Scammed in Guraidhoo: The Shady Guesthouse Owner


I’d been in the Maldives for two weeks. I’d fallen in love with beautiful Maafushi and quiet Fulidhoo and it was time to visit my final local island. Like with the previous two islands, I didn’t know what to expect from Guraidhoo — all I knew was that it was a surfing hotspot.

Maafushi was one of the most touristy islands in the Maldives for independent travellers and Fulidhoo had no other tourists. A hippie surf-haven sounded like a fun way to end our time in the country.

Arriving in Guraidhoo
Arriving in Guraidhoo

Our arrival in Guraidhoo didn’t leave me with a great first impression. There were no beaches, no turquoise water and no white sand. The ferry terminal was noisy, full of construction workers and scaffolding-covered buildings. I plastered a smile over my grimace and leapt off the ferry, eager to meet our guesthouse owner.

“That’s weird,” I mumbled to Dave a few seconds later. “He said he’d meet us from the ferry. Should we wait?” There was nobody meeting people from the boat and the passengers had quickly dispersed. We were the only people who weren’t building, uh, buildings.

He shrugged. “I dunno. You spoke to him.”

“Yeah. He said he’d meet us here.”

Fortunately, like every island in the Maldives, Guraidhoo was small and walkable. If the guesthouse owner had forgotten about us, we’d easily find our way. I dropped my bags on the concrete and sat on my backpack with a sigh. It had been a long day: A two hour ferry from Fulidhoo, six hours of waiting around in Maafushi, and an hour-long ferry to Guraidhoo. I was drugged up on motion sickness pills and sweating under the late-afternoon sun.

“Shall we just go find it ourselves?” I asked, desperate for a nap.

Dave looked up from his phone. “Yeah. It’s marked on this map as being 200 metres away.”

I pulled my backpack on and walked along the sandy path. It was a hot day — close to 40 degrees — and I was burning up. As a sign of respect, I’d tried to cover up as much as possible, but because of my limited wardrobe, that meant wearing jeans, socks, sneakers, a t-shirt, a hoodie, and a shawl. All of which were now drenched.

My skipping turned to trudging as I followed Dave around a corner and onto a stony beach. Pink Floyd’s Us and Them blasted out from a nearby home and lyrics from a Bob Marley song were scrawled across the nearest wall. I stared at the ocean, waiting for our guesthouse to materialise. “So my phone marks the guesthouse as being here,” he said.

“On the beach?”

“No. Next to the beach.”

“Well it’s not here.”

“I know that.”

“What’s the name of it?”

“Didn’t you book it?”

“Yeah, but I don’t remember the name.”

“How can you not remember?”

“Because I’m an idiot, clearly.” I rolled my eyes. “Just tell me the name. Please?”

“Coral Heaven.”

“Okie doke, lemme find it.” I swung my backpack to his feet and set off along the beach, peering in every doorway to try and find Coral Heaven. I let myself walk 100 metres before my confidence faded. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so optimistic about the the map’s accuracy, given that it only marked three places on the island.

“Nothing,” I sighed, returning to Dave.

I felt like crying when I saw him tighten the straps of his backpack and start back the way we’d come. “It can’t be hard to find,” he called out as I stumbled after him.

Colourful door on Guraidhoo
Colourful door on Guraidhoo

“This is ridiculous,” I moaned, one hour later. “This guesthouse does not exist!” I was in desperate need of a glass of water and my shoulders were raw from carrying my backpack from door to door. It was starting to get dark and I was exhausted, frustrated and in pain. Dave focused straight ahead as we walked down the main road for the twentieth time that day. “Seriously, Dave. Shall we just find somewhere else?”

We passed a couple sitting in chairs outside their house and the man stood up to greet us. “Good day!” He called. “Can I help you? You have been walking on our island for many hours!”

“Coral. Heaven?” I panted, receiving little more than a frown in response.

Dave ambled up beside me and held out his hand. “Hi! We’re looking for a guesthouse called Coral Heaven. Do you happen to know where it is?”

“Coral Heaven. Hmmm.” He clicked his tongue and looked up and down the path. “Yes. Two minutes. Please sit.” He pulled out his phone and we eased ourselves into the seats next to his wife. She smiled and I attempted to smile back, concerned that my wild hair, lobster red skin and teary eyes made me look like I belonged in the jail on Maafushi.

“He is here,” my hero announced a few minutes later, putting his phone in his pocket and pointing towards a young guy walking towards us. “He can take you to Coral Heaven.”

“Thank. You. So. Much.”

Construction everywhere!
Construction in Guraidhoo

“You have reservation?” The young guy asked, leading us down a path we’d walked a dozen times before.

“Yep,” I said.

“Agoda?”

“No, Airbnb.”

“Oh. Hmm.”

I looked at Dave but he wasn’t looking at me. What if there wasn’t a room for us after all this walking around? I tried to telepathically pass on my fears to him so we could prepare.

We turned onto probably the only alleyway we hadn’t walked along on the island and through a gate with Coral Heaven painted above it in large, bright letters.

“Hello!” An older man wandered out of the guesthouse and grinned at us as we walked through the doorway.

“Hello!” I replied with more enthusiasm than I felt.

“I am afraid that the person who runs the bookings did not tell us that you were going to be here. You will wait one hour while we clean your room?”

It had been a frustrating start to our time in Guraidhoo.

Beach in Guraidhoo
Beach in Guraidhoo.

