Wow. Six months. I didn't think I would make it this far. When I began my journey this past May, I never would have guessed I'd be where I am now. Originally, I had counted on my budget lasting just through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Well here I am, eight countries in, with plenty of steam left. Not only have I been to some places I hadn't originally counted on, one of those countries is an expensive one!
The past 30 days were spent in India, Maldives, and Sri Lanka, though mostly in the latter two. I've already talked about India at length (and will do so more in the upcoming month), so I'll focus on the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
The Maldives was awesome! People usually just think of it as a bunch of tourist resorts. Honestly, those do exist, but the country is much more than that. It has a very laid back vibe, delicious food (it's Heaven if you love tuna), and a really cool shipping port. On my last day there, I walked through the port and enjoyed a joyous atmosphere, where everyone was buying and selling overseas imports!
Sri Lanka has a rather large tourism industry, and is therefore very easy to travel in. While the food was a bit of a step down from Indian cuisine, it is still pretty good. The country has many beautiful beaches and tourist resorts. Honestly, though, the place where Sri Lanka excelled for me was its hill country. The area outside Nuwara Eliya is simply gorgeous: green rolling hills and tea plantations abound. The area feels different from pretty much everywhere else I visited in Sri Lanka.
Next month will be spent in India. I have slightly more than one month left in that gargantuan land, and intend on making the best of that time. While the first leg of my Indian trip was spent in the country's south, the second leg will take place in the center and north. India has so much to see, that I'm sure I will require revisits to the country. For now, though, let's see where the road takes me.
The three currencies I used during my sixth month: Indian and Sri Lankan Rupee, and Maldivian Rufiyaa. My week in the Maldives took a sizable chunk out of my savings. But you know what? It was worth every penny.
Accommodation - $385.95. Average of $12.87 per day. Accommodation was by far the biggest expense from this month, mostly as the result of my Maldives adventure. Although I managed to find accommodation for roughly $30 per night, it came with plenty of tacked on taxes and island fees. I averaged about $7-8 per night in Sri Lanka.
Food and Drink - $215. Average of $7.17 per day, or $2.39 per meal. Food in Sri Lank and the Maldives was more expensive than in India. However, it was still very cheap. I'd say the food costs about as much as in Southeast Asia.
Alcohol - $16.14. The Maldives is an Islamic country, so alcohol is not readily available (at least on the local islands. I didn't drink much this month, even in India and Sri Lanka. However, a beer usually costs between $1-3 in both countries.
Transport - $121.99. More than half of this expense came from an $85 speedboat I took in the Maldives. Local ferries usually cost about $5. Unfortunately, they do not always run every day, so you might have to take an expensive alternative. My advice is to arrive at a time where you can take local transport. Sri Lanka, however, has ridiculously cheap transport.
Miscellaneous - $88.87. Includes things such as toiletries, laundry, ATM fees, souvenirs, etc.
Total amount spent - $827.95. Average of $27.60 per day. This was by far my most expensive month. However, I think I did pretty well, seeing as I managed to comfortably include a trip to the Maldives!
Once more, thank you to Simon and Erin, the creators of Trail Wallet. Their app continues to be my #1 budgeting tool. If you feel so inclined, check out their journey at neverendingvoyage.com.
There I was, eating dinner at a restaurant in the Maldives. The past few days had been quite boring. Not only did the rainy weather preclude me from doing fun oceanic stuff (such as snorkeling), I also had no fellow tourists to talk to. Indeed, during my stay I was the only Westerner in the hotel. Tourism was down, probably because of the rainy weather. In search of something to do, and to avoid the ridiculously overpriced hotel fare, I found myself eating all of my meals at a local restaurant. I would walk in, order my meal, and eat in silence. Sometimes there were others in the establishment, but they always spoke to each other in a local language I didn’t understand. In many ways, I felt disconnected: alienated from the culture around me. The television caused that all to change.
One thing I didn’t mention was that the restaurant had a large flat screen TV in it. People would usually sit around and watch television shows and movies, none of which were in English. Ok, whatever. It provided some mild entertainment, and kept the restaurant lively. I barely paid attention to the screen, that is, until Tom and Jerry came on.
I’m sure most of you are familiar with Tom and Jerry, but I will clarify for those of you who don’t. It is an animated American cartoon from the 1940s and 50s, about a cat and mouse who are enemies. Tom (the cat) usually tries to capture Jerry (the mouse), usually ending Tom being injured or killed in increasingly cartoonish ways. The short films are very funny, and are frequently aired on cartoon television channels.
