The Maldives Travel Guide
The Maldives is a collection of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 atolls. Of these atolls, 10 are open to tourism, and about 90 of the individual islands are exclusive tourist resorts. Although the islands of the Maldives were badly damaged by the tsunami of December 2004, they are once again emerging as prime holiday spots for tourists seeking supreme relaxation and unforgettable diving and snorkelling experiences.
The Maldives is in some ways a strange place. Most of its inhabited islands are staunchly Muslim in character, yet the resort islands are allowed to exist in a kind of bubble where more typically western behaviour is tolerated. The overwhelming majority of visitors to the Maldives book all-inclusive holiday packages, and spend all their time on their resort island of choice, soaking up the sun on the pristine beaches, learning to surf, or exploring the impressive coral reefs with a dive instructor. The best resorts in the Maldives are Kuramathi (for family-friendliness), Banyan Tree (for elegance), and Baros (for luxury), although there are plenty to choose from and none are likely to disappoint.
For independent travellers to the Maldives, the capital city of Malé is a worthwhile sight: a bustling, bazaar-filled modern Islamic city which entices some of the resort guests with its colourful markets.
Best time to visit the Maldives
The Maldives has a humid tropical climate, characterised by high temperatures all year round tempered by cooling sea breezes. The best time to visit the Maldives is during the dry season (December to April), though this is also the high tourist season so prices will be higher and accommodation might be scarce. The best months for diving in the Maldives are November and April, while the best time for surfing is from March to May and then again from September to November. Read more on Maldives Climate and Weather.
What to see in the Maldives
-Get lost in the busy capital city of Malé with its beautiful mosques, bustling bazaars and interesting museums.
-The Huskuru Miskiiy (Friday Mosque) is a magnificent 17th-century structure, famous for its golden dome and coral engravings.
What do in the Maldives
-Plan your wedding or honeymoon at one of the exclusive resort islands.
-Learn to surf, do a diving course or try your hand at any number of watersports.
-Head to Fuamulaku and go on a jungle hike to explore the island’s great biodiversity. Read more about Maldives Activities.
Getting to the Maldives
Cheap flights to the Maldives are easy to find from the US and UK. Direct flights to Malé International Airport are available from some major British airports, with the flight taking about 10 hours. Those flying from the United States will have to book a connecting flight. Some resort islands are accessible by air; for others, you’ll have to travel by boat from Malé. Get more information on Maldives Airports.
The Strode Venturer by Hammond Innes and Beach Babylon by Imogen Edward-Jones.
The Island President (2011)
Mas huni (shredded smoked fish served with grated coconut and onion), fihunu mas (barbecued fish basted with chilli and spices) and bambukeylu hiti (breadfruit, served in a variety of ways).
What to buy
The Maldives is not known as a shopping destination, and the range of souvenirs available is mainly limited to fridge magnets, t-shirts, postcards and shell necklaces.
What to pack
Pack lightweight clothing, insect repellent and sunscreen for a holiday in the Maldives. Do not pack alcohol or pork products or pornography, as these items will land you in trouble with authorities on your way into the country.
What’s on in the Maldives
Republic Day (11 November) is the most festive of the Maldives’ national holidays, celebrating the (second) abolishment of the monarchy that occurred in 1968.
Did you know?
-At an average of just 4’11” above sea level, the island-chain of the Maldives is the world’s lowest country.
-Only 200 of the 1,192 islets that make up the Maldives are inhabited.
-The adult literacy rate in the Maldives is one of the highest in the world at 99 percent.
A final word
The great attraction of a holiday in the Maldives is that you know precisely what you’re going to get: fancy all-inclusive resorts, clean white-sand beaches, gorgeous turquoise waters and limitless diving opportunities.
Local time is GMT+5
Electrical current in Maldives is 230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use, including the two-pin flat blade plug and the round three-pin plug.
Dhivehi is the national language in Maldives. English is widely spoken in addition to German, French, Italian and Japanese, spoken by the resort staff.
