maldives on a budget boat
Maldives on a budget looks like this

Post updated February 2023

The catch is; that the Maldives is a luxury destination and you can’t afford it – or so you may believe.

Let me explain how you can visit the Maldives on a budget!

Essential information to know before you go:

  • The Maldives is an island nation in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The closest country is Sri Lanka (about 600 km).
  • There are over 100 resort islands, but only 5+ with independent accommodation available.
  • The Maldives’ official religion is Islam. It means that alcohol is forbidden, and you won’t be able to buy alcohol on local islands (the resorts-island offer alcohol). Women should also cover their shoulders and legs. Some local islands have a so-called “bikini zone” where tourists can sunbathe, usually separated by a fence. Ask if you’re not sure, and please do respect the local customs. You can wear a bikini if you’re heading to Picnic Island or snorkelling.

How to get to the Maldives on a budget

Getting to the Maldives on the cheap can be tricky. Forget your travel agent, forget your favourite airline; chances are the cheapest flights can be found online.

The best connection for Male, the capital of Maldives, is usually with Colombo in Sri Lanka (Sri Lankan Airlines) or Dubai (Emirates Airlines). I recommend using flight search engines such as Skyscanner or CheapOair.

You can view a whole week or month of flights to compare prices. If you are flying from anywhere in Asia or Australia/NZ, your cheapest options would be AirAsia to Sri Lanka and then a connecting flight to Male.

But the cheapest way to visit the Maldives on a budget is with the direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Male with AirAsia, starting at USD $80 each way!

They started flying in April 2022.

It’s essential to book a flight that arrives in Male in the morning so you can connect with an onward ferry to your island.

How to Visit the Maldives On a Budget - Palm tree on Maafushi island
How to Visit the Maldives On a Budget – Palm tree on Maafushi island

How to get around in the Maldives on a budget

The Maldives is an island nation formed from 26 atolls. Most luxury-focused tourists fly to the main island of Male and take either a speedboat ($150 – 300) or a private seaplane ($$$). However, it is possible to travel around the islands on a budget.

First, take the ferry from the airport to the main island, Male (USD 1, every 15 minutes, which takes about 20 minutes).

Then take a taxi ($5, 5 minutes) to the main port on the other side of this island (or walk 15-20minutes) and then take a ferry to your island ($2 – 4 per person).

For example, a ferry to Mafusshi Island takes 90 minutes and departs twice a day.

Where to stay in the Maldives on a budget

Only in 2009 did the Maldives government change the regulations, and locals can since then open up independent hotels/guesthouses on some islands.  So, if you want to stay in the Maldives on a budget, forget the resort islands; stay on a local island in a hotel or guesthouse.

Staying on a local island will also give you insights into the Maldives’ culture and people.

Think of it this way: Do you prefer to stay in a 5-star, all-inclusive resort when going on holiday without venturing out to see more about the country, city, people and culture? Probably not, so this is also an opportunity to see the real Maldives.

visit the maldives on a budget cafe
How to visit the Maldives on a budget? Follow my advice in this post!

Hotels and guesthouses start from just USD 30 per night

Affordable guesthouses/hotels are available on a few islands, starting at USD 30 per night for a twin or double room.

Usually, rooms include TV and A/C and hot water; the cheaper rooms might be less “fancy”. It depends on your priorities.

The best way to book a budget hotel or guesthouse in the Maldives is to check the following websites: Agoda (one of the best ones for hotels in Asia) and

Both list multiple choices and can help with selecting the “right” island for you.

I have personally stayed on a local island, Maafushi, which is home to about 2000 people. There are a few guesthouses/hotels available; it has a local supermarket, a few restaurants and a dive shop.

We stayed at the White Shell Beach Inn, which was lovely and had its “private bikini beach” and a restaurant. I highly recommend this island as it seemed to tick all our boxes.

Another beautiful property, Sunrise Beach, has been receiving excellent reviews. For the price, this hotel looks fabulous for the next time we visit Maafushi Island.

CHECK PRICES AND AVAILABILITY for all hotels on Maafushi Island

Other local islands include Mahibadoo, Huraa, Thulusdhoo and Guraidhoo.

Maldives - Our hotel - White Shell Inn with bikini beach
How to Visit the Maldives On a Budget – Our hotel – White Shell Inn with bikini beach

Where to eat in the Maldives on a budget

Most guesthouses and hotels include a decent breakfast that keeps you full until the afternoon. Lunch might be included if you’re doing excursions, snorkelling, or visiting a picnic island. There are usually a few small restaurants on the island, or you can eat at one of the hotel restaurants.

A typical meal would include fish: fish curry and rice, fish BBQ with rice and fried fish. It usually sets you back between USD 5-10.

The Maldives is also known for coconuts, so you might be lucky to taste them in some dishes.

Maldives on a budget - Maldives - Fulidhoo island
Maldives – Fulidhoo island

Things to do in the Maldives on a budget

The Maldives is home to some of the richest marine life in the world, and it’s a must for a visitor! Most guesthouses and hotels can organise excursions such as:

Snorkelling trips – usually involve a short boat trip to the reef, where you can snorkel. You get to see baby sharks, coral walls, many rays and fish. You won’t need a wetsuit as the water is warm. Prices start from $20, inclusive of snorkelling gear.

Excursion to Picnic Island – An unspoilt desert island visit is an incredible experience. You can spend a few hours on a pristine island with stunning white beaches and crystal-clear waters. The excursion often includes lunch that is brought with on the boat. It is a perfect opportunity for those fantastic photos you have been looking at while dreaming about the Maldives.

The price starts at USD 25 per person, including the island boat trip, fresh BBQ lunch, and some snorkelling time.

Fishing trip – A fishing trip can highlight your stay in the Maldives, as fishing is the primary industry here. The main fish would be tuna, barracuda and sailfish. Some hotels offer night fishing as well if you are feeling more adventurous.

Fishing trips from USD 25 – 40, depending on the group size.

Excursion to a resort island – If you want to see how the other half lives, you can visit a resort island to see what all the fuss is about. Prices range from USD 25 up to 150, depending on the package. You can still visit the Maldives on a budget and feel like a VIP.

The basic includes entry to the resort island; the most expensive option includes an all-inclusive pass with food and drinks included for the whole day at the resort.

Diving and dolphin cruises are also available. Please note that all excursions offered on local islands are usually a fraction of the cost compared to the package provided by resort islands. So again, you are saving!

Maldives on a budget - Amazing marine life
Maldives – Amazing marine life

Recommended Multi-Day Tours to Discover the Maldives

So the secret is out: you can visit the Maldives on a budget! Add it to your bucket list and get there before everyone else to enjoy the tranquillity.

Note: I visited the Maldives in 2014, and all information is based on my experience and some additional research. I’ve since updated this post in Feb 2023.