When one mention Maldives, I am sure one would associate words like ‘extravagant’, ‘honeymoon’ and ‘couples’ to it. Well , I don’t know about you but that was my initial impression of Maldives until I did more research about this beautiful country. I booked my air tickets on a total impulse because I needed a getaway and the air tickets to Maldives were (surprisingly) affordable.
Things I wished I had known before traveling to Maldives:
- The Maldivians have their own currency- the Maldivian rufiyaa but they accept USD on all islands so it’s perfectly fine to go around with USD. 1 USD is roughly around 15.3 rufiyaa.
- Bring your own insect repellent (trust me) and aloe vera gel (for sunburnt).
- Contact lens if you intend to snorkel or dive (so that you will have clear vision underwater).
- The GST for the tourism sector is at a whooping 12 percent.
- If you stay at a local island, they don’t sell alcohol.
- There is no wifi at the airport. If internet is important, you can purchase a sim card at the airport.
- The Maldivians speak good English, so no worries about language barrier
So here’s how I spent 4 days in Maldives (21st Dec- 25th Dec 2016) without burning a hole in my pocket.
Air tickets: $427.14 SGD from Tiger airlines
$574.25 SGD for 2 pax, 4 nights (booked through Agoda)
Arena beach hotel
Ziyaaraiy Magu, Maafushi 08090, Maldives
After booking the hotel, we realized that the last public ferry from Male to Maafushi would depart at 3p.m and our flight reaches Maldives at 8.50p.m. A private speed boat costs $170USD to Maafushi. We tried emailing the hotel to check if it was possible to arrange any transport, unfortunately they didn’t get back to us. So we flew to Maldives fully prepared to spend the night at the airport because we were simply not willing to spend $170USD just to book a private ferry.
Thankfully for us, we bumped into a family who was on the same flight as us and were on the way to the same hotel (what are the odds!) so we could hitch a ride at $25USD each.
(Image from Arena beach hotel)
This was how our room looked like, with a balcony attached.
When we traveled to Maldives, we did not have time to do any research so we went with no itinerary in mind. Thankfully the hotel offers activities for tourists to do, so we signed up for a whale shark snorkeling session next morning.
Snorkeling with the whale sharks:
$80USD per pax
Greeted by the clear blue skies when we left for our snorkeling trip.
The guide told us that the odds of catching the whale shark was 80 percent that day. Guess what, we didn’t catch the whale shark in the end! Well, at least we managed to do some snorkeling and we saw loads of dolphins swimming by our speedboat. To add onto the bad luck, my underwater camera died on me while I was snorkeling. But I guess despite all the unlucky events, the biggest takeaway from the session would be the new friendship forged with the bunch of guys on the same speedboat. We got along so well that we hung out the next two days.
When we got back to Maafushi, we tried out jet skiing. The best part about jet skiing in Maldives is that it seems like you’re skiing all the way into the horizon and you can’t seem to see the end.
Jet Skiing: $25 USD per jet ski, 2o minutes.
The owner of the jet ski place even threw in a free canoe session for us! How sweet.
Arena beach hotel also has a buffet dinner spread every night at a pretty affordable rate. The menu every night changes as well!
Buffet dinner at Arena beach hotel: $16 USD per pax (after tax)
After dinner, we decided to talk a walk around Maafushi island with our new friends. Maafushi is a local island and it’s pretty small. It’s pretty self- sufficient. We finished touring the island in around 40 minutes. There’s even a correction center there! Which got me thinking, the Maafushi community is pretty small and everyone practically knows one another, why would anyone rob/steal/commit any crime against one another?
If there’s one thing I loved about Maldives is that there was a crazy amount of stars in the skies!
Fishing trip: $20 USD per pax
And guess what, we were in the middle of Indian ocean yet we couldn’t catch a single fish!
We could only laugh at our unluckiness. What a day!
Lunch: $14 USD per pax
After sending our friends off, we set off for the sandbank. It’s practically a piece of ‘island’ in the middle of the sea. It would be nice if we were the only ones on the sand bank but there were a few families having picnic at the sand bank.
I read about people raving about the sand bank online but I didn’t particularly love it. I mean it’s lovely but if i were to come back to Maldives again, I don’t think I would head to the sand bank again.
Speedboat to the sandbank: $2o USD per pax (I can’t remember but I think it falls within $15 to $25 USD)
Thanks to the recommendation of our new friends, we signed up for a scuba diving session. And I believe Maldives is one of the best places to dive!
The dive was divided into 2 different sessions. The first session was to learn the basics- retrieving your regulator in the water, clearing water from your mask, learning how to equalize and breathe underwater. I must say even when I know how to swim it was quite a challenge for me to breathe underwater. The fear of breathing is real. But once you get over the fear, that’s when you start to enjoy the ocean.
After the morning dive, we had a two hour rest and went back for the afternoon dive into the open water. We went on the dive course with this other Maldivian who lives in Sri Lanka. And we were all the same age, engaging in the same profession as well (what are the odds!).
We went to this place called the sexy reef and did a 10 meters dive for 50 minutes. After diving, I don’t think I would enjoy snorkeling as much anymore. Diving is a whole new perspective. You get to see so much more.
One of the diving instructors even extended the invite for us to become diving instructors there because they are lacking in female instructors. And because we could speak mandarin, he told us it would be easier for us to communicate with the Chinese tourists.
Scuba dive: $120 USD per pax
Settled for dinner after our dive. Initially we planned to visit the floating bar to get some drinks but scraped the plan because the boat was full (probably due to the fact that it was Christmas eve). So we headed to the beach (with torches) to see stingrays.
Buffet dinner: $16 USD per pax
IT’S CHRISTMAS DAY!
We checked out early in the morning and made our way to Centara resort.
Day tour to Centara resort: $110 USD per pax
We were in a dilemma if we should head to Centara resort because spending $110 USD just to visit a resort does’t seem like a wise idea after all. We decided to go in the end because we would never spend ever spend $1000 USD just to stay in a water villa, so why not pay to go in and have a look. The $110 USD is inclusive of the buffet lunch (which had an extensive range of food and cuisine) and free flow drinks and alcohol by the pool. Snorkeling gear is free for rent too .
My diving instructors told me that 5 years ago, the local islands didn’t open up to tourists so when tourists visited Maldives, they stayed on pricey private islands (like Centara resorts). But now that local islands have opened up and they’ve built more hotels, traveling to Maldives is a lot more affordable.
And my dear friend went overly excited and took a plate full of different cheese which none of us could finish (obviously).
Overall, I really enjoyed my stay in Maldives even though I didn’t get to snorkel with the whale shark (another reason to be back!). Maldives is a really lovely place and I really loved Maafushi. The Maldivians are really friendly and helpful. (They would just come up to you and have a chat with you.) Indeed, it’s the people that sets the place. I felt so welcome and safe during my stay. They’ve the loveliest beaches and waters. I would love to be back again.