Backpacking Maldives – A Guide to Maldives Local Islands Travel for €35/day

Picture this: crystal-clear waters fringed by swaying palm trees and white sands. Now here’s the good news: the gorgeous island nation of the Maldives has recently been made more accessible even to those traveling on a budget. Backpacking Maldives is perfectly possible, mainly by staying in accommodation on the Maldives local islands, rather than opting for the more luxurious resorts found on the private islands.

If on the other hand, you’re looking for a overwater villa type style of accommodation, you might want to consider the gorgeous accommodation options at the Waldorf Astoria or the Emerald Maldives Resort.

There are plenty of advantages to backpacking Maldives when compared to spending your time in a resort. Visiting the Maldives local islands, interacting with villagers and coming into contact with the Maldives local culture is an experience to be cherished. All this whilst managing to visit an otherwise cost-prohibitive destination on a reasonable budget.

Amazing landscape in the Maldives local islands

With its rich biodiversity and vast formations, diving in the Maldives is an activity which should be on the bucket list of all scuba divers, and not just those wealthy enough to afford a stay at lavish resorts or liveaboards. Due to the possibility of staying on the Maldives local islands, small businesses are flourishing, and it is now perfectly possible to enjoy diving in the Maldives on a low budget. Introducing tourism in the Maldives local islands has made this part of the world more accessible even to budget divers!

By using the local ferries to get to and around the Maldives local islands and staying at guesthouses, it is perfectly viable to plan a Maldives itinerary which will allow you to experience the islands without breaking the bank! We spent an average of €35/ (about $40) day (each) during our 13 days of Maldives low budget travel, by staying on Maldives local islands, a figure which also included diving in the Maldives archipelago.

After successfully managing to travel to Raja Ampat in Indonesia on a budget, another destination normally associated with high costs, we decided that backpacking Maldives should be possible. Let us show you how to travel to the Maldives on €35 / day by staying on Maldives local islands!

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Practical information about the Maldives

The country of the Maldives is made up of over 1100 coral islands grouped in 26 atolls. Some of the islands are quite isolated, and transport from one island to another is often via public or private boats and ferries.

The Maldives is home to both uninhabited and inhabited islands. Many islands are further classified into resort islands (literally a small island with an all-inclusive resort), and Maldives local islands which are home to the local population, and which have now started catering to travelers looking to experience Maldives low-budget travel when backpacking Maldives.

A crab on a float - Backpacking Maldives

Many of the islands are surrounded by a house reef, making snorkelling and diving in the Maldives some of the most popular activities around the islands. There are nowadays quite a few operators and shops catering to those wanting to experience diving in the Maldives based on the local islands, and their number is ever increasing.

Keep in mind that the Maldives is a Muslim country. Many of the Maldives local islands are home to pristine beaches, however only some of them have been designated as ‘bikini beaches’, meaning that you can only swim in full clothing on the others.  Unlike the situation in the resorts, it is really important to respect the Maldives local culture by sticking to designated swimming areas when staying on Maldives local islands.

Bikini Beach at Thoddoo - Maldives itenerary

Posters and signs on the Maldives local islands will indicate whether it is acceptable to wear swimming attire on this part of the island or not, and the guesthouse owners will be happy to indicate these to you.

The local currency in the Maldives is the Maldivian rufiyaa. When staying on resort islands, it is normal practice to pay in US dollars (be sure to check this out when booking your stay), but when staying on Maldives local islands, you will need some rufiyaa to pay for small, local expenses.

The Maldives is an Islamic country, so you will not find any alcohol on the Maldives local islands, nor should you try to bring your own alcohol into the country. It will normally be confiscated upon arrival. Only resorts which cater exclusively to tourists, are usually licensed to sell alcohol.

Huge bats reside at the Maldives local islands

Best time to visit the Maldives

The best time to visit the Maldives is between November and April during the dry season. The wet season between the months of May and October sees more precipitation, stronger currents and bigger waves, making this season rather popular with surfers. The wet season also tends to be cheaper with better deals on accommodation.

