Maldives on a budget - Thulusdhoo
Updated: Feb 18
As soon as you hear of the Maldives your mind goes straight away to ‘it must have been such an expensive blow out’. Let us assure you that you can actually do the Maldives on a budget. Whether you are on your honeymoon or even a backpacker, you can see the sights, enjoy the crystal clear waters and get plenty of sunshine. If you time the season right, you can even score some nice waves.
We have all seen the big fancy resorts across Instagram, but there are many equally beautiful local islands you can visit. They may not have all the glitz and glam but they sure still have the charm. We decided to stay in Thulusdhoo island as it is an affordable option and close to the airport. We highly recommend this island to those travelling on a budget.
How to get here:
Fly from your destination to Male International Airport. From the airport, there is a ferry port directly out the front (near the smokers area for speed boats). From there you can pay $30 USD per person to get a speed boat to Thulusdhoo and it takes roughly half an hour. For us we arrived into Male late, so only had this option.
Budget option: Take the cheaper local ferry, it's only $2 per person and takes a scenic 1.5 hour journey, which we really enjoyed. It's really cheap, but keep in mind you get dropped off and picked up from Male ferry port (located in the city), NOT Male Airport. To get either from the airport to the ferry port ,or go visa-versa, a taxi will cost you around $5 USD.
Tip: If you have the money to spend, take the speed boat for convenience.
We recommend checking your flight details and make sure you can land in time to catch the public ferry to Thulusdhoo (remember to leave time to get through customs and catch a 15 minute taxi across the bay to the ferry port).
If you land late like us, you could potentially stay the night in Male city. Then catch the morning ferry the following day. This will save you over $50 USD for two people.
Where to stay:
There are many places to stay on the island. It’s really up to you on how much you want to spend and what you want to get out of your trip. For us, we went for the cheaper accommodation, as we knew we would be out all day, everyday doing activities. You can also enjoy the other resorts or hotels restaurants as a ‘walk in customer’. We stayed at the Silk Retreats. It's $40 USD a night for a double room with an ensuite and free breakfast. It’s not the most luxurious place to stay but it suited our needs. You can find them through various accommodation websites: Agoda, Booking.com etc..
Cheap guesthouse: Silk Retreats.
If you did want to lash out to approx. $100 USD a night and treat yourself to some lovely accommodation, then we would recommend Seasons Paradise. The rooms look modern, you have possible sea view rooms and did we mention there is an unreal infinity pool on the rooftop? They have a great restaurant catering for many dietary needs. They also have an activities desk and can help you out when it comes to booking those excursions you desire. Seasons Paradise is right by the water. The only bummer is, it’s not a bikini beach there, you will have to walk next door if you want to strip off, catch some sun and swim.
Small splurge: Season’s Paradise
What to do here:
Bikini Beach - Probably the most popular spots on the island. There are two bikini beaches, one to the north and one to the south. The southern one is more secluded and a million times more beautiful than the busy one in the north. Spend some time relaxing, reading a book, catching some sun rays and of course enjoy that epic water.
Snorkelling - Excellent at the northern bikini beach. Get there either early morning or late in the evening. There is a channel close to the beach, home to some extremely stunning marine life. The water is really clear and you can witness the sea bed drop deep into the ocean. Keep an eye on the current!
Sunrise - Please, please, please do yourself a favour and get up early enough to catch the sunrise outside Canopus. It’s totally worth getting up for. From there head straight to the southern end of the island to have the sandbank and other bikini beach to yourself. Do this before breakfast to maximise the isolation from people on the stunning beaches. We had it for over 2 hours with no one else around.
Sunset - Head to the southern sand bank, you can either walk or ride there. We had a local show us where to get the world class sunset photo. Check it out here.
Kayaking - It will set you back $25 USD for glass bottom kayak but it is worth it if you’re not on a super tight budget. Hire it from Reefs Edge. See if you can get the kayak dropped at the northern bikini beach. Here is the perfect spot to use the “glass” kayak, as it’s too shallow on the eastern side of the island to really enjoy the translucent kayak. They let you hire it for 3 hrs which is incredible value as everywhere else will charge you $25 for one hour. At Reefs Edge they also lent us some bikes to kill time between the change of tides and it is the best way to get around the island.
Rent a bike - Grab yourself a bike and explore the whole island. It is much more beautiful on the southern side of the island where there are no guesthouses or hotels. Speak to 'Reefs Edge Hotel' staff (they were really friendly and helpful).
Sand bank excursions - Sandbank tours are $25 USD per person for minimum 4 people on the tour. We recommend you put your name down ASAP (at the tour desks at the northern bikini beach) for possible excursions. If they don’t manage to find enough people to go, you have two options..... pay to cover 4 x people or don’t go at all. Unfortunately, we missed out on the tour due to other people pulling out at the last minute and of course we left it a little late (hey, we were on island time after all). The afternoons are meant to be way better than the mornings, as the mornings are more popular and the sandbanks can be crowded with other people. Also, the wind tends to die off late afternoon for those dreamy sunset shots.
