My room at Asseyri Inn, Hanimaadhoo.
My room at Asseyri Inn, Hanimaadhoo.

My guesthouse in Maldives

  Maldives - February 2014

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

The Maldives for not too much money? It is possible. There is an alternative to the luxury island-hotels: the guesthouses of the inhabited islands.

New tourism in the Maldivian archipelago

I discovered the Maldives in February 2014. A new destination on Bubbles Underwater & Beyond ! 😎

CLARIFICATIONS: in April 2014, I interrupted my series of articles on the MaldivesI found it difficult to continue to praise the beauties of this Indian Ocean archipelago (and thus to encourage people to go to the Maldives) when the regime had tightened its application of Sharia law, after my stay in February 2014. Not respecting human rights, the Maldives had to leave the Commonwealth of Nations in 2016. But in september 2018, things have changed, with the surprise defeat in the autocratic president's elections Abdulla Yameen supported by Islamists and now prosecuted for corruption, beaten by Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, an ally of the democratic camp. Then in april 2019, the party of Mohamed Nasheedformer president of the Maldives (2008-2012), several times imprisoned by the regime and main opposition figure, won the first legislative elections since Yameen left. The Maldives return to the path of democracyThis is great news!

In the south of India, this immense archipelago on the water is known for its luxury island hotels and resorts, overpriced, cut off from the local population, frequented by very wealthy tourists and honeymoon couples.

Island-hotel in the Maldives. February 2014.
Island-hotel in the Maldives. February 2014.

For a long time, the Maldives has chosen to focus on luxury tourism, taking care to limit contact between foreign visitors and the local population. But this is changing. Recently, locals have been allowed to open "guesthouses", which range from guesthouses to small tourist hotels.

These guesthouses have multiplied in the last few years and there is now a wide range of choices from the north to the south of the archipelago for independent travelers. You can stay in the villages of the inhabited islands and discover the real life of "real people.

This is the option I chose for the first week of my Maldivian trip! Before giving myself a second week more chic on a cruise-diving boat... ????

So I first spent a few days in the north of the archipelago, on the island ofHanimaadhooI stayed at the very nice guesthouse Asseyri Inn. I chose an island very far from Malé (about 280km, or one hour flight), to avoid the most frequented places. I hesitated with Gan, in the south, but that will be for another time...

Update - January 2017 : The guesthouse Asseyri Inn as I knew it does not seem to exist anymore. The website now refers to another hotel, much more chic, located on another island...

The sandy street, in front of the guesthouse Asseyri Inn. Hanimaadhoo, Maldives, February 2014.
The sandy street, in front of the guesthouse Asseyri Inn. Hanimaadhoo, Maldives, February 2014.

It was the rave reviews on TripAdvisor that made me decide to contact Asseyri Inn. Their "solo traveler" package with activities for each day suited me, they had availability on my dates and in addition there is a small diving center. Perfect to immerse myself in the atmosphere of the country and to acclimatize myself gently!

Guesthouses and small hotels

Some guesthouses in the Maldives are very modest, others are downright chic. The cheapest ones are around 30-40€ per night, the most expensive ones are around 100-150€. You can find a lot of them in Malé (the capital island), in Hulumalé (the artificial residential island near the airport) and on two islands quite close to Malé, Maafushi (the prison island) and Guraidhoo. But it seems that accommodations have opened in almost all the atolls of the archipelago. There are cheap ferries to go from one island to another and more expensive air links with Maldivian Aero to reach the farthest

You will find a lot of information via a Google search with the words "Maldives + guesthouses" or "Maldives + backpacker".

The best known and most popular are listed on TripAdvisor in the section "bed and breakfast". and many of these accommodations use the sites or to rent their rooms (very convenient to book yourself on the internet, or to get an idea of the rates). Some other links in bulk, found during my research before I left:
Guesthouses in Maldives a selection of guesthouses in several different atolls
Maldives Guesthouses & BB : small selection by Lonely Planet
Maafushi Maldives choice of guesthouses on several islands, not just Maafushi

Good to know : you have to check if the taxes are included or not, otherwise you have to add +10% and +8% (it was in any case the amount at the time of my visit, but it can change). It is also necessary to look at the services included in the price, it has sometimes very interesting packages:
→ just the night (with or without transfer)
→ overnight stay + breakfast or half-board
→ the night + all meals + activities for the day ...

Set course for Hanimaadhoo!

Hanimaadhoo has the advantage of having an airport, now "international", with connections from Sri Lanka and soon to India, perhaps. It is a peaceful island, stretched all the way, which has less than 1,500 souls, inhabited only on a small portion to the north.

The arrival to Hanimaadhoo. Maldives, February 2014.
Arrival at Hanimaadhoo. Maldives, February 2014.

