December 3rd, 2017
It all started in daydreaming...
I was talking with my fellow ‘travel buddies’ about the countries we must visit before hitting the ‘golden age’. And one of the countries we talked and dreamed about visiting was the paradise found in the vast Indian Ocean, the Maldives. I never thought that this dream of mine would happen recently. Indeed, God provides miracles everyday! So, let me tell you more about my recent journey in this paradise!
Maldives, a country located in Asia and one of the bucket list of many travellers not only here in the Philippines but also worldwide, is an archipelago with almost 1,200 islands situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Maldives is famous for its luxurious private resort islands (the ‘instagrammable’ overwater bungalows or water villas), pristine beaches and sand shores, and abundant tropical coral reefs with rich marine life! It is no doubt that Maldives is a piece of Heaven on Earth and may seem such a luxury for a single ‘budgetarian’ traveller like me. But that wasn’t what I experienced! In fact, I only spent P25,000 for all the expenses I did in this paradise! Also, you can cut off the said budget into half and lessen it to make it much cheaper and more affordable!
Airfare and Visa Requirements
There are no direct flights from Manila to Male, the capital city of Maldives. However, you can get tickets from budgeted Airlines, such as AirAsia and ScootAir with layovers/connecting flights through Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. The duration of flight for each layovers would be around almost 4 hours.
Another cheaper option is to get separate roundtrip tickets. If you can book cheaper flights from Manila-Singapore or Manila-Kuala Lumpur, since promos in such airlines occasionally happens, then it would be better to avail that one. Also, you can use different online booking platforms to compare prices and get your affordable roundtrip tickets to Maldives. I used SkyScanner App and Traveloka App when I was scouting for cheap airfares to the said country.
(NOTE: I am not affiliated to this companies. It just I found them useful. Sharing is caring, right? Also, I did exclude my airfare in the P25,000 pesos budget I said previously since it varies from time to time and person to person).
For the visa requirements, fortunately, Filipinos can get a free 30-day tourist visa issued upon arrival. We are free to enter the said country so just bring some valid supporting documents, such as return tickets and hotel booking confirmation to prove to their immigration that you’re just a tourist and intend to stay there for a short period of time. Based on my experienced, the I.O just me asked on how many days I’ll be staying in Maldives, why I was solo, and what hotels did I booked for my accommodations. She didn’t asked any of my papers.
Since Maldives is an archipelago, hopping to different islands is a must. For you to be able to do that, you need to ride speedboats, ferries or even seaplanes. Take note that if you book your accommodation to luxurious private islands, check the airport transfer arrangement because you need to know if they require you to ride a seaplane to get-in to this resorts; And mind you, the prices are hefty!
Since I arrived at Hulhumale (a small local island where the airport is situated), where I spent my first 2 nights, I used the Airport Bus to roam around the island. It has 2 bus stops from the airport and a single journey ride costs around 2$ or 20 MVR.
If you booked your accommodation at Male Island, you can take the ‘Airport Ferries’ or speedboats situated at the Airport Domestic Terminal at Hulhumale. The ferry ride costs only $1 and takes around 10-15 minutes while speedboat costs $2 and takes just around 5 minutes.
Take note the ferry schedules especially on Fridays because Maldives is an Islam nation and Friday is their ‘Prayer’ day.
PUBLIC FERRY SCHEDULE FROM HULHUMALE AIRPORT to MALE CITY and VICE VERSA
Every 10 minutes from 6:00am - 2:30am
Every 30 minutes from 2:30am - 4:00am
Every 15 minutes from 4:00am - 6:00am
Every Fridays, every 10 minutes from 6:00am-12:00am
Where to stay
If you’re a backpacker and saving money for your next travels, staying in luxurious private resorts in Maldives could totally kill your bank. Yes, I’m talking about the overwater bungalows or water villas that some cost almost P50,000 pesos per night! But good news, you could totally save your money from the said hefty price and instead book your accommodation in cheaper or budgeted hotels or guesthouses in different local islands in Maldives.
I found out that the islands in Maldives could either be ‘private’ or ‘public’. So basically, these ‘public’ islands offer cheaper and more affordable accommodations compare to exclusive ’private’ islands. Another difference between the two is the restrictions. Since again, Maldives is an Islamic nation, locals in ‘public’ islands are keenly observing and strictly following their religious practices. So, you cannot just drink any alcoholic beverages or swim in their local beach with your bikini. It’s not Boracay or Phuket. So respect their culture and respect the locals.
