I cannot express how happy I am that I did not book anything in advance for my trip to the Maldives. I very rarely travel like this because it freaks me out, pushes me to talk to people more and it takes up time in my trip to book things as I go. But if I had booked ahead I absolutely would have lost money on at least on night’s hotel room if not two.
I had a bad feeling for this trip. The last time I had that feeling I got stuck in the airport overnight without any sleep because I had boarded a flight, gotten back off of it because it was delayed for 8 hours and had to book a new $800 flight an hour before boarding so that I wouldn’t get stuck in Shanghai for a full day. So because of the bad feeling and this past incident, this was the first trip I actually bought travel insurance just in case something went wrong.
I felt uneasy about this trip because so much depended on making sure you caught the right boat at the right time and with the ferry schedules not posted anywhere I felt like at some point I would miss a boat or a flight and just end up stranded. Luckily that didn’t happen! However when I started to plan this trip there were just too many options, too many islands and I couldn’t decide what islands to go to. I wanted the flexibility to get to the Maldives first, then decide on what to do.
I booked my first night hotel stay near the airport, on Hulhumale, and had a rough plan of what I thought I’d do. The first day I’d try to get onto a photo flight, if I couldn’t I’d head to Thulusdhoo on the afternoon ferry and stay there for a few days. If I could get on a photo flight, I’d stay another night in Hulhumale and switch islands the following day. At some point, I’d do a day trip to Club Med (near Thulusdhoo) and maybe try to come back to Male to switch to a different island. I had 6 nights and 7 days in the Maldives which felt like enough time to make it to two public islands using the ferry, possibly Thulusdhoo and Maafushi. But I’d leave myself open to getting tips while I was there or meeting other travelers and joining their plans.
That was the rough plan and the first day went great, I got onto a sea plane and booked another night on Hulhumale. But on my second day in the Maldives, I was gripped with the worst food poisoning I’d ever have. There was no way I was going to be able to leave the island, let alone my hotel room. I spent most of the day lying in a dark room watching Netflix, in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Hey, travel isn’t always rainbows and sunshine! The only thing that made me feel a bit better was that I at least wasn’t losing money by staying yet another night in Hulhumale, because I hadn’t actually booked anything for that night.
The following day I still felt pretty horrible. I hadn’t eaten in 48 hours. But I felt determined to switch islands. I took the 20 minute ferry to Male (the capital), and the combination of the uncomfortable chairs, harsh sunlight and swaying boat made me yearn to be back in bed. But I powered through. I got took the public ferry from Male to Maafushi and walked into a guesthouse I had looked up beforehand to book a room for the night.
The next day I felt much better and was ready to snorkel and finally get into the beautiful water. I booked a snorkeling trip the night before and finally ate a full meal for breakfast. I spent the day snorkeling and seeing pods of dolphins off the stunning Maldivian islands.
On my fourth day in the Maldives I took a day trip to one of the nearby resorts, which I had booked the night before as well. It wasn’t Club Med as I originally planned since I didn’t make it to Thulusdhoo but it was still beautiful, and a bit cheaper.
I had to change hotel rooms that night because, having not book ahead, the place I was originally staying in was full but easily found somewhere just as nice nearby. After a good night’s sleep, I headed back to Hulhumale for one last night before heading back to the airport the following day.
In all I ended up staying 3 nights in Maafushi and 4 in Hulhumale. I didn’t make it to Thulusdhoo and decided on Maafushi instead since I was still sick and was told that it was one of the more developed islands. Originally, I didn’t want to go to Maafushi because I read that it was “more touristy” but in comparison to other island in South East Asia there’s no way I would call Maafushi touristy. It’s a tiny island, with mostly hotels on it but is in no way commercialized. Most of the island is still covered in construction of new hotels as are most of the public islands.
If I had booked ahead of time, I would have felt bad about losing money on the hotel rooms, especially since my plan ended up changing quite a bit because I was sick. I luckily didn’t need my travel insurance but since I was half convinced I had gotten dengue rather than food poisoning, I was felt much more secure having it, knowing that I’d be covered if I had to go to the hospital.
In Hulhumale I stayed at Ui Inn, one of the cheapest places on the island, it’s clean and has decent rooms, the breakfast isn’t great and the staff can seem like they’re ignoring you sometimes, but again, it’s the cheapest, so I still would have stayed here. I booked my first night on Agoda a few days ahead of time for 46 USD but then booked through Airbnb for the other days for 38 USD, when I tried to just pay at the hotel and asked them to match the price they told me to just book it on Airbnb. Also the $46 night was in a double room but I moved to a single for the cheaper price. Both prices included breakfast and taxes.
In Maafushi, I stayed at Arora Inn the first two nights, which I’d recommend just on the basis that you can eat breakfast on the patio upstairs which oversees the ocean. Also, its very clean, the staff was incredibly helpful. It was 45 USD a night, including breakfast and taxes, when I paid cash at the hotel without booking ahead.
My third night I stayed at Maafushi Inn on the other side of the island. This side is much quieter and is less developed. Its only about a 3-5 minute walk from the main side and the bikini beach area. It was 45 USD a night, including breakfast and taxes, when I booked the night before on Agoda and paid by card when I arrived.
Total Hotel cost for 5 nights: 295 USD less than one night at a Maldives resort
Getting to Maafushi:
I took the public ferry from Hulhumale to Male, you can take it from the airport or from the Hulhumale Ferry terminal, for less than 1 USD. It runs every 20 to 30 minutes. I then took a taxi from the ferry terminal to the opposite side of Male to catch the Maafushi ferry, for about $2. The taxis operate more like car share services, picking up and dropping off as they go. The ferry to Maafushi was $2. Total cost one way was $5 and took about 3 hours total, with transferring from Hulhumale.
The public ferry itself takes an hour and a half. The ferry departs from Male at 2:00pm and from Maafushi at 07:30am daily except Fridays.
On the way back I took a speedboat because I didn’t want to take the 7:30 ferry. Speed boats have 5 or 6 daily times at $25 per person. They take about 45 minutes and drop off at the airport or in Male.
Read Next: 6 Reasons Why I Love Solo Travel