Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could gave been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:
Maldives for not (too) expensive? It's possible. There is an alternative to luxury hotel-islands: the guesthouses of 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 Maldives, finding it difficult to continue to brag about the beauties of this archipelago of the Indian Ocean (and thus to encourage people to visit the Maldives) while the regime had hardened its application of sharia, 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 Nasheed, former president of the Maldives (2008-2012), several times imprisoned by the regime and main figure of the opposition, won the first legislative elections since Yameen left. The Maldives return to the path of democracyit's great news!
In the South of India, this immense archipelago at the water's edge is known for its expensive, luxurious island-hotels and resorts, cut off from the local population, frequented by very rich tourists and honeymooners.
The Maldives have long made the choice of luxury tourism, making sure to limit contact between foreign visitors and the local population. But it's changing. Recently, residents have been allowed to open "guesthouses", which range from the guesthouse to the small tourist hotel.
These guesthouses have multiplied in recent years, and there is now choice, from north to south of the archipelago, for independent travelers. One can thus lodge in the villages of 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 me a second week more chic on a cruise-diving boat... 👌
So I first spent a few days all the way north of the archipelago on Hanimaadhoo Island to the very nice guesthouse Asseyri Inn. I chose an island very far from Male (about 280km, one hour flight), to avoid the busiest corners. I hesitated with Gan, in the south, but it will be for another time ...
Update - January 2017:the guesthouse Asseyri Inn as I knew it no longer seems to exist. The website now refers to another hotel, much more chic, located on another island ...
It was the great reviews on TripAdvisor that made me decide to contact Asseyri Inn. Their package "solo traveler" with activities for each day suited me, they had availability on my dates and in addition there is a small dive center. Perfect to immerse myself in the atmosphere of the country and acclimatize me smoothly!
Guesthouses and small hotels
Some "guesthouses" in the Maldives are very modest, others are downright chic. The most economical are around 30-40 € per night, the most expensive in 100-150 €. There are many in Male (the capital island), Hulumale (the artificial residential island near the airport) and two islands close enough to Male, Maafushi (prison island) and Guraidhoo. But it seems that accommodation has opened in almost all the atolls of the archipelago. There are cheap ferries to go from one island to another and more expensive flights 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 " guest rooms " and many of these accommodations use the sites Booking.com or Agoda.com to rent their rooms (very convenient to book yourself on the internet, or get an idea of the rates). Some other loose links, found during my research before leaving: → 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 only Maafushi
Good to know: it must be checked whether the taxes are included or not, otherwise you must add + 10% and + 8% (it was in any case the amount when I go, but it can change). We must also look at the services included in the price, it sometimes has very interesting packages: → just the night (with or without transfer) → overnight stay + breakfast or half-board → the night + all meals + activities for the day ...
Head to Hanimaadhoo!
Hanimaadhoo has the advantage of having an airport, now "international", with connections from Sri Lanka and soon to India, perhaps. It's a peaceful island, stretched all the way, which has less than 1500 souls, inhabited only on a small portion to the north.
My guesthouse is in the heart of the village, close to the port where fishermen arrive in dhoni, the traditional boat, with fish of the day, and school. Boys and girls are seen cycling in their uniforms at the end of class.
As a reminder, Islam is the state religion in the Maldives. Hanimaadhoo is one of the few inhabited islands where the wearing of the bikini is allowed to foreign tourists, on a delimited beach. Permission 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 turquoise water and white sand.
Another tip to know: alcohol is similarly prohibited on the so-called "local" islands. To drink a beer (possibly in a bikini), it is only in the island-hotels of the tourists, on the cruise ships and at the hotel located next to the airport of Male. For those who are lacking, it is always possible to organize, for a fee, a short stay of a day or a half-day in a nearby resort, to momentarily enjoy the pleasures reserved for luxury tourists.
But that's obviously not what I came looking for on Hanimaadhoo ... The quiet and authentic Muslim village atmosphere, crushed with intense light, suits me, as the first Maldivian cultural immersion. People are more reserved than in Indonesia, but very welcoming. Next in the next post!