• Travel Stories
  • Budget Trip to Maldives, Is it Possible?

    When Maldives is talked about, everybody is thinking of a luxurious type of vacation. A place no one can afford. It is like a destination for rich, famous, elite and for honeymooners.

    Ok, I didn’t think of going to Maldives in the first place. My usual travel buddy Yana invited me to go with her for a short trip. I was bit hesitant to go as I wanted to go another place. I was thinking Maldives will not suit a budget traveler like me. But since she wants to go and I’ve never been to this island, we both agreed to see the paradise of Maldives.

    Quick facts first about Maldives. Maldives consists approximately of 1,190 coral islands clustered in a chain of 26 atolls in the Indian Ocean. (Just like Philippines, made up of thousands of islands). The atolls are scattered along the north south direction with an area covering roughly 90,000km2. Only 200 islands are inhabitants. Each resort is usually occupying one island. The capital of Maldives is Male. The population is around 338,442 and speaks Dhivehi and English and the main religion is Islam. (information taken from Maldives Visitors Guide 2014)

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    Maldives Map

     

    My travel buddy Yana and I met in Dubai. It took me one hour by plane to reach Dubai from Oman and we flew together going Maldives. Upon arrival at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport,a landing card will be filled out and there is no prior visa application needed.(good news especially for fellow Filipinos, right?) You can either take speedboat or a sea plane to go to your selected resort. We stayed in Hulhumale Island, an island where the airport is located.

    This trip was arranged and fixed mostly by my buddy Yana. I was on a trip that time so I asked her if she can just manage our trip to Maldives. (So yes I don’t have any idea where will be staying and all the details except will be going to Maldives! She booked in one travel agency in Dubai (she is based there) which includes airfare +hotel stay with free breakfast and airport transfers for 3 days. It costs around 200omr/ 23,000PHP/519USD each person. But I strongly recommend to do research and check website for airfare and accommodations as you may get cheaper rate. If we did, I think we could have got cheaper rates! Anyways, we arrived almost midnight and picked up by the tour guide at the airport and brought us the hotel. Hotel was clean, comfortable and enough to have a good sleep. Hulhumale Island is one of the islands in Maldives perfect for budget traveler. Hotel, hostels and guesthouses are everywhere.Take a trip with Agoda.There are also stores and restaurants where you can eat and buy some foods which are affordable. Hulhumale Island is a place where locals are staying. Good chance to know how it is like to live as a local.

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    In Hulhumale Island

    Next day we went for a whole day activity arranged by our private tour. We went to ClubMed Kani(considered 4-5th star resort) located in Kanifinolhu Island for a one day pass. The resort was said to costs roughly around 500-700USD/ 192-269 OMR/ 23,000- 31,000 PHP per night but with one day pass we spent in the resort only around 150- 170usd/58omr-65omr/6700-7600PHP each person (I forgot the exact price).The money we paid includes buffet breakfast, lunch and snacks, unlimited cocktails and drinks, activities like snorkeling, sailing, kayaking and other use of amenities such as the pool. It was indeed a well spent time in the resort.

    At ClubMed Kani

     

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    At ClubMed Kani

     

    At ClubMed Kani

     

    The next day we spent our time doing snorkeling, island hopping, dolphin watching, and had an authentic Maldivian cuisine. Maldivian cuisine is closed to Indian foods. Spicy and I think even spicier!  Mostly of the cuisines I tried were made up of tuna which I loved.

     

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    Preparing for the activities

     

    We also spent time going to Male (city of Maldives) which can be reached by a ferry from Hulhumale Island. If most of the cities have taxi for transportation, in Maldives you transfer from one place (which means from one island to another) by means of speedboat or ferry. Pretty cool and different experience! Though most of the tourists visit Maldives for the purpose of staying in one resort, going to Male shouldn’t be missed out to experience and know about the daily life of Maldivians. The ferry is reasonably affordable from Hulhumale to Male Island and takes 20-30mins only. Male city is a small island. I remembered we roamed around the city for less than an hour. It is not the typical city as you will imagine. Most of the stores are of average size and mostly of the people just walk or use bicycle to go around the city.The city is a good place to buy souvenirs as well. We bought some tuna mix around 1 USD per piece and taste so good (well if you love spicy) and readily available in the market place. I like the crackers too called “Papadum”.

    Tried public transportation too!
    Friend working in Maldives who showed us around Male City. Thanks!
    Affordable buffet breakfast in Male. Must try if you want to try Maldivian foods.

     

    Based on our experience, I don’t think someone needs to spend a lot of money to experience the ultimate Maldives getaway. Though our time was short I had a great time in Maldives. Hoping to come back  one day and experience Sea Safari which we have missed!

