Mistakes to avoid in the Maldives – 24 do’s and don’ts when traveling to the Maldives

Traveling to this gorgeous archipelago can be an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience, but there are certain do’s and don’ts that must be followed in order to ensure a safe and enjoyable time. Before you set off on your vacation, it is essential to know what not to do in the Maldives so that you can avoid any potential legal trouble or danger.

From respecting local customs and laws to avoiding activities such as fishing without permission, this guide will provide some essential tips for those looking forward to their trip while avoiding unnecessary issues. So read on for some of the most serious mistakes to avoid in the Maldives.

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Respect the local customs and laws

Respecting the local customs and laws of the island nation is essential for a safe and enjoyable trip to the Maldives. It is important to remember that the Maldives is an Islamic country with almost 0 tolerance for certain behaviors. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the culture in the area, as well as the laws, customs, and regulations that the local people abide by. This includes respecting the dress code, avoiding gambling and drugs, and avoiding any public displays of affection.

In the Maldives, drinking alcohol and the distribution of non-Muslim religious materials (such as the Bible) are strictly prohibited. Additionally, the importation or possession of pork-based food items is also illegal. All luggage is inspected upon entry into the country, so don’t even try to do some of these things. You can find more information about this on the customs website.

Don’t be out late in Male city

Traveling to the Maldives often means experiencing the vibrant and exciting city of Male. While the city is a great place to explore the culture and meet the locals, it is important to remember that there is a curfew in the city until 10 PM. This means that after 10 PM, the streets are empty and the shops close. It is advisable to stay in the safety of the tourist areas during the night.

Be extra careful during Ramadan if staying on local islands

During the holy month of Ramadan, Islamic rules and regulations are very strictly observed in the Maldives. If you are staying on the local islands, it is important to be extra careful and show the utmost respect for the culture.

During the day, refrain from eating and drinking in public areas. This includes avoiding smoking and any other activities that would make anything touch your lips, as these activities are not tolerated. As always, dress modestly and avoid public displays of affection on the streets.

Refrain from taking photos of people without permission

Refraining from taking photos of the people in the Maldives without their permission is essential to ensure the safety and privacy of the locals. Taking pictures of the locals or their properties can be seen as intrusive or disrespectful, so it is important to always ask for permission before taking any pictures. This is especially important if the photos are going to be shared online or in the press.

Additionally, some areas (especially military installations) are completely off-limits for photography. Most resorts also prohibit the use of drones on their premises so they can protect the privacy of other tourists this way.

Avoid fishing without the appropriate license

When traveling to the Maldives, it is important to remember the law regarding fishing without the appropriate license. Fishing is a popular activity among tourists and locals alike, however, the local government strictly regulates fishing in the area. If you are caught fishing without the proper license or permits, you may face a hefty fine or even imprisonment.

Fishing trips might be organized by the resort or guesthouse you are visiting, and in this case, it is legal for you to participate. Don’t go fishing by yourself though as you most probably have no idea what you’re doing and you might harm some protected species by mistake.

Do not touch or disturb the marine life

One of the most important things not to do in the Maldives is to refrain from touching marine life when diving or snorkeling. The marine life of this country is the main source of beauty for the area, and it should be respected and admired from a distance. Although snorkeling and swimming are the best activities to do in the ocean, touching marine life or disturbing the corals will have a negative effect on the environment.

Marine animals (coral included) have a protective layer that keeps them safe from all kinds of bacteria. If this layer is removed, it leaves them vulnerable to all sorts of diseases. More importantly, it leaves them unguarded against bacteria that we, the people, bring into the ocean. As these potential dangers are not part of their world, their body cannot fight against them, so the damage is quite bad.

Apart from this, touching marine life can be very dangerous for you. Plenty of underwater living beings here are poisonous or venomous, or they can hurt you really bad with their sharp edges. Anemones look great in “Finding Nemo”, but they’re stingy as hell, so don’t touch anything to be on the safe side.

How do you do this? Well, there are quite a few things you can do to ensure safe encounters with sharks, for example, and you can use water shoes to be sure you don’t step on coral or stingrays as well.

Be mindful of the dress code on local islands

When visiting the local islands of the Maldives, it is important to be mindful of the dress code. This is necessary to ensure the respect and safety of the locals, as well as the preservation of their culture. On the local islands, visitors must be mindful to dress more conservatively than usual and should always cover their shoulders and knees in public areas.

