The Seychelles, also known as “The Paradise Isles,” have been some of the most beautiful islands I’ve been to so far. Composed of one hundred fifteen coral and granite islands rising from the Indian Ocean, this pristine hideaway is the perfect place to enjoy unspoiled nature, palm-fringed jungles, white-sand beaches, majestic granite cliffs, and astonishing azure waters. And best of all is that wherever you go in the country, it’s easy to escape the crowds and feel like you’re on an exclusive getaway.
It is widely known that The Seychelles caters to luxury travelers and honeymooners who usually spend $500+ a night just for their accommodation. The islands do cast that aura of exclusivity, but know that you can enjoy that same exclusive environment for much, much less – even with a backpacker’s budget if you plan it carefully.
Since The Seychelles are a bunch of tiny islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, the only way you can get there is flying. Typically, this means expensive flights. But, it is possible to get decently priced flights if you search them well.
At the moment, if you’re flying from Europe, Asia, or the Americas, the cheapest options (usually) are Emirates, Etihad, and Ethiopian Airlines. If you’re flying from the southern part of Africa, then airlines like Air Austral and Air Mauritius are also good options. And of course, there’s also Air Seychelles, which partners with Etihad to offer some pretty good deals to fly in and out of the country.
My recommendation is to go to Skyscanner.com or Momondo.com and search your round trip options there. But, don’t stop with just searching a roundtrip. Break your flights by searching for a roundtrip flight from your departure city to a major layover city (in this case, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, and Addis Ababa are among the best options), and from there search for another roundtrip to Seychelles.
Often, this practice of buying two separate round trips turns out to be cheaper than the purchase of a single roundtrip. Also, airfares tend to be a bit cheaper during their rainy season, which goes from October to April.
When To Go?
October to April is the winter and rainy season. While this is not the best time to go, weather-wise, it is still nice enough to visit as you’ll still be able to enjoy the warm weather and sunny patches here and there. The good thing about winter is that prices go down both on airfares and accommodation. Oddly enough, December and January are the busiest months in the islands.
I visited during December, and while it was during their “peak,” it never felt crowded, and most beaches were practically empty. The islands receive roughly over 275,000 tourists per year (based on 2015 statistics). A minuscule number even for such small islands. Also, if you go during their low season, most resorts offer off-season packages at lower rates.
May to September is their summer, which is dryer and hotter. This is the best time to visit, weather-wise, but it is also the most expensive.
How Much Should You Expect To Spend There?
If you’re looking to enjoy the mid-range and luxurious, exclusive resorts Seychelles is well known for; then you’ll be paying $300+ a day, on the lower end. I don’t care for resorts (nor can afford them!), so with my Airbnb rentals, car rental, and everything else, I managed to spend an average of $120 per day. Have in mind this is a solo traveler budget – as in I paid for everything on my own. If we were two, that would have been almost halved to about $70 a day (since most costs are split). Go in a group? Even cheaper!
Which Islands To Visit
Seychelles has three main islands which are easily accessible and affordable to visit. Mahe is the main island and the largest of them all, where you’ll find the international airport and the capital city of Victoria. Make sure to spend a few days here sightseeing the capital, hiking Morne Seychellois National Park, and of course, beach hopping. While this is the “central hub” of the country, compared to almost everywhere else in the world, this place does go at a very slow and chill pace.
Another island you shouldn’t miss is Praslin, which is the second biggest island in the country and about 50 km northeast from Mahe. Compared to Mahe, Praslin has a much quieter and relaxed vibe, which you can immediately feel as soon as you step off the ferry or plane. The island is famous for its beautiful Anse Lazio beach; a sheltered cove currently ranked #4 on the TripAdvisor’s Best Beaches in the World List. Praslin is also home to the Vallée de Mai nature reserve, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the few places in the country where you can see wild Coco de Mer – the world’s largest seed. Spend at least two or three days in Praslin to hike the nature reserve and go beach hopping.
There’s also La Digue, which is my favorite of the three main islands. It is so small you can bike it all in one day, but I would recommend staying there at least one or two nights. La Digue is 12 km east of Praslin, and it only takes a 15-minute ferry to cross from one island to the other. Since there are no street lights in La Digue, you can easily stargaze all night long from any point in the isle. Its most famous beach is Anse Sourced’Argent, which is a glorious granite boulder filled lagoon with caves and white sandy shores. In my opinion, the most stunning beach in all of Seychelles.
These three islands are easily accessible, affordable, and will keep you busy for over a week. It is possible to reach more remote islands, but getting and staying there is much more expensive. Some of these islands, like Cousin Island with its famous giant tortoises or the islands of the Ste-Anne Marine Park, are accessible with day-trips. If you’re traveling with a group, you can go around and ask to hire a boat privately, which could help reduce cost per person.
