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For the longest time, Maldives was nothing more than an impressive honeymoon destination only accessible to someone with deep pockets. That changed since 2009 when the locals opened up their islands to the travelers, and as a result budget travelers to the Maldives have been on a rise.
The Maldives is still popular as a honeymoon destination, but if you’re willing to go off-the-beaten-path, Maldives has so much to offer while going easy on your wallet. And if you ask me, the best part about the Maldives is its underwater world and rich marine life.
And for full disclosure on the budget — sure, Maldives can be done at $20 per day, only if you are eating sand, drinking seawater, and sleeping on the beach shore. However, with diligent planning, it’s possible to do the Maldives on a budget say $20- $100 per night stay. Not cheap as Thailand, or Vietnam but far, far cheaper than the uber-expensive $500-$2000 per night over-water villas.
Is it really possible to do Maldives on a Budget?
Absolutely! Like I mentioned, avoid the resort islands and head to the local islands instead. It goes easy on your pocket and at the same time, you can experience the local culture, sample the local food, and pick up a few Dhivehi words along the way.
A seven-day trip in the Maldives on a budget may set you back by around $1000 with regular dives and water activities. As opposed to $2000 per night. That’s a good deal, don’t you think?
The most popular of the local islands, Maafushi, is also the best budget island in the Maldives. Occupying just over 1 KM (1275 meters in length) and 265 meters in width, it is one of the inhabited islands of Kaafu Atoll and the largest of the local islands.
Read till the end for some pro budget tips for the Maldives.
It is easy to orient yourself when on the island. The North beach is usually reserved for watersports; bikini beach occupying a small portion of it. You can see many hotels, water sports centers along the beach. The south beach is more of a local beach and usually empty. Around 1500 people live on this island, and yet it somehow doesn’t feel overcrowded.
If you are still on the fences about visiting the Maldives as a solo traveler or as a group of friends, watch this video:
Now, that you are convinced (otherwise, why are you still here, duh!), let’s plan your trip to paradise.
Where to stay in Maafushi Island
Since 2009 when locals opened up their islands for tourists, there has been plenty of hotels and guest houses cropping up all over Maafushi. Which is why it’s one of the best value islands in the Maldives. There is no dearth of hotels in Maafushi to choose from.
One of the top-rated hotels in Maafushi. It costs about $75 dollars a night for a double or twin sharing room. If you are traveling solo, they offer double rooms for $50 per night. I stayed here for 5 nights and I have no qualms about my stay here. The staff is friendly and will help you out whenever possible. It is just one minute away from the beach. It is a great place for solo travelers and the best value for money.
Hotel tip – Make sure you go to the terrace for panoramic views of the beach. You don’t wanna miss it!
One of the top-rated and budget-friendly guest houses in Maafushi. It also hosts a private beach area. Click To Book Your Stay Here.
Walk along the coastline of North bikini beach, and you will find Arena beach hotel welcoming you. Best bet if you are looking for beach view rooms. Also, has one of the top-rated restaurants in Maafushi. Click To Book Your Stay Here.
Things to do in Maafushi
I feel the thriving water sports culture in the Maldives is hardly ever talked about amidst the overhyped over water villas of Maldives.
My primary agenda for the trip was to get certified as a PADI open water diver. But just after I landed on Maafushi, with the number of water activities around, I came to realize that apart from having a rich marine ecosystem for diving, Maafushi has a thriving water sports culture too. From parasailing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, kneeboarding, windsurfing, flyboarding, and so on, I was spoilt for choices. All of these activities cost around $50 – $100.
With white sands and clear turquoise blue waters, Maldives is home to the most stunning beaches I ever have set my eyes on. Yet, the best part about Maldives is underwater. Especially noteworthy for the big fishes like manta rays, eagle rays, turtles, grey tip sharks, whitetip sharks, whale sharks and so on.
If you like to venture out on your own, borrow a kayak or snorkeling mask at the hotel or from one of the water sports centers and head out into the ocean. You can even try out paddleboarding on calm water days.
Apart from a whole range of watersports at Maafushi, there are plenty of cool day trips from Maafushi too.
