How To Holiday In Maldives With Only RM2,500 And Still Have An Awesome Time

Oh yes, it's possible!

Cover image via Farouq Johari

This is Maldives, an archipelagic country of 1,200 islands with magnificent sandy, white beaches

Image via Farouq Johari

Maldives is a magical place. Famous for its 'atolls' — a chain of islands formed of coral — pristine, crystal clear waters, it lives up to its reputation of being a place called 'paradise'.

Interestingly, none of the islands have mountains or rivers, and are merely two meters above sea level!

Image via Farouq Johari

Maldives is famous for their luxury resorts and floating water bungalows.

Image via Lily Beach Resort & Spa

As Maldives is well-known for its very “atas” holiday experience, the thought of a trip to the island country can make budget-conscious people sceptical

"I wanna go to Maldives but it's too 'mahal' lah."
"Maldives looks like it's only for the rich. I can't afford to go there."
"Is it possible to experience Maldives with a small budget?"

If you've ever thought of Maldives that way, you're not alone. I was pretty doubtful too.

Earlier this May, AirAsia sent me on a budget-friendly trip to Maldives with a bunch of other eager writers. It was a 4-day, 3-night trip with an all-in budget of only RM2,500 a person!

The 9 of us. From left: Farouq from SAYS, Janice from AirAsia, Nikki from Viralcham, Lydia from Cilisos, Syukri from BeautifulNara, Fazreen from Vocket, Ash from OhBulan, Pelly from CARI Internet, and Suzanne from Asia Travel Book.

Image via Farouq Johari

Har? Can meh?

It's not like you have to 'makan pasir' while having fun. The budget was inclusive of return flights from KL (thank you, AirAsia), accommodation for 4 days and 3 nights, transportation in Maldives, full-on 'makan sampai kenyang' meals (very important), sea excursions like snorkelling, dolphin watching and a sunset cruise, and some light shopping.

How? Let me give you the lowdown:

1. Save on your plane tickets. AirAsia flies direct to Maldives from KL every day.

Our flight details to Male.

Image via Farouq Johari

AirAsia flies DIRECTLY to Maldives from KL once a day. Our flight to Male cost us RM599 per pax for a return ticket. The price fluctuates according to seasons. Plan in advanced, or play around the dates during off-peak seasons from March to September.

2. Don't go for water bungalows, floating hotels, or fancy resorts

Constance Halaveli, Maldives.

Image via Somewhere Luxurious

Fancy resorts and floating water bungalows could cost you your spleen even for just one night. The cost varies according to hotels but some are around USD700 (RM2,999) per night during off-peak season! Yeah, USD700 isn't even considered 'expensive'. If you can afford these 'atas' places then this story is probably not for you, unless you want to save on everything else.

If you're like me, and you can't, you'd ask "What other options do I have?"

3. Stay at a guesthouse!

I would recommend going to Rasdhoo Island and checking-in at Holiday Garden Rasdhoo or Shallow Lagoon Rasdhoo. The staff here were amazingly friendly and their service is top-notch! They even entertained us with some traditional Maldivian performances on our last night - it was on the house, yaw!

The price for both guest houses is USD70 (RM299) per night during off-peak season, including breakfast.

Holiday Garden Rasdhoo.

Image via Farouq Johari

This is the room. So fresh, so clean!

Image via Farouq Johari

But what about taking Insta pics in a super luxe bungalow? Well, maybe not when you're on a budget. Guest houses in Maldives are equipped with everything you need in a hotel. The one I stayed at was spacious, clean and comfortable, had a hot shower, speedy Wi-fi, free-flow of coffee and tea, privacy, packages for sea excursions, and more. It's really good enough lah.

Shallow Lagoon Rasdhoo.

Image via Farouq Johari

Very modern and new!

Image via Farouq Johari

Plus, you'll be closer to local Maldivian life. You'll get a glimpse of how the locals make a living by building boats, fishing, operating a small coffee shop, etc.

Work-in-progress boat.

Image via Farouq Johari

I <3 Rasdhoo.

Image via Farouq Johari

4. Public ferry is very cheap but it will eat up 3 hours of your time. My recommendation: save time, take the speedboat (only one hour).

