Maldives on a budget: Addu Atoll under โ‚น40K, all-in!

On the very first day of 2018 – January the 1st, i was in the Maldives for a week long holiday that cost me less than โ‚น40,000 including flights!

It all began because i found a new route on SriLankan Airlines to Addu instead of Male, the capital city. I had never heard of Addu before (apparently connectivity via Colombo started only since 2016) – so i was naturally more curious and excited about discovering this backpacker friendly part of Maldives on a budget!

Addu is locally known as ‘The Heart Of The Maldives’, due to the heart shape of the atoll.

Flying Business Class to Maldives!

The Mumbai – Colombo flight was just over 2 hours, which was a huge relief since i had not slept at all, the night before! At Colombo airport, there was a fab surprise which made the onward journey even better for me – SriLankan staff asked my lady companions if any of them would be interested in a complimentary Business Class upgrade, and they unanimously pointed to me as a ‘thank you’ for helping them spot this deal! ๐Ÿ™‚ Needless to say, yours gratefully enjoyed the privilege and soaked in some stunning sights of the islands during landing.

Business Class meal onboard SriLankan Airlines

Visa On Arrival

The on-arrival visa was a breeze, and the immigration officers were quite friendly too. Besides checking about the stay situation, they also asked if we knew any locals or had booked any transport.

Please note: You are not allowed to bring alcohol or religious idols into the Maldives, and they will be confiscated and returned to you only when you’re exiting from the country.

Where To Stay

While i booked Cress Lodge on, my friends booked the same via Airbnb and we couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay. Cress Lodge and their staff made us feel nothing less than home!

It was a spartan guesthouse with rooms we didn’t even bother to lock (it was a surprisingly peaceful, safe and quiet neighborhood).

You may also find other bed & breakfast places or guesthouses in the region, but do look this up if it’s available! (starts $25)

Cress Lodge, on the northern island of Hithadhoo in Addu City
Stay options on Airbnb in Addu, Maldives

Being a solo traveller at heart, i needed at least a couple of days to myself, despite the ladies being fab company. So for the last night, i decided to splurge a bit and stay in the best hotel in the neighbourhood (ok, best non-luxury property) called Equator Village (starts $100).

Poolside at Equator Village Resort near Addu’s GAN airport
The check-in experience and a reception that’s a book lover’s delight

What i didn’t realize until i arrived at the resort was that this was that Addu is the only part of the Maldives that lies BELOW the equator (hence the name!), and so they even presented me with a cool certificate for crossing the equator ๐Ÿ™‚ as gimmicky as it may feel, i loved this detail and Geography geekery and i cherish that certificate!

My certificate of crossing the equator in the Maldives. Simple joys of life ๐Ÿ™‚

The property also had its own little mini-beach and was literally 15-20 minutes walking distance from the airport. The poolside and common areas of the resort were tastefully designed and there were 2 bars and 1 restaurant, which also had an excellent buffet, besides a-la-carte options.

Yes please!

Remember that only resorts in Maldives serve alcohol, and it is illegal to serve it elsewhere by regular restaurants.

While i stayed at Equator Village, the ladies stayed at Wave Sound by 3S – another beautiful property with an almost-private beach which we thoroughly loved!


Shangri-La Villingili is perhaps a landmark in itself, and though we found it to be prohibitively expensive as budget travellers, it’s a stunning property which is a sight to behold when your plane lands at GAN Airport. If you’re not pinching pennies and ready to splurge, look no further than this exquisite and idyllic recluse!

Getting Around

Bus – There is a single bus route that spans the three islands that connect Feydhoo, Maradhoo & Hithadhoo and the frequency is less. I would personally not recommend depending on this option.

Bicycles / Bikes – Most resorts provide free or reasonably priced bicycles and scooters on rent, and this is perhaps your best option.

Taxi – Hotels, resorts and guesthouses can arrange for taxis with fixed pricing across the Atoll. For getting around the three islands on the shortest time, this is the best idea.

Boats – When you’re in the Maldives, it would be rather unfair to not travel by a boat. Addu doesn’t have great connectivity (read economical) with the rest of the island nation of the Maldives, but private boats can get you around Addu Atoll at reasonable prices.

We paid $20 per head for most of the day trips, and you can expect to pay between that and $100 depending on the distance and experience.

We walked around as much as we could and hired a taxi for doing day trips.

Staying In Touch

Local SIM Cards – Dhiraagu and Ooredoo were the only 2 options, and i chose Ooredoo just because it was faster (both stores were in walking distance of our guesthouse, Cress Lodge) to get.

Pre-Book Ooredoo Tourist Pack

Ooredoo has tourist cards that you can buy online, starting from US $15 for a 4GB of data with a validity of 7 days (or 17GB for US $20)

Things To Do in Addu Atoll

Snorkeling & Diving

Almost a no-brainer, diving and snorkeling are the default activities to do in the Maldives. Unless you’re going with a pre-booked holiday, I would recommend booking these in person so you can evaluate your options better. Maldives is one of the best places for these activities and visibility is so good that you can see marine life in the blue waters even from the surface!

Island Hopping

Addu atoll may not have the best connectivity with other parts of the Maldives, but you could still hop across the archipelago for quick day trips. Our favorite was a day trip to Edhigali Kehli and Koatey in the north-western tip of the archipelago for nature walks, snorkeling, bird watching and of course… some Insta-worthy shots!

Walking / Bicycle Tour of the island

Addu is blessed with one of the longest roads in all of Maldives, so walking or a leisurely bicycle ride may be one of the most immersive ways to experience the authentic, cultural and human side of Addu City.

Food & Drinks

Vegetarian options are sparse and difficult to find at smaller local restaurants, but cafes and resorts definitely offer a larger variety. We got lucky since our guesthouse restaurant had an Indian chef who cooked up some daal chawal and pan vegetables for our vegetarian co-traveller Vartika. Fish (especially tuna) and meat are the staple, consumed with rice or mixed with shredded coconut.

My typical breakfast at Cress Lodge (included in stay)

Alcohol is not easily available in the Maldives and only designated resorts and restaurants are allowed to sell them to foreign tourists.

Water is the biggest challenge for Maldivians, since there is no natural source of drinking water in the island nation. Most water therefore, is bottled or provided by guesthouses / hotels directly. Ironically plastic pollution is a huge problem which we saw first hand, and i’m really hoping they deploy a better long-term solution for the most important item of consumption.

Despite these challenges, i was delighted because Addu got its coffee right, and i had a few good options – but my favorite was Suvadive Cafe which had the most perfectly brewed espresso ๐Ÿ™‚

Where To Eat

  • Cress Garden
    – Typical Maldivian and Indian food (~ $10 per meal)
  • Blue Lagoon @ Equator Village
    – Local as well as European cuisine. Great buffet (~ $20)
  • Suvadive Cafe
    – Best espresso / coffee i found across Addu.

Resources – Official Website


Exotic Gringo (Kaushal Karkhanis)

Leading an experimental life as a digital nomad, I started traveling in 2007 while choosing to shuttle between Goa and Mumbai as 'home'. An epic life-changing trip to South America an year later gave birth to this blog, Exotic Gringo.