Travel to the Maldives

The Maldives is an island country off the Indian subcontinent of Asia, amongst the Indian Ocean. It is southwest of Sri Lanka and India.

The Maldives is made up of 26 atolls (ring-shaped coral reefs), comprising around 90,000 square meters of territory. Visit the Maldives to find out more about this fascinating atoll-filled country. 

The first settlers to the Maldives arrived in the 5th century and were mainly Buddhist mariners from India and Sri Lanka. There is a record of early Gujarati settlers hailed from the North of India, but the country is now Muslim. 

Most residents are born Maldivians, and Sunni Islam is the religion of the island by law. The official languages are Dhivehi and English. 

The Maldives is the lowest country globally, with natural ground levels of 1.5 meters to 2.4 meters above sea level. It has a tropical monsoon climate, and its low elevation makes it a warm and humid destination. The two main seasons of the region are the dry season with winter monsoons and the wet, rainy season.

The Maldives is known for its diverse marine habitats, including the deep sea, shallow coasts, and reef ecosystems. These island beaches form little pieces of paradise and offer pure relaxation (if you saw the definition of paradise in the dictionary, we reckon you wouldn’t be wrong to select the serene Maldives beaches as the prime example of the word). 

We hope this insightful Maldives travel guide will help your travel planning for your next holiday and encourages you to visit Maldives soon.

Travel tips for the Maldives

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Visa Requirements for the Maldives

The Maldives is unique because it grants free tourist visas or visa-on-arrival status to all world nations for 30 days.

Visitors from India and Russia can enter the Maldives for up to 90 days without a visa.

There are, however, some requirements to visit the Maldives, including:

  • Holding a passport or travel document with a Machine-Readable Zone with at least six months validity.
  • Having a prepaid accommodation booking.
  • Having sufficient funds for their trip to the Maldives.
  • Having valid return tickets to their home country or country of residence.
  • Completing a Traveller Health Declaration within 24 hours before departure.
  • Having a negative COVID-19 PCR result before departure.

You can find out more about getting a visa for the Maldives.

Important Cultural Information

Most people visit the Maldives for beaches. However, the island itself is pretty conservative, and only resort islands have lenient rules.

As the Maldives is a Muslim country, there are some prohibited items that you should not bring with you. These include alcohol, pork, any drugs, religious materials, or dogs. You should also dress modestly when visiting. 

It would be best to keep your shoulders and legs covered. Swimsuits are strictly prohibited on non-resort islands, so it’s best to err on the side of caution when visiting Maldives. 

During your Maldives visit, you should be respectful of the religion of the island. When entering a mosque or residence, you must take your shoes off. Strict fasting is done by everyone during the month of Ramadan, from sunrise to sunset. During this time, many restaurants will be closed during the day. You should avoid eating, drinking, or smoking in public during Ramadan. 

Public displays of affection are seen as highly offensive. This PDA includes behaviour such as hand holding and kissing. 

You will often find a 10% service charge over an 8% goods and services tax, which changes frequently. Some resorts will include these costs on their restaurant menus, and some will not. These taxes apply to everything from food and drink to spa treatments and rentals. 

Remember to bring a lot of sunscreen and protective clothing as the Maldives is on the equator, meaning the risk of sun damage is increased.

Banking & Money in the Maldives 

The Maldives’ local currency is called the Rufiyaa, which is linked to the dollar.

When you visit the Maldives, you will find that many resort islands accept US dollars in small denominations, such as $1, $5 and $10, as payment. Many large resorts accept international currencies as payment, so it’s best to check with your resort before converting your currency into Rufiyaa. 

Most of the banks and ATMs are in Malé and some of the larger islands. You are unlikely to find a bank or ATM on a resort or smaller island. In some cases, there is only one ATM on each island. 

When you visit the Maldives, it can be hard to find shop vendors that accept credit cards on the smaller islands, so you should ensure you have enough cash to cover your expenses. However, credit cards are widely accepted at resorts and guest houses and Visa, Amex and MasterCard are all accepted. 

Some resorts choose to operate on a signing system, where you don’t carry any cash. 

The Malé airport prices everything in USD and has a bank counter at the airport to convert your currency before heading home.

Medical Emergency Information

When you visit Maldives, you should know that there are both public and private health sectors.  There are only a few fully equipped hospitals on Malé, and healthcare throughout the rest of the country is limited.  

In the event of a medical emergency, you should contact your travel health insurance company immediately. Most hospitals in the Maldives will ask for an upfront payment in cash, regardless of your travel health insurance status. The emergency number is 102 for an ambulance in the Maldives. 

The emergency number for ADK Hospital in Malé , Maldives is 313533. Other nearby hospitals include Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, European Clinic Maldives, Dharumavantha Hospital and Medica Hospital, and the National Diagnostic Centre.

Get a quote for travel insurance through WorldNomads below:

Wi-Fi and Internet in the Maldives 

When you visit the Maldives, you should know that free Wi-Fi and internet is available at rooms in most resorts and hotels in the Maldives. Some hotels or resort rooms offer wired internet connections for laptops, too. 

