A palm-lined beach, dominated by an expensively elegant resort with beachfront rooms and romantic restaurants. That is probably the first image that comes to your mind when you think about Seychelles. Well, there are indeed islands in Seychelles, such as Fregate, that take “expensive” to a whole new level.
But if experiencing authentic island life is what you are looking for, then traveling on a budget and on the main islands, where the majority of the population resides, is the way to go. There, you will find elderly locals playing chess and backgammon on the jetty, young locals having a barbecue at the beach, and kids overrunning the bus on their way back from school. Oh, and the palm-lined beaches…
So, if Seychelles has been on your mind for a very long time – and why shouldn’t it be – here are a few of our key tips for traveling there on a budget!
Find the Cheap Flights
Instead of visiting the islands during the summer holidays or Christmas, when the prices are sky rocked, opt for the shoulder months of April/May and October/November. You will not only find better prices, but you will also enjoy the islands at their best since April and November are the window months between the northwest and southeast trade winds.
As always, the cheap flights are the inconvenient ones: during the middle of the week, early in the morning or late at night, before or after festivals and holidays, and mainly the ones with layovers. All international flights land at the International Airport of Seychelles (SEZ), located on Mahé island. Direct flights are available from London, Frankfurt, Paris, Zurich, Istanbul, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Nairobi, and Addis Abeba. These flights, however, are expensive, and you will save a lot if you opt for one with layovers. For example, if you fly to Seychelles from Zurich via Frankfurt, you will pay 400€, while those who will catch the same flight from Frankfurt will pay 500€ just because it is a direct one.
Visit the Main Islands
Of the 115 islands that comprise Seychelles, only eight are permanently inhabited, with more than four-fifths of the population living on Mahé. The next-largest population is in Praslin and La Digue, respectively. With plenty of accommodation options and cheap eats, these three main islands are ideal to base yourself on if traveling on a budget. Moreover, getting around them is pretty easy, as fast and reliable ferry services operate between them.
The main islands can easily keep you busy for ten days, but if you have more time – and money – to spend, opt for day tours to the nearby islands. From Mahé, you can visit the Sainte Anne Marine National Park, while Cousin, Curieuse & St Pierre, and Aride make excellent day trips from Praslin. Once on La Digue you can go on a snorkeling tour to Cocos, Félicité, Grande Soeur, and Petite Soeur. For each of the day-trips expect to pay anything between 60€ and 150€, including the landing and entrance fees.
Tip: When it comes to day trips, avoid booking before arriving on the islands. You will get much better prices through your accommodation or if you visit the tour providers in person.
Travel Cheap around Seychelles
Traveling between the islands
Daily catamaran services connect Mahé with neighboring islands Praslin and La Digue. The journey between Mahé and Praslin takes an hour and is operated by Cat Cocos, while the scenic 15 min catamaran crossing between Praslin and La Digue is operated either by Cat Cocos or by Cat Rose. The cheapest tickets for a Mahé – Praslin – La Digue – Mahé round trip will cost you 125€. You can find the timetables and book your tickets online through Seychelles Bookings.
Tip: If you are traveling during summer, bear in mind that the sea is very rough and it may be a good idea to spend some extra money to fly from Mahé to Praslin. If you book well in advance, you can find air tickets as cheap as 70€ (the catamaran costs 50€).
Traveling around the main islands
The most affordable way to travel throughout Praslin and Mahé is the local bus, known as Blue Monster (SPTC). On Praslin, the bus operates from 05.50 to 18.20, while on Mahé from 05.30 to 20.30. There is also a night bus from Monday to Saturday, tracing the northern and southern parts of the island.
$ All-day fare trips cost a flat rate of SRC 7, which can be paid directly to the bus driver, while the night service on Mahé costs SRC 10. There is also a tourist bus, where air conditioning is available, costing SRC 15.
On La Digue, the main means of transport is the bike. You can rent one in the jetty or through your accommodation for about 10€ per day.