Bikini Beach at Rasdhoo - backpacking maldives

How to travel to the Maldives local islands when backpacking Maldives

Transport from Maldives Airport in Hulhumale to Male

Maldives international airport is located on Hulhumale, a mostly artificial island close to the island of Male. Once you clear customs, it would be best to exchange some money to local currency (rufiyaa), buy a sim card (if you need one, more on that below) and make your way to Male, the capital island of the Maldives, via a direct 10-minute ferry boat ride which costs about $2. The boat terminal is on the left side of the airport and the ferry runs frequently until late.

There’s a cheaper public ferry running from the north-western side of Hulhumale to Male but seeing that you need to catch a bus to get to this part of the island, taking the airport ferry makes more sense.

The airport ferry will stop you on the north-eastern corner of Male, whilst most of the public ferries running to the Maldives local islands run from the Vilingili ferry terminal on the south-western part. It would be best to take a taxi to transfer between the two terminals, although you can walk the route (45 minutes to 1 hour), if you’re not carrying too much luggage. A taxi costs about 30MVR (about $2) – a little bit more if you’re carrying luggage, making a taxi trip cost-effective even for Maldives low budget travel.

Public ferry to Maldives local islands when backpacking Maldives

When backpacking Maldives, the most affordable way of traveling to the Maldives local islands is by using the public ferry. Ferry schedules for the Maldives local islands can sometimes be found online, however finding the correct schedule can be a little tricky. It would be best if you turn up a bit early and ask the ticket office in Male for the current weekly ferry schedule for the islands you intend visiting. Keep in mind that the ferry routes are mainly focused on individual atolls, and traveling between different atolls would sometimes require your return to Male.

We relied on getting this information from guesthouse owners and locals on the Maldives local islands, but we were given conflicting information from different people, which we thought was rather strange, considering that the local ferry is their usual mode of transport out of the island!

The local Maldives ferry - backpacking maldives

The cost of a ferry ticket is usually of just a few dollars, making public ferries the most cost-effective mode of transport for Maldives low budget travel when backpacking Maldives, although the journey is rather slow when compared to speedboats! Public ferries do not run on Friday so keep this in mind when planning out your Maldives itinerary. The ferry to Rasdhoo runs from Vilingili ferry terminal on Male.

Some examples of public ferry ticket prices:

Hulhumale to Male – 5.50 MVR (about €0.30/$0.40) one way

Male to Rasdhoo – 53 MVR (about €3/$3.50) one way

Rasdhoo to Thoddoo – 22 MVR (about €1.20/$1.50) one way

Public speedboats to the Maldives local islands when backpacking Maldives

Public speedboats also commute to the Maldives local islands. The cost of a ticket on one of the public speedboats is usually between $25-$80 (depending on how far the island is), making this faster service a lot more expensive than using the public ferry.

Jetski in the maldives - maldives local islands

Private speedboats

Private speedboats are also available from transfers between different islands on demand, but these are usually owned and used exclusively by resorts, so it is unlikely that you will be using this service when backpacking Maldives. They are prohibitively expensive if you’re considering Maldives low budget travel.


Seaplanes can also be used to travel between islands. They are very expensive (although surprisingly some flights are cheaper than private speedboat journeys) and are not a practical option for Maldives low budget travel, however some of the more remote islands can also be reached in this manner. Visit the Trans Maldivian Airways website for further details. Although we did not experience this ourselves, the view of the islands from above must be spectacular!

Which Maldives local islands to visit when backpacking Maldives

There are several Maldives local islands catering to those wishing to experience Maldives budget travel. Many of the islands are located far from each other, and when traveling to different atolls, you would often need to backtrack to the main island of Male.

When choosing which Maldives local islands to visit, it is wise to check the latest ferry schedules and transport options between different islands to create a Maldives itinerary which makes sense. If you’re short on time, it would be best to include only islands which are in the same atoll, and close to one another, on your Maldives itinerary.