Since the Maldives is a small chain of islands, don’t expect speedy or stable Wi-Fi. If you are after faster internet, you should stay close to the city or purchase a mobile internet package to be on the safe side. The best internet speeds are near the city of Malé, and more remote islands may struggle with poor or intermittent connections. 

When it comes to cellular networks, there are two leading providers in the Maldives – Dhiraagu and Ooredoo. Both providers have offices at the nearby airport, so you can get a SIM as soon as you land. They both offer similar services and decent coverage around the country. Present your passport at the offices and select the local or tourist package you prefer. 

It’s easy to find top-up packages at most supermarkets on the island. However, you can expect to pay high prices for international calls, so it’s cheaper to make use of online calling. 

Both Dhiraagu and Ooredoo offer tourist packs ranging from $30-50 for 30 days, including at least 17 GB of data and minutes, SMS, and a valid SIM card.

Internet cafes and co-working offices are pretty rare in the Maldives, so it may be easier to use your resort’s free Wi-Fi.

Arrival in the Maldives  

Malé International Airport is the only airport in the Maldives. It is serviced by international flights from Europe, Middle East, Singapore, Sri Lanka and others. 

Some of the leading airlines that fly direct to the Maldives are Sri Lankan Airways via Heathrow, British Airways via Gatwick, Qatar Airways via Doha, Emirates via Dubai and Oman Airways via Muscat. There are also some Sri Lankan flights available from Colombo. From Asia, Singapore Airlines is the most popular airline that connects to the Maldives. 

Search for flights to Maldives on Expedia.

In most cases, you will need to take a seaplane or a speed boat to reach your resort from Velana International Airport. You can find the airport at Airport Main Rd, 22000, the Maldives on Hulhulé Island in the North Malé Atoll, near the capital island Malé. It is currently the only airport in the Maldives that offers international flights. 

The major seaplane is Transmaldivian, which can take passengers from Malé to their resorts. It operates from 6 am until 4:30 pm every day and varies between $270 – $450 per person for a round trip. 

There are no connecting flights available, so you should ideally arrange a transfer through your resort upon booking.

Areas of the Maldives

There are three main areas of the Maldives: The Northern Atolls, the Southern Atolls and the Central Atolls.

In the Northern Atolls, you’ll find the city of Malé. This area is the most popular and offers incredible surfing spots, world-class accommodation, and white sand beaches. 

Malé is the main centre of the Maldives and offers the most access to amenities and utilities such as hospitals, shops, pharmacies and more. This region also enjoys the best weather conditions year-round.

The Central Atolls are less frequented than their counterparts and are particularly good for surfers and beach lovers. The islands are less crowded and offer a more remote experience.

The Southern Atolls are full of luxury resorts and are known for their premium diving and snorkelling spots. Surfing is also available in this region. 

Some notable places to visit are:

  • Kandolhu 
  • Biyadhoo
  • Kuramathi 
  • Maafushivaru
  • Finolhu
  • Niyama Private Islands
  • Kagi Maldives Spa Island
  • Milaidhoo Island
  • Velassaru

Transportation in the Maldives

When you visit the Maldives, taxis are available in Malé and Addu, the larger cities. They mainly provide transport to the airport or in the town. It is not possible to get a taxi to a resort island.

You can expect the taxis to charge around MVR 20 for any distance, which will increase to MVR 30 after 11:00 pm on any day. You could be charged an extra MVR 10 for trunk usage if you have luggage. Since the cities are small, shared taxis are standard. 

Ferries are the cheapest mode of transportation in the Maldives, with fares ranging between MVR 30 to MVR 60, depending on the length of your trip. You can get from the airport to Malé  via ferry for around MVR 40. Public inter-island ferries usually charge MVR 30-75. Most of these operate from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm and not at all on Fridays. They do not typically stop at the resort islands, either.

Speedboats are very popular in the Maldives and can commonly be booked by your resort. The fares are pretty pricey and can go up to MVR 3,500, depending on the resort and required distance. If this is out of your budget, you can ask a local fisherman on the nearest local island to give you a lift.

Seaplanes are the fastest option as they take 90 minutes at max. They also fly at low altitudes, offering incredible views of the environment. However, your luggage may need to go separately, and they do not operate at night. Fares can cost between MVR 3,500 and MVR 7,000. 

The bus service in the Maldives is operated by Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC). It is cost-effective but is limited to only specific routes, plus the fares start from only MVR 3. 

You can board a bus just 50 meters from the Airport exit, but you should avoid the bus if you have a lot of luggage. Buses are also crowded during the rainy season, and you cannot use a bus to go to the resort islands.

You will also find Dhonis (Arabic-style boats) or yachts around the Maldives, which you can hire for your leisure.

Accommodations in the Maldives  

Accommodation in the region varies from luxury resort islands to budget stays. There are many five-star luxury resorts with private islands, which cater to a growing international market.

