Ultimate 2-Week Itinerary Maldives – Local Islands Trip

maldives itinerary rasdhoo sandbank

Everyone should visit the Maldives at least once in a lifetime, a tropical haven known for its white beaches, turquoise waters, and amazing underwater encounters located in the Indian Ocean.

Did you know that this world-class luxury destination can be visited on a budget? You just need to explore the local islands. 

This guide shows you the ultimate 2-week itinerary in the Maldives, visiting local islands and helping you avoid breaking the bank.

What are the Local Islands in the Maldives?

An alternative to the luxury resorts on the private islands, which often offer an all-inclusive experience, is exploring the local islands—a more adventurous, authentic, and budget-friendly experience in the Maldives. 

Tourism has only recently opened up on these local islands, which means they are still relatively unknown to tourists. This is the perfect time to go and experience these beautiful islands for yourself before they get too crowded.

We found out that the more remote they are from the Male airport, the more they resemble the Maldives as you imagine it to be—secluded and untouched.

This is why we don’t recommend visiting islands too close to Male, like Maafushi. Rasdhoo, Thoddoo & Ukulhas were perfect for us—not overcrowded like Maafushi, but also not too quiet.

3 Islands 3 Hotels

Koimala Beach Hotel Room

Why Visit Local Islands in the Maldives?

Local Island Sandbank, Maldives

If you ask us, local islands are a better choice than private islands in the Maldives. Why? There are two reasons.

1. BUDGET: On local islands, you pay local prices for transportation and food, and accommodations and activities are much more budget-friendly compared to the private islands.

  • Transportation: You can travel the Maldivian local islands by local ferries for 1-10 USD per trip or by scheduled speed boats for 20-80 USD per trip. On private islands, you would typically need to opt for a private speed boat or, in many cases, a seaplane, which can cost up to 500 USD.
  • Food: On local islands, you can eat at local eateries for 2-5 USD per meal, while on private islands, food can be even more expensive than the average prices in European restaurants.
  • Accommodations: Guesthouses on local islands start from 50 USD per night, including breakfast for two. Instead, on private islands, over-water villas can cost around 500 USD per night. 
  • Activities: Tours on local islands are also more affordable due to increased competition and there is a lot to explore independently. On private islands, you have limited options and for many activities, you would need to book a tour through the only provider on the island, the resort.

2. ADVENTURE & CULTURE: Traveling the Maldives like locals is an adventure in itself. Planning everything independently allows you to experience the culture and interact with friendly locals.

Local islands offer a more adventurous experience, as you have the possibilty to explore many things on your own without the need to book tours for everything.

However, it also means you will need to respect Muslim rules, such as dressing modestly, alcohol not being available, and bikinis being allowed only in designated areas

Local Islands vs. Private Islands in the Maldives

Local Island Private Islands
$-$$
$$$
Guesthouse
Resort/Villas
Local ferry, scheduled island speedboat
Private speedboat, seaplane
Local eateries
Western restaurants
Adventurous experience
Luxury experience
You book & plan everything yourself
All-inclusive, your resort arranges everything for you
Many things to do independently
Not a lot to do on the island, you have to book excursions
Best for exploration and activities holidays
Best for relaxing and romantic holidays
Muslim rules, dress conservatively, no alcohol allowed
Western standards, alcohol and bikinis allowed

Best Time to Visit the Maldives

Sea Turtle in Maldives

The Maldivian weather is consistently pleasant throughout the year, with temperatures hovering around 30 degrees celsius.

There is a dry season from November to April and a rainy season from May to October. During the dry season, prices for hotels and accommodations increase, so it’s advisable to book in advance if you plan to visit during this period.

In the rainy season, you can expect fewer tourists, lower prices, and some rain, but there is still plenty of good weather. The months of November and May are considered the shoulder season and usually experience fewer crowds and the least amount of rainfall during the rainy season if that appeals to you.

Diving in the Maldives is spectacular throughout the year. For surfing, the rainy season is better, as it brings bigger waves and better breaks.

