I always had the impression, along with some of my friends who like to travel, that Maldives was an incredibly expensive destination. Then I chanced across Svetlana’s Maldives posts on a budget. That was a complete blessing, as it showed me that Maldives on budget was possible. Now, that I have done the trip here are my tips for doing Maldives on budget.
Flight Costs: I had actually applied for leaves to visit Maldives in March. But then I was late in looking for flight tickets. I usually search on multiple aggregating websites and then go and check the fare on the airline website as well. I found the Spicejet Delhi-Mumbai-Kochi and then Kochi-Male flight to be cheapest. In March I was getting 21 thousand Indian rupees return fare. I was hesitating to spend 42K for two people just on the airfare. In the end, when I got the tickets for April I paid 17K each as the return fare. If I had leaves I would have taken the flight from Kochi, but what to do, with a full time job leaves are precious as I have to make them last for one full year. Being in academics helps as I get a bit more leaves than others but I still treat my leaves with enormous care.
Visa On Arrival: For Indians, Maldives has visa on arrival. The good news is that it is free of cost! When we arrived at least 3 flights landed and there was a queue. It would have taken us 30-40 minutes to get out. I had all the documents they recommend but they didn’t ask for any. Having said that I know of people who were asked for the documents. So, please do carry the required documents like return flight ticket, hotel reservation etc.
Finding an Island: I zeroed down at Maafushi because I searched for budget islands in Maldives and this one was popular. There are two type of islands in Maldives, resort islands and budget islands. Resort Islands have existed for a long time, I am told budget islands were opened about three years before. I am not sure about the time frame at all, it could be that Maafushi opened to the tourists three years before. The resort islands are expensive. For example I cannot find anything under US dollars 200 (without taxes) on the resort side. Whereas on the budget side you can find accommodations starting from $50. There are many more budget islands in Maldives.
Taxes: When a person quotes a price in Maldives, the actual price will be invariably more. They have a 8% tax on almost everything. Then there could be a 10% extra tax. So when you are planning your Maldives trip do keep in mind that you will pay more than the quoted price most of the time.
Finding a Hotel: I found the hotel via Tripadvisor. I stayed at Picnic Inn which is a basic guesthouse. There are cheaper hotels than Picnic Inn at Maafushi. But while researching at Tripadvisor I realized that the lower priced ones were in close proximity to the jail on the island. I decided to stay mid way. The hotels on the beach side are more expensive, the hotels closer to the jail less so. I booked directly through the hotel. I finally went with them because they were very prompt in answering my queries. I wrote to a few others but found them slow in providing information to me.
Speed Boats are Expensive: Maldives is an island nation. So you take boats to go from one place to another. The local ferries are cheap but not frequent. There are no ferries on Fridays as well. The speed boats are really expensive. I was quoted 200 dollar for the speedboat transfer from Male Airport to Maafushi. The ferry was at 3.00 pm from Male city. My flight landed at 2.10 pm. With visa on arrival I knew there was no way we could take the ferry. So I agreed to the speed boat transfer. If there are more than 5 people sharing a speed boat they charge you $39. I was lucky that the hotel had another group coming by the same flight and I paid $39 per head in the end. But this was just luck. For the Fihalhohi Resort Island trip the speedboat cost was $65 per head. For comparison entry fee with lunch at the resort was $48 per head.
The alternative was to stay at Male and take the ferry to Maafushi the next day. I realized the speedboat costs quite close to my trip and I was not willing to go and search for another hotel in Male. The ferry cost is about $3 and I took it on my return leg from Maafushi to Male.
Money Matters: On the islands everyone accepted dollars so I never exchanged currency. We were offered 15.4 Maldivian Rufiyaa for a dollar. Now that Indian rupee is about 60 to a dollar I was not thrilled. Some of the shopkeepers return you the local currency for the change even if you paid in dollars and that is how we had local currency with us in the end to pay on the ferry.
Food and Water: On budget islands there is no liquor available. The resort islands have no such restrictions. On an average we paid $20 for a a meal for two with fruit juice. In the tropics it is impossible to stay away from juices.Tap water is not potable. A 1.5 liter water bottle costs $1.
Excursions: At Maldives the temptation is to go on other side excursions like diving, snorkeling, sunset cruise and island hopping to name a few. All these are expensive. The prices will vary but do keep a budget for it.
