Maldives Travel Guide: All You Need To Know

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Maldives has always been the best honeymoon destination for travelers across the globe. The white sandy beaches, clear turquoise water, sunny days, beautiful seascapes and the water sports have kept this island country on top of every wanderluster's wishlist. Often considered as an expensive destination, the country has opened up its tourism on local islands as well and it is actually very much possible to have a budget trip to Maldives now.

About The Republic of Maldives

Maldives is a South Asian Islamic country comprised of some 1200 small islands stretched along 900 kms. The islands are grouped into a chain of 26 atolls and only 200 of these islands are inhibited. These islands are divided in to Local islands and Private resort islands. Please note that a Maldives trip is nothing but visiting only about less than 1% of this country as you would most probably be staying on a single island during your stay 🙂

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Maldives Map. Credit: worldatlas

Best time to visit Maldives

Maldives is perfect to visit from mid-December to April for clear skies and calm water. However, resort prices are higher since it is the peak tourist season. May to November is a low season when you would get cheap deals but the strong winds, cloudy weather and rains can be a dampener.

Maldives Visa

Tourist visa is granted to tourists of all nationalities on arrival to Maldives provided the person satisfies basic requirements:

- A passport with at least 6 months validity

- A pre-paid hotel booking/accommodation

- Sufficient funds to last for the entire period of stay in Maldives

- Confirmed flight tickets and visa for the onward/ return destination

- Completed Disembarkation Card

- Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate, if applicable

Currency in Maldives

Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) is the currency of Maldives.

MVR 1 = INR 5

USD 1 = MVR 15

If you are planning to stay/visit local islands, it is better to carry some MVR for payments at restaurants and for shopping. Private resorts accept MVR, USD and Credit Cards.

Things to do in Maldives

Apart from staring at the beautiful view of clean turquoise waters everywhere, there are many other things you can indulge in, when you are in Maldives:

Scuba Diving: Quite expensive on private resorts. We were quoted USD 420 for one hour long scuba session for two adults with photos and video. It will be much cheaper on local islands and underwater clarity and the sea life is pretty much the same everywhere in Maldives

Snorkeling: The cheaper version of diving and much safer for non-swimmers. Generally one complimentary snorkeling session is included in your private resort package. You can either carry your own snorkeling kit or get one on rent.

Fun Tubing: An unpowered, inflatable tube tows you over the water at high speeds as you sail over the waves.

Water Skiing: Not a good option during rainy season (June to September) Parasailing Surfing Fishing

Spa: Get yourself pampered with a relaxing massage

Underwater dining at Ithaa: World's first all-glass underwater restaurant in Conrad Maldives

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Ithaa Underwater Restaurant. Credit: Conrad Maldives

Bioluminescent Plankton: Watch the blue glowing beaches of Maldives in the low season (June to September), ONLY IF YOU ARE LUCKY TO BE AT THE RIGHT PLACE AT RIGHT TIME.

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Bioluminescence in Maldives. Credit: Doug Perrine

Kitesurfing/ Kiteboarding

Private picnic on a sandbank: Generally offered to honeymooners by private resorts only

Traditional Dhoni Sunset

Cruise Whale/ Shark sighting

Experience local culture: If you are visiting a local island, you will get to see the daily life of local people. You will appreciate the local art and craft and the Maldivian cuisine.

Maldives Local vs Private Islands

Accommodation: The guesthouses/ small hotels on local islands will be way cheaper than the accommodation in private island resorts. However, most of the local islands hotels won't have swimming pools.

Privacy: You will get all the luxury and privacy you ever wished for on private islands. Same is not the case with local islands. Public Display of Affection (PDA) and Homosexuality is a big no-no around local islands.

Food: You get to taste different cuisines and delicious food on private islands. This is good for vegetarians and vegans. On the other hand, you will have limited food options on local islands. Do not forget to try Mas Huni - the traditional Maldivian breakfast dish comprised of finely chopped tuna, onion, coconut and chilli.

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Dining at private resorts. Credit: Adaaran Club Rannalhi
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Mas Huni Dish. Credit: Fasy Ismail/ Sea House Maldives

Payments: On local islands, you may have to pay only in MVR or USD and not with a credit card.

Excursions: Daily trips around the local islands are much cheaper than the excursions on private islands.

Clothing: Maldives is an Islamic country so you will have to wear clothes that would cover your knees, shoulders, abdomen, chest, and elbows. Private islands do not usually have any such restrictions.

Alcohol: As Maldives is Muslim country, you will not get alcohol on local islands. Private resorts do provide alcohol. Also, you cannot bring in or move alcohol out of Maldives. So if you are gifted wine/champagne bottles by the resort, make sure you finish them off during your stay in Maldives 🙂

When you are staying on a private island, you are stuck there for the entire trip, unless you are a rich guy to shell out more money to spend on an extra speedboat transfer move to another island.