Rasdhoo – Alif Alif Atoll

Rasdhoo is the island we spent most time in when backpacking Maldives and we thought that its location and size was perfect for those looking for Maldives low budget travel and wanting to go diving in the Maldives.

Rasdhoo is home to some hotels and guesthouses, a few dive shops and some restaurants, souvenir shops, mosques, a couple of convenience stores and a very friendly local population with a slow, sleepy vibe. It has also got a pretty bikini beach with a house reef just a few metres off the shore, making it ideal for snorkelling.

The streets of Rasdhoo - Maldives local islands

Our main motive for choosing Rasdhoo was its proximity to Madivaru and Madivaru Finholu islands, commonly called ‘picnic islands’. Not only are the little islands beautiful destinations for a day trip, but they are home to some great dive spots, contributing to Rasdhoo’s popularity as a base for diving in the Maldives.

There are also a couple of sand bars close to Madivaru which you can walk to in knee-deep water. Snorkelling around the islands is pretty good with lots of sharks, sea snakes, a coral reef and colourful fish. We enjoyed our day trip to Madivaru so much that we went back to spend another day there.

Guesthouses will arrange a transfer with return pick up to Madivaru for about $25 per person, which is pretty much the going rate. If you find a fisherman to take you, the cost will be a lot less, thus lowering the total cost of your Maldives low budget travel! Unfortunately, we could not locate any fishermen to take us out the first time round, and the second time round, the only fisherman in the vicinity was repairing his boat.

Amazing sunsets in Rasdhoo - Maldives local islands

Eventually one of the local agencies took us out on a jet ski and picked us up via speedboat for a cost of $15 per person. We did meet other travelers backpacking Maldives who paid less getting a transfer on a local fishing boat, but availability is subject to luck!

We totally recommend adding Rasdhoo and Madivaru to your Maldives itinerary when you’re backpacking Maldives!

Thoddoo – Alif Alif Atoll

Thoddoo is about an hour’s public ferry ride away from Rasdhoo and a great addition to your Maldives itinerary if you’re in this part of the country. Thoddoo is larger than Rasdhoo and is known locally as the agricultural island since it is full of fruit plantations. The fruit grown here is exported to other islands in the Maldives. The local papayas are mouth-watering by the way!

Thoddoo is home to a bikini beach which is larger than that found on Rasdhoo and supposedly more beautiful. We actually thought the one on Rasdhoo was better, possibly because the one in Thoddoo was more crowded than that on Rasdhoo which was almost empty every time we went.

Thodoo vegetable island - maldives low budget

There’s also a house reef a few metres away from shore where you can spend some time snorkelling and observing the colourful fish. Although there are some healthy corals around, we sadly noticed that many were dead and bleached, which was rather disappointing. The transfer from Rasdhoo to Thodhoo by public ferry costs about $1.50.

We thought that Thoddoo was very different to Rasdhoo, perhaps because we could spend time walking through the plantations (renting a bicycle on the island is also very popular), and observing some agricultural activities which is not possible on other Maldives local islands. We think that it’s a great option to include in your plan for Maldives low budget travel!

Clear waters in the Maldives - Maldives Itinerary

Ukulhas – Alif Alif Atoll

Ukhulas is another of the Maldives local islands not far from Rasdhoo, which is popular with travelers backpacking Maldives. It is accessible by public ferry from Male or from Rasdhoo on specific days of the week, so it is easy to include on your Maldives itinerary. Ukhulhas is one of the more developed Maldives local islands, having been the second island to gain electricity after Male, and is also home to a great bikini beach which is the main attraction for those planning Maldives low budget travel, seeing that bikini beaches are generally free to access!

