I used to think that the Maldives were as expensively inaccessible as they were undeniably beautiful. In my mind, it was reserved for a honeymoon: something that made this marriage-skeptical commitment-phobe itch to think of.
After becoming a travel blogger, my eyes were opened to the expansive world of budget travel in the Maldives: local islands, public ferries, locally-owned guesthouses on Airbnb.
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But what I never realized until I actually arrived in Maldives was that there was something in the middle: a way to enjoy a traditional resort experience without spending your entire life’s savings.
Something that couldn’t quite be classified as “budget” – but that you wouldn’t have to steal from your theoretical future child’s college education fund to afford.
That place, my friends, is Bandos Island Resort, a mere 10-minute speedboat from Malé Airport but with some of the bluest waters and whitest sands you can dream up.
While I was a guest at Bandos Island Resort thanks to the sponsorship of the World Travel Writers Conference in the Maldives, I was shocked to learn how affordable this resort is for the average middle-class traveler, especially if you travel off-peak.
Cost of Staying at Bandos Island Resort
Even in February, one of the busiest months, the cheapest double room is about $280 per night (with breakfast only included). But travel off-peak in a month like June or July, and you’ll be rewarded: that same double room is only $172 with breakfast ($337 full-board for two people).
** Note: I looked up these rates on booking.com while writing this article — prices will likely change, but were true at time of writing. Also note that these prices are not inclusive of the 22% tax that is mandatory on all stays and purchases in Maldives **
Now, I’m not trying to say that these prices are budget-friendly for everyone, but let’s put these numbers into perspective. I’ve seen average motels in Moab, Utah go for well over $200 a night. You’d be hard-pressed to find a decent hotel room in central NYC or London for under $300. Now, I love me a good city, but I’d take a week in Maldives over a week in gray London anyday!
Just look at those island blues.
Be aware: the rainy season in the Maldives is technically from May to October. I went in September, was there for two weeks, and never had more than 10 minutes of rain spread over a few different days.
However, I was told that right before my arrival, there had been several days of super stormy weather — so be prepared if you choose to travel in the off-season!
Bandos’ proximity to the Malé airport is part of what makes it so affordable. If you add in a seaplane, no matter how affordable the resort is, you’re looking at an extra $500 or so on top of your stay… Ouch. So if you want a budget-friendly trip to Maldives, make sure you look at hotels that are within a speedboat transfer’s distance of Malé and be sure to ask about the transfer cost before booking anything.
At the moment, Bandos charges $76 return for a speedboat transfer per adult, which is rather reasonable (in the alternate universe that is the Maldives!)
Cost of Activities at Bandos Island Resort
One of the other things that makes Bandos so affordable for a Maldives resort is the relatively low cost of activities. A half day snorkeling or island hopping trip will cost $45 plus tax.
A sunset dolphin cruise, like the one in the photo below, will cost about $40 (plus tax) for a several hour long boat ride.
They also have a fantastic dive center on Bandos – I went diving with them three times and saw so many amazing creatures in their house reef (you can also borrow a snorkel set and snorkel right from the beach, if that’s more your speed)
The boat dives were even better, though! We went to Aquarium, where you can see massive schools of brightly colored fish plus beautiful corals, anemones, and others. But one of the highlights was our second dive, where we went diving with enormous manta rays swirling above and below us. I was shocked when one went right above me and I could see through its gills to the water above it.
Dives cost $62 plus tax per dive with all the equipment included, plus a $18 supplement if you choose to do a boat dive. If you’re a diving fanatic, you can even buy a package of 10 dives for $500, making them $50 each — a good value if you can fit them all in!
Sustainability at Bandos Island Resort
You may think there’s no way a resort in the Maldives can be eco-friendly… but Bandos is doing its best with some innovative and sustainable initiatives.
The #1 thing Bandos is doing to combat waste is through their bottling plant, which is located on-island and was established in 2015. Reusable glass bottles are pressure-washed, sanitized, and rinsed before being filled with purified, filtered water. Since the average daily consumption of bottled water is 800 liters, the water bottling plant is able to save the disposal of over 288,000 plastic bottles per year.
Other initiatives to reduce waste include a Solarhart system to heat water, which reduces the energy needed to heat water by 80-90%. They’re also in the process of constructing an entirely on-island sewage treatment plant that produces clean reusable water with low energy outputs.
A hydroponic garden fed by recycled water reduces reliance on imported produce (a huge resource suck in an isolated island nation like Maldives).
They’ve also signed the Biosphere Reserve Pledge with UNESCO as of 2016, agreeing to reserve 800 square meters of the Bandos House Reef — which is one of the healthiest house reefs I’ve ever seen, remarkable given its proximity to Malé. They’ve initiated several coral gardening programs that naturally rehabilitate damaged but live coral.
So, if you think Maldives is out of your budget — think again. One week at a Maldives resort could actually end up costing you less than a week in Paris, London, or NYC.
Intrigued? Check the most recent and lowest prices on Booking.com now!
Note: I was a guest of Bandos Island Resort while I attended the World Travel Writer’s Conferences sponsored by Maldives TV. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. Also, this post contains affiliate links, which may make me a small commission at no extra cost to you.