The Seychelles are known as a rather exclusive destination. While you can go completely overboard and visit the islands in the most luxurious way, it is actually possible to visit these lush tropical islands on a budget as well. In this post we’ll give you a few tips on just how to do so!
Plan your trip
First of all, you need to know that the Seychelles government wants you to plan your trip. You cannot enter the islands without having accommodation for all of your nights there. The government uses an electronic border system. Every foreign visitor must fill in this form before traveling to the Seychelles. They ask not only for your flight details, but also for every accommodation you have booked while staying on the islands. After they confirm the details you provided are correct, you are granted permission to land on The Seychelles. You can only apply within a fortnight of your arrival. This system makes it impossible to visit the islands as a backpacker, so for some travelers out there this might require a bit of an adjustment. Before your flight, you need to have booked a place to stay for all nights you’re going to spend on either one of the islands.
The Seychelles consist of different islands, of which Mahé, Praslin & La Digue are the largest and most frequented. Mahé has an international airport. La Digue has a small airport, which only accepts local flights. The easiest and cheapest way to travel between the island, though, is to book a ferry. Make sure you do this about 30 days prior to your arrival, or you might not find an available ferry anymore. We booked online with Cat Cocos. We took a ferry from Mahé to La Digue, then from La Digue to Praslin and another one from Praslin back to Mahé. The total cost for the 3 of us was €370. We booked outdoor deck seats for two of the ferry rides (on the 3d one they were fully booked already, so we had to settle with a spot inside). Deck seats are more expensive than indoor seats, so you can probably do this a bit cheaper if you want to.
Transportation on the islands varies. On the small island of La Digue you don’t need anything but a bicycle. Most hotels offer bikes or assist with bike rental. The island is so small that you can cycle from north to south in about half an hour and everybody rides a bicycle there. We stayed at La Digue for 2,5 days and rented 3 bicycles for SCR 1050 (about €72). Every morning, our bicycles where cleaned and tires and breaks where checked. A very good service! It might be good to take a portable bicycle light with you, as we noticed that bikes on the island usually don’t have any lights. We cycled home after dinner using our mobile phone flashlights, but that’s not exactly the safest way I suppose 😉
Both Mahé and Praslin have a good bus network, though it’s not always that clear which bus you can take at a stop or which time your bus will arrive. You can check the timetable online & it’s best to ask your accommodation which bus you need to take & where the stop is. During weekends and public holidays buses don’t run that frequently, so a bit of planning might be needed. Buses never run past 7 PM, so take that into account if you want to stay out late. A walk or taxi back will be needed.
We used buses on Mahé & Praslin and never had any difficulties. Bus drivers and locals are always helpful to tell you when to get off. We felt safe using the bus (no speedy or reckless drivers on the islands!). A bus ticket only cost us SCR 72 (about €4) for the 3 of us. It doesn’t matter how far you need to go, the ticket price is always the same. You have to pay cash on the bus, so make sure you have some SCR with you.
The only downside is that extensive luggage (big backpacks, a suitcase,…) is not allowed on the local buses. That meant we needed to book a taxi to take us from the airport to our hotel, and to and from the ferries. Taxi fares set us back between SCR 300 (about €20) and SCR 600 for a single ride of about 10-15 minutes. We also took a taxi to and from the starting point of our snorkeling tour, because we needed to be there early and had to take a lot of gear with us. This cost us SCR 800 (retour). You can also book a day tour with a taxi driver, an option we took on Praslin to visit two of the more remote beaches there. It’s possible to do this with a combination of the bus & a long walk uphill, but we took the more comfortable option. This set us back SCR 1000.
If you want to book a taxi, your accommodation can always help you before you travel. They negotiate on a fair price for you. You can always contact our drivers directly on WhatsApp. On Mahé we can recommend mr. Ronny (+248 2 591 010) and on Praslin mr. Laurent (+248 2 510 652).
You can always choose to rent a car yourself. We often do so while travelling, but we didn’t on the Seychelles. Hiring a basic small car will cost about €50 per day, but considering the fact that you probably need a bigger one to fit all your luggage, you might want to rent an automatic (you really don’t want to shift manually on those steep mountain roads!) and factor in that you also need gas, this is not the cheapest option. In the Seychelles they also drive on the left and did we mention the (really!) steep mountain roads already? 😉
We made sure we always booked a bed & breakfast option. A typical Seychelles breakfast consists of fresh fruit, followed by toast with jam and eggs. Some hotels also include pancakes, or yogurt and cereals. You won’t start your day hungry!
For lunch our options were more limited. We had expected shops with fresh fruit and maybe some cheese and bread to take out for lunch, but apart from the ever present small bananas (often not looking all that fresh), there wasn’t a lot of fruit (or anything else) available in the local, small supermarkets. We usually had a big breakfast and so we could manage with some cookies or local chips made from breadfruit (which were surprisingly delicious). Along with bottled water, some soft drinks and a couple of beers for the evening, we payed around €25 a day for groceries.
As for dinner, we can highly recommend the local foodstalls you can find everywhere on the islands. On Mahé, we stayed in Beau Vallon. Leo’s Food Bus & the Baobab Pizzeria are great options to eat out there. On La Digue we had dinner at the excellent Rey & Josh Café and at Tarosa take-away.
