Over the years as a (comped) Hilton Gold/Diamond member I’d managed to accumulate a fair amount of Hilton points – my initial plan was to use them for a 5-night stay at Conrad Tokyo, but when a better deal came up for that property, I started thinking about where else I could spend my points on.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is often viewed as one of the the crown jewels of the Hilton portfolio (others include Conrad Bora Bora and Conrad Koh Samui), so it seemed a no-brainer to begin making plans to unload my points there. It’s not quite as straightforward as booking a city hotel, though, and I found myself doing a fair amount of research in the lead-up to the trip, especially in an effort to keep costs manageable.
This post aims to highlight some of that research, with the rest of the trip report focusing on my experience of the property. Hopefully this is helpful for any of you planning a trip to the Maldives!
American sites often chronicle a lengthy odyssey from their home city to get to Malé (the Maldivian capital, where the main airport is), but thankfully for the Singapore-based traveller, we get to take a short 4½-hour direct flight instead.
If you can fly in via SilkAir (MI480/482) I’d definitely suggest that, since it’ll get you in around noon, just in time to check in to the property. All other options will get you in later at night, which means either a wasted day at the property, or having to stay overnight at a hotel (probably on Malé itself) before checking in to the Conrad on the following day.
You can choose from the following flights there and back again:
(flight data sourced 8 Dec 2018)
TR588 A320 SIN (1910/1915) – MLE (2050) – Sun, Mon, Wed, Fri
TR589 A320 MLE (2150) – SIN (0540) – Sun, Mon, Wed, Fri
MI480 A320 SIN (1115) – MLE (1300) – Sun & Tue only
MI482 A320 SIN (1005) – MLE (1155)
MI479 A320 MLE (1405) – SIN (2200) – Sun & Tue only
MI481 A320 MLE (1250) – SIN (2045)
SQ452 A330 SIN (2035) – MLE (2210)
SQ451 A330 MLE (2325) – SIN (0715)
I can’t really recommend redeeming miles for a short flight like this, especially if the best hardware available is SQ’s A330, which will get you the 2009 regional seat (check out the SQ seat guide for more info).
An economy return saver redemption on SQ/MI costs 37,000 miles, while a business class redemption will set you back 70,000. It might still be worth considering if the revenue rate on your preferred dates of travel is on the high side – the business class redemption (assuming 2cpm valuation) could potentially cost the same as an economy class revenue ticket, if so!
It might also be worth redeeming if it’s on the Spontaneous Escapes list, though personally I’d rather just settle the tickets in advance.
Hotel revenue rates
Paying cash for a Maldivian resort? Am I crazy (rich)? As it turns out, it can actually be (relatively) affordable.
If you’ve seen Conrad Maldives mentioned in blogs before, you’d probably have seen the eye-gouging figures for revenue rates. Indeed, the cheapest room type (the beach villa) can cost about US$1000 per night, with premium villas selling for upwards of US$5000.
What is less frequently mentioned is how prices are actually seasonal in nature – if you check for rates during low season, you’ll be able to find prices closer to US$500.
As per FlyerTalk, the pricing seasons for the property (in ascending order of price) looks something like this:
- Low Season: 12 May – 31 July
- Shoulder Season: 1 Aug – 30 Sep
- High Season: 9 Jan – 11 May / 1 Oct – 25 Dec
- Festive Season: 26 Dec – 8 Jan
Sure, it rains more during low season, but that’s usually in the form of passing showers and doesn’t actually mar the travel experience too much (or so I’ve heard).
Aim for low season during a flash sale (like the recent 50% sale in late Nov) and you might be able to secure rooms at less than US$300 per night. Staying for (at least) four nights? Combo with the Citi Prestige’s complimentary night feature and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Hotel redemption rates
But… this is the Milelion (blog). Paying cash for accommodation just seems… wrong. Not to worry; you can still put your credit card points to work (if you happen to have a bunch of AMEX MR to convert, for instance), or just buy some Hilton Honors points directly.
