Avoid sticker shock: How to explore the Maldives on a budget

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Maldives on a budget

This article was originally published in May 2013 and updated in July 2019

Congratulations! The fact that you’re reading this probably means you’ve made the great life choice of booking a dream trip to the Maldives. However, a celeb-worthy getaway complete with blissful white sand beaches, idyllic islands and round-the-clock butler service also usually comes with a high-roller price tag, which is why many travellers don’t think it’s realistic to visit to travel to the Maldives on a budget.

This is something I quickly came to grips with when I began planning my own trip to this tiny slice of tropical paradise in the Indian Ocean: every time I opened an e-mail with a quote from a travel agent, it was like getting sucker punched. As wonderful as it is to live in Canada, it usually means we have to travel a great deal further to get anywhere, compared to our lucky friends in the U.K. or New York for example. For just flights, basic accommodation and half board, we were looking at over $10,000 per person for one week—ouch! But thanks to a little luck and a lot of research, I eventually managed to slash that price in half and even upgrade to a stunning overwater villa with all meals and drinks included. Here’s how you can book your own Maldives all inclusive vacation for less.

Maldives on a budget

Save on flights to the Maldives local islands

One of the biggest cost savings I uncovered was with our flights, which would have cost nearly $2500 per person for international airfare plus the seaplane ride from the capital of Male out to whichever Maldives local island we stayed at. As luck would have it we had just enough rewards points saved up on our credit cards to cover the full cost of our flights to Male, so if you belong to a similar program be sure to check if you’ve accumulated enough to do the same. But if you don’t have that luxury, getting creative with your itinerary can save you some serious cash. For example, if you stumble across a cheap fare to somewhere like London or Dubai, you could book that flight then pay separately for an all-inclusive Maldives trip package departing from those hubs, since many tour operators offer discounted rates from those locations.

Another major Maldives cost is actually getting to your island, so the closer your resort is to Male the cheaper it can be. Hotels like the Sheraton Full Moon are just a 15 minute speed boat ride away, versus a hour-long flight to a far-flung island on the pricey Maldavian Air Taxi. Those flights can cost hundreds of dollars—though the stunning birds-eye view of white atolls surrounded by turquoise waters is well worth the price tag. If you can’t stomach the idea of paying for yet another flight, then stick to resorts that are accessible by boat like Kurumba and Meeru Island, or get creative and book a Dhoni cruise!

Maldives on a budget

Maldavian Air Taxi in the Maldives

Maldives vacation packages

One of the best decisions I ever made (and that I still rave about every chance I get) was booking our Maldives trip through U.K.-based Purely Maldives, despite not typically being a fan of booking via travel agencies. Like their name suggests, this company focuses solely on travel to the country, which means they know the islands incredibly well and can offer unbeatable packages to over 100 affordable Maldives resorts. Through their expertise, we ended up in a swoon-worthy overwater bungalow at the Adaaran Meedhupparu Prestige Villas, complete with a private butler. As you do. Purely Maldives was able to secure us a fantastic rate of $2500 per person for seven nights accommodation, all food and drinks, complimentary massages and return transfers via sea plane. As far as budget water villas in Maldives goes, this deal is about as amazing as it gets!

TBH it seems like a huge miss to go all the way to the Maldives and not splurge for an overwater villa, but let’s face it, they’re not cheap. So unless you’re celebrating some major milestone like a honeymoon or big birthday, an easy way to save money is by booking a more basic room on the beach (which in many cases are just as plush as their stilted-counterparts). Resorts like Velassaru offer tasteful options for bungalows, while the Lagoon and Beach rooms at the Taj Exotica boast outdoor showers and private plunge pools. 

Many Maldives overwater villas feature easy access to the water below.

Many villas feature easy access to the water below.

Maldives package deals

One place you’ll really notice those dollar signs adding up is when it comes to eating and drinking: think $30 for a regular burger, and $16 for soup. Yikes! It’s important to keep these costs in mind when deciding on which resort to book, since you won’t have any other dining options once you arrive.

A great workaround is to look for Maldives hotel packages that have an option to add a full board or all-inclusive meal plan to your booking. Resorts also vary widely on what’s included in their packages; for example, Adaaran’s all-inclusive gold plan includes all meals and drinks including alcohol and a mini-bar, along with experience perks like snorkelling equipment, massages, wi-fi and a special dinner on the beach. Lily Beach Resort & Spa has really taken it up a notch with their Platinum Plan which gives guests access to premium brands of alcohol, all meals, free fitness classes and access to the VIP lounge at the airport. Vacationers can also take advantage of complimentary excursions and are even provided with a cooling box for the beach, so they don’t have to get up for drinks! However, many resorts don’t offer any type of meal plan, which can take a big bite out of your budget so plan accordingly. You also aren’t allowed to bring your own alcohol into the Maldives, so don’t bother trying to cutting corners that way.

Time it right to cut down your Maldives trip cost

Still looking for more ways to pinch some pennies? Well, there’s one foolproof way to save on your Maldives vacation cost that works nearly every single time: simply book a shorter trip. A trip to the Maldives is more about relaxing versus racing around to sightsee, so you can easily get away with spending just a few days here and still have plenty of time to see Male, go on a couple of excursions and enjoy some beach bliss. This tactic works especially well if you’re already planning to be somewhere nearby like Sri Lanka, India or Dubai, and have the ability to tack on a few days to hop over to the islands. 

Maldives on a budget

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6 Responses

  1. Next to Purely Maldives it could also be helpful to check out sites like http://www.trivago.ca or other hotel comparisons to find a suitable and cheap hotel. However, Purely Maldives maybe has a better, more local overview. But everyone should remember that holidays on the Maldives are never cheap and at some point there’s a minimum of costs you just can’t get under.

  2. FlyDubai recently started flights to Male – often for very low fares. Also consider staying in Male and just do snorkeling trips to the hotel beaches. These often run for $20 or less per day and give you lot’s of variety.

    • Those are some fantastic tips, thank you so much for sharing! This is also a great way to get more of a dose of the local culture, which can be somewhat lacking when you are ‘stuck’ on a deserted island.

  3. Rachel says:

    Thanks for much for this article, it is so helpful! I am trying to plan my dream trip to Maldives but on a budget. Your article makes me feel more confident my dream can become a reality!

    • So awesome! Yes since we went for our honeymoon it was definitely a ‘dream trip’ but didn’t have to break the bank thanks to some planning. I hope you get to go soon!

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