You walk off the plane, proceed through immigration, grab your bag from the luggage carousel (or not, if you travel really light) and walk through the customs inspection. And there you stand, in the open-air arrivals terminal of the Male International Airport.
Welcome to the Maldives on a budget!
While you might not exactly find a crowd of budget travelers hanging around the airport, or independent travelers either, you’d be mistaken if you think that these islands are only for the wealthy or those who are ready to splurge big time.
The truth is that you really can visit the Maldives on a budget.
Here’s how, step by step:
Fares from the Middle East (ie. Doha and Dubai), India (Cochin) and SE Asia (ie. Kuala Lumpur and Singapore) are as low as $200 USD roundtrip to Male, the main city and location of the main airport in the Maldives. The cheapest I found was with SpiceJet, via India, for $183 USD roundtrip from Dubai. But check out airlines such as Qatar, Emirates, Etihad, Maldivian, Sri Lankan, Spice Jet, Silk Air, British Airways, Malaysian, Air India and more, all of which fly to Male.
My flight ticket – I ended up buying a random ticket…
Kathmandu to Male (via Doha) to Muscat (via Colombo) to Amman (via Bahrain)
…on a combination Qatar Airways and Gulf Air ticket, for a total of $580 USD. Not bad for almost 24 hours of total flying.
Conclusion: While more expensive than flying to a more popular and convenient destination, flying to the Maldives is not exorbitant at all. It’s extremely reasonable to get here.
Straight from the Maldives government website: “To enter Maldives, no pre-arrival visa is required. A thirty day free visa is issued on arrival for all Nationalities.”
Well, that takes care of the visa.
Conclusion: Just show up!
This section is the core of how you can visit the Maldives on a budget…
This is where it’s at!
Sure, you can spend $300 – $1000+ USD per night to stay in a luxury bungalow sitting on stilts above the water on an uninhabited Maldivian island, and that would surely be incredible. But, that will cost you $300 – $1000+ USD per night (plus a crazy amount of additional expenses as you’ll see in a moment).
But if you still want gorgeous, palm tree-lined white sand beaches, an uninhabited island to hang out on (covered in more beautiful white sand and with extremely stunning clear water), a long list of awesome excursion options (see below) and that overall sensation of being in a true remote paradise, it’s all very possible on Mathiveri Island.
Home to 800 welcoming people, this tiny local island is situated 80 kilometers from Male, it’s about 1/2 square kilometer in size, there are no vehicles on the island and the ‘roads’ are all sand. There are three white sand beaches, plenty of lush greenery and a handful of houses, simple shops and cafes.
And most importantly, there are the Mathiveri Inn and Mathiveri Island Guesthouses.
For $60 or so per night (per room), you can stay in a laid-back guesthouse, in a simple, comfortable, private room, with a comfy bed, plenty of space, air-conditioning, a private bathroom and of course, free wifi.
Is it pure luxury? Nope. But is it $300+ USD per night? Nope.
It’s $60 USD per night (yes, $60 bucks per night) and it allows you to experience the Maldives on a budget!
The guesthouses are jointly run and the team of Sameer and Lisa are genuinely passionate about giving travelers a chance to visit this country, and still have the ultimate paradise experience, without having to shell out big money. They work tirelessly to achieve this goal.
Mathiveri Inn (Mathiveri Inn Guesthouse) – It has a handful of colorful, good-sized rooms, a large lounge area where you can hang out with the friendly staff and other travelers and an attached restaurant where the meals are served no matter which guesthouse you sleep at. It’s a 2 minute walk to the most stunning beach on the island and a 1 minute walk to the main ‘intersection’ in the village.
Mathiveri Island Guesthouse (Mathiveri Island Guesthouse) – It’s located only steps from the public beach, which is still beautiful and rarely has anyone on it (but you do need to be covered up on this particular beach). There are four good rooms in a new building with a common room and a laid-back outdoor area with lounge chairs. It’s in a super quiet area, about a six or seven minute walk to the main ‘intersection’ and to the best beach.
Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong. Both are excellent, comfortable budget options that allow you to be in paradise for a ridiculously low price while also enjoying the benefits of experiencing local life in the Maldives.
Paradise like this…
And an island lifestyle like this (this is me exploring the island from one end to the other!)…
Conclusion: If you want to visit the Maldives on a budget, look no further than Mathiveri Island and its two guesthouses.
*Be sure to book directly through the guesthouse websites to get the best rates!