The following morning, I was greeted with a solemn meal. I’d fallen in love with Maldivian breakfasts over the couple of weeks we’d been in the country, and eating them at guesthouses was one of my highlights of my day. While the other guests at the table tucked into their glorious plate of shredded fish, garlic and lime, we were given a “continental breakfast”: Slices of bread so sweet they tasted like cake, an overcooked egg and a soggy hot dog. I gazed at the other guests’ plates and considered stealing their leftovers when they returned to their room.

“From now on,” Dave asked, as they collected our half-eaten breakfasts later on, “can we have a Maldivian breakfast every morning?”

Guraidhoo panorama
Guraidhoo panorama

Guraidhoo was disappointing. I didn’t fall in love.

Dave and I circled the island after breakfast, searching for a beach to spend our day on. Unlike in Maafushi and Fulidhoo, there wasn’t a stretch of sand reserved for tourists, and the beaches weren’t very exciting. I wasn’t expecting them to be paradise-like after reading that Guraidhoo was a surf, rather than a beach, destination, but it was a little disappointing.

I also wasn’t expecting the surf to be several hundred metres from shore.

Surf in Guraidhoo
Surf in the distance

So that was a bit strange.

The beach wasn’t great for sunbathing (especially as I had to do so wearing board shorts and a t-shirt) and the water was a bit murky, so I spent much of my time reading in the shade. I didn’t hate Guraidhoo but I sort of wished I was in Maafushi or Fulidhoo instead.

It was time to cheer myself up!

Guraidhoo is near a place called Manta Point, famed for attracting bajillions of manta rays. I’d failed at spotting them in Fulidhoo but taking a trip to Manta Point sounded like it would lead to success. Would a snorkeling trip to Manta Point end up saving my opinion of Guraidhoo? I booked myself on one to find out.

View from the boat
View from the boat

On the morning of our manta ray hunt, we were faced with another continental breakfast, and once more we asked for a Maldivian breakfast in the future. I’m not often fussy about guesthouse breakfasts but we were paying $5 a day for them and the Western ones were gross. Has anyone ever had a good continental breakfast at a guesthouse in Asia?

“It is not good weather today,” our guide told us, five minutes into our snorkel trip. “We will not see manta rays probably, but we will take you to good reefs. The best reefs are far away and petrol is expensive. To see the best reefs we will charge you $50 per person. Extra $20 each.”

I gritted my teeth and mentally composed an angry Facebook status. I wasn’t a big fan of snorkeling and was going on this trip solely because I wanted to see manta rays — not because I wanted to snorkel. Just like the $5 breakfasts, we were going to be paying for something we didn’t want.

Damn, I was being grumpy and ungrateful. 

I forced a smile to my face and delved into the bag we were handed, choosing a mask and pulling out some fins to try on.

“You can’t wear those,” Dave said as I slid them over my feet. “There’s so much space!” He ran his fingers around the edge. “They’ll just end up hurting you.”

I shrugged. “These are the smallest ones.”

Don’t be grumpy. I warned myself. You’re in paradise. Enjoy the experience. Be grateful. Wear those goddamn fins.

The driver cut the engine and we drifted over the turquoise water in silence. I watched our guide slip into the water and Dave do the same. I crossed my fingers and followed after them, praying that I wouldn’t be attacked by an octopus.

I bobbed in the ocean, my feet flapping uselessly in my fins. “You ready?” Our guide called out to us before diving underwater and out of sight. In a panic, I snapped my mask down over my face, shoved the snorkel in my mouth and threw myself facedown into the water. I flailed my arms in an attempt to force myself forward, each frantic gasp taking in more seawater than oxygen. I thrashed in the water, gulping down water and retching as I began to run out of air.

In a panic, I flipped myself back upright and ripped off my mask, gagging and willing myself not to throw up. I didn’t want to attract a killer octopus with my continental vomit. My eyes were sore and streaming, my hair was stuck to my face, I had snot plastered over my cheeks and I was dribbling down my chin. I felt like Neptune, emerging from the watery depths. That is, if Neptune was known for wailing while drenched in bodily fluids. And was a girl.

Snorkeling. I love it.

It was time for another go. With Dave and our guide disappearing into the distance, I ducked my head underwater and cleaned myself off. I carefully pulled my mask back over my face and tugged on the straps, making sure it was watertight. I shook the water out of my snorkel and placed it back in my mouth. I propelled myself forwards. Gently. Gingerly.

I took a deep breath and forced my face into the water, my eyes widening when I saw what was living just a few metres below. Coral of every colour of the rainbow, shimmering under the midday sun. A bright blue fish flitted past my mask, and a pink and yellow one swam alongside me.

I looked ahead to see where Dave was and kicked my way over to him. Touching his side to let him know I was there, I followed his gaze and spotted a sea turtle snapping at the yellow coral, directly below us. I watched in awe as it abandoned the seabed and swam towards us. It flapped its arms as if it were flying and rose up in front of us, now within touching distance. It reached the surface, opened its mouth, took a breath and returned to the coral for a snack.

“Mmmmhmmmgaaaaammmabalooooooommmmmahhhhaaaaaabaaaaaagaaaaahhhh!” I gargled through my snorkel in excitement.

From that moment on, Guraidhoo had redeemed itself. Upon returning to dry land, buzzing after discovering a beautiful world under the sea, everything had changed. Our guesthouse was a little shinier, the sand a little softer, the water a little clearer, the breakfasts a little… uh, maybe not. I was just starting to think that Guraidhoo wasn’t so bad after all.

And then we were scammed by our guesthouse owner.