You may ask, what makes this show so different from the dozens of others that the Maldivians were watching?
There’s no dialogue.
That’s right, folks. With the exception of sound effects and music, Tom and Jerry is completely silent. When the first episode came on, I found myself laughing uproariously; this time, it was with a roomful of people. We sat there for an hour, watching the hilarious exploits of the animated cat and mouse. For once, there was no language barrier to divide us.
Right then and there, I realized something very important. In general, we all laugh at the same things, cry at the same things, and seek the same things out of life. Sure, sometimes our culture or upbringing instills us with different values and life choices. Sometimes, language and misunderstanding creates obstacles and stops us from communicating properly. However, deep down we all want to laugh. We all want to feel good. We all want to do the things we love.
The simple act of watching a cartoon in a restaurant, made me feel a kinship to my fellow man. It reminded me that language is nothing more than a barrier for humanity, a roadblock that the greatest forms of expression can knock down.
Maldives (duh) has been added to the "Nationalities I've Met" page, bringing the total to 56!
The Maldives is not commonly included in most travelers’ backpacking trips; it is not known as a budget destination. The smallest country in all of Asia, the Maldives is an archipelago of islands located in the Indian Ocean. It is known mostly for its numerous tourist resorts, most of which take up their own island. The country offers very little in the way of budget accommodation, and mostly serves as a place for expensive vacations and honeymoons. Nonetheless, I happened to be in the area (roughly a one-hour flight away), and decided to take a much needed vacation from traveling.
The idea of taking a holiday during an extended trip may seem laughable at first, but I promise you, it is much deserved. Constant travel can be extremely tiring and taxing, especially in a country such as India. Roughly 10% of my nights have been spent without a bed: either in an airplane, bus, or train. It is not always easy to find decent accommodation, and noise and grime can really be a nuisance. I’ve been ill more times in the past few weeks than I’d like to count, probably due to a constant spread of bacteria, caused by a crowded environment. Seriously, sometimes you just need to get away for a while.
It’s truly time for me to take a “real” vacation, one spent at a tourist hotel on a small atoll in the Maldives. While this excursion is definitely the most expensive of my entire trip, there are things I’ve done to lessen the damage. For example, I pre-booked accommodation online, and managed to get a wonderful hotel rate of $25-30 per night. While this is way out of my usual $3-10 price range, it is considered very cheap for the Maldives. Flights are inexpensive from here to Sri Lanka (my next destination), so it is the perfect place to stop off along the way. I’ll only be staying here only one week, so the price won’t make too big of a dent in my budget. It is an extremely small country, so I have no qualms with spending just seven days here. Most of the country’s islands are uninhabited and inaccessible, making this one of the only places in the world where the “true” way to see it, is to stay at a tourist resort. Ah, but that’s what they want you to think.
Thank Heaven I got to stay on a residential island (Hulhumale) for one night before going to my hotel, because the Maldives completely shocked me. I arrived at the international airport, and saw the bluest, clearest ocean water I have ever seen. Seriously, it’s like something out of a fairy tale. From there I took a ferry to the capital city, Male, which is one of the smallest capital cities in the world. I was immediately impressed with the calm and laid back nature of Maldivian people. Because tourism tends to be limited to expensive hotels, the country has none of the taxi driver hustling or scams that I’ve grown accustomed to. Everything just seems so…calm. I would love to live here some day. Food is delicious and fresh, the beaches are glistening white, and the water (which I already mentioned) is amongst the most beautiful in the world.
Maybe I was expecting Maldives to be all dive resorts and five-star hotels, but I was wrong. After all, there is a population of people living here. The prices, while much higher than anywhere else I’ve been recently, are not as bad as I’d assumed. In fact, if one were to live on one of the residential islands (by renting an apartment) it would be quite affordable by Western standards. It is a shame the country has no backpacker culture, because more people should come see the Maldives. There is currently not much in the way of budget hostels and guesthouses, but I can see the country eventually developing into a more “backpacker-friendly” destination.
I am proud to pounce on another stereotype: that the Maldives is just an expensive resort country. If you come here and look in the right places, it can be a rewarding place to stay, even for the casual backpacker like myself.
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write music and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.