My guesthouse is in the heart of the village, close to the port where the fishermen arrive in dhoniThe traditional boat, with the fish of the day, and the school. We can see boys and girls cycling past in their uniforms at the end of school.

Daily fishing at Hanimaadhoo port. Maldives, February 2014.
Fishing of the day at Hanimaadhoo harbor (Maldives, February 2014)
I think this schoolboy stole his sister's bike ... Hanimaadhoo, Maldives, February 2014.
I think this schoolboy stole his sister's bike ... (Hanimaadhoo, Maldives, February 2014)

As a reminder, Islam is the state religion in the Maldives. Hanimaadhoo is one of the few inhabited islands where foreign tourists are allowed to wear bikinis on a defined stretch of beach. A permit is required and Asseyri Inn has recently obtained it. The guesthouse plans to build a new building in front of the beach and move there, in front of the turquoise water and white sand.

The tourist beach, where the bikini is allowed, in Hanimaadhoo. Maldives, February 2014.
The end of the beach where the bikini is allowed, in Hanimaadhoo. (Maldives, February 2014)
On the public beach of Hulumale, the residential island near Malé airport, it is forbidden to wear a bikini. Maldives, February 2014.
On the public beach of Hulumalé, the residential island near the airport in Male, it is forbidden to wear a bikini (Maldives, February 2014)

Another thing to know: alcohol is also forbidden on the so-called "local" islands. If you want to drink a beer (possibly in a bikini), it is only allowed on the tourist islands, on the cruise ships and at the hotel located next to the airport in Male. For those who are in need, it is always possible to organize, for a fee, a short day or half-day stay in a nearby resort, to momentarily taste the pleasures reserved for luxury tourists.

But this is obviously not what I came to Hanimaadhoo for... The quiet and authentic Muslim village atmosphere, crushed by intense light, suits me well, as a first Maldivian cultural immersion. People are more reserved than in Indonesia, but very welcoming. More in the next post!


  Maldives - February 2014

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  1. From the Hautes-Alpes, we look at the national weather forecast for the weekend, and if they announce bad weather over Brittany, we say to ourselves "chouette, we're going to have a new article from "Petites bulles d'ailleurs"!!! It's almost never missing, it's so practical 🙄
    Congratulations for your always interesting work, and your photos always on top.
    Signed a non-diver!

    1. @ Gaëlle: 😆 That's not untrue... Plus, I'm running out of time these days, to update the blog, I confess. But I'll try to get back into a more regular rhythm. Thanks for the very nice note 🙂

  2. I love these very practical pages, Corinne, and at least it smacks of passion... that we're dying to share!

    1. @Sarah: I haven't yet taken the time to reply to the comments, including yours, on the previous articles... But as you can see, I alternated two ways of traveling in the Maldives: first part of the stay in a guesthouse on an inhabited island, second part of the stay on a fancier boat for a diving cruise. I really enjoyed combining the two.
      I try to avoid getting too "practical", though, as I'm not a travel guide either, and this kind of information gets out of date very quickly. What's more, after a post like this one I'm inundated with e-mails asking me for even more information (for information that's generally easy to find on accommodation websites). People don't like to do their own research or to take matters into their own hands... Sometimes, quite amusingly, I'm even mistaken for the hotelier and sent requests for bookings... (sic!)

      But the existence of affordable guesthouses in the Maldives is something that few travelers know about, because it's very recent. It's worth pointing it out and, without necessarily detailing everything, giving some price ranges!

    2. Yes, I know, that's why I refrained from asking for details about this destination, which also interests me enormously. However, I can see that some people haven't hesitated to do so, and I'm taking careful note of what you've been willing to "deliver" in the way of information. For my part, I think the blog is halfway between diving and travel, which is perhaps why it calls for all kinds of questions... In any case, thank you once again for the answers and for staying "zen"!

  3. Hi, activity level apart from diving what to do? It is necessary to count how much grosso modo if one is in mode backpacker? And are the prices of the dives affordable?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. @Mat: Well, let's just say there's "nothing" special to do. The Maldives are an immense archipelago of tiny coral islands, where the activities are those that can be offered by this kind of island, lost in the Indian Ocean:
      - visits to small villages in the surrounding inhabited islands and meetings with locals
      - sea trips to meet dolphins
      - fishing with the locals, or big game fishing on equipped boats
      - picnic on white sandbanks in the middle of the sea
      - Snorkeling (palm-mask-snorkel) or scuba diving
      - other nautical activities according to the places: kayak, surf, windsurf, etc.

      I don't know how much it costs "roughly speaking" in backpacker mode. As I said earlier in the article, the cheapest nights are around 30-40€. Ferry fares are derisory (1-3USD for short crossings, a little more for longer ones). Diving rates also vary, depending on whether or not the center is affiliated with a luxury resort. I'll have to find my bill from Asseyri Inn for the dives I did with them, but it didn't seem particularly exorbitant.

