Whenever we thought about Maldives, the same images always came up- exotic resorts, sea-planes, hammocks, coconuts, sea activities and underwater life- a super-expensive relaxing vacation. For budget travelers like us, Maldives seemed a distant dream- the one that would cost more than a few other budget tours.
Maldives- 2018

However, a few weeks of extensive research (by extensive I mean researching day and night- I was using my laptop/ cell even in my dreams :D ) and we finally came up with a totally budgeted itinerary!

Now let’s move on to the details-


Total budget- $800 per person (Appx)
Duration- 5 Days, 4 Nights
Stay at- Maafushi (Salt Beach Hotel)
  • Full day tour to resort
  • Half day snorkeling tour (included snorkeling at 2 different spots, dolphin watching and lunch at sand bank)
  • Full day tour to another local island
Airlines- Fly Dubai and Korean Air

Tips, Tricks and Essential Information (Maldives on a Budget)

  • Save on Flights

Look for budget airlines and the most inexpensive flights. While direct flights were available from Bahrain (our country of departure), we choose the one with 2 connections and long layovers- because this one came at considerably low price.
View from Up Above

  • Stay at Local Island

Instead of resorts, stay at local island and choose the hotel/ guest house according to your needs and budget. While there are low-budget guest houses available on local islands, there are fancy hotels as well, with sea-facing balconies, to make your stay more pleasant. The difference between prices of resorts and the local island hotels is simply mind blowing!

  • Prefer a Tourist Friendly Local Island

In Maldives, choosing where to stay might be a difficult question, as the options are unlimited. Being budgeted travellers, we selected Maafushi for the stay, and we are glad that we did.

  • Travel in Off-Peak Season

Off Peak season in Maldives lasts from May- October, it is thus the time for budget travel. In this season, not only there are lesser tourists, which means more space for yourself, but the rates of all the resorts and hotels are also down by a safe percentage.

  • Book online

 In Maldives, it is advisable to book your hotel/ guest house online in advance. Now for booking, here is a pro-tip: check out all the booking websites before settling for one. At times, certain discount deals are going on at any one of these, and you might get the room of your choice at a discount rate. While booking for Maldives, we came across this amazing flash deal at Expedia (60% off), and thus ended up booking with them

  • Resort Day Tour

 A number of resorts offer day tours- from morning till evening- where the day-guests are allowed full or partial access to the facilities. These tours cost much less, as compared to one night stay at the same resort.
Adaaran Prestige Vadoo Resort

  • Inexpensive Excursions on Local Islands

 The excursions and water activities at local islands are also significantly inexpensive, as compared to the ones offered by resorts.

  • Booking Excursion

The excursions are booked by the guest house/ hotels, and the rates are almost unanimous throughout the island. We did our little research before booking, but it turned out that the rates are almost the same, thus it is better to stick to your own hotel/ guest house for the tour.

  • Food and Souvenirs

Same is the case with food and souvenirs- available at lower prices at the local island.

  • Local Ferry

Use ferry for transfers instead of speed boats- make sure that your flight timings match with the ferry timings, and enjoy the comfortable as well as inexpensive ride. While the private speed boat might cost up to $100-150, public ferry would charge only $2-3 per person!
Local Ferry
Hotline Numbers- Maldive Transportation 

  • Taxes and Fees

If you are booking hotels online, you will notice different taxes applied to all the hotels/ guest houses and resorts, including environmental fee per person per night, property service charges and tourism tax. All these taxes are unanimous applied to all the living spaces in Maldives, and have to be paid either at the time of booking, or upon reaching the hotel. Similarly, 16% GST is applied on all the food items as well.

  • Currency

Dollars as well as the local currency (Maldivian Ruffiya- MVR) are accepted everywhere (hotel, restaurants, excursions, ferries etc). However, it is better to pay in dollars, as you might have to pay a little extra for currency conversion, while paying in MVR. You will find an exchange right outside the airport; get some cash ($50 max) exchanged from there. Moreover, it is advised to carry extra cash, as there are also no ATMs on the islands (there is one at the airport though)

MVR- Maldivian Ruffiya

  • Communication with Locals

Almost everyone in Maldives can understand and speak English, and communication is not an issue.

  • Dress Code at Local Island

Since Maldives has 98% Muslim population; a certain dress code is applied on the local islands. Revealing clothes are not allowed on public beaches, and separate bikini beaches are there, with no restrictions.
Dress Code on a Local Island in Maldives

  • No Alcohol on Local Island

Alcohol is strictly prohibited on the local islands. However, there are no restrictions on the resorts- and even the day visitors can consume as much as they want.