The take-away restaurants always have a variety of curries on offer (usually with rice, and often quite spicy, so make sure to ask for a non-spicy option if you’re traveling with a child). Some of them also offer fries & burgers, or grilled fish. They are frequented both by locals and tourists and we loved the atmosphere at all of them. We payed between SCR 210 and SCR 410 for 3 meals and soft drinks, which comes down to anything between €4.5 to €10 per person. Cheap, tasty and the portions are large enough!
At Baobab pizzeria we payed slightly more (our bill was always around SCR 700 / €50 for 3 very large pizza’s and soft drinks); the spectacular sunset on the beach you’re dining at is included in the price ;-). So, that’s still really affordable for 3 persons.
The restaurants, on the other hand, are expensive. You simply can’t go to a restaurant and eat affordably in our experience. The cheapest restaurant dinner we had was €40 per person, the most expensive €68 (we payed between SCR 1635 and SCR 3000 for our restaurant dinners, the most expensive one included cocktails, a mocktail and desserts as well). We were forced to go out to restaurants on Praslin, because we stayed there during the Easter days and all local takeaways were closed because of the public holiday. We always dined out at Lobster Bay there, which we can recommend: the meals are excellent. Make sure to try the grilled octopus if you ever get there!
On Mahé, we had an excellent dinner at La Plage, a restaurant owned by a Belgian. It was quite funny to hear Belgian music playing while having dinner. Bazart, Angèle, Stromae & Balthazar on a tropical beach. They even serve typical Belgian childrens’ dishes, like meatballs in tomato sauce.
Though the Seychelles are home to some excellent & classy hotels, with infinity pools looking over the beach, you can also book affordable accommodation. We payed an average of €137 for a 3-persons bedroom, with air conditioning, fridge and breakfast included. All of our hotels had a swimming pool and were within a 5 minutes walk from the beach. Our hotel on Mahé was a bit further away from the local food stalls (a 2,5 km walk to Baobab Pizza, which was the furthest away), but we didn’t mind. A fancy hotel along the beach will easily cost you €600, or even much more, per night. We even saw prices of €1300 (per person!).
On Mahé we can highly recommend staying at Marie Laure Suites. The hotel & garden are beautiful, the swimming pool is big and the breakfast is great. The staff is amazingly friendly and they helped us out with everything, from booking an excursion over getting a taxi ride or even washing our sup gear. You have a very small but nice beach just a 5 minutes walk away, or you can go over to the lovely Beau Vallon beach in about 15 minutes on foot.
If you decide to go to La Digue (which you really, really should do in our opinion), book at Cabanes des Anges. The villa-style rooms are located in a lush garden, breakfast and service is excellent. We had the best time there and the staff was amazingly friendly as well, helping out with everything we needed.
For Praslin we don’t have a tip. When we booked, most hotels on the east coast (near Cote d’Or beach) were fully booked or really expensive. We booked a simple bed & breakfast option along the west coast (Grande Anse), but the place isn’t worth a recommendation. Grande Anse is a lovely large beach with very shallow water at first, so we did like the area.
We found that the only thing we couldn’t do in an affordable way, were the guided snorkel excursions. They are expensive on the Seychelles – period. We did two of them and don’t regret doing so, because on those tours you visit a few of the smaller islands around and are taken to some great snorkeling spots. A daytrip usually has a very decent barbecue lunch included as well, but still they are by far the most expensive tours we ever booked. Expect to pay around €110 – €150 per person for a full day.
Other entry prices were reasonable. Valée de Mai is expensive (we payed SCR 1350 without a guided tour, which is about €90), but definately a MUST-do when you are on the island. You also have to pay for the entry to l’Union Estate, the estate surrounding Anse Source d’Argent. That will set you back SCR 150 per person (about €10). A great tip is to get your ticket after 4PM; that way you can enjoy the sunset there and go back with the same ticket the day after.
Since we had our own snorkeling gear with us, we didn’t have to pay for any of our other activities. We snorkeled A LOT (we didn’t see too many options to hire gear, so bringing your own gear is highly recommended), did a few hikes and took in all the gorgeous beaches along the way. We had our own sups with us. To our suprise we didn’t see ANY sup rentals on the islands; the only other sups we saw along the way were people who had brought their own or came from a yacht passing by. Judging by the surprised talks we had with locals who had apparently never seen a sup-board, we can conclude it’s still not a common sport around these parts 😉
So, is it really affordable?
Yes, it is. Excluding the flights, we had a total expense of €97 per person, per day, all inclusive. Though it is certainly not our cheapest destination, for the Seychelles this is really affordable. You don’t have to book the more expensive day trips & you can certainly save up on restaurant costs if you don’t travel there during a public holiday. You also have to know that we are obliged to travel in peak season (since we both work in education and Febe has to attend school), so there are probably even options to go cheaper than this. For us it was a dream destination and we already know we’ll never find beaches as beautiful as we did there.
Another bonus is, though this is Africa, it’s still really westerly. It’s clean and organised. There are also no tropical diseases, so no need to worry about malaria, dengue or zika-virus. So it’s an ideal destination to do with younger children or just if you’re worried about the above yourself.