What comes to mind when you think of a trip to the Maldives? Let me guess...beautiful beaches, breathtaking sunsets, crystal-clear blue waters...and expensive?
Would you believe me if I told you that the Maldives is actually really affordable? Well, that is up to you - it is only affordable if you are willing to make it that way. By that, I mean - you have to be willing to opt out of luxury experiences (staying in remote resorts) and stay on the local islands and in guesthouses instead.
Typically, depending on the resort you choose to stay at, boat or seaplane transfers can be very pricey ($500+) and dining expenses add up. While it sounds nice to stay somewhere remote, where you are surrounded by stunning views 24/7, it is not my cup of tea (only if it means I can stay a few nights, instead of a week).
Here are 5 things I did on my solo trip to the Maldives, to stay on budget and save money:
1. Book a tour
Maldives is a very safe country, especially as a solo Muslim traveler. However, as I knew I wanted to spend a week in the Maldives, I decided to book a tour (and I got lucky to end up with a private tour of the Maldives since I was the only one booked that week).
I personally only opted for a tour so that I can have company for the week. I am an introvert and when I travel solo, it is sometimes a little harder to meet other people. I booked a 7-night South Male Island Hopping Tour with Secret Paradise, after careful research. What drew me to the company was its commitment to protecting the planet, offering sustainable experiences, and giving back to locals (all tours are led by locals). I loved my experience and was very grateful to have one of the best guides I ever had on any tour I have been on - Mash. Spending a week together also gave me a better understanding of local life and culture and I learned of things I wouldn't have known through research.
Even if you do not book this tour, I suggest contacting local tour operators (Maafushi Island has quite a lot!) to see what day tours they may offer. You can find snorkeling tours, diving tours, submarine tours and so much more. It would be best to reach out to the company directly instead of booking through a third party, as it is much more affordable. Some companies I came across in my research included: Maamuda Watersports, Blue Horizon, and Kaani Tours. There are many more and you can especially find a lot on Maafushi.
2. Stay on the local islands
Depending on the island you choose to visit, accommodation options on the local islands are abundant. You can select based on your liking (basic to something a little better). Most guesthouses are basic but include the necessities for a comfortable stay. You can also pay a little more (but still save a lot as it won't cost you as much as a private resort) for a 4-5 star property. Some islands are a little less developed (I loved the local feel though and many locals actually thought I was Maldivian which was great) and are more catered to locals rather than tourists, so you may only find guesthouses available.
During my travels, I also met another solo traveler from Kazakhstan who was couchsurfing her way through the Maldives. Thus, this is also another budget option you can look into if it is something you are comfortable with, as she did manage to find a few hosts around the different islands. For me personally, it's not something I like or feel too comfortable with.
3. Eat where the locals eat
Since Maldives is a Muslim country, all the food is halal. Thus, it was not hard to find something to eat. To my surprise, food was extremely affordable, with meals ranging from $3 to $10 (USD).
Most of the meals were also included in my package, and I got the opportunity to try many local treats. The guesthouses I stayed at provided the typical Maldivian breakfast: mas huni (which is tuna, coconut, and chili) eaten with roti, sausage (I found that they eat a LOT of this in the Maldives), and fresh fruits. In the afternoon, I tried "Hedhikaa," which is equivalent to the concept of "afternoon tea," except it consists of savory snacks (as pictured). Bajiya was one of my favorites (looks like a samosa).
4. Take the local ferry
Though taking a local ferry means it might take you a little longer to get to another island, it will save you a lot of money. The speedboat transfers can start from $30, whereas a ticket for the local ferry may not even cost you more than $2.50 USD. Transfer times may range from 20-30 minutes with a speedboat, whereas a ferry might take you between 1-2.5 hours, depending on the island you are going to.
5. Experience a luxury resort for a day
Traveling solo is often more expensive and the same issue arises when it comes to booking a hotel. I was glad to not have to worry about booking any accommodations since it was all included with my package. I had the option of extending my stay and booking a getaway to a luxury resort, but it would be too expensive for one person. I opted-in for a day pass instead. I chose a day pass to Adaaran Prestige Vadoo from Maafushi. Transfers were included in the day pass, which was a bonus, along with lunch and unlimited drinks.
I'm glad I chose a day pass to a resort instead of staying for the night since I did get a bit bored (since I was alone too). I spent the day at the spa, on the beach sunbathing, and also found a nice day bed under the palm trees to relax.
The experience also included feeding the sharks in the afternoon, which was a nice way to end a relaxing day. The afternoon tea was okay and lunch had quite a few options (it was a buffet lunch at the restaurant on the beach). A day pass is a great option for anyone who wants a taste of different resorts as well, though from what I've seen, it seems there are some spots on the property that was off-limits to day pass holders.
The Maldives is a destination I never thought I would end up solo, but there I was - one unforgettable week in the Maldives with the best local guide I could have asked for!
Have you been to the Maldives yet? Let me know!