Wearing bikinis is allowed only in resorts or boats, and on bikini beaches on local islands. Still, you should not wear a bikini when going to a restaurant to eat, even on resort islands. I hope I don’t need to say that you should dress particularly modestly when visiting a mosque, especially if you’re a woman.

Don’t sunbathe topless

Sunbathing topless is not allowed in the Maldives, even on the beaches of the resorts or on boats. As the culture of the country is conservative, going topless would be considered disrespectful and inappropriate. It could also cause offense or upset the locals, which is why it should always be avoided. Some tourists do this on resort islands, but it doesn’t mean it’s allowed. It just means they’re ignorant and don’t know (or care) about what not to do in Maldives.

Don’t litter or harm the natural environment

When traveling to the Maldives, it is essential to respect the environment and the local culture. This means avoiding activities such as littering and damaging the natural habitats, or the coral reefs. Littering the beaches and the ocean can have a significant impact on the environment and marine life, which is why it should be avoided at all costs. Additionally, the Maldives is a country that relies heavily on the tourism industry, so it should be respected and the environment preserved.

Follow the rules when swimming in public areas

When swimming in the public areas of the Maldives, the rules should always be followed. Swimming is the best way to enjoy the beauty of the country’s many islands, but it should not be done recklessly. It is important to keep the safety rules in mind, as well as the local customs and beliefs.

Just a few things you should remember are to never snorkel alone, to try and have fins at all times (some currents can drag you without even realizing and fins give you a better chance of recovery), never swim during nighttime or after consuming alcohol, and to be very aware of the marine life around. Animals are not interested in us, but they might fight if they think they’re in danger, so keep a safe distance at all times from rather large marine animals.

Stay away from illegal activities, such as drug use and gambling

As with any other destination to be honest, the best way to enjoy it is by staying away from any illegal activities, such as drug use and gambling. Although the country has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the laws and regulations regarding the use of drugs and gambling are very strict, some of these offenses might even be punished by life imprisonment. Engaging in these activities can lead to the risk of being arrested or deported from the country, so the best way to enjoy the Maldives is by avoiding them.

Avoid public displays of affection

Public displays of affection (PDAs) are generally frowned upon in the Maldives, as the culture is quite conservative. Visitors to the country need to remember this and avoid any kind of physical contact that could be deemed inappropriate. This includes things such as holding hands, hugging, and kissing in public. This applies to all the islands, including the resort ones.

LGBTQ rights in the Maldives are highly restricted. Same-sex sexual relationships are criminalized and the nation does not recognize the legal rights of the LGBTQ community. This means that any displays of affection between people of the same sex in the Maldives will be seen as unacceptable and could lead to serious consequences.

Don’t drink the tap water

When traveling to the Maldives, it is important to be aware that tap water is not suitable for drinking by tourists. The tap water in the country is either desalinated water or cleaned and treated rainwater or groundwater. Since an issue in 2014 has produced a massive drinking water shortage in the Maldives, they have implemented a system of reverse osmosis that ensures that a similar shortage won’t happen again.

What locals told me when I visited was that locals can drink it, but you shouldn’t as you’re not used to it. I tried a little bit and the taste is far from perfect as well, but you shouldn’t worry too much when brushing your teeth or preparing tea.

Bring your refillable bottle though as most islands can provide you with drinking water on demand. This will be mentioned when booking the accommodation and it’s an important factor to take into account. If drinking water is not included in your price, this will add up pretty quickly as you will need way more water than you thought.

You can read more about safety in the Maldives and the availability of drinking water from my relevant blog posts.

Do not forget to use sunscreen

When traveling to the Maldives, the harsh sun can be a challenge. This means that the use of sunscreen is essential. Sunscreen should be applied before going into the water, as the sun can be even harsher there, and it should also be reapplied after swimming.

However, the country is a paradise for marine life and the environment, so the kind of sunscreen you use matters a lot. Reef-safe sunscreens are the only sunscreens recommended in the Maldives, as the other ones are not eco-friendly and can have negative impacts on coral reefs and fish.

The best solution is to wear protective clothing when going into the water as this is the most nontoxic sunscreen available, and it doesn’t need re-applying either. You will enjoy as well the bonus of not having your eyes burn if any sun cream gets in the way and your snorkeling gear will adhere better to your skin this way.

