I TRAVELED: with my husband
TYPE OF TRAVEL: adventurous, budget, relaxing, beach, diving
FOR: 5 days
DATES: October – November 2018
PRICE POINT: $$
MALDIVES…. ON A BUDGET
For most expats, living in Bangalore is going to be as close to the Maldives as you can get. In less than two hours flight time, Air India will bring you from the hectic Bangalore to the tropical paradise of the Maldives. The Maldives archipelago consists of 200 inhabited islands, 80 resort islands and uncountable corals and sandbanks hiding just below the surface. The shallow waters result in the paradise style pictures that you will find all over the web. Now, if we think Maldives, we think about the beautiful one-island-resorts, villas on the sea, perfect honeymoons and… a very rough credit card bill on your return. I would be the last one to say it’s not worth it to experience the island resort for a couple of days, but luckily there are ways to keep a visit to the Maldives friendly for your budget.
HOW TO GET THERE
Book your flights in advance, Air India return flights start from Rs. 15,000 return from Bangalore Kempegowda Airport to Ibrahim Nasir International (previously called Male Airport). Indigo and Sri Lankan airlines are other airlines that fly to Malé. From there you can take a speed boat, check with your hotel on the scheduled times.
WHERE TO STAY
Now the secret to a budget holiday is to visit one of the local islands. The local island I visited is called Maafushi and approximately 40 minutes (by speedboat) from Ibrahim Nasir International (MLE) Airport on Malé. Maafushi actually means “The Big Island” but it is a small island which is walkable in less than an hour. We stayed at the Arena Hotel for around 120 dollars per night (Rs. 8,550), including taxes. While the hotel is decent with a great ocean view (to be fair, hard not to have on these islands) and varied breakfast, but ultimately nothing special. Other hotel options would be the Kaani Hotel or an Airbnb on the island.
Other local islands that I haven’t had time to visit but come heavily recommended (and will definitely try out in a next trip) are Himmafushi, Hithadhoo, Thulusdoo, Gan Island and Dhangethi (for diving with whale sharks!).
Arena Hotel, Ziyaaraiy Magu, Maafushi 08090, Maldives, www.arenabeachmaldives.com
Kaani Hotel, Aabaadhee Hingun Road, Maafushi, Maldives www.kaanibeach.com
WHAT TO DO
The Maldives is an absolute paradise for divers and snorkelers. The waters around the islands are filled with very healthy corals and a lot of big marine life is practically guaranteed every dive. A huge variety of dive sites are usually only a short distance from the island, making 2 fun dives a perfect half-day activity. While diving, we’ve seen schools of eagle rays, black tip, and white tip sharks, a leopard shark, sea turtles, schools of barracudas and other tropical fish, a manta ray. The fun doesn’t end under water as we saw dolphins and a pilot whale during our surface interval. We dove with Maldives Passions and I can absolutely recommend them. With 5 dives you get a good discount: we ended up paying approximately 40 dollars (Rs. 2,850) per dive.
WATER SPORTS + SUNBATHING
If you are not that much of an underwater person, there’s plenty to enjoy on the Maldives. The islands are filled with picture-perfect beaches, visit different islands on a tour, or you can enjoy a variety of water sports.
Want to experience Maldives’ luxury on a budget? Plenty of fancy resorts sell day entry passes for around 75 dollars (Rs. 5,344), including transport, food, and drink.
WHERE TO EAT
Kaalamaa (Velana Resort) serves contemporary and healthy foods very nicely presented. The Harbour Café, has a good local cuisine and is very affordable. Arena Hotel Beach Restaurant does a nice buffet BBQ style dinner on the beach.
Kaalamaa, Velana Hotel, Trip Advisor
The Harbour Café, Kaani Hotel, Facebook Page
Arena Beach Restaurant, Trip Advisor
GOOD TO KNOW
If you do go for your splurge 5-star resort experience, make sure you check the following things whilst booking to overcome pricey surprises.
Tax and charges often excluded from hotel prices. In my experience, this was a 12% tax and 11.2% service charge that came on top of the bill.
Transport to and from your hotel is usually NOT included. For local islands expect to pay around 50 dollars (Rs. 3,562) per person return for a speedboat at set times. Local ferries are also available but often only once a day. Resorts speedboats can go up to 250 dollars (Rs, 17,815) per person whilst some resorts are only accessible via water plane, pushing the price towards 400/500 dollars (Rs. 28,500/Rs. 35,627) a person.
Alcohol on local islands is not allowed. Resorts might have it but for a price. Double check if it is included in your all-inclusive package.