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Maldives Travel Guide- Travel S Helper


travel guide

The Maldives, formally the Republic of Maldives, is an Indian Ocean island nation in South Asia. It is a country located southwest of India and Sri Lanka. From Ihavandhippolhu Atoll in the north to Addu City in the south, the chain of twenty-six atolls spans. The Maldives, with a land area of about 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles), is one of the most geographically scattered nations in the world, as well as the smallest Asian country in terms of both area and population, with little more than 393,500 people. Malé is the capital and most populous city, and has been referred to historically as “King’s Island” due to its central position.

The Maldives archipelago is situated atop the Chagos-Maldives-Laccadive Ridge, a massive underwater mountain range in the Indian Ocean that, together with the Chagos and Lakshadweep, also constitutes a terrestrial ecoregion. It is the world’s lowest nation, with an average ground level height of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level, and even its highest natural peak is the lowest in the world, at 2.4 metres (7 ft 10 in). Due to the dangers presented by increasing sea levels, the Maldives government has committed to become a carbon-neutral nation by 2019.

Since the fourth century BCE, the Maldives have been historically and culturally connected to the Indian subcontinent. The Maldives archipelago was Islamized and established as a sultanate in the 12th century, establishing significant economic and cultural connections with Asia and Africa. From the mid-16th century, colonial powers exerted growing control over the area, culminating in the Maldives becoming a British protectorate in 1887. Independence from the United Kingdom was gained in 1965, and a presidential republic with an elected People’s Majlis was formed in 1968. Political instability, democratic reform attempts, and environmental concerns presented by climate change have defined the subsequent decades.

The Maldives founded the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Additionally, it is a member of the United Nations, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and the Movement of the Non-Aligned States. The Maldives economy is classified by the World Bank as being of upper medium income. Historically, fishing has been the primary economic activity and continues to be the biggest sector, followed by the rapidly expanding tourist industry. It is one of just two South Asian countries, along with Sri Lanka, to be ranked “high” on the Human Development Index (HDI), having the highest per capita income among SAARC members.

The Maldives was a Commonwealth republic from July 1982 to October 2016, when it withdrew in protest of worldwide criticism of its corruption and human rights records.

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Maldives - Info Card




Maldivian rufiyaa (MVR), USA dollar (USD)

Time zone

UTC+5 (Maldives Time)


23,200 km2 (9,000 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language

Dhivehi - English

Maldives | Introduction

Tourism in Maldives

The Maldives remained a relatively unknown destination for tourists until the 1970s. Only 185 islands are inhabited by their population of 300,000. All other islands are used exclusively for economic purposes, with tourism and agriculture being the dominant sectors. Tourism accounts for 28% of GDP and more than 60% of foreign exchange earnings in the Maldives. Over 90% of the government’s tax revenues come from import duties and tourism-related taxes.

The development of tourism has supported the overall growth of the country’s economy. It created direct and indirect employment and income opportunities in other related industries. In 1972, its first tourist resorts were opened with the island resort of Bandos and Kurumba village ( today’s name is Kurumba Maldives), and these changed the Maldives’ economy.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, the advent of tourism in 1972 changed the economy and led to a rapid transition from dependence on fishing to tourism. In only three and a half decades, the industry became the main source of income. Tourism was also the country’s largest earner of foreign exchange and contributed most to GDP. More than 17,000 beds were available in 89 resorts on the Maldives in 2008, which hosted over 600,000 tourists annually.

Between 1972 and 2007, the number of resorts increased from 2 to 92, and by 2007 more than 8,380,000 tourists had visited the Maldives.

Regardless of their country of origin, visitors to the Maldives do not need to apply for a visa before their arrival, provided they are in possession of a valid passport, proof of onward travel and the money needed for their stay in the country.

Most visitors arrive at Malé International Airport on the island of Hulhulé, which borders on the capital Malé. This airport is serving flights to India, Sri Lanka, Doha, Dubai, Singapore, Istanbul and other important airports in South East Asia, including charter flights from Europe. Gan Airport, located on the southern atoll of Addu, also offers an international flight to Milan several times a week. British Airways has direct flights to the Maldives approximately 2-3 times weekly.

