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Maldives in its region (small islands magnified).svg
Flag of Maldives.svg
Quick Facts
Capital Malé
Government Presidential Republic
Currency Rufiyaa (MVR)
Area 300km²
Population 392,473 (2018 estimate)
Language Dhivehi is the native language, English is widely spoken
Religion Sunni Muslim
Electricity 240 V, 50 Hz (European or British plugs)
Country code +960
Internet TLD .mv
Time Zone UTC+5

The Maldives (Dhivehi: ދިވެހިރާއްޖެ Dhivehi Raajje) are an archipelago of 1,192 coral islands grouped into 26 coral atolls (200 inhabited islands and 154 islands with tourist resorts) in the Indian Ocean. They lie south-southwest of India and are considered part of Southern Asia.

Maldives was for the most part unknown to tourists until the early 1970s. Just 189 of the islands are home to its 392,473 inhabitants. The other islands are used entirely for economic functions, of that tourism and agriculture are dominant. Tourism accounts for 28% of the GDP. Over 90% of the state government income comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes.



Formerly a Sultanate under Dutch and British protection, the Maldives are now a republic. Long ruled over with an iron fist by Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who did not hesitate to jail dissidents and was re-elected five times in more or less rigged elections, resistance to his rule culminated in violent rioting in 2003 and 2004. Under international pressure, free and fair elections were finally held in 2008, and Maumoon gracefully conceded defeat to opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed, "Anni".

Following protests that started on 1 May 2011, Mohamed Nasheed was forced to resign from office on 7 February 2012. Mohammed Waheed Hassan, supported by the former dictator, was appointed president of the Maldives. There have been reports of violence and human rights violations by the security forces against protesters backing Nasheed. The current president as of 17 November 2018 is Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

The Tsunami of 26 December 2004 caused extensive damage to the Maldives - of a population of only 290,000, over a third was directly affected by the tsunami and more than 15,000 people were left homeless. The economic damage alone was over 62% of the GDP or USD470 million.

The immediate response from international donors and agencies mobilized more than USD400 million in aid after the disaster, much of which was used to help misplaced persons rebuild their homes and infrastructure damaged by the waves. As of December 24, 2010, six years after the tsunami, the number of persons living in temporary shelters had fallen from 15,000 to only 1,600 people.

The tourism industry is the main economic industry in the Maldives, attracting visitors to the many resorts, retreats, and private islands. The Maldives also has a rich history to discover on many of the inhabited islands, revealing a detailed Maldives history. If you’re planning on Maldives sightseeing, these are the 20 most historical places in the Maldives to visit.


Tourism, Maldives largest industry, accounts for 28% of GDP and more than 60% of the Maldives' foreign exchange receipts. Over 90% of government tax revenue comes from import duties and tourism-related taxes. Over 1,700,000 tourists visited the islands in 2019. Fishing is the second leading sector. The Maldivian Government began an economic reform program in 1989 initially by lifting import quotas and opening some exports to the private sector. Subsequently, it has liberalized regulations to allow more foreign investment. Agriculture and manufacturing continue to play a minor role in the economy, constrained by the limited availability of cultivable land and the shortage of domestic labour. Most staple foods must be imported. Industry, which consists mainly of garment production, boat building, and handicrafts, accounts for about 18% of GDP. Maldivian authorities worry about the impact of erosion and global warming on their low-lying country; 80% of the area is one meter or less above sea level.


Maldivians are entirely Sunni Muslim, and the local culture is a mixture of South Indian, Sinhalese and Arab influences. While alcohol, pork, dogs and public observance of non-Muslim religions are banned on the inhabited islands, the resorts are allowed to exist in a bubble where almost anything goes.

The weekend in the Maldives runs from Friday to Saturday, during which banks, government offices and many shops are closed. You won't notice this at the resorts though, except that lunch hours may be shifted for Friday prayers.


The Maldives are tropical, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 26.4°C (79.52°F) to 31.5°C (88.7°F) throughout the year. However, rainfall increases considerably during the April-October southwest monsoon, particularly from June to November.


The Maldives are formed of 26 atolls, or atholhu in Dhivehi — the source of the English word. These are not single islands, but giant ringlike coral formations hundreds of kilometres wide that have fragmented into countless islands.

