Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Maldives for the filthy thrifty traveller

I am awaiting my landing in Manila as I write this post; We have just completed our trip to Maldives.

As I have posted in my fb status a while ago, Maldives doesn't seem to fit the trip of an adventurer, but rather holiday seekers. Then again, with the beauty of its beaches, it is still a great place to check out.

After 6days (inclusive of 2 nights in KL for the connecting trip from Manila-KL-MNL), I spent a little less than P15,000 for the whole trip (about $340 including some $60 shopping in KL). This must be very tight, but for travellers like me, this is almost outrageous already.

Here's how to keep the budget low in Maldives.

Currency: There are money changers in the airport at 15MVR=$1, but it's best to change only what is needed til you get to Male. In Male, money changers deal at 15.42MVR to a USD.

From the Ibrahim Nasir airport in Male, take the public ferry to Male. Cost is 15MVR or the equivalent of 1USD$.

If Maafushi is in the itinerary, it will be best to do this ahead as the ferry to the island is only once a day. Departure time is 3pm, and cost is 22MVR. 

You risk missing your flight back in case you leave/miss the trip back to Male on ur final day in Maldives. The boat leaves maafushi early 7:30am daily (except fridays where there are no boat schedules). Passengers also flock at some days, like saturday, so mindful of being in the ferry station ahead of even 7am.

The terminal to Maafushi is on another side of the island in the Vilingili Terminal (called so because it is right opposite vilingili island). You may either walk (about 0.5-1hr walk) or if you're ok paying for cab, it will be 25MVR (some would ask for 30MVR and may ask for more if there are bulk baggages). Motorcycles are also very common as it is a very small island, with quite narrow roads. I think the ratio is almost 1 motorbike for every maldivian. In case you're that much into savings, you can approach some riders and ask to be dropped. 

If you're travelling in group, you may also want to haggle on these pick up vans that are for public commute too. For our group, we paid 40 mvr from vilinggili port to hulhumale port.

Accomodations in Maafushi normally cost US$75 a night (exclusive of the service charge, 8% GST, and US$8/pax/night bed tax). Don't be surprised if after getting your bill, you realize you are 30% more from what you thought of paying. In my case, i did a pre-booking as I thought I might be asked in Immigration (but wasn't). I booked at Picnic Inn at US$190 per triple room for 3days2nights (surcharges exclusive) and it came with breakfast and 1 time candlelit beachfront dinner on our first night. Also, When we arrived, instead of lodging in Picnic Inn, we were brought instead to a newer resort called Water breeze (said to be owned by Picnic Inn too). It has only 5 rooms, so we had it all to ourselves.

We also thought of camping instead (as we could see that the bulk of our expenses is actually on accomodation and bed tax) but our resource persons could not confirm if it is possible. Apparently, it seems it is OK. There is a public area for visitors in Maafushi, and there don't seem to be any restriction. The other venue for good camping is picnic island. This used to be a private island but has been abandoned and sold to another. They now allow trips to this island for $5/pax. 

Talking about trips, as we are in a huge group of 12pax, we managed to get our island hop tour (picnic island and sexy beach with lunch) for $25 per pax (exclusive of $5 entrance to picnic island). We got this from Arena Lodge (where 2 from our group of 12 are booked).

Talking food, apart from the meals provided in the hotel, you may be spending around $3- or more. 

From our arrival in Vilingili port, we went straight to Vilingili island. The fare to this island is 3.50MVR.  The only accomodation available in this island is SEAHOUSE. They have 3 public beaches with the one with watersports being the best i've seen. Windsurfing was at $35 per hour for a lesson, and $120 to rent a jetski. There's no public transpo in the island because it is very small.

For our 3rd night, we booked at Luckyhiya hotel. It seems this is the cheapest hotel in the city. We were actually thinking about cancelling our reservations in Male, and sleep instead in hulhumale but we were afraid that we may not be able to find a vacancy. It turned out there are a lot of options, and cheaper rooms in Hulhumale at $46 per night for triple sharing inclusive of taxes. Meanwhile, for those who'd rather stay in Male, i've encountered some ads for daily room rentals. 

Ferries to Hulhumale are available overnight, every 15mins. Fare is 5.50MVR per way. In Hulhumale, there is a bus that goes to the neighborhood but destinations are walkable.

Hulhumale will also be very convenient as it is only a bus away from airport. A bridge has been made connecting the island to the airport.

Amongst the islands we visited, it seems Hulhumale is the most developed. Commerce may be in Male, but Hulhumale looks quite organized.

Recommended ITI for 4Days 3 Nights 

Day 1: Arrival before 3pm, and Ferry Ride to Maafushi
Day 2: Island Hop to Picnic Inn, and Sexy Beach
Day 3: Trip back to Male (vilingili) and side trip to Vilingili island. Take Ferry and trip  to Hulhumale around after noon.
Day 4: Hulhumale and departure

You may want to add up more days, perhaps, 6days 5N to be able to enjoy the islands.

see here for some photos of a typical menu in the Maafushi island

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