Staying in an over water villa in the Maldives was one of my husband’s bucket list items, and this year, he decided we were going. He booked the flights and left it up to me to do the research on where to stay.
I started my search by looking up the best resorts for kids. Although I came up with a list of resorts to look at, I wish I’d found more blog posts that walked me through booking a trip to the Maldives (hence me writing this post). It wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it would be, but thank goodness for the Maldives TripAdvisor forum. With all the information I gleaned from reading the forum topics and questions, I felt well equipped to move forward on booking a trip, but there was a lot I needed to learn before I did.
Because you can look through that forum yourself, starting with the Top Questions About the Maldives, I won’t go into all the details you’ll need, but I will tell you how we decided on–and booked–our resort. It took a leap of faith, but it all worked out.
The first thing you need to know is that to get the best deals, you go through one of the recommended travel agents. Yes, it’s contrary to everything I thought – who uses travel agents these days when you can do it yourself? But the experts on the forum were right, the travel agents often got better deals, including lots of extras that I’ll talk about later. Do yourself a favor and look up the recommended travel agents on the TripAdvisor forum, I won’t list them here in case they change over time.
The next thing you need to know is that the most highly recommended agents came from the UK. That has its own set of issues for people booking from the U.S. I’ll go into more detail later.
I started with an email to four of the recommended Maldives travel agents. I listed what we were looking for and our budget. I tend to be fairly detailed
(over water villa, kid friendly, all inclusive), so when one of the agents replied back with a resort suggestion that had NO over water villas, I ticked them off the list. At least read the email to find out what someone is looking for.
Two of the other three agents responded. One called me from the UK, and after asking questions about how we like to travel, recommended Ayada Maldives. He also suggested looking at Outrigger Konotta but told me he thought I’d get more out of Ayada.
I looked up the two resorts and shared them with my husband and our friends who were also booking a trip. According to the agents, Ayada is somewhat overlooked because it’s so hard to get to. Once you finally get to Male, it takes a one hour domestic flight to Kaadedhdhoo, followed by a one hour speed boat ride to Ayada. It may take a little longer to get to, but Ayada is quickly garnering a name for itself. It’s listed as one of the top 25 hotels in the world on TripAdvisor, and it was recognized as one of the best hotels in the Maldives by Conde Nast. Don’t trust me, go ahead and look it up for yourself.
After much back and forth, we decided to book Ayada.
Before I could get back to the agent, he left on a trip to the Maldives, and another agent picked up where he left off. I found her difficult to work with and was frustrated that it often took me asking multiple times to get the quotes and/or information I wanted. During this time frame, I was still corresponding with another agent, but the rates were not as good, and he kept pushing us to choose Outrigger Konotta.
Even though one of the original four agents had never responded to me, the reviews for her were so good on TripAdvisor that I gave her another try, and she got back to me immediately, with a better rate and better conditions than any of the others. Let me explain:
- after landing in Male, you still have to get to the resort – once you fly into Male, you have to get a speed boat/sea plane to the resort–any resort, not just the one we picked, or you have to get a domestic flight to another airport and then a speed boat. Agents can often get the cost of the transfer INCLUDED with the rate. If we had not booked through an agent for our trip to Ayada, we would have spent thousands of extra dollars for the six of us to transfer to Ayada.
- our agent got a great rate on the Ayada Diamond Package – because we stayed 7 nights, we were eligible for the Diamond Package, and it was much more affordable through the agent. The price difference between all inclusive and half board was so small that it made sense to upgrade to the all inclusive.
- UK agents might have credit card charges – two of the other UK agents had a processing fee of 2.8 to 3% to use a credit card from the U.S. The one we used did NOT charge a processing fee.
So, the agent we booked with had the best rate, managed to get our transfers included with the rate, got us upgraded to the Diamond Package for a small fee, and did NOT charge us to use our U.S. credit card. The time we spent researching and talking to agents paid off.
There is a lot of information about all of this on the TripAdvisor Maldives forum, and I encourage you to research for yourself. The information I’ve listed here is about my experience to get you started, but it is not thorough. Booking through a UK agent took a leap of faith in that I had some anxiety about the whole thing being legit, but it was so well documented on TripAdvisor, and the agent was so good about explaining what kind of coverage she had as a travel agent, that I was able to leap. And everything worked out perfectly.
If you’re in the process of booking a trip to the Maldives, good luck and happy travels!