Weather & Climate in Maldives

The Maldives has a tropical monsoon climate (Am) according to Keppen’s climate classification, which is influenced by a large area of South Asia in the north. The presence of this land causes differential heating of land and water. These factors have caused a flow of saturated air from the Indian Ocean over South Asia, resulting in the southwestern monsoon. Weather in the Maldives is dominated by two seasons: a dry season that is associated with the winter north-eastern monsoon, and the rainy season that is associated with strong winds and storms.

The transition from the dry northeastern monsoon to the wet southwestern monsoon occurs in April and May. Throughout this period, southwesterly winds contribute to the forming of the south-western monsoon, reaching the Maldives in the beginning of June and running until the end of August. However, the weather conditions in Maldives do not always correspond to the monsoon regimes in South Asia. Annual rainfall averages 254 centimeters (100 inches) in the north and 381 centimeters (150 inches) in the south.

The impact of the monsoons is larger in the north of the Maldives compared to the south, being more influenced by equatorial currents.

Month Record high °C (°F) Average high °C (°F) Daily mean °C (°F) Average low °C (°F) Record low °C (°F)
Jan 31 (88) 30.3
Feb 33
Mar 32
Apr 38
May 36
Jun 35
Jul 31
Aug 33
Sep 31
Oct 34
Nov 32
Dec 33
Year 38

Geography of Maldives

The Maldives consists of 1,192 coral islands grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls north-south, which extend over approximately 90,000 square kilometers (35,000 square miles), making it one of the most dispersed countries in the world. It is located between 1 ° south and 8 ° north latitude and 72 ° and 74 ° east longitude. Atolls consist of living coral reefs and sandbanks, located at the top of an underwater ridge 960 kilometers long (600 miles), which rises sharply from the depths of the Indian Ocean and stretches from north to south.

Only near the southern end of this natural coral barricade, two open passageways provide safe passage from one shore of the Indian Ocean to the other through the territorial waters of the Maldives. For administrative purposes, the government of Maldives has divided these atolls into twenty-one administrative districts. The largest island in Maldives is Gan, which belongs to Laamu Atoll or Hahdhummati Atoll. On Addu Atoll, the most western of the islands are connected by roads over the reef    (commonly called Link Road), and the total length of the road is 14 km (9 miles).

Maldives is the lowest country in the world with its maximum and average natural ground level of only 2.4 meters (7 feet 10 inches) and 1.5 meters (4 feet 11 inches) above sea level. However, in areas under construction, it has been increased to several meters. More than 80 percent of the country’s territory consists of coral islands, which rise to less than one meter above sea level. As a result, the Maldives is at high risk of inundation due to sea level rise. The UN Environment Commission has warned that at the current rate of sea level rise will be high enough to make Maldives uninhabitable by 2100.

Demographics of Maldives

The Maldivian ethnic identity is a mixture of cultures reflecting the peoples who have settled on the islands, strengthened by religion and language. The earliest settlers probably came from South India and Sri Lanka. They are linguistically and ethnically related to the people on the Indian subcontinent. They are ethnically known as Dhivehis.

There is a certain social stratification on the islands. There is no rigidity, since rank is determined by various factors, which include occupation, wealth, religious virtue as well as family relationships. Instead of a complex caste system, in the Maldives a distinction was made only between nobles (bēfulhu) and ordinary people. Social elite are concentrated in the Malé.

The population doubled by 1978, and population growth reached a peak of 3.4 % in 1985. In the 2006 census, the population had reached 298,968, although the 2000 census showed that population growth had fallen to 1.9%. Life expectancy at birth was 46 years in 1978 and later rose to 72, infant mortality has fallen from 12.7% in 1977 to 1.2% today, and adult literacy has reached 99%. Combined school enrollment reached the high 1990s. The population is estimated to have reached 317,280 in 2010.

By April 2008, more than 70,000 foreign workers, together with 33,000 illegal immigrants, made up more than a third of the Maldivian population. There are 40,000 Bangladeshis in the Maldives, making them the largest group of foreigners working in the country.

Religion in Maldives

Following the very long Buddhist period of Maldivian history, Islamic traders first introduced Sunni Islam. The Maldives converted to Islam in the middle of the 12th century. The islands have a long history of Sufi orders, as can be seen from the history of the country, such as the construction of tombs. They were used until the 1980s to seek the help of buried saints. Today they can be seen next to some old mosques and are considered cultural heritage today.

