Maldives – everything you need to know before your trip – Q&A

I’ve visited Maldives a few months ago, but it’s still one of the most exciting destinations for you :)  Every week I get dozen of questions, so I decided to gather them all in one place and answer. I hope that they will dispel many of your doubts and help you to plan your own trip to the Maldives.


BEFORE GOING TO THE MALDIVES

When it’s best time to visit the Maldives?

Actually, the Maldives are a good destination whole year round. With its tropical climate, lots of sun and temperature about 30 Celsius all year long, you can freely plan your trip off-season. However, there are two different seasons there: the dry season (north-eastern monsoon) and the rainy season (south-western monsoon). The first one lasts from January to March and the prices then are the highest, the second one falls between April and November. I was there in April, so theoretically in the rainy season, but the weather was perfect.Heavy rains might appear practically any time of the year but they are usually brief and you can’t predict them precisely (so don’t take them too seriously, it is possible that even during the peak season a rainy day might occur and apart from that you won’t see even one raindrop falling from the sky). But diving is an open possibility whole year long. You should only remember that between May and November better visibility and more diverse reef marine life would be on the western side of each atoll, while between December and April – on the eastern side. 

Do you need a visa in the Maldives? 

No, you don’t need to get a visa before going to the Maldives. A 30-day-long visa is granted to every nationality directly at the Male airport. You just need a few things: your passport should be valid (for at least 6 months, counting from the date of arrival) and you should already have a ticket back home. Moreover, you should also have confirmation of your hotel or resort booking and enough funds to cover your expenses during the whole stay.The immigration officer always has the right to refuse you the visa, so it’s best to take care of accommodation before you arrive there. If you are planning a trip on your own, I recommend online websites to look for a place to stay, like Booking.com or Airbnb.

What is forbidden to bring to the Maldives? 

In the Maldives some goods are strictly prohibited to bring or import, among which are mainly: alcohol, pork, pornography, religious items and drugs. Just make your lives easier and report that you have a Buddha figure you bought at Sri Lanka and a bottle of vodka bought in the duty-free zone. The authorities will keep all these prohibited items safe during your stay and you would be able to reclaim them while leaving.


PRICES AND MONEY IN THE MALDIVES

How much does a stay in the Maldives cost? 

It all depends on how you want to do it – on your own, with a travel agency, sleeping in various guesthouses on local islands or maybe a luxurious resort with water villas. There are plenty of options. On the local islands you could find a room that would cost you less than 50 USD. When it comes to resorts, price for one night begins at approx. 400 USD.

Food prices on public islands are quite decent – one meal costs usually only a few bucks. Of course, it will differ a bit on every island, depending if you want to dine in a fine hotel restaurant or in a cheaper motel but everything should still be affordable. But in resorts, food is definitely costlier (about USD 20 for a meal) and that’s why, when deciding to stay in a resort, you should choose full board or all inclusive stay.

I will prepare for you a separate post about prices in the Maldives, showing you different options.

Are there any additional fares I should know about?

All services directly associated with visiting guests are taxed additionally by 10% for the service and 12% for T-GST (a tourist goods and services tax). On local islands GST (goods and service tax) is applied to the goods and services by the registered company, so by the cafes, restaurants and shops. There is also a “green” tax, applied to all stays in hotels registered as a hotel or a holiday resort. Since 1st November 2015 it has amounted to 6 USD per night per person and it is not a subject of T-GST/GST. Always check your bills and booking confirmations or ask, if the price already includes all the local taxes. Bargain trips to the Maldives often look really favorable at first glance, until you realize that the shown prices do not include a whole bunch of additional fares and taxes. You should definitely keep that in mind while planning your trip

What currency you should have in the Maldives?

The Maldivian rufiyaa (MVR) is the currency of the whole Maldives and it’s not quoted on official foreign exchange markets, so you can’t buy it in advance. One rufiyaa divides into 100 laari. The bills available are: 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Only main foreign currencies are exchangeable to the domestic currency

Can I pay in US dollars in the Maldives?

American dollar is an acceptable legal tender in the whole Maldives. One USD equals about 15.46 rufiyaas. However, the exchange rate offered by the local companies for one- or five-dollar bills could be lower, because the bank charges a 3% handling fee when the bills deposit is lower than 5 USD. Banks in the Maldives look very carefully at the state of the bill and they would refuse any deposits in old bills, however they are still valid (and widely used) or if the bills are damaged, creased or worn out. I recommend you to go to the Maldives with dollars in your wallet just so that you could save yourself the whole procedure of currency exchange.

Are there any ATMs in the Maldives?

