For many, the Maldives is a bucket list destination, reserved only for honeymoons or seriously special occasions. But, if you play your cards right, it might be more accessible than you think. In this article we’re going to share our top tips for getting the luxury of the Maldives for less.
Go in Rainy Season
High risk, high reward. We booked at the tail end of the rainy season which runs from May through to October. The weather forecast showed thunderstorms and 80% chance of rain every day, which made us think we might have ballsed up a bit. But it turned out that there was still plenty of sun to be had, as you can see from our tans.
It did rain pretty much every day – but, it’s a tropical climate, meaning it’s very different to the constant miserable drizzle you get when it rains in the UK. Here in the Maldives, its not uncommon to see rain over one island and bright blue skies over the next. Showers lasted no more than an hour (most less than that) with the most rain coming in over night. We quickly adjusted to the ever changing weather: when it was sunny, we either sunbathed or wandered around the island. When it was overcast, we snorkeled. When it was raining we caught up with emails, social media or went to the gym. If all you’re coming to do is sunbathe, you’ll probably be disappointed but there was at least 4 hours of blistering sun every day, and plenty of dry time besides that.
The biggest benefit of coming during rainy season? The price! Prices are often half of what they are during the high season. Like we said – high risk, high reward.
See If Packages Are Cheaper
I (Harry) made the mistake of being hooked in by a super cheap hotel deal, only to realise after booking a non-refundable rate that the price of everything else soon added up. Probably the biggest overlooked expense was the domestic transfers from the main island (Male) to the resort.
Often these transfers are included in package holiday prices (and you might even get a seaplane if you’re lucky!) If not, then you’re in the same boat we were (no pun intended…) There are no Ubers or work-arounds here – no cheap way of getting to the island and rarely a “deal” to be had on these internal transfers.
Another benefit to booking a package is you’ll often get complimentary upgrades to the next level of a meal plan. For example, B&B to Half Board or Half Board to Full Board etc. It’s worth weighing up the costs of booking separately or as a package considering there are so many elements to this holiday, it may be cheaper and easier to do it all in one.
BA Holidays often offer some great rates but bear in mind, they only fly direct to the Maldives at certain times of the year.
B&B instead of All Inclusive
We’d definitely consider ourselves to have a healthy relationship with food but I think you’ve got to be a special kind of person not to go “all in” on an all-inclusive holiday, especially if you’re paying through the nose for it. All-inclusive is generally considerably more money, and only really makes sense if you’re a heavy drinker. We like a sugary cocktail or three but even then, it didn’t make financial sense for us. You’d have to eat three meals a day and be boozing dawn til dusk to get your money’s worth and with the heat and lower appetite, that’s difficult to do.
Plus… we really didn’t want to come back 10kg up.
Another benefit of going B&B only is that you get the choice of other restaurants in the resort. This particular resort had two All Inclusive options: one was for the main restaurant buffet only, whilst the more premium option included ALL the restaurants (which meant an equally premium price tag). If you’ve ever been on an all-inclusive holiday before you’ll know the buffet restaurant, whilst exciting to being with, can get a bit repetitive with questionable quality. A couple of nights we ate at different restaurants instead, which were inevitably quieter and the quality was much better than the main buffet.
4-Star over 5-Star
Having stayed in a 5 star resort in the Maldives before (Harry – Jumeirah Vittaveli), it’s really no wonder people come to the Maldives for their honeymoon to really push the boat out. There honestly is nothing in the world like it.
Having said that, the main draw of the Maldives are the white sandy beaches, incredible snorkeling and total seclusion. All of which can be achieved in a 4-star resort. If you plan on spending a lot of time inside then no doubt, the 5-star will be worth it but it’s unlikely you’ll get the value if you plan on being outside most of the time. If you’re on a honeymoon or a “once in a lifetime” trip, splash out on a 5 star as it’ll be an experience you’ll never forget. But if you want 90% or the experience for 50% of the price, a 4-star might be the way to go.
We stayed at the Reethi Beach Resort in Baa Atoll which is known for its incredible House Reef. You won’t find deep jacuzzi bathtubs and glass floors like in some more expensive resorts but the surroundings and island itself was still spectacular.
Get a Water Well
Unless you’re doing All Inclusive, not all resorts include water (yes, really). Because we were on a B&B board basis, it meant we only got 1 litre of water a day (tight!). It was a weird concept, being on a luxury island and having to effectively ration water, especially when the climate was so warm.
A litre of water was $4USD a pop and considering we were out in the sun AND going to the gym, meant we needed at least 6 litres of water a day between us. The water on the resort was desalinated which is probably fine to drink, some people are fine, some are not. We didn’t want to take any chances, though, so we went full Travel Dork and bought these Water Wells from Amazon.
Supposedly, they remove 99.9% of pathogens and bacteria in water – the advertising shows brown water being turned to clear. The tap water on the island was nowhere near that bad, so it was more to be safe than sorry. Needless to say, we were totally fine. But, if this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip for you, it’s not worth the risk for the sake of a few quid – get the bottled water on the island if you’re worried. We both have pretty iron stomachs so your mileage may vary but considering we plan on using them again when we’re abroad, just to be safe, they’re probably worth getting anyway.
Save on Data
Depending on where you are in the Maldives, you might not get free WiFi in your rooms and instead, will only be available in the main areas of the resort such as the main bar or reception. It wasn’t uncommon for us to see reception packed with people on their phones and laptops. In the case of our resort, you could pay for WiFi in the rooms OR you could pick up a sim card from Male airport on arrival.