Until recently, there were other aspects of the thassauf, such as the ritual ceremonies of the zikra, called mauludu (maulid), the liturgy of which included a recitation and certain prayers in a melodic tone. These Maulūdu celebrations took place in elaborate tents built especially for the occasion. Nowadays, Sunni Islam is considered the official religion of the whole population, since it is necessary to follow this religion to obtain citizenship.

According to the Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta, the person responsible for this transformation was a Sunni Muslim visitor named Abu al-Barakat, who sailed from Morocco. He is also known as Tabrizugefaanu. His revered grave is now on the grounds of the Friday Mosque or Hukuru Miskiy in Malé. This mosque, built in 1656, is the oldest in the country.

Language in Maldives

Maldivian Dhivehi, a close relative of Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka) but with borrowings from Urdu, Hindi, Arabic and many other languages, is the official language. It is written in a remarkable hybrid script called Thaana, which uses Arabic and Indian numerals as the basis of the alphabet and is written from right to left with Arabic vowel signs. It is believed that the script was originally a secret code to write magical formulae so that outsiders could not read them, which would also explain why the arrangement of the alphabet is, as far as linguists can tell, completely random.

English is widely spoken, especially by government officials and those working in the tourism industry. English is also the language of instruction in schools

As the Maldives is a popular destination for German and Italian holidaymakers, a considerable number of the staff at the resorts speak German and Italian. This may vary from resort to resort.

Internet & Communications in Maldives

There are two mobile phone operators: Dhiraagu and Ooredoo. Both sell local prepaid SIM cards with internet connection at competitive prices. The former of them is the leading local telecom company that has a wider coverage, while the prices are about the same as its competitor. Both have shops right next to the arrival area of the airport as you exit. They also both offer 3G/4G data connections. Also, if you plan to sail, you may be interested in Ooredoo’s satellite service.

Most hotels and cafés offer public Wi-Fi, but since 2016, connections are usually very slow, between 56-500 kbps. A local mobile phone number is needed to buy time at many Wi-Fi spots in the country.

Economy of Maldives

In ancient times, the Maldives was known for kauri shells, coconut rope, dried tuna (Maldivian fish), grey ambergris (Maawaharu) and coconut (Tawakkaashi). Domestic and foreign merchant ships loaded these products in Sri Lanka and transported them to other ports of the Indian Ocean.

Historically, the Maldives has supplied a huge number of kauri shells, the international currency of the early centuries. From the II century AD the islands were known to the Arabs as “Money Islands”. Monetaria moneta was used as the currency in Africa for centuries, and a large number of Maldivian kauri were brought to Africa by Western countries during the slave trade era. Kauri is now a symbol of Maldivian monetary power.

The Government of Maldives began its economic reform program in 1989, first increasing import quotas and opening some export opportunities for the private sector. As a result, the rules were liberalized to allow more foreign investment. Real GDP growth averaged more than 7.5 percent per year for over a decade. Today, tourism is the largest industry in the Maldives. It accounts for 28% of GDP and over 60% of foreign exchange earnings in the Maldives. Fishing is the second largest sector.

The economy of Maldives is largely based on tourism. At the end of December 2004, a strong tsunami killed more than 100 people, 12,000 displaced people and property damage worth more than 400 million USD. As a result of the tsunami, GDP fell by about 3.6% in 2005. Tourism recovery, reconstruction after the tsunami and the construction of new resorts contributed to a rapid economic recovery, up 18% from 2006. Estimates for 2013 show that Maldives has the highest per capita GDP (PPP) of $11,900 (2013 estimate) among South Asian countries.

Agriculture and manufacturing continue to play a smaller role in the economy, hampered by limited arable land and a shortage of domestic workers. Tourism has given the country’s young, traditional domestic industries such as mat weaving, varnishing, handicrafts and coconut rope a big boost. Since then, new industries have emerged including printing, PVC pipe manufacturing, brick manufacturing, ship engine repair, carbonated water bottling and clothing manufacturing.