Being a tiny island, there really are only a couple of options for food but they are great options. You can book a meal package with the guesthouse or you can order from the restaurant attached to the Mathiveri Inn and pay for meals separately. Meals are reasonably priced, about $10 USD for a full lunch or dinner. There are also daily lunch menus and a selection of local dishes (excellent fish curry!) and western food as well (excellent seafood pizza!).
There is one other place on the island where you can eat…it’s called, Happy Land. Not sure about the name but we ate at this local hangout for lunch several times. For just a few dollars, you can grab a plate and fill it up with a selection of freshly made snacks – mini-samosas, spring rolls, rice balls, shredded fish cakes and even some sweet pancakes. So good! And they also have great coffee.
And that’s the dining scene on Mathiveri Island…very simple and inexpensive, and while you might not enjoy a fancy ten course meal, you can still eat plenty of fresh fish and other great dishes. (The staff at Mathiveri Inn are more than happy to buy a whole, fresh fish for you and cook it up for dinner if you let them know in advance!)
Conclusion: Good, fresh food for cheap prices.
Snorkeling at one of the most mesmerizing coral reefs I’ve ever seen, swimming with huge manta rays in the open water, free-diving around a shipwreck, sunset fishing, island hopping, hanging out on a remote sandbank…it’s all possible from Mathiveri Island.
The snorkeling is really some of the most impressive I’ve seen anywhere in the world…
The manta rays were an awesome sight to behold as well, as was the shipwreck…
Also, visiting the nearby, picture-perfect uninhabited island, which you can swim to in about 5 minutes from the public beach (or borrow a kayak for a two minute paddle over) is something you’ll want to do every single day, especially at sunset. And this doesn’t cost anything at all.
The guesthouses offer great value excursion packages (room, board and excursions combined) or you can book the excursions individually. Either way, you’re looking at a very inexpensive range of $50 – $70 USD per person per trip. I checked at some of the luxury resorts on nearby islands and the exact same type of excursions are priced at around $150+ USD per person.
Same amazing experiences, much different price…another bonus of Mathiveri Island!
Conclusion: Get ready to explore because Mathiveri offers everything you could possibly want to do in paradise for a fraction of what it would cost elsewhere in the Maldives.
You have two options for getting to and from Mathiveri Island.
Option 1: Ferry
Taking a leisurely 6 hours to cover the 80 kilometers you need to travel from Male, this option only costs about $5 USD per person each way. It doesn’t get cheaper than that!
Option 2: Speedboat
This boat often leaves from right outside the airport (yes, the boat picks you up at the arrivals terminal!), it only takes 2 hours to complete the journey and it costs around $50 USD per person each way.
Both the ferry and speedboat have 2 or 3 departures per day for this route but if you let the guesthouse know your flight details, they can book the most appropriate one for you based on your arrival time.
And regardless of which option you choose, the ride to Mathiveri is beautiful and exciting, passing or stopping at dozens of islands, plying across turquoise waters and sometimes spotting dolphins en route. Not a bad way to start and finish your Maldives adventure!
Conclusion: $5 or $50…compare that to the $100 – $300 per person (each way) that luxury resorts charge to reach their islands by boat or seaplane!
Internet on Mathiveri
The free wifi at both guesthouses on Mathiveri Island was decent. At times it was working relatively fast and at other times, it was definitely much slower, but overall, you can use it to send emails, check FB and do any basic online work you might need to do.
If you need to be connected more reliably though, you can easily buy a SIM card upon arrival at the airport…
SIM card – Just pop into one of the two mobile network companies that each have an office in the Arrivals Hall (Dhiraagu and Ooredoo). They both offer the same package, a SIM card for $16 USD that lasts 7 days and comes with 2 GB of 3G data. The data was very reliable even way out on Mathiveri Island and allowed me to get all of my online work done. And if you run out of data, you can buy a refresh card from one of the shops on the island.
Conclusion: If you need to be connected while on a remote island, you will be connected while on Mathiveri.
Maldives on a Budget – The Final Word
Absolute awesomeness! That easily sums up my trip to the Maldives.
And a major part of that, if not the biggest, was the fact that I was able to spend a week here for such a small amount of money compared to what I imagined such a trip would cost.
So, if you want to take a trip to a true tropical paradise (maybe you already happen to be in Southeast Asia or India or Sri Lanka or anywhere near the Middle East), just hop on a cheap flight to Male, catch the ferry to Mathiveri Island and start experiencing the Maldives on a budget!
You don’t need to spend several thousands of dollars to make this a reality!
Anyone interested in going to the Maldives? Does this sound like your kind of destination? Any questions about making this happen?