Ukhulas is also a good base from where to go diving in the Maldives because of some great diving spots around the island, although the prices for diving from Ukulhas are known to be higher than those on the other Maldives local islands. The dive shops are sometimes closed for unspecified periods of time, so it would be best to contact them beforehand if diving is a priority. Otherwise, plan on going diving in the Maldives from another island.

rich biodiversity at the Maldives - Maldives on a budget

Mathiveri – Alif Alif Atoll

Mathiveri island is not far from Rasdhoo and Ukulhas and can be included on a Maldives itinerary in the area. The island is very small with a bikini beach and a picnic island which you can swim to. Mathiveri island is also home to stingray beach which is where the fish can be observed. It is best not to swim in this area though!

Maafushi – Kaafu Atoll

Maafushi is probably the most popular of all the Maldives local islands amongst travelers backpacking Maldives, due to its proximity to Male. As with other Maldives local islands, Maafushi is home to guesthouses, a bikini beach, mosques, souvenir shops and restaurants.

Maafushi’s bikini beach is rather small, sometimes overcrowded and not great for snorkelling when compared to bikini beaches on other local islands, but hey, we’re not complaining, it’s still a Maldivian white sand beach! The island is also home to a prison in the northern part, which does not really affect tourism, since tourists usually stick to staying on the southern part of Maafushi.

Crab family in the Maldives - travel to maldives on a budget

The public ferry runs from Male on every day of the week except for Friday (journey time of 90 minutes), whilst the public speedboat runs several times a day including Friday. Maafushi is a very popular island commonly included on a backpacking Maldives itinerary since it is so easily accessible.

Guraidhoo – Kaafu Atoll

Guraidhoo is one of the Maldives local islands located close to Maafushi and often included on a Maldives itinerary together with Maafushi, especially since again, it is not far from Male, the capital. The beach on Guraidhoo is not a bikini beach but the island is connected to a picnic island with a footbridge which is home to a bikini beach.

Snorkelling trips to spots around the island can be arrange on Guraidhoo, which is also home to some dive centres, guesthouses and restaurants catering to those looking for Maldives low budget travel. Guraidhoo is a popular surfing island although the surf is located beyond the island’s shores.

Mooray eel came out to play - Maldives on a budget

Fulidhoo – Vaavu Atoll

Fulidhoo is another of the Maldives local islands accessible via the affordable public ferry. It is located beyond Maafushi and Guraidhoo but can easily be incorporated in your Maldives itinerary due to connections with the afore-mentioned islands. Public speedboats also run to the island, taking half the time taken by the public ferry to get there, but they are way more expensive.

There are a few accommodation options on Fulidhoo. If you’re looking to go diving in the Maldives, this is another island to consider basing yourself on, since there are some great dive spots in the area. Fulidhoo is also home to a bikini beach and snorkelling around the island can be arranged.

Fisherman repairing a boat in the Maldives - Maldives low budget

Thulusdhoo – Kaafu Atoll

Thulusdhoo island is located towards the north of Male and is sometimes called Coke’s island because of a Coca-Cola factory based on the island. Coke’s is also a surfing spot on the same island. Guesthouses and restaurants can be found on the island and Thulusdhoo is also home to a bikini beach.

The house reef surrounding part of the island is a good snorkelling spot whilst the island also makes a good base for diving in the Maldives. Surfing around the island is also very popular!

Manta encounter - Backpacking Maldives

Hulhumale – Kaafu Atoll

Hulhumale is the airport island, and is certainly not the most remarkable of the Maldives local islands, but you might find yourself spending a night or two there prior to your flight out of the Maldives.

Despite the absence of powdery white sand beaches and a very slow vibe, the island is not unpleasant, although it is built up and is made out of reclaimed land. There’s a bikini beach on the island but this is in no way as beautiful as the bikini beaches on most of the other Maldives local islands.

The island is home to a vast café-culture and the east shore is home to a wide selection of cafés and restaurants, unlike many of the other islands.

If you’re planning out a Maldives low budget trip though, you will be glad to know that the guesthouses on the island are not very expensive and neither are the buses, making commuting across the island very easy. Public local ferries to Male can be accessed via the Hulhumale ferry terminal on the west side of the island for 5.50 MVR (about 0.40) one way.