      Otherwise, I think you could try couchsurfing for a real backpacker-style discovery (I saw that there were quite a few Maldivians registered on the Couchsurfing site).

      Finally, as I said earlier in the article, to find more info and testimonials on independent backpacker travel in the Maldives, do a Google search with the following words:
      -> guesthouse + Maldives
      -> guesthouse + backpacker
      You will find through this a lot of pages, including stories of travelers on blogs.

  4. thanks for the info, but... how much for the plane transfer? I remember giving up on the idea of a cheap hotel on an island far from Malé because of the seaplane at 500$...

    1. @Robin: yes, it's also for this kind of consideration that I opted for Hanimaadhoo (and that Gan, in Addu Atoll, to the south, also tempted me): there's an airport!

      The transfer by plane is therefore with the local company Maldivian Aero and not with a seaplane (surely very nice but overpriced) ... Rates and bookings on the website:

      Maldivian Aero's fares aren't those of Air Asia, of course, but they're still much more affordable than seaplanes... I didn't have to worry about anything myself, as my package with Asseyri Inn included the Malé-Hanimaadhoo return flight (they booked it for me). You can check out the airline's website to get an idea of prices.

      Otherwise, the other option is to have some time to spare, and take the ferries from island to island, atoll to atoll, which are very inexpensive...

  5. I'm very interested in your article and would like to make a resa...How do I go about it? Thank you for your help! 😆 Well, obviously, you get it, it's a joke! I understand your annoyance! Well, on a more serious note, I didn't know about the existence of guest houses in the Maldives....A bit late for me unfortunately 😥 Who knows, maybe one day I'll come back there for some snorkeling, if there are interesting spots of course....

    1. @Didier: 😆 😆 😆 I laugh, but I swear it's true, I really do get emails like this....

      I'm sometimes amazed, but it also has to do with the fact that many French people speak little or no English. As a result, they don't understand much of the information on accommodation websites, let alone feel comfortable sending an email. So they write to me, thinking that maybe I can act as a go-between or give them the information they're looking for... I try not to get annoyed, though. In general, I answer nicely... 😀

      I think there are manta and whale shark spots, where snorkeling is worthwhile in season... In any case, living in a Maldivian village is an experience to be had, truly different from what you can perceive when you're on a dive boat or in an exclusive resort for tourists.

      The guesthouse phenomenon is very recent. I've been eyeing the Maldives for a long time, discouraged by the prices and the only option of resorts or liveaboard cruises... A few years ago, guesthouses didn't exist and I wouldn't have been allowed to visit a local island as an independent traveler.

    2. @Corinne: It's true, I haven't given up on the idea of seeing "fish", but obviously in a different way. Whale sharks, dolphins, etc... can be seen through snorkeling. Combined with tours or other activities, it can get interesting! 8)
      I'm currently doing some research to try and find a good compromise. We'll see if the Maldives can meet my needs. Anyway, if you ever have a good tip on this, anywhere in the world,don't forget me! I've sold everything except PMT! 😉

  6. I would never have thought of Guesthouses for this kind of destination. It cuts the bill considerably, but the price of the plane ticket is still quite high!

  7. For me, the opening up of Maldivian tourism is the best thing that could have happened to this country. It's finally the end of this golden bubble and also the best solution for Maldivians to finally benefit directly from the profits of tourism.

    In the meantime, my life in the Maldives remains one of my worst experiences abroad... but I'd go back, for the fantastic diving!

  8. Hello Corinne.
    I've been enjoying your blog for many years and I often think that we'll end up crossing paths on a diving trip: we have many destinations in common!!!!
    For the Maldives, it was for me one of my first exotic destinations: In island hotel for tourists ...
    I was delighted to read your posts about the possibility of Guesthousse on islands not cut off from the local population.

    However, I recently saw a TV report which showed that the political regime in the Maldives was tending to harden and that individual freedoms were being called into question, with a tendency towards religious extremism.
    I wanted to bring this info to your readers so that the Maldivian people will not be forgotten.
    and good bubbles everywhere!

  9. So, it's really a discovery. Thank you!
    Me, I have a magical memory of the Maldives ...30 years ago - argh... it doesn't make me any younger read like that - where I was lucky enough to go with my parents for my 18th birthday 🙄
    And there weren't yet so many luxury resorts, it was super friendly and pretty cool... it's even where I made my first bubbles, uh... not supervised at all, so, like, let's take a bottle and go... accompanied anyway, but hey...
    So, thank you, I'll be poking around, it's piqued my curiosity... Well, for now, let's focus on Easter and Indonesia, eh? 😀