Atoll naming is complex, as the atolls have both lengthy traditional Dhivehi names like Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi, and snappy code names like Baa that refers to administrative regions and may consist of more than one geographical atoll. The code names are actually just the letters of Dhivehi alphabet, but being easier for non-Maldivians to remember and pronounce, the code names are popular in the travel industry and are hence also used here. Of the 21 administrative atoll groups, only (parts of) 10 are open to tourism, and from north to south these are:

The twenty atolls of the Maldives
Lhaviyani (Faadhihpolhu)
Raa (Maalhosmadulu Uthuruburi)
Baa (Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi)
Kaafu (North and South Malé Atoll)
Site of the capital Malé and the airport, home of 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 site of Gan International Airport.

The other atolls are Gaafu Alifu, Gaafu Dhaalu, Gnaviyani, Haa Alifu, Haa Dhaalu, Laamu, Nyavinani, Noonu, Shaviyani, and Thaa.


  • Malé - The capital and largest city in population.
  • Addu City - Second largest city in population.
  • Fuvahmulah - Third largest city in population.
  • Kulhudhuffushi - Fourth largest city in population.

Get in[edit]

The Maldives have a remarkably easy visa policy: Everybody gets a free 30-day visa on arrival, provided that they have a passport valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry, a pre-paid hotel booking or accommodation, a ticket out and proof of sufficient funds (US$100 + $50 dollars per day). See Maldives Immigration website for details.

Importing explosives, weapons, firearms, ammunition, pornographic material, materials deemed contrary to Islam including ‘idols for worship’ and bibles, pork and pork products, and alcohol into the Maldives is forbidden and all luggage is X-rayed on arrival. On the way out, note that exporting sand, seashells or coral is also forbidden. See Maldives Customs Service website for details.

By plane[edit]

Practically all visitors arrive at Velana International Airport (IATA: MLE, ICAO: VRMM), located on Hulhulé Island right next to the Capital City Malé. The airport is served by a wide array of flights to China, India, Sri Lanka, Dubai and major airports in South-East Asia, as well as an increasing number of charters from Europe. Many flights stop in Colombo (Sri Lanka) on the way.

Gan Airport (IATA: GAN, ICAO: VRMG), on the southern atoll of Addu, also serves an international flight to Colombo

Departure taxes are included in your ticket.

British Airways now flies directly from London Gatwick to 3 times a week (Sunday, Tuesday and Friday)

Cathay Pacific Airlines flies 4 times a week from Hong Kong (Wed, Thu, Sat, Sun)

Singapore Airlines flies daily direct from Singapore to Malé, with late night timings.

Turkish Airlines flies directly from Istanbul Ataturk to Malé 5 times in a week.

Emirates flies direct from Dubai to Malé, twice a day.

Austrian Airlines flies between Vienna and Malé once a week (outbound Vienna on Wednesday, inbound on Thursday morning)

Condor flies direct from Frankfurt to Malé, twice a week (Wednesday & Sunday).

By boat[edit]

There are no regular passenger boats to the Maldives. Even yachts usually steer clear, as navigating around the reefs is hazardous and permits are expensive.

Get around[edit]

There are four main ways getting around in the Maldives: Domestic flight, Boat, Seaplane or Private yacht (liveaboard). The boats are the Maldivian equivalent of a car, while Seaplanes and Private yachts (liveaboards) are mainly reserved for tourists.

Seaplanes prefer not to operate at night, so if you arrive at the airport after dark and are going to a distant resort, you may have to spend the night in Malé, Hulhumalé or at the airport hotel in Hulhule. Private transfers, though expensive can be opted for resort transfers, instead of spending the whole night at Malé City. Private transfers could cost anywhere between USD500-800. On the way back, there may also be a significant gap between the time your transfer arrives and your flight departure. Check with your resort or travel agent.

Public ferries and cargo boats are available for more independent-minded and budget-conscious travellers.

Inter Atoll Traveling Permits (IATP) are now no longer required.

By plane[edit]

No point in the Maldives is more than 90 minutes away by plane from Malé City, and visitors to the more far-flung resorts use air taxi services. There are four main operators: Manta Air, Flyme operates scheduled flights from Malé to Maamigili, Dharavandhoo and Hanimaadhoo, Trans Maldivian Airways with red planes flying DHC-6 Twin Otter seaplanes that take around 15 passengers. In 2013, Maldivian Air Taxi (MAT) and Trans Maldivian Airways (TMA) were both acquired by the Blackstone group and the company was named Trans Maldivian Airways.

