It was not difficult to perceive with my eyes why Maldives is a favorite tourist destination when I set foot and experienced this archipelago dispersed on the vast Indian Ocean. With its powdery white sand, crystal clear turquoise waters, and diversified marine life, Maldives is truly beyond comparison. It is not only for those who have the heart for beaches but for everyone who seeks relaxation and comfort. Maldivians know very well how to entertain and pamper their guests which is why visitors keep on coming back.
Maldives is situated in the southwestern tip of India and Sri Lanka consisting roughly of 1192 tiny coral islands where only 200 of which are inhabited. Moving between islands requires ferry boats where the public ferries though infrequent, is the cheapest mode of transportation. Private ferries and speedboats are also available. There are also domestic flights offered by Flyme and Maldivian Airlines which provides a faster transfer and wonderful scenic view of the atolls from the top. You could also charter seaplanes which will transport you directly to the resorts. However, air transfers are quite expensive and would sometimes cost you more than a two-night stay on a resort.
Through the years, Maldives has been known as a luxury destination where a number of exclusive resorts have been alluring guests with its water bungalows, stylish amenities, superior spa services, and of course the multi-cuisine restaurants. However, while this extravagant reputation of Maldives has been retained up to the present, it has also open doors to budget travelers. In these past few years, this tropical island has opened budget accommodations and guesthouses for backpackers in search for real island adventure and at the same time get in touch with Maldivian culture and traditions.
Planning Your Maldives Holiday
Entry to Maldives would never be a problem since all nationalities will be granted a 30-day visa on arrival upon providing a valid travel document, a return ticket, and a confirmed hotel reservation. Once you plan to spend your holidays in Maldives, you have 2 options: a budget trip or a luxurious vacation. Whichever you choose, it will not limit you to discover the natural beauty of its islands and its underwater paradise.
With my first visit in this famous tropical destination, it took a while before deciding which of the two options to pick. Well, if you’re not a budget conscious traveler, no need to think twice. There is a long list of private five star resorts to choose from offering a variety of services and amenities. It took me several days to look for my choice of hotel in booking.com and agoda.com. I have been considering the price at first where the cheapest would range from USD 35 to 50 per night. In booking hotels, always take note of those exclusions on the price displayed. Usually the VAT, property service charge and environmental fees are not yet added on the price. The hotels usually arrange the transfers from Velana International Airport, where additional transfer fees will be charge. However, there are few hotels near the airport that offer free transfers. Hotel accommodations and guesthouses also have board options: breakfast only, half board, full board, or all-inclusive where the price of course varies.
If you opted for budget accommodations, the amenities may be limited but they do offer daily tours and excursions where the cost is more reasonable than that of the private resorts. The activities would include: fishing, snorkeling, dolphin watching, sand bar visit, island hopping, and watersports. The price per activity would range from USD 40 to 100 per person. Once you book your hotel, you could ask for the pricelist of the activities they offer so that you could make your budget ready beforehand. Budget hotels could also arrange for a full day visit to a five-star island resort if you are interested. The price would range from USD 100 to 200 for the whole day visit where you could make use of its amenities and enjoy a buffet lunch.
However, since the Maldives is an Islamic country, alcohol is prohibited in the inhabited islands. So, if you love to drink liquor and wine, it is only allowed in private resorts. Bringing alcohol into and out of the country is also not permitted. Also, staying on a local island requires dressing modestly where the shoulders and knees should be covered. Once you decided to stay on guesthouses, don’t forget to ask for the dress code to avoid disrespect to local customs..
My Maldives Experience
After booking a budget hotel in Male City, the capital of Maldives, I cancelled my reservation few days before my arrival and opted for an island resort. After all, I want to experience that comfort and convenience of staying on an isolated island resort. I booked my stay in Maldives at Sun Island Resort and Spa situated at Nalaguraidhoo, Maamigili. After the booking has been confirmed, an email was sent to me giving the directions and asking to supply the full names of the guests as well as the flight details. An additional USD 252 per person is mandatory for the roundtrip transfer fee since reaching the hotel needs a 20-minute domestic flight to Villa International Airport, Maamigili, plus a 5-minute boat ride.
