Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Maldives without Breaking the Bank

Maldives sounds like such a nice and exotic place to visit. I've always told myself that I want to go there some day. It was only when I had to go to Sri Lanka for work did I realize how close Maldives was, and if I ever wanted to go there, this was as close as I was going to get. In other words, I had to do it... or I probably never would! 

I previously wrote about our Unforgettable Maldives Weekend, which you can read about here. In this post, I want to share the logistics on how we were able to pull-off a weekend in paradise without breaking the bank.

There were two lessons I learned in the whole exercise of planning and actually going to Maldives.

1. Maldives, also referred to as Paradise by the Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa, is Paradise for a reason. It is NOT accessible at ALL... So the first lesson that we realized over and over again was that Paradise was so exclusive, because it was bloody difficult, not to mention bloody expensive, to get there.  

2. If you want to go somewhere badly enough, you need to find a way... no matter how complicated, because there will always be a workable solution... You just need to find the happy balance between the solution and how much it's going to cost you.

Here are some facts and tips that may come in handy if you're planning to visit Maldives before the islands fully disappear.

The Republic of Maldives, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls. An atoll is a coral island (or islands) that encircles a lagoon partially or completely. Maldives has 1,192 islands with 200 of them inhibited. According to wikipedia it is the smallest Asia country in both population and land area. It is the planet's lowest country. The Maldives' forecast inundation is a great concern for the Maldivian people.

photo credit: Maldives Island Resorts

I believe that if you spend enough money and time to go to Maldives, you should experience the Maldives that you imagine in your dreams... and not settle for anything less. The problem with this is the Maldives that we dream of... is bloody expensive!!! 

To translate this in travelling terms, planning a trip to Maldives becomes complicated because after you google Airports in Maldives, and you come up with Malé International Airport, it becomes a complicated mess of options with an unbelievably cheap price tag that it's scary or an extremely expensive one that will scare you away. So here's the lowdown.

1.  Malé International Airport is on it's own island. It is across from Malé City.

View of the city from the runway

This means that when there is news of political rallies in Maldives, this is normally concentrated in Malé City. The airport and the resorts that are not in the main city are not affected by the political situation. (note: this was true for our visit, which took place at the height of the change in President, however, if there is still political instability when you plan to go, check the scenario and logistics with the resort you plan to stay in)

This also means that if you plan to stay in a hotel in Malé City, you will still need to take a ferry to get there. Based on the research I've done, ferries are quite frequent departing every 10-15 minutes costing US$1-2. The cheap hotels I mentioned, start from less than SG$100, and are located mainly in Malé City.

2. All the nice resorts that dreams are made of, have their own islands. Although there are some resorts are located in bigger islands.

view of one of the islands from the plane

This means that you will need to incorporate the price of your airport to resort transfer in the cost of your visit. The two modes of transport are speed boat and by sea plane.

The speed boat can take up to 2 hours and cost up to US$200 or more, one-way, if you choose a resort that is located far from the airport. 

The seaplane transfer can also cost as much. There are only four regional airports in Maldives, so I am guessing that unless your resort is on one of those islands, you will also need a boat transfer to get to your resort of choice. Another problem with the sea plane is that they can only fly during the day. If your flight arrives at night, you will need to find accommodation near the airport. If your flight arrives during the day, you might need to wait for the flight of other passengers to arrive. Since we flew in on a Friday night, I considered the option of staying in a cheap hotel near the airport on the first night, but the complication of reserving two hotels made me give up on this option! It's a real nightmare if you search through a booking engine like or since you put in the check-in and check-out date, it gives you a bloody expensive price for 2 nights, then you realize you can only stay one night, because you won't get a transfer until the next day... but then it can bring your average cost down if you manage to pull it off somehow.

The dot in the sky is a sea plane.

