The vision of white sand and crystal-clear water is usually attached to the idea that you need to budget at least 5 figures for the Maldives …but now it is no longer the case!
For a long time I too dreamed of visiting the Maldives and always gave up because I thought it was too expensive … until finally I managed to organize an unimaginable and unforgettable week without breaking the bank.
Do not worry if you were unaware of the possibility of cheap trips to the Maldives , you haven’t been asleep it is just a recent change. It has only been about 10 years since the government gave local people the opportunity to open hotels and guesthouses outside of private islands which usually meant expensive luxury resorts.
Visiting the Maldives on budget is still a new trend and the boom is only beginning to be felt. This is probably the best time to organize your low cost trip to Maldives.
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Maldives vacation cost
Yes, but: How much does it cost to go to the Maldives? This is usually the first question I get from sceptics who doubt that you can take a holiday to the Maldives on a budget.
Let’s start by remembering the Maldives are an archipelago made up of 26 atolls scattered in the Indian ocean. Located about 1,000km from Asia, they are isolated and the most remote islands require long transfers to reach them.
The flight and internal transfers (if you decide to visit some of the more remote islands) will be the element that will weigh heaviest in your budget for the Maldives.
Maldives with kids, yes or no?In my opinion the Maldives are an exceptional place for children. Both the local island, but even more the resorts offer an amazing and fun adventure for kids. You can read more in my post about Maldives with kids where I also help you to choose the top resorts to make your holiday unforgettable.
Flights to and within the Maldives
When preparing your budget for the Maldives you will first need to consider the international flight to Male. I did a couple of tests with skyscanner and booking in advance will really keep the costs down.
From London the direct flight with BA bought 10 months in advance costs around £550, New York and Los Angeles both less than $900 and Sydney less than $1,000 AUD … but don’t wait for the last minute because prices will triple!
HOT TIP: some Asian budget airlines, like Flyscoot, have had in the past amazing prices to get to Maldives.
At the moment they all seem to have stopped flying to Maldives, but always check because these things change constantly.
If your dates are flexible the best way is to search on skyscanner with the month view, usually if a budget airline is flying you will see a big difference in price and can then dig deeper.
If you don’t have much choice on the international flight, you can definitely save on internal transfers by choosing your itinerary carefully.
To reach the more distant islands you may need an internal flight which means paying even more than $ 250, but many atolls are connected with efficient speedboat services (if you are in a hurry) or a local ferry which usually costs only around $ 2. Choosing carefully where to stay in Maldives can really keep your trip to Maldives cost lower.
There are thousand of local island you can explore, here you can read more about Maafushi island, one of the easiest to reach.
Speaking of Maldives on budget, I do not take into consideration at this moment the resorts that must be reached with a seaplane because they would add a minimum of $500 for just 20 minutes of flight! Further on, you will see that we actually stayed in one of these places, but I will explain in detail how we kept the costs down.
How to budget for Maldives when choosing accomodation: resort vs local island
If it is true that I have just criticized same Maldives resort costs, it is also true that in my opinion it is not worth going to the Maldives just to visit the local islands. I would rather suggest you find a really cheap accommodation for the beginning of your holiday to save for at least one night in a resort. (This way you can still keep your Maldives budget travel under control)
The fact is that although the sea is the same, and the excursions are very similar, the private islands of the resorts will really make you feel you are in a dream.
The local islands are receiving more tourists every year, and to adapt to the demand in some islands, work in progress is everywhere. We visited Maafushi and two hotels are under construction just behind the bikini beach. Nothing wrong, but obviously relaxing on the beach is accompanied by the sound of the waves and the jackhammer !!!
There are plenty of options: to give you an idea on a local island you can find cheap but acceptable accommodation from $35 a night. For resorts it is difficult to find anything less than $ 150/200 a night
- Transfers with local boats cost only $ 2 but are very slow and usually there is only one or at most two transfers during the day, while with the speedboat (depending on the island you have to reach) they start at $ 35 but are much faster.