From my side I have tried to give an idea about various costs. If you think I have missed out on something important do let me know, I will try to update the post.
We opted to go to the Fihalhohi Island Resort, Maldives because it was easier on the pocket. We were actually staying on Maafushi, which is a budget island. The excursions were available to both Anantara and Taj Exotica but it was so expensive for me. Most of the islands take day guests. So, the population on a resort island is made up of tourists who are staying at the resort and floaters like us, who visit it just for a day. Fihalhohi is a beautiful island but then so is Maafushi.
The most expensive part for us about this island hopping was the cost of the speed boat once again. It was 65 US Dollars per head. In contrast the resort entry fee was 24 dollar and with lunch 48 dollars. We opted for the package with lunch because we knew we would be hungry by noon. Staying outdoors does something to the appetite. We were told that the lunch was from 11.30 to 1.00 pm Male time. That puzzled us. They said this island was 1 hour ahead of Male time. Now this was new for me, that different islands were in different time zones in Maldives.
The water bungalows were a sight to behold! I was completely mesmerized with them. There was a staircase going down straight from each bungalow to the sea! When I came back to Maafushi I checked the price of the standard room at Fihalhohi island Resort, Maldives. It was about 200 dollars without taxes. I didn’t even bother to check the water bungalows as I am sure they would be much more expensive. They surely looked good though. On both the islands everyone accepted US dollars. In fact I never used the local currency anywhere except Male. My nephew did use it on Maafushi too. I am not sure if the local ferry will accept dollars though.
The water was so clear around the resort that I could see fish right from the sitting deck near the reception. So, I clicked this picture with my 70-300 lens like I would click a bird! After Maldives I am wondering if I should buy camera casing for the cell phone so that I could take it underwater. You see I always find ways to spend more money!
By afternoon the paradise became incredibly hot. Even a die hard photography person like me was forced to retire to the shade. I did venture in the middle to click this group of fish that came swimming right by the shore. The black spot is formed by a group of fish!
Grey herons were the only birds I could photograph at Fihalhohi. Though I saw Koels and fruit bats too. These herons were such fearless birds that I could click them with my cell phone. They knew no fear of humans or cameras being waved in their faces. They flew away when you tried to get extremely close. Even then they would just hop around lazily a few steps away from you in the most bored fashion.
But by mid afternoon even the birds were looking for shade. It was time to move in and have lunch. Lunch was in a big restaurant. They had stuff for vegetarians and a nice dessert section. They started closing the counters right on time, by 1.00 pm Male time they started removing food.
For us island hopping was expensive but then it was beautiful too. The islands get a lot of day visitors. The only trouble was that they had nothing really going for day arrivals. I thought there would be a few changing rooms at least for day guests but I was told there were not. Wash rooms were there, so was an open air shower. I guess it would add a lot to the experience if they dedicated a few changing rooms for day visitors as anyone who came there would like to go to the sea. I managed to change in the bathroom and had no real trouble.
Overall, Fihalhohi is a beautiful island and by Maldives standards not too expensive. If you are wondering why I don’t have any sunset pictures, it is because we went back to Maafushi at 3.00 pm so that my nephew could play football with the locals at Maafushi!
For quite a few Fridays it is going to be Maldives, a slice of the paradise! I start with this picture of the local beach at Maafushi. The black dots you see in the distance are local women in their hijab taking a dip in the sea. After all this island is their home. I was asking a local boy if they found the presence of the tourists troublesome. He said on the contrary the locals were quite welcoming to the tourist, which was my impression too.
On the shore were two abandoned ships, part of which I caught in this picture. This side of the beach at Maafushi doesn’t see too many tourists, it is more of a favorite with the locals. The sunset was also on the other side of the island but this stretch too was a lovely place to walk in the evening.
It has been just about a week since we came back and yet every night I literally dream that I am in Maldives. I have to tell myself before falling asleep that I am sleeping at home and yet the dreams come every night without fail. Not all dreams are pleasant though. I sometimes dream that I am diving and that the pressure on my ear is getting unbearable, but before it really becomes too much, I thankfully wake up.
I have so many beautiful pictures from Maldives that I am really spoiled for choice. I mean look at the shades of blue at the Fihalhohi Island Resort! I remember people saying they were spending two weeks in Maldives. Next time even I am going to stay for longer, for I am sure here is going to be a next time for me in Maldives. I am completely smitten by the slice of paradise.
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