One of the world’s most coveted luxury destinations, the word ‘Maldives’ is synonymous with endless sun, crystal clear azure oceans, luxury over water lodgings and above all – paradise.
This is for many, a bucket list destination; the kind of place you dream about visiting for years, saving every dollar you can to make the fantasy a reality. For those who do manage to tick this one off the list, it is always worth the money!
Whether you are visiting on a budget or have money to burn – here is a short lowdown of everything you need to know before venturing to this incredible pocket of our planet.
If you are anything like me, you like to research what electrical adapters you will need prior to a trip. It makes sense – nobody wants to be left with no way to charge their camera batteries or phones. However, definitive information regarding Maldivian electrical plugs and adapters is seriously hard to come by. As I found out, this is a product of the environment. Many different islands will use different adapters! In my travels I only ever encountered EU style two pronged plugs but have heard from other travellers that the UK plug styles can also be found.
The fact is though, any half decent resort island will be able to supply you with a universal adapter. However, if you absolutely must pack extras (if you have numerous devices to charge) then I recommend bringing an EU adapter – this will be the most commonly compatible plug style in the Maldives.
Let’s get this out of the way now. The Maldives is not a budget destination. Yes – there are guesthouses on local islands which are cheaper options to hotels and resorts; but to me – the Maldives is one of the few places where the accommodation is just about (very nearly) as special as the surroundings themselves.
I wanted to experience the Maldives the way I had always dreamed of – lazing my days away in a little bungalow over the picture perfect ocean. This kind of experience is incredibly special – and also – almost always expensive.
Be prepared to budget around 250 US dollars per night for a stay on one of the cheaper resort islands, right up to several thousand dollars per night for the more luxurious islands. Seaplane trips will cost around 400-650 US dollars for a return trip and regular domestic flights are only a fraction cheaper.
If you are not willing to pay that much for a quick plane transfer, try to find a resort island closer to the capital of Male – some of these islands are close enough that transfers are done via speedboat.
Basically, be prepared to splurge in the Maldives, it is a lot of moolah to spend, but it is so definitely worth it!
Easily one of the biggest draw cards to the Maldives is the enormous abundance and wide variety of marine life just waiting to be explored.
This tiny group of atolls and islands are surrounded by the fertile and thriving waters of the warm Indian ocean. If you are prepared to don a snorkel or get kitted up in scuba gear, you could expect to come into close proximity with the likes of manta rays, stingrays, moray eels, sea turtles, hundreds of different types of fish, sharks, dolphins and possibly even whale sharks!
During encounters with Maldivian wildlife, remember to keep a safe distance from the animals – not just for your safety, but also for the mental health of all these aquatic animals – there is no need to stress them out by getting too close, which is a lesson I learnt firsthand from a rather cranky stingray.
The official currency of the Maldives is the Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR) but getting your hands on this currency outside of the Maldives will likely prove impossible. Most currency converters around the world do not carry the Rufiyaa as a standard currency, so if you want to use the local moolah then you will have to wait until you arrive in Male airport to either exchange cash or withdraw money from local ATMs.
However, if you are heading straight for a resort island, then you can afford to bypass this step completely. All resorts and hotels will accept credit cards and some major foreign currencies. The US dollar is the most commonly accepted form of foreign money, but some places will accept Euros or British Pounds also.
With its location near the equator, weather in the Maldives is pretty consistent. Temperatures usually sit between 27 degrees at the coldest to 36 degrees at the warmest. However, with exceedingly high levels of humidity, it can often feel much hotter.
There are distinct wet and dry seasons, named southwest monsoon and northeast monsoon respectively. Southwest monsoon (wet season) occurs during mid May to November and northeast monsoon (dry season) runs from January to March. Temperatures do not vary much during these seasons, but the wet season is characterised by a significant increase in rainfall.
The types of food you will eat in the Maldives will vary greatly depending on what kind of island you stay on. For example, at luxurious Maalifushi by COMO, there was a strong emphasis on nutrition and health foods. Think of freshly squeezed green juices, tropical fruits, gourmet oats and seafood that could not possibly get any fresher.
However at budget resort Reethi Beach, the set up was more of a buffet kinda deal, and the food, while tasty, had no real signature flair.
Be aware that if you are visiting the capital of Male or one of the local islands – all pork products will be unavailable (or seriously hard to come by).
As a general rule, seafood and fresh fruits are pretty damn wonderful in the Maldives, so make sure you bring your appetite.
