Why Is The Maldives So Expensive? How To Visit For Less

Why Is the Maldives expensive?
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The Maldives are one of the most exclusive holiday locations on the planet. A collection of islands and atolls scattered across a stretch of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is one of the smallest countries in Asia and also one of the world’s most expensive holiday destinations.

Since tourism took off in the Maldives in the early 1970s the chain of islands has seen a huge boom in international visitors. Today tourism is the Maldives’ biggest industry and is by far the country’s main source of income. Many of the Maldives’ islands are solely occupied by luxury resorts, where a tropical island paradise is combined with the five-star treatment.

So just why is the Maldives so expensive? Well, unfortunately luxury tends to cost a lot of money. Here’s everything you need to know about how much cash you’ll need to splash on a trip to the Maldives, as well as a few ways to save a fair bit of money.

Why is a Holiday to the Maldives So Expensive?

A luxury resort in the Maldives
Mike Swigunski via Unsplash

There are several reasons why a holiday to the Maldives is so expensive. Firstly, the Maldives are pretty remote, and getting to the country is not exactly a walk in the park. For most travelers, reaching the Maldives will require at least one transfer along the way. Plus, when you land in the Maldives you arrive in Malé, which is unlikely to be the island that you’re staying on. This means that there’s more than likely to be another transfer to your final destination, either by speedboat or by seaplane. Just getting to the Maldives is going to cost a chunk of cash.

Secondly, the Maldives is a luxury destination and this is reflected in the type of accommodation you’ll find on the islands. A good chunk of the accommodation available in the Maldives is made up of high-end resorts. These resorts are an experience as much as a place to stay, often located on a single island in an unimaginably beautiful setting, and coupled with incredibly high levels of luxury and service. Needless to say, enjoying such pampered service on your own private paradise does not come cheap.

Another reason why costs are high in the Maldives is that almost everything is imported. Many of the ingredients for those breakfast buffets and cocktails overlooking the ocean will have made a similar journey to you. Sourcing such premium goods costs money too and that cost, plus a significant markup, are passed on to the resort’s guests.

How Much is a Holiday to the Maldives?

A woman on a beach in the Maldives
Mohamed Nashah via Unsplash

If you’re planning on visiting a resort in the Maldives then prepare to part with a large amount of money. Before even considering typical holiday expenses such as eating out or activities, the bare bones of the holiday (i.e. getting there and somewhere to stay) are going to set you back. There are a variety of resorts available in the Maldives that range from expensive to incredibly expensive.

The cost of a package deal for two travelers sharing a room for a week in one of the Maldives’ resorts will typically come in somewhere between $1500 to $6000 per person. This cost does include all flights and accommodation in the Maldives for the week. If you choose to stay at one of the most luxurious (meaning expensive) resorts in the Maldives a basic package for a week-long stay including flights can easily come in at over $13,000 per person.

Of course, that total cost can easily sky-rocket even further. If you decide to upgrade your flights from economy class or upgrade your room or villa at the resort then the final cost can end up being a lot higher.

Some resorts also offer half-board, full-board and all-inclusive deals, meaning that some or all of your meals will be taken care of, but at a significant additional cost.

Depending on the resort, adding an all-inclusive option to your stay can easily add an extra $700 to $3000 to the total cost of the holiday. If you’re staying at a resort, adding an all-inclusive option does make sense despite the additional cost. There is usually very little choice on most resort islands besides their own restaurants. If you don’t take the all-inclusive option you’ll most likely end up eating in the resort’s onsite restaurants anyway and paying far more for it than if you choose to go with the all-inclusive package.

You’ll also need to factor in the cost of the transfer from the airport to your hotel. Again, the total cost of airport transfers will vary depending on the resort and the journey. Transfers to some resorts can be made by speedboat whilst others further away from the Maldives’ main airport in Malé are made by seaplane. All resort hotels can arrange transfers, which you can expect to cost somewhere in the region of $100 to $500 for a round trip per person. When you add it all up you can see why the Maldives is so expensive.

How Much Should I Budget For a Trip to the Maldives?

Scuba diving in the Maldives
Sebastian Pena Lambarri via Unsplash

Besides the cost of travel and accommodation, and assuming that you’ve taken up the all-inclusive deal, you’ll also need to set aside some extra money for extra activities and excursions you might want to do during your trip.

Typically the Maldives are largely a place to go for a large dose of R & R so it’s unlikely that you’ll be heading out on daily shopping sprees. Instead, you’ll most likely be tempted by the wonders of the ocean. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and fishing in the Maldives’ tropical waters are amongst the most popular activities here.