Kite surfing in the Maldives - backpacking maldives

Male – Kaafu Atoll

Male is the capital of the Maldives and the administrative island. It is over-crowded and over-populated with not much to do for tourists. It will be your gateway to the Maldives local islands via local ferry so there’s a chance that you will be spending the first or your last night here (if you have the option, choose to spend your time in the less congested Hulhumale rather than Male).

The island is home to some guesthouses and hotels (which seem to be more expensive than those on the local islands), some restaurants and cafes. If it’s beaches and coconut trees you’re looking for, get out of Male as quickly as possible.

Where to stay on the Maldives local islands when backpacking Maldives

Besides the many private resorts which are synonymous with the country, many Maldives local islands are home to guesthouses or hotels which cater to those backpacking Maldives or traveling to the Maldives on a budget, i.e. those who do not afford to stay in the lavish resorts.

Despite this availability, do keep in mind that although these guesthouses are way cheaper than accommodation on the resort islands, they are not as cheap as guesthouses and hostels in typical backpacker countries. The standard and quality, on the other hand, is higher.

The food on the Maldives local islands tends to be expensive if you’re traveling on a low budget, and not particularly tasty either. Every island is home to a couple of dining options, but the number is limited, and they do tend to be overpriced.

We quickly discovered this after we booked a breakfast-only room with our first accommodation in Rasdhoo. Eventually we found out that it is best to book dinner too. Not only is the food likely to be tastier than what you will get at the cafes, it will probably turn out to be more cost-effective as well.

Here is where we stayed on every island (prices are inclusive of taxes, so this is what we actually paid):

Some shade at Madivaru point - Backpacking Maldives - A Guide to Maldives Local Islands Travel for €35day


Ras Beach Inn –$55/night.  A little guesthouse with large clean rooms with attached bathroom, featuring an actual bathtub. We stayed here for four nights and loved the ambience and slow vibe at this place. Masks and fins can be rented out whilst excursions can be booked. We would have gladly returned here had we not found a better deal (see below). Check the latest prices on or Agoda.

Rasdhoo Sea Breeze Hotel– $45/night. This hotel was heavily discounted at the time of booking, and although the original price was higher than that for Ras Beach Inn, it eventually worked out cheaper since the discounted price was not only lower, but it also included dinner! The discount at this hotel (which we found on, was a fantastic deal which contributed in a significantly positive manner to our Maldives low budget travel. Check the latest prices on or Agoda.

Rasdhoo harbour - backpacking maldives


Amazing View Guesthouse (including breakfast and dinner) – $86/night. This fantastic family-owned guesthouse was a great find in Thoddoo. The Maldivian breakfasts and dinners were fantastic, and definitely the best meals we had during our stay in the Maldives! Our hosts were extremely hospitable, taking us to the bikini beach on their motorbikes, showing us indigenous plants and giving us some information about the island. They also rent bicycles and provide snorkelling gear if required. Check the latest prices on or Agoda.

BBQ fish, a delicacy of the Maldives


Off Day Inn (including breakfast) –  $47/night. This was one of the more affordable hotels in Male and it’s five minutes’ walking distance from the Hulhumale ferry. Since we arrived in Male late at night, this basic option was the best choice, location wise. Breakfast was served in a little shop next door. Check the latest prices on or Agoda.


Meitian Inn (including breakfast) –  $49/night. This guesthouse is a good place to stay in Hulhumale if you’re planning Maldives low budget travel. It is well located near a bus stop with a direct airport connection, and close enough to the north-eastern ferry terminal to walk to it. Check the latest prices on Agoda.

Fisherman in the Maldives

What to eat on the Maldives local islands when backpacking Maldives

Our biggest issue when backpacking Maldives was the unavailability of cheap food. In fact, as explained above, we found that eating dinner at our accommodation (something we normally avoid) when we were on the Maldives local islands, worked out to be more cost-effective.

