Maldives has been a dream vacation to many and an ultimate bucket list to beach bummers and even honeymooners. However, what keeps them from going is the notion that Maldives is expensive and exclusive. Frankly, it is indeed expensive, but it is not impossible to do a backpacking trip to this paradise. By backpacking I meant traveling to Maldives in a budget.
As we all know, travelling to Maldives would initially cost around 100,000php or 2,000$ especially if you will be staying in Maldives’s famous overwater bungalow, then it may even reach up to 200,000php or even more.
While searching through some exclusive resorts in Maldives, I came across some amazing resorts with jaw dropping prices. The most expensive one I’ve seen was priced at 365,000php a night!!! Bloody hell!! I think they’ll have gold for breakfast!
Anyway, back to the topic. In here, I will share my experience on how I spent 1,200$ for 7 days in this heaven on earth, ALL IN! That includes a round trip airfare, a 24 hour exploration in Singapore, Food, hotel etc. And oh, before I forget…. Yes, it includes a stay in an Overwater Bungalow which Maldives is famous for!
I have read several blogs stating that there’s a flight leaving from Cebu to Maldives already. At first I was just trying to kid my cousins into going with me to this dreamland since I know it would be costly if I were to travel alone. At least I have someone to split the cost if we are many right? But I was surprised that they all wanted to tag along with me.
Thanked God for the direct flight from Cebu to Maldives. Now, Maldives isn’t so hard to achieve. Although there is a layover in Singapore, we did not mind it. We were just thinking that we will be hitting 2 birds in 1 stone. We were able to explore Singapore for a day since we have a 21-hour layover and 7 days in Maldives! We will not be going into details about our Singapore layover trip, we will concentrate more on our trip to Maldives. Okay?
This is our flight details via Tiger Airways:
- Sun, Jul 02, 2017 —-> depart: Cebu – 03:15 PM Arrival: Singapore – 08:35 PM
- Mon, Jul 03, 2017 —> depart: Singapore – 06:40 PM Arrival: Male – 08:30 PM
- Sun, July 09,2017 —->depart: Male- 8:50pm Arrival: Singapore – 04:55 AM
- Mon, July 10,2017 —> depart: Singapore – 10:45 AM Arrival: Cebu – 2:35 PM
1 USD = 15 Maldivian Rufiya (MVR) ; 1 MVR = 3.30 Philippine Peso
So, let’s get into details. First of, a super quick introduction of Maldives. Maldives is an archipelagic country made up of several atolls (a ring-shaped coral reef including a coral rim that encircles a lagoon partially or completely.) and an islamic country. It is located below Sri Lanka. There are lots of islands to visit but I planned to concentrate more on Kaafu Atoll where Maafushi (the Backpackers hub of Maldives) is located , Male City (The Capital) and 2 exclusive resorts.
I would also like to share our Full Map of our…… conquest? LOL:
This map tells you our transportation routes as well as the places we visited. I will tell you about those numbers, so here goes:
- Airport to UI Hotel (Hulhumale Island) by Hotel cab – 4 USD each
- Hulhumale Jetty Port to Male Jetty Port -5.5 MVR (that’s how cheap it is. That is why you need local currency.). By the way, from UI Hotel to Hulhumale Jetty Port, we just took the hotel’s service cab for 30 MVR for the 5 of us. That’s like 6 MVR each only.
- Male City to Maafushi via Villingili Ferry Terminal (Picture posted below for the terminal location.) Fare costs 22 MVR each. Now it is possible to walk your way from Male Port to the Villingili Ferry Terminal but it will be very tiring. So if I were you, take a cab. Male Cab has a standardized rate of 25 MVR for upto 4 people in 1 cab, but if you have big luggages, some might ask you for 35 MVR, still cheap but you can try to haggle.
- Maafushi to Fihalhohi Resort – round trip fare by speed boat is 110 USD for the 5 of us. 22$/person. Regular price would range from 25-30$/person. Use your haggling skills. Hehehhe.. You can book this in your own hotel. Hotel speedboat prices may differ.