Most of the banks in Male also have ATMs. Bank of Maldives has several departments in Male but also on other, bigger islands. In the capital city there are other banks, operating in the region, like State Bank of India, Bank of Ceylon and MCB. On holiday islands and on lots of local islands there are no banks. However, on many resort or guesthouse islands there are ATMs, but you can only get the local currency, so MVR. 

Is it better to pay with cash or a card in the Maldives?

All the major brand credit and debit cards can be used in resorts, hotels, in many shops and restaurants in Male and also on the local islands. You should also remember that a credit card payment fee would be added to your bill. This fee differs, depending on the company handling the card payments and it might reach even additional 5%

Is alcohol expensive in the Maldives?

You should remember that the Maldives are a Muslim country, so on a local island you won’t be able to buy alcohol or bring any with you, even from a duty-free zone at the airport. Alcohol is available only on resort islands and the prices may differ – from USD 6 to USD 15 for a beer or USD 12-25 for a cocktail.


TRANSPORT IN THE MALDIVES

How does a transfer from the airport looks like in the Maldives?

The issue of transportation is different, of course, if you chose a local island for your stay or a resort. Most resorts offer their own means of transport to their islands and its cost is included in the general price. In such situation, just send a message to the hotel what day and when you should arrive at the airport and it should send a representative to pick you up at the Male airport and transport you to your island (usually by hydrofoils)

How to get to Maldives islands on your own?

If you chose to move between the islands on your own, you have some options to choose from. Public ferries sail on different weekdays to different islands, you can find the schedule online. There are also a lot of private motorboats you can hire like a taxi.


HEALTH AND SAFETY IN THE MALDIVES

Are there any obligatory vaccines when going to the Maldives?

If you’re not flying from Africa, the law does not oblige you to have any vaccines to travel in or out the Maldives. But, for your own health, it is strongly recommended that all the tourists should be protected from food- and water-borne diseases (viral hepatitis A and typhoid fever), as well as from tetanus.

Are the Maldives a safe place? 

The Maldives are considered a safe direction for tourists but, like usually, you should be vigilant anywhere. The most popular form of crime against tourists is pickpocketing, stealing wallets or valuable items, left unattended at beaches or in other public places. Assaults, extortions and any other violent acts are a rarity. When it comes to natural threats, you should be aware that the archipelago is situated in a seismic zone, so weak and average earthquakes might appear, there is also a risk of a tsunami.

Is it worth to go to the Maldives with children? 

The Maldives are absolutely suitable for children but there are not many special attractions for kids on the islands. You also have to remember that some resorts are meant only for adults and you would not be able to book a room there if you are travelling with kids.

If you’re planning a stay on the local islands, you should check in advance, if there is a store and a pharmacy around. Moreover, it’s worth to now that well equipped medical facilities and hospitals are situated only in the capital city – Male. Another important fact – after sunset all transport between the islands stops, so in case of any medical emergency it might turn out impossible to rush someone to a medical center.

Beaches in the Maldives usually have gentle descent into the water, which in most cases is not very deep, even a dozen or so meters from the shore. There are no sudden pitches or strong waves, so it’s a perfect environment for your kids to wade in the water. But you always should listen to the voice of reason and watch out for sea life.


OTHER ISSUES

What religion is prevalent in the Maldives and how does it influence travels?

The Maldives are a 100% Muslim country and you should be really careful about clothing laws and norms on local islands. Although men are allowed to wear T-shirts and shorts or swimming shorts, women should avoid showing body off and should dress more conservatively, wearing T-shirts, loose-fitting shorts or sarongs. Swimsuits are also forbidden, except for deserted islands, picnic islands, diving boats and resort islands. Because the law restricts wearing bikinis on local islands, many guesthouses offer special tourist beaches or private gardens and terraces for sunbathing. These rules do not apply to resorts. So if you are not planning to stay in a resort, there is always a possibility to buy a one-day pass to a resort, allowing you to use its attractions.

What are the working hours of shops in the Maldives?

In the Maldives the working week lasts between Sunday and Thursday. Most places are closed on Friday until the Friday prayer. On Friday public ferries also do not sail, except for those operating in the capital city area, between Male, Hulhumale and Villingila. But these ferries also stop working between 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM (Friday prayer). In the Maldives shops are opened at different hours but usually before 9 AM. They are closed mostly at 10 PM, while cafes and restaurants at 11 PM.

How does a stay on the local Maldives islands look like?

Islands in the Maldives can be either public, so those on which local citizens live, or private (resort) ones, on which you can generally find only hotels.

In 2010 a law was introduced, which allows local citizens to open hotels and guesthouses also on public islands. Previously it was not possible, so while visiting the Maldives you were able to stay only in a resort.