We found the few cafes and restaurants in Rasdhoo and Thoddoo to be rather expensive with lunch and dinner regularly adding up to around $5 – $10 per person for small portions of uninteresting food. Considering that the addition of a large, tasty, multi-dish local dinner to the room price was of around $20, we found this to work out better. Our guesthouse dinners of barbequed fish, daal and vegetable dishes went down a treat!

We found a little café in Thoddoo serving little Maldivian snacks (called short eats) such as fish cakes and samosas at very cheap prices. If you are happy eating snacks for both lunch and dinner, alternating with pot noodles bought from the local store, your food expenses will of course be a lot lower.

Short eats, a good choice for those backpacking maldives

Maldivian food is heavy on fish and coconut with dishes such as Mas Huni, commonly eaten for breakfast incorporating tuna, onion, coconut and chili. This is normally served with flatbread. Amazing View guesthouse in Thoddoo served up great Maldivian dishes during breakfast and dinner, but sadly, the guesthouses in Rasdhoo served western-style food (the odd toast, eggs and sausages, fried chicken and chips etc), which nevertheless were tasty, though we would definitely have preferred local food.

The cheapest café in Rasdhoo where we ate some of our dinners seemed to only serve western food too, which we found rather disappointing. We would have loved to see more Maldivian dishes on the menu!

Coconut and onions - a Maldives delicacy

Hulhumale is home to a great cafe chain called Bread Matters found in three locations which we totally recommend. We only tried Bread Matters Green which was located across the road from our guesthouse. Eat all you can buffet deals for lunch and dinner were available at this outlet at fantastic prices, which allowed us to indulge in plenty of different dishes without breaking the bank.

This might not be the place to go if you don’t eat a lot, but if like us you enjoy large portions, well, this is a good quality all-you-can-eat buffet with quite a large variety of dishes including soup, salads, mains, and dessert.

Papaya plantations - Maldives local islands

Activities to include on your Maldives itinerary when backpacking Maldives

Visit the beaches of the Maldives local islands

This is easily one of the best activities to do when visiting the Maldives local islands. It’s a free activity, so great for Maldives low budget travel! Most of the Maldives local islands have their own bikini beaches. If you plan on swimming on other beaches, you need to remain fully dressed so as to respect the locals. Though sometimes small, the bikini beaches are usually very pretty, and many are located directly behind a house reef so they make a great base for snorkelling too!

Enjoying the scenery - maldives local islands

Go Snorkelling in the Maldives

Snorkelling from the bikini beaches on the Maldives local island is easy if you’re on a beach with a house reef. Otherwise, local agencies will be happy to take you out to the best snorkelling sites.  

You can also try to ask to join a dive boat, however since diving in the Maldives is a very popular activity, there is no guarantee that there is availability, although when Nikki was diving, the staff were happy to have me join for snorkelling at no additional cost! Masks and fins can be rented from many of the guesthouses or the dive shops. Rental fees tend to be higher than those charged in Southeast Asia, so you may want to carry your own personal gear.

A friendly encounter whilst backpacking maldives

Go Diving in the Maldives

Diving in the Maldives is very popular and for good reason! The Maldives are home to some amazing dive spots where an abundance of marine life and coral can be spotted. We were based on Rasdhoo, close to some of the best spots for diving in the Maldives! Nikki went on a dive trip with Rasdhoo Dive Centre. Two dives including all equipment cost $120, and I was allowed to join the boat for snorkelling for free.

Marko of Bezz Diving, a fellow Maltese, leads a fantastic team of divers, also located on Rasdhoo. Although we didn’t dive with Bezz Diving (because we had already booked our dives with another agency when we met Marko), we heard fantastic reviews about his team!

We found the island of Rasdhoo to be a great base for diving and snorkelling, especially given its proximity to Madivaru, so much so, that we cancelled our plans and returned to the island to spend more time there. It would be best to book a diving trip or package early during peak season, since it can get rather busy!

