They say you have to visit the Maldives before it vanished forever. I didn’t expect to travel to Male this year because first of all, I think it was super expensive, second, Air Asia stopped flying to the Maldives and lastly, it was part of my bucket list but not too soon. Perhaps 5-10 years from now. The backpacking in the Maldives happened so fast! Wait, what? Maldives on a budget? Answer is yes.
I’ve been receiving messages regarding my recent trip to Maldives. How I got there, what airline I took, how much did I spend on my entire trip so on and so forth. To give you an idea, here are all the things you may need to know.
Do we need a visa in the Maldives?
For Philippine Passport Holders, Maldives is visa on arrival for 30 days. No visa fee. While I was filling out my Maldives arrival card, somebody pointed me directly to the immigration area. He said, No need to finish that dear. They will fill out for you. That was cool! The immigration officer stamp my passport with no question asked. Voila, Hello Maldives! However, I would recommend to secure a copy of your valid return ticket, confirmed hotel reservation and enough money to cover your expenses at least $50 per day.
What to expect on your Maldivian vacation?
Maldives is a Muslim country and because of the strict Islamic beliefs, Alcohol and wearing a bikini are forbidden outside the resort.
We went there during Ramadan and smoking is prohibited during the daylight hours.
Dhivehi is the national language, but mostly speaks English, so communication won’t be a problem.
The Local time in the Maldives is GMT + 5 hours but don’t be surprise there are some islands that the time zone is not the same in Male.
The best time to visit Maldives is September to May. The notion that you can visit Maldives all year round might be true or I was just lucky that it was sunny when I visited last July.
The currency is Maldivian Rufiyaa but USD is widely accepted.
Tipping is not mandatory. Don’t be shocked because a 10% charge is added to everything.
Which Airline I took?
Unfortunately Airasia no longer fly to Maldives. I booked through tiger air from Singapore to Male. I think this is the only budget carrier that serves route directly to Maldives. The thing is you may need to wait for Promo Fare to save yourself from spending extra money on flights.
It is very easy to go around the Maldives. To save, you can take public transport which I did during my entire stay in Maldives except for the speedboat to private islands which is part of the package.
From Ibrahim Nazir International Airport you can use public bus to Hulhumale, it is very near like 15 minutes and will cost you 16 MVR. We even tried this bus around 2:00 AM. Yes, bus operates as early as 6:30 in the morning until 3:00 AM. Just take note that there is no bus during Friday from 12 PM – 2:30 PM.
There is also a Public ferry from the airport to Male City which operates from 7 AM – 2 AM. Ferry is every 15 minutes. And observe the no bus during Friday from 12 PM – 2:30 PM.
Male to Hulhumale and vice versa is not available on Friday as well around 11 AM – 1:30 PM. Also departs every 15 minutes and is very safe, we went back to Hulhumale like 1:00 AM. Note that you can catch this ferry as early as 5:30 AM – 2:30 AM. Public ferry to Maafushi is also available except on Friday.
Where to stay?
Indulging in a private water cabana, exclusive chalets, and over-water villas right in the middle of the Indian Ocean is an epitome of luxury, a very expensive deal especially from someone living in a third world country. I opted to stay in a budget Inn which was decent enough for a night stay. I scored a $55 deluxe room per night with free Bbq dinner at UI Hotels in Hulhumale. They also have a backpacker’s room for $39. It is very near the airport around 10-15 minutes via public bus. The trick here is to spend the nights in a low cost hotel and do the island hopping, diving, night fishing, snorkeling and even a day tour to exclusive 5 star hotel of your choice. These excursions are mostly offered in the Inn’s itself. You can find these budget hotels around Male, Hulhumale, Maafushi. There are tons. You just have to find the right one for you.
Thought you might be interested to stay in UI Hotels. Here’s my contact:
+960 7792522 (You may contact him thru viber if you want to discuss or customize your excursions)
email: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook Page: www.fb.com/uihotels Twitter: UIHotels
Where to Eat?
Skipjack Tuna Bbq in Maldives is the best, IMO. If you’re not into curry, you can indulge in tuna. There are a lot of restaurants around the city. My favorite is the Seahouse restaurant in Male located at first floor of Hulhumale Ferry Terminal. Although their food is mostly thai, their Maldivian food is tasty too. Variety of seafoods plus if you’re tired of having curry every day in Maldives and if you miss the Filipino dishes, not a problem cause they serve our famous beef steak tagalog. The ambiance is really nice, dinner on a sea deck you can feel the cool breeze your cigarettes will reach its filter faster than you realize but who cares, the view is amazing and there is wifi too!
