As l trumpeted on the last blog post, we were in the Maldives for a week recently. While it was the most relaxing and awesome vacation we have had in about four years, it definitely came at a big price. The Maldives can be as expensive as you want it to be :-). Luckily, it can also be done on a lesser budget if desired. I have gotten some private emails asking how much we paid for our trip. Since l strive to please, l will share this with you. I will also share some tips on how to save money on your Maldives trip.
How to save money:
This is a big one on how to save money for sure. It is important to travel when there is an airfare deal going on. As l mentioned before, we were prompted to go, thanks to a British Airways and Iberia flight deal. The cheapest fare from Madrid (the biggest International airport closest to us) to Male was $881 round trip each. Thanks to the deal, each of our round trip ticket cost $302!!! :-), saving us over $1100 right off the bat. How did l find out about this deal you ask? I signed up at secretflying for fare alerts. This site is great for finding error fares and deals. It costs nothing to sign up, and l always try to check it daily, even before they send me the daily alert because sometimes, it’s too late to take advantage of it, especially the error fares! Those damn airlines seem to fix their errors pretty damn quickly :-(. There are other similar sites like airfarewatchdog. Farecompare is another one that l am signed up for. If you can think of any others, please let me know. I am always looking for deals.
It is important to check how far your hotel or resort is from the international airport. It is also extremely important to read the resort fine lines. To save money, you might want to stay in a resort or hotel that is reachable by boat as opposed to a seaplane like we did. With a lot of the resorts, you must use their own form of transport and can not make your way there. They are usually pricey too. If you can find your way, you might be better off finding a local to take you for say $30-40 than the resort price of $300! There are also the public ferries which cost less than $3. These unfortunately do not run frequently, are much slower, and may not go to the island you are staying at. It is crucial to ask the hotel prior to arrival so that they can give you the best options. The seaplane prices also differ greatly depending on the island. There was a $400 price differential in our favor for the same flight, compared to the resort 2km away (which we could see from our resort). We were all on the same flight, and the resort boats just came from different sides to get us!.
A little video that we made :-).
Have nerves of steel:
After booking the tickets, l started checking out the rates at some of the resorts. Yikes! Sky-high! I think l gave Federico a heart attack or two as the days trickled down and we hadn’t nailed anything down ;-). I decided to hang tough as l believed the prices would eventually come down. Well, they didn’t. Instead they kept rising slowly and he got more nervous and anxious. I was too, but l didn’t book it. Not till two days before our departure. Everyday, l would check the prices on tripadvisor, agoda and booking.com . I made it a game. I figure every place couldn’t be at full capacity, no matter how popular that destination was. In the end, we paid roughly $735 less than when we started looking, so we were happy. My back-up plan was that we would just stay at a hotel on Male or Maafushi if we had to.
This is definitely another area where you can save money. As l stated on the last post, we wanted an all-inclusive deal deciding exactly on what we wanted from the vacation, that is .. a completely stress free one. In lieu of a resort, you can consider staying on one of the local islands. In the past, only the big hotels in the Maldives could offer accommodation. This is no longer true. Nowadays, the locals are also allowed to offer guest rooms and hotels. This can save a significant amount of money. One of the popular local islands is Maafushi. Checking on AirBnB for instance, we found rooms from $33 per night low-end to $150 per night for hotel rooms. This alone shaves several hundreds or more from your total tally. High season in the Maldives is from December till April. You would expect the prices across the board to be higher during those months, and yep! they are. :-). To save money, you should go on the fringes of the high season when the prices are a lot cheaper. Just skip the monsoon season as you just might be stuck with nothing to do. The type of room chosen can also save money. For instance, we could have stayed at a garden villa (same room, but view of garden) instead of an ocean villa for our stay. The price difference was about $600 for the week. We could have also upgraded our room to an over-the-water villa, which would have added a further $1200 which we were not willing to pay. Make sure to check if the price quoted for the room includes the government and service charges, as it adds a further 12% plus onto your bill.
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If you are like us for instance, that would be of no concern. We don’t dive or do any of the many water activities that are offered on the islands. If you dive for instance, it is important to find out how much it will cost. A dive can cost you $50 (if you have your own gear) to $75 or more without, not to mention the boat ride etc. Over a week, you can save at least $350. Surfing, cruising, dolphin watching and etc..etc.. will also add up! You can just save all that money for the Spa in my humble opinion. :-). It’s one of the reasons there were repeat visitors to the resort we stayed at. No money out-of-pocket as they had a great reef to snorkel and dive. Make sure to check if you plan on doing that.
Food is definitely another area to save. Being an island, everything is flown or shipped in. There are also the exorbitant government taxes on top of that, making things very expensive, like a $6 bag of peanuts ;-). You can bring some snacks with you to save money. Also, eating like a local will save you money if you are on one of those islands. A complete meal would cost you less than €5. At the resorts, breakfast is included. You can save money by not choosing the all-inclusive option (all meals and drinks, including alcohol). If you love to drink, it might be worth it, but if you are a moderate drinker, l would skip it as the price difference is huge. A full-board includes all three meals. Going half-board will be even less, so you can fill up at breakfast and lunch, then skip dinner or eat your snacks. That being said, it is kind of silly to go all the way there and then skimp on food ;-). Go big or go home l say.
So.. I hear you groaning and saying to yourself.. “is it even worth it?”. The answer is YES in my opinion. It is a very special and unspoiled place as of yet, and it’s absolutely stunning. If you do your due diligence, you can definitely visit on a budget. We hope to be able to visit this island again (after we have scratched off more from our bucket list).
My solution on how to save money on a Maldives vacation?
I’m glad you asked! Mix it up!!! Let’s say you have a week to spend in the Maldives. Start by going on the tail end of the high season. I would choose a local island for the first 4 days. There are designated section of beaches where you can wear a swimsuit, and is cut off from the public space. Sure you won’t be able to drink alcohol as the Maldives is strictly a Muslim nation, but that shouldn’t be that big of a problem should it ;-)? The last 3 days, l would then splurge at a resort. Pamper yourself and leave the island rejuvenated and with amazing memories of its deep blue sea. Memories that will last you a lifetime :-).
Our total cost:
Train RT to Madrid : $185
Seaplane transfer: $700
Our room (Full-Board): $2435
Spa charges: $325
Water and mini-bar charges: $83
Snorkeling gear rental $18
Was it worth it? It was to us. It’s been Federico’s dream to visit the Maldives since he was a kid. It had been on my bucket list for ever, so l was glad to do it. We got married 9 years ago and never did take a honeymoon :-). He actually went to work right after the ceremony. We saved every bit of money we could with an eye on our future. I can’t even call it a belated honeymoon since we have had a crap load of trips, but yeah..totally!. That being said, we wouldn’t do another one this expensive for at least a year. Using the tips above, l did a price roundup. Conclusion? You could definitely do this on Maafushi island for instance for less than $600 staying at a 3-4 star hotel for the week, not including the airfare. Maldives can be what you make it.
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What do you think of my tips on how to save money on a Maldives vacation? Do you find it useful? Would you consider a vacation to this paradise? Can you think of other useful advise on how to save money on any vacation?