Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Maldives : Budget + Luxury Travel in the Sunny Side of Life

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When my college friends Coco, Trina and Jetren suggested that we go to Maldives for a vacation, I was hesitant at first. Maldives was not in my bucket list, I thought it was overrated. But, because I wanted to meet them and spend an epic holiday with them, I said yes. I did not book a ticket in advance because I wasn't that sure even if I already said yes. I waited for signs since I already booked for a ticket to Seoul which was scheduled a week before our planned trip to Maldives.


Two months before my flight to Seoul, the airline sent me a message that the flight time was re-scheduled to a later time. I took it as a sign and cancelled and refunded my ticket. A week later I booked a ticket to Maldives via FlyScoot with stopover in Singapore. The planning started since I wanted to do budget travel before my friends would arrive, then we proceed to a luxurious resort together.


The plan took long. I know for a fact that Maldives is an expensive country to visit. But as I read through blogs, there's another side of Maldives - the not so expensive, ideal for budget travelers and backpackers. So, I had to look for places to visit that do not require much budget. With only two nights before my friends would arrive, I decided that I would spend a night in Hulhumale which is near the airport and another night in Maafushi Island, a public island not too far away from Male Airport and Hulhumale. (Read : Cheap Places to Stay in Hulhumale)

I booked my accommodation in Hulhumale and Maafushi in advance via Agoda since I don't want any trouble when I arrive. 

Arriving in Male
Filipinos don't need a visa to Maldives, so it was a good start. I left Davao on November 28, 2017 at around 11am. I arrived in Manila around 1pm and waited for my flight to Maldives via Singapore at around 9pm. I landed in Singapore past 1am and I had a long layover since my flight to Male was scheduled at 7pm. It was a long wait but I had a chance to explore Singapore's Changi Airport and I also availed of Changi Airport's FREE Singapore Tour.

I finally arrived in Male around 9pm local time on November 29. After clearing the the immigration, I looked for an ATM to withdraw some local currency. There are two ATMs on the left side when you exit the terminal. I tried both ATMs but unfortunately, it did not allow me to take some cash. There's a money changer beside so I exchanged my USD to the local Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR). The exchange rate was 1USD to 15MVR.

After getting the local currency, I immediately looked for the bus going to Hulhumale. I asked around and within a couple of minutes, I arrived at the bus stop. It was chaotic but it was the cheapest option and I am on a budget travel for the first two nights so I took the bus despite the chaos. I was supposed to take the bus at 10pm but there were a lot of passengers so I was not accommodated. After 20 minutes, another bus has arrived and so I took it.

I did not purchase a local sim so I had a hard time finding my accommodation. Fortunately, the lady I asked around after alighting the bus knew where my hotel was so she gave me a direction and in about 7 minutes, I arrived at UI Inn. It was a very long day so slept as soon as I entered my room.

Exploring Hulhumale
The weather was bad during my first day in Maldives. It was raining in the morning and when I checked for weather forecasts, I found out that it's going to be rainy and windy in the succeeding days. There was a tropical depression somewhere in the Indian Ocean so it's expected that we'll have a rainy vacation.



I took my breakfast and went to the beach area after. It was raining, good thing that I brought my umbrella with me so I was still able to explore a little bit of Hulhumale. After gallivanting Hulhumale, I decided to go back to the airport to take a speedboat to Maafushi Island.



Getting to Maafushi
I did not book my speedboat ticket from Male to Maafushi in advance so I just went to the airport and looked for trips to Maafushi as advised by the receptionist at UI Inn. I was able to find a person holding a Maafushi sign board so I approached him. The fare from Male Aiport to Maafushi is USD25. The travel time was supposed to be just 45 minutes but because of the bad weather, we arrived in Maafushi after an hour. (Read: Detailed Guide on How to Go to Maafushi)



Exploring Maafushi
There was a tropical depression in the Indian Ocean when I arrived in Maafushi. It was raining cats and dogs and the wind was strong. I knew right there that I won't have a perfect vacation but I also know that I can enjoy my time in the island despite the bad weather. (Read: Cheap Places to Stay in Maafushi)

I was supposed to stay at Equator Beach Inn but they were overbooked so I was transferred to a nearby hotel few steps away from Equatoor Beach Inn. I stayed for a night at Beachwood Hotel and my room was located on the fourth floor so I had a good view of the island. 



