When it comes to exotic islands, tropical climate and luxury resorts, the Maldives is probably number one on the list. With its 26 natural atolls consisting of pearl string-like islands, travelers are able to explore the richest tropical waters home to one of the most magnificent marine life kingdom in the world. This sovereign archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean has long been declared as a luxury destination and not for budget travelers. But thanks to the change in government regulations, the locals are now allowed to open up their homes to foreigners and run tourism on a smaller scale. Travelers can now stay in a locally inhabited island and experience Maldivian life first hand.
Things to know before travelling to the Maldives:
1.Getting there – Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (MLE) located in the capital and the most inhabited city of Male is the gateway into the Maldives Islands. Getting to the Maldives is expensive – a round trip ticket from the Americas is 1100 USD and up, from Europe is 700 US and up, traveling from Bangkok or Hong Kong is about 250 USD. Consider including other destinations in your travel plan to make the airfare not that painful on your pocket (or route your flights through Hong Kong or Bangkok and spend few days exploring these amazing cities). Check current prices on Tripadvisor.
From Male, visitors can travel by boat, speedboats and plane to all neighboring atolls and most nearby islands. A much cheaper option to get to your island of choice is to use local ferries which take much longer but can cost as little as 2 USD one way. You can check the ferry schedule right here http://www.mtcc.com.mv/transporthome.aspx
2.Money – The official Maldivian currency is Rufiyaa but US dollars are widely accepted. It is advisable to withdraw enough cash in the airport and exchange some into local currency to pay for small local eateries and stores. Hotels and guesthouses take US dollars or Maldivian Rufiyaa and international credit cards.
3.Local laws and etiquette – When staying in a local inhabited island, you have to observe Muslim Laws and Customs. It is recommended that you dress modestly when walking around or mixing with locals. Bikinis and other forms of swimwear can be worn only in the established local islands and dedicated beach area (called Bikini Beach) for tourists. Be aware that topless sunbathing is not permitted. If you’re going on an excursion away from the local islands, then you can wear whatever you like once you get on the boat.
4. Accommodation (local islands, not resort islands) – There are a considerable number of budget accommodations in the capital island Male and in the islands of Hulhumale, Maafushi, Guraidhoo and Fulidhoo. Do seek advice on the Maldives forum in TripAdvisor and search through several online hotel booking websites to find that perfect guest house with an affordable price tag.
5.Taxes and fees – For every single night you spend in the Maldives, you will be charged 8 USD as bed tax and USD 8 for the room. There is also a 10 USD service charge from service provided by hotels, guest houses, restaurants, etc.
6.Weather – Positioned southwest of India and Sri Lanka, the Maldives has two distinct seasons – the dry and wet season. The dry season is between November and April, which draws a huge influx of visitors from across the world. The wets season, on the other hand, is between May to October, which still attract a significant number of visitors due to the fact that prices are considerably lower in these months.
Day 1: Male – Maafushi
Upon arrival in Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, proceed to the ferry station near the airport exit and take the ferry to Male (the main island). The ferry to the main island leaves every 15 minutes and is approximately 20 minutes away from the airport (1 USD one way). From Male, ride a cab that will take you to the main ferry station to access the other islands (10 minutes, approximately 5 USD). The cheapest option to get to the local islands, like Maafushi, would be to take a public ferry (90 minutes, approximately 2 USD one way). In the Maldives, everything is accessible by ferry, boat or domestic flight so if you are looking into visiting islands away from Male, you have to consider which option suits your preference and budget.
There are plenty of budget hotels and guesthouses providing friendly island hospitality in Maafushi. Instead of spending that extra dollars on an exclusive island resort, you may stay in cheaper lodges or inns and just go on a day excursion to see the other islands. Shadow Palm Hotel, Water Breeze Maafushi and White Shell Island Hotel & Spa are some of the best places to stay in Maafushi. You may explore Maafushi Beach, shops and neighborhood in the afternoon.
Day 2: Snorkelling Trip in Maafushi
On your second day, you can check off the next thing on your wanderlust wish list, which is to see the manta rays, whale sharks and other marine species in Maldives. You can either go on a snorkeling day excursion or go on a diving adventure. Staying in a smaller guesthouses will give you flexibility on day excursions. Your tour guide will take you to the best spots for snorkeling away from the larger group snorkeling tours.
Day 3: Scuba Diving in South Ari Atoll
Discover the beauty and diversity of the underwater world or just get away from it all in South Ari Atoll. South Ari Atoll officially called, as Alif Dhaal Atoll is one of the two administrative divisions of the Maldives. It hosts to some of the world’s best resorts and hotels ranging from diving resorts to exclusive luxury hotels. It is also one of the best places in the world to spot whale sharks and hammerhead sharks. If you fail to spot manta rays or whale sharks the day prior, then your best bet is to go on a diving adventure.
Day 4: Day Excursion at Maadhoo Finolhu
On your fourth day in the Maldives, avail a day excursion to the uninhabited Maadhoo Finolhu also known as Picnic Island. Set on its own island with postcard perfect beaches, Picnic Island provides great swimming, snorkeling and beach experience plus greater privacy. The island has all the necessary facilities like comfort room, bar, eating and dining facilities which will surely give you a fantastic beach holiday.
Day 5: Maafushi – Male
Start early and wait for the sun to rise at Maafushi Beach. Then enjoy your Maldivian breakfast back to the guest house. Take the ferry in the morning so you could do a little sightseeing in Male before your departure. You can also do a little souvenir shopping in Male. Most of the souvenir shops are located in Majeedi Magu and Chandani Magu, you can explore both so you can compare the price.
Have you been to the Maldives? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.