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Visiting Maldives: Panda’s Tips & Tricks

May 8, 2019 14 Comments

I never had the Maldives on my list.


I honestly thought it was one of dreamy destinations beyond my reach. Like Tahiti. Or Bora Bora. (How does one even reach those places?) But seriously though, I just didn’t think I was ever going to go there. Perhaps one day when I was rich and had a lot of time to spare. I certainly didn’t think I would be planning a trip there before I turned 30!


When I was researching destinations & trying to plan a trip for my spring break holiday I kept hitting visa roadblocks. Everywhere I wanted to go required a lengthy visa or to fly through airports that required a transit visa. I’m not about that life especially not when my old passport was on its last 2 previous pages. Just when I thought I’d be mooching on the couch for my break, I searched flight to “anywhere” on Momondo and found a flight to the Maldives for 1100AED ($300/R4180).

Note: I use the Emirati Dirhams (AED) as my primary currency as its what I earn in. Conversions to South African Rands (R) or U.S. Dollars ($) are only approximate. 

Screenshot 2019-04-11 at 16.35.19
Momondo has this option where you can peruse prices and then choose destinations

No visa required for the destination or the layover airports (India). It felt like an opportunity had presented itself to me. I had to make it work for myself and my travel companion, Expat Bee. The purpose of this post is to share with you how trip planning for the Maldives doesn’t need to be difficult or stressful, if you know what to look for.

Screenshot 2019-04-11 at 16.32.22
Despite the long layover in Mumbai, I considered this a great deal!

Here are 2 sections on how I made this trip work for me:


1. Budgeting


When you start planning a trip to the Maldives, I suggest doing research before you estimate a budget. It’s hard to know what things cost and what you can expect to pay for the quality you expect without any research.


Do preliminary research

I headed to to see what accommodation costs in the Maldives. Most options- of the quality of place I was willing to pay for- were resorts. Usually one island was an entire resort. I looked at

– the price of accommodation per night for 2 people

– the cost of choosing half board (breakfast and dinner) versus full board (breakfast, lunch, dinner) options.

-the cost of getting to the resort from the airport.

For reference I’ve attached some screenshots of things to look for:

Screenshot 2019-04-11 at 16.22.42
Notice the extra ‘taxes and charges’ s well as different meal options. Also see why frequent bookings gets you discounts and perks.


Make the decisions:


Once we had an idea of what things costs and what kind of holiday we would like to have, Expat Bee and I discussed what would be a realistic budget for us PER PERSON taking into the account the price of our flights.

We decided:

– we did not want to take a sea plane to our destination after taking 2 flights to get there.

– we decided that we only needed to book a stay with half board as we were not heavy eaters.

– we decided that our accommodation and meals should not be more than a total amount of 3000AED ($816/R11400) making it 1500AED ($408/R5701) per person.

It took a lot of sifting and researching through properties. I even tried Groupon for deals (didn’t find anything within budget). But eventually we found a place on that had great reviews and was within our budget.

Screenshot 2019-04-11 at 16.20.58


Why we chose our accommodation:


It didn’t require a sea plane to get to and there were multiple accommodation options to choose to suit our budget. For example you could choose:

-a garden bungalow

-a beach bungalow

-a water bungalow

We went for the cheapest option knowing that we planned to spend most of our time outside anyway. And while I would’ve loved to have a private pool for those insta photos, I just didn’t think spending an extra 2000AED ($544/R7601) was worth a few dips in a tub while being surrounded the (free) sea.

The garden bungalow, while simple, was clean and spacious enough for two people. It was adequate.

As dictated by our budget, we calculated that we could spend 3 nights in the Maldives. This worked out because I figured we would be bored after 3 nights as we weren’t planning to do scuba diving or any excursions.

So when you’re planning your trip to the Maldives you need to look for:

-how much is the transfer from the airport?

-how many meals do you want to prepay for?

– how much are you willing to spend in total which will dictate how long you stay for?

-what do the reviews say? Was the place clean? Was there evening entertainment? Was the Wifi strong?