The rain stopped for a while so I immediately went out to explore the island. It's small so you can pretty much walk around it. I visited the beaches of Maafushi - Coral Beach, Water Sports Beach, Bikini Beach and the Public Beach. It was windy so I wasn't able to fly my drone. I could have shown you an aerial view if the weather was good. I also didn't try to swim because the waves were huge and I don't want to risk my life. 





Aside from exploring the beaches of Maafushi, I also tried some local dishes in some of the local restaurants in the island. The food that I tried were good - curry and Maldivian fried rice.

It started raining again so I decided to go back to the hotel and just rest. I went out again in the evening to find another restaurant to try. I wanted to chill but it was raining cats and dogs again so I just went back to the hotel and slept.

I woke up early hoping for a good weather but it was still raining and the wind was still strong. I took my breakfast at the hotel and went to the jetty port to catch my 8am speedboat ride back to Male Airport.



A Luxury Holiday to Anantara Kihavah Villas
I arrived back in Male Airport around 9am. I met my friend Coco who arrived from Dubai. We waited for our friends Trina and Nica who flew from Kuwait and our friend Jetren who works in Maldives.



Around 10am, we checked in our luggage and proceeded to the Maldivian Seaplane terminal. Anantara Kihavah has a private lounge where we waited our seaplane ride to the resort.



Our flight was scheduled at 1:30PM but because of the bad weather, it was delayed and then it was cancelled. We were advised that we will be taking a chartered domestic flight to Dharavandhoo and then take a speedboat from there to the resort. The flight took 25 minutes and the speedboat ride took around the same time. (Read: 8 Luxury Resorts in Maldives to Spend your Holiday)




We finally arrived at Anatara Kihavah Villas around 1am. We're tired, it was a long day for all of us but it didn't stop us to enjoy our first day in the resort.





It was Coco's birthday and she was surprised by a birthday present prepared by the resort. We enjoyed the complimentary bottle of champagne and the birthday cake. We even took a dip in the swimming pool despite the cool weather. It was indeed a great day to celebrate life. 








We slept around 4am and woke up at 7am to have our breakfast. I was so ecstatic when the sun showed up for the first time since I arrived in Maldives. I was like crazy because I got a feeling that it will disappear soon. I freshen up, changed outfit and biked around the over water pool villas. It was surreal. It's the Maldives I've dreaming of. Remember I said I thought it's overrated? It's not! [WATCH: A Virtual Tour of Anantara Kihavah]






We took our breakfast and it started raining again. We went back to the villa and enjoyed the pool and the sea. The good thing about Maldives is, the water still looks blue and clear even when it's raining.




Cocktails at the Sea Restaurant
We had a cocktail at Anantara Kihavah's Sea Restaurant - an underwater restaurant located on the edge of the reef 5m below sea level. 





Dinner at Salt Restaurant
We had dinner at Salt Restaurant and celebrated Coco's birthday. The food was okay but nothing really special. We didn't really enjoy the food.

Last Day in Anantara Kihavah Villas
The weather was good, finally. We took our breakfast and explore the rest of the island. The beach was so inviting but I wasn't feeling well unfortunately. I had a headache and I felt dizzy. (Read : Maldives Travel Itinerary and Expenses)







We went back to the villa, enjoyed the last remaining time in Maldives and had our lunch. Jetren and I had to leave. She needs to go back to work and I had a flight to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Coco, Trina and Nica stayed for another night.







Jetren and I took a 30-minute seaplane ride back to Male. Instead of waiting in the lounge for my 9pm flight, we decided to have dinner in a Thai restaurant in Male. I loved the food there, the Tom Yum made my headache and dizziness subside. Hahaha. After dinner, we head back to Male Airport and we parted ways. It was one of the best vacations I've had. (Read: Cheap Places to Stay in Male)







This blog post is part of our comprehensive MALDIVES TRAVEL GUIDE. This will help you explore Maldives on a budget. 

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