Just a few years ago there would be no need for a post like this. The Maldivian government has only recently relaxed its tourism rules which used to restrict all tourism to resorts on uninhabited islands. Since the restrictions have been abolished, guest houses have been popping up all over the Maldives. Now when planning a holiday to the Maldives, travellers have a myriad of options available to them regarding accommodation options.
Picking your accommodation is extremely important when planning a trip to the Maldives – much more important than it is when travelling to other destinations. The Maldives is comprised of nearly 1,200 islands, spread out over a vast distance. Some islands are only reachable by sea plane, and this can sometimes cost as much as your initial flight to the Maldives from your home country. Also, public ferry’s are time consuming and sometimes infrequent – making island hopping not really possible unless you have a fair chunk of time. This makes picking your accommodation incredibly important as you will more than likely only be staying at this one place for your entire holiday. And since many islands only have one resort of guest house on them…. it makes switching your accommodation half way thought pretty much impossible.
Resorts in the Maldives
The Maldives is best known for its resorts. Think bungalows extending over the water, all inclusive packages, and every level of luxury. I don’t even want to know the cost of the most expensive resort in the Maldives, but I can imagine it would probably be more than I could ever dream of being able to afford.
Of course, there are some more affordable resort packages out there as well (depending on your definition of affordable), which makes the Maldives a popular honeymoon destination for people on all sorts of budgets.
However, we chose not to stay at a typical Maldivian resort. For one, we travel with our young son, and children are not allowed at many resorts. Also, when we travel we want to see the local culture, meet the local population, and see the similarities and differences between our home country and our travel destination. None of those things are possible at a resort. There are some resorts in the Maldives which cater to only one nationality. Only one nations people go to these resorts. And they only serve food from that nation as well. That to me, is not what traveling is about. Which is why we chose to stay at a Maldivian guesthouse.
Pros of resorts in the Maldives
- Endless luxury – if you can afford it
- Lots of modern amenities
- Packages tailored to Western expectations
Cons of resorts in the Maldives
- Expensive transfers. Usually you can only get to these resorts by sea plane, which can be incredibly costly. Always look into these costs when researching resorts in the Maldives.
- You will miss out on many of the experiences which make travel special – meeting local people, discovering local cuisine, seeing how other people live.
- Many resorts do not allow children
Guesthouses in the Maldives
Guesthouses are now really taking off in the Maldives. These are establishments which are located on islands which also contain a village. Some guesthouses are similar to hotels, while others are more like bed and breakfasts. And some, like the one we stayed at, Jupiter Sunrise Lodge, are similar to resorts in that they are all inclusive. So as you can see, when it comes to guesthouses, there is a huge variety available.
One difference between guesthouses and resorts is that guesthouses do not own their own island. This means you will have to be respectful of the local community, but it also means that there will be public transportation in place for the local community. This means that instead of being restricted to seaplanes and private speedboats, that you can also get to the island by public ferry, which will substantially reduce costs.
And of course, a huge different between resorts and guesthouses, is that when you stay at a guesthouse you will have many more opportunities to interact with the local population – learn about their culture, their cuisine, their way of life. On our first evening on Keyodhoo island with Jupiter Sunrise, our little one Jacob was already running around kicking a soccer ball with the local children. Which brings me to another main difference between guesthouses and resorts – guesthouses are more likely to be child friendly. In fact, our little one has gotten so attached to the local community here that I’m sure he would love to stay for much, much longer.
Pros of Guesthouses in the Maldives
- Much more budget friendly than resorts
- More likely to be child friendly
- You get to integrate into the local community and interact with local people
- There is usually at least one public transportation option which will be much cheaper than speedboat or seaplane.
- A more independent travel style
Cons of Guesthouses in the Maldives
- Possibly less infrastructure than a resort
- You will need to be more mindful of local customs, in particular, women will need to dress much more modestly than on a resort
We considered several resorts and guesthouses before our trip to the Maldives. In the end, we decided that a resort was just not right for us. This blog seeks to appeal to several types of travellers – traveling couples, traveling families, solo travellers – but one thing my audience (and myself) appreciates, is being able to travel in a way that maximizes experience and minimizes cost. The best way to do that is at a guesthouse.
Stay tuned for our review of the guesthouse we stayed at, Jupiter Sunrise Lodge, which we will publish this Saturday.