Monday, May 21, 2018

Maldives on a Budget? Yes, its Possible!

I've been meaning to share this last post about our Maldives trip for quite sometime now but never really had the chance to finish it due to work and too much traveling! Not that I'm complaining since exploring new destinations and going back to places I love are the things that I live for. Since I'm still getting questions from friends if Maldives is indeed an attainable destination for a working class citizen like myself, I might as well do a breakdown of expenses to prove that you can also visit and enjoy Maldives for Php30,000 or even less! 

Before we proceed, let's clarify first on what I mean by Maldives on a budget. Most people may ask, how can it be considered as a budget trip if you're still spending Php30,000 for a 4-day stay? Sure, that same amount can get you elsewhere for a longer stay or can fit more people into the budget but hey, its M-A-L-D-I-V-E-S! The once "just a bucket list" destination can now be attained if you just know how to plan it right. This trip was over a year ago so please bear with me as I try to recall as much information as I could to help you achieve that dream trip.


Maldives is located in the middle of the Indian Ocean. To get to Male, you have to travel to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore first because there's no direct flight to Maldives' capital coming from Manila. I came across an Air Asia promo for around Php7500/person but for the KUL-MLE-KUL sectors only. We have to book another flight out of Manila that connects to the flight to Male at 6:55PM which, unfortunately that time is via Malaysia Airlines only. Arriving a day before is another option but as we only had a few days to spare, our only option is to find a flight that connects.

Malaysia Airlines is a full service carrier and not a budget airline which means that fares are not budget friendly. However, we got lucky and was able to book round trip tickets for just Php8000 each inclusive of PH travel tax! To make sure that we get to the Air Asia counter on time, we all decided to just bring a handcarry so we can run from KLIA (where MH arrives and departs) to KLIA2 (where Air Asia is based) as soon as the flight arrives.


As I've mentioned on my post about Kaani Village and Spa, there are quite a number of options nowadays if you wish to travel to Maldives on a budget. Since the opening of local islands to tourists from all over the world, it had been more convenient now to find an accommodation that fits right to your budget. Several resorts in Maafushi, our island of choice, offers comfortable accommodation at affordable rates that range between Php4000 to Php9000 per night. To reach Maafushi from the airport, you have two options: (1) take the public ferry boat for $2.00 per person or (2) arrange a private transfer from your hotel for $160 - $200 per trip.

In our case, we booked a deluxe family room with balcony for Php7940/night inclusive of daily breakfast and extra bed. Not the cheapest option but having our own balcony that provides a partial view of the ocean is worth every centavo. For the transfers, we had to arrange a private speedboat as our flight arrived late and we wanted to proceed to Maafushi right away.


As Maldives is surrounded by waters with abundant marine life, I thought I'd be traveling to seafood heaven where I can eat lobster and prawns everyday! I even allotted a handsome portion of my budget for it because if there's one thing that I allow myself to splurge, its a great and amazing meal. Well, Maldives proved me wrong the very next day because aside from Mas Huni, the traditional Maldivian breakfast of tuna, coconut, chill and onions, there's hardly any fresh seafood to order in restaurants due to government's strict control over fishing and as one of the staff at Kaani used to say, Maldivians would rather work as tour guides rather than go out fishing.

Another reason why we chose to stay in Maafushi is because there's a wide variety and cheaper food options as compared to staying in a private island resort. You can buy snacks and drinks in one of the local stores like the one below along the island beach front.

Restaurants are inclined to offer more Western cuisine to its menu to cater to an international clientele. Stores also prefer tourists to pay in US Dollars than Maldivian Rufiyaa so better hold onto your $$$ and just change a couple of hundreds for transportation and tip.

Ala carte dishes in Maafushi range between Php300 - Php500 depending on your order. Prices for seafood and meat dishes are quite the same so just order what your heart desires. To save even more, you can just bring a complimentary bottled water from your hotel rather than ordering one at the restaurant. However, if its alcoholic drinks you are looking for, remember that Maldives is a Muslim country so alcohol is not allowed except at the private resorts, far from the local islands.

Things to do

In Maafushi, there are four beaches that you can visit for free: Bikini Beach, Public Beach, Water Sports Beach, and Coral Beach. Tourists usually go to Bikini Beach because its the only beach in the island where you can wear a bikini as it is illegal to show off too much skin in public.

If you want to explore farther, you can also arrange tours from your hotel or one of the local tour agencies scattered around the island. In our 4 days in Maldives, we were able to enjoy the local island life, visit a private and exclusive resort, go snorkeling with the turtles, saw a variety of colorful fishes underwater, and swam in one of the whitest beaches I've ever seen!