- Maafushi to Centara Ras Fushi Resort – fare was already included in our day use package at the resort.
- Centara Ras Fushi Resort to Maafushi – fare included in the package
- Maafushi to Airport – 120 USD for the 5 of us. That’s 24 USD/person.
Day 1: July 03, 2017 Airport – Hulhumale
We boarded the plane from Cebu to Singapore with delight. Our layover was 21 hours so we already planned to explore Singapore for a day. We went to Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay since my cousins weren’t able to see it before. After that, we had our lunch at Chinatown and went to the airport for the next leg of our trip.
After almost 5 hours, we safely landed at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. Once you’re cleared in the immigration, head to the exit and on your left side of the airport you can find the Bank of Maldives wherein you can exchange your dollars into their local currency. In my case, I only changed 50USD. I use the local currency for local transportation like taxi, public ferry and purchases in the groceries for water. 1 US Dollar = 15 Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) was their exchange rate.
On your Right side of the exit, you can see 2 teleco companies where you can buy your tourist sim card for data.
I chose Ooredoo Data Pack of 2gb since this telco company is cheaper than the other one. But it all depends on your needs. Even though most hostel/hotels/ resorts in Maldives offers free wifi, but sometimes the signal isn’t that good. Besides, I bet you want to fully update your social media when you’re there right? In my case, I bought this simcard knowing we are in a DIY traveling, and a data would come in handy in case we get lost or we needed to contact our hotel for emergencies.
After getting our money exchanged and bought the sim card, I immediately went to the Information Counter to have a free call to our hotel. I called the hotel for them to know that we’ve arrived and if our transport service was already in the airport. Minutes after I called, a staff from UI Hotel came to us at the information counter and ushered us to our cab.
It was not worth it for us to head directly to Maafushi since we arrived in the evening. So I planned ahead to stay at UI Hotel in Hulhumale for 1 night before heading to Maafushi the next day. At least we were able to explore 1 more island,Right? Hulhumale is an Island near to Hulhule (were the airport is located).
You have 2 options going to Ul Hotel from the airport:
- take the hotel’s car/van – 4 USD each
- take the public bus. 1st stop in hulhumale island then walk for a bit until you reached the hotel – 2 usd each
We chose option 1 since we do not want any hassle on our first day in Maldives. We don’t want to break our mood for this holiday just because we got lost.lol
We arrived at the hotel tired, so instead of exploring the beach at the back of the hotel, we just dozed off and woke up early the next morning.
Day 2: July 4, 2017 – Hulhumale — Male — Maafushi
Fully energized after being flat tired the night before, I woke up early eagerly to sea the beaches of Maldives! After a series of camwhoring, I went back to the hotel and woke my cousin’s up. Hahaha.
Talk about the long flight that drained all their energy, definitely signs of aging. Hahaha 😁 We went down from our room which was on the third floor and decided to have our breakfast first before strolling around Hulhumale. There is a long stretch of beach just behind our hotel. It was an exciting way to start our day.
After Strolling, we head back to the hotel, got our luggages and took the hotel’s cab to Hulhumale port and boarded a local boat for Male City. Local boats in Hulhumale will depart at the port every 30 minutes. This also applies in Airport Jetty Port and Male Jetty Port. After we arrived in Male City, we strolled the city for a bit before having our lunch.
We had our lunch at Sea House Restaurant. It is just located beside the Male Jetty Port. We took the lunch buffet that costs 9$/person. It was a delicious lunch and we filled our stomachs from all the walking around Male.
Male City Largest Mosque:
Watching our time that we would not miss our boat ride to Maafushi from Villingili Port which leaves at 3pm, we hailed a cab to reach Villingili Port, got our tickets and boarded the boat to Maafushi.
It took us almost 2 hours boat ride to Maafushi while getting some awesome view on the way. When we got there, a staff from our hotel greeted us and carried our luggages. We booked our stay at Masaaree Boutique Hotel . This hotel may be a bit far off from the bikini beach,but I would still highly recommend them.