It was the night before we were due to leave and we were woken in the middle of the night by shouting. The group of friends who were staying in the room along from ours were screaming at the guesthouse owner. I strained my ears and managed to make out that the owner had quoted them a price for a day trip to a nearby island and, upon returning from the trip, was now quoting them double. I rolled my eyes and pulled my pillow over my head, waiting for the arguing to stop.

People really need to make sure of the price of activities before they agree to them, I thought. Translation issues are common and you need to make sure you’re clear on the price. Dave and I had just returned from a trip to Olhuveli Island and we’d made absolutely certain of the price before booking. We’d said, “So, that’s $80 total for a return trip? $40 return for each person? So, $20 per person each way?” And we’d asked three different staff members those same questions. We’d been caught out with so-called translation problems in the past and are always careful to clarify with multiple people now.

But it turns out that the people staying next door were right, and the owner was a horrible person. When it came time for us to pay our bill, there was a surprise $160 scrawled down on a piece of paper.

No.

We had been so freaking careful that there was no way this was a translation issue.

We were also down to our last $100. We couldn’t afford to pay, and we needed to keep some of that $100 to get us back to Male.

I sat in a chair and trembled with rage as I listened to Dave arguing with the owner over the phone.

“No. There is no way we would have agreed to this! We told you how much money we have left — you knew we only had $100 left so why on earth would we agree to pay more than that? No– no! Listen to me. We asked you– we asked three of your staff for the price and you all confirmed it was $20 per person each way. You even quote that as being the price online! You cannot get away with just doubling the price because you feel like it. You did it with the people who stayed last night and now you’re doing it to us! Is this really how you run your business? You’re really going to try and charge us $160 for a 12 kilometre round trip?”

The staff members gathered around and nodded in agreement. We’d spoken with all of them about the price before leaving and they knew we were being scammed.

“Right,” Dave continued. “I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. We’re going to pay the $80 we agreed to pay for the trip– let me finish! And then I’m going to pay you $30 extra from my emergency supply of cash.”

“No!” I whispered, annoyed he was giving in to him.

Dave shrugged and hung up the phone, putting it down on the table.

“Sir, we are very sorry,” said one of the staff members.

“It’s okay,” Dave replied. “It’s not your fault.” And it’s true. The staff at the guesthouse were absolutely lovely. The owner was an asshole. We returned to our room and packed our bags. I was fuming. My body can never handle surges of adrenaline very well and I could tell I was on the verge of a panic attack. My entire body was trembling and I had pins and needles in my hands and feet. I felt ice cold but covered in sweat, even though it was hot outside and we didn’t have the air conditioning on.

It was our final day in the Maldives. It was the final day of one of the best trips I had and I was leaving with a sour taste in my mouth.

“Fuck this guy for giving me my first panic attack in over a year,” I groaned between deep breaths.

There was a knock at the door.

“Sir, I am sorry,” the staff member shifted from one foot to the other. “My boss. He wants all of the money. He wants $160.”

“I don’t have $160,” Dave replied. “And you know we agreed on $80.”

“Sir, I’m sorry. It is my boss.”

I watched Dave walk over to his backpack and reach into his emergency stash. He pulled out another $10. “This is all I have left.”

It was time to leave the Maldives.

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Next Month 40: Travel Summary and Statistics

93 Comments

  1. alex snow
    November 20, 2014
    Reply

    Hi, it sucks that guesthouse owner tried to rip you off. May be it will help to know the exact name of this scamer so others can avoid it, also the address for reference.
    Enjoy your travels.

    • Lauren
      December 9, 2014
      Reply

      Sorry, not sure of his name! The guesthouse is Coral Heaven Guesthouse, though. Not many guesthouses on Guraidhoo so easily avoidable :-)

  2. Amy
    November 20, 2014
    Reply

    He’s not just an asshole, he’s an idiot. When independent tourists are so rare- both on your specific island and your country in general- why on EARTH would you scam them so they will go home and tell everyone not to stay with you? It’s twice as bad because you’re a travel blogger, but in this day and age owners need to wise up!

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2014
      Reply

      Agreed! It’s especially interesting as I’d had a conversation with him a few days before the scam, where I told him I worked as a travel writer. He knew I was going to be writing about Guraidhoo and still decided to rip us off! It was an incredibly stupid thing to do.

  3. John
    November 20, 2014
    Reply

    Wow, what an asshole! But in this age of technology and reviews on booking sites, I’m sure he’ll ultimately get what he deserves. Hopefully others being scammed will be leaving negative feedback too which should help deter business. I hate to hear about unfortunate events like this but I guess the silver lining is that it made for a good story. ;-) Thanks for exposing this jerk. If ever in the Maldives, I’ll be sure to avoid at all costs.

    • Lauren
      December 9, 2014
      Reply

      I do hope so — I’ve already deterred a few people from staying at his guesthouse, which makes me happy! Hopefully anyone thinking about staying there will see my review and choose somewhere else :-)

  4. Savannah
    November 20, 2014
    Reply

    Agh!! This bothers me so much. I have had the same experiences in Thailand, India, and Kenya. They cannot get away this crap. Just because we are foreigners. It is racist and immoral.

    I am so sorry you had to experience that! It’s exhausting having to always have your guard up against everyone. And then you end up generalizing the whole Country. I was on a market tour in India and after the tour the guide said he won’t unlock the locker where our bags were kept during the tour unless we paid double. This kind of shit really ruins your day, your trip, your impression, your trust with the locals.

    Remember that not everyone is out to scam us. We’ve had to be more careful where we put our bags, where we stay, and we always pay one night at a time to make sure we don’t get smacked with a bill at the end.