Just as pork products are pretty hard to come by in the capital of Male and many local islands, alcohol is also similarly scare due to the Islamic practices of the nation. However, resort islands are laws unto themselves, and as such, alcohol can be purchased at these resorts.
As each resort has to import alcohol independently, costs are pretty pricey for an Asian destination, however are no more expensive than one would expect in Western destinations such as Australia.
Flights to the international Ibrahim Nasir airport on the island of Hulhulé (near the capital of Male) are much more abundant than one may think. If you can first get yourself to one of the following major airport hubs, then the Maldives are easily accessible.
There are regular flights to Male from Abu Dhabi, Bangalore, Bangkok, Colombo, Dubai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and many more Asian cities.
Air Asia flights from Kuala Lumpur go for around $100 AUD (approx $75 USD) and are the best budget option.
The tap water in Male and on resort islands is completely safe to drink, though it may have a strong taste. This is because the water is desalinated and has thus been quite heavily processed. I personally did not mind the taste of the water, though did opt to use bottled water where it was provided.
So you have arrived into Male and now you find yourself needing to get to your resort island – so in a country that is made up of less than 1% land – how do you travel from place to place?
Depending on the distance, you will either need to travel by air or by sea.
If you need to go a long distance from the capital of Male – then travel by air will be your best bet. Domestic carrier fights go between Male airport and local islands on a regular basis. Once on one of these local islands, you can then travel by boat to nearby resorts. These domestic carrier flights are the most budget option, but if you have a few extra dollars in your wallet, seaplanes are easily the best way to get around in the Maldives.
There are two major seaplane companies in the Maldives. Maldivian is the smaller and more exclusive company, Trans Maldivian Airways is the largest. Your resort will be able to organise these flights for you, but be prepared, you won’t have a locked in departure time until the evening before.
These seaplanes do not run on a set schedule as flights are solely based on demand. As such, your resort island will make the company aware of your need for a flight, and then at 6pm the day before you are set to fly, departure times will be confirmed. Your resort island will keep you in the loop about where you need to be and when.
The official language of the Maldives is Dhivehi, however most Maldivians speak good English. However, when on resort islands, the workers may be from Sri Lanka or India and thus may have just small amounts of many different languages – so it is advisable to start with short sentences until you gauge the level of language fluency.
The Maldives is an Islamic country and as such, if you are basing yourself in the capital of Male, it is expected that women would cover their shoulders and thighs.
Requirements such as these are much more lax on the resort islands – you can pretty much wear whatever you want! However, there is one notable exception.
Women are under no circumstances permitted to go topless outside of the privacy of their hotel rooms, and skinny dipping is completely prohibited for both males and females. Ignoring these rules could result in a heavy fine so it is best to keep those togs on at all times.
Waste disposal is one of the most pressing issues in the Maldives at the present time. The entire country lacks a decent system for disposing of waste and as such, are resorted to doing so in ways that are not environmentally friendly. It is not unheard of to have entire islands devoted to rubbish dumping and burning.
So while you are in the Maldives, try and make a conscious effort to limit the waste you create (eg. reusing water bottles) and if creation of waste is unavoidable – try to take as much of it home with you (especially plastic items like empty shampoo bottles) to be disposed of by more sophisticated waste disposal systems.
Packing: What You Need
Aside from the obvious (bathers, camera, sandals) there are a few must have items that you simply cannot go without. If you heed any single piece of advice in this article, make it this one: work out how much sunscreen you think you will need and then pack double. Buying sunscreen on the resort islands is exorbitantly expensive – I saw some bottles going for around $50 USD!
In a similar vein, it is pretty expensive to buy any toiletries and personal products, so take extras of anything you desperately need, especially feminine hygiene products and contraceptive devices (eg. condoms) as if you find yourself without them but in need, you will need to shell out quite a few pretty pennies to get them!
Packing: What You Can Leave
Leave the high heels, hair styling products and cold weather clothes at home – there is no way you will be needing them.
Why To Travel
If you are looking to explore beautiful landscapes, get up close and personal with more marine life than you ever imagined and experience unparalleled luxury, then a trip to the Maldives needs to be added to your bucket list.
Not only that, it needs to be bumped to the top. If predictions of the future outcomes of global warming are correct, in just a few short decades, all of these incredible islands could find themselves completely underwater, so you really don’t want to wait too long to experience the gloriousness of the Maldives.
Finally, yes, the Maldives is an expensive destination to visit. But if you can buckle down and save the moolah, it would be the trip of a lifetime and the rare kind of truly phenomenal experience that you never, ever forget.