Note the additional charges to a final booking fee in the screenshot below:

Screenshot 2019-04-11 at 16.24.00
If your resort requires you to take a sea-plane to their island, your transfer costs may be double or triple what you see above.


You can choose a resort and check if it’s cheaper to book through their website or as third party website. It usually works out cheaper for me to book through because I get a discount through their genius program as you can see in a screenshot above. I talk more about that in this post about how I plan my trips.

Once we paid through, we realised that the majority of our meals and our accommodation was booked. Usually I would be researching things to do at this point but for the first time… I had no plans to do anything. If you have your heart set on doing something in particular (like a submarine experience or surfing lessons), e-mail your resort to ask what the cost is and budget ahead for that.

sunset maldives

2. Spending your time


At the time when we flew to the Maldives, I was physically and emotionally exhausted with all the things I had going on in my school life and social calendar. Which meant that my expectations of this holiday was to rest and relax. Please note that if your expectations are to do explorations, hiking, shopping etc, you are may be very disappointed and might want to consider another destination. Once we were on the resort island, leaving to visit somewhere was going to take considerable effort and money. So enter this kind of holiday with the correct mindset in order to enjoy it fully.



Our resort rented kayaks for free as long as booked in advance and offered us windsurfing (without an instructor). This surprised us and we added kayaking onto our itinerary. We had taken our snorkelling gear so we knew that was one of our activities. I recommend taking your own as it expensive to rent and you have greater control over how clean you keep your equipment.


Planning a trip to the maldives

resort in maldives

How we spent our days:


Days became divided into: breakfast, swimming, drinks, naps and then snorkelling from 3pm until sunset. Dinner rounded up our days although the resort did have nighttime entertainment in the form of live music, dancing and competitions. Walking along the shore in the evening also afforded us to see sting rays coming up close to the shore and the resort gave us food to feed them (no extra charge). Midday naps became the order of the day as we avoided the sun at its highest point.

marine life in maldives

go to the maldives

It was the kind of holiday you saw in 90’s travel brochures- picture perfect and serene. This was truly one of the few trips where I came back feeling refreshed… usually I need a holiday to recover from a holiday!


I LOVED my time in this gorgeous destination and I would definitely go back. However with that being said I need to mention a few points:

  • I grew up in a coastal city with beach visits being a regular occurrence. I am quite happy to do nothing but wallow in sand & sea for a few nights. If this isn’t you, please reconsider your choice of destination.
  • Booking excursions and meals while AT the resort was expensive (prices started at $60/220AED/R837 for meals and $81/297AED/R1130 for excursions) so paying for most of our meals in advance was far more cost effective.
  • Having gone there I can honestly say that having an overwater bungalow was not necessary and I probably wouldn’t be fussed about getting one if I went back (unless I got a free upgrade).


Watch my video about my trip to the Maldives


Seychelles versus Maldives


Adventures in America-2

This is the most requested question I have had since I returned! And I can totally understand why. Both destination are idyllic and look heavenly. AND THEY ARE!

Maldives 1


However if I had to choose between the 2, I would choose Seychelles over Maldives. Why? For a few reasons:

-In Seychelles, you are not separated from the lives of the locals (unless you want to be) and will often find yourself shopping alongside or swimming on the same beaches as the local people. I also didn’t a notice a ‘local price’ and ‘tourist price’ regarding food and groceries.

-Seychelles feels like a more authentic experience as you have the freedom to rent a car and explore all the beaches on Mahè Island. It does not give you the vibe that it’s a country created strictly for tourism and you can bargain the price of things. Whereas in Maldives, just landing at the airport shows you the scale of tourism in this country and how it runs their economy.

-There are activities for people who are not beach and sea inclined such as visiting museums, touring tea plantations, hiking, shopping at the markets, bird watching, rock climbing etc. Whereas I do believe that Maldives has limited options in this regard.


Expat Polar and I have booked our second trip to Seychelles (we were there last year August) so I guess that speaks for itself!


