Beautiful tropical beach on exotic island at Maldives (Shutterstock: see credit below)
Blog Words : Insider Secrets | 20 January

Cut-price paradise: Maldives on the cheap

Want to visit this island paradise but put off by the sky-high price tag? One local resident reveals how to visit on the cheap...

1. Hire your own island for a night

Live the jet-set lifestyle with your friends and hire a private island for as little as $50 per person per night. Olhahali is one of the few destinations in the country that can be booked for a guest’s exclusive use, and offers a Robinson-Crusoe-type experience.

To get there you will of course need to charter a speed-boat first as the island is outside of the Malé atoll. Take your own barbeque and hammock and experience a night under the stars on this tiny speck in the ocean – just 285 metres in length and 60 metres wide.

Available for a maximum of 40 people for US$2,000 a day, Olhahali offers a number of packages on its official website, with special rates for expats and locals.

Tropical islands in Indian ocean from above, Maldives (Shutterstock)
Tropical islands in Indian ocean from above, Maldives (Shutterstock)

2. Make the most of the low season

Many resorts in the Maldives are under occupied, especially in the low season (April to October). With this in mind, it is more than possible to negotiate day-use of the resorts – even to blag a good deal for an overnight visit at competitive rates. Depending on the resort, they can arrange transfers from the capital and entertainment and activities at a fraction of the price you pay for a packaged holiday.

3. Discover desert islands

A day-time trip to a desert island is an experience of its own. The raw, unspoilt vegetation surrounded by pearly white beaches and dazzling azure waters is like a waking dream; everything feels imagined, and you are the only person in this beautiful universe.

A chartered, liveaboard boat in Male will take you to inhabited and uninhabited islands in the atoll. This can also be achieved for a fraction of the cost through day tours organised by local tour operators and independent travel agents, like Surf In the Maldives.

Beautiful beach in the Maldives (Shutterstock)
Beautiful beach in the Maldives (Shutterstock)

4. Travel like a local

If you want to travel outside the Malé atoll on a budget, the most popular method of transport inter-atoll is the dhoni (small traditional fishing boats). A flotilla lines the jetties in Male, bound for numerous islands and resorts within the atoll. For example, a passage on a cargo ship to Addu will take you to islands rarely seen by outsiders.

Some of the larger inhabited islands operate organised inter-ferry transfers between Male. The local islands of Hulhumale and Villingili have their own ferry terminals at opposite ends of the island. It is also possible to hop on a sea ferry to the inhabited islands of Thulusdhoo and Himmafushi, which are close to famous surf breaks, Cokes and Sultans respectively. The little-publicised ferry service operates every other day, so you will need to stay at a guest house and arrange a boat to the surf points.

5. Get south of the Equator

Addu – an hour’s flight from Male Ibrahim Nasir Airport – is easily the most backpacker-friendly atoll in the Maldives. It is the only place in the archipelago where it’s possible to explore multiple islands by bicycle and encounter local life as it is linked by a causeway, built by the British.

Take a ferry from Feydhoo to the ancient villages of Hulhudoo and Meedhoo in the north. Alternatively take a speedboat to the one-island atoll of Fuvahmulah – boasting the one and only beach break in the Maldives. Discover an amazing beach and verdant interior with Buddhist relics and still-water inland lakes. It is simply unique. Regular speedboats depart from Feydhoo harbour, Addu Atoll.

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Donna RichardsDonna Richardson lived in the Maldives and uses her blog, Backpack Maldives, to show that it is possible to experience the islands on the cheap. The blog highlights the resorts, the inhabited islands and the politics, along her adventures, unabridged.

Main image: Beautiful tropical beach on exotic island at Maldives (Shutterstock)