4 tips on how to afford the Maldives, the most exclusive (and romantic) place on earth

One & Only Reethi Rah, Maldives.

Let’s cut to the chase. The Maldives is the the most exclusive, most glam, most over-the-top destination in the world. I like to call it “extreme luxury.” There are only 800,000 travelers that visit a year, 10 percent being American.

Do the math: less than 1 percent of America has been to the Maldives (I feel blessed… see my Maldives adventures here). Sure, it’s expensive AF (which makes it bucket list-y) and there are several reasons why. Let’s take a look at how you can afford the Maldives.

How to afford Maldives.
Hammock in Soneva Jani.


1) It’s in the middle of nowhere, so the flights getting here will be expensive.

2) Because it’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s expensive for resorts to import basic goods like, say, bananas, so there’s a huge price hike.

3) All the resorts are leasing these privately owned islands, and they’re paying big bucks, so their rates will be high.

4) Due to local religious laws, liquor is basically a no no (but a yes yes in the resorts) so stiff taxes on booze makes a cocktail average about $25 (!!).

5) To get to most resorts you have to take seaplanes (nothing more than 45 minutes). These flights add up (you can pay as much as $800 for one flight).

6) It’s literally paradise, and paradise comes at a price. What exactly is “paradise?” In Maldives, paradise is “privilege.” There is no other place on Earth you can wake up from a beach villa, take 20 steps across blinding, pure white sand and swim in a crystal-clear, waves-free sea (from an overwater villa, you literally roll out of bed into the water). There are no jellyfish or rocks or sharks or pollution in the water. There is no boardwalk you have to cross, an elevator you have to take or hundreds of tourists around you. THIS is privilege.

Most resorts average $1,000 a night, and it’s not uncommon for those rates to rise to $2,000 a night in high season. Food is EXPENSIVE, people. A lunch can set one person back about $100. That’s an average of $250 PER PERSON when it comes to dining.

Overwater villas at Soneva Javi come equipped with their own water slide.

So the question is: how can you afford the Maldives

1) Go off season. Listen, everyone freaks out when they hear the phrase “off season” but it’s on your side. They say the temperature (around an average 87 degrees) is hotter in summer, but it’s basically the same year round. Any local will tell you this. Maybe a little windier in monsoon season (until Oct) but that ocean breeze is like kisses on the skin. Also, off season means it’s rainy season. You’re a smart traveler. Do you really think it will rain non-stop in this side of the equator? We came during off season, and it sprinkled lightly at night for about an hour tops. In off season, the rates at resorts will be lower (some resorts offer extra, complimentary nights), upgrades are more common, daily specials are at the spa (up to 50 percent off) and less people are around. It’s WORTH going off season. In fact, it’s the best-kept secret.

2) Be strategic with flights. There are no budget airlines that fly to Maldives per se, so always sign up for airline newsletters that offer special deals to Maldives when they have empty loads. Also, check out my tips on when to buy, how to buy, and how to upgrade.

3) You CAN find resorts less than $1,000 a night. Did you know there’s a Holiday Inn in Maldives? I would never send anyone to Holiday Inn, but this resort is sharing the same ocean, white sand and verdant landscape as every other hotel in the destination. Rates are at $200 a night. It’s the least expensive resort but the more you spend, the swankier the hotel. So, moral of the story: you don’t have to throw down a grand a night if you really want to come to Maldives. You won’t have the bells and whistles of a luxury resort but you’ll have the beauty of the Maldives. It’s one of the best hacks on how you can afford the Maldives.

4) Save up. Can you put away $50 a week? Eat-in one night, have one drink instead of two at the bar, get rid of cable. If you squander $200 a month, that’s $2,400 you saved in a year, $4,800 in two years. Use your air miles to get to Maldives (you’ve been saving them for a dream trip, right?), and you are in paradise in no time.

Robinson Crusoe Treehouse at Soneva Fushi.

Have any other tips on how to afford the Maldives for a trip? Let us know in the comments below.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed at over 600 hotels and clocked millions of air miles. He currently lives in New York City.

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