Affordable Luxury: How to Travel to the Maldives on a Budget

If you want to travel to the Maldives, cost is a major factor. The Maldives isn’t your typical backpacker’s destination. Located in the Indian Ocean, the remote, necklace-shaped string of islands is incredibly lavish. Travel to the Maldives can cost a fortune. This is why, for the most part, people who travel to the Maldives do so either on their honeymoons or after they’ve retired. Is it even possible to travel to the Maldives on a budget?

However, you don’t have to pay off your student loans and wait until retirement to experience this bucket-list destination. You don’t need to pay $1,500 per night to savor a Maldives vacation. Instead, you can travel to the Maldives more cost-effectively, paying less than $100 per night. How is that possible? By thoughtfully planning three aspects of your vacation, you can take your dream trip without sacrificing the luxury or your savings. 

This brings us to our first point of advice when it comes to traveling on a budget to the Maldives:

Maldives villa with orange beach chairs and pool out back facing the Indian Ocean

blue circle with white number 1 in middle Best places to stay in Maldives on a budget

Staying at one of the top luxury hotels in Maldives costs an average of $827 per night. And that can even be during the low season—from May to November. If you’re thinking about going during the holidays, you might want to take out a personal loan if you’re planning on staying at a resort. (That’s a joke, but not really.) 

Thankfully, tourists can eschew resort prices by choosing alternative places to stay. Now, the average 4-star hotel costs $256 per night. Three-star hotels are still terrific, especially with an average cost of $98 per night. And, if you forego the resort or hotel altogether, you can find even more affordable prices. 

Guesthouses

There are many local websites with guesthouse listings, with the most well-known being Guesthouses in Maldives. For the most part, the listings on this site are family-run businesses. The average price for a guesthouse is $80. And since the Maldives economy relies so heavily on tourism, many guesthouse operators are former employees of the islands’ larger resorts. This means that the customer service and hospitality that come with the guesthouse experience are still incredible. 

Airbnbs

Airbnb has hundreds of vacation houses and beachfront rentals in the Maldives as well. We’ve spotted some listings as low as $35 for a private room with breakfast included. However, you’ll want to be aware of the cancellation policies –some can be pretty strict. That’s a big reason we recommend insuring your Airbnb with travel insurance

The second most expensive aspect of vacationing in the Maldives is local travel once you get there. Most of the resorts are far away from the capital city Malé, which itself is on a separate island from the isolated one that travelers fly into when traveling to the Maldives. 

aerial shot of speedboats in Male, Maldives circling a luxury deck

blue circle with white number 2 in the middle Save money on Maldives transportation costs

Because the Maldives is a string of islands, you’ll need transportation to island hop. You have four options: local ferry, “local” speedboat, private speedboat, and seaplane. What transportation method you choose can break the bank or save you hundreds of dollars.

Spoiler alert: Taking the ferry is your cheapest option to travel to the Maldives on a budget, yet it’s also the most inconvenient. The opposite is true for seaplanes: they are the most luxurious and convenient, yet most expensive option. 

Geena at Beyond the Bucketlist lays out her personal travels in the Maldives and demystifies the (sometimes confusing) options for island hopping. This section includes some of her travel tips.

Local Ferry

If your heart is set on staying in more remote areas and you want to travel to Maldives more cost-effectively, taking the public ferry is a must. Using the Maldives’ network of public ferries to get where you need to go will allow you to see more of the island scenery without breaking the bank. 

Though obviously less convenient, a public ferry starts at $2 per person to get from the airport island to the capital. From there, the price depends on how far you’re going, but you’ll never pay more than $30.

Another important note about the ferries: Not all of them run every day. You’ll need to get familiar with the schedules and plan accordingly. Don’t book your flights without first checking to see when the ferry you’d need to be on leaves from Malé. 

Even if you plan everything perfectly, things can still go wrong. Delayed or canceled flights aren’t the end of the world, but in the Maldives, every moment is precious. To that end, travel insurance is a must. Even the shortest of delays from Sri Lanka to Malé could cause you to miss your ferry. This could force you to find last-minute accommodations on the island — and average hotel prices in Malé are $333. 

Pro Tip: To avoid these unexpected travel costs, you’ll want a travel insurance plan with travel emergency coverage and robust travel delay benefits.

“Local” Speedboat

Running about twice a day, this transportation method is quicker and a good fallback plan if you happen to miss the ferry. It costs about $35+ per person. However, they don’t run everywhere, and they are tied to a tight schedule. 

Private Speedboat

This is where travel starts to get expensive. Although you can hire a private speedboat at any time to take you where you need to go, it can cost about $150+ for a one-way ride, depending on the distance. Some hotels can also arrange to have one pick you up from the airport–likely for an additional fee.

Seaplane

Taking a seaplane to travel the Maldives is not cost-friendly. However, it’s worth mentioning because this is the only way to get to some of the private resorts in faraway islands. Choosing where you stay really matters in your total trip cost. A one-person, one-way trip on a seaplane can cost as much as $750. (Yikes. Might as well fly home after paying that price.)

Pro tip: Make sure you schedule all your transportation in advance because there are no options to book transfers once you land at the airport at Malé.

Learning about the inter-island travel options, there’s another way you can easily save money and travel to the Maldives on a budget:

blue circle with the white number 3 in the middle Cheaper accommodations near Malé, Maldives

If you decide to go the resort route, there are hundreds of options across the Maldives. Each one is as stunning as the next. In fact, when you do a Google search for the Maldives, most of the results are advertisements for all-inclusive packages and hotel deals. 

However, before you choose your accommodations, it’s important to understand that the farther a resort is from Malé, the more it will cost to get there. 

Most people staying on faraway islands travel to their destinations either by speedboat or seaplane. Remember how expensive those tickets are? So, whether you choose to stay in a resort or a guesthouse, staying closer to Malé will offer cheap transportation choices and shorter travel times. 

Our final recommendation to travel to the Maldives on a budget is one you can feel good about:

sea turtle resting on a coral reef under the ocean

blue outline of arrow pointing right BONUS: Take a volunteer trip to the Maldives

If you want to travel to Maldives on a budget, why not consider giving back during your time away? An average volunteer trip to the Maldives costs about $1,000, which is much less than what a trip you plan on your own would cost for the same amount of time. And if you’re a marine biology nerd, we can’t recommend this route enough. Several volunteer opportunities focus on ocean life and reef conservation. Excursions often range from 2 to 12 weeks. Many will include lodging, food, transportation among the islands, and pre-planned activities like snorkeling, surfing – even scuba diving! 

Plus, you’d get to feed baby sea turtles, which is what we call a win-win. However, if sea turtles aren’t your thing, you can find other volunteer trips related to education, community development, or medicine. 

Here are a few places you can find volunteer trips to the Maldives:


Ready to book that vacation to the Maldives? Check out this first-timers guide to a perfect vacation. Then while you’re at it, you can find a travel insurance policy to cover your initial trip deposits.

Kate's authoritative voice in travel writing is backed by years of extensive travel experience, allowing her to infuse her writing with the tips and tricks she has gathered over time. This wealth of experience enhances her ability to write authoritatively on travel-related topics.

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