Travel Maldives on budget! (Part 1)

by - June 29, 2014

Even though I came back from Maldives more than weeks ago, my heart is still at Maldives. It is such a beautiful country, with many little islands scattered all over. The dives were fantastic, time spent with my girls was good. Many of my friends and readers have asked me about my Maldives trip, how did i manage to spend my holiday there without burning a big hole in my pocket, so i've decided to painstakingly blog about every detail of my holiday so you guys can have a better idea on how to travel Maldives on budget!

Firstly, Maldives is a country of South East Asia, situated in the Indian Ocean, consists of approximately 1,190 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, spread over roughly 90,000 square kms, making it one of the most disparate countries in the world (Wikipedia, 2014). Basically, it just means that there are a million and one (or rather 1,190) islands that you can choose to stay on. They are classified under 2 categories, local islands and private international resorts. The only difference is the pricing and probably what the island offers. If you choose to stay on local islands, it means strictly ZERO alcohol but cheaper nightly stays. Of course you'll have to factor in the quality of the product that you pay for. The lesser you pay, the lesser you should expect

We chose to fly with Tiger Air, since the reason was super obvious; our dearest Diana is an air stewardess on Tiger. Tiger fares can range from $400-$800 return depending on the season. Some of my friends have flown to Male paying only $300, and some paid $800 for their tickets. For us, we paid only $100 each! All hail our queen diana! I believe tiger cabin crew is allowed to bring up to 4 friends with them to any destination that Tiger flies to, and the fare that we have to pay is only the airport taxes! How good is this! Now i'm sure everyone would go forth and befriend Tiger cabin crews.  The last time we did this was to Taiwan in May 2011. Diana, Junru and myself flew to Taiwan for a holiday on Tiger before i left for Australia to study.

We chose to stay on a local island, since we weren't going to stay in the resort for most of the day. Diana did the research and we all agreed on this hotel;  Holiday Makers Inn. There were 4 of us, and they offered us a 2 bedroom unit. We booked it on trip advisor and got it at a price of SGD156/night for the whole unit. This is very cheap as compared to the other accommodations on the private resort. It isn't a fanciful resort, its a humble building with a nice unit, just nice for us

That's how it looks at the entrance of the building. Just a 4 storey inn with 2 blocks of rooms. The price we paid for includes breakfast every morning from 7-10am. The staff cooks the breakfast at their pantry and serves it out for guests who are present. There's a mixture of sausages, hard boil egg, toast, jam, coffee & tea,  orange juice and cut fruits for breakfast. yummmm! it was quite a nice spread for us. The only downside of this is that there were quite a number of mainland chinese tourists there and they were super obnoxious.. Quite annoying to see them speak to the maldivian staff in CHINESE and expected them to understand. One guy even smoked in his room, all the way down the corridor and lobby when there was a big sign saying "NO SMOKING". C'mon dude, just because you're in maldives doesn't mean you can thing as you please, there are rules around as well, please give some respect. 

That aside, here's a video i took with my gopro of our hotel room. I hope that gives you guys a better understanding of how our room is like. Its a pretty decent sized room for the price we paid :)

As diving was on our priority list, we set aside most of our funds for diving trips. On Hulhumale, there are only about 3 diving schools in total. There is Intoscuba, Dive Club Maldives and some other school which i forgot the name of. Prior to this trip, Diana and i have been searching and emailing these dive clubs to inquire their rates for dives etc. We contacted Intoscuba at the beginning as they offered the cheapest package on their website, however they didn't reply us. After countless futile attempts, we decided to contact Dive Club Maldives and they offered us a 5 dive package for USD300. It also includes the pickup from our hotel, all equipment, boat tax & fuel. For USD60 (SGD75) a dive, it's a littttttle pricey but hey it's the Maldives, its going to be awesome! Diana and I are both certified divers, whereas Junru and Jessica weren't. They chose to do snorkelling and the package offered to them was USD30/day for snorkel at all the 5 dive sites that we were going to go over the span of 2 days.. On the 2nd day, the two girls opted for an additional 60 USD to go for the Discover Scuba where the dive master brings them on an introductory scuba dive. 

                                                                           Day 1                                                                         
We met at Changi airport in the morning at 8am, and i vividly remember it was a panicky moment for all of us. When all of us were on our way to the airport, jess told us diana was stuck in her bedroom. HAHA! apparently, her bedroom door decided to lock her in her room from the inside and everyone had to try save her out. If diana doesn't make it to the airport, our whole holiday will be gone cus we need diana to fly with us. Luckily, she made it out by breaking the lock apart and she flew down to airport. PHEW!!
Got ourselves checked in and off we go to the boarding gates. The security officer at the departure gates saw our MALE boarding passes and allowed us through saying "I AM SO JEALOUS".. hahaha! Bought seasick tablets at Guardian inside and camwhored while waiting to board the plane. We didn't forget about our dear Step Crasher and even took a photo with her in it! hahaa
FYI, if you're someone who's prone to sea sick, please get your ginger tablets ready in hand. Our boat ride on the first day was HORRENDOUS, the waves were so rough and 3 of us nearly threw up... we took 10 ginger tablets each the next day. HAHA! #kiasusingaporeans

Do take note that the flight time is 4 hr and 45min, and Maldives is 3hrs behind Singapore.