After we settled all our things in our rooms, we immediately treated ourselves with the hotel’s free fish spa. Now this is relaxation! We then explored Maafushi and had our dinner.
Day 3: July 5, 2017 – Public Beach, Bikini Beach and FIHALHOHI RESORT AND SPA
Again, woke up early and did our morning rituals. We had our breakfast first before exploring Maafushi. We went to the back side of the island after breakfast wherein the public beach is located.
It is already Day 3 but all we did was sightseeing, we didn’t go swimming because we know that we will be swimming all day for the next couple of days. We just wanted to get that local feels of the island and absorb it all.
After our quick Maafushi exploration, it’s time to see THE overwater Bungalows baby!! Hahaha. Excited, we boarded our speedboat to Fihalhohi Island Resort. It was a roughly 45 minutes ride to reach the resort.
Day 4: July 6, 2017 – More of Fihalhohi Island Resort
We spent another day here. I look forward to the breakfast buffet of this resort. They have this rule that each room will be assigned with the same table each time you eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. So you can actually leave your bottle of water and the waiter will put it back on your table when you eat.
We just couldn’t get enough of their beach and their in house reef is full of marine life with baby sharks and stingrays by the seashore. Don’t worry,they don’t bite, I think. 😁
All we did was eat- swim- sleep and repeat. Hahah. It was all buffet so we ate nonstop.
Day 5: July 7, 2017 – Back to Maafushi
We were heading back to Maafushi Island and the speed boat service was on time. We checked in back at Masaaree Boutique Hotel. This time, the hotel manager upgraded our rooms with balcony at the second floor. Sweet! We rested for a bit then explored Maafushi more.
This time, we took time in hopping from one souvenir shop to the other. It is advisable that you buy your souvenirs in this island since they are fairly cheap compared to the other islands we’ve visited.
We had our dinner at the hotel’s dinner buffet by the beach that costs 10$ per person. It was a good chilly evening with fresh air coming from the beach.
Day 6: July 8, 2017 – A day in a 4 star Resort: Centara Ras FUshi Resort and Spa
We haven’t got enough of being in an exclusive resort yet so we booked a day trip to another exclusive resort through our hotel. Centara Ras Fushi Resort and Spa was the resort of choice. But there are other resorts that you can visit for day use. You can ask your hotel about their tour packages. We paid 160$ per person.
Centara Ras Fushi Resort and Spa Day use includes the Following:
- roundtrip speedboat transfers
- buffet lunch
- unlimited non alcoholic, selected alcoholic drinks and mocktails
- free use of amenities (swimming pool, gym, etc)
- free use of kayak and pedal boat
- entrance fee
- beach towels
- free WIFI
Day 7: July 9, 2017 – Half Day Island Hopping Excursion -Airport
It was our last day in Maldives and since our flight is still at 8:50 in the evening, we still have enough time for a half day island hopping within the islands of Maafushi. We still booked our tour with our hotel and it cost us 23$ per person.
What I like about our hotel is that they allowed us to have a late checkout on our last day since we were still having our half day snorkeling trip which gave us time to dry up some of our clothes and freshen up before leaving.
Although we knew that there were other hotels that offers 20$ per person with the same inclusion, we did not bother as we don’t want the hassle and booked everything in our hotel. But if you want, you can scout within Maafushi to get better deals.
The itinerary / inclusion of our Half day Snorkeling/island hopping trip are:
- 3 snorkeling point (turtle point, shark point or nemo point, palm reef)
- dolphin watching
- beach towels
- fins and goggles
- light lunch at the naked island
- and free underwater photography
The tour starts at 9am and ends at 3pm which still gave us some time to prepare before checking out.
At around 5 pm, our speed boat transfer to the airport arrived promptly. It was a bumpy ride going to the airport, I think there was a storm coming but Thank God we arrived safely. We had our early dinner in a thai restaurant at the airport since we didn’t felt going to Male for dinner. We were tired so we just wanted to rest from travelling knowing that it’s going to be a long haul back.