Selfie at the airport jetty.

Image via Farouq Johari

The public ferry costs only USD3 (RM13) per person, one-way, while the speedboat is USD40 (RM171) per person, one-way. If you really want to save, just take the public ferry instead of the speedboat because the RM158 margin is pretty huge.

What's the downside of taking the public ferry? It takes around 3 hours and 20 minutes to get to Rasdhoo Island. With speedboat, you can reach Rasdhoo Island from the airport jetty in only one hour.

This is the speedboat.

Image via Farouq Johari

So, choose wisely. Either you pay more to save time, or pay less to save money. But if you can "tahan" the bumpy sea ride for more than 3 hours, you'll be fine then.

This is the public ferry.

Image via Focus Maldives

5. A single traveller SIM card with 15GB data costs around RM86. It's expensive and not worth buying.

There are two telcos to choose from namely Dhiraagu and Ooredoo.

So some of us bought the Dhiraagu plan and paid USD20 (RM86) because we believed the telco is more trusted and not ‘diragui’. Lol.

Although, if you don’t buy the SIM card, the free wifi provided by most guest houses is pretty dependable and fast.

Dhiraagu starter pack.

Image via Farouq Johari

As a country with 70% water and 30% land, you may be surprised to find out that the Internet connection in Maldives is very stable. At times, it even felt as if the coverage was better when compared to our Bolehland.

An aerial shot of Rasdhoo Island.

Image via Shallow Lagoon Rasdhoo

6. Don't go alone or with a friend. Go with a group of friends, at least 10 people. You'll save a lot.

Mandatory jump shot!

Image via Farouq Johari

In terms of accommodation, there would not be a problem to go to Maldives as a couple as most guest houses use the twin-sharing format for their rooms. You can always split the bill into two.

However, expect to pay more, way more for excursions and activities as the figures could be double or triple for two persons. During our stay, we paid for the excursions based on the 8 pax package.

Therefore, instead of paying USD90 (RM385) per person to witness the lovely dolphins, we only paid USD45 (RM192) per person for the same thing. That's half the price!

You'll be 'pokai' if you go alone.

Image via Farouq Johari

7. Make sure to go during off-peak season because everything is just much cheaper

Watching sunset at the Sandbank Island.

Image via Farouq Johari

Bear in mind that the peak season for Maldives is between October to February. During this period, travellers from all around the world will swoop into the islands, and all resorts and guest houses will be fully booked.

Other than that period, Maldives is a little more peaceful and less crowded. One of the perks that you may get when travelling during off-peak season is privacy and exclusivity. Believe it or not, we had the Sandbank Island exclusively to ourselves! It allowed us to indulge in some silly fun on the island.

This Sandbank Island was exclusive for us!

Image via Farouq Johari

Gorgeous Maldivian sunset.

Image via Farouq Johari

8. 'Makan' is a bit pricey in Maldives, but that's part of the experience you pay for

In Maldives, you can choose to have lunch or dinner in any of the restaurants. But my recommendation to you is that you take up the full-board package from the guest house that includes lunch and dinner as well.

Although the price is a little higher compared to eating in a local 'kedai makan', you will experience Maldivian dishes at their finest, buffet-style.

The food is pretty simple, just some plain rice, sometimes noodle or Maggi, lots of tuna, some veggies and fruits, but they taste really good! Brace yourself because one plate is never enough. Burp.

The lunch spread on our second day: white rice, veggies, and Maldivian meat curry. Looks 'biasa-biasa' but they taste so good! And we had bottles of Coke some more.

Image via Farouq Johari

As the world's largest producer and exporter of tuna, you can expect to be served with tuna all day, every day. They serve all kinds of tuna dishes there; fried tuna, grilled tuna, roasted tuna, this tuna, that tuna, everything tuna, you name it. They serve it.

Besides, you won't get bored with the dishes. They are well prepared by the resident chefs.

Our dinner.

Image via Farouq Johari

9. Stay for 4 days and 3 nights

That's Ash Nordin from OhBulan.

Image via Farouq Johari

With the budget of RM2,500, a four-day trip to Maldives is more than enough.

It will allow you to not just experience the sea-life, but you can also get a taste of the way of life there. And if you use your time wisely, you can even interact around with locals.

