Why you don’t need a travel agent for a perfect Maldives water villa holiday

MaldivesMeeruWaterVillasWith all due respect to offline travel agents and the hard work and expertise they can provide, those traveling to the Maldives for a private-island holiday don't really need them, and will almost certainly save money without one. If you've only ever booked luxury holidays with your friendly neighborhood travel agent, then you might as well carry on doing that. But if you don't have a travel agent and unsure of the value they bring, read this article and you'll discover that you are probably better off without them.

The main reason for this is that the Maldives is an incredibly well organized travel destination, and after your first visit you'll discover that everything is taken care of for you whether you got a discount price online or paid a higher price to your hometown travel agent.

>>>Book the best Maldives deals online

Travel agents are great at transfers and details, but in the Maldives it's all automatic

MaldivesSpeedboatIf you are booking a Phuket holiday or a trip to Boracay Island, for example, you will justifiably wonder how convenient the resort location is, and how you'll get from the airport to the resort, and several other logistical puzzles. It's true that getting to your resort in places like that can be complicated, but in the Maldives those questions are already answered upon booking.

In the Maldives:

  1. Each resort is on its own private island, so the “neighborhood” is irrelevant.
  2. Each resort has its own transportation, which is a speedboat, sea-plane, or both, and you'll automatically have that booked when you book your villa.
  3. Whether you book with a travel agent or save money booking online, the transfer process is exactly the same.

The procedure for getting from the Male International Airport to your resort can sound a bit mysterious and complicated before you do it the first time, but it's actually quick and straightforward.

Please watch this short video that shows exactly how it works:

Video of Male Airport landing and speedboat or sea-plane transfers

How Maldives resort-booking works in an automatic way

Step 1: Check flights to the Maldives and decide upon travel dates

Step 2: Find the best resort at the best rate for your dates

Step 3: Book your flight and then your resort online

From here on out, it's exactly the same booking online or with an agent

MaldivesSeaPlaneStep 4: You will pay for your airport transfers to the resort at the same time you book your resort, at a fixed price that is the same for everyone

Step 5: Give your resort the details of your incoming and outgoing Maldives flights, and they will arrange your specific transfer times

Step 6: You'll receive clear and specific instructions for where to go once you get off your flight to the Maldives

Step 7: Fly to the Maldives and go to the counter or office that your resort instructs you to

Step 8: A resort representitive will greet you and escort you to your speedboat or to the sea-plane check-in counter, and you'll soon be at your resort

Step 9: You'll be greeted at your resort since they know exactly when you'll arrive, and they will check you in and take you and your bags to your villa

Step 10: When your island stay is over, the resort will put you on a speedboat or sea-plane to get you back to the airport shortly before your flight home

It's that easy. Each of these steps is simple and after the first 3, it works exactly the same whether you book with a travel agent or book an online deal yourself.

And of course, by doing Steps 1, 2, and 3 yourself, you can often save a small fortune and/or get an upgraded water villa compared to what your travel agent will present to you.

Travel agents work with a small number of resorts, while online deals are available at almost all of them

MaldivesSunsetNearly all hard-working local travel agents have relationships with a small fraction of the 90 or so private-island Maldives water villa resorts. These relationships usually do mean that you can get a pretty decent deal at one of the resorts they work with, but it also means that your agent will never tell you about resorts they don't work with who might be offering better water villas for 20% less than the ones they suggest.

One wonderful thing about these Maldives water villa resorts is that nearly all of them are extremely nice and professionally run. Unlike almost anywhere else, these private-island resorts can't be built or run cheaply at all, so virtually all of them earn consistently good reviews from guests. As a result, your travel agent will suggest a resort that they work with, and it will be a wonderful place that you'll be very happy with.

However, with around 90 private-island resorts in the Maldives with water villas, this means that there are 70 or 80 wonderful resorts, and at any given time the best deals could be at almost any of them. You'll see when you scan the online listings for your ideal travel dates, that many of them are offering 50% or more off their normal rates, including some of the best resorts in the Maldives.

Even if you already work with a travel agent, you should compare their quote with not just the online price for that resort, but with the best deals at similar resorts. Chances are very high that an even higher rated resort is offering lower prices for your dates if you look closely.