When it comes to technicalities, stay and transportation on a local island are much cheaper that staying in a resort (prices for a room begins at 50 USD, ferry ticket costs only a few dollars, while renting a motorboat costs a dozen or so, sometimes several dozen dollars).

You should remember, though, that visiting local islands is bound with restrictions, due to the fact that the Maldives are a Muslim country. It translates mostly into appropriate outfits – your body should be covered, miniskirts and low-cut blouses are definitely seen as inappropriate and would be taken as a lack of respect.
Moreover, on beaches you are not allowed to wear a bathing suit but it slowly changes and some parts of the beaches are being marked off for this purpose. They are so called bikini beaches.

You cannot buy or drink alcohol on the local islands too.

What is the dress code in resorts in the Maldives? 

It depends on a resort – some are very elegant, some are more laid-back. I’ll answer in a different way, so what, in my opinion, is OK and what not. And the rest is your choice. I think that being in a beautiful place, in an elegant restaurant, where the waiter, dressed in a white shirt, serves you fine wine, deserves wearing appropriate outfit. It’s a matter of class and style – no one would throw you out if you appear at a supper wearing flip-flops but… would you be showing respect to the employees and other guests then? If I am in a luxurious place, I always try to dress appropriately, so I’m not wearing jeans and flip-flops to a supper. I choose dresses, skirts, elegant clothing. When it comes to men, I’d choose closed shoes, long pants and a shirt. I believe that it is always better to be someone showing an example, not an individual who doesn’t give a damn about principles and wears shorts in such situation. It’s like going to a theater – sure, you can go there wearing sneakers and jeans but would it feel right?

Do I need to have a permit to fly a drone in the Maldives? 

No, you don’t have to get a special permit for this. But you have to be really, really careful. It’s not a safe place to fly a drone, because hydrofoils fly over the resorts, often at low altitude, bringing and taking the guests away, sometimes all day long. First of all, they fly at altitude easily reached by drones, second of all, it’s not easy to hear or see them. All of that makes this kind of activity extremely dangerous. I would ask in the hotel, what is the flight schedule in the day when you want to use your drone – when the planes should land and how long the time window between landings and departures lasts. Only then I would consider flying a drone.

Can I drink alcohol in the Maldives? 

In accordance with the law, if you are 18 years old and you’re not a Muslim, you can buy and drink alcohol. But because the Maldives are a Muslim country, alcohol is effectively banned on all the local islands. However, almost all the resorts and boats have a license to sell alcohol

Can I sunbathe in a bikini while being in the Maldives?

Although the Maldives are famous for their intoxicating beaches and year-long excellent weather, according to the Muslim law, you should cover your body. Sunbathing nude or topless is strictly and absolutely forbidden in the whole country. You can wear a bikini only on a tourist beach or on your terrace at the guesthouse but you cannot walk around the island wearing only a bikini. These rules do not apply to resorts.

Is it possible to take shells with me from the Maldives?

I would advise against buying sea shells or dried corals. Selling these souvenirs is allowed in the Maldives but if you try to take them out of the country, you’ll pay a huge fine.

How long to stay in the Maldives? 

Of course, depends on what kind of rest you’re into. I can only share with you my own experience. I was in the Maldives for 9 days. My trips are usually full of movement, adventures, trekking etc. You know, I need action! So the beautiful sights – like the combination of azure with white sand – do impress me but they are not enough for me. So while being in the Maldives I found lots of stuff to do – diving, swimming, paddle boarding… Thanks to this I had the feeling of a well spent time. On the other hand, I was in a different situation, because I went there to work and first of all, I prepared the content and second of all, I lead fitness trainings for the guests. So I didn’t have much time to lounge around. But if I were there privately, I think that a week would be a maximum period for me, because I have the impression that it’s enough to experience this place, rest and try the local attractions.

If you don’t have any special activities planned, which would take time, like diving or deep-sea fishing, then, in my opinion, the Maldives are a perfect place for a short stay. Usually 4-5 days in a hotel or for example 7 days in two hotels, just to add some variety to your trip. 

Is it worth going to the Maldives?

I always try not to think about a place “if it’s worth or not”, because I believe that every place is worth visiting, experiencing and forging your own opinion about it. However, this destination is seriously expensive, blown up by marketing and the brutal fact is that there are other places in the world with equally breathtaking views. And often they are more interesting historically, culturally or because of their cuisine, like Mexico, for example. In addition, in most cases they are 10 times cheaper. So, I will answer with a question – what is your goal for such journey? If it’s for experiencing the Maldives, then go! But if you just want to visit a heavenly place with azure water, then you could find at least a few other destinations.

 

If you have any other questions about the Maldives, write them in the comments! I’m planning to extend this article!

 

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