For students or those backpacking on the cheap, it’s possible to find a room or hostel that won’t break the bank. Read through our guide on how to visit Maldives on a budget.

Before you decide on a place to stay, you might want to check out the “Areas of the Maldives” section in this guide to learn more about the best places to be.

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What to Eat & Drink in the Maldives 

Since the Maldives is almost 99% sea, most foods served in the Maldives contain fish. Tuna is especially an essential staple in the Maldives. You can expect to discover a mix of Oriental, Sri Lankan, Indian and Arabic influences in local menus. You can expect fish to feature heavily in the Maldives. Some Sri Lankan and Indian influence in chapatis, samosas, fish curries and sweet dumplings seen on the island. 

However, many resorts offer international menus, so it is possible to find food from Italy, Japan, Thailand, China and even fine dining depending on your resort.

Coconut is also another primary ingredient in Maldivian dishes and is served in all forms. Coconut oil is commonly used for frying fish, and grated coconut is part of everyday breakfast dishes. 

Since the Maldives is a Muslim country, alcohol is not available in the city but is found at resort islands. You should stick to bottled water to be safe, and you choose to try one of many teas popular with the locals, including black or milk tea.

Things to Do & See in the Maldives

There are many things to see and do when you visit the Maldives that don’t include sitting on the beach. With that said, island and beach hopping are the main things to do in the Maldives.

Other places include the Malé Local Market and Malé Fish Market, Grand Friday Mosque, National Museum, Sultan Park, HulhuMalé Beach or SinaMalé  Bridge.

Some fun activities in the Maldives include snorkelling, sunset cruises, Malé walking tours, dolphin watching, surfing, Dhivehi language lessons, and so much more.

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Shopping in the Maldives

There are a variety of local street markets, boutiques, small souvenir shops and more to choose from in Malé. 

Malé Local Market is a flea market open from 8 am-11 pm every day. It is a significant shopping spot for locals, so you can expect to find a variety of fresh produce and food as well as snacks, gifts, and handcrafted items. 

Majedhee Magu in Malé is the main shopping street for jewellery, cosmetics, clothes, electronics, snacks and food. It also includes a few local restaurants, so you should visit this street. 

Another similar shopping street is Chaandhanee Magu, which offers handmade souvenirs and imports. Both street stores are usually open from 9 am-6 pm and from 8 pm-11 pm. 

Centro Mall is the most premium shopping mall to visit in the Maldives. It offers brand-name items as well as many dining options, including cafes and a fish market. It is open from 7 am until 11 pm.  

You can typically get a bus or taxi to visit these shops when in Malé.

Nightlife in the Maldives 

Since the Maldives is a modest country, there are no significant nightclubs. You will not find locals at the bars as drinking is disallowed in Islamic law. On the resort islands, there are some excellent resort bars to visit for a drink.

Subsix is a unique underwater nightclub located at the Per Aquum Niyama Private Islands and offers large glass windows with views of the sea. Babuna Bar on the Kuredu Island Resort & Spa hosts White Night Parties, where everyone must dress up in white under dazzling UVUV lights. 

Other night-time activities available at some of the islands include night fishing, karaoke and outdoor cinemas.

Safety Tips for the Maldives

The crime rates in the Maldives are low, and you will likely feel safe in the Maldives. Most visitors stay in resorts or hotels on different islands, making it difficult for criminals to act out. Drugs and alcohol are also banned since the Maldives is a Muslim country, meaning that you are unlikely to find many people on the streets as you would in other countries. 

There are a few things to be aware of when visiting the Maldives. When visiting religious sites, you must dress modestly and appropriately in line with local traditions. It would help if you always covered your knees and shoulders. 

Never go swimming unattended and avoid the beach if you see a red flag hoisted on the beach.

Some of the most common crimes include theft of unattended belongings on the beaches or in a hotel room. Remember to use the safety deposit box at your resort or hotel to avoid unexpected theft of your belongings.

Conclusion

The Maldives is a great country to visit for your next beach vacation.

If you’re looking for a warm beach holiday, then make sure to visit between December to April for dry seasons – the high season is typically between December and March. Choose the southernmost atolls for the warmest weather, as they have the lowest levels of wind and are less exposed during the monsoon season.  

You have to visit Malé during your visit, as it is the capital city of the Maldives and contains all of the cultural and historical tourism, as well as quick transfers to resort islands. Most of the shops are also located in Malé.

Depending on where you stay, each region of atolls has slightly different weather patterns, but the Maldives is generally warm and humid all year round. If you are feeling adventurous, you can take a visit to some of the more remote islands via ferry.

The wet monsoon season lasts from May to November and offers strong winds, cloudy days and higher humidity. It may be cheaper to visit during this time, but your beach visit could be interrupted by poor weather.

The Maldives is a memorable country to visit, and it has activities, food and fun for every kind of traveller.

Travel tips for the Maldives

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