For a budget traveler who is either confined by finance or choice of traveling style, Maldives doesn’t sound like an economical destination to travel to. Ritzy overwater villas, fancy food, expensive commute – everything just adds up to say a quick ‘NO’ to this paradise. But who doesn’t want to go to this ‘Shangri-La’, especially when there are enough claims to suggest that it might drown soon. Our love for marine life, clear- blue waters, and a post on budget Maldives by a fellow travel blogger encouraged us to explore this little drop of heaven.
Maldives is a collection of 1200 tiny to large (well, not exactly!) islands with around 300 islands inhabited by people. We were surprised to know that 100 of these inhabited islands are occupied by resorts exclusively. These islands are spread at various distances from the International Airport in Male, ranging from close (30 minutes) to extremely far rides (a domestic flight and ferry away!). This means once you reach your island via a boat/seaplane – bye bye for a while, my friend! Hence, your choice of guesthouse/ resort will come to define your experience in Maldives.
Obvious choice for us was to select a local island – one, to keep us under budget but more importantly to explore local Maldivian life that is rarely written about. To stay in a safety net, we chose to stay in an affordable luxury guest house placed on the tiny local island of Vaavu Thinadhoo, a little south to Male. Plumeria Guest House was the perfect balance of luxury and comfort we were hoping to find in this exorbitantly priced country.
Plumeria is situated on one of the closer islands from Male and takes about 6 hours to reach via a public ferry and 90 minutes using a speedboat. A speedboat ride is definitely the most convenient even though it costs 15 times that of the public ferry. We took Plumeria’s private speed boat to reach Thinadhoo that literally flies through the water. Like any other fancy resort in Maldives, Plumeria’s staff will find you at the airport and usher you to the boat.
Beyond The Wall Tip:
- Select your stay based on its distance from the Airport. Stays in the far south or far North can only be accessed via a seaplane that will send your budgets over the roof.
- If you want to catch the public ferry, book flights on days when the public ferry operates to your island. The ferry calendar is available here.
With options of choosing from sea view rooms to garden/village view rooms, Plumeria has something for everyone. The rooms are spacious, clean, and very well maintained. A fully equipped coffee bar, drinking water, basic amenities like clean towels, toiletries, bathrobes and slippers are provided in plenty with the room. The rooms are cleaned every day and sometimes twice on request. The staff surprises you with special notes, towel art, chocolates on the bed and more. There was nothing in the room that put us off at any point of time – if this is not luxurious, then what is!
Beyond The Wall Tip:
- Guest Houses and affordable luxury stays in Maldives is a recent phenomenon. The go-to place for guest house booking is this website, wherein you can directly book full board all-inclusive packages. They also offer the best prices!
The fruits, the juices, and the tropical mocktails (Yes, Alcohol is banned in Maldives, except on private resorts) stole my heart away. Plumeria host guests from multiple countries across the globe. We were super impressed by the way they accommodate everyone’s taste and comfort into their food. To put this in perspective, you should know that our island had no other restaurant or eating joint apart from Plumeria’s kitchen. The only other options are to snack on crackers from a nearby store or wait for the upcoming Bangladeshi food joint to set up a functional kitchen. Thankfully, we didn’t need to explore those options.
Plumeria served us with some fantastic buffets consisting of more than 12 items to choose from. Chicken, beef, seafood, lamb, lots of veggies, and a LOT of desserts! The cherry on the top – if you feel like eating something special, just tell the chef. Jony, our chef, was kind enough to cook on-demand dishes for us. The cherry on top of the cherry is that the food is served right next to the ocean every single meal. Oh, did I not mention that they cooked a special meal for Christmas – a fresh King Mackerel that smelled like the ocean (ah!), a huge roast turkey, king prawns, an assortment of a dozen salads, curries and desserts. The list is never-ending.
Beyond The Wall Tip:
- It’ll be wise for you to carry along your favourite munchies before you head to the island because chances are that the island won’t even have a grocery store.
What snow is to Antarctica and perhaps coffee to Colombia, crystal clear waters and marine life is to Maldives. Do not come back from Maldives without exploring its opulent waters. Every island in Maldives is surrounded by an in-house reef. As you walk towards the white sandy beaches, you will soon hit the poky reef that is home to thousands of marvellous fish species and rare water creatures.