You might be able to afford a Jacuzzi or private-pool water villa with online promotions

MaldivesJacuzziWhile there are close to 90 Maldives resorts with water villas, only about a third of those offer private Jacuzzis or plunge pools as an option. At most resorts these features are available at an upgrade rate from the standard water villas, but with frequent online promotions, sometimes they are virtually the same price as the standard water villas.

Some Maldives resorts have only a small number of standard water villas, and far more Jacuzzi or pool units. If you scan ALL of the listings for your travel dates, you've got a good chance of finding a resort where most of their standard villas are almost booked, and they are offering discounts on the deluxe villas.

Again, if your travel agent only works with 8 or 10 resorts, the chances of stumbling into such a deal are limited. But if you are considering ALL of the 80+ resorts, your chances of finding an amazing promotional deal are far greater.

In fairness, online bookers need to pay attention

While a savvy online shopper will usually end up with a better deal than someone who just asks for a quote from a travel agent, the online shopper has to be careful.

Resort prices are quoted per night, but often omit fees until the payment screen

MaldivesAboveSadly, every major online hotel-booking site is at least partly guilty of showing pre-tax rates until you are about to type your credit card in. If you look closely you'll see that the room quote might exclude up to 17% in taxes and fees. As long as you are aware of this and comparing the final price to the full travel-agent quote, you'll still usually come out ahead online.

Airport to island transfers are expensive, so factor that in as well

The cheapest speedboat transfer from the Maldives Airport to a nearby island is about US$100 per person round-trip. The most expensive sea-plane flight is over US$600 per person round-trip, and there are no other ways of getting there. When you book online you have to include the transfer price into your final total in order to get the true final price to compare with your travel agent.

Travel agents are better able to handle the disabled or other special situations

Booking online yourself is generally cheaper because you basically do it yourself with no assistance available unless you call or email the resort directly. For the vast majority of us, the savings are worth it because it's all so straightforward as described above.

However, if you need wheelchair assistance or have some unusual dietary requirement that makes even large buffets challenging, then a travel agent is probably worth the extra money. An agent in your area can contact resorts and get specific answers for unusual situations, and make sure you end up at a resort that will work for you.

In conclusion, booking online is usually cheaper, but travel agents are useful

MeeruLagoonAgain, this article isn't meant to try to trick people into abandoning their favorite local travel agent. If you have someone you like and trust, you are probably best off continuing to use them even for a straightforward Maldives holiday.

On the other hand, if you assume that you NEED to work with a travel agent to sort out the details and/or get the best deal, you should probably think about booking yourself online. Once you choose the resort you like most and that has the best deal on what you want, it's all very simple and automatic. You'll get a great deal that you chose yourself, and it will still be stress-free when you get there and until you are home again.

>>>Book the best Maldives deals online

  • Ryan says:

    disagree most of it!, i’ve always secured better deals from travel agents in the UK. Some of them offer upgrades, lounge access which were helpful. And most importantly we need ATOL protection for our whole booking which is only provided by the UK tour operators. This protects our flights all transfers and the resort booking. In any emergency we have the ATOL protection to bail us out.
    If you are not a fussy customer who wouldn’t mind ending up in a room that don’t wish to be, then booking from any other source is fine.
    Anyways, these are my thoughts. Hope you will publish this.

    • Roger Wade says:


      You make some good points and I guess each person has their own risk tolerance level. These days it’s common for purchases on many Visas and Mastercards to automatically have this kind of coverage, and you can buy travel insurance to cover it as well. Still, many people prefer a traditional high-street travel agent. My main point is that you don’t NEED a travel agent to book an ideal Maldives holiday because the online booking process is now so well organized and you don’t need any hand-holding once you land. Thanks for the comments. -Roger

  • Gabrielle says:

    Hi there,
    With respect, I find the information in this article to be largely untrue. Travel agents work with all resorts (and even some B & B’s). They also have buying power and can secure better rates than what is seen online in a lot of cases. I think there is a real misconception out there from people who have only really ever booked online but really, there is a missed value, both monetary and experiential that goes with booking online. Also, many agents are part of a consortium that for example, will provide complimentary meals, complimentary nights, etc, whereas booking online you don’t get these kinds of things. Just my 2 cents anyway!

