BACKPACKING IN THE MALDIVES
After our week in Abu Dhabi we decided that on arrival in Colombo we would do something backpackers very rarely do, attempt to backpack the Maldives. We had checked out where we could fly off to from Sri Lanka, amazingly we found that we could fly one way to Male for just under £50. This was such a bargain that after a bit of research on whether or not it could be done on a backpackers budget we decided to go for it.
We had heard that some of the islands had recently started opening guest houses and small family run hotels from as little as £15 a night, so it isn’t all 5* resorts after all . We will be sharing all of our money saving tips here and hope that people don’t shy away from this beautiful part of the world because of its expensive honeymoon status and hope to show that you can do it on a budget. G and I stole some luxury sun beds from the nice hotel next door earlier, thats tip number one! 😉
So from the top…
We got our cheap flights through china eastern airways. You fly direct to Male Airport which is on an island of its own. When you come out of the airport you grab the local ferry for $1 to the capital city of Male. Do not expect paradise here. It is a busy place and it doesn’t have any beaches. If you have a night flight you will normally need to do one night here as we did and therefore need to stay in a guesthouse preferably close to the port so you can get out fast the next day. We stayed at Off Day Inn which was a five minute walk from the dock.
Not the greatest guesthouse as there was a cockroach scurrying across our bed as we entered the room and I swear they had forgotten to put a mattress on our bed base it was that hard. Also what was annoying was that this place cost us more than what we eventually paid on the islands to come.
The next morning we grabbed the 10am ferry to Maafushi Island for 53 Rufiyaa, which was a pretty smooth 90 minute journey passing some beautiful islands with the little water beach huts you see in expensive holiday brochures.
Maafushi Island was a lot smaller than I expected which wasn’t a bad thing. It kind of reminded us of Holbox in Mexico; sandy streets and people riding round on push bikes and mopeds. The beaches are quite small but still absolutely stunning and the water is just next level blue, the island is lined with palm trees and is all together pretty green, you can walk from one end of the island to the other in around 10 minutes, there are a few resort islands close by that you can visit if you’re feeling in need of a bit of luxury.
The water actually gets clearer as you get further out, G swam out today for about 200 metres to check out the corals and fish and could still stand up. For obvious reasons I didn’t take my eyes off him the whole time. Will I ever forget that bloody drowning incident in Colombia?
The beach on Maafushi is small but pretty nonetheless. The sand is the purest white and so soft under your feet. There are sun loungers and hammocks available to use free of charge. The beach is lined with palm trees and there are lots of small hermit crabs scurrying around. There are some restaurants on the beach front you can buy food and drink from, you are also allowed to wear bikinis on the beach on Maafushi so no need to worry about covering up!
When we arrived we had a walk around the island to check the prices of some hotels, most of the bigger hotels on the beach front were £50 ($70) per night but as its off season you can haggle them down a little bit. After walking around for 10 minutes we found a hotel called Picnic Inn which was only £20 ($30) a night for a double room. It was fully booked on the day we arrived so we stayed around the corner at a new hotel called Horizon View for the same price.
Both Hotels are pretty basic but are kept clean and all rooms have wifi, air conditioning, a fridge and new towels and bedding are provided every day although their pillows are pretty shocking and this morning i actually woke up feeling like i’d been punched in the ear by Mike Tyson.
DAY TRIPS, SNORKELLING & WATER SPORTS
Picnic Inn and most other hotels let you use their snorkelling equipment free of charge so there’s no need to buy any or bring your own to the island, you can also book day trips and excursions through some of the hotels, we booked a trip through White Shell Hotel for £30 ($45) that took us snorkelling on the banana reef, around the big reef and for lunch on an uninhabited sand bank in the middle of the sea, they also took us for a ‘dolphin cruise’, sadly there were no dolphins but to our surprise we did see quite a lot of flying fish!
This was our amazing lunch spot.
The snorkelling trip was a great day out and we got to see lots beautiful coral, some colourful fish and even got up close and personal with a few sea turtles. It lasted from 10am until around 4pm and all drinks and food were included in the price.
Along the beach front there are plenty of places you can rent surfboards and paddle boards but if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous you can try your hand at wind surfing, waterskiing or jetskiing for as little as £15 ($20)
FOOD & DRINK
The food on Maafushi is a little boring to say the least. Breakfast was a complete washout and lunch and dinner had little to no difference whatsoever. It lacked a lot of variety once you had subtracted the inedible out of the equation. I have compiled a list of the places we found and quite liked but I will say this, try to stick to Maldivian food like curries and fried rice dishes as they really have not got a clue when it comes to western food. DO NOT order pizza or pasta for example they just haven’t grasped it. I didn’t like the taste of the chicken here so I stuck to fish, G however didn’t mind it so each to their own. All meals are around $7 so you won’t be spending a lot on food whilst here too which is good for the old bank balance.
We ate at stingray mostly which is a guest house and restaurant. Order the chicken fried rice or the dish curry. I had a fruit platter most evenings for dessert which was good. G had a strawberry milkshake which wasn’t fresh strawberries but did the trick for him.
Hot bites did a lovely fish and chicken curry. We ordered them both spicy and they didn’t disappoint. Always ask for your rice steaming hot it’s so much nicer and no getting sick. They also do the best fresh orange juice on the island. White Shell hotel on the beach also does a great tuna fried rice & Dhonveli Palm Beach View sells a huge bag of popcorn for 80p which is perfect to get before having a night in watching a film!
Breakfast was included at picnic inn but was pretty poor, i just stocked up on toast with butter and jam, we also bought lots of bananas and apples from the local shop to keep it healthy and cheap. Don’t come here expecting michelin star restaurants but if you check out the places above you’ll be sure to find at least a few tasty dishes.
Its the beginning of June so its rainy season in the Maldives. It doesn’t really get affected too badly by the monsoons that hit most of Asia this time of year, so far it has been 30+ degrees with about 6 hours of solid sunshine every day. It usually rains hard for roughly one hour a day, which leaves big puddles all over the island which will all be gone by the next day! Please don’t be put off because of the rainy season, you get better deals on hotels and day trips and the rain usually commences in the morning or evening so it doesn’t ever dampen your day.
So after our week in the Maldives we feel happy to recommend this to all types of travellers on any budget. Go and explore this beautiful paradise.
If you have any other questions feel free to ask and we will get back to you.
Check out our Maldives Photo Album to see all the pictures from our trip!