Diving is a very popular activity in the Maldives

Take boat trips in the Maldives

Boat trips from the Maldives local islands to picnic beaches, fishing and snorkelling spots can be arranged from most guesthouses. Alternatively, it is usually cheaper to find a local fisherman to take you out on his boat. Such trips are rarely cheap and might set you back a good $25 per person. Chartering a boat for the day will be more expensive.

Other daytrips are also available, and these include turtle or dolphin watching, and crab counting. Considering these can sometimes be done freely by simply walking/snorkelling on the beach, we thought they were unnecessarily expensive.

Private vessels in the Maldives - Backpacking Maldives

Explore the Maldives local islands

It is perfectly possible to explore the Maldives local islands independently, there’s really no need to take a guided tour (if these are available at all). On some of the islands such as Thoddoo, bicycles can be hired which will allow you to discover the island at a faster pace, however we found that walking around armed with an ice-cold bottle of water was very easy too!

Many of the Maldives local islands include a school and a couple of shops and sometimes a bakery, or a hospital/clinic. Locals are very honest, polite and immensely nice, but can be rather reserved at the same time. We loved finding our way to the local beaches to watch local fishermen bring in their catch as kids played nearby. Life on the local islands is very simple and a joy to observe!

Scorpion fish - Maldives local islands

Go on a daytrip to a Maldives resort

Whilst staying on the Maldives local islands, it is perfectly possible visit one of the resorts on a day pass to use their facilities. Your guesthouse might be able to arrange this. The cost could include a speedboat transfer to the resort island, entry and use of facilities which could add up to well over $100. It is still cheaper than planning your whole stay in a resort, and a day of pampering and luxury might be a perfect way of celebrating a special day, or a great ending to your Maldives low budget trip!

We decided to skip this activity since we were perfectly happy to experience the Maldives from a local perspective. We have been told that some day pass packages to the resort islands offer great value whilst others are disappointing, so be sure to invest in some research before choosing your resort island and package! It would be very annoying to pay only for facilities and water activities which are anyway available on the local islands at a lower cost!


Expenses during our backpacking Maldives low budget trip – €35 ($39.50) per person per day

During our Maldives low budget trip, we took note of every expense incurred on the Maldives local islands and divided the total cost by the number of days we spent, to come up with an average figure per day.

We are splitting this figure further to give an idea of our actual expenses while backpacking Maldives.

Expense for food and accommodation on the Maldives local islands when backpacking Maldives – €26.16 ($30.20) per person per day

This was easily our biggest expense when backpacking Maldives. We soon discovered that in most cases, it would have been more affordable to book half board accommodation, than to book bed and breakfast and eat our meals elsewhere. We were also lucky enough to get a very good discount at one of our hotels which lowered the total cost. Check this link frequently as accommodation deals are common, particularly in the shoulder season.

Maldives local islands rich in vegetation and sandy roads

Expense for transport to the Maldives local islands when backpacking Maldives – €0.96 ($1.10) per person per day

This included taxi expenses on Male (about $1.20 each/ride), local bus expenses on Hulhumale (about $1.30 each/ride), and ferry expenses between islands. As explained above, local ferries are cheap, making this expense very affordable! If you intend using speedboats between islands, your transport cost will of course shoot up!

Expense for connectivity on the Maldives local islands when backpacking Maldives – €1.00 ($1.14) per person per day

Our Dhiraagu sim card and data package cost $32 for 15GB of data and lasted well into our trip! Ooredoo was the same price for only 9GB of data. We used the sim card on our portable mifi router (one of the best investments we made during long term travel) and connected our phones to this, so that we could both make use of one sim card. Wifi is usually available at the guesthouses, but speeds can be a bit slow.

Expense for activities on the Maldives local islands when backpacking Maldives- €6.56 ($7.48) per person per day

This includes the cost of diving, boat trips and snorkelling equipment. Diving was our most expensive activity, but only Nikki dived, and the expenses have been shared amongst both. If two persons are diving this figure will increase. Of course, if you do not go diving in the Maldives, your activity expenses will probably be lower.