While a four-day trip may sound too short, do keep in mind the budget you're going with.

10. Expect the weather to get slightly bad rather quickly

It was raining in Sandbank Island.

Image via Farouq Johari

While it's not that frequent, it does rain in Maldives during May to August.

In fact, it was raining during our Sandbank Excursion. And while it didn't last for long, it was enough for our Dolphin Excursion to be called-off which was quite the mood killer as we were forced to just stay at the guest house.

As a kind gesture from the staffs, we tried again the next morning but there were no sights of dolphins at all. You can only see them swimming and jumping happily in the evening.

Dolphin Excursion the next morning with no dolphins in sight.

Image via Farouq Johari

Here are some fun facts about Maldives:

Image via Farouq Johari

1. Not many people know this, but Maldives is actually a 100% Muslim country. So, everything they serve is Halal guaranteed! Alcoholic drinks are available in private resorts only.

2. According to the locals, the sayings about Maldives will be completely submerged in 30 years time is NOT true. It's merely just a myth!

3. Everything is in USD. EVERYTHING! The official currency of the country is Maldivian Rufiyaa but the currency is not available in Malaysia's money changers. So, just use USD-lah.

4. While you can wear bikini in most of the beaches, do make sure to cover up when you're in public.

5. Maldivians speak good English, just like us.

Cost breakdown:

Day 1:

1. AirAsia return flight: RM599 = USD140 (4.3 conversion rate)

2. Check-in at UI Hotel/Dream Relax Hotel: USD60 per night (including pick-up service from the airport)
PS: This is based on twin-sharing basis. Cost for one person would be USD30.

3. Light supper: USD5 per person

Total: 140 + 30 + 5 = USD175 (RM749)

UI Hotel, Hulhumale.

Image via Farouq Johari

Standard room in Dream Relax Hotel.

Image via Farouq Johari
Image via Farouq Johari

Day 2:

1. Speedboat transfer to Rasdhoo Island: USD40 per person

2. Check-in at Holiday Garden Rasdhoo: USD70 per night (breakfast included)
PS: This is based on twin-sharing basis. Cost for one person would be USD35.

3. Lunch at Picnic Island: USD10 per person

4. Sandbank Island excursion: USD15 per person
PS: All excursions were based on the 8-pax package.

5. Dinner at guest house: USD15 per person

Total: 40 + 35 + 10 + 15 + 15 = USD115 (RM492)

Image via Farouq Johari

Ash again.

Image via Farouq Johari
Image via Farouq Johari

Day 3:

1. Check-in at Shallow Lagoon Rasdhoo: USD70 per night (breakfast included)
PS: This is based on twin-sharing basis. Cost for one person would be USD35.

2. Snorkeling safari: USD42 per person

3. Lunch at guest house: USD10 per person

4. Dolphin watching and sunset cruise: USD55 per person

5. Dinner at guest house: USD15 per person

Total: 35 + 42 + 10 + 55 + 15 = USD157 (RM672)

The ocean is so blue!

Image via Farouq Johari

You won't want to miss the snorkeling safari.

Image via Farouq Johari
Image via Farouq Johari

Day 4:

1. Lunch at guest house: USD10 per person

2. Speedboat transfer to Male City: USD40 per person

3. Dinner at Citron Restaurant: USD20 per person

4. Public ferry to Velana International Airport: USD2 per person

Total: 10 + 40 + 20 + 2 = USD72 (RM308)

This was not in the package but we got to experience Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) for free! The actual cost is USD60 (RM257). Thanks Rasdhoo Scuba.

Image via Farouq Johari

DSD was awesome!

Image via Farouq Johari

We got the chance to board the seaplane as well.

Image via Farouq Johari

= 749 + 492 + 672 + 308
= RM2,221 ONLY

Thanks Shallow Lagoon Rasdhoo and Holiday Garden Rasdhoo for the great hospitality. We shall meet again soon!

Image via Farouq Johari

That is all. Special thanks to all the sponsors; AirAsia, All H Maldives, and Maldives Getaways for this awesome experience. We had so much fun soaking in the Maldivian sun!

Meanwhile in the UK:

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