As we were arriving, we were treated by majestic views from above. Maldives looks so perfect even from sky high! The plane tilted from left to right, giving passengers on both aisles opportunities to see the beautiful islands and turquoise sea. Even air stewardess gave a comment as to which aisle has the better view. They must be so used to seeing the views...

The airport is situated on the main island of Maldives, which is Male. Our hotel is situated on Hulhumale island (the second biggest apart from Male) and it is accessible by boat or car. We had previously arranged for an airport pickup with the hotel and so the hunt was on for our hotel's minivan. Right after you step out of the arrival hall, you'll be greeted with a masssssive group of hoteliers who're eagerly holding up placards to welcome their guests. Big brands like Four Season, Banyan Tree, Huvafen Fushi, Park Hyatt etc had big luxurious looking buses and even an air-conditioned store for guests to have a welcome drink at while the staffs took care of their luggage and transport to the hotel. We were getting quite overwhelmed by the amass of hotel groups calling out for their guests, and fortunately one hotelier pointed out where our minivan was parked at. So thankful for that or we'd be so lost. Our plane was delayed due to a sudden change in captains so we figured the pickup staff for our hotel would have gone back to rest in their minivan..

Our drive from the airport to the hotel took only about 15 min! Got ourselves checked in, explored the hotel (see above video for our hotel room layout) and went down to wait for our dive shop pickup. The hotel staff were very pleasant, they tried their best to help in any way possible. :)

As mentioned above, we chose to dive with Dive Club Maldives. They came to pick us up in their little pickup truck and we got to sit at the back. haha #cheapthrills
So we were brought to the dive shop first to get our forms filled up, grabbed our tanks, BCD etc. All their staff were extremely helpful and fun-loving! 

We managed to snap a photo of the dive prices listed on the brochure. We did communicate with the dive shop via email and the boss offered us a 5 dive package for US$300. However, upon entering the shop we saw their brochure stating something else. Spot the "Two day unlimited diving (6 boat dives) for US$300". We got a little upset that they did not inform us of this prior yet it was stated on their brochure, but we brushed it aside as we couldn't afford to do a 6th dive. Our flight was at 12 noon the next day, so having 5 dives was the maximum we could do before the no-fly limit sets in. 
If any of you guys are planning to dive with them, please do take note of this... If you arrive in the afternoon like we did, they can only take you out on the afternoon boat for 2 dives. They will then do 2 more dives in the morning the following day, and one in the early afternoon after lunch time. If you've got time to spare, then a 6th one. Unfortunately for us, we could only do 5 dives. I'm not too sure if the prices on the brochure are for walk-ins only or if its applicable even for online bookings.

Anyway dramas aside, here we gooooooo for our first dive!!!!

Off we board the boat and here comes our sun soaked adventures! #happyfaces

Our Dive Master for the day, Martinnnnnn!
About 20 min boat drive out, we've arrived at our first dive site! Throughout the boat ride, their staff were busy preparing our tanks, weight belts, fins while we snapped pretty photos and listened to our instructor for pre dive prep. They were so good in getting everything ready, just so you wont even have to move a single muscle,just put your arms through the arm holes of the BCD and you're good to jump into the water. #twothumbsupforeffort

Our first dive was at Coral Garden. It was a cruisy dive, more to getting our bodies used to the water, gauging the current, directions etc.

Those are tiny tiny fishes, not random particles!

Before we knew it, our first dive was over!!!!!!! It seemed so quick! 

Then the boat took off to our second dive site, Fish Tank! According to Martin, this is the place where we get to see plentiful! It was also where we first got to touch Morray Eels and got up close and personal with huge schools of stingrays! Never before have I seen such big stingrays in my life! I took mostly videos since they're better underwater. haha so here's some videos of my dives. Alternatively, you may go to my youtube channel to see my other dives. Link is as below! Enjoy! :>

my first interesting find... a pair of jeans

The boat was seriously rocking from side to side, if you were to watch my video on my Youtube channel, you'll be able to see how strong the waves were. Well, it was strong to us, making us sick in our stomach.... 

That, my friend is not some Wolverine mutation but Tuna fish bones that our instructor found.... and Jess happily played with.


By the time we ended our dives, it was evening and we were all exhausted. Got dropped off at the dive shop to sign off our logbooks and the staffs sent us back to our hotel. Once we got back to our hotel, the first thing that all of us did was to connect to the lobby's wifi! And also to excitedly extract all the photos and videos from diana and my GoPros. While I was still extracting my photos and videos, Diana did the dinner cooking with the help of the hotel's staffs. Well, even though we had a kitchen of our own, it didn't come with any pots/pans/utensils etc. We have no idea why they don't provide it, so we ended up using the staff's pantry area to do our own dinner cooking.

We knew that food was going to be quite pricey at Maldives (all thanks to our researching skills), so we planned to cook pasta for our first night and dine out only on our second night. We even bought the pasta noodles from Singapore before we flew over! Managed to buy a can of tomato sauce for pasta sauce cooking and 8 eggs from a minimart opposite our hotel. It wasn't a fancy dinner but it was satisfying for us as we were starving, nauseous from the boat ride and exhausted.

This is how our first day came to an end. All of us, red faced, crawled into bed pretty early that night. I fell asleep at 10pm! But then again factoring the time difference, it was 1am in Singapore. Great day spent, can't wait for more to come! 

Stay tuned for my 2nd day of adventure and also to conclude the total amount i spent on this entire trip! 
Hint: It was <$1000 !


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