    Stay positive!!! :)

  5. Katie @ The World on my Necklace
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    God what a bastard! I hope that outing the guesthouse on your blog will stop other people staying there and being ripped off too. Sorry you didn’t get to see the manta rays too – we just saw them in Fiji last month

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2014
      Reply

      I hope so too! I’m pleased to see I already rank on the first page of Google for the guesthouse name :-). So desperate to see manta rays — one day!

  6. Josh@iransofaraway.com
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    I’ll be going to Maldives in a couple months. I definitely now know where I will NOT be staying. I did a search on the place and saw their response to your Air Bnb review saying they will make sure this doesn’t happen to somebody else. If they were serious about being a good business, they would have reimbursed you the difference and not left your claims uncontested and say we won’t do it again. With the power of the Internet, I am certain that they will lose far more money because of their unethical and greedy nature. It doesn’t do anything for your wallet now, but atrocious human beings like these generally do get what’s coming to them.

  7. Chris Schwarz
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    I have just spent 3 weeks on the Maldives and have a few comments about all of Lauren’s posts.

    First of all, in Guraidhoo I stayed at “Rip Tide Inn” and have no complaints (owner and staff we fantastic), I actually asked about Coral Heaven and the owner is well known as a devious capitalist.

    Secondly, Lauren has mentioned “Fast WiFi” multiple times throughout her post series. Depending on how you measure fast I found this entirely inaccurate, I tested the WiFi at more than 20 places on 4 islands every time it was lucky to get to 2 Mbps – which is just impossible for working. However, as Lauren mentioned the 3G speeds are excellent (I used the Dhiraguu network), I was averaging anywhere from 4-6 Mbps on any island. You can also buy 2 gig of data for $10 on all the islands I went to to top up. Dont bother with WiFi.

    Finally, the beaches on the islands that Lauren went to were terrible. When they were a bit nicer, they were small and crowded. Every European I asked about, loved them though so i assume this is just my opinion (I am australian).

    I can agree with her that the Maldives were awesome. It was so much more fun to hang out on local islands and interact with the kids (who can speak great english) than hang out on a resort islands. I was a solo traveller though.

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2014
      Reply

      Hi Chris,

      I’d suggest that the time of year you visited played a large part in your opinion of the beaches being crowded. I visited in low season and you visited during high season — there’s a big difference. In Maafushi, there was never more than 5-10 people on the main beach, and I didn’t see another person on the beach in Fulidhoo. Both islands had some of the least crowded beaches I’ve experienced. In Maafushi, for example, we were the only people in our guesthouse (in September) but our owner told us that it was fully booked from October until the end of the year.

      I’m really surprised to hear you found the beaches to be “terrible”, though. The photos I’ve uploaded to my posts are an accurate representation of how they were when I was there (I wasn’t Photoshopping people out of them!), and I’d say they were far from terrible. Not really sure it’s about me being European, though — I’ve been to plenty of beaches in Australia, and I’m always complaining if beaches are too busy! There was genuinely hardly anyone on them.

      Also, with regards to the Wi-Fi, if 2mbps is impossible for you to work with, you must be pretty restricted in where you can work around the world (currently writing this in Burma where I’ve yet to see anything faster than 0.3mbps!)? 2mbps is perfectly fine for me to work with and, compared to most Wi-Fi speeds I’ve experienced while travelling in Asia this year, ranks as being one of the fastest (also, speeds were more like 5mbps for me). After having spent most of the last three years in developing countries, I guess my opinion of fast Wi-Fi is different to yours. I’d say that perhaps the time of year you visited affected the speeds, as well. If there were lots more people visiting and guesthouses were full it would definitely slow things down. We were the only people using the networks in most cases.

      Anyway, sorry to hear you didn’t have as wonderful time in the Maldives as I did! I guess the trick is to go during low season :-)

      Also, pleased to hear that the Coral Heaven owner has a bad reputation! :-)

    • Landon
      January 11, 2015
      Reply

      Mellow out Chris, 2 Mbps is pretty fast for most 2nd & 3rd world countries. If you’re cranking the internet faster than that, then you’ll be burning up way more than 2 GB of data each day. An additional $10+ a day is pretty steep for most budget travelers.

      Also, less than 20% occupancy at a hotel implies pretty empty beaches. I wonder how they got crowded. Maybe day tourists :)

      • Lauren
        November 22, 2015
        Reply

        Haha.

  8. Chris Schwarz
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    Dont get me wrong, it was a new country for me & had very low expectations – so I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    I was there halfway through October + 3 weeks and Guesthouses on Maafushi and Guiradhoo were only about 20% full, some nights I was the only person.

    I am a speed nerd and ran thorough tests in a variety of situations in the Maldives. My advice for anyone that wants to work from the Maldives is to get a sim card & do not rely on the WiFi as it’s slow (even for a developing country).

    Thanks for your reply & enjoy Burma.

  9. Angelica @BkChickTravels
    November 20, 2014
    Reply

    O my gosh! I know things like that happen everywhere, even if Maldives shouldn’t be included. That’s a crappy experience. I’m happy you shared but wish that didn’t happen to you guys!

    • Lauren
      December 9, 2014
      Reply

      Yeah, it’s a shame… and I wasn’t expecting it to happen in the Maldives because tourism is so new. I definitely don’t hold it against the country though.

  10. Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    omg I would have been furious! Was it not possible to just leave? I have been living in India for two years and have definitely faced my fair share of scams, but in cases where it’s clear I’m being scammed and they know it too- I just walk away and say I’ll tell the police, and I never pay. I am so sorry you had to deal with that!

