Header images courtesy of Dorsa Masghati (via Unsplash) and Ahmed Yaaniu (via Unsplash)
When one thinks of the Maldives as a destination, images of high-end spas and incredible overwater villas pop up in-mind. Whilst this is a true depiction, the luxurious part of the region comes with a hefty price tag. Yet, like many countries around the world, there are still ways to holiday without spending all your savings in one go—given that not every one of us is a millionaire, unfortunately.
So, we bring good news to travellers—that one can, in fact, explore the stunning island nation on a budget, as long as everything is planned slightly in advance. Here are five things to do in the Maldives that won’t put a dent in your wallets.
When you’re planning your journey to the Maldives, the two most crucial pre-holiday expenses are the flights and the hotels. Flights are known to be quite pricey, but there are ways around it.
One way to save a little bit on airfare is to fly to a Southeast Asian country which offers direct flights to the Maldives and to spend a couple of days in the region. From there, you can book another flight to the Maldives, which would be a lot cheaper than a direct flight from, for example, Europe.
Everyone knows hotels in the Maldives are the epitome of luxury—yes, we’re talking about the gorgeous overwater bungalows with private pools. But unless you’re willing or able to drop a few thousand per night, booking a less-fancy hotel might be a more viable option.
Hunt for the local guest houses on the mainland for a fraction of the price, and take day trips instead of spending all your time on one private island. There’s also the option to hire a trip planner who can organise the whole vacation based on your personal budget.
Get up close and personal with the pristine marine wildlife found in the Maldives. Many of the resorts have their own in-house reefs or are happy to take you to nearby swimming areas. With water as crystal clear as you’ve probably seen in pictures, the region also offers a variety of white-sand public beaches, which are easily accessible on your own (Bikini Beach and Gulhi Beach are a must). Expect to see an abundance of sea creatures, from turtles to sharks.
Some would be surprised to hear that the Maldives’s capital, Malé, is actually one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with over 100,000 residents living on 5.8 square metres of land. On the mainland, there are several free things to do, which don’t require much travel or effort.
Head to the fish market, where you can buy a whole fish, and the vendors will help you fillet and clean it, so that it’s easy to bring back home—an alternative to spending all your dollars at the restaurants. Don’t forget to pick up soy sauce and wasabi for a sashimi feast. You can also visit some of the monuments in the area, including the Sultan’s Palace and the Grand Friday Mosque.
On Malé’s eastern part of the island, Artificial Beach is frequented by locals, as it’s the only beach on the mainland for swimming. Spend your day tanning and taking in the leisurely sun, as this area is way less touristy and perfect for a leisurely swim. The sandy spot has even become an entertainment hub for live music, occasional carnivals, and parades.
The Maldives has its share of luxury transportation, including private speed boats and seaplanes—which come with a price tag to match. A much more price-friendly option is to take local transportation, which costs way less and operates pretty regularly. Check the schedules in advance depending on the island you’re heading to, and make the most of the world-class views.
Surrounded by sea, it’s no surprise that the Maldives offers some of the freshest catches in the world. Although the Michelin-starred eateries at the resorts sound appealing, they’re generally much less cost-efficient. Why not try some of the local cafés and teahouses, available on each island? Maldivian food is mainly fish and curry (as influenced by a mix of Arabic, Sri Lankan, and Indian food), so be prepared for a touch of spice.