For a short vacation to the Maldives you could consider the below one week itinerary for your Maldives trip.
Is a week long enough to visit the Maldives?
I think it is definitely enough time to visit two islands in your one week trip without feeling rushed. You can also experience snorkelling, scuba diving and surfing within this itinerary, and all within 30 minutes by speedboat from Male airport so you won’t waste your week in the Maldives travelling around.
I recommend visiting two islands in one week. If you are planning a budget trip to the Maldives then visit local islands near Male so that you can take speedboats and ferries rather than a domestic flight which can be expensive.
Where to go for one week in the Maldives?
If you love water activities and are happy to stay on local islands then stay on Thulusdhoo or Gulhi which are islands close to Male airport.
One week trip to the Maldives: Visit Thulusdhoo local island
Thulusdhoo is one of the best islands to visit in the Maldives as it is great for surfing, has some decent scuba diving sites and some gorgeous boutique guesthouses. It also has a floating bar which is a nearby party boat where you can still drink alcohol which you cannot when on Thulusdhoo island itself.
One week in the Maldives: Visit Gulhi
Gulhi is one of the best island destinations for beautiful bikini beaches, it even has swings for your Instagram shots. It is a much quieter island but still offers some surfing and scuba diving and great local Maldivian food.
Resort Day Pass
If you want a taste of the a resort experience but without the high price of a luxury resort in the Maldives, try a resort day pass like at Club Med. For a fraction of the price of staying overnight you can use the facilities, all inclusive drinks and food and sometimes transfers can be included too. Message them on their Facebook page for up-to-date prices.
How much is a week in the Maldives?
The cost of a 1 week Maldives vacation will depend totally on if you decide to stay at a luxury resort. The price of Maldives resorts usually range from $300 per night up to $18,000 and more.
One week budget itinerary – the Maldives local islands
The cost of a Maldives trip if on a budget can be around $70 per day depending on activities. On local islands, guesthouses can cost around $50 per room so the cost for a couple visiting the Maldives will be around $25 per night for accommodation.
One week budget trip to the Maldives
Eating local food on islands can be around $5 per meal so very budget friendly and breakfast is usually included in the room price. Snorkelling trips can cost around $20 per person, the price of scuba dives from around $40+.
One week luxury Maldives
If you want to stay at a luxury resort in the Maldives then I recommend staying for 6 nights and having your final night visiting a local island to experience the authentic Maldives. Lots of resorts offer package and all-inclusive deals so compare them for the best Maldives package. I think it is great to experience a resort for the luxury holiday side but local islands will always be my favourite islands to explore especially for a budget Maldives trip.
One Week in the Maldives itinerary – evening at Crossroads
Another alternative to a resort and local islands is to visit Crossroads. This up and coming island is home to several different resorts, bars and restaurants so is worth exploring and will have much more going on in the evening than local islands. You can take the ferry here from Male Ferry terminal, ferries take 15 minutes, leave every 30 minutes from 11am-11.30pm and costs approximately $42 return for tourists. Work Permit Holders and Locals cost is 160 Rufiya/ $10 return.
One week itinerary in Baa Atoll, Maldives
If you only have one week to visit the Maldives but are keen to snorkel with manta rays in the best spot in the world – Hanifaru Bay then book domestic flights from Male to Dharavandhoo and spend 7 days in Baa atoll. For more information on snorkelling with mantas in the Maldives read my blog post here.
Where to stay in Male, Maldives
I would personally avoid staying in Male unless necessary. I think it can be worth a day trip if you have time to spare but it is extremely busy and crowded. That said there are some great restaurants, cafes and boutique shops that are worth visiting for a day trip in Male. Hulhumale has much nicer accommodation for similar prices. Male has a lot of hotels but most of them are very expensive, they can cost from $150+ per night and the cheap hotels are not particularly nice. The cheapest hotels in Male are usually around $60 per night for work permit holders/locals and will be more expensive for tourist rate.
One week diving trip in the Maldives
Fuvahmulah in the south of the Maldives is the best scuba diving in the world, and definitely in the Maldives. The marine megafauna in this area is so incredible, in three days of diving we saw thresher sharks, tiger sharks, whale sharks and oceanic manta rays. Read my Maldives blog post here for how to get to Fuvahmulah, the best diving destination in the Maldives.
For more information about the best islands in the Maldives for budget trips, read here for island advice about Gulhi,Maafushi and Thulusdhoo.