  • Food

Maafushi has multiple hotels and restaurants- almost all of them offer dinner buffets, for more or less the same rates (slight differences are there though). They have Maldivian as well as Continental food, with sea-food being an integral part of all the meals.
Maldivian Breakfast- Omlette with Maldivian Flat Bread, Tuna and Fresh Juice

For baked good, Fine Bakes by Suzy is a must try- not only do they serve the freshest baked goods, but the taste is also perfect, at a very reasonable price. We tried their Brownies (they were the best), Pineapple Upside Down Cake, Butter Cake, Doughnuts and Buns, and all were simply scrumptious!

Why Maafushi?

Out of several reasons, the most essential ones are:
The place is more tourist friendly than other local islands near Male- there are more hotels, restaurants and shops, and you would have multiple options to choose from.
It is easily accessible by local ferry, which means you will save a lot on transfers.
There are two options available-

  1. Maafushi Ferry: Runs everyday (except Friday) from Male to Maafushi at 3:00 PM, and from Maafushi to Male at 7:30 AM. Upon reaching Male from airport, just ask the taxi driver to drop you at Maafushi Ferry Terminal. 
  2. MTCC Local Ferry: Runs everyday (except Friday) from Male to Maafushi at 10:00 AM. You need to go to Villingili Ferry Service Terminal. 
The exact information would be available at the ferry terminal.
Maafushi Island- Maldives

At Maafushi, we chose to stay at Salt Beach Hotel- a nice quiet place beside the beach, with really helpful and friendly staff. However, if you are in for a fancy residence, a little expensive but better options are also available, including Arena Beach Hotel and Kaani Beach Hotel.

The sea excursions (Snorkeling, Night Fishing, Scuba, Resort Day Trips, Dolphins watching, Swimming with Sharks etc) are available at reasonable rates (as compared to resorts and other local islands)
Kayaking- Maafushi, Maldives

A number of water activites are available on the island, again on reasonable rates (including parasailing, jet-ski, kayak, etc)

Day 1- Hotel transfer and Exploring Maafushi

Here begins our amazing unforgettable journey. As Velana Airport is situated on a separate island, you are required to take a ferry/ speedboat to reach anywhere. The ferry terminal is right outside the airport, and is definitely hard to miss. There is an information counter also (at the left side of exit, right in front of the Currency Exchange), where a friendly representative would be present to assist you.
Ferry Terminal at the Airport

How to Reach your Destination Island from Airport?

Being on a budget, we decided to take a ferry to Male, and then another to Maafushi. While speedboats are faster and can take you directly from airport to the desired island, they would charge much more. The ferry from Velana Airport to Male cost $1 per person, and would from you at the ferry terminal Male. From here, you are required to take taxi to the other ferry terminal, where the ferry to Maafushi will arrive. The Taxi fare is fixed at $2 per ride, no matter where you go.
We landed at 7:00 AM, and were planning to take the ferry that departs at 10:00 AM (praying that we get one). Lucky enough, we reached Villingili Ferry Terminal and got tickets for the desired ferry, which arrived on time and took us to Maafushi in 1.5 hours, for $3.5 per person.
Arriving at the island, we checked in at the hotel and set out to explore the island.

Exploring Maafushi

Maafushi is a small island, and can be easily explored on foot. There are separate Public and Bikini Beaches- both are clean and small. One of the public beaches has all sorts of water sports, and is fully active especially in evening.
Sunset from the island is totally worth watching- you’ll see some of the most memorable and beautiful sunsets of your life in Maldives. There isn’t much of night life, so typically locals as well as tourists tend to eat and sleep early.
Since we were really tired after the long flights and lengthy commutation afterwards, we watched sunset, had our dinner and called it a night.
Maafushi Beach

Day 2- Full Day Tour to Resort (Adaaran Prestige Vadoo Resort)

The next day started with witnessing sunrise. More like sunset, sunrise here is as beautiful as it could be- this is something not to be missed if you are lucky enough to get to this paradise.
The sunrise was followed by breakfast, and getting ready for the resort tour, that we booked from our hotel the day before.
Transfer was to take place through speed boat, that arrived on time, and within 30-45 minutes, all the tourists were at the resort. We choose Adaaran Prestige Vadoo Resort, and that cost us $110 per person ($80 being resort fee and $30 for transfers).
Adaaran Prestige Vadoo Resort

At the resort, the visitors are granted access to a bar, swimming pool and a few meters of the water walk-way, where they can take pictures without disturbing privacy of their guests. Since we were more interested in the pictures than anything else, we headed straight to the water walkway!
The security guard there was extremely cooperative and nice, allowed us to peacefully capture our moments, just making sure that no one trespasses.
Adaaran Prestige Vadoo Resort

Once over, our next stop was the bar (since we don’t drink, there were very limited options left for us. But those who are into hard drinks were seen having a really good time). Swimming pool was nice and clean, also not very deep, and covered with trees that provided shadow in the scorching heat of tropics.
Adaaran Prestige Vadoo Resort
Buffet lunch, and later refreshments were served to the visitors, and the tour ended with ‘shark feeding’ activity. At the fixed time, the speedboat arrived to pick us up, and all the visitors went back to Maafushi.  
Since it was past sunset, and we were not hungry enough (after proper lunch and refreshment), we decided to call it a night early, and be prepared for the full active day ahead!