Day trips from Maafushi
When in Maldives, go diving. One of the best dive sites in the Maldives is Kadooma Thila where you can find white tip sharks, grey tip sharks, turtles, and eagle rays gliding around, an abundance of tiny colorful fishes around vibrant corals.
If you fancy seeing manta rays, head to Manta point where you have higher chances of spotting one. Also, the Kuda Giri dive site is a shipwreck dive where you spot the wreck from 18m to 30m.
Find more about my scuba diving experience in the Maldives, if you like!
Cost – $65 per dive.
If you’d like to take your scuba diving skills to the next level, then you can get certified as a PADI Open Water Diver like I did (from Maafushi Dive School). It set me back by roughly $600 to get certified as a PADI Open Water Diver. (The standard PADI certification costs about $500 with a discrepancy of $100 – $200 depending on the location).
Curious to find the marine life hotspots around the world? There are many stunning underwater diving locations in the world. Find out more about it here.
There are snorkeling trips every day to Nemo Reef, Palm reef, Turtle reef, and shark points for $25.
Also, you can snorkel up close and personal with the whale sharks in Dhigurah(which grows up to 80m in length) depending on the season(usually between May and December). These are massive, magnificent creatures, divers around the world are always in search of, so don’t miss out on this one if you have the chance! Mostly found in Baa and Ari Atolls.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to venture far out of your island for snorkeling, then head out to the south beach, where you can find small Grey tip or white tip sharks, if lucky, right by the shore. Also, the south beach is much better because of the unending panoramic views it offers.
Want to have fun with the dolphins? Book a day trip from Maafushi on a dolphin cruise.
Cost – $50
If you fancy having a BBQ dinner from fresh exploits right out of the ocean, go fishing. It starts at 5.30 PM and goes on for about three hours. Venture deep into the ocean, hook a bait (tuna, mostly) to your fishing line, and start fishing. Not for the impatient souls, though. You are warned!
Cost – $25
Especially great for a photography session!
Cost – $50
Resort Island tour
Overwater villas and resort islands are what comes to everyone’s mind and are synonymous with the Maldives.
Instead of staying in the resort islands which costs a bomb (Starting at around $500 per night for the cheapest ones), you can do a resort island tour island. The tour usually serves a free buffet and unlimited drinks as part of the package.
Additional Read: Best Honeymoon resorts in the Maldives by Travelling King
Cost – Around $100
The Maldives, being an archipelago of over a thousand islands, Trans Maldivian Airways also offers seaplane service to access the remote islands. If you would want to experience going on a seaplane and get enchanted by the bird’s eye view of Maldives without staying in one of the expensive remote islands, then photo flight is the perfect option for you. Enquire about it at the hotel reception and they will be able to guide you better.
However, keep in mind that photo flight is conditional based on whether there are seats available in the seaplane.
Cost – $150
Check out your hotel concierge for these activities. They can help to arrange it for you.
In the lookout for more bucket list experiences? Check out this massive post on 45+ unique bucket list experiences around the world.
Accessing the internet shouldn’t be a problem. Most of the hotels, restaurants, or dive centers have password protected wifi. They are happy to provide you with wifi when you are using their services. However, connectivity can be weak at times.
If you are looking for a reliable internet connection, there are data plans starting at 99MVR($6.5). Buy data plans at the airport from the 2 network operators available at Maldives – Dhiraagu or Ooredoo.
What’s the best currency to take to the Maldives?
The local currency is Maldivian Rufiyaa(MVR) which is only available in the Maldives and ATMs only dispense cash in MVR.
And, the accepted mode of transactions all over the Maldives is USD/MVR. Make sure you carry enough USD since most of the places don’t accept credit cards. You might receive a change back in MVR at times. If you receive a change in USD, make sure to check that the notes received are new ones. Most of the places don’t accept old notes which might be difficult to dispose of later. Check US currency notes in circulation for reference. Also, keep in mind to spend or exchange an excess of MVR before you return since MVR is a non-convertible currency.
Click here to find out the currency exchange rate between MVR and USD.
Are you allowed to wear swimwear in the Maldives?