Note: Seychelles and Maldives are both surrounded by the warm Indian Ocean but Seychelles has gentle waves and in Maldives, the water is extremely calm. Both are beautiful colours and are perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

maldives holiday

What to do in maldives


In summary:


  • Be aware of extra charges when booking your accommodation in Maldives taking into account transfer costs, taxes etc.
  • Save up so that you can pay for most of your trip upfront which will leave you with minimal expenses once you arrive.
  • Search for deals and flights in advance and don’t be afraid to check Groupon or travel agents to see where you can get the best deals.
  • Take into account how many days you want to spend on a beach holiday knowing that there are not many activities to be done that don’t involve the ocean.

Visit the maldives

Bottom line:


This IS an expensive destination so research, planning and budgeting will help you to spend your money in the most effective way for you. For those asking for cheaper ways to explore the Maldives, I have linked two posts by other bloggers, detailing just how this can be done which you can find here and here. I personally decided against these options because they required a lot of patience & organisation whereas I just needed to relax for a few days.

plam trees maldives

I hope you find my tips useful when you’re booking your next resort holiday in the beautiful islands of the Maldives! Have you been to this dreamy destination or are you planning to? Let me know in the comments below!



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  • kulturekween May 8, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    I had always wanted to go to Maldives for my honeymoon (we went to Japan instead) but oh man, maybe second honeymoon?? But first, need to get myself that orange-red one piece *heart-eye emoji*

    • expatpanda May 12, 2019 at 11:26 am

      Well I don’t think you need any excuse to travel to the Maldives but a 2nd honeymoon still sounds a like a fab idea. the swimsuit is from Shein!

  • josypheen May 8, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Oooh this all sounds fantastic! You are your friend both look sooooo happy! 😀

    p.s. I often need a holiday to recover from holidays too! I come back elated, but knackered! 😉

    • expatpanda May 12, 2019 at 11:26 am

      We were so happy to be in such a picturesque landscape! I try to give myself time to recover when I get back from a holiday otherwise my death would be imminent!

  • sizatheexplorer May 18, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    Such a helpful piece considering that Maldives is considered “expensive” , but thanks to this article now I have an idea what I shud and shudnt do as I plan my upcoming trip. Thanks gal❤

    • expatpanda May 18, 2019 at 12:48 pm

      You’re most welcome! Glad that you found it useful and can plan a trip using the tips 😊

  • samui1968 July 14, 2019 at 9:33 am

    Cheers expatpanda, your insight has been so inspiring. I never thought it would be possible until I read this blog.

    • expatpanda July 14, 2019 at 9:36 am

      I am so happy that you feel that way… I want everyone to feel that no destination should be out of reach 🙂

      • SamuiLux July 23, 2019 at 6:50 am

        Agree entirely !

  • Kat August 20, 2019 at 7:01 am

    I have a trip to Maldives booked for January but my main reason is to scuba dive. I looked up dive spots with the highest chance of manta Ray’s and whale sharks to base where I wanted to stay (then found out it will not be their high season.) I found a cheap flight from NYC which is why I am going. It has always been on my diving wish list. (And interesting that you started your blog mentioning Tahiti and Bora Bora because I just went to French Polynesia this past June for diving.)

    • expatpanda August 27, 2019 at 5:43 pm

      Oh how was French Polynesia?! I don’t actually know anyone who has been there! I really hope you have a wonderful experience diving in the Maldives 🙂

      • sojourninsaudiarabia August 28, 2019 at 6:55 am

        French Polynesia was beautiful! The diving was amazing. But the islands are pricey and hard to get by solo without knowing French. Almost everyone I met was French and did not speak English.

        • expatpanda August 28, 2019 at 2:26 pm

          Oh dear I’m glad you had an amazing but sorry to hear that you found it difficult to travel solo in without French. I had that problem in Tunisia!

          • sojourninsaudiarabia August 28, 2019 at 4:02 pm

            I am learning. Took a french class after a trip to Morocco and now using duolingo and books. But still far from conversational! I look forward to reading more of your blog. Need to get to work on my visa paperwork to become an expat. 🙂

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