**Updated Sept 14th 2020
The MALDIVES is a destination like none other; a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean with immaculate beaches, the clearest blue waters, incredible marine life, overwater bungalows and so much more – a bucket list destination in every way! Infact one of the very first images I saved on my Pinterest travel board called “bucket list travel” years ago was a pic of an overwater bungalow in the Maldives and I am beyond grateful that Anush and I had the opportunity to experience it twice in the past! Its handsdown one of our favorite places on earth – so much so that we have made a promise to return back to the destination every couple of years. We rarely repeat destinations cos there is so much to see in this beautiful world but the Maldives is totally an exception :)! I miss it so much already that I am already dreaming of returning back asap!
If you have the Maldives on your bucket list (I bet you do ;)), don’t stop at just saving an image of it – its absolutely possible to save up and make your dream trip a reality! It is the perfect vacation for a honeymoon, family vacay, special occasion or just to cross it off your list.
Its quite the trek if you live in the US, but let me tell you – it is 1000% worth it! But you know I don’t seem to mind long travel – cos that’s when you know you are headed somewhere extra special It’s totally worth all the effort and when you get to your destination you will know why!
In this detailed travel guide to the Maldives, Ill be sharing all the info you might need to start planning your dream trip to the Maldives, so definitely bookmark this post for the future.
Update Sept 14th 2020 :
The Maldives has reopened to international tourism of all nationalities as of July 15th 2020! There is no quarantine requirements but you need a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to travel. You can however split your stay across only 2 resorts according to the latest update by the tourism board. All details here. You can also check out the Visit Maldives news section to keep up to date with latest travel related news.
All the resort opening news and specific dates are here.
Before travel you would need to have a confirmed hotel booking and as well as a filled up health declaration form.
HOW DO YOU GET TO THE MALDIVES ?
The main international airport that you will have to fly into from your destination is in the capital of Maldives called Male. The amount of travel time depends on your origin. Its relatively closer from Europe, Africa and other parts of Asia. If you are coming from the US, both Singapore Airlines and Emirates have great connections from all major US cities via Singapore or Dubai respectively. We flew via Emirates so our route was San Francisco –> Dubai –> Male.
The entire journey took us about 30 hours, but again – it is so so worth it! Quick tip – if you have a long layover in Dubai like we did, definitely check out the Dubai International Airport hotel; located in all the terminals for transit passengers. We had pre booked a room for a few hours in the night (cheaper if you prebook than book on the spot); and it made such a difference having that rest and a hot shower. The airport also has sleep pod options that I saw online; but for the night that we were there the hotel room was cheaper than the pods (roughly $180 for the room for 6 hours total). Its also convenient that you can book by the hour and the night rates are much cheaper usually.
Once you are in the capital of Male, you will need to clear customs and immigration and then transfer to your resort. Maldives are an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 coral atolls (island groups) that have 200 inhabited islands and about 97 islands with tourist resorts. Most resorts are on stand alone islands and almost all of them will be happy to assist you with booking your preferred way of transfers to the island. You can also view this on most hotel websites (they will have a section on how to get to their resort).
Here are some points to note for island transfers :
- The way of transfer will mostly depend on how far your resort is from Male.
- If your resort is close to Male, then you can do a boat transfer which is the cheapest and easiest kind of island transfer.
- If your resort is in an atoll further away from Male, you will need to do a flight transfer.
- Depending on what time your international flight lands in Male + depending on where your resort is located, you can do either 2 ways of flight transfers – seaplane OR domestic flights.
- The seaplane option (operated by Trans Maldivian Airways) is usually less time consuming and more expensive. Once the seaplane lands on water (such a cool experience!), it is usually a super short (5-10 min) boat ride to your resort.
- The domestic flight option (there are several domestic carriers in the Maldives) is cheaper but also more time consuming. After you land at a domestic destination, you will have to take a speedboat to your resort (can take from 30-50 min).
- That being said sometimes domestic flights might be your only option if your international flight lands in Male super late in the evening/night.
- It is best to speak with your reservations assistant once you book your trip to figure out the best way of transfers.
In both our trips to the Maldives our resorts were further away, so we have done both seaplanes and domestic flights + speedboat options and they were both great. It depends on whats more important to you – getting to your destination sooner, saving some $$, etc.
Domestic plane (above) + followed by a speedboat (below)
BEST TIME TO VISIT THE MALDIVES ?
November – April is the best time to visit the Maldives as it is the dry season. You are pretty much guaranteed the dreamy Maldives weather you have always dreamt of during this time! Both times we have visited the Maldives was during this time – first time we went in November and this time we went in February and we literally had no rainy or cloudy day ever.