Scheduled inter-island services are provided by Maldivian flies from Malé to Gan, Maafaru, Thimarafushi, Dharavandhoo, Funadhoo, Fuvahmulah, Hanimaadhoo, Ifuru, Kaadedhdhoo, Kadhdhoo, kooddoo, Kudahuvadhoo, Maavarulu, Hoarafushi and Kulhudhuffushi.

By boat[edit]

Doni aux Maldives cropped.jpg

Water transport take four forms:

  • Public ferries cheap and infrequent (normally 3-6 times weekly) to population centres. See MTCC.
  • Private ferries Fringe services that complement public services to population centres. E.g. a private ferry often runs from Malé to Maafushi, taking some of the strain of the public ferry. Getting information on private ferries is a challenge as they are run by and for locals, and hence there little need to put any information on the internet.
  • Scheduled speedboats These are shared, timetabled speedboats aimed at tourists providing airport transfers and occasionally 'picnic islands' day trips. See Atoll Transfer based in Malé, and ICom tours who are based in Maafushi.
  • Charter speedboats that allow you to get anywhere, anytime, at high cost (more people the cheaper per person). These are much faster than public ferries and will leave when you want to. If you are visiting any resort island this is how you will need to get there. These are also known as 'taxi boats'.

The taxi boats generally take tourists to and from the islands and resort islands. They come in all different shapes and sizes depending on the quality of the resort you stay in the Four Seasons has a large enclosed motor cruiser with drinks and food, while the lesser resorts have open-sided dhoni type boats. No public ferries run on Friday. Timetables can be found at [1]. The nature of ferry times and their regularity can make 'island-hopping' a challenge but not impossible. More difficult is going between atolls by public ferry, as few inter-atoll ferries exist. Getting decent information (even from locals) is tough. Getting anywhere that is not a population centre will normally need a speedboat charter and very deep pockets. If trying to plan a island hopping vacation a good way to start is by looking at islands with guesthouses and contacting the guesthouses for information on how to get there, guesthouse owners will know all the options - you can then look at how to string together 2 or 3 islands using public ferries. Most popular are the islands in the South Malé atoll, with Maafushi the clear tourist hub. If visiting a resort as a FIT ('free independent traveler' in the tourist jargon) you may be able to organise a transfer from Maafushi or elsewhere, saving on expensive transfers from the airport. For example transfers from Maafushi to a South Malé atoll resort are around $25-$30 per person each way.


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 Indic numbers as the base of the alphabet, written from right to left with Arabic vowel signs. The script is thought to have originated as a secret code for writing magical formulas so that outsiders can't read them, which would also explain why the ordering of the alphabet is, as far as linguists can tell, completely random!

English is widely spoken, particularly by government officials and those working in the tourism industry. English is the language of instruction in schools, which means that you will be able to communicate with the locals with varying degrees of difficulty.

Since the Maldives happens to be a popular destination for German and Italian holidaymakers, a sizeable number of local resort workers are able to speak fluent German and Italian. This may vary depending on the resorts you plan to visit, though.

See[edit][add listing]

Most visitors come to enjoy the countless plush resorts, excellent beaches and stunningly colourful underwater life. Due to the isolated position of the island, the number of animals on land is limited, but just under the surface of the beautiful blue ocean, there's a wealth of wildlife to see. Over 2000 species of fish in all colours of the rainbow roam the clear waters around the islands. You will likely see plenty of anemones, different kinds of rays, octopus, squid and even giant clams. Whales, dolphins and turtles are spotted often. The Baa Atoll, named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2011 and one of the richest coral reefs in the world, is becoming the main tourist draw while also becoming an example of sustainable tourism in a protected area. In short; snorkelling or diving is an absolute must, see the Do-section below for more information.

The gorgeous and ubiquitous white sand beaches are a sight by themselves, especially with the tropical island setting they are in. A flight to one of the many resort islands gives spectacular aerial views of these picture-perfect islets, defined by rims of white sand and wide strokes of cobalt blue water.

Yet, if you can pull yourself away from your luxury holiday spot, the capital city Malé might be an interesting diversion. The bustling financial and political centre of the country has a few sights. Try the National Museum for a touch of history. While the building may not look too promising, the museum's fine collection includes beautiful Arabic and Thaana engraved woodworks, religious pieces, weaponry and other historic artefacts. The town also has a number of worthwhile mosques. The 17th-century Old Friday Mosque is the oldest one in the country, and officials are often willing to let polite and properly dressed visitors in. The Grand Friday Mosque & Islamic Centre is its 1984 modern counterpart, and dominates the city's skyline. While simple in design, the large, white marble structure and the shining gold dome is an attractive sight.