And there are days when you won’t look for restaurants because lunch is also included in the excursion package.
You can try candle light dinner by the sea. When I booked through Ui Hotels, candle light dinner by the sea is actually free however we opted not to because we’re not a couple at all. Peace out Nick! Lol.
What to do in the Maldives?
Maldives is known for pristine beaches, posh 5 star resorts and simply a tropical paradise. Instead of staying in a classy beach resorts. You can experience a day tour package and feel the utopia vibe in one of those high class resorts without having to spend the big bucks. Here are some of the excursions to do in Maldives. Day Tour to 5 star Hotel Prices as of July 2014 provided by UI Hotels and are subject to change. If you are able to find cheaper than this the better!
-Island Hopping tour to white sandy beaches: Sandbank, Picnic Island or a combination of both.
– Enjoy water wonders through snorkeling – Dolphin Cruise in the open sea by boat
– Also some of the things you can do in Maldives which I haven’t experienced because of limited time and will definitely over my intended budget. You can try Seaplane Tour to catch an aerial view of the Maldives Islands. It’s normally a 30 minute flight to a resort and back to the hotel. You can also book this through your resort. UI Hotels offers $85 round trip. Night fishing is also available in Maldives and if you’re lucky a BBQ dinner of your caught. This is offered in the hotel for around $49 per person and would be cheaper if you’re more than 5 you’ll be able to get it for $35. You can also join a safari Yacht, a floating bar and restaurant for $25 per person and a submarine dive too if this is your thing.
– Explore Maafushi Island via public ferry. Just take note that Public ferries are not available on Fridays.
– Tour the Male City. It’s just a small city you can explore it by foot. We literally walked around Male for 2 hours. Although there is nothing really to see except for old mosques, parks, local market and motorcycles everywhere it reminds me of Saigon. It’s interesting to just walk around. Just watch out because you can’t wear bikini around the city. And oh, t-shirt souvenirs are kind of expensive.
Day Tour to Resorts of your choice. These are the lists provided to us at the hotel. We picked Angsana. I kind of regret a bit because I was expecting Velavaru tour. So I suggest you may discuss and clear everything before you choose. I actually have an eye on Taj Exotica but it is too expensive for me. If you have extra bucks you can go for it! Please note that prices are subject to change. These are just my list when I visited last July 2014.
Embudu Village (entrance, transfer & lunch $65 per person)
Club Med Kani (Entrance & All Inclusive [Transfer not included] $99 per person)
Paradise Island (Entrance & lunch [Transfer not included] $89 per person)
Centara Rashfushi (All Inclusive. [Transfer from Male’ City] $90 per person)
Angsana Resort (Entrance, transfer & lunch $105 per person)
Bandos Island Resort (Entrance & Lunch(Transfer not included) $95 per person
Chaaya Island Resort (All inclusive package $140 per person)
Banyan Tree (entrance, transfer & lunch, Stingray feeding $125 per person)
Taj Exotica Resort (Entrance, transfer, $70 worth of voucher $177 per person)
Kurumba Island Resort (Entrance, Lunch & Transfer $125 per person)
Note: Transfer from Hotel/Airport/Hotel is NOT included.
I wish I could’ve gather more of these high end resort day visit prices and details but these are the only ones I had. Hope this could help a bit. You may also check Fihalhohi Island post by Marx. Looks gorgeous!
Expectation vs Reality
I never expected that I will enjoy Maldives on a budget tour. If I was able to do it. You can too! Maldives have crystal clear blue waters but there are very little rubbish area in Hulhumale on our way to sandbank. The rubbish I’m talking about are very little you can count them within your 10 fingers. If you have high expectations when it comes to paradise beaches, especially if you’re a beach addict from the Philippines. You know what I mean if you consider yourself one. I don’t compare places I’ve been however for the sake of those people who asked me regarding this. Just to set your hopes, there are some beaches or shorelines that are similar to the ones we have in the Philippines, which is pretty normal coming from a person who grow up in a tropical paradise but there are also some wonderful beaches that have this Maldivian charm that will knock you off. I’ve seen what I call best but I also have no regrets in this Maldivian tour. My favourite part is the aerial view, I was totally blown away.
Here’s a video clip of the port just outside the Airport.
So if Maldives is part of your ultimate bucket–dream visit before you die zone. Go for it!