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How to Travel Maldives on a Budget

Whenever we hear the word “Maldives”, it invokes images of crystal-clear turquoise waters, pristine white sand beaches, and luxurious overwater bungalows. Often seen as a honeymoon destination for celebrities and the elite, the Maldives can feel out of reach for budget travelers. But fear not! With careful planning and a willingness to travel Maldives is achievable without blowing your entire travel budget.

This guide explores the secrets to a magical Maldivian adventure, packed with insider tips and essential information. We’ll explore:

  • The Truth About Affordable Maldives: Discover the hidden world of local islands, where authentic experiences and affordable prices collide.
  • Planning Your Budget Maldives Trip: Unravel the logistics, from finding the perfect island to navigating transportation and accommodation options.
  • Island Hopping on a Dime: Explore the best local islands for budget travelers, each offering unique charm and stunning scenery.
  • Insider Tips for Saving Money: Learn how to stretch your dollar further with expert hacks on flights, food, activities, and more.
  • Experiencing the Maldives: Travel Maldives to see vibrant marine life, explore hidden coves, and uncover the islands’ rich culture.

The Truth About Affordable Trip to Maldives

The Maldives boasts two distinct travel experiences: luxurious private resorts and laid-back local islands. 

While resorts offer unparalleled pampering, they come with a hefty price tag. On the other hand, local islands provide a glimpse into the authentic Maldivian way of life and are significantly more affordable.

Side note: You can record a travel podcast as well while documenting the journey of Maldives tourism.

Maldives sea view beach

Here’s what to expect on a local island:

Simple Accommodations: 

Trade overwater bungalows for guesthouses and hotels. These offer clean, comfortable rooms, often with private bathrooms, for a fraction of the price of resort stays.

Local Cuisine: 

Immerse yourself in the Maldivian food scene. Sample fresh seafood dishes, curries bursting with flavor, and delicious local snacks at affordable cafes and restaurants.

Cultural Immersion: 

Interact with friendly locals, learn about their traditions, and experience the true essence of the Maldives.

Island Vibes: 

Embrace the slower pace of life on the islands. Relax on pristine beaches, snorkel in vibrant coral reefs, and reconnect with nature.

Pricing Comparison: Local Island vs. Resort  

Remember: Prices are estimates and can vary depending on the specific island, season, and type of accommodation.

stunning view of accommodation on trip to Maldives

Planning Your Budget Maldives Trip: A Step-by-Step Guide

1. Visas and Entry Requirements:  

The good news is that most nationalities receive a free 30-day visa upon arrival in the Maldives.

2. Best Time to Visit: 

The Maldives enjoys a tropical climate year-round. From November to April, the dry season offers sunshine and calm seas, perfect for beach lounging and water activities. However, prices tend to be higher during this period. The rainy season (May to October) brings occasional showers but offers lower travel costs. 

3. Booking Flights: 

Book well in advance to secure the best deals on flights, especially during peak season (November-April). Consider flying into a nearby regional hub like Sri Lanka or Colombo and then taking a connecting flight to Male, the Maldivian capital. 

Opt for flights that land in the early part of the day to maximize your island time and avoid needing a hotel stay in Male. Hotels in Male can be expensive, and ferries to the islands don’t operate late evening or at night. 

4. Choosing Your Island: 

With over 1,000 islands scattered across the archipelago, selecting the perfect one can feel overwhelming. Here are some popular options for a trip to Maldives on budget: 


Known as the “surfing island,” Thoddhoo boasts beautiful beaches and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s also a great spot for spotting sea turtles.


A laid-back island with a strong local community, Rasdhoo offers affordable accommodation and stunning beaches. 


This tiny island is a haven for snorkelers, with a vibrant house reef teeming with marine life. Ukulhas is also known for its delicious local cuisine.


A laid-back island with a strong local community, Rasdhoo offers affordable accommodation and stunning beaches.  


The “king” of budget islands, Maafushi offers excellent value for money, with various guesthouses, restaurants, and water sports. 

Pro Tip: Consider an island closer to the capital, even if prices are slightly higher further out. Research transportation options beforehand. If ferries aren’t available, seaplanes might be the only option, and these can be pricier than your entire week’s accommodation! 

5. Finding Accommodation:

Local islands offer guesthouses and hotels. Here’s how to find the perfect stay during your Maldives visit:

  • Budget: A well-rated room with a private bathroom on a local island typically costs around $50 per night.
  • Booking Platforms: Use platforms like and Agoda to search for accommodation.
  • Reviews: Read reviews carefully, prioritizing the newest ones and those mentioning negative feedback. This can help you avoid any surprises.
  • Hidden Costs: Be aware that the displayed price often doesn’t include taxes, which can add 20-30%. Look for this information in the fine print.
  • Breakfast: Consider including breakfast in your booking. A hearty breakfast can save you money on lunch and fuel your island adventures.
  • Snorkeling Gear: Some hotels offer free snorkeling gear rental, while others charge a small daily fee. Consider this when making your decision.
  • Direct Contact: Locate your preferred hotel on Google Maps and consider contacting them directly via WhatsApp. Booking directly might score you a 10-20% discount.

