Travel Notes: Solo Backpacking in Maldives

Travel Notes: Solo Backpacking in Maldives

A trip to Maldives do not always involve burning a huge hole on your pocket. Although it won't be anywhere cheaper than countries such as Cambodia, Thailand or Laos, it is possible to go on a budget backpacking trip to Maldives!

Someone asked me if there is such a thing as “budget backpacking in Maldives”? I remembered answering “yes” without any hint of hesitation. Well, actually, I would like to believe that there is. Maybe not as cheap as Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, India, Indonesia or the Philippines but not pocket emptying as what most people think.


The beautiful Maadhoo Finolhu or commonly known as Picnic Island in South Atoll

Maldives is an archipelago of approximately 1,190 coral islands grouped in 26 atolls, spread over roughly 90,000km2 in the warm waters of Indian Ocean. It is the smallest Asian country in terms of population and land area, and also the lowest country in the world. There are reports that the island nation is sinking and in a verge of disappearance from the surface of the Earth. While it is a fact for some and a myth for others, one thing is for sure – Maldives is the tropical paradise you’ve been dreaming of, whether underwater or above!


Hulhumale Public Beach

I had a chance to visit Maldives in a solo “budget” backpacking trip that is truly one for the books! In five days and four nights, I swam on its crystal clear turquoise waters, walked on its powder-like white sand beaches, dived on its unimaginable underwater world, visited some islands, watched numerous sunrises and sunsets, and experienced the famous sand, sea and sun of this tropical paradise. After completely analysing my expenses, I realised that my initial estimate was quite understated. I did everything that I could to make this trip a not so traumatic experience in my pocket and in the most budget friendly way that I could think of. In the end, I still ended up with a little over P19,000 expenses. Well that is the downside of solo traveling, you have to shoulder all the expenses. No regrets though, for it is all worth it! So without further ado, here’s the summary of my trip with itinerary, expenses and other (hopefully) helpful tips to give you an idea on how it is to travel in this country that I know you’ve been dying to visit!


UI Inn Hulhumale, an affordable hotel in Hulhumale


Day 1: Around Hulhumale

1250H – 1315H: Arrival in Ibrahim Nazir International Airport of (Male) / Immigration
1315H – 1325H: Airport transfer to UI Inn Hulhumale (US$7.5 airport transfer)
1325H – 1430H: Check-in at UI Inn / Rest (US$43 one night in UI Inn)
1430H – 1630H: Explore Hulhumale Public Beach, shops, neighborhood
1630H – 1830H: Biking / sunset at Hulhumale Port (US$1 bike rental)
1830H onwards: Dinner / back at the hotel


Sunset at Hulhumale Port

Day 2: En Route to Maafushi

0600H – 0700H: Call time / sunrise at Hulhumale Beach
0700H – 1000H: Breakfast / free time / walk along the beach, town center, mosque
1000H – 1145H: Back at hotel / fix-up / check-out / proceed to Hulhumale Ferry Terminal
1145H – 1200H: Purchase ticket / waiting time
1200H – 1220H: Ferry ride from Hulhumale to Male (MVR5.5 Hulhumale to Male ferry tariff)
1220H – 1255H: Walk around Male towards Vilingili Ferry Terminal
1255H – 1500H: Buy ticket to Maafushi Island / dinner / waiting time
1500H – 1640H: Ferry ride from Vilingili Ferry Terminal of Male to Maafushi Island via Gulhi (MVR22 Male to Maafushi ferry tariff)
1640H – 1710H: Assembly / proceed to Holiday Lodge Maldives / check-in / briefing (US$117.96 two nights in Holiday Lodge)
1710H onwards: Free time / sunset at Maafushi / back at hotel / dinner


The public beach of Muufushi Island

Day 3: Day Tour at Maadhoo Finolhu (Picnic Island)

0600H – 0900H: Call time / sunrise / breakfast / prepare for Picnic Island
0900H – 0920H: Transfer from Maafushi Island to Picnic Island
0920H – 1645H: Whole day in the island – explore/swim/snorkel/lunch (US$29 Promo Day Tour + US$11 Island Entrance)
1645H – 1700H: Pack-up
1700H – 1720H: Transfer from Picnic Island to Maafushi island
1720H onwards: Free time / sunset at Maafushi / back at hotel / dinner