There are 2 providers with small shops next to each other between the main terminal and domestic terminal. We asked our resort rep who greeted us at the airport which company offered the best signal on the specific island as no doubt one was better than the other. We picked up a sim card each from Ooredoo for $22USD which included 17GB of data (more than enough) for 7 days. They had other options for less data and longer durations but none were over $35USD which is a great option if you need to stay connected. Some people would probably welcome being forced OFF the internet but due to the nature of our jobs, this was an excellent and cheap way of staying connected.
Bring your own Snorkle
So it turns out one of our snorkeling sets was pretty naff, despite being EXACTLY the same set, so we should probably add to this by telling you to test them before you go (queue Scuba Steve in the bathtub). Nevertheless, we still managed to use them with one of us having to endure a nose full of water throughout. Most resorts will offer snorkeling gear rental if you didn’t bring your own and our particularly resort was offering a couple of sets for around $10USD per day. We snorkeled maybe 3 out of the 7 days we were there which would have amounted to about $60USD for us both. The snorkel sets we bought were the equivalent of around $60USD except we can take them home and use them again (we’ll be sending one set back of course but you get the point).
Stock Up On Supps
If you’re going B&B like we did, taking some protein bars/powders can be a good idea to keep you ticking over. Our day (weather permitting) typically looked like so:
8am – Wake Up
8:30am-9:30am – Gym
9:30am-10am – Breakfast
10am-4pm – Snorkel, Sun Bathe, Take Pictures, Chill.
4pm-6pm – Work and get ready for dinner.
6-7pm – Happy Hour (will get onto that in a minute).
7pm-8:30pm – Dinner
8:30pm-11pm – Work or Chill
That means we were only eating twice a day with a big gap between breakfast and dinner. Some days this was fine, if the breakfast spread was good we often filled up (probably a little too much) and made it through to dinner. But some days we got a bit peckish mid-afternoon which is where protein shakes and bars came in handy – just enough to keep us ticking over. We took individual protein powder sachets in our checked luggage and protein bars in our hand luggage and had no problem getting them through security. We’d recommend taking supplements sealed and in their original packaging to avoid questioning. You can pick up individual sachets from Holland and Barrett (if you aren’t still hoarding the free samples from BodyPower!).
Again, only really applicable if:
a) You’re not on an All Inclusive package
b) Your resort has one.
The reason we mention this is because they’re not always entirely obvious. Fortunately, we only went one night without realising, which means we took full advantage for most of the holiday. The happy hour was hidden away on a board in the main bar that looked like it had been made with clip art in 1997. “20% off all drinks between 6-7pm”. This meant each night, we made sure we were at the bar between 6-7pm to stock up on alcohol for the night. It usually started with a cocktail each until we realised bottles of wine were included too. We found the cheapest sparkling wine at $29USD (we’re not wine connoisseurs by ANY means) which we had most nights.
We’re not sure if this is standard on every island but once you purchased a bottle, you could take it anywhere else on the island you wanted, even back to your room. So we’d buy a bottle during happy hour and take it to the restaurant for dinner to avoid paying the higher price, result.
Note: Importing alcohol is forbidden in the Maldives so you won’t be able to bring a bottle of Jack in your checked baggage.
Upgrade on Arrival
This is something we’ve been getting into the habit of recently with great success but it does come with a risk. We did it for the first time at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas where we upgraded to the ridiculous Wraparound Terrace room for only 100USD per night despite it showing online for over $500USD.
It’s not really a “trick” as such, as it’s unlikely you’ll get the room any cheaper than if you pre-booked, but it does allow you some element of luxury but for an overall cheaper price. The risk is, there’s no guarantee an upgrade will be available. Fortunately, another benefit to going during rainy/low season is that there usually is.
For the majority of our stay we stayed in the cheapest room, a “Reethi Villa”, which was more than adequate. Comfy bed, lots of space, big outdoor bathroom etc. but we really wanted to spend a night in a water villa. There are few places in the world you can spend a night on stilts in the middle of the ocean. The thing is, as with the buffet, the novelty can wear off after a while – so why not get the best of both worlds and only stay in an upgraded room for a night or two?
After a couple of days on the resort, we approached reception to see if any of the nights we could upgrade to a water villa (flexibility is key here) but preferably the last, which they were able to accommodate. The upgrade cost was $90USD. We could have stayed in the water villa every night but by staying in the standard villa for the majority of the time and ending the holiday on a high we managed to save ourselves $540USD.
Do Your Own Research
The snorkeling gear (£30×2) and Water Wells (£25×2) probably saved us around £80 on gear rental and £100+ on water throughout our stay and whilst that seems like a small amount, we also have them to use for our future trips too. The resort offered WiFi in rooms for $79USD for the week so we saved around $35USD with our pre-purchased sim cards and had the benefit of not having to lug around a mini WiFi router.
The only reason we got any of this was through a quick bit of research on TripAdvisor which suggested picking up your own if you can. A quick 15-minute peruse of the most recent reviews can often help with tips and tricks to save you time and/or money.
Pro-tip – check out the 3/4 star reviews as see if you notice trends. We saw that most of the reviews were docked a star or 2 because of the cost of “extras” which we allowed for before we went which turned it into a 5 star holiday!
Bonus Tip: Insect Repellent
You typically won’t have any problems with mosquitos in the Maldives but the flies can get REALLY annoying. It’s not an all-day affair but particularly when it’s raining, they will annoy you! If you’ve got a low tolerance for bugs (Harry), pop a bottle of repellent in your bag or invest in some sunscreen with added insect repellent.
We hope you enjoyed the second installment of our Travel Guides and picked up a few tips along the way, many of which aren’t exclusive to the Maldives but certainly helped us stay a little cheaper!
If you missed our first installment – Dubai, you can check it out here. If you liked this one and plan on using some of our tips, let us know!
Hotel (inc. Upgrade) – ~£700/£350pp
Flights (inc. Internals) – ~£1500/£750pp
Food – £800/£400pp
All In – £3000/£1500pp