How to Travel to the Maldives (Local Ferry)

Local Ferry in Maldives

Getting around the Maldives on local ferries (1-10 USD) and scheduled speedboats (20-80 USD) can be challenging, but with some planning and this guide, you get to explore the Maldives in a budget-friendly and adventurous way, using

3 Local Islands: Rasdhoo, Thoddoo & Ukulhas

Maldives Aerial View
Maldives Atoll Map

We visited 3 islands in the North Ari Atoll, also called Alif Alif Atoll, and were blown away by their beauty. The beaches were white powder, the water was the clearest we had ever seen, the coral reefs were full of marine life, and the streets were full of brightly colored flowers and friendly locals.

Here are the 3 islands we visited:

  • Rasdhoo: The ideal initial destination when coming from Male, best for scuba diving and breathtaking sandbanks.
  • Thoddoo: A green island full of fruit plantations and palm tree forests, known for the most beautiful beaches and turtle encounters.
  • Ukulhas: A relaxing small island with beautiful beaches and the best house reef, featuring many shark encounters.

2-Week Itinerary for Island Hopping in the Maldives

This is our ultimate 2-week Maldives itinerary. We wish we had stayed longer!

Day 1: Fly into Male, take the public ferry (4 USD), or a speedboat to Rasdhoo (40 USD). Alternatively, stay overnight in Male and transfer the next morning.

Day 2: Wake up or arrive in Rasdhoo.

Days 2-6: We recommend staying 4 nights at Acqua Blu Rasdhoo. Explore Rasdhoo, go diving, and visit the sandbanks.

Day 6: Take the public ferry from Rasdhoo to Thoddoo (1 USD).

Days 6-11: We recommend staying 5 nights at Karaa Village. Explore Thoddoo, enjoy the beaches, turtles, sunsets, and see the fruit plantations and palm tree forests.

Day 11: Take the public ferry from Thoddoo to Ukulhas (1 USD).

Days 11-14: We recommend staying 3 nights at Koimala Beach Ukulhas. Explore Ukulhas, spend many hours snorkeling in the spectacular house reef, and relax at the beach.

Day 14: Take the public ferry or speedboat back to Male and fly back home.

Best Things to Do in the Maldives

Local Island Dolphins, Maldives

The Maldives, known for its crystal-clear waters, white-sand beaches, and amazing underwater life, offers many best things to do, some even for FREE!

When you visit the Maldives, chances are high that you’ll experience some of the best beaches and water activities you’ve ever done. This country is truly unbeatable in this regard. Explore now the 20 best things to do on in the Maldives and their costs.

Things to Know Before Visiting the Maldives

  • Visa: You don’t need a visa to enter the Maldives; if you plan to stay less than 30 days, you will be able to enter for free. Just make sure your passport is valid for 6 months throughout your entire trip.
  • Island streets: Maldivian islands are small, and they often have sandy streets. The best way to get around on the islands is on foot.
  • Time zone: In the Maldives, there is one official time zone, but some islands have their own time, which is usually an hour behind the “real” time, giving tourists more time to do things with daylight.
  • Currency: The local currency in the Maldives is the Maldivian Rufiyaa, and 1 USD is around 15 MVR.
  • Cash: If you visit local islands, you will need cash. Many things can be paid in USD dollars, but more local services like the public ferry and local eateries only accept the local currency MVR. Our recommendation is to bring cash to the Maldives, either in euros or USD, and exchange it for MVR in Male at unofficial exchange offices. They typically offer the best rates due to a black market. However, if needed, on some local islands, there is a Bank of Maldives ATM. We just don’t know if you will be happy with the exchange rate and transaction fees.
  • Taxes: The Maldives has a sales tax rate of 6%, and for tourism services, it’s 12%. You will need to pay this to your hotel and to most tourist restaurants. This is why ate mostly at local eateries.
  • Cuisne: The food is similar to Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine. We found fish, rice, curry, and coconut everywhere. Our favorite dishes were kottu and samosas.
  • Choose island: Each island has different characteristics, so keep this in mind when booking. For example, Dhigura is known for whale-shark encounters, and Thulusdhoo is best for surfing. We recommend avoiding Maafushi as it is not very Maldivian-looking, but rather overdeveloped and overcrowded. We recommend splitting your stay in different islands to experience different places. We recommend splitting your stay across different islands to experience various places.
  • Safety: The Maldives is a safe destination for travelers. Locals were always respectful and friendly. We never felt in danger.
  • Islamic customs: The Maldives is a Muslim country, and for travelers, it’s important to respect Islamic customs. This means no alcohol is allowed, neither to bring nor to consume. Additionally, it’s important to dress conservatively, covering shoulders and knees when walking around. Swimwear is only permitted at designated bikini beaches, and you can find their locations on each island on Google Maps.
  • Small supermarket: Each local island has one or more supermarkets. This means if you forget any essentials, chances are that you can get them here, so don’t worry.