Sunset at Maafushi Island

Day 4: Scuba Diving in South Atoll + Back to Hulhumale

0700H – 0830H: Call time / breakfast / proceed to boat
0830H – 1200H: Two day dives in South Atoll (Miyaru Faru and Kuda Giri) with Maldives Passion (US$110 for two dives)
1200H – 1300H: Back in Maafushi / settle diving bill / hotel check-out
1300H – 1445H: Ferry ride from Maafushi Island to Vilingili Port of Male (MVR22 Maafushi to Male ferry tariff)
1445H – 1545H: Arrival in Male, walk around the city / shop for grocery items, post cards and souvenirs / proceed to Jetty Port
1545H – 1605H: Ferry ride from Male to Hulhumale (MVR5.5 Male to Hulhumale ferry tariff)
1605H – 1630H: Bus from Jetty Port to UI Inn (MVR3 local bus tariff)
1630H onwards: Check-in at UI Inn / free time / beach / grocery / dinner (US$43 one night in UI Inn)


School of Eagle Ray at Miyaru Firu

Day 5: Fly out of Male

0540H – 0730H: Call time / jog / sunrise at Hulhumale Beach
0730H – 0800H: Breakfast
0800H – 0815H: Bus to Hulhumale Ferry Port / buy ferry ticket (MVR3 local bus tariff)
0815H – 0835H: Ferry ride from Hulhumale to Male (MVR5.5 Hulhumale to Male ferry tariff)
0835H – 0940H: Arrival in Male / shop / walked around the city: Mosque, Sultan Park, Post Office, National Museum
0945H – 1015H: Proceed to Male Jetty Port / buy ticket / ferry boarding (MVR5.5 Male to Hulhumale ferry tariff)
1015H – 1035H: Arrival in Hulhumale
1035H – 1055H: Bus to hotel (MVR3 local bus tariff)
1055H – 1130H: Pack-up / wash-up / check-out
1130H – 1145H: Transfer from hotel to airport (US$7.5 airport transfer)
1145H – 1350H: Flight check-in / airport free time / boarding

The Islamic Centre (Masjid-al-Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu Al Auzam) in downtown Male

Expenses (Excluding Airfare)

US$86 – Two nights accommodation in UI Inn Hulhumale
US$117.96 – Two nights accommodation in Holiday Lodge Maldives Maafushi
US$15 – Airport transfer (Airport – UI Inn – Airport)
US$110 – Two dives at Maldives Passion (including gear and equipment)
US$29 – Maadhoo Finolhu Day Tour (Promo rate of Holiday Lodge Maldives for February – barbecue lunch & snorkel set included)
US$1 – Bike rental in Hulhumale
US$2.93 – Round trip ferry tariff (Male – Maafushi – Male)
US$2.07 – Other transportation expenses (local bus and ferry rides)
US$32.95 – Food expenses
US$40.93 – Miscellaneous expenses (souvenirs, grocery items, post cards, mailing costs, etc.)
US$437.84 Solo Backpacking Maldives Expenses


Picnic Island


  • All nationalities can obtain free visa upon arrival in Maldives
  • Maldives is a Islamic state, as such religious materials that are offensive to Islam, religious idols, pornographic materials, narcotics and psychotropic substances, and live pigs are strictly prohibited. Meanwhile, arms and ammunition, alcohol and spirits, pork and its by-products, dogs and dangerous animals are restricted except for government authorities
  • United States Dollar is widely accepted anywhere in Maldives, prevailing exchange rate is 1 USD = 15 Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR)
  • I suggest to exchange only small amount of your United States Dollars to Maldivian Rufiyaa (I exchanged only 100USD), enough to pay for local transportation and small stores. Although they accept USD too, it is cost effective to pay in MVR since some round up the USD amount.
  • Public transport (ferry and bus) in Maldives is operated by Maldives Transport and Contracting Company PLC. Their latest schedule can be viewed here:
  • Taxi rate in Male and Hulhumale is fix at 25 MVR

Staying in the City: Male or Hulhumale?