Male Airport - Visit Maldives

Transportation Options From the Airport to Paradise 

  1. From Male International Airport to Your Island: There are three main ways to get from Male International Airport to your chosen island:
  • Taxi: Taxis are only available in Male and Hulhule, the airport island. Fares are fixed and displayed at the passenger boarding point. While convenient, taxis can be expensive for longer distances.
  • Speedboat: A popular choice for many islands, speedboats offer a faster transfer than ferries but come at a higher cost. Inform your hotel about your arrival time (in advance) and inquire if they can arrange a speedboat transfer for you.
  • Ferry: Ferries are the most budget-friendly option, especially for islands closer to Male. However, journeys can take longer. Ferry schedules can be limited, so plan accordingly.

Pro Tip: Public ferries and boats don’t operate late evenings or at night. Opt for an earlier flight to avoid spending the night in Male.

Beach Resorts for Travel Maldives

Essential Currency Knowledge for Your Trip to Maldives

  • Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR): The official currency of the Maldives.
  • Exchanging Money: You can exchange currency at exchange offices, shops, and hotels.
  • Alternative Method: Consider exchanging cash for Rufiyaa from taxi drivers near the airport ATM. They might offer a better rate than the official exchange offices.
  • Accommodation: Most hotels prefer US dollars for accommodation payments.
  • Daily Purchases: You can use US dollars for some purchases in stores and restaurants, but you’ll likely receive a change in local currency.

Staying Connected: SIM Cards in the Maldives

  1. Free SIM Card: Upon arrival at the airport, you can obtain a free SIM card from a dedicated SIM ATM. Just scan your passport!
  2. Prepaid Plans: These SIM cards aren’t preloaded, so you’ll need to top up with credit to use data and make calls.

Do You Need a SIM Card On Maldives Trip?: 

In theory, you might not necessarily need a SIM card. Many hotels offer WIFI, and the islands are small. However, a SIM card can be useful for staying connected and for using ride-hailing apps if available on your chosen island.

Food Glorious Food: A Foodie’s Guide to Travel Maldives

  • Local Flavors: The Maldives uniquely blend Indian, Sri Lankan, and Arabic influences. Tuna is the star of the show, served in various forms, from fresh catches to dried variations.
  • Catering to Tourists: Many cafes cater to tourists, offering pizza, pasta, and international fare.
  • Dining Options: You can dine at your hotel or explore local cafes and restaurants. Many guesthouses offer meal packages like breakfast only (BB), half-board (breakfast and dinner—HB), or full-board (breakfast, lunch, and dinner—FB). 

Local Culinary in Maldives - Travel Maldives

Packing Essentials for Your Trip to Maldives 

  • Beach Essentials: Pack a T-shirt or rash guard, shorts or leggings for swimming (lycra is ideal), and snorkeling gear. These will also be essential for spending time on the beach.
  • Snorkel Gear: Consider bringing your mask and fins if your hotel charges a rental fee.
  • Sun Protection: Pack plenty of reef-safe sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to shield yourself from the Maldivian sun.
  • Light Clothing: Opt for lightweight, breathable clothing that dries quickly. Remember, you’ll likely be spending most of your time outdoors.
  • Respectful Attire: The Maldives is a Muslim country. Pack clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Avoid overly revealing outfits, especially when visiting local villages, mosques, or religious sites. 

Exploring the Best Local Islands on Your Trip to Maldives

The Maldives is an archipelago that is begging to be explored. Here’s a closer look at some of the top local islands to visit Maldives on a budget:

Maafushi: The All-Rounder

Maafushi is a popular choice for a reason. It offers a good balance of affordability, activities, and facilities. Find a range of guesthouses catering to all budgets, from basic rooms to options with stunning ocean views.

Activities in Maafushi:

  • Snorkeling and diving: Explore the vibrant house reef teeming with colorful fish, coral formations, and even reef sharks. Day trips to nearby reefs with manta rays and whale sharks are also available.
  • Sandbank picnics: Escape to a deserted sandbank for a romantic private beach experience.
  • Local markets: Immerse yourself in the Maldivian culture by browsing local markets selling fresh seafood, souvenirs, and handicrafts.
  • Watersports: Get your adrenaline pumping with jet skiing, kayaking, or windsurfing.

Pros: Affordable, variety of restaurants and shops, good range of activities.

Cons: Can be more crowded compared to other islands.

Thoddhoo: The Surfer’s Paradise

Thoddhoo caters to laid-back travelers with a passion for surfing. Consistent waves and a relaxed atmosphere make it a surfer’s haven. Beyond the waves, Thoddhoo boasts beautiful beaches and crystal-clear turquoise waters.

Activities in Thoddhoo:

  • Surfing lessons: Learn to catch waves with experienced instructors or rent a surfboard if you’re already a pro.
  • Snorkeling and diving: Explore the vibrant marine life on the house reef or embark on a day trip to nearby coral gardens.
  • Sandbank tours: Relax on a pristine sandbank, soaking up the Maldivian sunshine.
  • Island hopping: Explore neighboring islands for a change of scenery.