For more information about visiting local islands, what to wear on local islands and where you can drink alcohol in the Maldives, read this blog post
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What can you expect when visiting local islands in the Maldives? So far I have loved visiting local islands. They are cheap, authentic and some of the best places to visit in the Maldives. Resorts have many advantages but they are not the real Maldives. Local islands are full of life, families, cats, beautiful beaches, greenery and great Maldivian food. They are also the best way to visit the Maldives on a budget as you can find affordable guesthouses (costing around 50$ per night), cheap scuba diving and cheap snorkelling trips and dolphin cruises.
Local People in the Maldives
In my experience, the locals are friendly, honest and very welcoming to tourists. I believe many Maldivians are happy to meet tourists who are interested in their culture and visiting the authentic Maldives, rather than just staying at an expensive resort. The local language is Dhivehi, which has a beautiful and unusual script, but most Maldivians speak excellent English, particularly the younger generation so it’s very easy to travel around and to find people who will help you.
Religion in the Maldives
The local population is Muslim (by law) and therefore tourists, male and female, are expected to respect Islamic customs like covering shoulders and knees, even when swimming. Following Islamic law, all local islands are dry and you will not be able to purchase or drink alcohol.
Alcohol in the Maldives
Tourists are only able to drink and purchase alcohol at resort islands. Alcohol is forbidden in all local islands in the Maldives. It is also not permitted to bring any alcohol into the country.
Dress Code in the Maldives – Local Islands
My first question when moving to the Maldives was what to wear when visiting local islands. In order to respect local customs, it is best for men and women to cover shoulders and knees when visiting or staying on local islands. In my experience, lots of local islands seem very relaxed about this rule and I have felt comfortable showing my shoulders in islands like Fuvahmulah where locals also have the freedom to bare some skin.
Can I wear a bikini on local islands?
Many local islands have recently opened up “bikini beach” areas which means that you can wear bikinis or swimsuits on the beach. It is only for this specific area on the island though so pack cover ups for walking to and from the beach. Some more touristy islands like Maafushi local island don’t mind people wearing shorts to the beach.
What are the differences between staying in a resort and staying on a local island?
The number one difference, in my opinion, is that in a resort you can drink alcohol and wear bikinis whereas local islands are dry and bikinis are only acceptable in designated areas such as “bikini beaches”. Local islands will have a slower pace of island life and a relaxed attitude to customer service. Spending your Maldives trip on local islands is the best budget stay in the Maldives. Visiting local islands are by far the cheapest alternative to staying in an expensive resort. Resorts can cost anywhere from $300 a night up to $18,000 a night! Local islands have the same natural beauty of the Maldives like white sand beaches and clear, turquoise waters. The benefits are also more choice of places to stay, budget Maldives accommodation, choice of restaurants, shops and dive centres meaning there is more competition and prices are extremely cheap.
Drinking alcohol on local islands
Alcohol is forbidden by law on local islands and therefore you will only be able to find non-alcoholic beer sold on these islands. If you are looking for a party island in the Maldives, then I recommend staying in a resort island where alcohol is allowed and there are bars. Alternatively, you could stay on a local island and consider spending an evening at a resort to enjoy a sunset cocktail. Many resorts will offer day passes or you can hire a boat to take you there for an evening dinner and drinks. You are not allowed to bring alcohol into the Maldives or bring from resort islands to local islands. However, some islands have liveaboard safari boats that have bars where you can drink and they dock near local islands. Read about Maafushi and its party boats on this blog post.
Snorkelling trips on local islands
Snorkelling trips on local islands are much more reasonably priced than on resort islands. We paid around $20 per person for a half day of snorkelling which included three different snorkelling sites and a sandbank stop. The cost of excursions like dolphin spotting will also be much cheaper on a local island than at a resort. Recently, I saw the cost of a dolphin cruise as advertised at $10 per person. Read here for more information about snorkelling with mantas in the Maldives.
Affordable Maldives Holiday: Local Island Prices
Guesthouses on local islands are the best place to stay in the Maldives when on a budget. This can help keep the cost of your Maldives trip cheap. Guesthouses can start from $50 a night per room upwards and when eating in local restaurants, dinner can cost as little as $5 per meal. Consider staying in a guesthouse and book via booking.com to compare guesthouse prices and facilities.
Island Hopping in the Maldives
Local islands are well connected with public ferries, speedboats and private speedboats all which mean it is very easy to travel between local islands and to travel cheaply. Staying in a resort means you rely upon resort speedboats to take you there which is often a significant additional cost.
Budget Maldives: Where to stay in the Maldives?