But also keep in mind that this is considered the high season in Maldives so prices in resorts are much higher. If you are looking to save some $$, consider going in the shoulder season (just before the start and after the end of high season); so sometime in late October or early May.
I would try and avoid the peak rainy season from mid May to September, especially if its your first time to the Maldives and you don’t want to take a gamble on the weather gods for your bucket list vacay!
IDEAL TIME TO SPEND IN THE MALDIVES ?
I would recommend a bare minimum of atleast 4-5 days. If not more! Ideally a week would be the perfect sweet spot – that way you can split your time across 2 different resorts to get 2 different experiences. But keep in mind transfers between resorts do take time and might add up to your overall costs too.
If you are spending only 3-4 days overall just do 1 resort (what we did last time). If you are spending a week – I would suggest doing 3 nights in 1 resort and 3 nights in the other (like we did this time around).
Lastly if you are short on time and want to save up a bit, try choosing resorts in the same atoll. That way transfers will be faster and cheaper too.
But if time and budget isn’t a constraint, choose resorts in different atolls – you will get 2 unique holidays!
WHO IS THE MALDIVES FOR ?
EVERYONE! Its a great bucket list destination for couples, families, girls trip, etc.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE MALDIVES ?
There are literally a 100 resort options to choose from and there are options for every kind of traveller from families, honeymooners, couples, friends, etc. Some things to keep in mind while choosing a hotel :
- Cost – budget, mid luxury, ultra luxury, etc
- Accessibility and location – as I mentioned in my island transfer tips above.
- Who you are traveling with – family, couples, friends etc
- Accomodation type – beach villas, water villas, basic rooms, etc
- Package options – all inclusive, Bed and breakfast, half board (bed, breakfast and dinner), etc.
- Island size – do you prefer a super tiny intimate island or something a little larger? (most islands are private though)
- Ocean Reef – if you are big into snorkeling/diving the quality of the house reef is certainly something to consider. The Maldives has some of the best snorkeling in the world but some atolls are more rich than others in this aspect.
- Other options – if you are looking for resorts that fit certain niches like eco tourism, ultra luxe travel, budget travel, etc there are resorts that specialize in each category.
Over our two times in the Maldives we have stayed at these 3 different resorts which were all incredible:
1 ) HIDEAWAY BEACH RESORT AND SPA (Luxury)
This was my personal fave resort of the ones we have stayed at. It is Located in Haa Alifu atoll. If you are looking for an intimate escape in an untouched and unspoilt part of the Maldives – Hideaway is for you! We saw all sorts of travelers here from honeymooners, older couples, families, etc (their beach villas are perfect for families and friends). Check out my full blog post here.
2 ) LILY BEACH RESORT AND SPA ( Luxury )
3 ) MAAFUSHIVARU MALDIVES (Mid Luxury)
Located in South Ari atoll. Check out my older content from this resort here.
AVERAGE COSTS + BREAKDOWN ?
This was the most asked question in my Instastories. So I wanted to provide a rough range of costs for various steps in planning a trip to the Maldives. Actual cost will vary a ton from one itinerary to another so here is a guideline to start with :
1 ) International airline tickets :
This depends on time of year, but a rough estimate is about $1000 – $1200 RT from any major US International airport to Male. If you live in India – I urge you to make this trip happen! RT flights from India are so affordable and its such a short direct flight to Male. From what I saw prices from India were $200-$300 RT. Both times we visited the Maldives was on our way to visit India from the US.
2 ) Internal transfers :
This depends on type of transfer and where your resort is located. But rough estimates are $400-$500 RT for seaplane from Male to your resort OR $200-$400 for domestic flight +speedboat option OR $100-$300 for boat transfers. More details in this website about transfers to all resorts.
3 ) Resort/hotel :
This is usually the most expensive part of the trip. The cost depends on which resort, what kind of plan you choose (all inclusive, bed and breakfast, half board, etc), what sort of accommodation you choose (beach villa, water villa, etc), time of year that you visit (cheaper in off and shoulder season) etc. When I did a quick search online, the cost ranges from just $100 to $2500+ a night in all of the Maldives. The cheaper ones are usually on bigger islands close to Male and may not be private island resorts. Most of you also wanted to know cost of a water villa – a good range for a luxury water villa is about $700 – $1000+ per night in an all inclusive meal plan. However there are many budget resorts that offer water villas at a range of $250 – $500. I highly highly recommend doing a water villa even if its just for 1 night – it really is an experience of a lifetime!
