Hidden costs of the Maldives: what you need to know

Voyager Guru

So you’ve booked your international trip to Velana International airport. Great! Transfers in the Maldives can be one of the trickiest parts of your vacation planning, and if you’re not prepared for, a big shock when it comes to pricing. Once you arrive, you need to actually get to your hotel. Unlike most vacation destinations, you can’t just grab a cab to your hotel. Transfers are organized through your hotel directly and there are some added costs that you may not be anticipating. In this guide, we will share the most common ways to transfer between islands and hotels in the Maldives and the logistics that go along with it.

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Soneva Fushi MaldivesVoyager Guru (voyagerguru.com)

1. There are 3 types of transfers

There are three main ways to get around the Maldives: boat, seaplane or domestic flight. All three of these must be booked in advance of your trip.

Boat Transfers
Hotels that are located close to Malé in North Malé Atoll are typically accessible by boat. Boat transfers range from about $135-$800 USD. The most expensive boat transfers we have noticed is for the Waldorf Astoria and Ritz-Carlton Fari Islands, where some of the lower end properties like Sheraton are about $145 USD.

Boat transfers are typically the quickest way to get to the resort and they leave directly from outside the airport. The hotels meet guests on arrival and handle all the luggage and details. Hotels typically offer private or shared transfers. Shared transfers will be less expensive and there is a chance that you end up with a private transfer if there are no other guests checking in that day.

Domestic Flight
Domestic flights will be the most “common” way to travel in the Maldives, particularly if your hotel is on the far north or far south end of the Maldives. Domestic flights are NOT sea plane transfers. They operate just like any other domestic flight in other countries. Domestic flight transfers are also not necessarily cheaper than sea planes. They range in price from $450-$1000 USD.

Domestic flight transfer costs typically also include a boat transfer (or if you’re staying at Mercure, a quick van ride). Domestic flights are typically the slowest option when it comes to a transfer because seaplanes take priority on take off and landing and the addition of a boat transfer adds time to the transfer. Most domestic transfers end up taking a half day from arriving on Male to arriving at the resort.

Most high end resorts have their own airport lounge at Male International or they collaborate with the main lounge that offers snacks and soft drinks. The Residence properties, for example, do not have their own lounge so guests have access to a joint lounge in the domestic terminal.

Seaplane Transfers
Seaplane transfers are often regarded as the “preferred” mode of transportation and its for good reason! Seaplane transfers take off from their own terminal behind Velana International in Malé and guests traveling to resorts utilizing this service are transferred to the seaplane terminal via hotel-owned luxury vehicle or shared van. Some hotels like Heritance Aarah do not have their own car service and guests are put on a packed airport bus, but thankfully, it's only a short distance away. Luxury properties like Soneva, Milaidhoo, Anantara Kihavah and others have luxury cars like Teslas, BMWs and Range Rovers that transport guests to the private lounges at the seaplane terminal to await their flight.

Seaplane transfers are typically not less than $500 USD and can go as high as $1500 USD.

Some hotels operate their own seaplanes, like Soneva, while others utilize the two popular transfer companies: Trans-Maldivian and Maldivian Air. These seaplanes are shared and typically make multiple stops on the way to your resort. This is a fun way to see multiple hotels.

2. International flight arrival and departure times matter

A critical thing to note regarding transfers in the Maldives is the arrival and departure times of your international flights. If you do not want to spend a night on Malé before and after your vacation, pay special attention to your flight times.

The ideal booking is to arrive in the morning to Velana international (MLE) and depart in the evening from Velana international. Seaplanes do not operate after dark so this is particularly important if you are booking a hotel with seaplane transfers. Typically the latest seaplane departs hotels around 3:30/4:00pm.

While it is not as common, sometimes the best flight deals to get to the Maldives ends up being flights that arrive at night into Malé. We’ve heard many people say they didn’t realize they couldn’t get to their hotel and were disappointed to have to “waste” a night on Malé. Sometimes the flight price to book the better flight ends up costing less than spending a night on Malé, so keep that in mind when booking.

The same thing occurs for flights that depart from Malé in the morning. Hotels utilizing seaplanes will be unable to get you to the airport, typically before 8-9am, so if your flight is at 7am you will be leaving your resort the day before no later than 4-5pm and spending a night on Malé. For more information on Malé, including the restrictions that you may not be aware of, check out our blog post here.

3. Transfers are booked through the hotel and you have limited choice

While the transfer costs are high and in most places around the world, you can find alternative options, that’s just not an option in the Maldives. The luxury hotels have affiliations with transfer companies and they will handle the bookings for you. This also means they own the cost of that transfer. There’s not really any correlation between length of the transfer and the price, it’s just a set price.

There are three main transfer companies in the Maldives: Manta Air, Trans-Maldivian and Maldivian Air. Different hotels work with the different operators. This means you don’t have a choice as to how you get to the hotel, but the good news is you also don’t have to figure anything out on your own. The transfer companies operate pretty much identically with the same luggage restrictions, rules and even aircraft.

4. If you are planning to stay at more than one hotel, expect to stop back in Malé

While you may get incredibly lucky and have the chance to island hop from one hotel to the next without stopping in Malé, this is incredibly rare and typically only available within the same brand in the same atoll. Typically, your transfer will send you back to Malé for the stopover before you continue on to your next hotel. The transfer will typically take 4-6 hours between leaving your hotel and getting to the next one. You must let your hotel know where you are going next as they will coordinate the best transfer times with your next property.

5. Some hotels have great offers that include your transfers

Don’t let the high price tag get you down, if you are flexible with your accommodations, there are a number of deals always circulating that include the transfer costs. This is typically true when booking direct or through a wholesaler like luxuryescapes.com. For example, at the time of this blog post, there has been an exceptional deal to the Pullman Maldives that includes transfers. We have seen similar deals at other hotels that offer packages such as free roundtrip transfers when booking a half-board package.

It’s important to note that if you are booking something like the Conrad or the Park Hyatt on points, transfers are not included in your points booking and you do not receive a discount. Some of these properties have the most expensive transfers in the Maldives so good thing to keep in mind.

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