  11. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    Such a shame to hear thi happened – that really sucks especially after you had such a magical underwater experience – it’s horrible, that sense of betrayal when you know you’ve been exploited in a place where you paid good money. Hope it doesn’t happen again to you elsewhere or others staying there and hopefully by writing this, you’ll help others be aware

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2014
      Reply

      Yeah, it’s always a horrible feeling to be scammed. I usually let it slide and don’t worry about it if the scammer looks like they need the money more than I do. But this guy clearly wasn’t in desperate need and living in poverty — all nice suits and charging $60 a night at his guesthouse. Such a shame!

  12. Mary Akis
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    I always read your updates and after I had read your experience and then read most of the comments on here I Thought…wow…so I Googled it and you know what…now I don’t trust online evaluations of places like this, because whether it was TripAdvisor or Booking,com, agoda.com tall the reviews give it a 4/5.

    Recently watched an episode of Marketplace (which is a Canadian) consumer type show and it showed how places can easily put in false reviews.

    Sad.

    Glad that you are onto your next adventure.

    Stay safe

    • Lauren
      November 25, 2014
      Reply

      Yes, I am especially cautious of TripAdvisor reviews because they’re so easy to game. One giveaway is if every reviewer has only left one review — they’ve usually just created the account to boost the ratings.

  13. Semi
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    Brilliant post, especially the part about trying so desperately to think positively despite all the negative because you’re on holiday/in a beautiful place. Definitely emotions we’ve all felt while travelling!

    We actually had something similar happen to us with a taxi driver who took us on an excursion here in Kazakhstan today. I guess the only way we as travellers can avoid things like this from happening is to get the agreed-upon price in writing beforehand. It might be a bit impractical (and probably insulting for the kind and honest spirits out there), but it’s still better than having a day, holiday, budget, or impression of locals ruined by being scammed.

    • Lauren
      December 9, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks, Semi! I try to be grateful at all times but sometimes I can feel it sliding. Sorry to hear you were also scammed! :-(

  14. Alex B
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    Nothing makes me more angry than when a person in the HOSPITALITY business nearly ruins a trip that could be wonderful. I cannot even believe his response to your review on airnb either! “I’ll make sure it doesn’t happen to anybody else”, but what about YOU! That’s how I felt during my entire trip to Morocco with literal every business owner I came across (some of the biggest scam artists in the world must come from that country).

    Phew, but enough negative. I’m glad you enjoyed the majority of your trip in Maldives, and all your photos are making me really want to go!

    • Lauren
      December 3, 2014
      Reply

      Yes, quite. It was a bit of an odd response! Fortunately, the other Maldivians I met on my trip were kind hearted and friendly and not in any way scammy.

      And agree with you about Morocco! So many scams going on there.

  15. Helen
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    What a doofus! He knew you were a travel writer and he STILL couldn’t help himself and scammed you anyway. He kind of gets what he deserves with this bad publicity your feedback and blog will generate as a result. Love your blog by the way, been a long time reader, keep up the good work!

    • Lauren
      November 21, 2014
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Helen! I really appreciate your support :-). And yep, fully agree with you — a total doofus!

  16. Catherine
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    What a terrible end to your time in the Maldives! He is certainly going to regret scamming you though – based on how little information there is on the Maldives online and how quickly your last post went viral, I guess a lot of people going to the area are going to see this review!

    Glad you found a new love for snorkelling though! Never tried it myself but can imagine seeing the corals and the fish makes up for the gulping of too much seawater!

    • Lauren
      December 3, 2014
      Reply

      I do hope so — I wouldn’t want anyone to be taken advantage of like we were. Such a sad way to end our time in the Maldives, but I’m over it now and have nothing but fond memories :-)

  17. Rachel @ Betty LIVIN
    November 21, 2014
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing things like this. Travel is often glamourized and no one wants to talk about the things that go wrong. Sorry to hear about your experience, but it’s a great cautionary tale!

    • Lauren
      December 9, 2014
      Reply

      I think I talk about things going wrong more than I do things going right! I’m not the luckiest of travellers :-)

  18. Deasy Noel
    November 22, 2014
    Reply

    Wow.. the things that people do for an extra few bucks :\ Sorry that happened to you. People like them totally suck and ruin it for other small-business hospitality places too, ugh.

    • Lauren
      November 25, 2014
      Reply

      Yeah, and he wasn’t even desperate for the money either — he seemed pretty well off! Hopefully it’ll benefit the more ethical guesthouses on the island if people read my review and decide to avoid Coral Heaven.

  19. Carmen
    November 22, 2014
    Reply

    What an idiot! We went to Cuba a couple of months ago and were scammed left, right and centre. I hate it, because it does leave a sour taste in your mouth especially when you’re trying your best to love a place!

    • Lauren
      November 25, 2014
      Reply

      Ugh, it’s so horrible, isn’t it? I hate when there are so many scammers in a country that you feel you can’t trust any of the locals and have to keep your guard up at all times.

  20. Andrea Anastasiou
    November 23, 2014
    Reply

    Why chew off the hand that feeds you? Totally rage-worthy. Thank goodness for travel bloggers who call out such crooks!

    I have to say that this sentence:

    “I didn’t want to attract a killer octopus with my continental vomit.”

    made me laugh no end!