After we got our boarding passes, it already sunk to us that we are leaving Maldives. 😞 That week long paradise was worth every penny and time we’ve got. Maldives will truly be missed. A great place spent with amazing people is definitely worth to remember.
Here are a some few tips I would like to share for those who are dying to visit Maldives:
- When in mainland Male, dress appropriately. Always respect the traditions and culture of the country you visit. It is an islamic country so vulgar dresses are not allowed unless you’re in an exclusive resort.
- You may opt to buy at least one sim card for everyone to share or for emergency purposes and made use of the hotel FREE Wi-fi. All the hotels we stayed has FREE Wi-fi connection.
- Never be afraid to ask around. We got good deals by asking around and engaging with the locals. But just be cautious. There are some locals that are only friendly to westerners but looks down on some nationale, like what happened in our stay in Fihalhohi Resort were few employees were actually rude to us, but was later on corrected by the management since we escalated our experience.
- Food in Maldives are quite expensive. Normal food prices ranges from 4-10 USD. My advice, eat as much as you can during buffet breakfast and skip lunch unless it is included in the package, eat more! Hahahah.
- Cost can be greatly reduced if you will not stay in an exclusive resort. Just stay in Maafushi instead and have a day use excursion in an exclusive resort. You can save up to 500$ for this.
- USD is widely used in Maldives. When we traveled we only changed 50 USD to their local currency (MVR: Maldivian Rufiya) to be used in public transportation, because if you pay in USD, the rate is usually higher.
- Do not lose the receipt when you will be exchanging your USD to MVR. You will need it in case you want your leftover local currency be changed back to USD.
- Be adventurous in food! I like trying out local dishes each time I travel.
- When in Maldives, I suggest that you will really experience their signature overwater bungalow accommodation. Pricey but worth it! As what they say, it’s like you’ve never been to Maldives if you don’t try at least an overnight stay in an overwater bungalow.
- Buy lots of water in local groceries store to save sum bucks. Water are quite expensive in Maldives and aren’t free. There is no such thing as service water in Maldives, even in restaurants unless specified. You have to buy your water. We bought water at Maafushi Island in a local groceries before heading to Fihalhohi Island Resort because bottled water costs 4 USD at the resort and we bought ours at 7 Maldivian Rufiyaa (USD 0.5) only. Talk about savings and practicality.
- We stayed 2 nights in Fihalhohi Resort, an exclusive resort. First night we stayed in a Deluxe Room with full inclusion. That means free buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner with non alcoholic drink and selected alcoholic drink. On our 2nd night, we stayed in their overwater bungalow with half board meals included (drink excluded) meaning we were only served with breakfast buffet and dinner buffet so we bought along chips, cookies, chocolates and bread with us that we munched on as we enjoyed beach bumming and swimming. During our first day, which we had full inclusion, they gave us a 1.5L bottle of water for our consumption. Do not drink this, as they will still serve it during your second day of stay which you can consume during your night’s buffet since the half board meal does not include drinks in the evening.
- We moved from one place to another so if you follow this itinerary, bring along luggage bags that you are not afraid to be scratched.
- Bring neck pillow for this long flight or any other entertainment gadgets that you have. You’re going to need it.
- It is best to always ask or inquire the hotel staff about your plans so they can give you some advices and tips.
- If you’re planning to avail some day trip excursion, do not be shy in hopping from one hotel to the other to get the best deal. In our case we just booked all our tours in our hotel for less hassle.
- Maldives is not just a honeymoon destination. We proved that it can also be a good vacation place for a group of good friends sharing the same interest on travelling and beaches.
- Take millions of photos. =)
- Bring a whole lot of sunblock lotion for skin protection.
- it pays to contact your hotel in advance to avoid ruining your vacation.
Travelling will always be the best treat to yourself. Aside from, of course, investing to save up for your future. One should also set aside a fund to treat oneself.