Since it is a conservative Muslim country, the local islands are very particular about swimwear. Anyhow, a designated area in the north of the island called bikini beach allows beachgoers to clad in skimpy swimwear (bikinis for women and topless for men). It is illegal to clad skimpy swimwear in public and in other parts of the island.
However, the private islands don’t have restrictions on swimwear to particular areas.
If you are one of those people who love to head to a gym on their vacations even if it means a remote island, I have good news for you. None of the hotels in Maafushi offers gym facilities.
However, you can avail gym facilities at a local gym called FitPro starting at $5 a day during happy hours (6:00 AM – 11:00 AM). Or, $10 per day during the rest of the day or $25 per week.
Can you drink Alcohol in Maafushi?
Only resort islands serve alcohol and they have absolutely no restrictions. All local islands prohibit alcohol.
Be that as it may, you can still head to the floating bar over the sea which is a free ferry away from Maafushi island. The entry to the floating bar is also free but alcohol is quite expensive over there. A can of beer is about $5.
Alternatively, you can also head out on a day tour to resort islands that offers unlimited drinks which I feel is a better option.
Maafushi is not the island you come to if you are looking for a thriving nightlife.
Is Maafushi safe?
You can be carefree roaming around the island. Since Maafushi is a tourist island, it’s quite safe for solo travelers as well. The locals are honest and eager to help whenever they can.
There isn’t much to do in the night though except lying by the beach under the blanket of stars. Most of the shops close at 10 PM.
The restaurants are open until 12 PM, but they generally take their last orders by 9.30 – 10 PM.
Souvenirs are quite pricey over here. A fridge magnet costs $3. Typical Maldives touristy T-shirt sets you back by $10. True to being a beach destination, expect to find a variety of accessories and show items made of pearls and corals.
The high season is usually between December and March. The monsoon season runs from May to October where there isn’t much to do except scuba dive. Fringe months like October and November are usually a great time to visit since the prices are not as expensive as high season and yet you can enjoy the Maldives in good weather and at the same time have access to all the cool water activities.
Is Maldives safe for solo travellers?
The Maldives is no more just a honeymoon destination. It is possible to travel solo on a decent budget especially if you stay in the local islands. Maafushi is the best island in Maldives for solo travelers as it has tons of activities and also you can find a lot of travelers around to mingle with.
However, it’s worth mentioning here is that at the Male airport, at one of the checkpoints, I was asked if I’m traveling solo. I told them that I was joining my friends who were already there at the island. The security guard seemed quite surprised that I was traveling solo, so if you are, it’s bound to raise eyebrows at least. Maldives after all is a conservative Muslim country.
On the other hand, if you are looking for someplace secluded, head out to Gulhi island or Guraidhoo island which is about 10 minutes away from Maafushi. It can still get quite pricey for solo travelers with regards to stay, food and water activities. Some hotels do offer slashed room rates for solo travelers, but it is not usually the norm.
Velana International Airport, also known as Malé International Airport, is the only international airport in the Maldives. You can access the remote islands of Maldives by air through seaplanes from the airport.
Visa Requirements for Maldives
It is hassle-free to obtain a tourist visa to the Maldives. A 30-day free Visa on Arrival is issued for all nationalities (including Indians) provided that you possess a valid passport with at least 6 months’ validity.
Have a valid ticket to continue the journey out of the Maldives and sufficient funds to cover the expenses for the duration of the stay in the Maldives. (US$100 + $50 dollars per day). Also, a confirmation of reservation in a resort or a hotel. Generally, you can literally breeze through immigration with a stamp on your passport. But carry the necessary documents just to be on the safer side. More on it here.
Getting to Maafushi Island
Since the Maldives is an archipelago of over a thousand coral islands, getting around the islands is a challenge and can be quite expensive if not planned properly. Maafushi is just 27 km away from Male and takes about 30 – 90 mins depending on the mode of transportation.
Male to Maafushi Ferry
Take a ferry or a speedboat from the airport ferry terminal to Male. Ferries operate every 10 – 15 mins from the airport. You can find it close to the domestic terminal and costs about $1 by ferry (10 minutes). Once you disembark in Male, take a taxi to Jetty 1 or Maafushi ferry which costs about $2 (10 minutes).
There is a public ferry service that departs from Jetty 1 at 2.30 PM every day (except Fridays) and takes about 90 minutes and costs about $3.