Entry Requirements For Maldives

Visa & Passport for Maldives

The Maldives has a remarkably simple visa policy — everyone gets a free 30-day visa on arrival provided they have a valid travel document, an exit ticket and proof of sufficient funds, defined as either a confirmed reservation at any resort or USD25/day in cash. This can be extended up to 90 days in Male, but you must specify where you will be staying for that long. See the Department of Immigration and Emigration website for details.

The Maldives is an Islamic country. The importation of the following is prohibited: Alcoholpork and pork by-productsreligious articles that are not Islamicnarcotics and psychotropic drugs Pornography (very broadly defined).

Note: All luggage is x-rayed on arrival. The export of sand, shells or coral is also prohibited.

How To Travel To Maldives

Get In - By plane

Virtually all visitors arrive at Malé International Airport (IATA: MLE), located on the island of Hulhulé next to the capital Male. The airport is served by a large number of flights to China, India, Sri Lanka, Dubai and major airports in Southeast Asia, as well as an increasing number of charter flights from Europe. Many flights make a stopover in Colombo (Sri Lanka) en route.

Gan Airport (IATA: GAN) on Addu’s southern atoll also offers an international flight to Milan several times a week.

The departure tax is included in your ticket.

British Airways now flies direct from London Gatwick to Male in winter (October to March). There are no direct flights from London Heathrow, but it is possible to get an indirect flight via, for example, India or the UAE.

Singapore Airlines flies daily direct from Singapore to Male, with late night flights.

Get In - By boat

There are no regular passenger boats to the Maldives. Even yachts tend to stay away as navigating around the reefs is dangerous and permits are expensive.

How To Travel Around Maldives

Getting around in the Maldives is done in three ways: boatsseaplanes (air taxis) and private yachts. Boats are the Maldivian equivalent of the car, while planes and private yachts are mainly reserved for tourists.

Air taxis and boats prefer not to operate at night. So if you arrive at the airport after dark and travel to a resort far away, you may have to spend the night in Male or at the airport hotel in Hulhule. Private transfers, although expensive, can be chosen for the transfer to the resort instead of spending the whole night in Male. Private transfers can cost between USD500-800. On the way back, there may also be a large gap between the time your transfer arrives and the departure of your flight. Check with your resort or travel agent.

Get Around - By plane

No point in the Maldives is more than 90 minutes by plane from Male, and visitors to the resorts further afield use air taxi services. Since 2013, the only operator is Trans Maldivian Airways, which flies DHC-6 Twin Otter seaplanes that can take about 15 passengers.

Scheduled flights between the islands are offered by Island Aviation, which flies from Male to Gan, Hanimaadhoo, Kaadeddhoo and Kaddhoo. Travel permits are no longer required.

Get Around - By boat

The taxi boats generally take tourists to and from the islands in the North and South Malé Atolls. They come in all different shapes and sizes depending on the quality of the resort you are staying at – the Four Seasons has a large enclosed motor cruiser with drinks and food, while the smaller resorts have open dhoni fishing boats.

Public dhoni ferries and cargo boats are available for more independent and price-conscious travellers. The main operator is MTCC, which lists timetables and prices on its website.

The previous system that required written invitations and Inter Atoll Travelling Permits (IATP) for travellers to visit other islands has been abolished, you are now free to travel wherever you want. IATPs are still required if you want to moor your own yacht.

Destinations in Maldives

Regions in Maldives

The Maldives consist of 26 atolls, or atholhu in dhivehi – the origin of the English word. These are not individual islands, but huge ring-shaped coral formations hundreds of kilometres wide, fragmented into countless islands.

Naming the atolls is complex, as the atolls have both long traditional Dhivehi names such as Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi and snappy code names such as Baa, which refer to administrative regions and can consist of more than one geographical atoll. The code names are actually just the letters of the Dhivehi alphabet, but because they are easier for non-Maldivians to remember and pronounce, the code names are popular in the travel industry and are therefore used here. Of the 20 administrative atoll groups, only (parts of) 10 are open to tourism, and from north to south these are:

  • Lhaviyani (Miladhunmadulu Uthuruburi)
  • Raa (Maalhosmadulu Uthuruburi)
  • Baa (Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi)
  • Kaafu (North and South Male Atoll). Location of the capital Male and the airport, home to most Maldivian resorts.
  • Alifu (Ari). To the west of Kaafu, the second most popular group.
  • Vaavu (Felidhu)
  • Meemu (Mulak)
  • Faafu (Nilandhe Atholhu Uthuruburi)
  • Dhaalu (Nilandhe Atholhu Dhekunuburi)
  • Seenu (Addu). The southernmost atoll, the second largest in population and home to Gan International Airport.