Visitors to the Maldives should take precautions against mosquito bites as cases of dengue fever and Chikungunya virus have been reported. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and typhoid vaccinations are recommended for all travellers to the Maldives, and a yellow fever vaccination is required for all those arriving from a yellow-fever-infected area in Africa or the Americas. Visitors who will be spending a lot of time outdoors and are at risk of animal bites may be advised to get a rabies vaccination as well. Precautions should be taken while on holiday in the Maldives to avoid sunburn and dehydration.
There is a good private hospital on Malé and first aid facilities are available on all the resort islands. In the event of diving emergencies, a decompression chamber is available. Food and water in the resort hotels is generally risk-free. Medical insurance is advised for travel to the Maldives. If you require certain medications on holiday it is best to take them with you, in their original packaging, with a dated and signed letter from your doctor detailing what the medication is and why you need it.
Officially, tipping is not encouraged in the Maldives, but if the service is good it is customary to tip waiters and room staff in the resorts, even if a service charge has already been added.
Crime levels are low in the Maldives but petty theft does occur. It is best not to leave goods unattended on the beaches or in hotel rooms. There is a measure of political instability and visitors are advised to avoid public gatherings and demonstrations, particularly on Malé Island, as these can turn violent; however, resorts in the Maldives are considered very safe and there are rarely any disturbances.
Maldivians are predominantly Muslim, and therefore Islamic customs should be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture. No pornography is allowed (or any material considered offensive under Islamic law), and homosexuality is illegal. Same-sex relationships are not tolerated and carry jail sentences and fines. Alcohol consumption is confined to the resorts. Dress is informal but nudism and topless bathing is prohibited. On visits to inhabited islands it is important to respect local customs that adhere to conservative dress codes, and public observance of any religion other than Islam is prohibited. The Maldives has strong anti-drug laws that carry severe penalties.
The Maldives does a lot of trade as everything is imported. Business tends to be conducted in a more informal way, with more casual attire in lightweight materials. Meetings are usually scheduled for mornings and are typically conducted in English. Women, in particular, should dress conservatively. Business hours are usually 7.30am to 2.30pm Sunday to Thursday.
The international access code for the Maldives is +960. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 001 for the United States). No city/area codes are required. IDD facilities are available at all resorts and card phones are available on all inhabited islands. The major islands are covered by the mobile network; the local operators use a GSM 900 network, which is compatible with many international cell phone operators, but it is best to check whether your network has roaming agreements with the Maldives. Dhiraagu, the Maldives Telecommunications Company, provides mobile telephones for daily rental. Internet access is available in hotels and main tourist resorts.
Travellers to the Maldives, irrespective of age, do not have to pay duty on cigarettes, cigars, tobacco and gifts within reasonable quantities. Prohibited items include alcohol, firearms, pork, opium, marijuana, cocaine, pornography and religious idols.
Entry requirements for Americans
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in the Maldives. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a stay of 30 days.
Entry requirements for UK nationals
British citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in the Maldives. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a stay of 30 days.
Entry requirements for Canada
Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in the Maldives. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a stay of 30 days.
Entry requirements for Australians
Australian citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in the Maldives. A visa can be obtained on arrival for a stay of 30 days.
*Entry requirements for South Africans
South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in the Maldives. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a stay of 30 days.
Entry requirements for New Zealanders
New Zealand citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in the Maldives. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a stay of 30 days.
Entry requirements for Irish nationals
Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in the Maldives. A visa is required, and can be obtained on arrival for a stay of 30 days.
All foreign passengers to the Maldives must hold onward/return tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Furthermore, visitors entering the Maldives without a hotel reservation or a Maldivian sponsor must hold proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses while in the country. A disembarkation card must be filled in by every passenger, and submitted to the Immigration Officer upon entry into the Maldives. Nationals of most countries can obtain a tourist visa on arrival, for a maximum stay of 30 days. Extensions of stay, to a maximum of 90 days from the date of the visitor’s arrival in the Maldives, are possible, by paying a fee of MVR 750 to the Department of Immigration in Male, at least one day prior to the expiry date of the initial 30-day entry period. Note that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required to enter the Maldives, if arriving within six days of leaving or transiting through an infected area. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.