A scuba diving trip in the Maldives can cost between $90 to $150 per person. A snorkeling session is a little less, typically around $50 to $80 per person. Include around $300 per person in your budget for any activities such as scuba diving whilst on holiday in the Maldives.

The cost of getting to and from other islands also needs to be factored in to your budget too. Whilst there is a cheap ferry service that runs between the inhabited islands of the Maldives, it is far from reliable. Ferries are often delayed or even canceled, plus they do not stop at resort islands.

The most effective way to travel between islands is by private speedboat or for further trips by seaplane. Neither of these modes of transport are cheap and many people staying in a resort tend to limit themselves to only two or three trips to other islands in order to keep costs down.

A journey by speedboat is usually around $100 per person per trip. Seaplanes are far more expensive and you can expect to pay at least $500 per person per trip if you choose to travel this way. If you plan to take two trips out to explore other islands during the course of your holiday, add around $400 per person for transportation, assuming you’re traveling by speedboat.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that most resort’s all-inclusive packages only include food and does not include the cost of alcohol. Drinks in the Maldives are not cheap, thanks mostly to the country’s 22% tax on alcohol. If you plan on having drinks in your resort allow extra in your budget.

On most resorts, a beer costs $10 to $15, whilst cocktails usually start from $20. If you’d like a tipple to go with your taste of paradise we’d suggest allowing for a budget of around $200 for drinks for a week in the Maldives. Adding everything up we’d suggest budgeting at least an extra $900 per person on to the cost of a week-long trip to the Maldives. Bear in mind that this is only a conservative estimate. You can easily spend a whole lot more than this in the Maldives if you so desire.

When is the Cheapest Time to Visit the Maldives?

A beach in the Maldives
Shai Pal via Unsplash

The Maldives has two distinct weather seasons, a dry season and a rainy season. The rainy season runs from May to October and this is when you’re likely to find cheaper deals on packages to the Maldives. Don’t expect to find a huge bargain as the Maldives is always pricey no matter what the time of year. But compared with the Maldives’ peak tourist season, from November to April, prices are typically a little lower on the whole. The downside is that there is a lot more rain at this time of year. Storms are much more frequent, though they usually happen at night. Some days can be grey and cloudy though temperatures are still high and most days are still clear and sunny.

How Much is Food in the Maldives?

Dining on the beach in the Maldives
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The cost of food in the Maldives varies greatly depending on where you eat. In any of the resorts, assuming you haven’t taken the all-inclusive option, a meal in an on-site restaurant is going to be very expensive. Most resorts will have a selection of two or three restaurants. These will range from laid-back casual dining spots to incredibly high-end restaurants that specialize in haute cuisine. In the more casual restaurants, a simple meal such as pizza can cost around $15 to $20. At a resort’s most expensive restaurants you can expect a meal to start at around $100 per person. Of course, as with most things in the Maldives you can pay way more than this depending on what you eat.

Yet if you want to spend a lot less on food in the Maldives then you can head to practically any restaurant on any of the inhabited islands. At these restaurants you’ll find food priced at real-world prices, rather than luxury resort prices. On Malé, for example, you can find a wide variety of restaurants that serve local Maldivian cuisine, as well as regional and international food, with a typical meal costing around $10 per person. If you’re looking to save a sizeable amount of money on food during your trip to the Maldives, dining in restaurants on any of the inhabited islands away from the resorts is the way to do it.

Is There Anywhere to Stay in the Maldives For Cheap?

A beach in the Maldives
Hussain Faruhaan via Unsplash

And if you’re looking to save even more money on a holiday in the Maldives the good news is you don’t have to spend a fortune staying in a resort. There are a great number of affordable hotels to be found on the Maldives’ main inhabited islands, particularly on Malé. Also, in 2009 the government of the Maldives declared that local people were allowed to open guesthouses on the inhabited islands. This change in the law has led to the Maldives being far more affordable for many visitors. A week-long stay in a guesthouse can easily cost less than a single night in one of the resorts.

Staying in a guesthouse may mean you miss out on experiencing the ultimate lap of luxury but it does make visiting the Maldives much more affordable. Staying at a guesthouse can cost as little as $30 a night, and with such a huge saving to be made it means that you can probably afford a much longer stay in the Maldives than you might have thought possible. The kind of independent travel to the Maldives that the guesthouses cater for is still in its infancy, and though the accommodation they offer is a far cry from what’s on offer in the resorts you can still expect a very good level of comfort and mod cons such as Wi-Fi and air-conditioned rooms as well as breakfast included. One top tip is to stay in a guesthouse for the majority of your trip to the Maldives and splurge on a resort for the last day or two.

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