Travel in a Group
An easy way to cut costs on travel to Seychelles is by planning the trip with a larger group of friends. The accommodation and car rental, starting from €60 per night and 50€ per day respectively, will be your biggest expenses, and splitting their cost can make the trip much more affordable.
Visiting with a group is also the best way to save money when it comes to day trips. Except for Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue, the rest of the islands can only be visited either on organized day tours, ranging from 60-150€/person, or by renting a private boat. Opting for the latter and splitting the expenses with your group or other travelers will both save you money and get you a private tour.
Stay in Guesthouses
In Seychelles, for sure, you will find those Instagram-favorite luxury villas and private island resorts. But it’s not only that. And even though you will not find hostels or camping sites, you can find affordable accommodation starting from 60€ per night for a double room on one of the three main islands – Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue.
The most affordable and, at the same time, authentic way to experience Seychelles is by staying in one of the Seychellois-owned guesthouses. Run by local families, they offer a special insight into the life of the Seychellois, as they are usually located next to the owner’s house and give you the chance to taste homemade Creole food. Many guesthouses have a small kitchen, but if you are looking for ultimate independence or traveling with children, you can opt for a self-catering apartment, where you can prepare your own meals.
No matter where you choose to stay, buildings are not allowed to rise above palm tree height, and you will never be far away from the beach. Or the jungle!
On the main islands, you are never far from a food van or a takeaway eatery. That is where many locals eat and where you will find the cheapest eats (SCR 40-70). The food is delicious, the servings generous, and you can try traditional Creole curries, fresh fish served with rice and salad, or even homemade burgers with fries.
And don’t forget to try a Seybrew, the locally brewed beer!
On the other hand, if your accommodation offers self-catering facilities, you can keep the costs lower by preparing your own meals. Visit the Victoria Food Market (Mo-Sa 06.00 – 18.00) or the local market in Beau Vallon, and you will find lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish. Just bear in mind that most of the food in Seychelles has to be imported, so everything not locally produced will be pricey.
Bring along the Essentials
Touristy products in Seychelles, such as flip-flops, snorkeling equipment, or sunscreen, are much more expensive than you would expect. And you will need much more sunscreen than you can now imagine! You will only need light clothes as the weather is always warm, so save that extra space for products that will cost you a lot if you buy them locally.
Another way to keep your costs low is by drinking tap water, which is completely safe. So, bring along your water flask, and if you don’t feel like drinking the tap water, bring water filters. Your wallet and the environment will thank you.
Tip: Use your space wisely but do not overpack! There is luggage restriction not only on the airplane but also on the buses and even on taxis!
If you pay by card and you are asked if you would rather pay in the local currency or your home currency, always pick the latter!
Minimize Currency & Credit Card Fees
In Seychelles, all tourists are expected to pay for accommodation, car rental, and excursions either in dollars or in euros, with the latter being the most widely accepted currency. However, you can use local currency, the Seychellois Rupee (SCR), to pay for buses, local markets, and takeaway meals.
But when it comes to paying in SCR, there are a few fees that you will have to pay and which can really add up.
First things first, in order to pay in SCR, you have to get some SCR. What you should absolutely avoid is exchanging money, be it at the airport, your home country, or the local money exchangers. They usually do not charge a commission, but they offer the worst exchange rate. So, this leaves us with the ATM withdrawal. In this case, you will have to pay the ATM fee (about 100 SCR per withdrawal) and the card fee (2-3% per transaction). You will get a better exchange rate but try to minimize your withdrawals.
Anse Georgette, Praslin
Overall: Where to Spend & Where to Save
Based on our experience, our trip would not be complete without visiting the three main islands – Mahé, Praslin, and La Digue. Book accommodation for a few days on each one of them and don’t base yourself on just one, visiting the others as day trips. If you are willing to spend a little more, rent a car on Mahé and Praslin or opt for a day trip to smaller islands such as Curieuse and Sainte Anne.
On the other hand, cut costs by avoiding restaurants, resorts, and souvenirs. The street food is excellent, you will get a warm welcome from the owners of the guesthouses, and when you get back home, you will not regret not having bought that 10€ fridge magnet or 200€ Coco de Mer.