There are even more remote islands, but these are mostly reserved for high-end exclusive resorts where the price tag is no less than $700 a night. On Fregate Island, for example, the average rate is $2500+ a night. So, if you’re on a budget, stick to the main three islands.
Finding Cheap Accommodation
I highly recommend Airbnb and HotelsCombined to source your accommodation there. Both of these sites offer a wide variety of accommodation that goes from $35 a night and up. The average I’ve found on both sites for a decent place in a good location is around $70 a night – which is around what I paid on average. (With this link you get $35 off your first booking with Airbnb.)
If you’re open to Couchsurfing, it is also an option to get some free accommodation while getting to know some locals.
All the islands are small, so even if you’re up in the mountains (in Mahe), it will take you no more than 20 minutes to drive down to the beach.
The primary means of public transport throughout the islands of Mahé and Praslin is by bus. The bus rate is SCR 5 ($0.38 at current exchange rate) per ride or SCR 10 ($0.76) for air-conditioned buses. There are 41 bus routes distributed between both islands, which makes it easier to get to nearly any point in them.
I’ll be honest by saying that I never understood their bus network or schedule. When I took the bus there, I just stood at the bus stop, asked anyone around if the bus passing by went to the airport (or wherever), and hopped on the first one anyone told me, “that one goes there.” Communicating is easy there. English and French are both widely spoken, but the lingua franca is Seselwa (Seychellois Creole), which is a mixed-up Creole language with a mix of French, Indian, and English elements, among other dialects. In any case, here’s the bus schedule.
Even though I took the bus, my main transportation method during my stay there was by car. I rented one in Mahe and one in Praslin, and I’m so happy I did it because I visited a few beaches that were harder to reach by bus. Additionally, I had the freedom to move around as I pleased, faster, and more efficient – especially when I wanted to stop every few kilometers to take a picture or fly the drone.
My car rental in Seychelles turned out to be very affordable and a “life saver” when I wanted to hit so many spots and beaches in a short time.
When renting a car, I recommend spotting the gas station on a map before driving around. There are, literally, six gas stations in Mahe and two in Praslin – and they are spread apart. It is not uncommon for any of them to be closed at random hours or out of gas, so make sure you have enough gas all the time in case your selected gas station is a “miss, ” and you need to drive to the next one.
Getting From One Island To The Other
Going from Mahe to Praslin can be done by ferry or plane. If you go by ferry, it costs from $48 each way with Cat Cocos, the main ferry line on the islands. Online bookings must be made more than 48 hours before departure, and I highly recommend booking them even sooner during high season as they can get fully booked. Surprisingly, if bought with enough time of anticipation, flights can be around the same price of the ferry – averaging $55 each way. Air Seychelles operates them, so you could either search directly on their website or via Skyscanner.com.
To reach La Digue, you can take a ferry from Mahe or Praslin. The cost of the ferry from Praslin to La Digue is $16 each way, and it takes around 15 minutes. In La Digue, you can rent a bike for about SCR 150 ($11.30) per day. You can barter with the bike rental guys at the pier, but this is pretty much the standard price they offer.
Wifi in Seychelles is very spotty and slow, unfortunately, so have patience with it. You can get a local sim card with Cable & Wireless which offers 1GB for SCR 200 ($15). Still, their 3G service is a bit slow and spotty.
Food For Less
Naturally, Resort restaurants are expensive, but there are plenty of cheap beachside cafes and stalls spread around the islands where you can have a good local meal with creole chicken, rice, and curry for SCR 100 to 150 ($8 to $11).
Have in mind that there are no international fast foods in Seychelles. Mahé has the markets in Victoria as well as Beau Vallon where you can also find pretty cheap options to either cook at your accommodation or eat out. Praslin also has several “bodega-like” mini-marts where you can buy stuff to cook. Most food has to be imported, which can make them pricier than what we pay elsewhere, but you can find basic food like chicken, vegetables, fruits, and rice pretty cheaply.
I highly recommend eating at the “take away” local eateries. These are pretty much that, takeaway places that serve really cheap Creole food for $5+ a plate. In my opinion, the most delicious food I had there.
Beaches You Can’t Miss
Ah, the beaches! This is the main reason why most people come to the Seychelles. Almost every beach in the island is a must-see (no kidding), but I’ll list here my top 10 beaches in Mahe, Praslin, and La Digue. Make an effort to go to all of them! By the way, the word “Anse” means beach in Seychellois Creole.
