I had so many questions when I was trying to book our recent holiday in the Maldives. Now that we are back, I thought that my questions and answers would be useful to someone trying to book another holiday there. So, in the last of my 3 post arc about the Maldives, I look at some of the questions I had and the (sort of) answers I ended up with.
Maldives has over a hundred island resorts to choose from and they all come with blue sea, white sand, plenty of sunshine and very good reviews. So how do you choose one?
Here are a few things we took into account when trying to choose an island:
How Far is the Island from Male Airport?
Male is a very small country in terms of land mass (only 298 km2) but it is geographically spread over 90,000 km2. So, by Maldivian standards, any island less than an hour’s speed boat ride away from Male airport is considered pretty close. For any other island, you will need to take a sea plane from Male. For those islands that are furthest from Male, you will need to take a domestic flight, followed by a sea plane or a speed boat. It all sounds rather glamorous, but it feels less so in real life, especially when you’ve been cooped up in a long haul flight for many hours.
There is also the cost of the transfer to consider. A speed boat ride is usually the cheapest option. A sea plane transfer will give you a really scenic journey, but it is pricey. We found that in general, the return sea plane transfer cost was the equivalent of one-night stay at a resort. So, decide what you would rather have – a sea plane ride, or an extra day in the hotel.
All in all, an island closer to the airport means a cheaper and simpler transfer, which will leave you more time (and money) to spend at the resort itself. But, the islands closer to Male are more likely to be next to other inhabited islands, so if you are looking for complete isolation, it may be better to go an island in a far flung corner.
Big Island or Little Island?
Would you prefer an island large enough so that you need a golf buggy to ferry you around, or one that takes 5-10 minutes to walk around?
Usually, the larger the island, bigger the resort. There are pros and cons to both. Larger resorts will have more rooms, so will be more crowded, but they will also have more facilities – sports, games rooms, spa, varied entertainment, children’s clubs and more places to eat and drink. Smaller islands will have less rooms and more of a boutique feel, but may not have lots of activities to keep you occupied.
So, what’s important to you? Are you happy to snorkel, read a book and sun bathe, or would you need more activities to keep you busy?
Snorkeling and Diving
Many people visit Maldives for the excellent snorkeling and diving. If this is really important to you, pick somewhere that has a good house-reef.
In case you are wondering what a house-reef is, this is where the coral shelf surrounding the island drops off giving way to the deeper sea. In these areas, you get stunning coral gardens filled with many varieties of fish. The islands will have some coral reefs and fish by the beach too, but it is the house reefs are extraordinary.
In some islands, the house reef is a boat ride away, so you have to rely on excursions arranged by the resort to get you there and the snorkeling sessions are time limited. So, if you don’t want to be tied to the excursion schedule pick somewhere with an accessible house reef.
The price range in the Maldives ranges from quite expensive to “I can only dream about this”. Decide what your budget is and stick to it. As I mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of resorts and even those on the lower end of the price scale are very good, so you are bound to find one that fits your budget.
Also, when you are on hotel price comparison sites, check the small print. We found that the prices quoted on many will not include the transfer fees, resort fees and taxes, so the eventual price you pay can be a lot more than the one you see. Travel agents tend to usually include these extra fees in the package cost.
More recently, many of the resorts have started to offer a price match or a cheapest price guarantee if you book directly with them, so it is always worth looking at the resort website too.
Some islands cater to couples only, whilst some are more family oriented. Some will have parties and karaoke every night, whereas on some islands it will be very quiet. So decide based on what type of holiday you are after.
All-Inclusive or Not?
Before we went to the Maldives, I spoke to a few friends who’d been there before. They all said one thing. Go for “full-board” or “all-inclusive” options at the hotel. This is with good reason, as a-la-carte options at Maldivian resorts can be incredibly expensive.
Many Maldives resorts offer the options of: Bed and Breakfast, Half Board (Breakfast + Dinner), Full Board (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) and All Inclusive (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks and Drinks). It can be a bit of a headache trying to figure out what the most cost effective option would be.
A few things to think about when deciding whether t go a la carte, full board or all inclusive:
- Consider the difference between the full board and all-inclusive rates per day. Given your usual holiday drinking/snaking habits, consider if you will drink/snack the difference in price. Most resorts have the menus on their website, so you can get a rough idea of the prices before you go. We went for the all-inclusive option at Meeru Island, and we found that a couple of alcoholic drinks with lunch and dinner and one or two snacks per day and a few of bottles of water added up to the extra price for all-inclusive rate. If you are tee-total, full board may be a better option, but you will have to pay for soft drinks, including water. Remember that tap water is not drinkable in the Maldives, so you will need to pay for bottled water for your entire stay.
- Are you ok with sticking to meal times? If you are on half board, full board or all inclusive, all meals will be served at set times. If you eat outside the meal times these will have to be paid extra. If you are likely to be eating outside these hours, or if as you are planning to be out most of the days snorkelling/diving or on excursions, then a-la-carte may be better.
- Are you happy to drink house branded wines and spirits? Premium brands are not included in all-inclusive, so if you cannot do without your favourite brand of wine, gin or whiskey, it may be better to pay as you go.
- What time of the day are you leaving the island? If you are on an evening/night flight out of Male, you might not leave the island till late afternoon, but you will still need to checkout by mid-morning. Some resorts in this case will still let you eat and drink even after you check out, provided that you are on an all-inclusive plan.
- Does the all inclusive option include any other benefits? Excursions, Internet, Spa Treatments, Sports lessons? The cost of these little extras add up, so it is worth considering these.
What type of room?
If you can afford it, my recommendation is to go for an over water villa. In fact, if you are not going for an over water villa, consider another destination in the region, as you are likely to get similar holiday for a lot less. I’ve written a whole post about it here.
When to visit?
For the Maldives, the monsoon season (generally May to September) is the low season and prices are significantly cheaper. High season is October to April, with Christmas and New Year being especially expensive.
Going in the Monsoon is obviously the cheapest option and in my view, is worth it. Generally, rains are predictable and are limited to an hour or two in the morning and/or afternoon, after which the skies clear up. Also, as the waters are pretty shallow around Maldivian islands, you can still safely snorkel and swim in the sea during the monsoon (unlike in countries such as Sri Lanka, where the sea in certain parts is not safe during monsoon). Having said that, always follow local advice when you get there.
There are a couple of downsides to the monsoon though:
- Rainy season = more mosquitoes and bugs
- Cyclones/storms are more common in the monsoon, so you are more likely to get caught in a weather system. Maldives was at the very edge of Cyclone Mora whilst we were visiting, and for 5 days (out of 7) it rained like there was no tomorrow. This also means that many of the excursions and outdoor activities got cancelled.
Have you been to the Maldives, or may be planning to visit? What are your thoughts on the above? Leave a comment below and let me know.
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