Unless you have any special plans to visit a local island, you will hardly learn anything about them. It's better to keep couple of days for a stay on a local island.

Are there Sharks in Maldives?

YES. Maldives is home to some 25 species of sharks. You are guaranteed to see baby reef sharks in the evening at your resort. Apart from sharks, stingrays, jellyfishes are a common sight on private islands. At Adaaran Club Rannalhi, we got to see all of these and my wife even got stung by a small jellyfish 🙂

Maldives Trip Cost

As always, it all boils down to one thing - Money. So how much does it cost to visit Maldives? Well it depends on many factors - where you are staying, where and what you are eating, period of stay, activities you are doing, etc.

But to give you a basic idea, following will be the average cost of a Maldives trip:

Solo traveler/ backpacker (stay on local island): INR 15000-20000 (USD 200-250)

Couple/ Honeymooners (Local island): INR 25000-35000 (USD 300-400) per person

Couple/ Honeymooners (Private resort)

3 star: INR 100000-140000 (USD 1300-1800) for both

4 star: INR 150000-230000 (USD 2000-3000) for both

5 star: INR 250000 onwards (USD 3300) for both

Please note that these figures are for a 4N5D stay, are indicative and exclusive of Airfare.

Money saving tips for a Maldives trip

Flights: If you are from India, try to club Maldives trip with Sri Lanka. We paid INR 45000 (USD 600) for Mumbai-Colombo-Male-Mumbai flights for two adults. If you are from other part of the world, it is better to fly from Middle East or Asia to save on the airfare.

Stay: You can choose to stay on local islands with guesthouses provided by locals, explore local life, go on nearby excursions, indulge in water sports and save a lot of money. But you will have to follow certain rules. If you are curious about private resorts, you can spend some money and can go on a day trip to resort of your choice.

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Private resorts in Maldives. Credit: Kandima Maldives

Accommodation: If you are planning to stay on a private island, you can stay in Standard Beach Houses (near the shore) and opt for a Water Villa stay (right in the middle of the sea) for just one night. Trust me, water villas are OVERRATED.

Ferries: There are ferries for visiting local islands from Male which run on opposite days e.g. Male to Maafushi on Monday and Maafushi to Male on Tuesday. For private islands, it is better to choose speedboat transfer over seaplane.

Meal plans: This one is applicable for private resorts. There are basically four meal plans that are offered by resorts -

Breakfast: Only breakfast

Half Board (HB): Breakfast and Dinner

Full Board (FB): Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

All Inclusive (AI): It is Full Board plus unlimited selected drinks (canned fruit juices and alcohol), complimentary water sports (not scuba diving) and excursions.

For someone who doesn't drink, Half Board meal plan is the ideal one.

Choosing the Maldives package

- If you are planning to stay on local islands, you can plan the trip entirely yourself. And for private resorts, booking directly with the resort will be an expensive deal. It is always better to arrange it through travel companies as they get reasonable deals from resorts of all star ratings.

- Make sure your package includes return transfers (speedboat/seaplane) from airport to the resort. Generally, one way speedboat transfer is USD 100-300 per person, depending on how far the resort is.

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Seaplane transfer in Maldives. Photo by Shifaaz shamoon on Unsplash
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Sitting arrangement in speedboat. Credit: Sun Siyam Maldives

- You package MUST be inclusive of all kinds of Government and local taxes.

- If you are opting for Half Board meal plan, please note that the resorts generally do not modify the plan i.e. asking for Lunch instead of Dinner. And it doesn't make sense to have Breakfast and Lunch and then starve yourself till next morning.

- If you are a honeymooner, check the complimentary perks offered by the resort and make sure that all are mentioned clearly in your package details. Typically it includes fruit basket, bottle of wine/champagne, honeymoon cake and snorkeling/ windsurfing session.

- Carry a proof of your marriage and marriage date should fall within 6 months.

- For Breakfast, HB and FB plans, make sure that the package mentions supply of water bottles for each person every day. Else, you will have to shell out USD 9-11 per bottle of water.

- Check with the travel agent about snorkeling kit - whether you will have to pick it up from their desk at Male Airport or whether resort will be providing it. Because once you leave from Male for the resort, you will get to see the airport only on your return journey day.

- Every resort and travel agent has a helpdesk at Male airport. Ask your agent or resort to make proper transfer arrangements and decide the place to meet their representative. Because, if you are landing in Male post 9 pm, most of the desks are empty, you do not have the local SIM and only food court has the WIFI. Communicate and clarify everything in advance.

I have tried to cover almost everything that can crop up in the mind of the First-timer to Maldives. There could be many things I know but might have missed out in mentioning. So if you have any further queries, please feel free to ask me on Instagram, Facebook. And subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Till then...Happy Travelizing!!!