Best Currency to Bring in the Maldives: A Complete Traveler’s Guide

SUMMARY: Bring crisp, newer US dollars for spending on both local and resort islands in the Maldives, but have Maldivian Rufiyaa for better value and easier transactions on local islands. Use cards freely on resort islands, but expect commissions on local ones and remember ATMs are scarce.

I know what you’re going through. You’re packing your bags, trying to decide how many bathing suits to take (hint: at least two). But at one point, a question crosses your mind: what’s the best currency to bring in The Maldives?

Well, you’re about to find out, as I had the precise question before I visited. Luckily, I visited both local and resort islands, so I can give you the full picture. In short, you’ll find out:

  • The real deal on using US dollars versus Maldivian Rufiyaa
  • Why the condition of your dollars can make or break your spending spree
  • The ins and outs of card payments on local and resort islands
  • Top tips for managing money like a pro in the Maldives

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Understanding Local vs Resort Island Currency Needs

Traveling to the Maldives offers a unique twist between its local and resort islands, each with its own set of currency rules (and local customs, by the way). While you might feel like a dollar bill is your universal ticket, that’s not always the case. On local islands, both the US dollar and Maldivian Rufiyaa are king (kings? or king and queen combo?).

However, step onto a resort island, and it’s a whole different story – your wallet gets a vacation too since you’ll mostly be using your card. This dual-currency dynamic isn’t just about convenience; it deeply affects how you plan and spend your money in paradise. And if you’re thinking of potential ways to spend less in The Maldives, of course, I’ve got you covered.

So, here’s the lowdown: on local islands, cash is still very much in vogue. You’ll find that not every corner of paradise is equipped to handle your credit card. And even when they can, there might be a commission fee of 3.5-5% for the privilege.

It’s not only about saving fees, though. Paying in Maldivian Rufiyaa could see you getting more bang for your buck, with potential savings of about 10% compared to the dollar. Especially if you’re going to stay here for longer, consider exchanging your currency to the local one upon arrival.

However, be prepared for a mix-and-match scenario as well, as paying in dollars on local islands might mean getting your change in Rufiyaa, adding a fun, albeit slightly confusing, twist to your shopping adventures. Bonus: you cannot exchange Maldivian Rufiyaa outside of the country, so once you do the exchange, you’ll kind of have to spend it all.

But, you can change it back if you’re left with any local currency at the end of your trip, right? Well, yes and no. While it didn’t happen to me (because we lost all of our Maldivian Rufiyaa on a boat trip, long story), plenty of tourists have reported that exchange offices are asking for the bill from the initial exchange you did upon arrival.

So, if you’re planning to stay for longer, exchange your currency to Maldivian Rufiyaa, but keep the bill they give you. Then, if you still have money left before leaving, take it to the same exchange office, together with the bill, and change it back. Or, better yet, spend it on souvenirs or fun activities.

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Payment Methods on Local Islands: Navigating Cash and Card Use

If you’ve ever stood at a checkout counter rummaging through your wallet, wondering whether to hand over a card or cash, you’ll understand the mini-dilemma you might face on the local islands in the Maldives. Here’s the deal: While those tiny pieces of plastic might feel like universal magic wands back home, in the Maldives, their magic can sometimes fizzle out, especially on smaller local islands.

First things first, cash isn’t just king here; it’s the reigning monarch, especially when it comes to US dollars and Maldivian Rufiyaa. The perk of using cash? You sidestep their card commissions, which can be anywhere between 3.5% to 5%. Yes, you heard that right. Saving on those fees means more money for island adventures like swimming with sharks or perhaps an extra cocktail or two.

Here’s a hot tip: If you’re planning to splurge a bit on local islands—maybe on souvenirs, spa experiences, or a dinner under the stars—paying in Maldivian Rufiyaa can actually be more cost-effective. You see, paying in dollars might sound convenient, but the exchange rate in more casual settings might not always be in your favor. And before you ask, yes, if you pay in dollars, don’t be surprised to get your change in Rufiyaa, adding some unexpected currency to your travel wallet. Now, if you have a lot of your trip ahead of you, you’ll spend it without issues. But if you’re towards the end of your trip, you might want to get rid of it.

Speaking of convenience, smaller denominations are your best friend here. Not only are they a lifesaver for tipping the friendly staff—who go out of their way to make your stay memorable—but they also come in handy in smaller establishments that might not stockpile change for larger bills. Imagine buying a quaint little souvenir and paying with a large bill, only to be met with a look of polite panic. Awkward, right?