Cities in Maldives

  • Male – the capital and largest city
  • Seenu – second largest city and short-lived home of the Suvadive secessionist movement

Accommodation & Hotels in Maldives

For a long time, the Maldives had a policy of keeping tourists on special islands, which meant they could only stay in full-service resorts, where the cost of an overnight stay started at around US$200 and rose into the stratosphere. However, the brief democratic flourishing under the rule of Mohammed Nasheed from 2008 onwards led to all islands opening up to tourism, and backpacker-friendly guesthouses starting at US$30 a night now flourish on the inhabited islands of the archipelago.

Holiday resorts

Most resorts occupy their own island (1500 x 1500m to 250 x 250m) which means the beach to guest ratio has to be one of the best in the world and it’s hard to imagine ever having to fight to find your own private piece of beach to relax on. Many have a ‘no shoes’ policy and with such soft sand it’s easy to love the idea.

The choice and themes of resorts are impressive and most people will find one they like. Roughly speaking, they can be divided into three groups:

  • Dive resorts designed primarily for divers. Explicitly geared towards people who want to spend most of their time underwater. Onshore facilities are limited, but the house reef is usually excellent. Often found in the more remote parts of the archipelago.
  • Holiday resorts that are mainly for families. These are large and have full facilities (several restaurants, day care centres, etc.), but do not offer excessive luxury and have less privacy. Most of these resorts are located on Kaafu and are easily accessible from Male.
  • Luxury resorts that cater mainly to honeymooners and the jet set. The place to be if you want designer furniture, gourmet food and a plasma TV in an overwater villa accessible only by rowing boat, and are willing to pay high prices for the privilege.

A Maldivian classic is the overwater bungalow, built on stilts directly over a lagoon. While these look fabulous and sound enticing, they also have their downsides:

  • They are usually packed closely together (often sharing a wall), which means little privacy.
  • Especially at low tide, the water level can be too low to swim or snorkel.
  • Resort facilities may be located some distance from the bungalows.
  • The lapping of the waves is romantic enough on a calm day, but can make it almost impossible to sleep when a storm passes through.

These factors vary from resort to resort, so research carefully. A good one is definitely worth trying at least once, but many Maldives repeaters prefer a bungalow with a private beach.

When considering where to go, factor in transport time and cost from the airport: The more remote resorts usually require an expensive seaplane transfer, and you may have to stay overnight at the airport on the way there. The further you are from Malé, the quieter the islands and the better the diving.

Many resorts, especially the smaller dive-oriented ones, cater mainly to a single nationality, resulting in “Italian” resorts, “Dutch” resorts, “German” resorts, and so on. While almost all welcome any nationality and have some English-speaking staff available, you may be cut off from evening entertainment and have problems with, for example, diving if you do not speak the local language.


There are guesthouses on inhabited islands, and Maafushi Island is popular when looking for uncomplicated accommodation of this kind. Prices at the lower end are 25-35 euros per night.

Examples include: Equator Village on Addu Atoll, a former RAF base converted into a 78-room hotel. The cost is around $100-150us pp/per day all inclusive (including regular branded alcohol). Another unique place is the Keyodhoo Guest House, this guest house is located on a resort built by an Australian after the tsunami ($20 pp/per night). Most visitors are divers or adventure travellers. Other Inns/B&Bs are located on Vaavu Atoll, Dhaalu Atoll, Kaafu Atoll, North/South Male Atoll and Ari Atoll Haggnaameedhoo. Only a few of these Inns/B&Bs have their own pool. It is advisable to enquire whether bikinis are allowed on the beach. The distances between the Inns and the beaches are usually short, but visitors should still dress according to Maldivian customs.

