Maldives, with its white sands, smiling locals and where fish swim happily in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. A place where the weather is a dream, and the deep rays of the sun wait to engulf you in their arms. If you found this post, you likely need no inspiration and may have already booked your trip. Read on for the most comprehensive guide to understand what to know before you go to the Maldives.
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Maldivians are very polite people and can often be quite shy if you meet them outside resorts. While used to foreigners and their behaviour, there are a few things that they’ll appreciate.
- When you meet them shake hands with men. Generally local women do not shake hands.
- While dining on an inhabited island eat with your right hand only, while it can be used to cut food The left hand is considered unclean, and it should not be used to move food to the mouth.
- The only other country in the entire world with a 100-percent Muslim population is Saudi Arabia. Remember how conservative the islands are outside resorts so Men should not walk around bare chested and women should wear long skirts and avoid low-cut tops.
- Generally except by specific invite Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter mosques anywhere in Maldives.
What to Take
- Sunscreen and after-sun products, which cost a fortune in resorts
- A sun hat
- Flippers, mask & snorkel
- Three-pin UK-style adapters if you’re coming from outside the UK
- UV-blocking sunglasses
- Plenty of reading material
- Any birth control or medication you’ll need
- Diving certification, logbook and any of your own equipment
- Remember that buying anything in resorts is very expensive, so bring everything you need.
- If you want to book domestic flights it’s better to ask the guesthouses to book as they have access to lower rates than those online.
- Heavy internet users should buy an International SIM card before taking their onward transfer.
- Make sure your plane lands by 3 pm if you want to take a seaplane the same day.
- Ensure you have the name of a guesthouse or resort to
giveto immigration officials on arrival.
- Anyone learning to dive in
Maldivesshould do an open-water referral course at home first, this allows you to go straight into the diving instead of wasting valuable holiday time studying theory.
Travelling with Children
Maldives is an exceptionally safe destination for children, with almost no medical dangers from the environment. The biggest worry, as with all parents, will be the strength of the sun. Ensure that your kids are well covered with waterproof sunscreen (it’s best to bring this with you as the mark-up in the resorts can be huge) and that they take it easy during the first few days.
- Young children are more susceptible to sunburn than adults, so bring sun hats and plenty of sunblock. Lycra swim shirts are an excellent idea – they can be worn on the beach and in the water and block out most UV radiation.
- The minimum age for scuba diving is 10 years, but most resorts offer a ‘bubble blowers’ introduction for younger kids, which is very popular, and supervised snorkeling is always possible.
- Kids’ clubs – for those aged 12 and under – and clubs for teenagers are very common in bigger, smarter resorts. These are free and the kids’ clubs run activities all day long, while teenagers are generally able to do what they want – even if it means playing computer games in a darkened air-conditioned room.
- Although exotic cuisine is sometimes on the menu, you’ll always find some standard Western-style dishes that kids will find appealing. You will never feel cold in the Maldives, although some restaurants can be overly air-conditioned, so a sweater or scarf may come in handy.
- Flip-flops are worn by nearly everyone on inhabited islands and can come in handy in resorts too, if only just for walking on hot sand
- Note that some resorts do not encourage young children – check with the resort before you book. Children under five are often banned from honeymoon resorts and there is normally a minimum age requirement of 10 or 12 for water villas, given the obvious safety issues. Where kids are welcome, it’s no problem booking cots and organizing high chairs in restaurants, and there’s often a kids club and babysitting services as well.
- Baby supplies are available in Male, but usually not in resorts, so bring all the diapers and formula you’ll need for the duration of the holiday. Outside resorts, breastfeeding should only be done in private given the conservative nature of Maldivian society.
- Tap water in the Maldives is all treated rainwater and it’s not advisable to drink it, not least as it has generally got an unpleasant taste. Nearly all resorts supply purified drinking water to their guests for free – some cheaper resorts make you pay for it, though. Either way, it’s a far better option.
- A change of water, food or climate can all cause a mild bout of diarrhea, but a few rushed toilet trips with no other symptoms is not indicative of a serious problem. Dehydration is the main danger with any diarrhea. Fluid replacement and rehydration salts remain the mainstay in managing this condition.
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Before You Go
Make sure that you have adequate health insurance and that it covers you for expensive evacuations by seaplane or speedboat. However, as diving insurance is mandatory in Maldives, dive outfits always include this with a dive price, so there is no reason to pay extra for diving insurance on your travel policy. You can get a quote from Worldnomads.com or from their widget on this page.