Do[edit][add listing]

Powderblue surgeonfish, one of the most common reef fish in the Maldives

City Tours from the capital city[edit]

In your stay in Maldives one the best thing is to visit a local island. Capital city Malé is the most populated place in Maldives. you can visit Malé city for sightseeing and landmarks. City tour price is 15$ per person.

Diving and snorkelling[edit]

Aside from making the water bungalow rock on your honeymoon, the primary activity on the Maldives is scuba diving. The atolls are all coral reefs hundreds of kilometres away from any major landmass, meaning that water clarity is excellent and underwater life is abundant. Manta rays, sharks, even a few wrecks, you name it, you can find it in the Maldives.

Baa Atoll is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, where protected waters harbour an extraordinary diversity of marine life, including some 250 species of stony and soft coral, over 1,000 types of reef fish, as well as the endangered Hawksbill and Green turtles, manta rays and whale sharks.

Water in the Maldives is warm throughout the year and a 3mm shorty or Lycra dive skin is plenty. Diving is possible throughout the year, but rain, wind and waves are most common during the season of the southwest monsoon (June-November). The best time for scuba diving is from January to April, when the sea is calm, the sun is shining and the visibility can reach 30m. Decompression chambers can be found on Bandos in Kaafu (15min from Malé), Kuredu in Lhaviyani Atoll and at Kuramathi on Alifu.

While diving is very good by world standards even in the immediate vicinity of Malé, visibility and the chance of encountering large pelagics increases as you head to the outer atolls. Currents vary considerably, with generally little inside the atolls but some powerful streams to be found on the sides facing the open sea. Safety standards are usually very high, with well-maintained gear and strict adherence to protocol (check dives, maximum depth, computer use, etc) being the rule rather than the exception.

The one downside to diving in the Maldives is that it's quite expensive by Asian standards. Prices vary considerably from resort to resort, with specialist dive resorts offering better prices, but in general, you'll be looking at around US$50 for a single boat dive with your own gear and closer to USD75 without. Beware of surcharges: you may be charged extra for boat use, guided dives, larger tanks, etc. Many divers opt for liveaboards, which can actually work out much cheaper than paying high resort fees.

Best dive sites in the Maldives

  • Hanifaru Bay, Baa Atoll is one of the Maldives’ most famous marine sites, Hanifaru Bay is renowned worldwide for harbouring one of the largest seasonal gatherings of manta rays. It’s also believed to be the only place in the world to see their spectacular cyclone feeding; during the west monsoons (from May until November), large amounts of plankton wash into this funnel-like lagoon, attracting as many as 200 manta rays as well as whale sharks spiralling in a free-for-all feeding frenzy.
  • Blue Hole, Baa Atoll is a coral-lined underwater chimney that narrows from 22 metres to seven metres provides a spectacular experience for divers and snorkellers alike, who may spot myriad marine life including Hawksbill turtles, triggerfish and perhaps the resident Guitar shark.

For the people who don't know how to SCUBA dive, they can start to learn to dive with a professional instructor, go snorkeling or enjoy other water sports.

Best islands for snorkeling
Snorkelers are always in search of the best islands on the Maldives with great house reef so that they can spend as much time as they want snorkeling around the island, exploring abundant marine life. Here are the best snorkeling islands on the Maldives:

  • Hadahaa Island, Park Hyatt Maldives, North Huvadhoo, Gaafu Alifu Atoll
  • Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences, Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
  • Bandos Island, Bandos, North Malé Atoll
  • Baros Island, Baros, North Malé Atoll
  • Fihalholi, Fihalholi Island Resort, South Malé Atoll
  • Biyadhoo, Biyadhoo Island Resort, South Malé Atoll
  • Mandhoo, Mirihi Island Resort, South Ari Atoll
  • Vilamendhoo, Vilamendhoo Island Resort, South Ari Atoll
  • Machchafushi, Centara Grand Island, South Ari Atoll
  • Moofushi, Constance Moofushi Resort, South Ari Atoll
  • Maayafushi, VOI Maayafushi Resort, North Ari Atoll
  • Bathala, Bathala Island Resort, North Ari Atoll
  • Filtiheyo, Filitheyo Island Resort, Faafu Atoll