Day 3- Half Day Tour- Snorkeling, Dolphin Watching and Lunch at Sand Bank

Third day started with sunrise watching, followed by breakfast, and getting ready for the exciting sea excursion. Our tour included snorkeling at two different points (Coral Garden and Turtle Reef), dolphin watching and lunch at a sand bank- with the total cost being $25 per person.

The Snorkeling Experience- Maldives 

The trainers handed over the snorkel equipment and life jackets to group members, and we set out in the clear turquoise waters in a speedboat. The first snorkeling point was not very far, took hardly 10- 15 minutes to get there, and observe the breathtaking underwater life (variety of fishes and corals).
Coral Garden- Maldives
We stayed at the same spot for around 35-40 minutes, and moved on to the next- Turtle Reef.
Though I was not sure we’ll get to see the turtle or not, we got lucky and one came up- such a beautiful sight it was! The turtle swam up to the surface, and swam back to the coral within the few minutes, but the whole scene was totally worth watching.
Turtle Reef- Maldives

Dolphin watching was next on the list, and again we witnessed multiple families swimming in a very carefree way, near and around the boat. It was a totally happy and lively sight- standing on the deck and watching the dolphins diving and swimming around, in the crystal clear water.
Dolphin Watching- Maldives

The boat stopped for several minutes and we watched the dolphins until they decide to float away, thus bringing an end to the dolphin watching. Up next was lunch- at a sandbank. The organizers had pretty picnic umbrellas, that were setup on otherwise deserted sandbank, and food as well as drinks were served. It was lunch-come-picnic on the sandbank, and sufficient time was granted to eat and then enjoy the waves (that were getting pretty strong with time).
At the Sand Bank

Since the water started rising, the group was headed back to Maafushi. Upon returning to the hotel, we just had time to freshen up and leave for sunset-watching, something we really really love doing!
It was a very tiring day (lots of swimming) and we were in for a proper dinner, thus settling for buffet at a restaurant. While I had heard quite mixed-up reviews for the Maldivian food, I was not sure what to expect, but it turned out to be pretty good. The variety could have been better, but the food was worth the price anyway (we paid $10 per person).
Dinner was followed by a sound sleep, and that was it for the third day.

Day 4- Full Day Tour of Local Island (Gulhi)

For the fourth day, we took advice of the hotel manager, and headed to Gulhi (another local island, in the same atoll) in a local ferry. We got to know that the same ferry would take us back to Maafushi in evening, and thus full day can be spent in Gulhi. 
Gulhi Island- Maldives
Against all the negative reviews and comments we heard before visiting, this island was really calm, peaceful with a beautiful and clean beach (better and bigger than Maafushi, for sure).

There were practically no tourists around when we reached, so we had the whole island by ourselves! We captured pictures, walked around, bought some snacks from the only local shop we spotted, and slept on the beach benches under the shadow of palm trees- a perfect relaxing day!
Gulhi Island- Maldives

While most of the day was spent relaxing at the shore, we took a plunge in the sea towards the end, as it was irresistibly attractive. In order to be at the ferry terminal before it arrives, we picked our stuff a little before the due time and started waiting for the Gulhi- Maafushi Ferry. It was right on time, and dropped us at the island way before sunset.
The rest of the day as spent packing up, watching the last mesmerizing sunset and buying a few snacks for the next day flights and layovers.

Day 5- Hulhumalé Tour and Airport Transfer

The last day begun with the sunrise, followed by breakfast and the check-out from the hotel, that was our home throughout the remarkable tour. The flight was at 15:45, and we had two options to get to the airport:
  1. Take the morning ferry (that leaves Maafushi at 7:30 AM and reaches Male at 9:00 AM) and explore the neighboring island Hulhumalé.
  2. Take speed boat later, and go directly to the airport (thus pay more).
The decision was made in favor of the former- and we were off to explore the modern and developed side of Maldives. We took a taxi from one ferry terminal to the other and boarded the Hulhumalé ferry, all set for an on-foot exploration.
Exploring Hulhumalé

Hulhumalé is an artificial island, and thus does not exhibit the natural and raw effect possessed by the other islands. 
School in Hulhumalé

This one is also not very large and does not have much to offer- we visited the grand mosque, the local fruit market, a mall and the beach, finally landing at the bus terminal, to reach the airport.
Fresh Coconut from Hulhumalé Fruit Market 

This final ride marked an end of an astounding, memorable and happening tour- that would remain fresh in our memories for years.
 The return flights had same connections and similar long layover- but this is the price you pay being a budget traveller!
Maldives is the true depiction of untouched nature- the pinnacle of the Creator’s ingenuity. The place is MUST VISIT for everyone who is into nature; even if you cannot go for a luxury vacation, opt for a budget tour- like we did.