The Maldives on an Idiot’s Budget: 6 Tips to Help you Save Money in the Maldives!

If you’re planning to go to the Maldives on an idiot’s budget the way I did, I have 6 recommendations for you that have to do with:

  1. Transportation by Ferry
  2. Transportation by Bus (and Ferry)
  3. Ferry Tickets
  4. When to Travel
  5. Money
  6. Getting Insider Tips

1) Transportation by Ferry

Be sure to visit the MTCC (Maldives Transport and Contracting Company) homepage and download whatever ferry schedule(s) you need. Doing so will help you avoid the problem I describe below.

2) Transportation by Bus (and Ferry)

Be sure to download the RTL Travel App so you can get around Malé and Hulhumalé (as well as some other islands) by public bus cheaply and efficiently. Prices range from MVR 5 to MVR 10. The app also includes ferry information, but I only used the bus information. You can either buy a ticket through the app or pay as you board the bus with a tap-enabled credit card.

3) Ferry Tickets

If you take a ferry ride that includes a same-day stopover (in other words, if you are traveling from A to B and later that same day from B to C), tell the ticket seller on the first boat that your destination is C, not B. That will save you money, since you only pay for A to C, rather than A to B and B to C! There were only two prices for all of the ferries I took: either MVR 22 for a short ride or MVR 53 for a long(er) ride. You can’t beat those prices!

4) When to Travel

Travel in the off-season, which is May to August. I went in June and loved it. Supposedly, the off-season is “monsoon” (rather than “rainy”) season, which implies there will be tons of rain. In reality, at least on this occasion, however, it rained a lot less than I expected. Furthermore, most prices (except in Malé and Hulhumalé) were quite reasonable and there were hardly any crowds, so traveling from place to place and finding last-minute accommodations was a breeze!

5) Money

If you need Maldivian currency, I suggest you withdraw your cash at a Habib Bank ATM because you won’t pay a fee! Not all ATMs are fee-free but this one is and the exchange rate is excellent! Note: Since small(er) islands seem to only have Bank of Maldives ATMs, if any, which charge a ridiculous fee of 100 MVR ($6.50), be sure to withdraw cash at the airport or in Malé or Hulhumalé. In the Maldives, you can often pay by credit card but many businesses (including speedboats and ferries) are cash only, so be sure to have some local currency and/or US dollars!

6) Getting Insider Tips

Talk to locals to get insider tips, such as 3) (the one about ferry tickets). I learned that one from a guy named Areef, who was our host when we stayed on Dhangethi.

Here is how all of these tips helped me:

I made the mistake of trusting some random schedule information that I had found online, only to discover that my ferry to Ukulhas, an island in the Alif Alif (or AA) Atoll,

  • didn’t leave Malé from the Villingili Ferry Terminal and
  • didn’t depart on Tuesdays (or Sundays or Wednesdays)

so I ended up taking a much more expensive speedboat to the island ($50 one-way instead of 53 MVR [$3.45 based on today’s exchange rate]). Yikes!

Here’s how that went down:

I first went to the Villingili Ferry Terminal in the southwest corner of Malé and asked about the ferry to Ukulhas. The staff there told me that the ferry departed not from VFT but rather from the Henveiru Ferry Terminal (aka the Hulhumalé Ferry Terminal) all the way in the northeast corner of the island, 2.3 kms away. (Panic sets in.) At least I was early, so I had plenty of time to get to HFT. (Calm sets back in.) The other positive was that I had already downloaded the RTL Travel App, so I was able to quickly figure out which bus to take to get to HFT (the R10).

Once at HFT, I was told there was no ferry to Ukulhas that day. (Panic sets back in.) “Tomorrow,” she said, which, according to the official schedule is also wrong! Take a look at the schedule below and you’ll see the ferry only goes on Monday and Thursday. At least the time (9:00 am) was correct! Hah!

If you’re a frequent traveler like me, you know you should always have a Plan B (and a Plan C and even a Plan D?), which was to take the speedboat to Ukulhas. Luckily, speedboats go much more regularly (daily?), so I just had to find out where to catch the boat (Jetty Number 3) and get there on time. According to the Coral Speed website, the departure time is 10:00 but our departure time was actually 10:30, so please call them as I did at +960-7783518 for up-to-date information! If you ask, they will also tell you the name of the boat so you don’t have to ask at the jetty, since there are likely to be many boats and no signage! (Their website doesn’t show the boat that we took, the Coral Cruiser.)

I don’t like to do a lot of research before I travel to my destination and sometimes I do none at all, but if I were you, I would take my 6 tips to heart to make your budget trip to the Maldives a lot more enjoyable and affordable!

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