Village homestays

More independent travellers and those seeking a cultural experience may consider renting rooms in villages. To do this, you will either need to walk around the village and ask around if you are particularly confident in your social skills, or ask in Male if someone can put you in touch with their friends or relatives on the remote island for such an informal homestay. Prices can be as low as 15 euros per night for a clean, functional room.

Things To See in Maldives

Most visitors come to enjoy the myriad of plush resorts, excellent beaches and stunningly colourful marine life. Due to the island’s isolated location, the number of animals on land is limited, but just beneath the surface of the beautiful blue ocean there is an abundance of wildlife to see. Over 2000 species of fish in all colours of the rainbow cavort in the clear waters around the islands. You are likely to see many anemones, different types of rays, octopus, squid and even giant clams. Whales, dolphins and turtles are often spotted. Baa Atoll, designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2011 and home to one of the richest coral reefs in the world, is becoming a major tourist attraction as well as an example of sustainable tourism in a protected area. In short, snorkelling or diving is an absolute must, so be sure to read the ‘Do’ section below for more information on this. The magnificent and ubiquitous white sand beaches are a sight in themselves, especially in the tropical island setting in which they are located. A flight to one of the many resort islands offers a spectacular aerial view of these picturesque islets, ringed by white sand beaches and cobalt blue waters.

But if you can tear yourself away from your luxury holiday destination, the capital Malé is a pleasant change of pace. The country’s bustling financial and political centre has a few sights to offer. Try the National Museum for a touch of history. The building may not look too promising, but the museum’s fine collection includes beautiful Arabic and Thai wood carvings, religious pieces, weapons and other historical artefacts. The city also has a number of mosques worth visiting. The 17th century Old Friday Mosque is the oldest in the country, and officials are often willing to let polite and properly dressed visitors inside. The Grand Friday Mosque & Islamic Centre is its modern 1984 counterpart and dominates the city skyline. Although simple in design, the large white marble structure and gleaming golden dome is an attractive sight.

Things To Do in Maldives

Diving and snorkeling in Maldives

Apart from turning the water bungalow into a rock on your honeymoon, the main activity in the Maldives is diving. The atolls are all coral reefs hundreds of kilometres from any major land mass, which means the water clarity is excellent and the underwater life is abundant. Manta rays, sharks, even a few wrecks, whatever you’re looking for, you can find it in the Maldives.

While the diving even in the immediate vicinity of Male is very good on a world scale, visibility and the chance of encountering large pelagic fish increases the further you get to the outer atolls. Many divers opt for liveaboards, which can actually be much cheaper than the high resort fees. Currents vary considerably, being generally low within the atolls, but some strong currents can be found on the sides facing the open sea. The water in the Maldives is warm all year round and a 3 mm shorty or lycra wetsuit is adequate. Diving is possible all year round, but rain, wind and waves are most common during the southwest monsoon period (June-August). The best time to dive is from January to April, when the sea is calm, the sun is shining and visibility can be up to 30m. There are decompression chambers at Bandos in Kaafu(15min from Male), Kuredu in Lhaviyani Atoll and at Kuramathi on Alifu.

The only downside to diving in the Maldives is that it is quite expensive by Asian standards. Prices vary considerably from resort to resort, with specialised dive resorts offering better prices. Generally, a single boat dive with your own equipment costs around 50 USD and 75 USD without. Watch out for surcharges: You may pay extra for boat use, guided dives, larger tanks, etc. On the other hand, safety standards are usually very high, well-maintained equipment and strict adherence to protocol (check dives, maximum depth, use of computers, etc.) are the rule rather than the exception.

Surfing in Maldives

The Maldives is becoming an increasingly popular destination for surfers. Turquoise waters and perfect waves make it an ideal and uncrowded destination for surfers looking for smooth surfing conditions.

The best time to surf in the Maldives is between March and October; the biggest waves are in June, July and August. This paradise is subject to the same swells as Indonesia, with the difference that the higher latitude and south-east orientation offers cooler and less hardcore surfing. The recent O’Neil Deep Blue contests held in the Maldives have placed the Maldives firmly on the world surfing map. While most of the recognised surf breaks are in Male’ Atoll, there is certainly more to discover.

Specialised companies organise tailor-made multi-day boat trips in the region, allowing surfers to easily get from one point to another and maximise their surfing time.

