Our generation is a rather unique bunch of people. We are the people who pay to leave home. Just to experience things. Like a sunrise, for example.
Not exactly sure when did this need or desire to travel started becoming the norm. Is it because people truly want to explore the world? Or is it because people want to escape from the world?
Anyway, as promised I’ll be covering a few remaining topics to complete the Maldives trilogy posts (Part 1 and Part 2), including credit card charge-back, how the USD currency is used as a tool against us, and why staying an extra night in Maldives make economical sense.
Bunch up the three parts and share it with folks that’s heading to the Maldives! This chunk of knowledge is based on my experience in the hospitality industry, Maldives regulars, part investigative work and part travel experience.
Beyond Travel Insurance : Credit Card Charge-Back
Travel insurance is a must for me, especially since having gone through the experience of dislocating my elbow on a resort island in neighbouring Indonesia. On top of that, it grants a certain amount of protection against insolvency should the travel agent or property you’re dealing with go bust.
In the instance of Maldives, please make sure that the cap on the amount insured based on the plan you’re getting is sufficient. Maldives is an expensive place, after all.
If you’re like a scaredy cat like I am, I might have the perfect solution for you. Simply pay for your Maldives via a credit card. Before I go any further, I might have forgotten to mention that whatever prices you were quoted for after following my previous blog post, those were meant for cash (or bank transfer) payments only.
Personally, I think it is insane to even consider a bank transfer to a foreign bank account just to save on 2%! It also means that if you were to pay via a Visa or Mastercard credit card, you would typically be required to pay an additional 2% more. Now, why would I want to do that?
One not-so-obvious reason is that credit card payment offers the consumer credit card charge-back protection. This means that if you were to encounter a fraudulent product or service provider and are able to provide proof (emails, invoices, receipts etc) to establish the circumstances, you would be able to get your card issuer bank to reverse the charges if it falls within the eligible time-frame. This means that the protection isn’t a guarantee.
Quoting the following from TripAdvisor forum from travellers who suffered at the hands of a fradulent agent.
Singapore Travellers :
Standard chartered bank in Singapore rejected my dispute transaction. Because the transaction have passed the time frame stipulated by Visa international. I have made the payment on Jan’13. I’ve submitted my dispute form on Aug.
Of course, there are travellers have been successful in getting charge-backs processed. That’s the whole purpose, isn’t it? People pay with credit cards for a reason.
Our both transaction was charged on 20 March 2013. We submitted transaction dispute forms to our banks on 20 August, 2013. Successfully got the chargeback from Master (through Citibank Malaysia) on mid Sept and Visa (through Ambank Malaysia) on 10 Oct, 2013 respectively.
If you’re feeling the pinch from the 2% additional fee, it would be a great opportunity for you to get hold of a miles-earning credit card. Local spend is eligible for earning miles and you will therefore earn thousands of miles from it. More specifically, it was about 1.6 cents per mile which is actually a good deal to me!
Most importantly – be safe, not sorry.
Currency Woes – USD, USD, USD
Here’s the thing. If you are dealing with an agent, chances are that you would be quoted in USD for your Maldives package. Small issue, right? Just convert USD to SGD at the prevailing rate and pay?
Wrong. You may find that some agents would insist on using a fixed, pre-determined and inferior exchange rate and there is no getting around it. I got a quote when one US dollar was getting S$1.39 and guess what I was quoted? US$1 : S$1.45!
Ouch. That’s daylight robbery for you. Please take this point into consideration and ask the agent to explain to you how they work with respect to this issue rather then be surprised when you’re about to make payment.
Staying An Extra Night (Near The Airport)
This is where you have to weigh your options carefully. Optimal flight timings are expensive (no prizes for guessing which one), but you get to reach Maldives early in time for a standard check-in timing to maximize your duration at the resort.
Alternatively, you can choose to reach Maldives in the evening (you would have lost an entire day and potentially hundreds of dollars if you choose to check in on the same day, if there are still flights/speedboats to get you to the resort.
I’m using Singapore Airlines (they codeshare with Silkair) as an example here. Poorer flight times have cheaper tickets that are close to $200 cheaper per pax. For a couple, that’s $400. A decent hotel room near the airport can be easily reserved for less than $200. As an added bonus, you also buffer yourself from a potential flight delay (imagine the transfers that need to be rescheduled and the added stress) that can cause havoc for your holiday.
Save money and lower the risk of potential risks. I like! Please note that if you stay an extra night prior to your resort stay, remember to adjust the travel insurance start-date accordingly.
You Need A Budget For It
A typical Maldives trip can be expensive. Don’t do something like this on debt! Simply save up for it. For the better part of two years, I have been setting aside money here and there for it. Yes, you got me right. Two years.
Travel expenses currently makes up about 7% to 8% of my monthly disposable income and as my primary “hobby”, it is an amount I’m comfortable with. I use a budgeting app called You Need A Budget (YNAB) that makes it a breeze for me to keep track of my progress.
After all that has been said, it would be outrageous if I didn’t end this off with an example to illustrate all that I have blogged about. This is a real-life example back when I was trying to crack the Maldives mystery.
For greater impact, I’m going to use a high-end resort as an example. I will, of course, not use the real name but rest assured that all numbers are actual figures I either obtained online, or was quoted directly.
– Maldives luxury resort
– Peak season (March)
– 6 Days, 5 Nights
– Half-Board (breakfast and dinner)
– Return transfer
Here goes! Prices are quoted in USD and are nett amounts for cash / bank transfer payments unless otherwise stated. Accurate as of the time when the price/quote was obtained.
Official resort email correspondence = US$ 13,305.60
Official resort website = US $10,194.60
Agoda.com = US$ 14,831.84
Booking.com = US$ 11,620.00 (before 23.2% taxes, return transfers excluded)
Expedia.com = US$ 11,956.52
Maldivian agent that services international customers = US$ 8,429.00
UK agent that services international customers = US$ 8,636.00
Singapore agent #1 published rate = US$ 8731.00
Singapore agent #2 published rate = US$ 8492.00
Turkish agent = US $7,900.00
Price Comparison & Haggling
As you can see from my example, note the wide range of figures quoted, getting a reservation directly via the resort and online travel agents are hands down the worst pricing available. The highest and lowest price quoted differed by almost US$7,000 for the same product. Jaw-dropping!
In my humble, scaredy cat opinion, when something is too good to be true, it probably is. The amount quoted by the Turkish agent is much lower than the competition, but it is a small player without much of a track record. I removed it off my list immediately but I noted the price, for reference.
This leaves the Maldivian agent and Singapore agent with similar quotes of US$8,400-ish. Looks like a good price after comparisons, yes?
Shall I make a reservation using that price? No!
Sometimes, Singaporeans are just too good at abiding by the rules. See a fixed price product/service and we don’t stop to think whether it is negotiable. What I did was to go to one of the Singapore-based travel agent and indicated my interest. I mentioned that based on my research so far, the lowest market rate for a package is roughly US$8,400-ish. Could they give me a better offer, considering that their previous year package was already that amount?
They were obviously pretty good at this game and did not come back with a hard number. They countered by asking what budget was I looking at, throwing the ball back into my court. Starting to sound like a cha-cha or salsa dance to you so far?
I did my Maths and decided to hit middle ground somewhere between US$7,900 and US$8,500 and countered with US$8,250. Bingo! Price was finally deemed acceptable after much deliberation and some tweaking to the required payment terms, which rang the right bells in my head.
I hope that this example has illustrated to you some valuable points to take note of, when crafting your own Maldivian dream holiday. Like I mentioned in my first of three parts, remember that we are carrots and we will get chopped. The question is, how much?