For many travelers, a trip to the Maldives seems like a distant dream. With visions of overwater bungalows, crystal-clear water, and perfectly blue skies in mind, many travelers only see dollar signs and consign a Maldives vacation to their bucket list.
You may be surprised to learn that planning a budget trip to Maldives is possible – and it’s not even that difficult! Visiting the Maldives on a budget requires some planning, but with a few excellent budget travel tips from in-the-know travelers to the Maldives, you’ll be ready to book in no time.
Our ultimate travel guide to the Maldives on a budget, we share everything you need to book your budget trip to the Maldives and plan your travel adventure. Plus, check out our recommendations for where to stay in the Maldives – you might be surprised how much luxury you can get for so little.
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The Maldives is an island atoll nation located in the Indian Ocean, off the southwest coast of India, though quite remote geographically. While not comprising more than a few square miles of land, the islands of the Maldives stretch 510 miles (820 km) from north to south with their ring-shaped coral reef in the middle of the immense Indian Ocean.
The pure white sand and crystal-clear waters that are characteristic of the Maldives lure tourists from all over the planet with their natural beauty.
The beauty of the Maldives is not just above the ocean’s surface. Its colorful underwater ocean world tells a whole new story. The unique reefs of the Maldives make for incredible underwater exploration. Snorkeling and diving excursions are available for beginners to experts.
Visiting the Maldives
Over the years, the nation has built an excellent tourism infrastructure, including its world-famous overwater bungalows at countless Maldives resorts, considered among some of the most luxurious and famous resorts in the world.
The incredible luxury tourist installations of the Maldives only make the natural beauty of the destination even better. Even if your budget means you might not be able to enjoy all the luxury that the fanciest resorts in the Maldives have to offer, there is a lot of luxury you can enjoy even on a tiny budget.
Don’t count out a trip to the Maldives if you’re traveling on a budget – plan ahead and use these tips and recommendations to make a memorable vacation.
Is It Possible to Travel Maldives on a Budget?
It is easier than ever to visit the Maldives on a budget. Government changes in 2008 brought new tourism laws to the country with them, clearing the way for brand-new hotels, apartments, and guesthouses for travelers on all kinds of budgets.
This means that travelers have more accommodation options than ever, and there is an increasing number of excellent, budget-friendly places to stay scattered across populated islands, which offer much more affordable options than private-island resorts.
While it may be a relief to know that budget accommodations are available in the Maldives, flights to this remote archipelago are the biggest expense for many travelers. Using some basic travel hacking, you can score excellent flight deals that will also help you cut costs in this area. Using tips for scoring last-minute flight deals can help, as can travel hacking and paying with rewards points.
Maldives on a Budget
We have six ultimate travel tips to enjoy the Maldives on a budget. While you’ll find plenty of budget travel tips that will help you save money wherever you travel, these tips are specific to travel in the Maldives, to help you plan your budget trip to Maldives in style and with ease.
These are our Maldives budget travel tips and accommodation recommendations – let’s dive in so you can get started planning your trip to the Maldives for cheap!
Maldives Budget Travel Tips
1. Choose Accommodation Wisely
Pick a smaller hotel, guesthouse, or inn rather than a private resort if you want to visit the Maldives on a budget. You’ll find incredible options for all budgets, and even budget hotels and hostels are often within walking distance of a beach on tiny Maldivian islands.
Not all islands in the Maldives fit the bill for this. Most luxury resorts are situated on their own private islands, so make sure you do your research into your destination before booking. While there are a number of islands in the Maldives that boast smaller hotel or guesthouse accommodations, many travelers head for favorites like Maafushi, Dhigurah, and Thulusdhoo.
Not willing to sacrifice your dreams of a luxury hotel? Find other ways to trim your budget by choosing a nicer hotel in a more convenient location (i.e. accessible by quick ferry or speed boat from the capital of Malé).
You’ll want to choose a nice hotel on a populated island rather than a private option. This accommodation choice will mean it will be easier (and less expensive) to arrive, and you’ll have other options for food and activities, not be stuck paying high resort prices.
Read More: 10 Best Maldives Resorts (For Every Budget)
2. Eat Out – Don’t Dine In
By staying in a smaller hotel or guesthouse on a populated island, you’ll also save significantly on the cost of food and drinks. If you select a resort on a private island, you’ll have to eat and drink at the resort and will end up paying higher prices!
Choose a populated island like the increasingly popular islands of Maafushi, Keyodhoo, Dhigurah, or Fulidhoo are excellent choices for budget travelers. With a good array of accommodation options, plus restaurants and markets where you can try local food and save money, you’ll love these spots.
Keep in mind that if you’re staying on a local island, you won’t be able to purchase alcohol (or pork) unless you’re in a resort. As a Muslim nation, these things are only permitted inside resorts for travelers. It’s a deal-breaker for some, but most don’t seem to mind!
3. Travel in the Off Season
The tourist rush of high-season travel – and the higher prices that accompany it – peaks between December to February or March, when international travelers escape winter back home. If you can book a trip during the off-season, between May to October, you’ll find considerable drops in prices – we’re talking up to 50% or more.
Prices will most noticeably be lower for accommodations and activities like snorkeling, diving, touristic seaplane rides, and more. You may even be able to find an affordable overwater bungalow in your price range!
It’s essential to be aware that the low travel season in this area of the Indian Ocean also coincides with the monsoon season, so the weather may be wetter than expected. However, if you’re willing to put up with a bit of rain, you’ll save big time.
