By Juhi Bansal
How to plan a trip/ things to keep in mind while traveling to the Maldives
Are you looking at everyone posting photos of the pristine white sands and turquoise waters and hoping to visit the Maldives yourself? Are you yearning to go but don’t know where to start? I hope this article will help you plan your trip better.
The most important thing to keep in mind about the Maldives is that it’s not for every budget. And I never say that about any location! I have been to the islands twice (the first time 13 years ago as newlyweds with barely any savings and the second time now) and can vouch for this. You will come across several articles about doing Maldives on a shoestring budget: stay in a local guesthouse in Male, take a public boat to one of the islands, spend a day on the beach lazing and snorkelling, pack your own lunch and do a picnic, take the boat back to the capital and sleep in your guesthouse. Repeat. While this may sound dreamy, the Maldives is about luxury and water bungalows and resort life.
So, this article here is not to help you plan an extremely budget trip to the islands, but make the most of your trip by stretching your dollar.
What is a good budget for the Maldives?
Break your budget down into 5 components:
If you’re travelling from India, depending on the dates, you can get return flights for as low as Rs.15000 pp. We planned a last minute trip and got ourselves return tickets at under Rs. 30000 pp. In the past we have spent more than this for our Goa tickets!
Remember you are not just getting to Male. You also have to get to your resort from the Male airport which if not included in your package can cost a bomb. Depending on whether your island is accessible via seaplane or speed boat, return transfers can be anywhere between USD 200 to 500 per person.
There are largely two types of rooms: beach villas and water villas. Beach villas are located just a few meters from the beach and have a beautiful view. We had a beach villa in Mauritius and it is such a delight to just wake up to that view and be able to go for a morning walk hand-in-hand while your little one plays in the water. So, beach villas can be experienced anywhere (not just in Maldives).
Water villas are a one of a kind experience. Your villa is literally on the ocean. You can simply open the door and take the few stairs into the beautiful, turquoise waters. The water is very shallow so you don’t need to worry. This is like having the ocean and the fish in your backyard.
I would suggest splitting your stay into both these villas so you experience both. Water villas are generally more expensive than beach villas but it also depends on the size, number of people and the room amenities your property is offering.
Rooms will cost you anywhere between USD 500 to 1500 per night depending upon the inclusions and the room type.
Most resorts will offer rates as below:
Room only rates, B&B rates (breakfast included), Half board (breakfast and one major meal), full board (breakfast and both lunch and dinner) and all inclusive (which has all meals, unlimited drinks both alcoholic and non- alcoholic, some water activities, transfers etc.).
AI rates are significantly higher than breakfast only rates and can shoot up your budget almost three times. However, I would suggest you to do a costing yourself by adding transfers, meals and drinks etc. to your room rent to see if it makes sense for you to splurge on an AI. Sometimes premium liquor is not included in AI and you may have to pay extra for it. Do bear in mind that food and drinks are pretty pricey in the Maldives.
The first time we went to the Maldives, we chose half board thinking we will choose what we want to eat for dinner ourselves and pay for it. We ended up paying quite a bit for both drinks and dinner since they were not included in our package and ofcourse for the transfers.
If you’re into water activities, do research about the exact activities in your resort and what is included in your package. Most resorts include snorkeling gear, snorkeling starter lessons, bicycles, kayaking and boating in the AI packages. If you’re into scuba diving and other specialized water activities you may have to shell out extra $$.
Once you add all 5 of these you will have a basic budget in mind and then you can start shortlisting properties based on your exact requirements.
Things to keep in mind while shortlisting properties
Almost all properties in Maldives claim to be 5 star. They are not lying but each varies to some degree when it comes to inclusions and amenities. You will always enjoy a Maldivian sojourn whatever the property: it’s the beauty of the place!
Size of the property. If you’re going to the Maldives for the first time or for a short holiday it may not matter how big the property is. But, if you’re anything like us, you might get bored too soon if there isn’t enough to do there. So make sure you check out the size of the property and the amenities it includes: number of pools, number of restaurants and the cuisines offered, activities offered, spa menus, shops on site etc.
If you’re going with a kid make sure they have a good kids club. For us it was a game changer. Our property had two fully functional kids clubs and our daughter (who was starved for human connection in the last 1.5 years) had a ball with fellow kids and the teachers. The activities vary from cookie making to movie evenings to ice cream tasting to art & craft. They also went kayaking and snorkeling with experts on a clear day.
The kids clubs are extremely efficient with the parents just a whatsapp call/message away.
Lets face it. In Maldives you’re largely going to eat and drink and if you’re paying as much as you are, make sure you have enough options. The last time we went to Maldives we had only 5 restaurants on our property which we got pretty tired of soon enough. This time we had 14 restaurants! Over 7 days we ate at each one only twice and since the cuisines ranged from Mexican to Italian to Indian to Pan Asian to Mediterranean to All American, we felt spoilt for choices. Also, make sure your AI package includes “dine-around” which means you can eat at any of the restaurants on the island and not a chosen few. During our first visit, our meals were included in only 2 restaurants and those were also buffets so the meals got boring pretty fast.
Whatever the property, do a full research on tripadvisor and google ratings to check out any possible issues you might run into.
Anytime is a good time to go the Maldives because the temperatures stay between 25-31 degrees the year round. Last time we went in late December (supposed to be the peak season) but it still rained 3 out of the 7 days we were there. This time we went in September which is supposed to be the wet season, it only rained once! Decide what dates work for you and book as early as you can to get good rates.
Visa and COVID requirements
For Indians, Maldives has visa on arrival. You need to carry an RT-PCR which should not be older than 72 hours when you enter the Maldives. Some resorts might do a random test for you on Day 1 and you may be required to stay in your room until the results come. You also need to get a second RT-PCR done 24 hours before you leave. This is done at your resort and will cost you a good USD 100-200 per person.
Number of days
We spent a week in the Maldives both times. However, I would say 4 nights is good enough unless you are water sports enthusiasts and are specifically visiting Maldives for that. We also met quite a few people who were spending a month there. If you like living the slow and luxurious life, any amount of time is less. If you’re like us and like to be on the move 4-7 nights should be good. Anything more and you will be bored to death.
Tips for making the most of your Maldivian escapade
Make sure you land before 3 PM in Male if you’re taking a seaplane since they run on given times only. Boats run through the day. If you’re in Maldives for limited amount of time I would suggest choosing a resort with lesser transfer time so you can spend more time at the resort.
Maldives also has exorbitant taxes (totaling to about 20%) over and above your basic packages. Make sure your resort is absorbing that or you will be in a shock at the end of your vacation.
You will spend the maximum time here, even if you choose to island hop (although I see no value in it, it’s prohibitively expensive and ends up being the same experience) so make sure it has eateries, clubs, music, drink inclusions as per your likes. Some properties are more suited for couples, some for singles and some for families. Choose what works for you.
If you can afford it, do stay in one of these for a brilliant over water experience. Watch marine life in action literally on your doorstep. The first time we stayed the entire week in a water villa however, this time we split our stay between beach and water villa.
I won’t do it because the expense doesn’t justify the experience for me but if you can afford it, do it by all means!
Another thing I wouldn’t splurge on now but I did do it for my honeymoon and it was a great experience (albeit exorbitant).
Like I said, Maldives is a luxurious affair, thus the price tag. However, keep the above in mind and you can make the most of your buck. Don’t forget to pack your reef safe sunscreen, straw hats and have a frozen ‘rita for me!
PS: Please check COVID travel advisory in your country before planning any travel.