Food & Drinks in Maldives

Food in Maldives

All resorts are self-contained, so they have at least one restaurant that generally serves the type of cuisine expected by guests. (i.e. modern European or generic Asian). Breakfast is almost always included, and most resorts offer the option of half board, which means you get an evening buffet, and full board, which means you get a lunch and dinner buffet. These can limit the damage compared to ordering a la carte, but your options are typically very limited and drinks are often not covered, not even necessarily water. If you plan to drink a lot, it may be worth going all-inclusive, but again, you are usually limited to house drinks.

The only other way to find food is male. This comes in two forms. Either small restaurants aimed at tourists (of which there are a few nice Thai restaurants), which are often expensive, or small cafés called hotaa, which offer local Maldivian food at prices as low as MVR20 for a full meal.

Maldivian cuisine

Maldivian food largely revolves around fish (mas), especially tuna (kandu mas), and is strongly influenced by Sri Lankan and South Indian traditions, especially Kerala. Dishes are often hot, spicy and flavoured with coconut, but contain very few vegetables. A traditional meal consists of rice, a clear fish broth called garudhiya, and side dishes of lime, chilli and onion. Curries known as riha are also popular, and rice is often accompanied by roshi, unleavened bread similar to Indian roti, and papadhu, the Maldivian version of crispy Indian poppadums. Some other common dishes are:

  • mas huni – chopped smoked fish with grated coconut and onions, the most common Maldivian breakfast
  • fihunu mas – grilled fish baked with chilli
  • bambukeylu hiti – breadfruit curry

Snacks called hedhikaa, almost always fish-based and deep-fried, can be found in every Maldivian restaurant.

  • Bajiya – pastry filled with fish, coconut and onions
  • Gulha – dough balls filled with smoked fish
  • keemia – fried fish rolls
  • kulhi borkibaa – spicy fish cake
  • masroshi – mas huni wrapped and baked in roshi bread
  • theluli mas – fried fish with chilli and garlic

Drinks in Maldives

As the Maldives is Muslim, alcohol is prohibited for the local population. However, almost all resorts, liveaboard boats and the Hulhule Island Hotel (on the same island as the airport) have a licence to serve it, usually at a high mark-up. Expatriates have pocket money that they can use in Malé.

Maldivians generally do not drink alcohol, although this is less true for the younger generation. However, they are unhappy about being filmed or photographed while drinking.

The tap water in the resorts may be drinkable, but it doesn’t have to be – ask the management. Bottled water is outrageously expensive, typically US$5/bottle.

Money & Shopping in Maldives

Currency in Maldives

The local currency is the Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR), divided into 100 Laari. However, the resorts charge for their services in US dollars by law and require payment in hard currency (or by credit card), so there is absolutely no need to change money if you spend all your time at the resorts. Most hotels have a shop, but this is limited to dive and holiday items (sunscreen, sarongs, disposable cameras, etc.). Some excursions from the resorts will take you to local islands where there are handicraft items to buy, but these are typically made outside the Maldives and sold at outrageous mark-ups.

If you are going to Male or the other inhabited atolls, the Rufiyaa exchange is very useful. The coins in particular are quite attractive and make an interesting souvenir in themselves, but the smaller denominations are rarely used or seen. The official exchange rate to the US dollar fluctuates freely but is practically 15:1, but while dollars are accepted almost everywhere, shops usually exchange them at 15:1 or even 10:1.

Tipping in Maldives

Tipping is not compulsory in the Maldives as 10% service charge is added to everything – but considering the low salaries earned by staff and the excellent level of service generally provided, it is a nice gesture to help resort staff earn some extra money. It is also not entirely certain that the 10% service charge is passed on to the staff.

Over the years, the tipping culture in the Maldives has changed, mainly because Europeans and visitors from other continents tip different amounts.

Prices in Maldives

The Maldives is expensive for those who have comfort and service-oriented tourism in mind. Resorts have a monopoly on services for their guests and charge accordingly: for mid-range resorts, $1000 per week per couple is a conservative budget for meals, drinks and excursions, in addition to the cost of flights and accommodation. Virtually everything – including hotel rooms if booked locally – comes with an arbitrary 10% “service charge”, but tipping is expected on top.