The only vaccination officially required by Maldives is one for yellow fever if you’re coming from an area where yellow fever is endemic. Malaria prophylaxis is not necessary. Basic traveller vaccinations such as jabs against hepatitis, tetanus, typhoid and cholera are always a good idea, however.
Be aware that in resorts all medical care will be available only through the resort doctor or, when the resort doesn’t have a doctor in residence, from a nurse or a member of staff with access to simple medical supplies. Bringing a few basics such as plasters for small cuts is a good idea, as is mosquito repellent for the evenings on most islands. Mosquito nets are often provided by resorts where there is a consistent mosquito problem, but bringing your own is a good idea if they’re not included and you normally get bitten.
Credit cards can be used in resorts and most guesthouses. ATMs can be found in Male and the bigger inhabited islands.
The currency of Maldives is the rufiyaa (Rf), which is divided into 100 larees. Notes come in denominations of 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, five and two rufiyaa, but the last two are uncommon. Coins are in denominations of two and one rufiyaa, and 50, 25 and 10 larees. Most resort and travel expenses will be billed in dollars, and most visitors never even see rufiyaa, as resort bills are settled by credit card and you’ll never need to pay for things in cash. If you’re staying in a resort, all extras (including diving costs) will be billed to your room, and you pay the day before departure. For people staying in guesthouses it’s another situation entirely, and while you’ll be able to pay for most things by credit card, you’ll need cash for meals outside the guesthouse, souvenirs and any other sundry expenses.
ATMs can be found easily in Male and at the airport, and nearly all allow you to withdraw funds from international accounts. They’re also now commonly found on inhabited islands, particularly the bigger ones. That said, in many cases there is only one ATM on each island, so it’s never ideal to be reliant on them.
It’s perfectly possible to have a holiday in Maldives without ever touching cash of any sort, as in resorts everything will be chalked up to your room number and paid by credit card on departure. You won’t need Maldivian rufiyaa unless you’re using local shops and services on inhabited islands. In Male, it’s possible to pay for everything using US dollars, though you’ll be given change in rufiyaa and you’ll need to pay for things with small notes.
Be aware that there are restrictions on changing rufiyaa into foreign currency. If you take out cash in rufiyaa from an ATM, you won’t be able to change the remainder back into US dollars or any other foreign currency. Therefore, if you need lots of local currency, exchange foreign cash for rufiyaa at a bank and keep the receipt to be allowed to change the remainder back at the airport.
Every resort takes major credit cards including Visa, Amex and MasterCard. A week of diving and drinking could easily run up a tab of over US$2000, so ensure your credit limit can stand it. Guesthouses also accept major credit cards, but do double-check this with yours before you travel.
Banks in Male will change traveler’s cheques and cash in US dollars, but other currencies are trickier. Most will change US-dollar traveler’s cheques into US dollars cash with a commission of US$5. Changing traveler’s cheques to Maldivian rufiyaa should not attract a commission. Some of the authorized money changers around town will exchange US-dollar or euro traveler’s cheques at times when the banks are closed.
Bicycle is an excellent way to get around bigger islands, and bikes are often supplied to guests at larger resorts and some guesthouses free of charge. While long bike rides are hardly possible on the small islands (nor desirable due to the heat), you can rent bikes easily in Addu Atoll or Laamu Atoll, where there are the two largest stretches of land in the country.
There are bus services in Male and Addu City, which may be of use to travellers. The main bus service travellers are likely to use are those connecting Velana International Airport with the seaplane terminal and Hulhumale.
Car & Motorcycle
The only places where visitors will need to travel by road are in the island cities of Male, Fuvahmulah and Hulhumale, and between a few islands in Laamu and Addu Atoll that are connected by causeways. Taxis are available in all these places, and driving is on the left, UK style. There are no local car-hire firms.
It has a 100 percent Islamic population so outside the resort alcohol, bathing suits, and public displays of affection are illegal. Homosexuality is also highly frowned upon and illegal.
There are specific bans on some things you may bring into the Maldives. To avoid any hassle or confusion at the airport, leave the pork products, alcohol (even duty-free from a connecting stop), tobacco products without a health warning printed on them, and any religious texts (including the Bible) that may be construed outside of personal use — at home.
During the month-long holy fasting of Ramadan, most of the local staff you’ll be encountering at the airport and resorts will be unable to eat or drink anything during daylight hours and many shops and services — including on resort islands — will be closed at certain times for prayer.
Check our post on why Maldives is the perfect winter sun holiday destination.
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