Cost and Other Useful Information – Maldives

Think the Maldives is all 5 star resorts, water bungalows and butlers on demand, think again. Real people live here too, the Maldives has an estimated population of 300,00 and is made up of 1,196 tiny islands.

Until 2010 it was illegal for foreign tourists to visit locally owned islands which is why, when we think of the Maldives we think of the privately owned fancy resorts in glossy magazines. These only actually make up for around 100 of the islands.

I was completely unaware that the Maldives could actually be a perfect location for budget travel until I read an article on Pinterest. Since the law changed in 2010, more and more BnB’s have been opening on the local islands, making the Maldives a perfect place to budget travellers and backpackers.

We stayed in on 3 islands, each one completely different to the last.

Dress Code: When visiting a local island it is illegal for women to sunbathe in a bikini in the Maldives unless you are on a designated ‘bikini beach’.

Getting Around: travel by boat is an absolute must if your in the Maldives, local boats work in the same way as busses, with timetables and reticular stops, they are also really cheap.

Accommodation: We were in the Maldives for 10 nights and spent an average of £37.20/night staying in basic B&B’s. I booked everything on AirBnB.com.

Visa: UK Passport holders do not currently need a visa to enter the Maldives.

Vaccinations: At the time of writing (Sept 2017) there are no vaccinations required.

Money: The currency in the Maldives is the Maldivian rufiyaa. Exchange rates in July 2017 below:

£1 (GBP) = Rf19.85 (MVR)

$1 (USD) = Rf15.45 (MVR)

€1 (EUR) = Rf17.30 (MVR)

Most islands only have 1 ATM, but they are so small that your never more than a 10 minute walk away. If your staying on an island that’s very far from the beaten path then it’s best to check they have an ATM with your guest house before you arrive. ATM’s were really easy to find on the bigger islands of Male and Hulmale.

Malé – Maldives

Male is the capital of the Maldives, it’s also the most densely populated city on earth. It’s best visited for a day or two as your passing by to another island, or as a base the night before your flight home, (boats can be cancelled last minute if conditions are too bad, it’s best to have a little spare room in your itinerary in case this happens. You don’t want to be stuck on an island 3 hours away.)

Other than passing through, there isn’t a great deal to do in Male, it’s just like any other big city, and feels like you could be anywhere in the world.

There are two beaches on Male, both are man made, the beach on the east coast is the best for relaxing and playing in the ocean, there is a barrier to protect swimmers from large waves. Male is a strict no-bikini island, you need to stay covered at all times. (Shorts and t-shirts are fine.)

Nighttime is when the locals like to shop, the streets get busier and it’s also when locals like to exercise, the beaches all have water aerobics classes and the outdoor gyms get busy.

We stayed at the Lvis boutique hotel, which was absolutely perfect, breakfast was delivered to the room and service was wonderful. We honestly only chose it because it was the cheapest on Hotels.com, hotels on Male can be really expensive.

It’s super easy to get too, there is a boat leaving the airport every 10 minutes and it only takes 10 minutes to get there. It only costs Rf10/pp for a 1 way trip. (They have also begun work on a bridge to connect the airport to the island.)

Maafushi – Maldives

Maafushi is roughly translated to ‘big island’, it has a range of hotels from budget to luxury but it’s generally better for backpackers or those on a tight budget.

Where to stay:

The island is so small that there is no ‘bad’ place to stay, you’ll only ever be a 10 minute walk from anywhere. We stayed at Alaka which is at the south end of the island, it was absolutely perfect, rooms are clean and spacious, they are cleaned every day and a buffet breakfast is included.

Getting there:

Getting to Maafushi using public transport is really easy and cheap, click HERE to read a separate post I’ve done on getting there.

What to do:

There was so much to do on Maafushi, compared to other islands in the Maldives, these are a few of our favourite things to do.

1. Snorkelling, trips can be booked through any hotel, we chose a half day trip including lunch and a trip to a sand bank, booked through Kuredhi beach inn for $20/pp, then a few days later we did a 2 hour tour for $10/pp booked through the Beachwood hotel.

2. Water sports, anything from paddle boards and to jet skis can be hired by the hour from a couple of places close to the beach. We hired a canoe for $15/hour.

3. Stingrays and baby sharks can be seen along the coast line every night, borrow a torch from your hotel reception and see how many you can count.

