The Maldives On A Budget
For most people, the Maldives entails images of luxury retreats that remain exclusive haunts of the rich and famous. But only the briefest of investigation reveals that this isn’t entirely true. On our recent journeys across India, a cursory glance at the map revealed how close we were to this dream destination, and the decision to go was made in a heart beat.
Of the 1200 idyllic islands, 200 are inhabited, and we figured that at the very least we could camp out on some secluded beach. And so it was that we paid the very moderate £80 fare, boarded an empty flight from Columbo, and stepped off the plane into paradise.
Where To Stay
After a couple of great days in Male, one not so great Airbnb, and a few free nights couch-surfing with Paul the seaplane pilot (see our post on Male), we caught the next ferry out. With no need to book, we were up early, down to the port, and soon hopping on board with the locals. Sitting on the top deck, we got a great view and a fabulous tan to boot!
Top tip: Make sure your shoulders are covered for the journey as some of the locals will look at you as if you're butt naked.
There are Guesthouses on around 50 of the islands, so you have a few choices of where to go and where to stay. We headed straight to the island of Maafushi, with nothing to guide us further than stories of some good places to stay and, thankfully, a bikini beach. Reaching the port, a few locals were on hand to help with our cases and cart them off to wherever we wished. Heading straight for the friendliest faces, naturally, we were soon perched on the back of mopeds and scooting off to a gorgeous little guesthouse a few sandy steps from the beach. With great Wifi, free snorkelling gear, breakfast when you fancied it and the most lovely English speaking hosts, we knew we were home for the next few days.
There are plenty of other guest houses on Maafushi, being one of the larger islands in the Maldives. Fulidhoo and Guraidhoo also have some excellent ones, but make sure you look for an island with a bikini beach to catch some rays, or you could find yourself in trouble with the law!
Waterbreeze Guest House Maafusi Rooms from $60 per night
Getting To The Islands
From the main island of Male, there are two ways of getting yourself out to the other islands. The first is by seaplane, which is also the only way to access some of the resorts. This is a fantastic option if you do fancy splashing out, but at £350 return it can be an expensive, albeit thrilling addition.
The second option, and by far the easiest and cheapest, is to board one of the local ferries. Your £2 fare secures you a plastic garden chair, free bottled water, and the chance to make friends with a dolphin or two.
The ferries aren’t the fastest option of course, but they will get you from A to B. Before you go though, it’s advisable to check the schedule here. We didn’t, and arrived on a Friday, which being a Muslim country is a holy day. Male was closed, everyone was at prayers, and the only place that was open was Hotel Jen. Without another soul in sight, we took tuna sandwiches to the roof top pool and settled in.
If you are planning a trip to the Maldives see the Ferry Schedule to all the Atolls here
The Four Things To Know
1 The currency is Rufiya but most islands have an ATM and card machines so don't worry when it comes to how much money you need
2 The biggest prison in the Maldives is situated on Maafushi island and if you walk to the other side you can see the prisoners through the fence with a backdrop of the turquoise seas. Paradise in prison!
3 They are strict Muslims in the Maldives so make sure you go to the islands that have a bikini beach or you will be sweating your socks off
4 You can pay a day rate for most of the luxury resorts so speak to your hosts or go to the port and ask one of the fishermen about renting a speed boat if you fancy a bit of luxury, they will take you there and back