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

The best period for surfing in the Maldives is between March and October; the biggest waves occurring in June, July and August. This paradise is exposed to the same swells as Indonesia is, except that its higher latitude and its South-East exposure offers cooler and less hardcore surfing. The recent O’Neil Deep Blue Contests held in the Maldives has placed Maldives firmly on the world’s surf map. While most of the recognized surf breaks are in Malé Atoll, there is certainly more to be discovered. South Central atolls Laamu and Huvadhoo are more exposed to swell moving up from the Antarctic and is the first stop to unleash its power on the fringes of the south south/west of these atolls. Most surfing information is focused on Malé and resorts around Malé, which sadly in recent years has become overcrowded with safari boats and aggressive tourists all fighting for waves. The southern atolls are still quite with world class breaks....some secret spots to be found.

Specialized companies organize tailored multi-day boat trips in the region, allowing surfers to move easily from one point to another and maximizing the surfing time.

Since 2010 Maldivian law changed, allowing Tourists to vacation on local islands, away from resorts and safari boats. These local boutique hotels offer realistic prices for surf travelers, who wish to stay on land and experience the real Maldives.

Buy[edit][add listing]

The local currency is the Maldivian rufiyaa sometimes symbolised locally as "Rf" placed before or after the amount and divided into 100 laari. Throughout our guides we use the international symbolisation of MVR placed before the amount with no intervening space.

However, by law resorts price services in US dollars (USD) and require payment in hard currency (or credit card), so there's absolutely no need to change money if you're going to spend all your time at the resorts. Most hotels have a shop but this is limited to diving and holiday essentials (sun cream, sarongs, disposable cameras, etc.) Some excursions from resorts will take you to local islands where there are handicraft type things to buy, but they are typically made outside the Maldives and sold at outrageous markups.

If you are heading to Malé or the other inhabited atolls, exchanging some rufiyaa will come in handy. 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 is floated but practically 15:1, but while dollars are near-universally accepted, shops usually exchange them at 15:1 or even 10:1. You can get select major currencies exchanged at the airport after arrival at the forex center in the airport itself.

If you want to get a local SIM card, there is a Dhiraagu shop (the primary local telecom company) just to the left of the airport arrivals area upon exiting. A local cell number is needed to purchase time at many Wi-Fi spots around the country (sometimes reachable from where liveaboards anchor for the night).


Maldives are 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, USD1000 per week per couple is a conservative budget for meals, drinks and excursions, above and beyond the cost of flights and accommodation. Practically anything — including hotel rooms if booked locally — gets slapped with an arbitrary 10% "service charge", but tips are expected on top. The service charge is, by law, divided among the staff at months end, and hence is a proxy employee profit sharing scheme.

At the same time, for a traveller who has time, Maldives can be an affordable and possibly rewarding experience, with prices comparable to the Caribbean (Cuba aside), but extremely poor value when compared to other South and South East Asian countries, if one's aim is adventure tourism. For people focused on sampling the local life and ambiance away from the tourist crowd, the prices are roughly similar to Malaysia.

A number of inhabited islands have guesthouses with typical prices $50-100 per room, but expect the arbitrary 10% "service charge" and 6% GST and maybe 3.5% if you need to pay with a credit card on top - $75 soon comes nearer to $100. At more remote islands, renting rooms in villages is possible at even less than that. Food is inexpensive (and fish curries are delicious), but without variety and anything imported (which is almost everything) is expensive. Public ferries will transfer you between different islands of the same atoll for a few dollars (though for less obvious locations, there will typically be 1 ferry per day/two and no ferries on Fridays). For transfers to remote atolls, one can negotiate with cargo boats, which would often take people for USD15-40, depending on the destination. Cargo boats do not have schedules and depart when loaded. One may expect 1 boat in 1-3 days for each atoll.

It is important to have in mind that staying on inhabited islands implies respecting the strict Muslim norms (no alcohol, modest dress, reserved behavior). At the same time, the locals are very welcoming and the experience may be much deeper and more rewarding than staying in resorts, depending on one's mindset.

One thing you will save money on is alcohol because you can't buy it (outside resort islands that cost a fortune to reach as a private transfer is required). The real budget killer comes with doing anything that is not sitting on a beach or swimming off the shore as getting to better reefs, uninhabited island and anything that needs a private boat is expensive ($150-200/boat) and there is just not enough tourists (or lack of organisation) to have larger group tours leaving regularly as in somewhere like Thailand that could cut and share costs.