I'm glad we were able to find The Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa. The published rate of the hotel is around US$450-500 per night. I tried to book it using my Starwood Preferred Guest points, but I did not have enough points for even one night. Good thing, my friend was able to figure out that we could avail of the Points + Cash Scheme which gave us the room for US$150! This was a clear savings of US$300 a night. However, beware of the many taxes that they add to your room rate. There is a government tax, and a bed tax, and what felt like so many other taxes. But since it was only 15 minutes away from the airport, the speed boat transfer was only US$100 per person. Believe me, this is a steal, compared to all the other resorts I've found.

me in front of the sea villas
no, that's not the US$150 rooms
but a gold SPG card gets you an upgrade to a room with beach access

3. Maldives is quite accessible Sri Lanka. It is just a 50minute plane ride away. Emirates has a Colombo-Dubai flight that goes via Malé. Using Emirates miles to redeem a Colombo-Malé flight does not cost much in both miles and cash. A saver ticket redemption only required 9,500miles (It's the least number of miles required to redeem anything that I've seen to go anywhere I wanted to go!) and taxes only cost around LKR3.600. When I was doing the math, I think this was less than Php2000 or around SG$40!!! The airport transfer to the Taj Samudra hotel in Colombo is even more expensive than a return ticket to Maldives.

I actually convinced my friend to join me for the weekend because I told him I was treating him for the flight to Maldives if he got himself to Colombo oh, but I also used the It's my birthday card!. The Singapore-Colombo flight on Sri Lankan Airlines costs around SG$400 and takes three and a half hours. Sri Lankan Airlines also has frequent flights to Malé for around US$200 return.

If you have a lot of days to spare, you might want to consider stopping in Colombo. The shopping is awesome and you'll be able to buy a fridge magnet and say Been there, Done that. I have written numerous posts on things to do, buy and eat and Colombo so that should give you ideas.

4. The Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort and Spa has excellent customer service. Before our trip, they sent us an email to ask if we wanted to pre-book our lunch to avail of a special discount. The regular price for the lunch buffet is US$55, but because we pre-booked, we only had to pay US$35. This is before taxes of course. Since there was no free breakfast in our room package, I booked our lunch because I decided that we will be having brunch at noon instead! I brought so much snacks that I was sure we would have enough food before 'brunch' if we got hungry. Just take note that Maldives is a Muslim country, so they are very strict about not allowing anyone to bring in alcohol or food products with pork.  All the bags are scanned upon arrival. They took away the small bottle of wine I brought but they let me keep my Vienna Sausage. 

My survival kit!

 5. Since we already had buffet for brunch, we decided to go to a place where we could order a la carte for dinner. This was a good decision because we were able to order just the food that we wanted to eat.

We ate at sea salt, one of the restaurants in the resort.
You choose the food you want based on the fresh meat and seafood selection that they have,
then you agree with the chefs how you want it prepared.
Flavored sea salt on the table. 
You can use to season anything and everything.
Freshly baked bread with olive oil and flavored sea salt. yummmy.
You know that your dinner is expensive when it comes with a free amuse bouche.
Carnivore that I am, I went for lamb chops.
Tim went for the Tiger Prawns
I convinced him to order lobster too because I wanted to share.
The Tiger Prawn was bigger than the lobster!
The prawn was bigger than Tim's mouth!
They sell the seafood dishes by weight, so we asked them to plate the prawn and lobster separately so we could order six side dishes. Takaw Much, I know!
Dinner was also served with complimentary dessert.
I was very happy with our dinner.
Tim thought our dinner was cheap at US$150!

I loved our weekend in Paradise.

I loved our room with direct access to the beach.
Taken with orange filter.
I loved swimming with the fish and the shark in the turquoise sea!
and I loved soaking up the sun and enjoying the view.

Just in case you are curious, our hotel bill was a little bit over US$900 for a 2 night stay inclusive of all our food and round trip transfers. So, what I love most was that we enjoyed 2 days in paradise, in a place that I had in mind when I was dreaming of Maldives, without breaking the bank. Just Saying.


  1. Wow. What a great vacation! Hope I can do this as well...

  2. Thanks for posting this! Hahahaha! Noted!!! We'll take you up on your offer ha? May :-)

  3. A good blog always comes-up with new and exciting information and while reading I have feel that this blog is really have all those quality that qualify a blog to be a good one.
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