    • Lauren
      November 25, 2014
      Reply

      I wasn’t sure whether to write about this — part of me wanted to give an honest look at my travel experiences and call out the guy for ripping me off, and the other part was worried I’d come across as childish for doing so! In the end, I decided to write about it because it might stop someone else from being scammed like we were :-)

      Glad you liked that line! It made me giggle as I wrote it.

  21. Andrew
    November 23, 2014
    Reply

    Reading this makes me feel very angry…. hmmmpfffhh!!! It’s horrible how the owner had to do this to both of you.

    • Lauren
      November 25, 2014
      Reply

      I was livid! Such a horrible thing to do :-(

  22. Sky
    November 23, 2014
    Reply

    What an ass. I’m sorry you had to end your trip on such a bad note. At least you’ll (hopefully) be able to prevent others from the same scam.

    • Lauren
      November 25, 2014
      Reply

      I hope so! At least, I hope people that are thinking of staying at Coral Heaven guesthouse will find this post and decide to stay elsewhere :-)

  23. Erin | No Ordinary Nomad
    November 24, 2014
    Reply

    That sucks so bad! I’ve found that on the occasions where I’ve been scammed it can tend to leave a bad impression of the entire place. It’s great that you enjoyed the snorkelling, but such a shame that you got ripped off in the process!

    • Lauren
      November 25, 2014
      Reply

      Yeah, I was pretty depressed when it came time to leave the Maldives — and angry at the guesthouse dude for making me feel that way. After a few months, though, I feel nothing but love for the country! :-)

  24. Grace | The Beauty of Everywhere
    November 27, 2014
    Reply

    Aw what an awful experience, you must have been furious! Thanks for writing about this, though. I haven’t been to the Maldives yet and had such idyllic notions! It’s good to know that being scammed is very possible.

    • Lauren
      December 3, 2014
      Reply

      The Maldives *was* wonderful, but yeah, not perfect! :-)

  25. Rick
    November 29, 2014
    Reply

    Well you didn’t get eaten by a killer octopus so…..all is well.

    Now you can use your power as a talented travel blogger get proper revenge. The guest house owner will lose thousands of dollars for his petty ripoff of you and Dave.

    Your experience will now make future travelers to the island better off. That’s what you are all about – mission accomplished!

  26. Dagmara
    December 16, 2014
    Reply

    What a horrible scammer! I hate when those kind of situations happen!
    Couldn’t You threaten him with the police? Usually it works. I hope he will go bankrupt!
    Take care

    • Lauren
      November 22, 2015
      Reply

      I wasn’t sure if there was a police presence on the island, to be honest, and it was my word against his.

  27. Penelope
    December 20, 2014
    Reply

    What a horrible experience … hope your next Airbnb doesn’t end up being such a disaster!

    • Lauren
      January 10, 2015
      Reply

      Next Airbnb experience has been a lot better! :-)

  28. Maja Zwicky-Saudhi
    January 13, 2015
    Reply

    Dear Lauren, thank you so much for this article! I live in the Maldives since 1986 and can relate to your story and your frustration. On my bucket list is a visit to every single guesthouse (now over 230) in the entire Maldives and blog about them. – Should be interesting. I am sure, most of them will be lovely and recommendable, but scams will occur as well. I wish I had a partner to join me on my trips, but so far no luck. I’ll be guided for sure, so I take it slow and easy. Stay safe and have great adventures my dear! Big hug and smiles across the miles. Maja

    • Lauren
      March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Wow, what an amazing goal!

  29. Travel Bug
    January 14, 2015
    Reply

    Wow thanks for the heads up! I just started looking up info about the Maldives and found this right away. I can’t imagine the owner will find that a few extra dollars was worth it for this publicity!

    • Lauren
      March 21, 2015
      Reply

      I hope lots of people find this post and avoid his guesthouse from now on!

  30. Jessica
    January 19, 2015
    Reply

    Wow that sucks. Now I can see how travel isn’t all glamor.

    • Lauren
      March 21, 2015
      Reply

      Especially when it comes to me :-)

  31. Ryan
    February 4, 2015
    Reply

    Yikes that is such a mess Lauren. Tally up another story about how not to travel! BUT, you and Dave really did go through all of the proper steps to make sure that did not happen and then the “boss” changed it. I feel like that happens quite a lot in places like that. It’s a shame really. In the past when i was in Haiti, our ride was supposed to be like 500 Haitian goude to an island for $20 each (5 people). Price was agreed. But once the captain saw we were white, he said “no, $100 per person!” which was atrocious. Everyone else on the boat was paying 40-50 goude per person, and I expected to pay a bit more. But not THAT! That’s like a 3rd of my budget for the 3 weeks since its not expensive at all there. And then they agreed to terms, and guys picked us up suddenly in their arms and walked us over the water to the boat and each person demanded money on top of the agreed money when I would have walked through the water. Sometimes it’s nearly inescapable these scams because you are in a situation that really has no other option. Like that boat for us was the only one that goes there each day.

  32. gray
    February 15, 2015
    Reply

    That’s one of my worries while travelling..being scammed in a foreign country! Yes I’ve had my fair shares. The worst when you have no extra cash.