Eat[edit][add listing]

All the resorts are self contained so they have at least one restaurant, which generally serves the type of cuisine expected by their 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 a dinner 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 necessarily even water. If you're planning on drinking a lot, it may be worthwhile to go all-inclusive, but even this typically restricts you to house drinks.

Malé City has a thriving restaurant scene, aimed both at tourists and the increasingly moneyed Maldivian elite. Outside of greater Malé the options are limited, with small populated islands having zero or one cafe (called hotaa) selling local Maldivian food at prices as low as MVR20 for a complete meal.

Maldivian cuisine[edit]

A typical Maldivian meal: masroshi pastries, mas riha fish curry, paaparu, grilled fish, rice and sweet black tea.

Maldivian food revolves largely around fish (mas), in particular tuna (kandu mas), and draws heavily from the Sri Lankan and south Indian tradition, especially Kerala. Dishes are often hot, spicy and flavored with coconut, but use very few vegetables. A traditional meal consists of rice, a clear fish broth called garudhiya and side dishes of lime, chili and onions. Curries known as riha are also popular and the rice is often supplemented with roshi, unleavened bread akin to Indian roti, and paaparu, the Maldivian version of crispy Indian poppadums. Some other common dishes include:

  • mas huni — shredded smoked fish with grated coconuts and onions, the most common Maldivian breakfast
  • fihunu mas — barbequed fish basted with chili
  • bambukeylu hiti — breadfruit curry

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

  • bajiya — pastry stuffed with fish, coconut and onions
  • gulha — pastry balls stuffed with smoked fish
  • keemiya — deep-fried fish rolls
  • kulhi borkibaa — spicy fish cake
  • masroshimas huni wrapped in roshi bread and baked
  • theluli mas — fried fish with chili and garlic

Drink[edit][add listing]

Legally, if you're 18 and not a Muslim, you can buy and drink alcohol. However since the Maldives are an Islamic nation, alcohol is effectively banned from the local population.

However, nearly all resorts and liveaboard boats are licensed to serve alcohol, usually with a steep markup. The expatriate liquor permit which used to allow expats to buy alcohol for their own consumption has been removed. The only place near Malé, aside from resorts, where people can drink alcohol is at the Hulhule Island Hotel, commonly known as HIH or the airport hotel.

Tap water in resorts may or may not be drinkable -- check with management. Bottled water in the resorts is extortionately priced, with USD5/bottle being typical. Bottled water in Malé City or on an island is much cheaper. It can be a good idea to bring a few 5 litre bottles from Malé City to your resort if you have the option.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Accommodation in the Maldives can be broadly separated in to three categories

1) The tourist resort - by far and away the dominant sector, with over 30,000 beds as of 2015. Resorts come in many shapes and sizes from luxury resorts to less expensive resorts, there are many options catering almost exclusively to the package tour market. However independent visitors, often booking through an online agency, are becoming more popular, especially with those looking to combine staying in guesthouses with a few days in a resort.

2) The Malé hotel - this sector caters for the islander visiting the capital for a few days or weeks, the businessman staying in Malé City for work, and the international tourist, staying in Malé City for the night due to its proximity to the airport.

3) The guesthouse - currently going through something of a revolution, with guesthouses on inhabited islands now the fastest growing sector, but still accounting for less than 2,000 beds. This is the more affordable option for independent tourists exploring the atolls. Guesthouses range from simple establishments with 2 or 3 rooms, to proper hotels located near the 'bikini beach' on an inhabited island. Due to the lack of eating options on many islands, guesthouses often have half board and full board options.

The Maldives has a well established and mature tourism industry accounting for more than 25% of the economy. This translates to a sophisticated network of tour agencies, marketing firms, and last minute discounters who all know how to maximise profits and squeeze the most out of each resort. Add to this the seemingly hundreds of internet websites and booking companies selling resort holidays. For the independent traveler looking to book their own holiday this presents a labyrinth of different options that can make organising an independent trip quite exhausting - every resort has its own website, review websites offer tens of thousands of reviews, booking websites offer 100s of discounts and special offers depending on room type and meal plan - planning a resort visit can soon become an internet trawling nightmare.