Lastly, while the thought of carrying a chunk of cash might make you nervous, larger local islands do have ATMs. However, it’s probably wise to withdraw what you anticipate you’ll need beforehand to avoid any cash shortages during your island explorations. While there are plenty of ways to go from one island to another, doing it only to get money, and spending money while you do so, seems a bit counter-productive.

Fun fact: Maldivian Rufyiaa are made of plastic. Makes sense, with all that water this currency is going to be exposed to, but somehow I never thought about it before I got there. While Romanian currency is also made of plastic (I think more for hygiene reasons), in The Maldives this makes so much sense!

Entering the world of Maldivian local islands is like stepping into a vibrant tapestry of culture and tradition. Whether it’s cash or card, navigating these waters smoothly will make sure your financial experiences are just as serene and hassle-free as the panoramic ocean views.

Payment Methods on Resort Islands

If you’re headed to a resort island, your life is going to be easier in terms of means of payment, but not easier in terms of costs. You’ll pay everything by card, in USD, the accommodation and transfer at the beginning of the trip, and the other expenses at the end of it.

While you’re on the island, you won’t need to carry cash with you anywhere. Everything will be added on a tab for your room number. And I mean everything: massages, souvenirs, boat trips, meals not included in your meal plan, drinks. Every little thing you pay for will be added to your room number.

While this way of handling payments is very convenient, it’s also a very easy way to keep track of your expenses. $15 cocktails will add up so quickly, you won’t even realize what’s happening. Try to keep track of it one way or another, on either a piece of paper or an app of some sort on your phone. I would setup a pocket or vault in my Revolut app and move the amount there every time I make a purchase, just to become more aware about it.

An important note: the prices shown on menu and price lists do not contain any taxes, but the price at the end of your trip will have an added 16% Goods & Services Tax and usually a 10% Service Charge as well. Keep this in mind when estimating your budget, along with the other tips to save money I recommend.

As everyone will offer you an amazing service, you might want to have small denominations with you at all times, like $1s, $5s and $10s. I wrote a detailed guide about the tipping culture in The Maldives, please read it before you go, I think you’ll find it very useful.

Speaking of Revolut: it was incredibly easy to use it here. We had a Wise card as well and it was equally easy, I think they accept all major credit card companies. Have 1-2 types of cards with you though, just to be sure you are covered in case the first one doesn’t work for some reason. I have a very detailed Revolut review, if you’d like to check it out. I love how I always find nice ways to use it for my travel planning, it gives me so many opportunities!

Practical Tips for Managing Your Money in the Maldives

Ever found yourself fumbling through your wallet for the right bill, or worse, discovering it’s too worn to be accepted? When heading to the Maldives, the art of money management becomes crucial, and not just any bill will make the cut. Here’s how to keep financial snafus at bay and ensure your adventure remains as smooth as the island’s sandy beaches.

First off, remember the golden rule of travel currency in the Maldives: crisp is king. If you’re bringing US dollars, ensure they’re in pristine condition – no rips, no dirt, no random doodles, and definitely no bills that have seen better decades. Think post-2006 freshness. This isn’t just about pride in currency appearance; it’s a necessity. Many places outright refuse to accept bills that don’t meet these standards, for one very valid reason: exchange offices won’t accept them so they’ll be stuck with blocked money.

On the resort islands, the currency saga takes a twist. Here, you can hang up your cash worries and transition to a blissful card-only existence. Leave your cash in your room safe and let your card take the wheel. Everything – from cocktails by the pool to thrilling water sports – gets tabbed under your room number, with the grand total, including taxes and service fees, gracefully bowing out only at the end of your stay.

Before you go, remember to call your bank and tell them your destination and duration of your trip. They might see The Maldives as such an “exotic” destination, they might block your card for fraud suspicions, and unblocking it when you’re already abroad is so difficult. Especially if you cannot do it online, but only by calling, I’d try to avoid this at all costs.

However, when you venture onto local islands, it’s back to basics with cash reigning supreme. While cards are accepted in some places, they come with a side of extra charges, ranging between 3.5-5%. If you’re looking to emerge victorious in the battle of budgeting, carrying Maldivian Rufiyaa could be your secret weapon. Not only could you sidestep those card fees, but you might also save around 10% in exchange rate on more substantial expenses. Plus, when spending dollars, prepare for the possibility of receiving change in Rufiyaa, adding a colorful twist to your wallet’s content.

Speaking of spending, navigating the nuances of tipping and small purchases can be easier with a stash of smaller bills. Whether it’s rewarding the exceptional service or grabbing a quick snack, smaller denominations ensure you’re not left in a bind, trying to break a larger bill when change is as scarce as a cloudless rainy day in the Maldives.