Fooling around on the sandbars - Maldives local islands

Tips for backpacking Maldives

  • Respect the local culture and religion. Swim only in designated bikini beaches (if you intend on stripping down to your swimwear) when staying on Maldives local islands. Unfortunately, we noticed that some tourists did not respect this law, stripping down to their swimwear to take selfies even on local non-bikini beaches or in town. We were very upset to observe this.
  • Have some Maldivian rufiyaa handy for local expenses when backpacking Maldives. You can exchange US dollars to rufiyaa (and vice versa) at the airport in Hulhumale. Most Maldives local islands do not have functioning ATMs.
  • Check the ferries running to the Maldives local islands. If possible, ask for a schedule from a reliable source such as the ticket office in Male. We had quite a difficult time figuring out the schedule when we were on the islands (possibly due to a recent change).
  • Bring your own mask and snorkel when backpacking Maldives local islands. Guesthouses normally have some available for rent, but rental fees can be rather steep.
  • Do not bring in any alcohol into the country. Alcohol is not found on the Maldives local islands but can be found in resorts, so if you’re craving alcohol consider taking a daytip to one of the resorts.
  • Most of the guesthouses on the Maldives local islands have good wifi. We carried a sim card from Dhiraagu on our portable mifi router and had reliable data (mainly 4G) on every local island we visited. Shops selling sim cards for both Dhiraagu and Ooredoo can be found at the airport’s arrivals lounge.

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  1. Ryan Biddulph

    Wow! I never knew backpacking was even possible in the Maldives. I had images of private islands and luxury resorts. Even though I never backpacked, still good to know. Those waters are mesmerizing. First rate all the way. Tweeted for you.


  2. Daniel House

    This is such a great article. We are about to embark on a week in the Maldives budget backpacking and this has been one of the most useful resources in our planning. Thank you.

    • Cheeky Passports

      We are so glad that you found our article useful! Enjoy planning, and especially enjoy the Maldives! 🙂

  3. Shyam

    Hey michelle & nikki
    Today i came across your cheeky passport blog , it was heavenly to see world through you guys , blessed to have such a life & travel all these unique places , each trip selection of yours are wonderful , wish you good days on ur upcoming trips … Im planing to visit maldives , in between my researchs i found you & was going through your updates in fb… Im hving few doubts for my rasdhoo thoddoo trip how can i discuss those with you ? Can i mail you or however you say …. Thanks in advance ??

    • Cheeky Passports

      Hello! 🙂 We are very glad that you found our posts helpful! Please do get in touch via our email [email protected]. We look forward to discussing the Maldives 🙂

  4. Eint


    I cant decide choosing rasdhoo or thoddoo island.. which island you prefer more or think is more beautiful? We have been twice to the Maldives.

    • Cheeky Passports

      Hi Eint,
      Both islands have a very different character. Thoddoo is an agricultural hub and its fields and plantations are pretty unique for the Maldives. Rasdhoo is also pretty, and Madivaru (accessed from Rasdhoo) must be one of the most photogenic places we have visited. Whatever your choice, you are sure you will have a great time! enjoy it!

  5. Cynthia Teo

    Thanks for sharing, I love what you have written. Enjoyed reading it and hope to use your tips for planning Maldives.


  6. Nafeesa

    We are planning to visit Maldives in February.i have heard that ferries get cancelled very often. Is it true?
    Should we book the guesthouses well in advance or are they easily available
    Rasdhoo, Thoddoo and ukulas are the islands we are going to visit.
    Please reply to my email if u can

    • Cheeky Passports

      Hi Nafeesa, we visited in February, none of the ferries were cancelled when we were there, however we can’t confirm for sure that they won’t be. We preferred booking the guesthouse in advance. Have an awesome trip!

  7. Adele Muscat

    Tks Mich and Nik for the tips. Trying to plan for a 2 week trip, bit of resort easy life and bit more financially maageable places 🙂


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