May 10th, 2017, 03:20 PM

Relaxing in the Island Paradise of the Maldives

By Polina Chaikina
The Maldives. Image Credit: Shutterstock
You don't have to be a Hollywood star or billionaire to enjoy the white beaches and turquoise waters of the Maldives.

The Maldives, twenty-six islands in the Indian Ocean southwest of Sri Lanka, is a tropical paradise that scientists predict will disappear in a few decades. The highest point of the Maldives is only 2 meters above the sea level. So if you want to see one of the wonders of our world, pack your bags and jump on a plane while the Maldives are still there.

With a population of only 90,000 people, the Maldives is a Muslim country that was colonized by the British until 1965. One fact that really impressed me is hat such a tiny country actually has its own army and a military base in the center of its capital island.  

When you land at the Velana International Airport, there are two ways to spend your holiday in the Maldives depending on your budget. If you’re traveling on a low budget, you will probably want to stay on the capital island. If your your budget has no limits, you can book a private villa on one of the resort islands. The cheapest way to get from the airport to the capital is by a cruise boat which is very cheap. For the private resort island you have two options, either a speed boat for $300 per hour or a hydroplane where a round-trip will be approximately $100 per person.

If you are not renting your own villa, you can easily find a three or four-star hotel in Male city for around $40 a night. However, you won’t get the white beaches with turquoise water, as Malé island is a functioning port with dirty water. If you decide to book your accommodations in Malé, there is not much to do, so you will have to book day trips on a boat to swim further out in to the ocean to snorkel in clear water.

It’s cheap to eat on the capital island. Even though everything is imported to the Maldives, the prices are low. You will be able to have a delicious meal for no more than $15. Fresh tuna, bananas and coconuts — all plentiful — are the cheapest products on the island.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

A cheap alternative to staying in the capital is going to one of the local islands (not belonging to resorts). Islands such as Gulhi, Maafushi, Fulidhoo and Guraidhoo are perfect for a cheap homestay vacation, while still experiencing the white sandy beaches and colorful reefs. Renting a room from a local family will cost you approximately $25 a night. The food and activities will cost you $10 a day, which means that a day on a Maldivian island could cost you no more than $50.

On every island you can find boats with diving instructors as well as equipment rentals. It's expensive to learn how to dive with an instructor. If you already have a license, you can rent the full equipment for about $20 a day. If you’re scared of swimming in deep water, you can still have one of the greatest experiences with spectacular views by snorkeling along the reef with its rich variety of marine life.

One caveat. Before you travel to the Maldives, keep in mind that you are not allowed to buy alcohol in Duty Free, as it will be confiscated at the border security check. Since it is prohibited to sell alcohol on the islands, local “businessmen” have come up with a concept to get around the laws: floating bars. Basically, you can take a boat to tiny cruise ships in the open water to drink alcohol. But be warned: the booze will be expensive. A bottle of beer will cost $7 and a bottle of vodka will be $100. 

For those who prefer staying in luxurious privately owned island resorts, one of the cheapest bungalows you can find will be about $500 per night. I spent a week on Nika Island Resort and Spa, a tiny island owned by an Italian family. The service and accommodations were great. You can choose between a water villa (most expensive), beach villa (with your private beach), and a standard garden villa (which is located in the center of the island). There are two public beaches, two small bars, a souvenir shop, diving center, a spa and a restaurant. 

Maldives corals. Image Credit: Shuttrestock

Another piece of advice: When a website states that a Maldives resort provides you with all-inclusive service, that does not mean that you should expect the service that you would get in Cancùn or a five-star Greek island resort. Even though holidays in the Maldives are more luxurious than in most of the places in the world, there are restrictions regarding the all-inclusive package. First of all, mini bar and room service are extra. You also are not allowed to take more than two glasses of wine/beer to your room from the bar. And all-inclusive snacks and drinks are extra after 1 a.m. — and the prices are not cheap ($25 for a bottle of wine). The food in the restaurants is good and fresh, but usually the same every day. 

The only reason to come to the Maldives, frankly, is pure relaxation. There is not much to do otherwise. The resort will offer you a few “excursions” to make your time there a bit more dynamic, but the excursions are actually not worth the money. One great thing about the resort where I stayed is that they offer free water sport equipment rental. They provide you with everything from free snorkeling equipment to wind surf boards and sails.

I had a relaxing time on an isolated island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. If that kind of holiday interests you, it's much better to consult the official website of the resort and call them directly in order to understand their full terms and conditions. Do not expect a fun-filled holiday full of adventure. Prepare to eat healthy 24/7 and pay for anything extra, and just enjoy your holiday of peaceful relaxation in paradise.