Snorkelling excursions - There are organised boat trips that can take you out to Coral Reef or Turtle Point. These trips cost about $20 USD per person, but if you had them combined with the sandbank tour they are only an extra $5 per extra stop.
Surfing - If you time the season right you will have the option to surf at 'Cokes' island. The break offers a solid right hand wave. As for the 'Chickens' break, you have a left.
Resort day trip - If you are on a budget but want to get amongst the fine lifestyle and pretend you are staying in a fancy resort for a day, you can buy all-inclusive day passes to many of the famous resorts. You can find various packages for around $105 USD (without alcohol) or up to $240 USD or more per person, including transfers. Although this would have been nice, we skipped this as we couldn’t justify spending the same amount of money that the whole Maldives trip cost us in a day.
Bar boats - There’s no bar atmosphere/life on the island as it is illegal to drink in the Maldives. For us, we used this time to detox and dry out after a huge year of celebrations. But... If you are really stinging for a cocktail or a beer, you can head out to one of the boat bars not too far from the coastline. You can get a tender boat to pick you up and take you out to the bar. The tender boat will set you back $25 per person for the transfer to the boat, then the costs of alcohol on board are pretty pricey ($14 for a glass of wine). If you have a budget to blow, go for gold!
Scuba Diving - You can dive on the island but if you want to save some money and experience the gorgeous marine life. Grab a snorkel and go for a dip (it’s fantastic).
Where to eat:
There’s not a whole lot of places to eat out. It’s a type of island where you are better off to eat out at the restaurants, rather than trying to save money and buy from the grocery stores. We budgeted $10 USD each day per person and we even spent less than this. Each day we would have a late free breakfast (included in our accommodation) as we were out exploring each morning. We’d have a little snack for lunch and go out for dinner after sunset. What we found was prices all over the island are similar but you can either dine outdoors in a standard setting, or dine in a swerve air-conditioned restaurant for roughly the same price.
Here’s our pick of where to eat:
· Aveli (Season’s Paradise) - Excellent fish curry for $7 USD. Our top pick!
· Reefs Edge - Nice private dining outside for dinner around $9-10USD for a main.
Things to know before arriving:
· The Maldives is a Muslim country meaning that you need to be respectful and cover up when not on the tourist beaches. There are two allocated “bikini beaches” on Thulusdhoo for tourists to strip down some layers to enjoy the water and sun. One is on the north eastern side (in town), the other is all the way down south (behind a man-made hill, you can’t miss it).
· Alcohol is prohibited within the Maldives unless you are at an exclusive resort. Alcohol is actually illegal for Maldivian locals to consume. Don’t be tempted by duty free on the way over, you can be searched and it will be confiscated at customs.
· Most of the islands will either except local currency or US dollars. We actually found in Thulusdhoo that US$ was the better currency to have as this is what all the menus, ferries and excursions will charge you. There is one ATM that gives you US dollars in the airport but this didn’t work for our Visa card. We took out local currency from an ATM when we arrived on the island and that worked fine too.
Total costs for 4 days for 2 people
· Speed boat transfer from the airport: 2 x $30 = $60
· Accommodation: 4 x $40 = $160
· Food (inc. water): 6 x $8 = $48
· Kayak rental: 3 hours = $25
· Local ferry to Male: 2 x $2 = $4
· Taxi Male to airport: $5
TOTAL = $302 USD
We also planned on spending $60 USD on a sandbank excursion with snorkelling at Coral Reef but unfortunately missed this. If you are on a really tight budget, you could easily save $51 by taking the local ferry there (it honestly didn’t feel that different to the fast ferry), and you could also skip the kayak, taking the total down to $238 USD for a very comfortable and nice trip.
The island is pretty random and it took us a couple of days to realise what was going on and get in the swing of things. The main town itself is fairly run down. The excursions and things for tourists are very pricey considering the towns state. But remember, you are in the Maldives after all.
There is a Coca-Cola factory on the island which is a "good" and bad thing. "Good" to give locals jobs and it’s also good that they are using the sea treated sea water (through a de-salination plant), so it's drinkable, then using it in their products aka Coke. Also you can find a local fill up station in town with treated drinkable sea water to take home. It's a Bad having the factory there because there is no recycling on the island. Again bad, with the bottled plastic water they are selling to all businesses on the island. There is a major plastic problem with used Coca-Cola bottles, (even the water bottles here are from the Coca-Cola factory) being disposed off. Once you leave town you will find plastic bottles peppered along the way. 9 of the 10 bottles we picked up were from Coca-Cola.
Yet there is zero recycling and the only way to get rid of the plastic is to burn it all. When we were enjoying the sunset and were one of the last people to leave the south of island. There was a strong SW wind (it was a perfect time to burn more products as the wind was blowing the smoke away from town). The fire became bigger and bigger, the smoke was so thick and toxic we had to walk right around long way back to the village.
There is a fire burning 24/7. The locals told us, "It cost too much money to send the plastic recycling elsewhere". Coca Cola could take note and make changes to save the environment as they are stuck in their own ways. We know they need a firm shake up, they need to improve ASAP and come up with a way to recycle their own used plastic.