorts
I’m sure you would at least want to experience the fancy resort life once before leaving the country. We kept this for our last day as we wanted to end our trip on a beautiful note. While the private resort islands are insanely expensive to stay, the resort day pass is the way to go. The passes range from USD 50 to 200 per person or even more and that often includes the speed boat transfers as well.
Our hotel owner provided us with the pass worth USD 95 per person to Club Adaran Rannalhi. That included an unlimited lunch buffet and alcohol. We could use their private beach, relax on the sunbeds and enjoy the sight of an array of fishes that are seen clearly from the resort’s deck. You get close to nine hours in the resort and ensure, you make the most of it. The experience is heavenly.
Water is expensive in the Maldives
A bottle of water will cost you USD 2 to 3 and it does not make sense to buy it at every meal. We carried three big empty bottles and filled them every morning in our hotel. We did not buy water until our returning day at the airport. These might look as minute expenditures but it’ll all make a difference in the end.
Pick cafes smartly
To begin with, always opt for a hotel with a free breakfast deal. All these places have a buffet. It’s better to check the reviews first and pick the place with a better breakfast option. That way, you can have a heavy breakfast and go for a small lunch meal. I had researched thoroughly about the cafes in Maafushi and listed out the cheaper ones but with a decent menu.
Out of some eight cafes I had read about, we visited five and I liked just three. People who are used to spicy food will not enjoy these places as it is going to be bland across the local islands. Since alcohol is available only in the private resorts, you will, in any case, spend less than your usual meals during a vacation.
Walking in local islands
While the locals on the islands have two-wheelers, you can just choose to walk. Speaking of Maafushi, it is hardly 2KMs in length. We never needed a cycle or scooter as we just walked from our hotel to the beach or the cafes. It was only a two-minute walk through two colourful lanes. Apart from the speedboats or ferries, you don’t have any other transport expenditure in the Maldives.
We explored five islands in six days and I would really want to come back to the Maldives again to visit the other islands as well. I’m pretty sure, by the time I return, these local islands will not be the same quiet and pretty places to relax. But, I really hope the Maldivians and the tourists/travellers help the country to retain its charm.
To be honest, even today, people don’t go beyond the luxurious private island resorts when they travel to this fascinating country.
Advice: If you want to experience the authentic Maldives, travel our way!
Overall, we spent less than a lakh (INR) or under USD 1,500 for two on this trip. For my complete itinerary and other details, contact me on Facebook, Instagram or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to help you guys plan your trip.
To Find out more about our Maldives trip, click here.