- Meals in the various restaurants on the local islands are around $ 5 for breakfast, $ 8-10 for lunch, and $ 10-15 for dinner. Even in the cheapest resorts it is difficult to maintain less than $ 80/100 per day for the three meals.
Excursions made starting from a local island could save a good portion of your budget for Maldives, from what we have seen (it depends on the resorts) in the resorts they will cost triple !!! Just as an example:
- half day snorkeling tour from Maafushi cost $25 pp while at the Conrad resort $110pp.
- whale shark tour from Maafushi cost $85 pp while at the Conrad $200 pp.
- sunset fishing from Maafushi cost $25pp while at the Conrad $90pp.
Below I made a scheme that sums up the various costs to be taken into consideration for a week in the Maldives. If you decide to exclude the two nights in the resort then you can safely reduce the budget by around USD 1000
Our trip to Maldives: cost breakdown
Ok, let’s now see how we organized our trip to the Maldives on a budget. I should state that when possible, for me, on budget does not necessarily mean saving as much as possible, but rather using the same budget to get the most comfortable, pleasant and princessey trip as possible.
In the case of the Maldives we used a combination of airmiles and hotel points to manage a luxurious holiday without breaking the bank. In the end we spent little more than the cheap trip to Maldives that I sketched above but we traveled in Business class on the way there, and we spent 5 nights in a fantastic resort that usually costs $ 1,000 per night.
Our strategy is perhaps not for everyone, but maybe only because you haven’t thought about it yet! I will not go into detail but here are the main steps of how we did it, write to me if you want more info.
How did we get to the Maldives
For our direct British Airways flight we used a 2-4-1 voucher from our British Airways American Express card. With difficulty I secured 2 seats in business class on the way there (Economy seats are much easier to find even last minute)
Taxes and carrier surcharges are very heavy on business class tickets and clearly, speaking about a trip to the Maldives on a budget, you don’t have to think about traveling in business class, but it all depends on your point of view. Traveling in Business class but spending the same as in economy is an excellent result for me.
Where did we stayed
As per my suggestion we have sampled the two faces of the Maldives, we spent 2 nights in Maafushi, probably the most touristic local island and then 5 nights on a luxury resort
If you are thinking to stay in Maafushi you may want to read my opinion in Is Maafushi the best local island in Maldives?
In Maafushi we stayed in a lovely and sustainable hotel called Liyela Retreat Maldives and then we moved to Conrad Rangali Island Maldives.
The Conrad hotel is one of Hilton’s most exclusive brands where you can also book the magnificent over water bungalows with points. The rooms are priced at 95,000 points per night, but you get the fifth night free when you pay for 4.
At the Conrad Rangali Maldives you could often have the beach all for yourself.
Below is a little summary of how much is a trip to Maldives is you follow this strategy. The seaplane to reach the resort is a mandatory cost and the restaurants are expensive, but you can see that with this strategy we only spent $600 extra compare to the previous average cost breakdown…and of course we had a really special holiday.
Tips to visit Maldives on a budget…and do it right
If your budget is really tight then it is really important to evaluate every aspect of your trip to Maldives because you still want to make it extra special.
Local Island, Resort or both?
I’ve already talked about this at the beginning, but in my opinion it is the most important thing to define. If you are travelers who like to discover the cultures of other countries, experience the pristine beauties of a place, and escape from modernity to places where they are not yet part of their way of life, then you can book your holiday to wander only among the various local islands.
However, if you have ever dreamed of living the Maldivian dream well for me there is no doubt, the first time you go you will have to book a combination of the two worlds, time on a local island and on a resort island.
If you have a couple of weeks at your disposal you will definitely have the possibility to organize an interesting itinerary by pushing yourself on some of the most remote local islands, still not touched by the hit and run tourism. Then you can end your trip with a couple of days on a terrific resort.