Be aware that price discrimination is rampant - the same room in the same resort for a given day will have a different price depending on your nationality and whether you are booking direct or through an agency, and may vary by agency (although major internet booking websites tend to all offer the same price once you take tax and service charges in to account). If you are only considering staying at a resort, and not visiting any islands independently, do consider booking a standard package tour from a travel agency in your home country (and shopping around agencies to compare prices) - this will most likely give you the best price. If you are trying to independently book a resort, try phoning an agency in Malé City with a rough idea of the type of resort you are looking for, and seeing what they offer, you can then compare with internet prices. Everything will be quoted in US dollars.

Tips for getting the best price for a resort

1. Contact a few agencies in Malé City as well as checking prices on booking websites and resort websites. Some agencies will have negotiated rates with certain resorts that can be 30% or more below what is quoted online. To find Malé based agencies put 'travel and tours' in to your favourite online map, eg [2]

2. See if you can organise your own transfer. This works best for resorts in the North and South Malé atolls. Taking a public ferry or shared speedboat to Maafushi, then a transfer (eg with ICom) to a nearby resort island, will work out much cheaper than a speedboat transfer direct from the airport. For example the Olhuveli resort, in the South Malé Atoll, charges US$277 per person for a one way speedboat transfer to/ from the airport, getting a public ferry to Maafushi (US$2 per person), and then an ICom speedboat transfer to Olhuveli from Maafushi (US$30 per person) is a significant saving.

3. Book half-board rather than Bed & Breakfast. Evening meals can be furiously expensive ($80+ per person excluding drinks for a 2 course meal). Breakfasts tend to be huge buffets, lessening the need for lunch / full board.

4. Be very clear on whether the price includes tax, service charges, credit card fees, and airport transfers. Many online prices exclude these, which combined add 23%+ to your bill.

5. Be aware of the cost of activities in your chosen resort. The more expensive the resort, the more expensive the activities. If you want to do more than just relax on the beach, the cost of activities do add up ($80 per person for a 3 hour snorkeling trip, $110 per person for a sunset cruise, $160 for a 3 hour trip to a local island etc.)


This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under USD100
Mid-range USD100-300
Splurge Over USD300

Most resorts take up their own island (from the tiny 250x250m to the sprawling 1500x1500m), meaning that the ratio of beach to guests must be one of the best in the world and it is hard to imagine that you would ever have to struggle to find your own private piece of beach to relax on. Many have a "no shoes" policy and with such soft sands it is easy to love this idea.

The range and themes or the resorts are impressive, and most people will find one they like. Broadly speaking, however, they can be grouped into three brackets:

  • Dive resorts, designed primarily for divers. Geared expressly for people who want to spend most of their time underwater, facilities on land are limited, but the house reef is usually excellent. Often found in the more far-flung parts of the archipelago.
  • Holiday resorts, designed primarily for families. These are large and have a full complement of facilities (multiple restaurants, day-care centers, etc), but don't have the over-the-top luxury and have less privacy. Most of these are located on Kaafu, with easy access from Malé.
  • Luxury resorts, designed primarily for guests seeking romance, quality services in an idyllic location. The place to be if you want designer furniture, gourmet food and a plasma TV in an overwater villa reachable only by rowboat, and are willing to pay top dollar for the privilege.
  • Wellness resorts, designed for solo travellers as well as couples, these wellness retreats offer the best for your wellness journey in one of the most stunning destinations.

Overwater bungalows, Thulhagiri, Kaafu

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

  • They're usually packed tightly together (often sharing a wall), meaning little privacy.
  • Especially at low tide, the water level may be too low to allow swimming or snorkelling.
  • Resort facilities may be a fair distance from the bungalows.
  • The lapping of waves is romantic enough on a calm day, but can make it next to impossible to sleep if a storm blows 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 costs from the airport: the more far-flung resorts generally require an expensive seaplane transfer and you may have to stay overnight at the airport on the way. On the upside, the further away you are from Malé the more peaceful the islands and the better the diving.

Many resorts, especially the smaller dive-oriented ones, cater largely to a single nationality, leading to "Italian" resorts, "Dutch" resorts, "German" resorts, etc. While almost all welcome any nationality and have some English-speaking staff on hand, you may be cut off from any evening entertainment and have problems eg. diving if you don't speak the local lingo.


By now there are many guesthouses on inhabited islands. Maafushi island is popular among tourists looking for hassle-free accommodations of this sort. Low-end prices are €25-35.

