The Maldives has always been on our bucket list. A dream destination we wanted to go for years and years, but it always seemed so inaccessible, too expensive, a destination only reserved for the rich and famous. After our 3-week trip through Sri Lanka, we planned a trip to the Maldives for only a few days but ended up staying one month. And although it’s not as cheap as other destinations in Southeast Asia, we have managed to travel the Maldives on a budget. In this article, we share a full breakdown of the budget we spent in the Maldives + 11 money-saving tips which can help you a lot to travel cheap to this beautiful paradise.
Costs Maldives: our daily budget
Traveling to the Maldives doesn’t have to be that expensive as most people think. To give you an idea of the average daily budget you need to travel around, we listed down our own expenses. Good to know: we like to spend our money more on experiences than on overpriced accommodations and could describe our travel style the best somewhere between budget and mid-range.
We divided our total budget spent into 5 categories: accommodation, transport, food & drinks (restaurants, groceries), excursions & others (internet, sunscreen, tips, …) We stayed one month, 28 days to be exact, and spent $2715 (€ 2449) in total for both of us, averaging a $48/ day per person. Stayed in guesthouses and hotels, used local ferries and speedboats and went every day to a local restaurant. We went diving 5 times, snorkeled with manta rays and sea turtles, did some sandbank trips and joined a dolphin sunset cruise.
The excursions were the biggest costs, around $50-70 per trip, which quickly increased our budget. But these were the things in our opinion that made the whole trip so unforgettable. So if you would skip all the excursions you can easily reduce your budget to $31 per day per person.
Extra money-saving tips
A trip to the Maldives can be expensive when you are going to the luxury resorts. But as you could read above, it doesn’t need to be that expensive.
Make your stay in the Maldives more budget-friendly with these 11 tips:
Book your flights a few months before
This one is probably for almost every destination the best tip for saving a lot of money. Somewhere between 1-4 months before you leave is proved to be the best time to book your flights. We personally love to fly with Qatar Airways as they have an outstanding service and the best onboard entertainment. There are a lot of great websites to find and book cheap flights. Our favorite website is Skyscanner.com. You can easily search and compare tickets from all different airlines and when you want to book it redirects you to the partners’ websites.
Search for a connecting flight in Asia
It’s often cheaper to book your flights to any destination in Asia (Dubai, India, Sri Lanka,…) and look for a connecting flight to the Maldives. For example, we had our flights to Colombo with Qatar Airways and booked separate flights to Malé with Emirates for only $130 per person. It’s worth a try, right?!
Travel by speedboat or public ferry
Besides the famous seaplanes, there are also other ways to get around the beautiful islands of the Maldives. You can either take the speedboat or the public ferry. The speedboats are fast, reasonably priced (between $30-50 per person one way), operates daily at different times and are super comfortable with WIFI on board. The public ferries are way much cheaper (between $1-3), which operates several times a week (check the routes and schedule here), are also comfortable but can take up several hours to reach your final destination. But if you plan your trip well, you can save a lot of money by using the public ferry.
Explore the local islands
In the last years, the government changed its regulations and allowed tourists to stay on the local islands, instead of only on the privately owned resort islands. Because of this change, people with a lower budget are now able to visit this beautiful paradise which also makes the Maldives more and more popular. We visited 6 different local islands and wrote an article with the ultimate travel itinerary for 2-3 weeks. We also included recommendations on where to stay, the best things to do, our favorite places to eat, and money-saving tips on how to get around. Be sure you check it out!
Find cheap accommodations
Speaks for itself, right? But how to find those cheap accommodations? We listed down our favorite ones for each local island and created an article about it: Best hotels and guesthouses in the Maldives. You are welcome!
Bring your own snorkeling gear
If you are planning a trip to the Maldives bringing along your own snorkel gear is a no brainer. Many of the islands are surrounded by snorkeling-friendly reefs where you can spot reef sharks, stingrays, beautiful schools of fish and colorful coral for FREE! Having your own snorkel gear (mask + snorkel) with you will save you money (around $55 per person/ snorkel trip) and it will make your time on the beach much more fun. Guaranteed!
Book your excursions through your guesthouse
This one saved us a lot of money! When you book excursions through your guesthouse, you’re not only supporting the local people there, but you also get them at half the price than large resorts offer them. For example, in Rasdhoo we stayed at White Coral Rasdhoo and their crew arranged literally every activity we wanted to do at the best prices. We did the full-day sandbank trip (unforgettable!), the sunset dolphin cruise (also unforgettable!!) and several snorkeling trips. If you go there, tell Hussain, Uneyy or Abdulla that you know us, and you’ll get some extra discounts too! They are amazing guys and good friends of ours now. We can’t recommend them enough!
Withdraw enough local currency out of the ATM in the airport
The best thing to do when you arrive in Malé Airport is to withdraw enough local currency from the ATM. Paying in local currency is also cheaper than paying in $ dollars. Not every island in the Maldives has an ATM and guesthouses will charge you between 3-5% extra when you pay with a credit card.
Visit the Maldives in the shoulder season
The low season in the Maldives is from May to October when you often find the cheapest deals, but where you will also have the most rain. Better consider a trip in the shoulder season, between March and May. You’ll have dry weather, plenty of sunshine and most importantly you’ll avoid the busiest and most expensive months, which runs from December to February. (holiday season)
Visit a private luxury resort on a day trip
If you want to experience that real luxury Maldivian feeling and don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, then visit one of those luxury resorts on a day trip like we did. From Maafushi, it’s very easy and “cheap” to book day trips to different luxury resorts ranging from 3-5 stars. You can also visit resorts from Rasdhoo, but there was more choice in Maafushi so that why we booked the trip there via our hotel. We went to Adaaran Prestige Vadoo and paid $105 per person including buffet lunch, afternoon snacks, unlimited drinks + alcohol, towels and uses of their sunbeds and pool for the day.
Book a beach villa instead of water bungalow
If you do book a luxury resort for some nights, consider booking a beach villa or room instead of a water bungalow. Water bungalows are the most expensive type of rooms in the resorts. Taking a beach room can save you up to hundreds to thousands of dollars for one night. And often you get a FREE UPGRADE to a more luxury room or maybe even a water bungalow. Always tell them if you have a birthday, are on a honeymoon or are celebrating a wedding anniversary. Good luck!
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