Upon arrival at the Velana International Airport, I directly proceeded to Counter Number 16 where a representative of the resort received us. From here, everything was well taken care of by the hotel. The guests were directed to the domestic airport, just beside the international airport, to check in for the flight to Maamigili via Flyme Airline, the resort’s official carrier. The flight with this turbo-propelled aircraft was comfortable and rewarded its passengers with wonderful perspective of the islands. After arriving at the Maamigili Airport, the guests were fetched by a shuttle to the seaport where the ferry to the resort was waiting. Don’t worry if you are carrying a heavy luggage because they will take care of it and deliver right on your hotel room. The roundtrip transfer service of the resort was smooth and well-organized which is a two thumbs up for them!
Of all the guests on board the ferry, only me and my companion were transported by a buggy towards the reception. Others walked through a long wooden bridge from the port area to the reception. Well, I really don’t why until now and I haven’t asked the reason back then; though walking could be fun, but I still enjoyed the ride. A welcome drink was served on our arrival while filling the details for check in. After settling the payments, the guidelines were given along with the room key and the key card. Most hotels accept VISA, MASTER, and AMEX as well as cash in US dollar and Euro. The room key can be deposited on the reception when going for excursion to avoid paying USD 75 for a lost key. The resort provides a color-coded key card which must be carried all the time to verify identity and package entitlement. The key card is also use to present to restaurants and other facilities to obtain credit.
Sun Island Resort and Spa offers several room types and the room we availed is the cheapest among all, the Sun Villa or the Garden Front Bungalows. Check here to compare room prices. The Sun Villa occupies an area of 28m2 with a seating area in front providing guests with a garden view. The room was spacious, comfortable, and nicely arranged. It has private bathroom with complete toiletries. I personally like the design of the bathroom which has a bath tub with a partly open roof. See the picture below.
Sun Villa Room Facilities:
• Television with Cable Channels
• Air Condition
• Ironing Facilities
• Seating Area
• Sofa bed
• Tea/Coffee Maker
• Minibar (wines available for a cost)
• Electric kettle
• A bottle of water (500ml) as well as 1 filling of tea and coffee per person per day
• Cocktail drink @ Mekunu Bar – 6:30 pm
There is no Wifi in the room. Free Wifi zones are available in selected areas like in the reception, Vani Coffee Shop and the Golf Bar.
The resort has 9 restaurants. Since I have availed the full board option, I have maximized the buffet meal three times a day for my whole stay on the resort at Maaniya Restaurant. There is an assortment of food to choose from and the cuisine was appetizing and delectable. However, you need to order the drinks for an additional cost including a bottle of water. During breakfast, fruit juices are served on dispensers free of charge. However, during lunch and dinner, only coffee and tea are free.
In getting around the island, though it’s possible just to walk, it’s more convenient to rent a bicycle for USD 3.86 for 24 hours. The resort has several facilities and activities to enjoy where in my case, I never run out of things to do. Aside from the beach, the resort has a swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, spa, bars, fitness center, sports and recreation area where guests could play billiards, table tennis, and a lot more. Basketball, volleyball, and tennis courts are also available as well as a soccer field. It has also a nature park and hydroponics area where they cultivate plants. For emergency purposes, a medical center is available within the resort. This is what I got for booking this resort island. Also, the staff was polite, warm and accommodating, and they were all pleasant with their sweet perfume.
The island also has an area for water sports where you could avail for a number of activities like kayaking, jet skiing, sailing, windsurfing, parasailing, and a lot more. The resort also arrange for a number of excursions for a cost. They provide all the excursions you have in mind from fishing, snorkeling and diving to village trip, island discovery and sunset cruise. Every day at 6:30 in the evening, tourists could witness stingray and shark feeding on two separate locations for free. It was fantastic!
Staying in a resort island made me experience Maldives more than my expectations. It is not only for honeymooners but for everybody who loves to be surrounded with nature. It is the perfect place to commune with nature while plunging into the waters full of colorful corals and marine species or relaxing on a white sand beach under the azure skies. If the pictures of this tropical island captivate you every time you see it on a magazine, then it will surely impress you once you get there. Let your imagination turn into reality. Make your Maldives vacation happen!