The Maldives are 99% water, and so far only the 1% have enjoyed this exotic archipelago seemingly riddled with more five-star resorts than residents.

Even Instagram models have found themselves shunned by properties at $ 3,000 a night taking advantage of a law limiting tourism to uninhabited islands. Until 2009, it was illegal for residents to rent rooms and open guesthouses or restaurants.

Travelers who did not identify as wealthy (or royal) were SOL. Today, however, the nation of 1,200 islands is quite inclusive, with over 1,000 guesthouses and Airbnbs.

For starters, it doesn’t matter if other countries close their borders. It’s rolling out the red carpet for anyone with a pulse and a negative PCR test.

Despite being 9,000 miles away and in the midst of a pandemic, the United States has emerged as one of the Maldives’ top five markets. More than 25,000 Americans visited between January and July. That’s almost half of those who visited in 2019.

Once reserved for the rich and royalty, the Maldives now welcome us.
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Why the influx? Marketing. By email, Visit Maldives said it knows its destination is synonymous with luxury. But they’re working hard to dispel the myth that they only cater to travelers who shop at Whole Foods with Amex Centurion cards.

If Mastercard is more the name of your game, Visit Maldives recommends Maafushi, Fulidhoo, and Guraidhoo. For the Trader Joe traveler, staying on an island accessible by public ferry (fares start at 50 cents) is a no-brainer. At the very least, don’t opt ​​for an atoll far from Malé International Airport. Male, the country’s capital, is the starting point for island hopping and financial flexibility.

An aerial view of the Maldives.
The Maldives are halfway around the world, but you can get there for under $ 700.
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Superyacht agencies rent 250-foot-long floating mansions for $ 1.5 million a week. Prices for seaplane and speedboat transfers range from $ 10 to $ 20 / minute, per person. A 45-minute ride to a resort can easily cost more than a transatlantic plane ticket.

According to Kayak, October is the cheapest month to travel to the Maldives. Eithad Airways currently offers flights from New York starting at $ 665 round trip. A ticket to Hawaii is almost that much. Granted, there are no direct flights to the middle of the Indian Ocean, and you waste a day or two traveling. For this reason, Visit Maldives suggests staying at least a week.

An aerial of the Maldives.
Liquid Gold: The nation is 99% water, yet has a reputation for being prohibitively expensive.
Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Company

From a budget perspective, seven to ten days shouldn’t be a break. In October, a week for two in a sea-view room at a three-star hotel starts at an insanely low price of $ 387. Upgrade to a private bungalow for only $ 585; $ 900 gives you a semi-detached villa with a view of the lagoon.

Even if your motto is five stars or bust, you don’t need to break the bank. Of course, a stay at the Ritz-Carlton Maldives, which opened in June, will set you back at least $ 4,500 per night. But Sun Siyam Iru Fushi, a locally owned five-star resort, offers rates starting as low as $ 1,913. This price is for one week, for two people. (Sun Siyam Resort’s newest property, Siyam World, will open in late October; its 500 rooms instantly earn it the right to boast of being the largest resort in the Maldives.)

Of course, for us plebeians there is always Airbnb where apartments start at $ 28 / night.

Do not forget the official religion of the island: Islam. Consuming alcohol and / or pork could kick you to the sidewalk. Likewise, if your tiny little bikini wants to see the light of day, it’s best to stay at a resort on a private island. They play by their own rules.