    • Lauren
      March 10, 2015
      Reply

      Yes, it can be a little worrying! I’ve been scammed quite a few times when travelling — it makes you angry and upset for a few days and then you just move on :-)

  33. Florian Bernhart
    February 16, 2015
    Reply

    Hey Lauren,

    first of all great collection of information. I’d like to travel to the maledives as well and like to ask you where you could find a accommodation in Fulhidoo. In the internet I could only find very expensive hotels on the other island around. Thanks in advance!

    cheers
    Florian

  34. Simon Liu
    February 26, 2015
    Reply

    That was definitely a fruitful experience to have again. Thank you Lauren for exposing the immorality and selfishness of this dumb loser owner of this crappy guesthouse. I guess the police on that island couldn’t cared less about your situation, this is why when I travel, I tend to always be extra vigilant when it comes to scammers. As soon as you know something ISN’T RIGHT/FISHY, that’s the Red Flag! But in your case, perhaps you and David should have had a 2nd option for lodging. At any case, wish you luck with your work as a travel blogger. Hope to meet you someday in person too!

    Warmly
    Simon

    • Lauren
      March 10, 2015
      Reply

      Yeah, we would have moved accommodation but it was the evening of our last night in the guesthouse and there didn’t seem to be much point. I should definitely be more vigilant because I’m always getting scammed!

  35. George
    April 25, 2015
    Reply

    Great review.. Looking to stay at maafushi in a guest house do the activities n then go for a 2 night stay at a resort in June.. Can you suggest any good resorts with water villas.. Was looking at meeru island resort but seems to be pretty far from maafushi.. Also how do we arrange for resort transfer from the guest house? Will it cost a lot? Does it need to b booked in advance? Thanks for the help

    • Lauren
      April 27, 2015
      Reply

      Hi George. I stayed at Olhuveli and loved everything but their customer service. Would recommend it, though! I just turned up and asked the guesthouse owner for a transfer. No, it doesn’t need to be booked in advance. It cost us $20 each way per person. It would probably be much more for a further away island, though. Olhuveli is one of the closest resorts to Maafushi/Guraidhoo, which is why I chose it, as I knew pretty much everywhere did day trips over there so transfers would be fine. Contact your guesthouse owner in advance to know for sure!

  36. Sam
    September 16, 2015
    Reply

    You should leave your comments on Agoda and a few other booking sites. This would definitely help others

    • Lauren
      September 16, 2015
      Reply

      I think you can only do that if you booked through Agoda.

  37. kimmie a
    September 27, 2015
    Reply

    Hi, Lauren. Suggestion: when you write your reviews, the first few words ofyour heading and/or opening sentence should read “ALERT. Scammer. Overcharges guests.” and only after you post that important information should you go into detail.

    I say this because I went to the Airbnb site and flipped through the reviews. I found your review but the opening sentences give no indication that the Coral Heaven guest house is a rip off. It is only when read more into the text that I can find that information. Many AirBnB readers will never read any further than the first sentence, which usually opens with words like “great” “fabulous” “wonderful” or “avoid” “scam artist” “filthy” followed by a detailed account.

    • Lauren
      October 25, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks, Kimmie. I assumed my ratings of 1 star would put people off as well :-)

  38. Carmel World Traveler
    January 25, 2016
    Reply

    I’d love to know how it all ended. It sounded like you honestly didn’t have $160 on you so …. how did it all end?

    We just returned from Brazil and had a taxi driver pull up to the airport and tell us that it would be double what the meter said (after he took the long way and drove about 20 miles per hour below the speed limit). When I refused he tried to grab my bags and say that he would call the cops! I told him to call them, grabbed my bags and went into the airport. Thankfully, the cops didn’t come after me.

    • Lauren
      February 4, 2016
      Reply

      Dave gave him the $10 and we told him we didn’t have anything else, so there was nothing he could do about it!

      And yikes, that sounds like a stressful experience! Glad it all worked in the end for you :-)

  39. Jon Lee
    May 16, 2016
    Reply

    It would be a shame to bring down this lovely island based on your personal bad experience.

    Me and my girlfriend had a magical experience in Guraidhoo. It may not be a 5 star resort, but it boasts a beautiful house reef, a private island where you can swim, snorkel with baby sharks and spend the day in bikini doing nothing. Sun bathe on the sand bank and just read a book on it. And, the locals are just way too nice!

    3 nights on it, with a lifetime of memory. Of course, like all other local islands in Maldives, you find litter everywhere but do not discount what good you can find in Guraidhoo.

    • Lauren
      May 16, 2016
      Reply

      Hi Jon! Did you visit any other local islands in the Maldives? My comments on Guraidhoo were made in comparison to my time on other local islands like Maafushi and Fulidhoo, which were hundreds of times nicer than Guraidhoo. The beach on Guraidhoo really wasn’t great in comparison.

  40. booqs
    June 21, 2016
    Reply

    How long does it take to get from Guraidhoo to Maafushi and Fulidhoo? And now I am thinking that what I should do in any circumstance in all my travels is have a small notebook with me and write a makeshift contract stating what the service is and the price and have the vendor sign. That could be helpful.

    • Lauren
      June 21, 2016
      Reply

      I think it was around two hours to Maafushi and then two hours to Fulidhoo, but that’s going completely by memory. If you take a look at the ferry schedules they’ll tell you.

      I’d recommend just staying in a different guesthouse to the one I did.

  41. Nadee
    August 21, 2016
    Reply

    I’m an Airbnb host myself, I believe you could report this to Airbnb so they can take this listing down.
    We host in Asia, in the south coast of Sri Lanka to be exact; our continental breakfasts have been verified with over 100 reviews during a 12 month period. Just saying!

    • Lauren
      August 21, 2016
      Reply

      I probably could, but they’re listed on Agoda/Booking/Expedia and whatnot as well, so I doubt it’d make much of a difference.