4. Choose Flights Wisely
Don’t jump on the first flight you see! If you want to travel to the Maldives on a budget in the future, make a flight drop price alert now, and get ready to jump on it when it comes!
Relatively cheap, direct flights on budget Indian carriers leave regularly from cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Can you spend a few days exploring India to make the most of a layover in a city like Delhi or Mumbai before heading to the Maldives? Many travelers also find luck with budget flights via Sri Lanka.
If you can find wiggle room in your itinerary that allows you to grab flights on lower-cost days, you can save hundreds.
Cheap Flight Tip
Swiss Airlines recently opened new routes from several airports in the United States to the Maldives, leaving travelers with bargain fares to the Maldives you won’t often see from the United States.
If you’d love to travel to the Maldives on a budget and live in the United States, this might be the time for you!
5. Travel Like a Local
The flight to reach the Maldives isn’t the only expensive travel portion of a trip to this island nation – the seaplanes most travelers use to reach remote islands can get quite pricey. Here are some ways to cut transportation costs within the country.
Stick to One Island
Most travelers to the Maldives who are headed on a typical luxury resort vacation don’t jump from island to island, though travelers planning a budget trip to the Maldives by staying on populated islands will have the freedom to visit multiple islands! However, you may want to think twice about this before your trip.
To cut down on transportation costs, consider sticking to one island for the duration of your trip. Sticking in one place will give you a better chance to get to know the island you’ve selected quite well, enjoy your hotel’s amenities or connect with fellow travelers. While ferries are relatively cheap, the costs can add up – speedboats and sea planes are a whole other level of expense.
Island-Hop by Ferry
Locals generally skip seaplanes and speedboats altogether and use ferries to move from island to island – if you’re traveling to the Maldives on a budget, you should plan to do the same.
The Maldives state-sponsored public ferries – called dhoni, or the MTCC ferries – cost just a few dollars per journey.
While the ferries can get crowded, and journeys can be a few hours long depending on where you’re headed, you’ll save significantly over a domestic flight. You’ll also enjoy an incredibly scenic ride over the water – no need for an expensive yacht or private boar!
6. Choose Activities Wisely
Of course, you’ll want to enjoy the sun and sand once you’re in the Maldives. However, don’t forget the activities you’ll want to enjoy while visiting.
Snorkeling, paragliding, cruises to stunning sandbanks, and day trips to private islands or day trips to luxury resorts are all incredibly popular from populated islands popular with backpackers (especially Maafushi!). These activities are more inexpensive than you might think.
Explore popular activities beforehand and get an idea of what you might be interested in enjoying. You can start shopping for prices and planning now.
Save money when visiting the Maldives on a budget by pre-booking popular activities – many tour companies offer discounts for pre-booking, as it helps them plan their staffing, especially in the off-season.
Best Place To Stay in the Maldives on a Budget
To stretch your travel budget as far as possible, try to avoid the large hotels, resorts, and chains – while budget vacation packages can pop up, generally, you’ll have the best budget trip to Maldives by staying at a smaller, local hotel.
You’ll find options in all price ranges, with basic but clean private rooms just steps blocks from the beach starting at around $35 per night.
These are some favorite accommodations for a budget trip to the Maldives. Check out these fantastic options to save money on your trip to this unforgettable destination!
Located on Maafushi Island – arguably the best island for a budget trip to Maldives – Stingray Beach Inn is an excellent option for budget travelers. Rooms are generally less than $50 during the off-season and around $75 even during the high season.
Rooms are updated and comfortable, and the inn has a fantastic rooftop bar, plus a covered cafe and patio.
Just steps away from the beach, as well as shops and restaurants, this is an excellent and affordable spot for a memorable, budget-friendly getaway in the Maldives.
Read More: How Much Does a Maldives Trip Cost?
If you’re looking for a stay on Maafushi with even more amenities and style, check out Kaani Grand Seaview. One of the largest hotels on Maafushi, Kaani Gran Seaview offers a variety of different room configurations, incredible ocean views, and a large stretch of private, protected beachfront with white sand and crystal-clear water.
This is a great place to make the most of everything that Maafushi has to offer budget travelers while staying in style.
The beachfront Thundi Guest House is a hidden gem in Maldives, so book your trip fast before word gets out. Located on Fulidhoo, a tiny island near Maafushi, this is an excellent getaway if you want to escape the backpackers in Maafushi for a bit more privacy and relaxation while sticking to a budget.
The hotel staff is exceptionally friendly and helpful, the ocean views from every room are stunning, and the food is delicious.
Located in Thinadhoo, a tiny island well-known for stunning beaches, Plumeria Maldives is an excellent hotel with all the amenities you’re looking for, but at budget prices.
Plumeria Maldives is an excellent, four-star hotel that makes the most of the incredible beachfront, with a lovely private pool, fitness center, and a fantastic spa, among other great amenities for guests. The island is accessible by ferry, hotel speedboat, or seaplane, so you’ll have plenty of transportation options.
If you’re looking for a luxurious, private island feel on a budget, Bliss Dhigurah is one of the BEST places to stay in the Maldives – hands down. Bliss Dhigurah is a small boutique hotel located on Dhigurah Island, one of the most stunning populated islands in the Maldives, and well-known as a destination for swimming with whale sharks and nurse sharks.
The hotel is steps away from stunning beaches and offers special packages and pricing throughout the year to help guests save even more.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.