  • If you are planning to stay near the airport in Hulhule Island, you can book any hotel in Hulhumale or Male. The quiet neighborhood of Hulhumale is the best option, it has a long stretch of public white sand beach, has budget hotels, and it is connected to Hulhule Island by a bridge with only around 10 minutes of travel time. Male, on the other hand, has lots of shops, restaurants, hotels and government establishments but no beach.
  • There are public buses in Hulhumale Island that go around the neighborhood and ferry terminal, fare is 3 MVR

Reception and dining area of Holiday Lodge Maafushi

Airport / Male City Public Transport (Ferry)

  • Male City is accessible from the Ibrahim Nazir International Airport via public ferry. Travel time is approximately 10 minutes. Fare is 25 Rufiyaa (30 MVR after 12 Midnight).
  • Public ferry from Ibrahim Nazir International Airport to Male City is available from 7AM to 2AM with departure every 15 minutes on peak hours / day time (No travel from 12PM to 2PM on Fridays)
  • Public ferry from Male City to Ibrahim Nazir International Airport is available from 6:45AM to 1:45AM with departure every 15 minutes on peak hours / day time (No travel from 11:45AM to 1:45PM on Fridays)

Airport / Hulhumale Public Transport (Bus/Taxi/Hotel Transfer)

  • Hulhumale is accessible from the Ibrahim Nazir International Airport via public bus. Travel time is approximately 10 minutes. Fare is 16 MVR.
  • Public bus from Ibrahim Nazir International Airport to Hulhumale is available from 6:30AM to 3:00AM (No schedule from 12PM to 2:30PM on Fridays)
  • Public bus from Hulhumale to Ibrahim Nazir International Airport is available from 6AM to 2:30AM (No schedule from 11AM to 1:30PM on Fridays)
  • Airport taxi to Hulhumale costs 100 MVR, travel time is around 10 minutes
  • Most hotels in Hulhumale offer transfer for a fix rate of 7.5 USD one-way, travel time is around 10 minutes

Male / Hulhumale Public Transport (Ferry)

  • Public ferry connects Male City and Hulhumale. Travel time is approximately 20 minutes. Fare is 5.5 MVR
  • Public ferry from Male City to Hulhumale is available from 5:30AM to 2:30AM with departure every 15 minutes on peak hours / day time (No travel from 11:45AM to 1:30PM on Fridays)
  • Public ferry from Hulhumale to Male City is available from 5:20AM to 3AM with departure every 15 minutes on peak hours / day time (No travel from 11:45AM to 1:30PM on Fridays)

Male / Vilingili Public Transport (Ferry/Taxi)

  • Vilingili Port is where ferries going to provinces depart. Although they are on the same island, regular public ferries connect Male Jetty Port and Vilingili Port almost round-the-clock except on prayer time on Fridays. Travel time is approximately 10 minutes. Fare is 3.25 MVR
  • Taxis are also available at fix rate of 25 MVR

Male to Other Islands/Provinces

  • Public ferry connects Male City to other islands and provinces including Maafushi, Gulhi and Guraidhoo in South Atoll . Travel time from Male to Maafushi is approximately 90 minutes and fare is 22 MVR
  • No public ferry to provinces on Fridays
  • For schedule of ferry to provinces, check out:

Farukolhufushi Island as seen from northern coast of Hulhumale

Other Tips

  • Commonly used power outlets in Maldives is the British Type – 3 flat prongs, power is 230V 50Hz
  • Maldives has two distinct seasons: dry from January to April (northeast monsoon) and wet from mid-May to November (southwest monsoon). But despite the little rain, expect the sun all year round
  • Maldivian cuisine is based on three main items: coconuts, fish and starches. A complete typical meal costs around 50 – 90 MVR in local eateries and restaurants
  • Bikini is strictly prohibited in public beaches
  • Staying in exclusive island resorts is definitely costly, the cheaper way of experiencing Maldives is to stay in cheaper hotels, lodges or inns and just go on island hopping or day excursion to see the other islands, beaches and even the exclusive resorts
  • Maadhoo Finolhu or Picnic Island in South Atoll is a beautiful island with long stretch of powder-like white sand beach. It will be converted into another exclusive island resort soon so take the chance to visit it while construction has not yet started
  • Budget carriers Air Asia and Tiger Airways fly from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore respectively. Unfortunately though, Air Asia will stop serving the route effective March 2014. That leaves Tiger Airways from Singapore as the only budget carrier from South East Asia flying to Male
  • Maldives can be very expensive if you stay in exclusive island resorts. But in the recent years, decent hotels in the city and even in the outlying islands have opened, paving the way for traveler to experience the island nation on cheaper budget
  • Take note of published rates of any establishments, most exclude the taxes on the published rates


Contributed by Latwatsero.


Inspired? Here are some sites for you to make your travel happen:

TripZilla Travel Packages to Maldives

About Author

Angel C Juarez


Related Posts