1. Anse Intendance – Mahe
2. Anse Source d’Argent – La Digue
3. Anse Lazio – Praslin
4. Grand Anse – La Digue
5. Anse Georgette – Praslin
6. Beau Vallon – Mahe
7. Petite Anse and Anse Cocos – La Digue
8. Port Launay Beach – Mahe
9. Anse Parnel – Mahe
10. Anse Soleil – Mahe
All of them are different. Some are ideal for snorkeling, others for swimming, and other are simply visually stunning. I have a post giving more details on why you should go to each of these beaches. Each has its reason and uniqueness that make them worth visiting.
All beaches are public and free. While snorkeling tours might be expensive, if you have your own snorkeling gear or can rent it cheaply at your accommodation or local shop, you could just drive to any good snorkeling beach and snorkel equally beautiful coral reefs without the need of a tour.
Other Sights And Activities You Must Not Miss
Go Bird Watching in Cousin Island – Just over a mile southwest of Praslin, Cousin Island, which is less than a mile in diameter, serves as a little reserve for over 300,000 birds. Admission is 500 SCR per person ($37).
Climb Morne Blanc – Located in Morne Seychellois National Park, this challenging hike will take you through tea plantations all the way to a scenic view spot above the island. At 667 meters above sea level, it might not be the tallest mountain in Mahe, but the view from there is spectacular.
Visit Aldabra Atoll – Stretching at over 20 miles in length, this is one of the largest raised coral atolls in the world. Aldabra is one of the two UNESCO sites in Seychelles, and it is also considered the original habitat of the giant land tortoise. At the western end, there is a tidal lagoon; home to manta rays, tiger sharks, and seabirds.
Visit Vallee de Mai – The other UNESCO site in the islands, and home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, as well as the world’s largest seed, the Coco de Mer. Valle the Mai is the most famous sight in Praslin and one of the few places in the world where the Coco de Mer seed can be found. This is also the best place to see the Black Parrot, found only in Praslin Island. Adult entry is SCR 305 ($22). Children under 12 enter free.
Explore Fond Ferdinand Nature Reserve – An alternative (or addition) to Valle de Mai is this not well-known nature reserve in Praslin. With an area of 122 hectares, Fond Ferdinand is more than six times larger than Vallée de Mai and is even richer regarding endemic plant and animal species, including the Coco de Mer palms. The entrance fee is also cheaper, around SCR 100 ($7.50), but you should get there in the morning since a tour is mandatory. They run at 9 am and around noon or 1 pm. You should check the current schedule there.
Visit the Natural History Museum – The Natural History Museum in Victoria is small, but worth a visit if you’re interested in learning about the island’s wildlife. Admission is SCR 15 ($1.15) for adults.
Enjoy the Botanical Gardens – Also in Victoria, the Botanical Gardens are a great way to learn more about the local flora and fauna. If you didn’t have the chance to see the Coco de Mer in Vallee de Mai, then this is the other place where you can see them. Additionally, there are some fruit bats or giant tortoises as part of their exhibitions. Admission is SCR 100 ($7.50) per person.
Visit L’Union Estate – Back when coconut farming was the primary industry on La Digue, this was the center of production. Just south of La Passe, this estate is now run as a sort of informal ‘theme park.’ There are some interesting demonstrations to see around the grounds, and you can explore the Old Plantation House, the colonial-era graveyard, and the boatyard. There is even a pen housing giant tortoises. If you’re visiting Anse Source d’Argent (which you should!), you will have to go through this park to reach it (unless you walk about a mile along the shore). Admission is 100 SCR ($7.50) per person.
Look for the Veuve Bird – La Digue is home to a small wildlife reserve set up to protect the Veuve or black paradise flycatcher. You can arrange guided tours to sight at least one of the 20 pairs of birds in the reserve.
Go diving – With such a pristine location, the Seychelles counts with several incredible diving sites with excellent visibility and plenty of marine wildlife. A single-tank dive start around SCR 800 ($60).
See whale sharks – If you are there between October and November, do not miss swimming with the whale sharks. Apparently, the Seychelles is one of the best places in the world to see them due to the high concentration.
Hike to Nid d’Aigle – Nid d’Aigle (Eagle’s Nest) is the highest point on La Digue (333m), and from there you get stunning 360-degree views of all of La Digue and surrounding islands. This is a good full-day activity if you want to take a break from the beaches on the island.
Phew, that’s a lot to do in just a few small islands! As you can see, even though the beaches are the highlights, that is not the only thing to do there. Additionally, while still not a backpacker budget-friendly destination, if you’re creative enough, you can enjoy the Seychelles with a very moderate budget.