Maldives is one of the luxurious destinations for holiday. I’m lucky to be able to say that there’s one big tick off my bucket list. However, I guess many of us could agree that one of the factor holding us against this dreamy place are those bills. It’s expensive!
BUT it is possible to stay in Maldives on a budget, which is a better way to explore the Maldivian culture together with its great scenarios. You can do this by living with locals and explore places where Maldivians go.
Apart from being the capital city of Maldives with probably more Maldivians than anywhere else, it is also the easiest place to go after arriving at the Hulhulé Airport. The most convenience way to go to Malé from the Airport is by Airport ferry service. To travel to other islands, it is fairly cheap and easy to use local’s Dhonis that departs from various jetties, depending on your destinations.
The city itself is not very big. It is possible to slowly explore the whole city by walking. I’m not the best walker and I spent about 3 hours walking around the whole town, stopping at small groceries for some drinks and at some souvenir shops for small shopping sessions. Apart from saving some money, it’s also a good way to see around. It is possible to get a taxi, which is not too expensive. It shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes to get anywhere within the city despite the traffic. The maximum price for each journey is about 4 US dollars if you need bigger car for your luggages.
Places to visit in Malé City
- Islamic Centre and The Grand Friday Mosque
- Free entry
- Open 24 hours, except prayer times
- Hukuru Miskiiy (The Old Friday Mosque)
- Free entry
- Open 24 hours, except prayer times
- Medhu Ziyaaraiy Shrine
- Free entry
- Open 24 hours
- Maldivian Royal Palace, Sultan Park and National Museum
- Entry: 100 RF
- Sunday – Thursday
- 10 am – 5 pm
- Local market
- Fish market
- Souvenir shops
- Artificial beach
Islamic Centre is probably the first attraction you’ll see because it’s right by the main jetty and you can’t really miss the golden domes standing out among other buildings. Inside this beautiful architecture, you’ll be amazed by the ancient vibe from old calligraphy. It’s a house of the Grand Friday Mosque, which is one of the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia. It also houses conference hall and Islamic library.
Hukuru Miskiiy or the Old Friday Mosque is one of the oldest mosque, made of wood and coral stone. It’s filled with ancient tombstones of nation’s heroes like sultans and nobles.
Medhu Ziyaaraiy Shrine is a small white and blue tomb of Abdul Barakat Yoosuf Al Barbary, who brought Islam to the country.
National Museum is a very interesting place. This museum carries many objects that I’ve never seen before and many of them I don’t even know what they are for. I believe it’s because I don’t get a chance to learn or see much about things related to Sultans and I do believe it’s not a common thing for many other tourists as well. The museum is located inside the Sultan Park, which also houses Maldivian Royal Palace. The palace was an official residence of the President of the Maldives.
Meanwhile wandering along the waterfront, keep an eye out for the Parliament. It’s an elegant architecture that faces the shore, directly to the crystal clear water of the Indian Ocean.
Local Market is probably the best place to visit in the morning maybe before your journey to other islands as it’s only few minutes away from Ferry jetty and maybe you want to get yourself some snacks for the trip. There are various fruits and veggies I’ve never seen before and there are some good jams, nuts and dried meats to try. It’s a good place to localize yourself with local products and people’s routines.
Right in front of the Local Market is the Fish Market, where it’s a lot more energetic. There are people constantly carrying big tunas or basket filled with fish walking around, telling you to mind their way or trying to do some business with you. It’s obviously not as quiet as the Local Market. Also, just across the street, there are local Dhonis parked and awaited. It’s a beautiful spot to take some photos of the colorful boats with blue background.
If you want to get some gifts or buy some local arts and crafts, I would recommend going to Majeedhee Magu or Chaandhanee Magu. These are streets where there are lots of souvenir shops to buy yourself some cute little dhonis or coconut chocolate.
Lastly, I don’t think you can miss the Artificial Beach, as it’s the place where you’ll find locals hanging around, eating, skating or exercising. In some mornings, there would be a group of ladies doing the water aerobics. Also, there is a place for you to shower, which can be really convenience if you already checked out of your accommodation and you just want to freshen up a tad.
However, it’s is really important to respect these places and their people. Remember to dress conservatively while exploring the city.
These are some of the islands where local people go to enjoy the breeze and water. They are reachable by ferries or speedboat services. It’s important to check the service’s schedule. However, some of the islands are for living, while some of them are specifically for holidays.
Villingili is one of the later type of islands. It’s probably the easiest one to go from the city. You can easily go there by local ferry service and it runs frequently. It’s where you can be relaxing or be more excited with some water sports and activities. You could enjoy jet skiing, paddle boarding, banana-boating, windsurfing or even flyboarding and many more. The one I went to is at the One Love Beach and the people there are really nice. They even teach you if you are not familiar with these activities.
Thilafushi is a very interesting one. It’s an artificial island to serve as the country’s landfill. It’s Maldives’ bin. If you decide to go there, make sure you have a scarf or something that would protect you from directly breathing in the strong smell.
Homestay with Airbnb
One of the best way to get a place to sleep, eat local food and enjoy fun activities within a budget is homestay. There are many options available on Airbnb. There are chances you might be able to participate in their activities like cooking or even fishing.
Sleeping at the Airport
If you are going sleep at the Airport, maybe because you just want to save some money for a night or because you landed late, here are what you will need to know:
- no bed
- no air-conditioning
- no shower
- shops for food and drink do not open 24 hours
- luggage storage
I spent a night sleeping at the Airport and it wasn’t bad. There are 24 hours security and there is a place where you can pay to store each of your luggages. If you fancy a shower, you will have to pay the spa shop. If you want to grab some food but the shops are closed then you might want to take a ferry to the city and grab something from there. Lastly, use insect repellent as there are flies and mosquitoes.
Now that you know the cheaper way to do it, I hope that you are motivated to go there, otherwise go on Instagram and search for pictures of cute couple showing off their tan that pop against the white sand beach.