Breakdown of expenses

For a 4-day trip to Maldives, my friends and I spent about Php32,840 each but trust me, you can do it for a lesser price if you book your tickets ahead of time and reserve a cheaper room than what we got. Besides, the paid activities we booked may not be the ones you like so it would still depend on each person's preference. Anyway, here's a breakdown of our expenses for your reference:

So there you go! You can now start planning your trip to Maldives to give yourself enough time to save a portion of your hard-earned money for a well-deserved vacation. Good luck and enjoy!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Hotel Review: Unplan Kagurazaka, Tokyo JP

Tokyo is considered as one of the most expensive cities in the world due to the strengthening of the yen. I've always been fascinated with Japan's culture and a huge fan of its cuisine but its reputation of being an expensive city to travel to has been a major turn off. Before low cost carriers came into the picture, a roundtrip ticket to Tokyo would set you back at least Php25,000 per person. Nowadays, airline promos can fly you to Japan's capital for as low as Php7,000 excluding check-in baggage and PH travel tax. I should know this because I've booked 2 trips to Tokyo this year for the same price range, one with Cebu Pacific and the other with Jetstar - both airlines offer direct flights to Tokyo from Manila on a daily basis.

One thing I learned with years of traveling - budget is subjective. Its up to you whether to splurge or to travel on budget when it comes to food, accommodation, transportation and tours. In terms of accommodation, Japan has various options depending on your needs - from capsule hotels to hostels, Airbnb rooms or full service hotels, so I suggest you do your research first to get the most out of your money in your preferred location and budget. For my trip to Tokyo last April, my friends and I booked a room at Unplan Kagurazaka, a popular hostel with a Shinjuku address.

Shinjuku Ward is a great choice for travelers interested in shopping and local food, reasons why we chose this hostel among others. The hostel/cafe offers bunk beds with shared bathroom, and private and family rooms both with private bathrooms, to cater to different types of travelers.

Since we were a group of 3, we opted to book the family room with 2 bunk beds and a private bath. Maximum occupancy is up to 4 adults but having a private toilet and bath is non-negotiable. Besides, room size in Japan is smaller than regular standards so this gave us more room to walk around. Room rate thru Agoda is around Php8,000 per night, inclusive of breakfast for 4.

Pros: Room and common areas are modern and clean, offers private and dormitory room types, good location (5-minute walk to Kagurazaka Station along Tozai Line), convenience stores along the way, quiet and secured neighborhood and friendly English speaking staff.

Cons: Limited breakfast options (hard boiled eggs, bread with butter and jam, and a cup of coffee/tea everyday) and higher room rate than average hostels in Tokyo.


Unplan Kagurazaka
23-1 Tenjincho, Shinjuku
Tokyo, Japan
Tel.: (813) 6457-5171

Friday, May 4, 2018

Disney Sea Tokyo: Tips on Maximizing your Visit

Confession: I haven't been to any Disney Resort until recently. Unlike my sister who's crazy about Mickey Mouse, I am simply not a huge fan. During my first few trips to Hongkong, I would always persuade CS about going to Disneyland but he simply won't budge; he'd tell me wait until we go to the US. When we went to California last year, I decided I wanted to go to Universal Studios more because of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter so again, no Disneyland.

Last April, my friends and I went to Tokyo to experience sakura. They've been to Disneyland numerous times but never to Disney Sea so we thought it was the perfect time for all of us to visit the only Disney theme park of its kind in the world. I highly suggest getting your tickets thru Klook for discounted rates and to avoid the lines. Click here to get a promo code.

Another confession: After spending 6 hours in Disney Sea, we only got to watch Mermaid Lagoon and ride 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea due to insanely long lines and absence of a game plan. Unlike Universal Studios that offer front-of-the-line tickets (at least 50% more expensive) for people who prefer skipping the lines, all Disney Sea ticket holders have equal opportunity to get fast pass tickets so you have to be smart when and where to get it. So if I'm having a do-over, here are the strategies I would do to get the most out of my time in Disney Sea:

  • Plan your visit on a weekday because the crowd tend to swell on weekends and holidays. Same goes if you're visiting Disneyland or any theme park for that matter.
  • Arrive early. Early means an hour before the park opens to the public. Click here to see the park operation calendar.
  • Study the park map and head for the less popular rides first for a better opportunity of getting a fast pass ticket. Toy Story, the most popular ride in Disney Sea, usually gets sold out an hour or two after park opening. Also take note that fast pass does not guarantee entry to the attraction, you still have to queue along with other fast pass ticket holders and remember to come back within your allotted time period.
  • You can only get a fast pass ticket every 2 hours per ride. You can either roam around the park or check out other rides in between waiting times.
  •  If you don't mind taking the ride alone, the single rider's queue will be your bestfriend.
  • Try as much flavored popcorns as you can. Flavors range from milk chocolate to caramel, curry, black pepper, soy sauce and butter, honey, and even herb-tomato!
  • Food is allowed in Disney Sea so you can just buy and bring your favorite bento box from the convenience store to save time and money.

But if after all the planning and you still fail to take the rides you wanted to try, just enjoy your time in Disney Sea. Wander to appreciate the fantastic details incorporated into the lands and take as many photos as you can because the place is just amazing!

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