The Maldives is a pristine, highly sought-after destination for all types of travelers. While it caters to couples looking to relax on a honeymoon or holiday, it does have its share of family-friendly and adventure-seeking destinations. Having visited a handful of the Maldivian islands over the past few years, here is an essential list of how to maximize your value from this fantastic destination.
Booking a round trip airfare to the Maldives can be unusually cheap
Many airlines that fly to Male (IATA: MLE) have 21-day advance purchase and 7-day trip minimums that discount a round trip flight from the USA to the Maldives for well under $1,000 per person. Flexibility is key to seeking these phenomenal rates (Hint: Look for flights from airports where European air carriers operate).
It’s essential to understand why most airlines discount the airfare; it gets foreign money in the country for as long as possible; In their eyes, you’re going to spend money (in some form) for lodging, food, and shopping somewhere in the country.
Choose your resort wisely
The Maldives is a collection of Atolls spread across many hundreds of miles/kilometers. Male is the most populous and resembles a small, densely populated city. The surrounded Atolls are home to (typically) one resort per island designed to keep you busy’ish during your stay and money flowing from your bank into theirs.
The main attraction in the Maldives is their fabulous overwater bungalows. If you can afford them, I highly recommend them; however, pay close attention to the amenities available at the resort (both paid and free). Spending multiple days at a small resort property with limited activities can turn fun into boredom pretty quickly.
Be prepared for lots of extra charges
Unfortunately, unless you’re staying on Male in the city, nothing is nearby, and you’re a captive audience at your resort. In the most simplistic terms, think of a cruise ship, if you didn’t bring it with you, it’s available for purchase at a pretty steep mark up (Can of soda $6, mixed drinks/beer $15+, Breakfast/Lunch $24-45 per person per day, Dinner 40+ per person per day).
- Didn’t bring sunscreen? It’s available for a ridiculous mark-up.
- Want to go snorkling, but didn’t bring your gear? Yep, that’s available, for a fee.
- Sunset cruise or learn how to dive? Yep, that’s available too, just be prepaired for sticker-shock!
What I can’t stress enough is to carefully check your hotel amenities, activities and add-on fees. Some will include breakfast or free soda, but others may not. Understanding your total daily charges and how much the extras cost is vital to ensuring you don’t go over your budget.
Get ready for another flight once you land
Unless you’re staying in the city or at a resort extremely close to the capital island, you’re likely going to have to hop on an inter-island transport flight to get to your destination. Most of the aircraft fleet takes off and lands on the water. If you’ve never been on one of these before, or if you have anxiety of flying – this is going to be a unique experience for you (to say the least).
In addition to the experience, your resort has probably coordinated your transfer from the international airport, which comes at a very steep round trip fee (typically around USD $500 per person), which will be graciously included in your hotel bill before you’ve even arrived.
There are some very nice resorts near the capital island that have free boat transfer. If you’re cost concious, i’d strongly recommend looking at those properties.
The hidden surprises of overwater bungalows
Most visitors want to experiecne the overwater bungalows and you should! They are pretty amazing; however, there’s a few unexpected surprises you should know about:
- If you’re a light sleeper (like me), at high tide, you’ll hear the ocean waves crashing into the pillars under the room. It’s not horrible, but did wake me up a few times when the ocean was really choppy.
- Typically, the bungalows are built near reefs or areas that are naturally beautiful, meaning you’ll have a long walk to/from your room when you want to venture out.
How to maximize the value of a trip to the Maldives
- Find the cheapest flights meeting the advanced purchase and minimum stay durations.
- Never pay for the hotel room. Accumulate and use hotel points with the brand you’d like to stay at. Maximize point earnings with credit card spending or accelerators to bring down or eliminate out-of-pocket expenditures. It may take some time to accomplish this task, but overwater bungalows can easily exceed USD $1,000+ per night.
- Leverage loyalty status with your hotel chain. They are known to upgrade mid-tier and above to overwater rooms based on occupancy and availability.
- Let the reservations agent know if there’s a special occasion (Honeymoon, anniversary, etc.)! Even if they can’t upgrade your room, they’ll throw in a nice bottle of champagne or do something special for you.
You absolutely should vist the Maldives – it is gorgeous. In summary, the most crucial piece of information is to understand that the flight and room rate are designed to get you to book the trip! Doing your dilligence ahead of time will minimize the sticker-shock of a trip to paradise.