4. Bikini beach, its right at the north end of the island and it’s the only place you are allowed to dress in a bikini, we visited during low season and the beach was mostly peaceful, although it’s small and I imagine gets crowded during high season. If your not bothered about being in a bikini then the public beach on the east side of the island was completely deserted.

5. Beautiful sunsets, each day the times of sunset and sunrise are written on a board close to the main water sports beach, sunrise is best seen on the public beach (east) and sunset on the water sports beach (west).

Even through this is one of the more active islands we still felt a little bit restless after 8 nights here, in hindsight 6 days would have been perfect with the other 2 spent exploring a smaller island.

Where to eat:

We were on Maafushi island for 8 days, we had some fantastic food but also some disappointing food, our favourite place to eat was actually the hotel (Alaka), food had to be ordered a few hours in advance especially if you wanted a whole fish, even if your not staying here I recommend the grilled fish.

If you’re wanting a proper pizza, head to Mama Mia, it’s the only Italian on Maafushi. The evening buffet at the Arena hotel is also amazing although a little more expensive.

For lunch there is one small bakery on the island, it’s absolutely perfect for a light bite that you can take to the beach with you.

Anything else:

There is one ATM on the island, its towards the south end on the Main Street.

There is one gym on the island which is open to everyone, it’s $10/day or $5 during happy hour, a week pass is $25.

There are 4 or 5 supermarkets clustered around the north end of the island and a handful of smaller shops dotted around. You can buy everything you need on the island including sunscreen (although it’s cheaper to bring your own or buy it in Hulhumale).

It’s illegal to drink alcohol in the Maldives unless you are on a private island. There is a boat harboured just off shore, it’s allowed to serve alcohol through the loophole that it’s technically it’s own private island. We didn’t visit it so can’t review.

Getting to Maafushi – Maldives

I struggled to find up to date information on public ferry timetables to Maafushi, I’ve written this quick post with links to the official government schedules.

To get to Maafushi first you need to get to Male, when you exit the airport the ferry will be directly opposite from you. It leaves every 10-15 minutes and takes 10 minutes. A one day ticket costs Rf10.

It will drop you of at the north east corner of the island, the Villingili Ferry terminal (to get to Maafushi) is on the south west corner of the island.

There are plenty of taxis if you’re in a rush or have massive backpacks. We decided to walk because we had absolutely ages before the ferry, it took us about 45 minutes.

There are two routes to Maafushi, the 310 only runs 3 times per week and is direct to Maafushi. Click HERE for the latest schedule.

The 311 runs everyday except a Friday, it makes one stop at Gulhi before it gets to Maafushi. Click HERE for the latest schedule.

Both routes take about the same time and can vary between 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on sea conditions. A one way ticket costs Rf22.

I haven’t written any times or days on this post in case they change, wouldn’t want you to be standing waiting for a ferry that never comes because I’ve given you out of date information! Please click on the links above for the latest details.

Note: The sea can get very rough, on our way to Maafushi the sea was perfect and calm, on the way back however it was pretty terrifying, make sure you have sea sickness tablets, you will need them!

The boats will be cancelled if conditions are bad enough so make sure you have plenty of room in your itinerary to allow for last minute changes.

Hope you found this useful. If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments box.

Hulhumale – Maldives

Hulhumale is the island that is home to the only international airport in the Maldives. We had a late evening flight from Sri Lanka to the Maldives so we decided to spend our first night close to the airport and catch the morning boat to Maafushi.

Getting to the main town of Hulhumale male from the airport is really easy, there is a big red bus that stops directly outside of the arrivals area every 30 minutes. It costs MRV20/pp and takes about 15 minutes. You need to take the bus because pedestrians aren’t allowed to cross over the bridge.

At the time of writing there are currently more building sites on Hulhumale than there are actual buildings, although most of the hotels are expensive there are still a few good budget options. We stayed in the Elite Inn, which was perfect for 1 night.

The only beach on the island is on the north east side and is a strictly non-bikini beach. The water is clean and warm and there are water sports offers along the beach.

At night time the islands main activity is centred around the Central Park area, there is an open air gym and cycle paths. The park is full of locals playing football and socialising.

Getting to Male from Hulhumale is easy too, from the ferry port on the west side of the island, it costs MRV5.5/pp and comes every 15 minutes. The crossing is around 20-25 minutes.

There are plans for a bridge that will connect Hulhumale to the capital city of Male, construction work has already begun. (Written August 2017.)