    Total Cost Spent: 882USD/ 340 OMR/ 39,700 PHP, Yes I spent 363 USD/140 OMR/ 16,000 PHP for the foods, activities and souvenirs!  Ok, others may say still bit expensive. In my opinion Maldives as having a reputation of being an extravagant place, spending an amount around 363USD was fair enough than spending 700usd per night per person in one resort! So yes budget trip is possible!

    Where do you want to spend your vacation? Any dreams of visiting Maldives? Share on the comments below.

     

     

     

  • Expat Life
  • As an Expat-Traveler/ Local

    It was exactly 4 years ago when I left Philippines to work abroad, to a place that seemed so far away then, named the Sultanate of OMAN. Time passed by so fast that I didn’t even realize that I’ve been to this place for quite some time now. A place I now called my second home. Let me have some flashbacks to where it all started.

    I was working then as a staff nurse in a private hospital in Legaspi City.  I worked 8 hours a day, 6 days a week with only a day off. It was indeed a tiring and tough schedule. I don’t have a choice then. I even have to work on holidays and holydays because you’re called for it. I missed all those holidays that I should be spending and celebrating with my family. Finding a nurse job at that time was not easy, because there were a lot of registered nurses around. About the salary, it is on the minimum range not enough to suffice daily expenses. But for someone who was young that time and full of dreams, I resigned and quit my job for new challenge and better opportunity.

    I started searching for a new job, whether it is local or abroad. After months of searching and waiting, a breaking & good news came in! An agency in Manila in partnership with hospitals in   Oman   is   in   need of NURSES! Luckily, I took and passed all the exams & interviews given. And finally left Philippines for Oman on the 20th of June 2011 as a proud OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). My journey started….

    Welcome to the Sultanate of Oman! There were mixed emotions when I arrived in   Oman…excited, ambivalent uncertain, but challenging..! It was completely indescribable!   Leaving   my   family   behind and facing a new challenge in life was not an easy task for me. But I accepted the challenge.

     

    My first photo at work in year 2011

     

    I wouldn’t deny I had a culture shock. Growing up in a place surrounded by Filipinos, having same culture and faith , it’s like rotating your life 360 degrees in a new foreign territory. It wasn’t an easy start. Every day was an adjusting day. Firstly, you have to adapt to the weather. It is really so hot when I was first arrived in Oman. I remembered hanging out my wet clothes then after an hour it would be so dried up.  Walking around was like putting yourself in an oven! Well that’s during summer time around May till August of the year. Good thing, AC’s are everywhere! Secondly, there are some modifications to what to wear. Oman is an open country but being in Gulf country it is not accepted to wear neither a short nor a pant above the knee on public areas. It not something that is prohibited to wear but a way of respect to their culture. It is important to familiarize one with the local laws as well.

    I have to learn to speak Arabic to communicate with the local especially at work. It is somewhat necessary to know the basic Arabic phrases such as “Al Salam alaykum” which means Peace be with You and to be answered back by “Alaykum al Salam” which means Peace be with you too and  the basic “Kefhalik/ Kefhalish to ask how they are doing. The majority of the Omanis speak Arabic. I felt it is more of your advantage if you know the local language to easily relate to someone. Omanis in general are nice people.

    Fellow Filipinos and Omani coworker in 2011

    Working abroad as a whole, would mean that you have   to deal with different people with varied nationalities and ethnicities like Indian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Pakistani and Omani in and out of work, each having different faith, beliefs, traditions, practices, and way of life. There are times I couldn’t grasp the way how they pronounce certain words and end up letting them repeat the words so I can understand them fully. Those are just some of the usual cases I have encountered here but can easily be resolved. Another thing I’ve have noticed, Omanis are very laidback people. They are seemed to be so relaxed in terms of way of life. As an expat living here for quite some time, I have learnt to adjust myself according to their time or maybe not at all as it is almost the same with the “Filipino time”.

    Another adjustment to make would be how to deal   with other people especially if you are living in one roof. I’m sharing a flat with 2 other Filipina nurses. Each having room with her own little privacy. I have no issues with them. I’m glad we have a harmonious relationship with each other. By sharing a place with someone, you learn how to share what you have, help one another and live as a family. Lastly I have learned that “whatever it is, you will get used to it”. I must admit I wasn’t that open to trying new foods from the start. Every single day, I miss having “Sinigang” o “Kare- Kare” cooked by my father. My taste bud was longing to the Filipino taste but as time passed by, I have learned to cook Filipino foods and learned to like Arabic foods as well. In fact I love Hummus and  Labneh  for breakfast!

    Visited famous spot in Oman, 2012

    In general, living as an expat is like placing yourself in between as a tourist and as a local. You live, enjoy the perks of being a resident. You work, explore the culture, traditions and practices of the country and be friends with different people.  Summing it up, I have no regrets with my decision of living and working abroad. As an expat living in Oman for 4 years I have learned to be independent, open minded and more respectful of each other’s differences.  Indeed, I enjoyed being a tourist and a local.