Island hopping on local ferry
The islands that make up the different atolls are almost all quite small. If like me you love to explore and change scenery, probably after 3 to 4 days you will be ready to move.
Nothing could be easier, there are many atolls connected by local boats (dhoni). You will only have to deal with a minimum of planning because not all connections are there every day.
Local ferries usually stop at several islands, so if you don’t want to go back to Male you will have to choose the islands that are on their itinerary.
On the atoll transfer website you can look at all the local connections and speedboats. Male is in the north central regional.
Based on how many days you want to stop and the days when connections are available you can decide your itinerary.
Connections cost very little (around $2 each way), but are much slower than speed boats and are only available at certain times. To get to Maafushi we chose a speedboat because otherwise we would have had to wait 5 hours after landing and would have wasted a day.
On the atoll transfer website you will also find all the details of the speedboats and the costs (the page with the details is not easy to find, but at the moment you go to the bottom of the page and click on online tickets).
To go to Maafushi you can also contact Maafushi tour through their facebook profile.
Do excursions while staying at the local island
If you follow my advice to visit the local islands as well as a resort, to keep under control extra costs that would affect your budget for Maldives, I recommend you to make excursions from the local islands.
We did not do it and instead of taking part in three different excursions we did only one.
We foolishly thought that because we didn’t have much time in Maafushi it was better to enjoy some relaxation and leave the excursions to the days in the resort in case we got bored … nonsense !!! Nothing could be more wrong.
The difference in cost is significant: for example, our guest house organized a whale shark excursion for $ 85 ++ pp. while at Conrad cost $200 ++ pp.
In Maafushi you will find several places that organize these types of excursions in case you want to compare prices.
Visit resort from local island
If your budget for Maldives is truly limited, a solution to taste of the life of the resort anyway is a one-day visit. From Maafushi, as from most of the islands, your guesthouse / hotel should have no problems organizing your transfer with a day pass to a resort. The prices our hotel was asking for a day trip was
Choose resorts reachable with speedboat transfer instead of seaplane
Another suggestion to save money is to choose a resort that can be reached by a speedboat. Obviously there is a limit in terms of distance, if too far you will be forced to take a seaplane. The seaplane experience is definitely fantastic, but as you will have seen from my cost breakdown it will weigh heavily on your budget.
In most cases, from the local island you will have to return to the Male airport where the representatives of the resorts usually welcome the new guests and accompany them to the speedboat.
HOT TIP: Transfers with seaplanes have a price imposed by the resorts and are usually disproportionate. In case the resort you wish to visit is close to one of the other airports in the Maldives, then you could consider an internal flight and then transfer with a speedboat. you could be surprised how much you could maybe save!
Food and drinks on resort are expensive
Well, unless you suggest for me to go hungry, there is little to say. These are the most difficult expenses to limit when trying to stay on a tight budget in a resort. When you are on a private island of a resort you will not have much choice, there are no kebab shops for a cheap sandwich!
Off course don’t forget that you will have a kettle in the room, you can always bring some instant noodles soup with you to fill the gap!
There are usually several restaurants to choose from in the resorts, ask to see the menus before booking because the prices vary a lot. Don’t assume that eating at one of the resort’s bars is cheaper than restaurants just because they are informal. As everywhere, what makes the bill higher than expected are usually alcoholic drinks. In the local islands you will not find alcohol (the Maldives is a Muslim nation), the resorts do not have this limit and it could be easy to get carried away after dry days …
While at the Conrad Maldives we spent on average between $55 and $65 per person for dinner. One night we had some food at the bar and the amount at the end was the same!!!
HOT TIP: if the resort you choose offers the possibility of having half / full board, consider well what is included and which restaurant you can use. Sometimes it may be more convenient to have the flexibility to choose on the spot.
I hope these tips will help you to budget for your dream holiday to Maldives in the best way and that you now have a better idea of how much a trip to Maldives cost!