Water babies that we are, we swam and snorkeled for around 6 to 7 hours a day and made it a point to say hello to all the lovely water buddies including a giant stingray that kept stalking us. If you love your Nemos and Dorys, there’s an entire colony of those here. For those who prefer to find an aloof corner by the beach and watch the glory from a distance, Maldivian beaches are just for you – you can have as much space to yourself as you would like.
Since Maldives is a conservative country, it is prohibited to wear bikinis for women (or men) on the local islands. Plumeria has a vast section of the island that’s reserved for tourists called ‘The Bikini Beach’. It is an unsaid understanding between the tourists and the locals to give space to each other. This cordial arrangement allows travelers to explore the beach at their own comfort while at the same time be respectful to the locals, who are very friendly and welcoming.
Beyond The Wall Tip:
- It may seem from all the pictures on the web that Maldives is all about white sandy beaches. While it is true for some parts of the beaches, you’re most likely to spend your time in the reefs which are rough to walk on. Carry beach shoes to avoid injuries (we have so many!)
Besides snorkeling around the house reef, there are plenty of activities that any resort arranges on daily basis. Excursions to sandbanks, snorkeling trips to faraway islands, Dolphin cruise, sunset excursion etc. Plumeria also offers tons of activities for its guests. They have a fully equipped diving centre that organizes both snorkeling and diving trips. We took our first diving course in the Indian Ocean and our coach, Katie couldn’t have been nicer.
Our personal favourite excursion was to a snorkelling site that harbours giant sharks as big as 2 meters. The boat takes you to the shark site in the night where a guide or two use headlamps to throw light under water. Multiple varieties of sharks ranging from the whale shark to nurse-tip sharks swim right next to you. If you are not into scuba diving or snorkelling, there’s a ton of other things to indulge in. Go for a boat ride to spot Dolphins, take a day trip to a sandbank, go fishing, or do yoga on the beach at sunrise. Plumeria is also opening a brand new spa in February to make things even better!
Beyond The Wall Tip:
- Most islands in Maldives have their own in-house reefs brimming with exquisite marine life. Unless your hosts promise to take you to see a specific kind of fish, save some bucks and snorkel in the reefs around your island.
Overall, our experience at Plumeria was extremely satisfying and we wouldn’t think twice to head back there again. The entire staff were so courteous and hospitable that it made our farewell a tad bit teary-eyed (We’re talking about Divya here!)
Here’s our breakup of the overall cost we spent on our trip to Maldives. Well, this doesn’t really qualify as budget travel but let’s treat Maldives as an exception, shall we? 🙂
WE SPENT A TOTAL OF INR 1, 18, 000 (In reality, we spent much lesser since a portion of this was sponsored by our amazing parents as a ‘post-wedding’ gift!)
- All costs are in INR per couple for a period of 5 nights/ 6 days.
- We took a full-board package at Plumeria which included meals of all days.
- Our flight was slightly costly because of the peak season. As of Dec 2016, MEGA airlines was operating flights to Delhi and Mumbai directly from Maldives. Expect to spend in the range of INR 24,000 – 34,000.
It’s no exaggeration to say that we definitely left a portion of our hearts in Maldives – this is one country we would love to come back to again and again, largely for its underwater world and aloofness from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
VISA FOR INDIANS
Maldives visa can be obtained on arrival for almost all nationalities including Indian. It is free of cost and all you need is a booking at a guesthouse/ resort & a return ticket.
- Plumeria provides a fully functional, high-speed internet connection to satiate your wi-fi hunger.
- They have a restaurant, a cafe, a snooker table, a tiny swimming pool, a private beach, and an indoor game collection.
- The islands do not have ATMs to withdraw money from. It’s best to carry some cash for small expenses. US Dollars are accepted widely in Maldives.
- If you do have your own snorkelling equipment, carry it to avoid renting from your resort. You will save a small amount if not much.
- Male is quite a crowded city. Even though we spent a day exploring the city, we wouldn’t have missed much had we stayed back on the island. If you are short of days, we’d suggest to skip the city and just be on your island.
Still reading? Go plan a vacation to Maldives already, people!