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 movies and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.