More examples include: Equator Village on Addu Atoll, a former RAF base converted to a 78 room hotel. Cost is around USD100-150 pp/per day all-inclusive (includes regular brand alcohol). Another unique location is Keyodhoo Guest House, this guest house is located on top of a recreation centre build by Australian after the tsunami (USD20 pp/per night). Most travellers to these locations are scuba divers for the diving or adventure travellers. Other Inns/B&B can also be found on Vaavu Atoll, Dhaalu Atoll, Kaafu Atoll, North and South Malé Atoll. Only a few of these Inn/B&B have their own pool. Be sure to inquire if bikini is allowed on the local beach. Travel between the inn and beach are usually very close but be sure to dress appropriately with Maldive customs.

Village homestays[edit]

More independent-minded travellers and those looking for cultural experience may consider renting rooms in villages. This will require either walking through the village and asking around if you're particularly confident of your social skills, or inquiring in Malé whether someone can put you in contact with their friends or relatives on a remote island for such an informal homestay. Prices can be as low as 15 euros per night for a clean functional room.


The education system, although having many problems such as poor student literacy rates in English (the medium of instruction for most subjects), is freely available for all Maldivians.


Getting a job in the Maldives can be tricky. It is not the kind of place where you can just turn up and start job hunting. Generally, the resorts take on a mix of local and international staff so you need to approach the resort Human Resources departments. There is a good mix of jobs but a lot of the roles are diving based (divemasters, instructors, photographers, etc).

Most resorts are predominantly one or two nationalities so finding the resorts that match your language skills helps. After that experience always helps (especially for diving instructors as the Maldives are well known for their strong currents and half of the time the currents will take you straight out into the Indian Ocean).

Generally, if you get a job with a resort then they will get you a work permit and pay for your flight, food and accommodation. They don't really have much choice-- it's hardly as if you can pop out to the supermarket and pick up a pizza for dinner.

All foreign workers have to have a series of medical tests before you can start work at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital. This includes a blood sample (lots of tests including HIV as well as x-ray etc). It is quick and easy but they are very uncommunicative about what they are doing.

Stay safe[edit]

Most visitors to the Maldives stay in “resort hotels” where crime levels are relatively low. Nevertheless petty crime, including the theft of goods left unattended on the beach or in hotel rooms, does occur. You should take care of your valuables and other personal possessions, especially when travelling in Malé City. Use safe deposit boxes on island resorts.

The sea around the Maldives can have strong tidal currents and a number of tourists drown every year. You should always take local advice before entering the sea.

You should be sensitive to local dress standards when on local islands or if staying on an island where the resort is not the exclusive property on the island – cover your shoulders and avoid short or tight-fitting shorts (men and women); when bathing, cover arms and upper legs. Nudism and topless sunbathing are not allowed anywhere, including on resort islands.

Maldives has very strong anti-drugs laws. Importing or possessing drugs can carry severe penalties, including life imprisonment. Locals and police are likely to treat seriously the possession and consumption of alcohol, and being intoxicated, outside resorts.

Same-sex relations are illegal in the Maldives and convicted offenders could face lengthy prison sentences and fines.

Cases of sexual harassment are not rare in Maldives. Solo female travellers should be vigilant.

Blasphemy, criticism of Islam and proselytizing by non-Muslims in Maldives, including the possession and distribution of non-Muslim religious materials (such as the Bible), is illegal.

Stay healthy[edit]

There are no serious problems with diseases in the Maldives. Beware that tap water may not be drinkable at all resorts: enquire locally. The Maldives are malaria-free, but some islands do have mosquitoes and catching dengue fever from them is possible, albeit highly unlikely. For those coming from regions infected by yellow fever, an international certificate of inoculation is required.

Most of the problems come from diving or sun-related injuries. Heatstroke always causes problems in the tropics but couple that with divers spending hours at a time on a boat wearing a wetsuit and overheating of one form or another is a real issue. Keeping this in mind, such injuries will be easily avoidable as long as you drink lots of water and get into the shade as much as possible.

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


There are two mobile operators: Dhiraagu and Ooredoo. Both of them sell local prepaid SIM card with the internet connection at competitive rates. The first mentioned of them is the leading local telecom company which has wider coverage while prices are about the same with its competitor. They both have shops right next to the airport arrivals area upon exiting. Also both offer 3G/4G data connections.

Most hotels and cafés offer public Wi-Fi but connections are usually slow, between 512 Kbps to 1 Mbps. A local mobile number is needed to purchase time at many Wi-Fi hotspots around the country.Create category

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