  • HEATHER says:

    I have to agree with others that this article is just not true of what Travel Professionals truly offer a client. Most Travel Professionals don’t charge planning and booking fees. They often offer a low price guarantee and price match if they need to. Many Travel Professionals who do charge a planning or booking fee often apply it towards your balance and/or the tips and money they save you are far more than any planning or booking fee they may charge.

    Booking through a website (just a computer and not a true travel professional) is not a great option. Nobody is asking you the right questions to fit you to the best resorts/flights or council you on the merits of this and that because it’s a computer…..You can’t just go by the pretty pictures on the internet. We say “The Internet is for looking and not booking”

    Each resort has a different vibe, you need to be personally matched to the best accommodations out there that will fit you both because there are so many resort/flight/room choices out there and they’re not all the same or even good. There’s much to think about and consider when picking the right destination, travel dates-weather, resorts/flights/rooms.

    The question that you should ask yourself is, “Why would you take a chance on your Travel Investment and not call a Travel Professional” One whose actually been to the destination with hands on advice? A real reputable Travel Professional wants to talk to you or at least email you and not just put a website out there for you to self-book on while they try to make money on you while they sleep with website bookings that they’re making full commission on, that’s what they don’t want to tell you.

    Trying to talk potential clients out of booking with real Travel Professionals when you’re acting as an “absent” travel agent on a website and doing very little for the client in reality is ironic.
    I feel like this website/article attacks true Travel Professionals in an underhanded way so I will speak the real truth here.

    There are many Travel Professionals who highly specialize in Over Water Bungalows throughout the world, they’ve been to many of these resorts themselves so they have value in their knowledge and have professional relationships with resort owners, management and ground operators. Travel Professionals provide a wonderful service to you and that’s what its truly all about besides offering you some of the lowest prices with price drop guarantees and a host of many other perks!

    • Roger Wade says:


      If I was a travel agent I’m sure I’d feel the same way you do. The point of the article is that savvy travelers (not necessarily first-time travelers) CAN book a Maldives holiday online and still get the exact same VIP experience that other visitors get. Websites like Agoda also book far more resorts than any offline travel agent does, so consumers get more choice. And many resorts do in fact offer lower prices when you book online.

      Some travelers are fussy and require hand-holding and make mistakes and want to make changes. It’s great that you are there for those types of travelers. But there is also a misconception that you NEED to use an offline travel agent to book a Maldives holiday and that’s definitely not true. Thanks for your passion and for all the help you give to those who need you. -Roger

  • Shelley Embrey says:

    There is so much more to a travel agent than just booking the trip. Yesterday I spend 1/2 my day changing a client’s flights and hotel reservations because her son suddenly got sick during the trip. Last weekend I had 2 sets of clients miss their flights so I spent my time accommodating and reassuring them, while they relaxed at the airport lounge. When a traveler is on vacation, unexpected things can happen. Emergencies can arise. A travel agent can handle all of this for them, so they can focus on their sick child, or whatever the case may be. “In all fairness”, you are right. They may not NEED a travel agent for the booking process, but when the unexpected arises, they will need us then! And as the others have said, pricing is almost always the same whether you book online, or with an agent. We also have access to most all the same hotels as online…. plus the extra consortia perks, as Gabrielle mentioned.

  • Diane Weinstein says:

    This article is completely untrue.. Obviously the author has an agenda that isn’t consumer based. Travel agents not only find you the best deals and assist with all the arrangements , they are your advocate if something goes wrong. They are helping you with schedule changes , flight cancelations and emergencies. There is more to travel than just booking the hotel. To think otherwise is just plain ignorant.

  • Roz Dale says:

    Without a travel agent you are on your own!!! a total misconception
    that agents are a lot more expensive than online. What happens if something goes wrong the computer wont help but an agent will –
    do a bit more research to the original writer and i only hope you
    never need assistance apart from a computer to get you out of a situation!!!!!

    • Roger Wade says:


      If I was a travel agent I’m sure I’d feel the same way. But the fact is that things don’t go wrong very often and even when they do it’s usually easy to fix as long as you deal with legit companies and resorts. For someone who has an extremely low risk tolerance travel agents are probably a great idea. For everyone else, it’s probably not worth it. -Roger

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