Ah…. the Maldives. “Ah” is literally always the word on my mind when I think about this stunning piece of land in the Indian Ocean. The first time a plane flew me over this incredible archipelago I knew I had found my favorite part of the world and to this day it remains my number one choice in all my bucket list recommendations.
If you thought the Maldives was just a lame standardized choice for honeymooners, think again! There is a solid reason why people choose this place for what is to be the most special time of their lives. I only have one regret when it comes to traveling to the Maldives and that is that I can never come here again for the first time. So when YOU come here (and I really think that it would be a mistake never to do so), there are a few things you can do to ensure you will have the time of your life, just as you should. And by the way: this is not a question of budget, only research and personal preference. So here we go, my top 10 tips for traveling to the Maldives:
1. Resort or Local?
Most people, when they think about the Maldives, will associate them with a serious price tag, the kind one only affords for very, very special occasions and lottery wins. First of all, however, that is not quite right as there are actually many reasonably priced resort options on offer and secondly, with the opening of local islands to tourism back in 2009, pretty much anyone with $20 a night to spare will find a roof over their head, ocean views included. If you are interested in finding out more about visiting the local islands, you may find this helpful. In general, however, I personally would definitely aim for a resort island on my first time here, there is something magical about Maldivian luxury and a cheeky Pina Colada by the infinity pool. But who says you need to decide? Just do both! That weekend in a classy 5-star resort will feel like heaven, after 5 nights on those $20 beds.
2. Research your resort wisely
There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a resort in the Maldives – take it from someone who has been to 9 of them. The following things would be important to me:
- How far is the walk between room and main area/restaurants?
- Is there a pool?
- Is there a bar overlooking the sunset?
- What is the evening entertainment?
- How many à la carte restaurants are there and how do previous guests rate the food?
- For families with kids: Is there a Kids Club? From what age can kids be accommodated?
- What do the beaches around the island look like?
- How is the snorkeling right around the island?
- What activities are on offer?
You’d be surprised how much these aspects can vary depending on where you are going and it is definitely worth looking into all this before departing.
3. Don’t diss low season
I have come here 4 times and every time was between April and September which is considered low season. Yes it may rain, it may even rain every day but it will rarely rain all day and almost certainly not throughout the entire length of your trip. I would argue that some of my most memorable travel experiences ever involve swimming in the Indian ocean during heavy rainfall (warm rain!!!!) and the off season prices being about half of what they could be doesn’t hurt either.
4. How to get there?
Most international flights go into Male, the capital island of the Maldives. From here you would either take a speed boat or a (sea)plane to get to where you need to be and you should figure out before hand what cost await you for this. A sea plane roundtrip transfer can easily amount to $800 per person, which is a hefty surcharge on your bill. That said, taking a sea plane is one of those unforgettable experiences one only does in the Maldives, so don’t forgo that option all together. If you’re on a budget, consider sticking to the resort islands that can be reached via Speedboat for both convenience and cost. As I am typing this I am hanging out in my beach villa at Kuramathi, which is a wonderful island with various options suiting all (ok, most) budgets due to its large size and 3 different parts of the resort. Kuramathi is a mere 90 minute speed boat transfer away from Male. Between landing and being all checked in and on the beach lay about 3 hours.
5. Domestic flights
Do not make my mistake and assume that a domestic flight will always mean a sea plane. There are 8 national and 2 international airports in the Maldives and the local airline is called Maldivian. While I am all for taking seaplanes (I’ve been on several and it is wonderful), taking small domestic carriers has not been as nice an experience. In my case the plane stunk unforgivably, we had to land to drop some people off halfway through to our destination and several people on the plane had to throw up. I’m not saying all domestic flights will be like this, but ours was bad enough for me to reconsider taking those planes altogether.
6. Breakfast only or All Inclusive?
I would not describe myself as the all inclusive type but in the Maldives it does come in handy not to have to worry about prices and budgets. Even a one-course dinner will easily set you back $100 per person and before you know it your room bill will skyrocket. A better option: choosing half board (my favorite option) and just booking drinks on top. It’s hot and you’re beaching, so skipping lunch is easy anyway (unless you count cocktails as lunch) and there is no reason to pay extra for full-board. Many resorts allow half-board guests to try the à la carte restaurants at just a fraction of the actual price which I think is a great alternative to having buffet food every day.
7. Do something special every day
On my first trip to the Maldives I brought about 5 books with me – I just knew I would be bored! I mean, there is nothing to see but water and palm trees, what else would I spend my time with than hanging by the pool and catching up on some reading? Well, little did I realize that there is actually a pretty fantastic array of things to do on most islands, so be smart and try as many as possible. My favorites include snorkeling, dolphin watch cruises, sunset cruises, diving, sea-kayaking (especially if they have a see-through one!!!), stand-up paddling, jet-skiing, banana-riding, para-sailing and of course spa treatments. I couldn’t pick one if I tried, so I strongly recommend you have a go at them all!
8. Pile up on snacks
We are 5 days in and I sorely miss chocolate, packaged ice-cream and handy cereal bars for my kid. Some resorts do sell those things but many don’t. Not even Male airport can provide these sort of goodies, as I had to learn. The lesson: if you like your daily dose of afternoon chocolate by the beach, do stack up on those M&M’s and cookies.
9. Hidden Costs
Let’s just say you’ve decided to go resort; let me tell you a thing or two about money and prices. While no one expects to live cheaply on a resort island, it’s worth noting that you can on average expect to pay $20 to $50 for a main course. A cocktail will set you back about $12, a soft drink about $5. Just about any food and drink purchased will come with an added on 12% service charge as well as %10 food tax. Additional tips are welcome but not expected. Consider them a gesture of showing your appreciation for exceptional service (provided it was) and staff will be happy to make a little extra money.
10. A word on water villas
You’ve probably all seen the images of incredible water villas, lining up over crystal clear waters with the sun setting right in front, delivering an unforgettable spectacle. Yes, water villas are incredible and there is something magical about leaving the house and jumping right in there with colorful schools of fish, reef sharks and choral. That said, they’re typically not recommended for people with children and it is worth noting that the lack of a beach of your own is also something to consider. In some resort the beach villas have pools and those just might be my favorite. Look at all options and choose carefully!
Ah, I could rave about the Maldives all day long. There is no better way to completely switch off – 4 days here can easily feel like 2 weeks and once you go Maldives you will always come back, it’s just that kind of place.
The Maldives are our featured destination for the money of August 2017 and what better way to start it off than with a trip to this stunning country. As I type this from Kuramathi, a lovely eco-resort with stunning nature and rave reviews, this will be only one of 8 stops I will visit on this trip. Follow Travelettes and me on Instagram here to catch up on posts, stories and lots of beautiful photos of this stunning place.
*We received a complimentary flight to the Maldives from Condor Airlines, direct from Frankfurt, which was a great experience for which I am very grateful. I would also like to thank Kuramathi for hosting us for 3 nights. All pictures in this post show Kuramathi.