For an adventurous traveller with time to spare, the Maldives can be a very affordable and rewarding experience, with prices comparable to Malaysia. A number of inhabited islands have guesthouses with typical prices ranging from 25-40 euros per room. On more remote islands, it is possible to rent rooms in villages for even less. Food is cheap (and fish curries are delicious). Public ferries will take you between different islands on the same atoll for a few US dollars (although for less obvious places there is typically only one ferry per day and no ferries run on Fridays). For transfers to remote atolls, you can negotiate with cargo boats, which often take people for US$15-40, depending on the destination. Cargo boats have no schedules and leave when they are loaded. You can expect 1 boat in 1-3 days for each atoll.

It is important to remember that staying on inhabited islands means respecting strict Muslim norms, such as no alcohol, modest dress, restrained behaviour. However, the locals are very hospitable and the experience can be much deeper and more rewarding than staying in resorts.

Culture Of Maldives

Since the 12th century AD, there have also been influences from Arabia in the language and culture of the Maldives due to its conversion to Islam and its location as a crossroads in the central Indian Ocean. This was due to the long history of trade between the Far East and the Middle East. Somali travellers discovered the island in the 13th century after gold, even before the Portuguese. Their short stay later ended in a bloody conflict, which the Somalis called “Dagaal Diig Badaaney” in 1424.

However, unlike the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka and most Arabs, Africans and Europeans, whose influence is evident in loan words, material culture and the diversity of the Maldivian phenotype, Maldivians do not have the strongly entrenched patriarchal codes of honour, purity, corporate marriage and sedentary private property that are typical of places where agriculture is the main form of subsistence and social relations have historically been built around the taking of tribute.

This is reflected in the fact that the Maldives has had the highest national divorce rate in the world for many decades. This is believed to be due to a combination of liberal Islamic divorce rules and the relatively loose marital ties considered common among non-sedentary and semi-sedentary peoples without a history of fully developed agrarian property and kinship relations.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Maldives

Stay safe in Maldives

There is very little crime in the tourist resorts, as guests often do not venture far away. In general, Maldivians are honest, helpful and hospitable people, even though you are unlikely to come into much contact with them in the resorts.

There are no drugs in the resorts, but most Maldivians have easy access to drugs. Drug addiction is increasingly common and petty crime is on the rise. Take the usual precautions, such as not leaving money or valuables lying around. Note that every USD 50 you spend in a bar or restaurant is equivalent to 10 days’ wages for cleaners.

Anti-government street riots occurred in Male between 2003 and 2005, but political tensions were largely eased by the opposition’s victory in the 2008 elections. In the run-up to the 2013 election cycle, activists called for a halt to tourism to the island nation and the federal government bought more than $100,000 worth of riots.

Homosexual activity between consenting adults is punishable by life imprisonment. Discretion should be exercised by LGBT visitors.

Extensive discrimination against non-Muslims is enshrined in the country’s laws. In 2011, a foreign teacher was imprisoned for possessing a Bible and a set of Catholic rosaries. The country’s constitution was amended in 2008 to allow only Sunni Muslims to obtain Maldivian citizenship. There is no religious freedom; alcohol and pork are only available at the airport or at a resort that employs only foreign workers. Non-Muslims are not allowed to marry in the Maldives, are forced to have their children educated in the Muslim tradition and are barred from public office. Apostasy, blasphemy and criticism of Islam are illegal; promoting other religions or possessing non-Muslim religious items of any kind is illegal.

Stay healthy in Maldives

There are no serious problems with diseases in the Maldives. Note that the tap water may not be drinkable at all resorts: check locally. The Maldives is malaria-free, but mosquitoes are present on some islands and infection with dengue fever is possible, although very unlikely. For those coming from regions infected with yellow fever, an international vaccination certificate is required.

Most problems come from diving or sun-related injuries. Heat stroke is always a problem in the tropics, but in conjunction with divers spending hours on a boat in a wetsuit, overheating in one form or another is a real problem. Bearing this in mind, such injuries are easily avoided as long as you drink plenty of water and get into the shade as often as possible.

Many of the resorts have their own doctor or nurse and most are within easy reach of decompression chambers. Male has an efficient and fairly modern hospital, but bear in mind that it is a long way to be medically evacuated home from there.



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