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Just the mention of it makes most people think about a dream escape…that they’ll never actually be able to afford.
I get it. With all the overwater bungalows and all inclusive high end resorts, not to mention the flights to get there and around, the prices there can be THROUGH THE ROOF!
But It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, our family of 6 did our entire Maldives family holiday for $50 a person each day! Yes, budget travel in the Maldives is completely possible.
And the best part was that we didn’t feel like we were skimping on ANYTHING!
The secret was, that we went to a local island instead of to a resort.
Until a few years ago, visitors to the Maldives were only allowed to visit the resorts and the locals and the visitors were kept pretty separate (due in large part to their strict Muslim culture). However, recently, the government started allowing visitors to the local islands, and suddenly a visit to the Maldives became A LOT more affordable.
Why? Because competition drives prices DOWN!
At a resort, you are on a private island and they can charge you whatever they want. Soon after we visited, I had a friend go stay at a resort. She forgot to pack sunscreen, and had to pay $75 for a bottle there. Yes, $75 for one bottle of sunscreen.
For just a little more than that, we took our family of 6 out snorkeling for 5 hours, had lunch provided for us on a beautiful island, and even had a guide with us to take pictures the whole way. For the same price as my friend paid for a bottle of sunscreen.
We chose to stay on the island on Maafushi because it had the most amenities compared with how close it was to the airport (the farther away you are from the airport the more $$ is costs to get there, since all travel is by boat or sea plane).
Do you want to plan a cheap Maldives holiday too?
We’ve traveled all over the world, and I’m convinced that the Maldives is one of the cheapest beach destinations in the whole world.
Here’s a breakdown of the cost of a Maldives trip:
Accommodations in the Maldives:
We stayed at the Arena Beach Hotel on the island of Maafushi. There are several options to stay on this island including lot of Maldives guest houses, but this is the ONLY ONE that’s right on the beach, so I wouldn’t choose anywhere else. We booked one triple room and one double room with a crib and paid $160/night for both rooms. The staff was incredibly friendly and knew our kids on a first name basis by the end of our Maldives family holiday. Having a hotel that was right on the beach simplified our trip considerably, so we are so glad we stayed here!
Activities in the Maldives:
When I say that we didn’t skimp on our activities, I’m not exaggerating. Our days were PACKED and we did a ton! Here’s what we did on our family trip to the Maldives:
Snorkeling in the Maldives:
We did 2 days out snorkeling where we saw fish, coral, turtles, dolphins and manta rays. The price for this was $25 per adult, and our older two kids (ages 9 and 7) were half price and our younger kids were free. Lunch was included with each trip and after a few fees, we ended up paying $85 per day of snorkeling (see, I told you – a Maldives trip cost can be really low). Both days we were out for 5-6 hours on the water and our guides took pictures of us the whole time which was included in the cost (and downloaded them to our SD card when we got back!).
SCUBA Diving in the Maldives:
We did a couple different SCUBA trips here. I actually didn’t dive on this trip because I was pregnant, but Andrew had a great day of diving where he did 2 dives with SHARKS. This cost $75 for the day.
Better yet, our 9-year-old son got to take an intro to SCUBA class (the PADI BubbleMaker Class). This class was designed to give 8 & 9 year old kids an introduction to SCUBA before they can get certified (you can get open water certified at age 10). Cameron went out from the beach one day, and he did so well that his instructor said he could go out on a group dive the next day (and just stay shallow). Since the boat was already going out, they said our whole family could tag along and go snorkeling while he did his dive for free. Each of his dives cost $25 (so $50 total for him).
Fishing in the Maldives:
Our middle son is absolutely obsessed with fishing. Sadly, his dad and I are both horrible fishermen so we make it a point to take him on fishing excursions whenever we can get a good deal. We were able to take the whole family fishing in the Maldives for $60 and that included them cooking the fish that we had caught for lunch for us. Our boy was in HEAVEN!
Swimming with Whale Sharks in the Maldives:
Whale sharks are some of the most majestic creatures in the sea. It’s incredible because they are simply massive, yet are also really gentle (they are actually fish, NOT sharks). We tried several times while we were there to go out on a trip to swim with whale sharks in the Maldives, but twice our trips got canceled because not enough other people signed up. On our last day, we were finally able to go. It cost $100 per adult and each of the kids were $50 so we paid $400. It was our most expensive excursion, but was one that was absolutely worth it. Read more about our trip HERE.
Food in the Maldives:
Generally speaking, food in the Maldives was on par with what we would be paying in most Western countries. However, there are some pretty great ways to cheat the system and make a family trip to the Maldives, considerably more affordable. First of all, stay at the Arena Beach Hotel where we did. The breakfast buffet was included, and although it takes a while to get over the shock that they call hot dogs sausages (remember, this is a Muslim country so you won’t find pork anyway), it’s actually pretty decent. On days where we weren’t out on an excursion during lunch, we let the kids play at the beach before we ate so we could do BRUNCH and save money not buying lunch. However, most of the excursions provide lunch, so that’s another big way to save money in the Maldives too.
The biggest deal was that at our hotel, they had an amazing dinner buffet on the beach every night…and KIDS ATE FREE! Adults were only $15, so that meant that the 6 of us ate for $30…which is about the cost of a meal at a fast food chain. Honestly, they had to be losing money on us. Do you have any idea how much food 4 kids can eat after playing in the water all day? It’s unreal. But the staff were never anything but kind to us, and bent over backwards to help our kids.
Outside of that, we spent about $60 on fruit and snacks that we ate during the day and for a light lunch when we stayed on the island for the day.
Travel in the Maldives:
Getting to the Maldives is only part of the cost. If you’re staying on a resort island, you’ll likely have to take a private plane or boat ride to get there. By staying on Maafushi, we saved a massive amount here. Going out there, we took the local ferry to get to Maafushi. I can’t remember the exact price, but I know it was under $10 for all of us and took about 1.5 hours. Heading home, our schedule didn’t work as well with the ferry timing so we took a speed boat back and spent $120 and got to the airport in about 40 minutes (yes, the boats take you directly to the airport – there’s a pier right outside of the departure pick up!)
What would a family trip to the Maldives be without LOTS of beach time. This is where we spent basically all our free time. Like I mentioned earlier, the hotel we stayed in on Maafushi is the only one that’s RIGHT ON THE BEACH, and that’s kind of a big deal. There they call these areas Maldives bikini beaches because they are private enough that women can wear a bikini there (remember this is a conservative Muslim country after all). We played there, snorkeled out from shore, built massive sand castles, and our little ones even napped there (thanks to the shaded lounge chairs that were all over). We brought an inflatable paddleboard with us because we know it makes our beach time with the little ones LOTS easier, but there were also options to rent small boats and kayaks on the island for pretty cheap too.
Total Cost of One Week In The Maldives:
2 rooms for 6 nights $160 X 6 = $960
2 days of snorkeling trips $85 X 2 = $170
Dinner $30 X 6 = $180
Whale Shark Dives = $400
Bubble Maker $25 X 2 = $50
Fishing Trip = $60
Scuba Dive trip = $75
Snacks = $60
High Speed Boat to Airport =$ 120
Local Ferry to Maafushi = $10
$298/day for 6 people = $49.64 Per Person Daily
Now, knowing what our Maldives trip cost, are you ready to take the plunge and book your Maldives budget holiday too???