Hotel accommodations in local islands could cost you around P1,500 - P5,000 pesos per night. But if you’re into privacy and don’t mind spending to much in your Maldives trip (for honeymooners and Family trips), you might want to consider staying in an exclusive resort. While staying at a private island resort could charge you thousands of US dollars or Pesos per night, there are also cheaper and slightly more affordable private resorts which offer beach rooms that cost around P10,000 - P15,000 pesos per night.
Since I’m a ‘budget’ conscious traveller, I decided to booked my accommodation at Hotel Alaka in Maafushi Island.
Maafushi Island is a local island situated in South Male Atoll and became a tourism hub for the past years because of the activities you can do in the island and of course, the prices they offer. Also, I fell in-loved with the locals’ hospitality. They’re very friendly, very chill and very satisfied. They just love what they do. I just liked the way they lived; very simple, very relaxed and slow-paced.
To get there, you can either take a direct speedboat ride from the airport at Hulhumale (cost around $15-$25 and takes just 30-45 minutes ride) or take the public ferry from Male (cost $3 but takes 90 minutes trip). It’s cheaper to take the latter but it’s faster and more convenient to pick the former. Another thing, there are NO public ferry services on Fridays. I also noticed that ferry schedules change from time to time, so better ask the locals about the ferry schedules.
You may also consider booking your accommodations on some local islands that are also popular among tourists because of the affordable prices they offer. This are Thulusdhoo in Kaafu Atoll, Fulidhoo in Vaavu Atoll and Guiradhoo in Thaa Atoll.
You can check booking.com to see hotel rooms prices and availability.
Tours and Excursions
There are different tours and excursions you can do in Maldives, from snorkelling and diving to different reefs, have a buffet lunch in a secluded local island, and swim with rays, sharks, turtles and dolphins! Prices for a day tour or half-day tour would be around $20-$30.
Another thing you can do in Maldives is to have a day-tour excursion in luxurious private islands. A day-tour rate in a private resort usually costs $100-$200 all inclusive with boat transfers, buffet lunch and other non-motor activities such as kayaking, and paddle boarding. And of course, you could also have a picture for FREE with their most famous water villas that you usually see in social medias (though some resorts prohibit day-tour guests to walk around their water villas).
My Itinerary and Expenses
Here’s what I did during my 1 week stay in Maldives.
(NOTE: Exchange rate: 1usd = 51php )
12:40 ETD NAIA Terminal 3 - 16:40 ETA Kuala Lumpur (Transit for 2 hours)
18:55 ETD KLia 2 - 20:10 ETA Velena International Airport
Took Hulhumale-Airport Bus = $2
Check-in at AirBnb = P3,000 for 2 nights
TOTAL = 3,102php
Explored Hulhumale island = FREE
Meals = $11
TOTAL = 561PHP
Check-out at AirBnb
Brunch = $7
Hulhumale Bus to Hulhumale Ferry Terminal = $2
Hulhumale Ferry Terminal to Male = $2
Arrives at Male then took Taxi to Jetty 1/Maafushi Ferry = $2
Maafushi Public Ferry = $3
Arrived at Maafushi Island, Checked-in at Alaka = $122 for 4 nights
Dinner = $7
TOTAL = $145 x 51 = 7,395php
Breakfast at Harbour Cafe = $6
Full-day trip Excursion at CENTARA RAS FUSHI (All-in) = $145 c/i iCom Tours
Buffet Dinner at Maafushi = $10
TOTAL = $161 x 51 = 8,211php
Free Buffet Breakfast
Explored Maafushi island = FREE
Buffet Dinner at Arena Maafushi = $16
TOTAL = 816php
Free Buffet Breakfast
Lunch at Renahlihi = $7
Discover Scuba Diving = $75 c/o Maafushi Dive (OPTIONAL)
Buffet Dinner at Crystal Sands Maafushi = $15
TOTAL = $97 x 51 = 4,947php or 1,122php (No scuba diving)
Free Buffet Breakfast
Half-day Snorkelling = $25 c/o Salt Beach Hotel
16:40 Check-out at Alaka
Speedboat transfer from Maafushi to Hulhumale = $25 (OPTIONAL)
or Public Ferry from Maafushi to Male = $3 (Note the schedules)
TOTAL = $50 x 51 = 2,550php
GRAND TOTAL = P23,757
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT! This sums up my Maldives Journey! Actually you could lessen and make it more affordable! You just need to ask the locals, lessen your activities and plan well about your trip! Another thing, socialize with the locals, I mean, be with the community and get to know the culture! You might get freebies! Again, I just fell in-love with the island life in Maafushi and one thing for sure that I’m hoping I’ll be back soon in this paradise!
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