  42. hassan
    February 12, 2017
    Reply

    sorry to hear these stories. There r nice people and v bad people in Maldives. So please find a trusted person to help u guys before leave any trip[ to islands. Most of islands near male is quite expensive to stay.But from male international airport u can fly little far like 1 hrs on plan can reach beautiful destination around Maldives and it cost 25 to 30 USD to stay there. Do u remember the guesthouse owner name.so that i ll beat him up to hell.

    • Lauren
      January 2, 2018
      Reply

      Ha, don’t beat him up! Hopefully my bad review will result in his guesthouse going out of business as karma for his greed.

  43. Cheryl Garcia
    February 26, 2017
    Reply

    Lauren, you did a great job of chronicling your experience and that terrible guesthouse owner. I’m wondering if a plan to have your cellphone out and set to Live feed on Facebook during the time you negotiate pricing would help? And telling them the negotiation is being recorded and broadcast? We’ve been fortunate in our travels so far, but we continue to read marvelous blogs like yours for further continuing education. Thanks for sharing.

    • Lauren
      February 26, 2017
      Reply

      This was several years ago, so Facebook live didn’t exist. But I don’t know that he would have cared if I’d done it, and I’m super-awkward, so the thought of doing anything live makes me cringe, haha.

  44. Arshia Amin Choudhury
    April 28, 2017
    Reply

    Hi, Lauren. Can’t tell you how much of a help your blog has been. Thank you! I’m planning on travelling to Maldives in June this year, so it would be great if you could answer a question for me. Leaving your experience with the guesthouse aside, would you suggest visiting Guraidhoo? I’m already going to Male, Maafushi and Fihalhohi, so wanted to know if I should add Guraidhoo or should I instead visit Mahibadhoo? Thanks xo

    • Lauren
      April 28, 2017
      Reply

      I’d go with Mahibadhoo. I really didn’t like Guraidhoo very much. There was no bikini beach and the beaches that were there weren’t very nice.

  45. Stephen Leu
    May 6, 2017
    Reply

    I can understand your frustration. I had a worse experienc. I love the maldives and its so beautiful. Put i met the wrong people. Maldives is dangerous to investors and businessman. I was approached by a man called Ahmed Mohamed in early 2014. I have his identity number because he gave it when we were making contracts his Maldives ID number is A201571. He scammed me and my friend, saying he owns an island in thaa atoll. He even took us to an island in thaa atoll, had a nice trip, it must have been around 1000 usd for the trip. And when i went back home he asked me to send USD25, 000 as a first downpayment to pay for the government to be able to buy the island. What he offered was His island he will sell it to a company that we will form, he will get some share, i and my friend would get majority share and we develop a resort. So i sent him the USD25000 TT to an acccount he gave in the Maldives. And he messaged and said that that money is for the trip that he gave me, and that i have to send him more money to get the island. And now i have lost all that money and he has dissapeared. He had people helping with the scam as well. Please be aware of Ahmed Mohamed from Velidoo, He is a criminal who scamms foreigners like us who get lost into the beauty of Maldives. :/ Beware!

    • Lauren
      June 10, 2017
      Reply

      I mean… you didn’t have a contract or a lawyer or anything?

    • Budget Maldives
      October 25, 2017
      Reply

      I am sorry to hear about this Stephen.

      Anyone who is interested in investing in Maldives tourism, please note that individuals don’t own islands here and please contact the relevant government authorities to verify the lease of the island before you start any money transaction.

      Individuals may own land plots in inhabited island and they may develop guest houses in their land to offer budget holidays to Maldives. If you are approached with such an offer, again please ask to show documents and get legal advice before proceeding further.

      • Lauren
        October 26, 2017
        Reply

        Thanks for sharing this!

  46. Ann
    September 1, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,

    Sorry you had a terrible experience with that particular guesthouse, and tainted your time on this particular island. However I feel the need to share my thoughts as I was just there and I absolutely fell in love with the hospitality and the people and the water creatures there.

    Yes water activities may be more expensive than, say Maafushi, but that is because it is not as touristy and you get private tours hence the higher cost. It’s more personalized and you don’t feel rushed.

    Comparing the costs here to resorts, the prices are still very affordable and the scuba dives schools and guides are extremely professional and friendly.

    Construction occurs during low season just like many places. They are building guesthouses and docks to improve local tourism. Please don’t fault the island on that.

    The facilities on the island may not be up to western standards (yet) but that’s part of the local experience and tourists should be mentally prepared for it. Otherwise feel free to go to a resort or a tired overcrowded island like Maafushi.

    And just to let your readers know, there is a bikini beach that’s connected by a newly built bridge and foreigners can go there to sunbathe. Locals clean and maintain the bikini beach for foreigners. The bikini brach is especially special because you have to cross the bridge. So when you go to Guraidhoo, you’re really going to two islands! When I went in the mornings, I was the only person (plus a local cleaning up the beach). They have lounge chairs and swings for guests to use. In the afternoon, guests from other islands like Maafushi would come to this bikini beach to surf and picnic.

    Guraidhoo is still developing its local tourism and the people try hard to make it memorable for their guests. For those that are considering, definitely give it a go! You won’t regret it!

  47. Jill Fitzgerald
    October 12, 2017
    Reply

    Could someone tell me how i can find out about ferries between Maafushi, Fulidhoo and Guraidhoo please?
    Trying to plan my trip for next spring.
    Thanks.

  48. Beth david
    January 13, 2019
    Reply

    Good day! Just want to ask if guests in olhuveli have the option of arranging their ferry transfer on their own? We will be there on Jan. 28, 2019. Thanks.

    • Lauren
      January 13, 2019
      Reply

      I don’t think so. Not anymore.

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