The country of the Maldives, situated in the Indian Ocean, south-southwest of the Indian coast, with over 1900 islands, so well known for its luxury resorts, since the last couple of years, also becoming known as a destination for lower budget and backpackers. Guesthouses on some of the larger islands with a small village, are offering an affordable way to explore the country. I thought it was as well far more interesting to be on the islands with the experience of interact with the locals and given an insight into real life on the Maldives, which you do not get in the luxury resorts, which are fully isolated from the rest of the country.
It is true many new guest houses are being created as we speak, so it might be less charming in a few years from now, but I really had a great time. Let me explain why I ended up in the Maldives to start with...same reason for when I first arrived in Sri Lanka a few months earlier, I needed to leave India for my visa. So again the choice, only go out for one night or take advantage of it and choose a destination where I could stay for a couple of nights? Easy choice!! Direct 90 minutes flight from Kochi in India with GoAir to Malé Airport, from there with a taxi-speedboat to the Island of Maafushi, part of the Kaafu Atoll where I had booked a guesthouse which I found on Booking.com
The destination was already for long on my list and from the moment we arrived above the country, from the airplane you get a clear sight on the double chain of the atolls. The lower the airplane got, the more clear it was of how turquoise blue the water is and how white the sand underneath. Dream coming true? Definitely!! Landing in Malé, smoother than smooth, with only my carry on bag going through custom, visa stamp upon arrival. Outside very simple to get a taxi speedboat (for about 25$). You can exchange USD and Euro easy at the airport, USD are as well accepted as local currency, always good to know. The ride on the boat to Maafushi Island was so chill, took roughly one hour. There is a maximum of 20 people on the boat, and it makes a few stops on the way to people on the different locations. The diversity was big, one young couple was from India, on a second honeymoon trip. Another couple from Israel traveling with their son from 9 years old, they were more backpacking. Another family of parents and grown up children who were on a diving trip, and who were going to different islands over two weeks time…
A little history
Tourism is generally new, with the first resort opening in 1973. Until a few years ago, the only way to go on holiday to the Maldives, was via the expensive and beautiful island resorts. A few years ago the government decided to allow guesthouses to open on the local islands, and give tourist an insight into Maldivian live. So a little advise on the side, sometimes the locals can remain somewhat shy but curious, predominantly with the older people. The country is muslim, so be mindful, especially as a woman, to cover the shoulders and not to walk around in a bikini. There are designated areas where you can go to the beach in bathing suits, but when wondering of in the village, it is requested to where appropriate clothing. But! All the people were so friendly and helpful, happy to chat where you are from, giving advice of where to go for a day tour snorkeling or swimming.
The room with breakfast at the Reyva Inn which I had found on Booking.com (use this link to receive a discount) was including taxes 40$ a night. Very clean, good bed, shower and AC. For lunch, sometimes I just bought some fruit and other things at the local stores. In the evening I went to joint the buffet at the Arena Beach for 12$, where the food was very good, drinks are extra. If you are a vegan, the Maldives can be a little more challenging, but I am sure you would be able to manage:).
Activities to do, depending on what you are planning on, but average was 15$ per day. Only taking a boat to a neighbouring island was 5$ per person, I really enjoyed Gulhi Beach which was 10 minutes away. An full day out to go snorkeling including boat transfer, lunch and island visit is around 25$. Next time I will definitely go longer for the opportunity to go diving, they have day-trips and courses, this can fir into your preference of budget.
When I am traveling in this part of Asia, to book my flights I prefer using Cleartrip or Yatra. Fo researching guesthouses, so far Booking.com has been my preference or the site HotelsCombined. Alternatively, you can definitely find some good accommodation on AirBnb, use this link to get $25 off your first stay.