4) Other costs :
Other costs that might not be included in your plan could be additional activities, private dining, excursions, etc. Its hard to put a range on these since it is so varied! But my suggestion would be to opt for an all inclusive or at least half board so that many meals and activities are part of your total cost already.
WAYS TO SAVE UP ?
The Maldives is synonymous with being an expensive luxe holiday. I can definitely vouch for the fact that this is one of the finest destinations to experience world class luxury! It is one of the main reasons Anush and I love the Maldives.
However if you aren’t one to care about luxury, it is absolutely possible to do the Maldives on a budget. And of course for travellers of every budget, we all love a good saving or two! So here are some of my tips on ways to save up :
1 ) Choose resorts close to Male that have boat transfers instead of flight transfers, so you can save up on transfers.
2) If you want to island hop and are short on time/budget – choose resorts in the same atoll to save up on transfers.
3) If you want to experience a water villa but still want to save, maybe stay in a water villa for 1 night and then a beach villa for the rest. Beach villas are really underrated! They are also so stunning and are located right at the footsteps of a stunning beach. That way you will also get 2 diverse stay experiences.
4) Opt for all inclusive or at least half board so that many meals and activities are part of your total cost already.
5) Travel in the shoulder season (May or October) where prices are way lower than high season. Low season would be the cheapest, but I would try and avoid the peak rainy season from mid May to September, especially if its your first time to the Maldives and you don’t want to take a gamble on the weather gods for your bucket list vacay!
6) Check out the “offers” section in the hotel website where they usually have discounts or offers for future bookings. I have noticed many hotels give you a bigger discount if you book directly through them rather than through a third party travel website.
7) A website to check out if you are looking to travel to Maldives on a budget is Indulge Maldives ; from what I saw they have options for budget travel as low as $250per person for 4 nights! There are several inhabited islands in the Maldives (not like the private island luxe resorts) that have budget hotels and smaller more affordable resorts in the Maldives. While they might not have overwater villas, their beaches are just as stunning.
8) If you have a lot of airline miles or hotel rewards to redeem you can consider doing so here. All the big hotel chains – Marriott, Hilton, IHG, Accor have properties in Maldives.
FOOD OPTIONS IN RESORTS ?
All the resorts that we went to had many meal plans – all inclusive, half board, BB, etc. Larger resorts usually have multiple restaurants on property too. Most resorts are super accomodating with diet restrictions and have tons of options for vegetarians, vegans, food allergies, etc.
ACTIVITY OPTIONS IN RESORTS ?
While I can never ever get bored of just laying out in the beach, I get that most people love to have things to do on their vacay. Most resorts have many fun things to do like :
- snorkeling, diving, water sports
- sports, gym, etc
- excursions – like snorkeling excursions, visit to a local island, sunset cruises, sandbank picnics, etc
- cultural activities on property – music , dance, etc
- cooking classes
- mix and mingle events on the island like DJ nights, movie nights, etc
- family friendly resorts also have kids clubs for kids.
Sunset cruise on a traditional Dhoni
OTHER THINGS TO KNOW :
- The Maldives is a Muslim country where locals dress conservatively in cities and other non private islands. If you are visiting a local island from your resort as part of an excursion or if are staying in a hotel or resort on a non private island, keep in mind to dress modestly and respect local customs. As per the Maldivian rules – wearing a bikini is strictly prohibited on public beaches. If you are in a private island resort (most resorts are like this), the beaches are all private and you are free to wear whatever you wish to.
- What to pack – it can get hot and humid so pack loose airy items to breathe in. Casual resortwear options like dresses, coverups, swim, hats, sunnies, sandals, beachy evening wear, scarves, etc are all essentials in your packing checklist.
- Domestic transfers and seaplanes usually have luggage weight restrictions. Once you book your transfers its best to check with your reservation assistant regarding this.
GET INSPIRED TO VISIT THE MALDIVES !
Heavenly lagoons at your footstep
These are what I call brekky with a view!
Magical Maldivian sunsets
And the most breathtaking tropical beaches!
Enjoy long walks on the beach with new friends and old ones or your love!
Pamper yourself with all that luxury!
Preferred mode of island transport!
Spoilt for choice – beach or pool? Right at your villa!
Take a nap on a beach….
Or a floating nap in the water!
Every corner is literally a postcard!
I mean… how is this even real life?! Most beautiful place on earth!
We’ll be back soon, already planning the next trip! Miss you already Maldives!
SHOP MY LOOKS :
I hope this very long comprehensive travel guide helps you and inspires you to make this bucket list trip come to life! Its truly a special place and one of my favorite places on earth. Feel free to send me any questions you have in the comments below or in an Insta DM. Leaving you with a video recap of our trip :
Thanks for stopping by. xoxo