Maldives Travel Guide
The Maldives Islands are the pride and pearls of the Indian Ocean and are spread over approximately 90,000 square km. The islands have become synonymous with white sandy beaches, turquoise lagoons, a romantic, peaceful atmosphere amidst tropical bliss and a water sport enthusiast’s paradise.
From getting around Male and the islands, to everyday activities, visas and vaccinations, and travel tips, get all the essential details from our experts in this Maldives travel guide.
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Surfing is a popular activity for the resorts of your Maldives tours. The consistent swells from the southern Indian Ocean make Maldives one of the planet’s most consistent and safest surf zones. There are principally two major surfing areas, the North Male Atoll, and the outer atolls which are 450 km to the south.
Maldives resorts offer a plethora of activities in the form of water sports, private pools, spas and lounge areas. Island activities in Maldives comprise of snorkeling, scuba diving, catamaran sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, night diving, night fishing and kite boarding, which includes surfing through spacious beautiful lagoons in waist deep water. Hotels in Maldives offer aerial excursions like paragliding and island hopping to enjoy the beauty of nature to the fullest.
Almost all the Maldives resorts have additional facilities like diving schools, which teach you diving lessons. Apart from this you also have various swimming pools, discotheques and karate lounges, sauna and tennis courts, table tennis and billiard facilities, game fishing facilities, cultural and live music shows, bars and restaurants, barbecues and moonlight parties in Maldives resorts for entertainment.
If you are like most divers, the majority of your time will be taken up diving, visiting islands and enjoying the scenery aboard your cruise.
Mainland Male travel tips
There are some interesting things to do in Male town if you have the time. The National Museum, The Mulee-Aage Palace and The Friday Mosque are popular spots for those wishing to immerse themselves in the nation’s history and culture. For a more modern take on the country, indulge in the sensory delights of the local fish market, firewood market and fruit bazaars on your customized Maldives vacation.
While Male, being the hub of commercial activities is unfortunately not blessed with much in the way of sandy shorelines, there is an artificial beach which is very popular meeting point for locals, especially in the late afternoon. Maldivians and tourists come here to swim, sunbathe or just stroll around but there are also water sports to be enjoyed, as well as entertainment including live music, carnivals and parades which use the artificial beach as their focal point.
Male has plenty of shops, restaurants, bars and local attractions which cater to locals and tourists. Mercifully free of the worst excesses of globalization, the eateries and shops are more local than chain-store style so you can be sure that your purchases are the genuine article. Shops and local stalls sell local handicrafts such as traditional mats and wooden curios. You can pick up a nice wooden carved dhoni as a memento of your Maldives liveaboard trip.
There are a lot of jewelry shops selling silver, gold and mother-of-pearl. Unfortunately, these shops also sell unethical items such as turtle shell and coral, so it is a good opportunity for you, as a responsible tourist, to register your displeasure at the sale of such items on your Maldives holiday.
There are designer boutiques and a shopping arcade where you can find leather goods, cotton, polyester and silk wear, jackets, sweaters and sportswear, many of which seem to be genuine brands. Watches, cameras and other electronic good are also plentiful.
Shopping in the Maldives
Before you make time for shopping during your Maldives tours, remember that shops are open for business from 8am to 11pm, Saturday-Thursday. Shops close for 15 minutes 5 times every day during the Muslim prayer time, so you might be half way through your haggle when the shopkeeper calls time off to offer prayers.
An official license is required for the import of alcohol. Alcohol is available in all resorts but you will not be able to purchase it in the capital, Male, or any other inhabited island during Maldives vacations.
Export of items made of turtle shell, coral and pearl oyster shell has been prohibited by the government in the interests of the conservation of the coral reefs and marine life. Import of pork products, dogs, alcohol, pornographic material, weapons, narcotics, idols of worship and objects of religious characters are prohibited in Maldives.
Visa and Vaccinations in the Maldives
A 30-day Tourist Visas are issued on arrival at the immigration desk of the Maldives International Airport for nationals from all countries, free of charge. Exceptions to this rule are nationals from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, who are given a 90-day Visa.
If you wish to stay in Maldives for longer than 30 days, apply for a Visa in advance at your local embassy or leave the country after 30 days and then return again. The initial Visa is issued free of charge, and can be extended for a fee of about US$70. To receive your Visa, you will need to furnish your return air ticket and a minimum of US$30-50 per person per day, or a confirmed hotel reservation for the total length of your intended stay.
Keep a few dollars aside for departure tax. Currently at US$12, departure tax is included in most flights, but not all.
The only vaccine required for your Maldives tour is for yellow fever, and proof will only be required if you have visited a country in the yellow-fever zone in the last six days prior to entering Southeast Asia. There is no risk of malaria, but we recommend that you take anti-mosquito bite measures. Buying medication over the counter is not recommended because fake medicines and poorly stored or out-of-date drugs are commonly found everywhere.
Your health insurance should ideally also include coverage for emergency repatriation by air. You will be expected to pay in cash for all such services rendered. Maldives has no serious problems with diseases. Diving or sun related injuries account for most of the health problems encountered by tourists. It is best to avoid over-exposure to the sun, drink lots of water and dive with caution.
Getting Around in Maldives
Maldives has a population slightly over 300,000, with the highest density being in the capital Male, with around 70,000 inhabitants. Given this and the small island size of the city, the authorities had to get creative in containing so many people, shops and an international airport that is teeming all year around, due to the increase in Maldives tours.
You will find that almost all roads are one-ways, many buildings are multi-story and quite narrow, roads are also as narrow as they get. People use bikes or cycles mainly, although you will find a lot of cars around. This sense of compression can also apply to concepts of time. Additionally, what many would consider a “close call” is often unremarkable to many locals, and despite everything, your idyllic Maldives vacations will come together in the end.
Travel in the Maldives takes place in three ways – boats, sea planes (air taxis) and private yachts. Boats are the Maldivian equivalent of a car while planes and private yachts are mainly for tourists. In Male and the other larger inhabited islands, you can call a taxi to get around the island.
The best way to get around the resort islands is by foot, but most resorts also have golf buggies which their staff is always happy and drive you around in. A round-the-clock ferry service operates between the capital and the airport.
A dhoni, which is a Maldivian boat made of wood and usually painted blue, leaves from the airport jetty every 15 minutes and after midnight they run every 30 minutes. Dhonis are also available for charter to nearby islands and are a charming way to travel on your Maldives holiday. The price depends on where you want to go, for how long, and on your negotiating skills. Typically it can be anywhere between US $ 60 and US $ 100 for a day, but if you want to start at 6 am and go about using it nonstop for 12 hours, the price could be upped a bit more. You can also charter a Dhoni at most Maldives resorts, but it will cost more at about US $ 200 or US $ 250 per day and will be based on availability.
Some Maldives resorts even have speed boats that can be hired by guests for Maldives tours. These boats range from small runabouts with an outboard motor to massive, multi-deck launches with an aircraft-type cabin. These launches come at a price of around US $ 350 per day and are probably the best way to go around in style. For a customized Maldives holiday, you would have the services of a captain and a couple of crew members along with the launch for a 10 hour day. If chartering a boat for the day, the standard practice followed is for the client to pay for the tank to be refueled on arrival back at Male.
Permits are not necessary for the organized island-hopping tours arranged by resorts, but independent travel to inhabited islands other than Male would require an Inter Atoll Travel Permit from the Ministry of Atolls.
The only places where visitors will need to travel by road are Male and the Southernmost atoll, Addu. Taxis are available in both places and driving is on the left hand side.
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