Most of us have seen a photo on Instagram or in a magazine of the Maldives. The villas on the crystal clear water. Those rooms start at $500 a night (not including resort fees, food, etc) and can run into the thousands. There is another budget friendly option, but is it worth it?
About the Maldives
The Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean. It is comprised of 26 natural atolls archipelago, which are made up of more than 1,000 islands and sandbanks on top of a underwater mountain range. All the islands are surrounded by crystal clear lagoons and beautiful reefs.
The people & culture
Maldivians have been shaped largely by Sri Lankans, Indians, Arabs and North Africans who visited the Maldives while passing through the trading routes of the central Indian Ocean. Maldivians speak Dhivehi which is a Indo-Aryan language but English is widely spoken among the locals. Islam is the state religion of the Maldives and they live under the Islamic law.
Our trip to the Maldives
We originally decided to visit the Maldives because we found decent tickets from Shanghai (we were living there at the time). We decided to go to the island Maafushi (1.5 hours from Male by ferry) because it was the only one that had “hotels” and was decently priced. Most of the islands are controlled by the resorts and charge ridiculous prices and fees. We stayed at the Shadow Palm Hotel. The hotel itself was okay, our room was not. We didn’t have a window to outside, We had a window with a curtain to the lobby. The room was always dark and it was easy to forget that we were on a tropical island while we were there. At the time, there was about 4-5 hotels to choose from. I am sure there are a few more now. After we settled in, we decided to walk around the island. It took about 15 minutes. There is a prison which takes up 1/5th the island. That was a surprise. The island seemed very undeveloped still. Most things being imported. There is a beach for the locals and the women will be covered because it is a Muslim country. There is one beach for the tourists called Bikini Beach. It is very small but beautiful. There wasn’t anything to do besides going to the beach. They did have excursions but we weren’t able to do any of them because they weren’t kid friendly. We thought we would be eating seafood every day on our trip. The reality was far from it. The fish would cost more than the chicken. Many days the 3 restaurants had only a few selections of food. The locals didn’t fish, they just waited for food to come from the main island. There was no “Maldivian” food. We ended up eating friend chicken and weird burgers for our whole stay. Some days they had fresh juice and other days there was none. I remember one day my husband asked for a coconut water. The guy said that there was no more left. Ironically, the trees were filled with coconuts but the locals wait until the coconuts fall off the tree. After about two days there, we were ready to leave and head back to China. I can honestly say this was the worst vacation we have gone on.
Why I recommend NOT going to the Maldives on a budget
- only one small beach
- nothing to do on the islands besides the beach
- the food isn’t good
- If you have a baby or toddler, you can’t do any of the activities
- no alcohol
- no culture
- woman should be covered and polite to the Muslim culture when not in private tourist areas
- Just starting to develop
Where to go to instead
- Philippines – Amazing beaches, friendly, cheap, good food
- Sri Lanka- has many things to do besides beaches, cheap, good food
- Bali- very developed, decent beaches, great place to relax, friendly, many things to do
- San Andres- nice beaches, cheap, good food, friendly
- Hawaii- easy to book, relaxing, many activities, pricey
- Caribbean- great beaches, easy to get there, take a cruise and visit many