Male to Maafushi Speedboat
If you want a hasslefree option to reach Maafushi, then consider opting for a speedboat.
There are scheduled transfers every day from the airport or Male to Maafushi. Check with your hotel to see if they have any speedboats scheduled three days prior to your arrival. If they don’t have one available, you can check at Arena beach hotel, Kaani or Sting Ray hotels which usually have regular speedboat transfers.
Alternatively, check out iCom Tours for airport/Male speedboat transfers. Costs about $20-$25 per person and takes about 30 mins – 1 hour. For hassle-free transfer, it is better to opt for speedboat transfers directly from the airport.
Private transfers by speedboat are available at any time. Check with your hotel and they can arrange it for you. Costs about $150/$175 for a 10-seater private speedboat for Maafushi and takes about half an hour.
Where to eat in Maafushi Island
Given that most of the food items including chicken, rice, milk, and so on are imported from India or SriLanka and transported through ferries to different islands, food is generally on the expensive side over here. Usually, the hotel provides a complimentary breakfast. On average, a meal costs about $8 – $15.
Try out the famous Maldivian dish – Tuna kothu roshi over here.
Disclaimer: Since it is an island, it is obvious to expect fresh seafood like tuna, squids or prawns over here. Nonetheless, most of the food is transported from Male and stored in the freezer. So, it might not be as fresh as you think!
Arena Beach Restaurant, Maafushi
Arguably, one of the best restaurants on the island. They have a wide range of menu options available, looks yummy and tastes yummy too!
Crystal Sands, Maafushi
For Indians looking for comfort food, you can find many Indian dishes like Dal Fry, Chicken biryani over here.
Harbour Cafe, Maafushi
Started in 2016, Harbour cafe is one of the top-rated and new cafes in Maafushi and is quite budget-friendly. Find many veg food options here.
Nora Mamma Mia, Maafushi
If you are craving for pizzas, check out this place for ample pizza choices.
Nearby islands around Maafushi
If you fancy spending your beach vacation lazing by the beach and doing absolutely nothing, then you can check out other local islands around Maafushi. Guraidhoo and Gulhi islands are just around 6 km away from Maafushi. However, the prices are more expensive than Maafushi island as you will have very few stays to choose from. On the plus side, you will probably have the beach all to yourself! Another option is to head to Hulhumale Island, which is closer to the airport.
How Many Days in Maldives?
So, how many days do I reserve for a Maldives trip, you ask?
For all of us who don’t have the luxury of time and money, I would say at least a week.
If you would like to stay in a resort to experience the luxury water villas, opt to stay for a couple of days in the resort islands between Male and Maafushi, and rest in Maafushi or any other local island.
In-resort islands, most of the time will be spent exploring the resort island, and swimming, and watching sunsets of course.
And while in Maafushi, try scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, night fishing, or learn windsurfing. If you would like to experience swimming with the whale sharks, then head to Dhigurah island during the season time (between May and December).
And in case you want to fly off to the far-off remote islands in a seaplane, then add at least another 3 days to your itinerary. But, if you are running short on time, yet still want to experience gliding on a sea-plane without adding more days to your itinerary, then you can opt for a photo flight which takes about 2 hours to and from Male airport.
Tips to save money while traveling to the Maldives
- You can save money on food by having either lunch or dinner (not both) at the restaurants. Carry some food items from home or buy bread and fruits from the shops and fix a meal for yourself.
- It is better not to land in the Maldives on a Friday since it is a holiday and no ferries are operational on that day and might end up paying a hefty fare for private transfers ( $150 – $175). Avoid private transfers and use public transfers wherever possible.
- I would suggest avoiding luxury resorts altogether if you are on a budget. Head to a luxury resort island tour to get a taste of luxury instead. On the other hand, if you still prefer staying in resort island or luxury overwater villas, then stay for not more a couple of days in the resort islands, and 4-5 days in Maafushi to keep the costs minimum. A win-win situation, don’t you think?
So, when are you heading to the Maldives? If you have been to the Maldives already, what has your experience been like? Were you able to do the Maldives on a budget? Let me know in the comments below.
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