The standard award rate for the Beach Villa is 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night – since Hilton Silver (and above) members get the 5th night free for redemptions, you’d probably want to book multiples of 5 in order to maximise the value of your Hilton points. 380,000 points is a lot (it’ll cost you US$1900 if you buy them while on sale, though you probably won’t be able to buy that many in one shot anyway), but it’ll allow you to secure a Conrad Maldives stay at US$380/night (net), even during high season.
What’s perhaps a little less well-known is that the second-tier room type, the Water Villa, is also available as a standard award at 95,000 points (since late 2017, if I recall correctly). In other words, redeeming a Water Villa costs exactly the same as a Beach Villa!
It’s quite common for people to request to switch between the Beach and Water Villa in the middle of their stay in order to get a taste of each (I ended up doing that), but if the thought of shifting all your stuff over seems more trouble than it’s worth, I suggest going for the Water Villa. Not only are you getting more value for your Hilton points, the experience is simply more unique.
Conrad Maldives is often running at high occupancy (especially during high season), and gets plenty of Gold/Diamond guests. I wouldn’t expect a complimentary upgrade, though I suppose it’s possible.
If you so desire, it’s possible to arrange to for a paid upgrade by emailing the property beforehand (maybe around 3 weeks before your stay) and making the request. The property wiki on FlyerTalk has a section on upgrade pricing, if you’re curious about the market rate – it ranges from as low as US$45 to US$3000+, depending on what villa type you’re looking to upgrade to.
I didn’t opt for a paid upgrade and thought that the standard Beach and Water Villas were already awesome experiences, but if you’re planning to pay then definitely redeem Water Villas to minimise upgrade costs!
So you’ve booked your accommodation – the main expenses have been taken care of, right? Not quite. Due to the isolated nature of Maldivian resorts, it turns out that there’re plenty of additional expenses you’re likely to incur.
Maldivian resorts are mostly situated on islands scattered throughout the Maldives – Conrad Maldives is actually situated 30min away from Malé by seaplane. The fee for this seaplane transfer comes up to almost US$600 (return) per person – this was increased in Oct 2018, unfortunately.
Aside from transport, you’re essentially trapped on the island(s) for the duration of your stay, so be prepared to spend more on food and leisure activities – both of which can be very pricey!
Keeping it affordable
All in all, we ended up spending about US$2150 (almost S$3000) for a 5-night stay there, not counting the 380k Hilton points I’d used for redeeming the stay. Sure, we could have saved more, but I think we managed to keep things affordable while managing to enjoy some luxuries during the stay.
There are some who would scoff at the idea of scrimping when you’re staying at a nice property like Conrad Maldives, but my take is that there’s nothing wrong with being prudent with your money and being more selective with what you want to splurge on.
I’ll share more on what’s available at the property and what we ended up doing in subsequent posts, but I found this post on Going Awesome Places to be rather useful in providing a framework for keeping costs low:
- Maximise utility from free food (breakfast buffet, and tea/happy hour for Gold/Diamond guests)
- Bring your own snacks
- Maximise utility from free activities
I’ve omitted a fair amount of detail in order to keep this post more readable – I did look through quite a number of sites while doing research for this trip, but there are two resources in particular that I’d recommend as further reading. In fact, I’ve already linked to specific sections of each earlier!
Conrad Maldives thread (FlyerTalk): FlyerTalk can be a very useful repository of knowledge, but this thread is particularly rich in information. The wiki section at the very beginning is particularly useful, summarising key information that is continuously being updated.
Conrad Maldives trip report (Going Awesome Places): Though rather dated (from 2014), this trip report is pretty detailed. I especially appreciated that the writer’s priorities seemed pretty similar to my own, with regards to achieving a balance of cost minimisation and enjoyment of the property.
(Featured image from Conrad Maldives website)
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