Local islands that welcome tourism have a range of budget guesthouses and it completely depends on how developed the island is for tourism. Some islands may only offer rooms for rent, while others have hotels and guesthouses. I usually compare prices on booking.com and/or consider contacting the guesthouse. Calling hotels is usually more effective than emailing in my experience.
What currency can I use on local islands?
Both US dollars and Maldivian Rufiya are accepted on local islands. Bear in mind if you use US dollars in local shops then you are likely to receive Maldivian Rufiya as change.
Cash or Credit Cards
For local islands it is definitely better to have cash to pay for things. Card machines are not always reliable and most guesthouses will have to charge an extra credit/debit card fee because of the bank (even when paying with a Maldivian card). Smaller shops in Male or on local islands may also only accept Maldivian Rufiya so I recommend having some small change
Budget Maldives: Local Island Day Trips
Even when staying in a resort, you can visit a local island as a day trip. Some resorts offer guided tours to nearby local islands. Tourists could also consider splitting the trip between a resort and a local island to experience both sides of the Maldives.
Most places in the Maldives use the English three pin plug. Resorts often provide adapters whereas local island guesthouses may not.
Visas for the Maldives
Most nationalities will be granted a 30 day on arrival tourist visa. Check on your government website to confirm this.
What to not bring into the Maldives
Bringing alcohol into the Maldives is forbidden as is bringing in pork products and pornography.
Marine Life in the Maldives
The underwater world in the Maldives is incredible making it one of the best countries for snorkelling and scuba diving. (Read this post for my favourite island for diving and the best diving in the Maldives!). You can see manta rays, whale sharks, tiger sharks, turtles and much more marine life when visiting the Maldives. For specific information about snorkelling with manta rays, see here.
Cheap Diving in the Maldives on Local Islands
Diving on local islands is the best budget scuba diving in the Maldives. Resort dive centres can cost from $100+ for one dive whereas local island prices are approximately $40 a dive. From an appearance perspective, local dive centres may not look as swish as the resort dive centres and the equipment may not be as brand new. However, I have always felt safe when diving with local centres and I have found the locals to be extremely knowledgeable and professional dive guides.
Local Island Wildlife
While staying in local island be aware that there will be more mosquitoes than at resort islands as resorts fog regularly and local islands do not. Take insect repellent. Harmless snakes, geckos, mice, rats and lizards may also be seen on local islands but can also be found in resorts. Resorts will have a team of pest controllers to deal with any unwanted insects or wildlife whereas on local islands do not expect people to run around after you because of a gecko on the wall!
Mosquitoes in the Maldives
Mosquitoes are abundant on local islands and I therefore recommend purchasing insect repellent (I use DEET 50% which you can buy from Amazon here) as the insect spray available from local shops in the Maldives is not particularly strong (only about 5% DEET). The Maldives is not malarial, however there are cases of dengue fever and therefore I recommend covering your shoulders and legs in the evening and use insect spray, particularly on local islands.
Unmarried Couples in the Maldives
So far on local islands I have not experienced any problems with staying as an unmarried couple. This is never a problem if both guests are foreigners. However one Maldivian and one foreigner of the opposite sex can cause problems as technically this is frowned upon and one hotel that I am aware of forced a mixed nationality (Maldivian and foreigner) couple to pay for two rooms even though they shared one room. This seems to be very rare and most places I have stayed and heard of respect the freedom of their guests.
Local Food in the Maldives
Most Maldivian food consists of tuna and other fish like reef fish. These are often mixed with rice and/or chappatis. My personal favourite is a Maldivian take on a Sri Lankan dish called Kottu Roshi. Local restaurants can have a very relaxed attitude to customer service and I have waited up to two hours for dinner before! (restaurants in Fuvahmulah!) Therefore when visiting local restaurants, bring along patience and a sense of humour and also consider going to a restaurant before you get too hungry! Vegetarian food is not very common, however most restaurants will still cook vegetarian dishes on request. Make it clear that vegetarian means no fish and no meat when ordering (and this may need to be repeated several times to make sure!). Many local restaurants still use plastic straws (resorts tend to be more eco-friendly) so to travel responsibly make sure you say “no straw” when ordering drinks. Many drinks like Coca-cola are sold on local islands in plastic bottles instead of cans so I always make sure to ask before ordering to reduce my plastic consumption. I always take a refillable water bottle to fill up from like these metal ones from Amazon.
Best Local Islands to Visit in the Maldives on a Budget:
(that I have visited so far) include:
Fuvahmulah – read here for the best diving in the Maldives