So yes, I did just book plane tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Malé, Maldives in April 2017; the cost was $467. I even splurged on meals and seat allocation. As they say – when in Rome…!
Now you are probably thinking what the F woman?! You said this blog was about “affordable family travel”, yet you are talking about the Maldives? Please bear with me – I promise it is budget travel! Plus I can show you how!
Personally, when I think of the Maldives, I think expensive, I think luxury, in my mind I see ridiculously-manicured-over-the-top-multinational-owned-resorts with little cultural value.
There are different types of travel no doubt! I get it. Been there many times! “Relaxation? Yes please! Here take my money!”. Jeez, I have been dreaming of visiting the Maldives for about 20 years. When you see pictures of the islands you can see why it such a popular destination. It really is breath taking. I mean come on!
The Maldives are located in the Indian Ocean. The archipelago is composed of 1192 islands. There are 185 ‘inhabited islands’ (locals live here), about 80 ‘uninhabited islands’ (resorts) and the other 900-or-so islands are left as nature intended. There are 26 geographically atolls but 20 administrative atolls. What the heck is an atoll you ask? I had to look it up. Here is what year 10 geology failed to teach me! It is essential a ring-shaped coral reef.
I digress. Each resort has its own island with foreign workers. So the only way to really meet a Maldivian, on an island other than Malé, is to go to an inhabited island! So that is what we are doing.
The dry season (December-April) is the best time to travel to the Maldives. So when I found cheap flights from KL to Malé I had to investigate further. I was then reminded of when I looked for honeymoon options. I found a nice resort – price of $1500 ($1100USD) – I thought “Yes that could work” until I realised that was per night price, not the total! Incidentally, we ended up going to Koh Samui, Thailand.
As each resorts has their own island, they have a monopoly on all price structures including transportation to and from the island. Many people will get a resort chartered boat for example ($200AU/$150US per way)! I would be looking at $1200 return for us! To save money there are private operators to negotiate a ride (~$85AU/$65US) or us the local ferry ($1.30-13AU/$1-10US). Food is an obvious necessity, resort often have all inclusive packages that are quite frankly outrageous. They charge like wounded bulls!
Until relatively recently tourists were unable to go to inhabited Maldivian islands. I read varying views on why this was the case. There was a level of protecting local people from the issues of tourism though. The ‘opening up’ of non-resort accommodation has enabled more affordable options. Given this amazing opportunity it is up to to tourists to be respectful of local customs and laws; particularly around modesty, behaviour and alcohol.
So where are we going? A small island in the Kaafu Atoll just north of Malé. I chose this island as I did not fancy 12 hours on a boat with 3 kids! The local ferry is called a Dhoni; by all accounts they are safe and efficient albeit ‘slow’. It will takes a very leisurely 4.5 hours to travel 85km. Although I might charter a boat. As yet I am undecided! For some things budget is not priority! Comfort and safety for example are non-negotiable.
Yes! Budget prices!
My accommodation aim next year is $30AU ($23US)/day; yearly budget of $11,000AU ($8330US). The accommodation in the Maldives is above my budget at $38/night. Luckily our condominium in KL is only $24/day. See.. swings and roundabouts! Other locations will have much cheaper rates – So I am all good!
We will be staying at an ‘Inn’. I chose an all inclusive package that included all food, drinks, activities, part-time nanny and transfers from Malé for $60AU ($46US) a day for all of us! Admittedly I was able to negotiate a lower rate due to length of stay and having small children.
Excluding flights the cost is $100AU($76US)/day or $25AU ($19US) per person. Including all flights the cost per day is $140 ($107US) for 4 people to stay in an amazing location. If I do charter a boat in the above, it will add ~$15AU($11US)/day depending on my negotiating skills. Even so, if I do say so myself – that is freaking amazing! The daily activities included choices of snorkeling, fishing, dolphin watching, tours, boating, island picnic and sunset cruise. The island also has a small school and some shops!
Visas are easy and free in the Maldives – a 30-day visa-on-arrival (VoA) is issued! All you need is the name of your accommodation and you are set. You can even get an extension for an additional 30 days with a sponsor.
The flights out were even cheaper than on the way in.
Can you guess where we plan to be in May? Hint: leopards!
P.S. I realised I have been saying it wrong my entire life – it is pronounced “Mal-deeves”