How To Travel Maldives On A Budget

Sunday, August 13, 2017
Maldives is often associated with high standards, luxury and expensive holidays. But lately there has been a growth in more budget minded vacations to these paradise islands. High season is from December to April. Which means calmer waters, more active marine life... and more tourists.

West Bikini Beach on Ukulhas, Maldives
Travelling on a budget to the Maldives takes some planning ahead. First of all you'll need to figure out how to reach capital city and island Malé. The airport is located on an island just next to Malé and a local ferry will take you the short distance to reach the capital. I'd recommend spending one night in Malé as you'll be heading to Villingili Ferry Terminal early in the morning. There is a ferry which goes from Malé to Himandhoo and back. Runs on sundays, tuesdays and thursdays going out. And Saturdays, Mondays and Wedensdays going back. The ferry has several stops on the way, which gives you a good schedule to plan from. You can find the ferry schedule here. We chose 1 night in Malé, 4 nights in Ukulhas, 2 nights in Feridhoo, 2 nights in Matheveri, then going back to Malé and leave by late night plane.

1. Ukulhas

Sea turtle near Mark Beach on Ukulhas, Maldives
Ukulhas is, like all the other islands on the ferry route, an inhabited island of the Maldives. Opened up for tourism only in late 2012 it features newly build residences and guesthouses with much more budget friendly prices than the world famous resort islands.
Besides paying less for accommodation, day tours, food and grocery items on the local islands, you'll also get a glimpse of the local culture. Ukulhas has a football field, we joined for a friendly match with some of the Maldivian guys.

Maldives is a muslim country, which means there are strict rules for clothing and alcohol. Visting the local islands means no alcohol. You're not allowed to walk the island in your swimsuit, but the beaches are separated in tourist beaches and local beaches, which gives tourists a westernized freedom. The west side of the island has a lot of garbage on the beach. Plastic bottles, aluminium cans, plastic bags, fabric, oil barrels and more. All of which seemed to have washed ashore from the ocean. But ultimately these things don't come from the ocean, it comes from man.
We snorkled both the west side and the northern east side of the island. The coral reef seems damaged and dead, we did spot a black tip reef shark, a devil ray and a sea turtle, along side the most common reef fish of the Indian Ocean.

Sunset at West Bikini Beach on Ukulhas, Maldives
Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean naturally the islands hands off some astonishing sunsets and sunrises. And Ukulhas is no exception.
Being the second Maldivian island to become electrified you'll find a lot of stores and residences compared to many other islands of the Aliff Aliff Atoll.

2. Feridhoo

Bikini Beach at Feridhoo, Maldives
Our second stop, Feridhoo, almost had to be cancelled due to bad weather. That's one of the cons of travelling Maldives during the off-season. The local ferry was cancelled, but we found a local fisherman who took us there by speedboat for 100 USD (3 persons). Those dollars, however, turned out to be dollars well spent.

Feridhoo only opened up for tourists in 2015 and currently there's only two guesthouses on the entire island. Two more are in the making. We turned out to be the only foreigners on the island, which meant we had the whole reef to ourselves. We snorkled along the south coast and the east end of the island. The reef there was exceptional. Lively marine life, live corals with a huge wall. We spotted surgeon fish, clown fish, jack fish, octopuses, parrot fish, unicorn fish, trumpet fish, trigger fish, red snapper, groupers, banner fish, wrasses, sweet lips, butterfly fish, black tip reef sharks, sea turtles and more. Truly a snorkelling paradise, where we saw less trash (but still some) than we did on Ukulhas.

Clown Fish hiding with it's baby off the coast of Feridhoo, Maldives
Besides the great snorkelling possibilities the island has to offer, there's a few other places to see. One of the main ones is the old Mosque, Baa Miskih, which was built more than 200 years ago. Make sure you go for a stroll on the Bikini Beach on the Northern tip of the island too - hands off some great sunsets as well. Make sure you have a look around for sand craps before sunset. The usual hide underneath wood or rocks.

Sand crap on the south shore of Feridhoo, Maldives

3. Mathiveri

The third and last stop for us (before heading back to Malé) was Matheveri. We caught the local ferry from Feridhoo for a mere 22 MVR per person.
Aesthetically Mathiveri is the most beautiful of the three. Extremely shallow waters creates sand dunes on the south side of the island, which are walkable during low tide. The northern shore line is stuffed with palm trees and picture perfect views.

Northern coast of Mathiveri, Maldives
The coral reef close to the island is quite damaged. There is some marine life, but nothing compared to Feridhoo. Head to Stingray Beach to spot some stingrays or simple enjoy the sunset. We spotted a few black tip reef sharks as well along the sand dune island; Mathiveri Finolhu.

We decided however to pay (35 USD each) our guesthouse, Riveli Reatreat Mathiveri, for a boat trip to the outer reefs. First priority was to spot a manta ray. We spotted several from the boat and caught a small one soaring across the sea bed below us. After an hour or so of looking for mantas we headed for the reef for some snorkeling.

Manta Ray on the sea bed near Mathiveri, Maldives
The outer reef was exceptional. There were huge schools of parrot fish and surgeon fish roaming and feeding on the reef. We saw several huge trigger fish as well. Your body is calm and relaxed, but your eyes are almost popping out of your head. Trying to take in, as much as possible.

School of Powder Blue Surgeon Fish near Mathiveri, Maldives
Along the reef edge we saw several hawksbill turtles. Most of them shy and heading for deeper waters before you can get near them. One of them, however, got up close and personal as it was surfacing, reaching for air.

Hawksbill Sea Turtle southeast of Mathiveri, Maldives

The Costs

Let's sum up the costs for a budget visit to the Maldives. Here's a list of what I spent during my 10-day stay. Bear in mind that we were 3 people travelling together sharing rooms etc. The amounts listed below is per person.

Ferry: 5 USD
Speedboat: 33 USD
Accommodation: 337 USD - 1 night Malé, 4 nights Ukulhas, 2 nights Feridhoo and 2 nights Mathiveri
Food: 160 USD - most islands only has one or two restaurants.
Snacks: 15 USD - chocolate, cola, biscuits etc.
Souvenirs: 15 USD - postcards, magnets etc.
Excursions: 35 USD - manta ray snorkeling tour.

Total cost for 10 days in Maldives: 600 USD (daily cost 60 USD)

Which excludes my flight tickets. The cheapest flights to Maldives goes from Colombo, Sri Lanka and Dubai, UAE. Rates around 180 USD one-way.

Why are you still here? Start planning your next trip to Maldives!

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