Pros: Great for surfers, beautiful beaches, relaxed atmosphere.

Cons: Limited restaurants and shops compared to Maafushi.

Ukulhas: The Snorkeler’s Dream

Ukulhas is a haven for snorkelers, with a stunning house reef teeming with colorful fish, coral formations, and even reef sharks. This tiny island offers a true escape from the hustle and bustle, perfect for relaxation and connecting with nature.

Activities in Ukulhas:

  • Snorkeling: Explore the incredible house reef, accessible straight from the shore.
  • Sandbank picnics: Enjoy a romantic getaway on a deserted sandbank.
  • Island hopping: Discover neighboring islands to taste Maldivian island life.
  • Cultural experiences: Learn about traditional Maldivian crafts and customs.

Pros: Excellent snorkeling, relaxed atmosphere, beautiful beaches.

Cons: Limited nightlife and activities compared to other islands.

Tourism in Maldives

Rasdhoo: The Local Gem

Rasdhoo offers a glimpse into the authentic Maldivian way of life. This laid-back island boasts a strong local community and a slower pace of life. Here, you can truly disconnect and unwind. Watch Rasdhoo here: 

Activities in Rasdhoo:

  • Snorkeling and diving: Explore the vibrant coral reefs surrounding the island.
  • Fishing trips: Experience traditional Maldivian fishing methods and enjoy a fresh seafood feast.
  • Island hopping: Discover neighboring islands for a taste of Maldivian diversity.
  • Cultural experiences: Learn about Maldivian music, dance, and cuisine.

Pros: Affordable, authentic experience, strong local community.

Cons: Limited nightlife and activities compared to other islands.

Insider Tips for Saving Money on Your Visit to Maldives:

Travel during the shoulder seasons (April-May, September-October): Enjoy lower prices on flights and accommodation while still experiencing good weather.

  • Book your flights and accommodation well in advance: This is especially important during peak season (November-April).
  • Consider guesthouses over resorts: Guesthouses offer clean, comfortable rooms at a fraction of the price of resort stays.
  • Eat at local restaurants: Skip the resort restaurants and enjoy delicious and affordable local cuisine at cafes and restaurants on the island.
  • Bring your snorkeling gear: Renting snorkeling equipment can add up quickly. Consider bringing your mask and fins to save money.
  • Pack light and avoid checked baggage fees: Most local islands have laundry services, so you don’t need to pack a ton of clothes.
  • Use public transportation: Ferries are the most budget-friendly way to travel between islands.
  • Be mindful of tipping: While tipping is not expected in the Maldives, a small gratuity is always appreciated for good service.  

Trip to Maldives: Magic Beyond the Budget

A trip to Maldives offers more than just stunning beaches. Here’s how to experience the true magic of the islands:

  • Explore the underwater world: The Maldives boasts some of the most incredible coral reefs in the world. Explore vibrant marine life, from playful dolphins and majestic manta rays to colorful fish and graceful sea turtles. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a snorkeling beginner, the underwater world of the Maldives will leave you breathless.
  • Explore hidden coves and sandbanks: Many islands have hidden coves and sandbanks, accessible by boat trip or kayak. These pristine havens offer a chance to escape the crowds and reconnect with nature. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a secluded beach experience.
  • Uncover the rich culture: Visit the Maldives’ rich cultural heritage. Visit a local mosque, witness traditional boat-building techniques, or participate in a cooking class to learn how to prepare Maldivian delicacies.
  • Relax and unwind: Embrace the laid-back island vibes. Soak up the sun on pristine beaches, listen to the calming sound of waves, and indulge in a good book. The Maldives is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Here is the sneak peek of what to expect while you travel Maldives:

  • Sample the local cuisine: Maldivian cuisine is a delicious blend of Indian, Sri Lankan, and Arabic influences. Fresh seafood is a staple ingredient, with dishes like “mas riha” (curried fish) and “Garudhiya” (fish broth) being local favorites. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to try local snacks like “Hedhika” (fried pastries) and “Fihoni” (coconut flatbread).

Responsible Tourism in Maldives

Visit respectful attire while you visit Maldives

The Maldives is a paradise for travelers but also a fragile ecosystem. Here are some ways to ensure you travel Maldives in a responsible and eco-friendly way:

  • Respect the local culture: Dress modestly when visiting local villages and mosques.
  • Be mindful of your waste: Dispose of trash properly and avoid using single-use plastics.
  • Protect the marine environment: Don’t touch or stand on coral reefs; be mindful of your fins while snorkeling.
  • Support locally-owned businesses: Choose guesthouses and restaurants run by Maldivians to support the local economy.

Wrap Up 

By following these tips, you can travel Maldives while contributing to its sustainable future. With careful planning and a willingness to embrace the local experience, a Maldivian escape is achievable without breaking the bank. So, pack your bags, grab your snorkel, and get ready to discover the paradise that awaits!

Isabelle Catoni
Isabelle Catoni
Isabelle is a blogger and a professional SEO content writer. She has a degree in finance but her passion for playing with words forced her to become a writer. In her free time she loves exploring AI developments.


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