Maldives on a budget

Maldives on a budget

by Joely Santiago

The Maldives is the perfect tropical vacation destination. The ocean is crystal clear, the sand is perfectly white, and sea life is absolutely incredible. It’s a perfect paradise. But it can come with a pretty hefty price tag. If you’ve ever dreamed about going to Maldives (and taken the time to research it), you know exactly what I’m talking about. Hotels can cost you hundreds of dollars a night. And that’s not even the fancy, over-the-ocean bungalows. You add flights, food, and entertainment, and you’re looking at quite a bit of money. But it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. I did it for less than a thousand bucks!


The first step to any trip is airfare. I was already in Singapore when I decided to go, and from there I was able to swing the ticket for just under $300. Asia Air offers really great deals. You just have to flexible on your dates of travel and check the websites often. But you can get decent deals on airfare from other locations, too. I was able to find a round trip ticket from Frankfurt the other day for $600. I tend to find the best deals on Skyscanner. But on the mobile app. For some weird reason, the prices on their website always come up a little more expensive.


The next step, in planning the trip is finding where to stay. For this, you really need to determine what you want out of your vacation to the Maldives. Do you just want to sit by the beach or pool sipping cocktails and reading magazines? Or do you want to spend your time exploring the ocean and riding jet skis? Maybe both?

This first thing to know about deciding where to stay is that the Maldives is a group of islands scattered in the Arabian Sea of the Indian Ocean. The main airport is in Male, but it’s probably not the island you want to spend your vacation on. It’s a busier local island. You’re not going to find the magical paradise experience you see on Instagram here. That’s found on other islands. So you’ll also have to coordinate and consider the costs of getting to those islands. The options are either by speedboat or seaplane.

You have lots of options when it comes to which isle to stay on. Many of the atolls are owned by hotels that build their resorts on them. If you want to sit by the beach/pool to unwind, this is the kind of place you want to stay at. They tend to be pricy, but have some perks. One benefit is that they’re very well-maintained. These resorts are also very private. And they serve alcohol. Local islands don’t. But the downside, at least to me, is that you don’t really get to experience any local culture. Another option is to stay at a hotel or resort on a local atoll. The prices are generally quite reasonable, and the accommodations are pretty good. But do your research and read the reviews.

We did both. We stayed at the Arena Beach Hotel on the island of Maafushi for part of our stay and the Adaaran Prestige Vadoo for the other part. The Arena Beach came with free breakfast and was right on the beach for about $80 a night. The rooms were clean and comfortable and ours had a balcony with a nice view. The hotel restaurant was pretty good, and while I’m not a huge fan of buffets, the one here had a lot of variety, fresh food and even featured live music. Since the Arena Beach is on a local island, adult beverages weren’t available. However, there is a party boat you can go on to enjoy a few cocktails and meet other travelers. The hotel can call it for you, and they’ll pick you up. They also offer passes/trips to the resort hotels. They’ll drop you off via speedboat early in the morning and pick you up around 1900 or 2000.

The Adaaran Prestige Vodoo is AMAZING! It’s a smaller, private resort with about 50 water bungalows. The resort has a number of restaurants, bars, and a spa. The pool is fantastic, and there are gorgeous gardens surrounding it. We were only here one day because it’s quite pricy and I’m a bit of a busy body (I can’t lay by the beach/pool for too long without getting bored :(). But it was beautiful and so relaxing. Plus, we didn’t have to get on a seaplane to get there. Also, the food here was better (I like to eat).


There are a lot of cool things to do in the Maldives. All of the travelers we met were on their honeymoon or a romantic getaway (my best friend and I were literally the only single people everywhere we went). Many of them just wanted to relax and enjoy being on a secluded tropical island. But others wanted to explore the ocean and have a bit of fun. And there really are plenty of fun things to do here.

If you stay at an island resort, what you have to do is limited to what the resort has to offer and any outings you choose to purchase. All of the hotels I looked into offered a variety of trips. Most of them have the same or very similar opportunities. However, the prices tend to be a little more expensive at the resorts.

My friend and I got a package of expeditions. We went on two snorkeling adventures (both over six hours long), jet-skiing, banana boating, paddleboarding, night fishing, and a local island tour for about $150. We did it through the local-island hotel. I think the price was quite reasonable. I also think it was probably negotiable based on what some of the other travelers said they paid. But I don’t feel like we overpaid. The private resort offered some similar experiences and other adventures like parasailing and scuba diving. It all depends on what you want to see and how you want to spend your time. I highly recommend snorkeling. Swimming with sea turtles and dolphins was such an incredible experience. I almost drowned at least a dozen times from smiling so much water got in my mask. Totally worth it.

What I liked about staying at the local island was being able to see where and how the locals live. Especially because this was more of a fun, let’s go exploring kind of trip and not a romantic getaway. It definitely allowed me to spend quite a bit less and still experience the magic of the Maldives.

What incredible location have you been able to explore without breaking the bank? And what tips do you have?

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