Ten years ago a holiday in the Maldives was reserved for the rich and famous. Now there are special offers constantly popping up bringing the prices down to a level the average holiday-maker can afford (outside of the end of year festive season that is!).
The Maldivian government has also started encouraging the development of 3 and 4 star resorts, offering more choice for families and those not wanting to break the bank. And flights are also more easily accessible than ever from Australia.
This really is an unforgettable holiday destination – so what are you waiting for? Here’s our top tips when planning your Maldivian escape.
1. Overwater vs beachfront bungalows: Don’t worry if you can’t afford the overwater option – beachfront bungalows have the sand at your front door and fantastic views, and are usually significantly less expensive. But of course if you are happy to spend more, an overwater bungalow is a unique and wonderful experience. Being surrounded by the crystal blue water and watching the fish go by is truly magnificent.
2. Choosing an overwater bungalow: Check if the room has steps down to the water, otherwise you’ll be trekking back to the beach for a swim. Make sure you choose an overwater room that has a glass floor panel to watch the aquatic life. Check to see if the resort offers a buggy pick up/drop off service or bicycles, as usually overwater rooms are quite a long way from the main part of the resort. Think about the location of the room – sunrise or sunset. Sunset is usually more expensive, but you get to enjoy watching the sun dip into the ocean in the afternoon from your own private deck. Some resorts have ‘lagoon’ style rooms – these have the front half of the villa over the water, with the back half on the sand. These rooms are still lovely, but be aware at low tide there may not be any water under the villa.
3. Meal plans/all inclusive packages: Half board is breakfast and dinner (sometimes a choice of lunch or dinner), full board is breakfast, lunch and dinner, and all-inclusive packages include all meals and alcoholic/non-alcoholic drinks, and often water sport activities. Dining and alcohol are very expensive in the Maldives. An all-inclusive package usually works out much more cost effective. However, read the fine print. Some resorts include cocktails, others don’t. Some have a set all-inclusive drinks menu and anything outside this is additional. Some resorts only allow you to eat at certain food outlets at the resort, and a surcharge applies to go elsewhere in the resort. Having stayed in several resorts, we can recommend that unless you eat a lot of food, a Half Board meal package is more than sufficient. Breakfast is usually a la carte and buffet, and dinner is a 3 course meal. Lunch was almost impossible to fit in, or you only need a snack at most.
4. Thakurus: If you are struggling to decide between the beautiful resorts in the Maldives, we highly recommend going with one that offers Thakuru service. This is the Maldivian version of a Butler, and they are worth their weight in gold! From organising your dinner reservations to ensuring you get the type of pillow you prefer to shuttling kids to the kids club, these wonderful staff make your holiday just that extra bit special.
5. Money: Only credit cards and US dollars are accepted at resorts. Australian dollars cannot be exchanged, so make sure you do this before you leave Australia. Some resorts don’t require tipping, and all include a service fee in their rates.
6. Alcohol: You are not allowed to bring alcohol into the Maldives, and it is heavily taxed, so prices are extremely high. All-inclusive packages help reduce the cost.
7. Weddings: You can’t get legally married in the Maldives, but you can have a mock ceremony or renew your vows.
8. Taking the kids: Make sure you check the resort isn’t adults only and has kids facilities. There are several resorts that specialise in family holidays. Your Cherry consultant can point you in the right direction.
9. Etiquette: The Maldives is a Muslim country, but quite relaxed in the resorts. Topless sunbathing is illegal everywhere.
10. Seaplane transfers: This is a great way to see these beautiful islands on the way to your resort and is truly an unforgettable experience. Remember there are strict luggage restrictions, so you will have to pack light. And they only fly in daylight hours. So if your flight arrives after 3pm, you’ll have to stay overnight in Male before continuing onto the resort.