The Seychelles on a Budget - yes, it's possible!
The Seychelles isn’t known as a budget destination. Quite the opposite. It’s a ‘go all out’ destination of a lifetime. But what most people don’t know is that it doesn’t have to be.
The Seychelles is outside of the cyclone belt in the Indian Ocean, but remember, it’s still a bunch of tropical islands and downpours can happen at almost any time of the year. So weather-wise there isn’t a conventional high and low season, but you will find more tourists around the standard school holidays in Europe – June-August and late September-December. Outside of these packed months you can find some great hotel offers, but scuba diving and restaurant prices stay the same.
Check out the below websites for current deals. However, these offers usually boast of reductions of hundreds of dollars, but you’ll still spend thousands to stay there for one week.
Ethiopian Airlines 2-4-1 deal. Since the flight is likely to be the biggest chunk of your spends, this is an amazing offer. There are some minor details to bear in mind though, before you start frantically looking for the airline’s number… this 2-4-1 madness is usually only available last minute, and on specific dates that usually dictate that you spend 10-14 days there. It could be worse though, right? It’s worth calculating how much you’re likely to spend in those extra days that you’re 'forced' to stay on the islands. Accommodation, food, transport and ice cold beers; it all adds up…
My honest advice, if you’re really on a budget: forget the hotels. There’s not really such thing as a cheap hotel on the Seychelles. They all cater to the honeymooners and the insanely rich.
Something that’s taken off here, as it has all over the world, is Air B’n’B. What kinds of properties are available, you ask? We stayed in the ground floor of a house that had been renovated into an apartment - double bed, kitchen, bathroom, living room and a veranda overlooking the ocean, all for $85/night (see below). Now we’re talking!
The added benefit of most Air B’n’B options is being able to cook for yourself. I was utterly shocked at the extortionate prices of food and drinks. I (unintentionally) ordered a $25 cocktail on the beach at the Four Seasons. It was damn good, but I still sipped it with a sense of regret.
The best idea would be to stock up on food in Victoria. It’s the only place on all 115 islands that has a supermarket. We bought the basics (rice, coffee, beer) at Deepam and Kannus supermarkets in the centre of town and then headed over to the indoor market, housing fresh fish, vegetables, fruit and an abundance of locally-grown spices. I was in heaven.
There are mini-markets dotted around the island, but produce is limited (especially fresh fruit & veg).
For the following days on Mahe island (the main island), we ate tropical fruit for breakfast and cooked up rice with white, meaty fish, coconut milk and an array of veggies. We usually ate lunch on the go whilst we were out exploring during daylight hours.
Indulging in a few mojitos at the weekly food market
On Mahe Island you’ll find Beau Vallon – one of the busier stretches of beach on the island that hosts a food and crafts market every Wednesday, and the last Saturday of the month. This was the cheapest meal that we had out by far and it was absolutely delicious. It’s mostly meat on sticks, grilled fish and flavorsome curries. We bought a few dishes and sat on the beach, eating to the sound of the waves. We washed down our $4 dishes with mojitos in plastic cups. Unfortunately this is a one-night-a-week affair. It starts around 4pm and carries on until people filter out, at around 8:30pm.
Many Air B’n’B options necessitate renting a car, but at around $30/day we certainly weren’t complaining. In fact, the freedom that this gave us was appreciated every time we stumbled upon something great – a tea factory hidden in the national forest, a spice farm and countless deserted beaches all with their own surprising characteristics. Exploring paradise is as dreamy as it sounds.
Of course, public transport is available and it’s one of the safest places to take it in Africa, in terms of both crime and road fatalities, but it doesn’t afford you the same flexibility and freedom of having your own car. Many of the best beaches are hidden down narrow, twisting lanes, off the main roads.
All beaches are open to the public!
The hotels don’t openly advertise this, but it’s true! Many of the fancy hotels occupy the most beautiful beaches (The Four Seasons - see photo below/The Banyan Tree/Raffles). Some of these beaches can be accessed from a road or path, so you don’t have to go through the grounds of the hotel itself. In the case of The Four Seasons, you have to walk for over 20 minutes through their grounds to reach the beach. They’re clearly, in a very obnoxious way, making it super difficult for non-residents to join their exceedingly wealthy patrons.
This is a bit sneaky and maybe I shouldn’t be posting it here, but here goes… We had a sunset-watching session and beers on the beach at The Banyan Tree, which you can reach from a road that snakes around the side of the hotel. We had a (relatively) long drive back to our apartment after, so we decided to step into the hotel to have a drink and a snack. Upon entering the hotel, we were mistaken for guests. Indeed it seems that people don’t usually just stroll in for a drink. Maybe due to it’s isolated location on the island. Anyway, the moment we chose so perfectly coincided with Happy Hour. We were offered a free drink and canapés (including sushi and chicken satay).
The smaller islands
The island of Praslin in the distance
The smaller islands are more idyllic, more peaceful and consequently more expensive. Nonetheless, it’s still possible to see these places on a budget. You’ll pay more for accommodation – the cheapest we could find was still $25 more expensive than the beautiful spot we had on Mahe, and for the price it was extremely disappointing – a basic room and bathroom (no kitchen) at the back of a dirty and unkempt plot of land. It was also home to a worrying number of large cockroaches.
The key here is to splurge a little extra on self-catering accommodation, as there’s a decent supermarket for all of your cooking needs. We only managed to find one cheaply priced food option, which was a hole-in-the-wall, fat-food joint called ‘Gala Takeaway’ that served up simple, but adequately-sized rice and meat dishes.
The catamaran that runs between Mahe, Praslin and La Digue isn’t super cheap, but it’s affordable at $120pp return. There’s also a cargo boat – ‘La Belle Seraphina’ – that links Mahe to La Digue. It’s not the most comfortable ride and it takes up most of the day, but it’s the only budget option that will get you from island to island.
There’s actually a fair bit to do on the islands, as well as lounging around on world-class beaches and going for leisurely swims when it gets too hot.
The world under the water is just as impressive as what lies on land. Professionally run snorkeling and diving trips definitely won’t suit budget travellers, but the reefs and marine life deserve to be seen. I definitely recommend taking a snorkel mask and exploring in your own time.
If you have a bit of money to spend on one activity, then this is what I would recommend doing. Small skiffs head to the best spots every day; spots that you won’t be able to reach by swimming off land. You can book at basically any tour operator that you come across.
There are numerous hiking routes - from gentle coastal walks, to more strenuous treks that take you through ancient, tropical forest.
This was undoubtedly my favourite day in the Seychelles. I need more entertainment than 9 days of beach! It consisted of a two-hour hike through beautiful forest, which, every now and then, opened up to spectacular coastal views. We set off from La Scala restaurant – you can leave your car here and the path starts just a little bit further down the road. It’s well signposted. We left early in the morning, at around 8am, to avoid other people and walking in blistering heat. This is definitely and experience that improves with solitude. When we arrived at Anse Major beach we were indeed the only ones, apart form a small yacht that had anchored 100m offshore.
Take lots of water, your swimming stuff, sun cream, some fruit, your snorkel and something to lie down on, and that’s you set for the day. You’ll be interrupted at times by other exploratory tourists, but who cares? This is paradise.
Oh, and the sunsets aren't so bad either...
Watch video footage of our time in the Seychelles. If I haven't already convinced you, this might...