Lastly, a word to the wise: not every local island is equipped with ATMs, but they’re usually found on larger islands. Checking the availability of ATMs and planning your cash reserves accordingly could save you from being cash-strapped in paradise.

Mastering the art of money management in the Maldives doesn’t just make for a smoother trip; it enhances your experience, letting you soak in the beauty and culture of the islands without a financial worry in sight. With these tips, you’re well on your way to becoming a savvy island hopper, ready to tackle the Maldivian monetary maze with ease.

Best Currency to Bring in the Maldives FAQs

Can I use my credit card everywhere in the Maldives?

While credit cards are widely accepted on resort islands and are often the preferred method of payment there, their usability on local islands can be limited. In more remote areas or for certain services, cash may still be king. Additionally, paying with a card on local islands may incur a commission of 3.5-5%, so having cash on hand is advisable.

Should I exchange money before I arrive in the Maldives?

It’s not essential to arrive in the Maldives with Maldivian Rufiyaa in your pocket, and you probably won’t find this exotic currency available in your country either. However, if you plan to spend time on local islands and aim to save money where possible, having Rufiyaa can be advantageous, so plan to either withdraw at an ATM, or exchange some USD upon arrival.

Are ATMs readily available in the Maldives?

ATMs are not available everywhere across the Maldives, especially on the smaller or more remote local islands. While you’ll find ATMs on larger islands and in Malé, it’s prudent to carry sufficient cash if you’re venturing away from these areas. On resort islands, where everything is charged to your room and paid at the end of your stay, no one really needs an ATM.

Is it better to use dollars or local currency on local islands?

Using local currency, the Maldivian Rufiyaa, on local islands can often save you money, rendering your transactions approximately 10% more cost-effective compared to using dollars. While dollars are widely accepted, they come with the downside of possible change in Rufiyaa and the need for them to be in almost perfect condition. For the optimal mix of convenience and cost-saving, carrying both currencies in smaller denominations is advised.

Does The Maldives accept USD?

Yes, you can pay almost everywhere in USD. If using cash, you’ll have to ensure you bring new notes, as the older ones might not be accepted. On local islands, you might get your change in the local currency if choosing to pay in USD, so it might be a good idea for you to get Maldivian Rufyiaa upon arrival if you’ll spend a lot of time on local islands.

What currency to use when tipping in The Maldives?

USD is preferred, as employees can easily exchange it in their desired currency afterwards. Bring plenty of small bills as you’ll want to tip everyone, and ensure your bills are in good condition, as the banks won’t accept them otherwise.

The Takeaway – What currency should you take to The Maldives?

As the sun sets on our journey through the Maldivian currency landscape, we’ve uncovered the do’s and don’ts that can make or break your island experience. Remember, currency in the Maldives isn’t just about what you spend; it’s about how wisely and smoothly you spend it. From the glimmering shores of resort islands to the vibrant hustle of local markets, being currency-savvy is your ticket to a hassle-free holiday.

Armed with the knowledge of bill crispness, the convenience of card payments on resort islands, and the economic savviness of using Maldivian Rufiyaa on local islands, you’re well-prepared for any financial situation the islands throw at you. Add to this the strategic packing of smaller bills and a keen eye on your expenditure, and you’re all set. If you want to have a short list of tips, I’ve got one for you just below!

  • Cash is king on local islands, but to dodge those extra charges, Maldivian Rufiyaa might just be your crowning glory, adding roughly 10% more bang for your buck.
  • Heading to local islands? Stack up those dollars — but ensure they’re newer than 2006 and in pristine condition.
  • If dollars are your choice, be prepared to embrace the Rufiyaa in change, adding an unplanned twist to your currency collection.
  • Remember, smaller bills pave smoother ways, especially for gratuities and minor purchases, helping avoid the awkward “no change” scenarios.
  • ATMs are the rare jewels on larger local islands; scouting them might turn into an unexpected adventure.
  • On resort islands, keep your wallet digital; cards are your go-to for all expenses.
  • On the serene resort islands, your expenses patiently wait till the end of your stay, summed up with a tab, including taxes and service charges.

So take a moment to relish the thought of your upcoming travel adventures, where the only surprises will be the unmatched beauty of the Maldives and the unforgettable experiences waiting around every sandy bend. With your currency concerns settled, the Maldives isn’t just a dream destination; it’s a smooth, scenic, and stress-free adventure into paradise. Safe travels, and may your Maldivian journey be as enchanting as the islands themselves!

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