This country doesn’t need much of an intro. Everyone knows ánd dreams of the Maldives. As in every European winter, I was looking for a sunny getaway. We opted for the Maldives this time because:
- because it’s the Maldives
- it’s getting very trendy and I want to be there first
- it’s relatively close the Europe
- you can visit Maldives on a budget now!!
So my research started. How to get to the Maldives with a backpack on a budget? Due to the lack of resources I went through the most intense preparation for a trip EVER. But hell, of course it’s all worth!! I mean: the Maldives!!! Couldn’t feel more excited than going to my childhood dream paradise.
What to expect?
Every local island (which is an inhabited island in contrary to your fancy resort island) is very different from one another. No island is ‘perfect’ in all ways, but the white sand beaches, coral reefs, turquoise waters and palm trees are represent everywhere. The biggest challenge is to find out which island to choose and how to get there. Luckily I’m here to help! Find below a description of the islands I went to: Thinadhoo, Fulidhoo, Maafushi and Hulhumale.
Note: tourism on local islands is very new to the country. So except for Maafushi, you will have to blend in with the local life. That means: dress modestly, sunbath on special assigned tourist beaches ánd there is no alcohol available (detox!!!).
Thinadhoo (Vaavu Atoll)
After all my island research, I figured Thinadhoo island in the Vaavu Atoll was a must. Those pictures! This is the perfect island you have always hoped to be on one day… A green drip of jungle surrounded by white sand, a sea full with coral, manta rays, turtles, sharks and many many fish. The tourist beach (or bikini beach) is beautiful, with free sunbeds, huts and a lot of privacy. Only 20 local families live here. Everything is super clean and there are flying foxes! Now take a moment to gaze over this pics:
practicals: find the ferry timetable here ($5 pp, 6 hrs). There are 2 small supermarkets. You can eat out at Plumeria resort ($10-13 per meal) and make use of their dive shop ($60/dive). We stayed in Hudhu Raakani Lodge because it was the cheapest option (€80/$90 pn). Bring enough essentials like sunscreen with you. Don’t confuse this Thinadhoo (Vaavu Atoll) with the one Google brings up in the Gaafu Dhaalu-atoll!
You will pass Fulidhoo on the way to Thinadhoo and among all tourists on board you feel the same shiver: the blue of the water looks unreal. Also this island is pretty green and well developed with big supermarkets, a good diving school and 10-15 guest houses. There is a large bikini beach which used to be surrounded by bushes but sadly they are gone now. However it’s large, there’s a small beach bar and the sea makes up for everything! I could spend all day in the water which wrapped around me like a swimming pool of crystals.
practicals: the ferry timetable to Fulidhoo you find here. Three times a week, $3 pp. It’s the same as the one to Thinadhoo. There are not so many nice restaurants here, so best to eat at your guest house. We stayed at Ihaa Lodge (€40-50/night).
If you start looking for Maldives backpacking, the island Maafushi will pop up first thing. This island is near to the capital Male and has, like all islands, beautiful blue water, palmtrees and white sand beaches. Sadly not much is left of the natural beauty, due to construction for new hotels and guest houses. Still, Maafushi is very popular. It’s the only local island where you can choose from several restaurants, find cheap accommodations and they even serve alcohol on a special party boat in front of the coast (haha). So if western facilities, drinks and meeting other youngsters are your thing, you will certainly like Maafushi! I spent here only one night to break up the transfer to the dreamy paradise Thinadhoo .
Practicals: Maafushi is easy to get to. There are two ferry’s that run here, this one goes every day except Friday. You can also use a speedboat transfer (six times a day, $30 pp). We had a bit of trouble to find the ferry to Maafushi on Male, so be there on time!
Your plane will land on Hulhumale. An artificial island which is build to host the airport but also to provide extra room for hotels for tourists who are on their way to the ‘real’ islands. I found Hulhumale an interesting and convenient place. There are many restaurants on the island, terraces on the beach and juice bars. Actually you find more of this on Hulhumale than on Maafushi! The locals make use of the facilities as well so it’s nice to blend in with them. The bikini beach is all the way south. It’s not so pretty but it’s there!
There’s a shuttle bus that goes from the airport to the village, it makes two stops (see map) ($1,50 pp, every 30 mins, takes 15 mins). There are two ferry docks to bring you to Male. The one on the east is a bit cheaper.
This is the question to answer. I spent so much time figuring out about the islands! To organise my information, I created a map with all interesting local islands within the North Central Provence. Those are in reach of the local ferry’s from Male.
After all the studying I recommend the following islands: Thoddoo, Rashdoo, Ulkulas, Mahibadhoo (West of Male), Dhigurah (South-West of Male) – Maafushi, Fulidhoo, Thinadhoo Vaavu Atoll (South of Male) – Dhiffushi (North of Male). Take a look at my map or this website for more info on each island : budgetMaldives.co.
How to plan you Maldives trip to the local islands?
It’s impossible to keep your expenses low if you do not travel with local ferry’s ($1-$5). The alternative are scheduled speedboats ($30-$90) or even worse: seaplanes ($100-$350). So of course you want to take the local ferry’s, but most are not running every day! Here is a rule: the ferry schedule decides when you should go where. All ferry’s start and end on Male. So there’s no crossing between different atolls, you always have to get back to Male first! This is why I combined three islands on the same ferry route. Also take the length of the journey into account. The better islands, are the furthest away and you can spend a 5-6 hours going here. Mostly the rides are not bumpy. Boats sell some snacks and drinks, are clean and have a toilet.
Now some more pictures for you 🙂