Packing List for the Maldives

  • Long & light clothing suitable for the tropical climate and Islamic customs
  • Swimwear for the bikini beaches
  • Footwear: sandals, flip-flops or water shoes
  • Sun protection: sunscreen, hats and sunglasses
  • Mosquito repellent
  • Reef-safe toiletries
  • Snorkeling gear, fins, and a gopro
  • Waterproof bag
  • Cash & cards: bring MVR cash for small purchases at local shops and eateries and cards for larger expenses
  • Chargers and adapters
  • Passport, travel insurance, flight and accommodation details

Budget and Prices for the Maldives

Ukulhas House Reef

Prices for accommodations, food, transportation, and attractions vary depending on your choices. There are different options for backpackers and tourists on local islands, as well as for luxury travelers on private islands.

Backpacker on Local Island:

  • Accommodation: guesthouse incl. breakfast for two – 50 USD
  • Food: 2 meals at local eateries – 10 USD
  • Transportation: public ferry – 0-5 USD
  • Attractions: free activities or shared tours – 0-50 USD

Tourist on Local Island:

  • Accommodation: hotel incl. breakfast for two – 100-150 USD
  • Food: 2 meals at tourist restaurants – 60 USD
  • Transportation: scheduled speed boat – 20-90 USD
  • Attractions: shared or private tours – 50-150 USD

Luxury on Private Island:

  • Accommodation: resort incl. breakfast for two – 400-1000 USD
  • Food: 2 meals at resort restaurants with alcoholic drinks – 100 USD
  • Transportation: private speed boat & seaplane – 100-400 USD
  • Attractions: private tours – 100-200 USD

These are the prices for backpackers visiting Rasdhoo, Thoddoo, and Ukulhas, as we did:

  • Speedboat from Male Airport – 35-40 USD
  • Public ferry from Male – 4-5 USD
  • Ferry to islands within the same atoll – 1-2 USD
  • Accommodation starting from incl. breakfast for two – 50 USD
  • Local eatery meal – 1-5 USD
  • Tourist restaurant meal – 5-30 USD
  • Drinks – 1-3 USD
  • Supermarket prices:
    • Water bottle – 0.5 USD
    • Fruit – 0.5 USD
    • Juice – 1 USD

Money-Saving Tips for the Maldives

  • The weather in the Maldives is pretty good all year round, so if you want to save money, consider visiting the off-season, from May to November, when flight and hotel prices are the lowest and often discounted.
  • If you want to visit during the dry season, which is also peak season, make sure to book in advance, as the best deals on accommodations often run out soon.
  • Eat only once a day. We always had breakfast included and ate it very late. At lunch, we were never hungry enough for an extra meal, so we ended up having snacks in the afternoon and going for an early dinner in a local restaurant.
  • Bring snacks from Male, where you can go shopping at the STO supermarket with the cheapest prices.
  • Bring cash in the local currency (MVR) to be able to eat and buy stuff where locals do. It’s usually where prices are very cheap.
  • Exchange your cash in Male at an unofficial exchange place. If you exchange it there, you will get a better rate than the one showing on Google and the one from the bank. Locals say it’s because of the black market.
  • Take the public ferry to island hop instead of a speedboat. Plan ahead and research the timetable of the ferries so you can avoid paying for a speedboat.

Conclusion

Drone View: Ukulhas Paddle

Island hopping the local islands in the Maldives is a wonderful chance to experience the Maldives beyond resorts, where each hotel has its own island, and you won’t see a lot of the real Maldives. We hope you will love this 2-week itinerary in the Maldives as we did.

Do you have any questions about our 2-week route in the North Ari Atoll in the Maldives? Also, has anybody traveled to the South Ari Atoll (Dhigurah / Omadhoo)? Let us know your experiences, as we plan to travel there one day.

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