Protect yourself against heat strokes

When traveling to the Maldives, the hot climate and the sun exposure for long periods of time can be a challenge. Staying hydrated is the key to avoiding the risk of a heat stroke as the body needs more water in the tropics than it does in the temperate climates.

Take the time to rest in the shade during the middle of the day and avoid drinking large amounts of alcohol. I know the Pina Coladas seem amazing on Instagram, but too many of them will dehydrate you like crazy, thus making you highly prone to heat stroke. Alcohol is a sensitive topic in the Maldives anyway so be aware of this, especially if going on a local island.

Take special precautions when going diving. The suits are highly constricting and usually made of latex or similar fabrics, so can shrink a lot on the boat on the way to the diving place. Especially if wearing swimming caps made out of silicone or rubbery material, stay as much as possible in the shade and try to wear the suit as little as possible when outside of the water.

A Chilly bottle is a must have travel item you need to add to your ultimate Maldives packing list, not having it is one of the worse mistakes to avoid in the Maldives

Don’t wear shoes on the beach, in locals’ houses, or in mosques

While on your trip to the Maldives, it is important to remember the cultural and religious influences that the country has in the region. As such, the country has the important rule of taking off your shoes when entering a house or mosque.

There’s not a very specific rule of not using your shoes on the beach, but let’s be honest here, it’s common sense. Most people are here barefoot, so why would they want to get on their feet the dirt you brought on your shoes?

Also, most islands have a shoe-free environment, and you’ll see plenty of locals doing the same, especially on smaller islands where there are no cars or roads. You are happily invited to do the same as soon as you arrive, and only to use slippers to wander around the area.

Don’t expect your transfer to be on time

No matter if the way you are transferring to the Maldives is by speedboat or seaplane, it is important to remember that the transfers are heavily dependent on the weather conditions. So, try to give yourself the right amount of buffer time between the transfer and the flight or the next destination, as the transfer might take longer than expected. Find out more about island hopping in the Maldives in my detailed post.

Be aware of the localization of corals near your island

Some islands in the Maldives have the advantage of having a house reef that can be easily accessed right from the beach. These house reefs typically have the most impressive corals, and the best thing is that you don’t even have to dive in order to explore them.

Not all islands are the same though, and some might require you to get on a boat to find any resemblance of a reef. Especially islands with a view to a lagoon are known to have their reefs starting far away from the shore, thus making it nearly impossible for you to get there without a boat.

Check the reviews for the accommodation options you have to choose between and see if people are complaining about this. Having to pay every day to reach an interesting coral is probably on nobody’s bucket list.

Do not sell or purchase corals or turtle shells

When traveling to the Maldives, it is important to note the legal regulations surrounding the sale and purchase of souvenirs containing coral or turtle shells. It is illegal to buy or sell souvenirs containing these items, as the purchase and export of corals are strictly prohibited.

Even though the sale of corals and turtle shells is prohibited, it doesn’t mean that the market will be void of these items. In the busy markets and the tourist areas of the Maldives, there is still the presence of illegal items, so the best thing to do is to simply try to avoid the temptation and the vendors that are selling these items.

Be prepared to spend more than you expect

When traveling to the Maldives, it is important to remember the additional expenses that come with the purchase of certain items. Due to local regulations, the prices of the products and items that are sold on the local market tend to be much higher than what you would expect.

Also, the Maldives has plenty of taxes, like the service tax, the import tax, and the government tax, which are imposed on visitors at the end of their stay. Be sure to set the right budget so that these taxes don’t come as a surprise.

You’ll also get amazing services from all the people involved in your holiday, so you’ll want to offer all of them very generous tips. While there’s a bit of an art to offer a tip to people serving you while here, you will want to do it nonetheless.

When planning your budget, include the transfer price in it

The transfer price to the resort islands in the Maldives can often be much more expensive than the intercontinental flight that you take to the country. It’s important to keep the transfer fee at the back of your mind when budgeting for the trip, as the fees can be sometimes quite high depending on the type of transfer and the size of the group.

Trying to minimize the transfer costs is just one of my budget tips for your trip to The Maldives, but it’s an important one as sometimes the transfer within The Maldives can be more expensive than the intercontinental flight if you can believe this!

Don’t eat only continental foods

Visiting the beautiful Maldives islands is the perfect excuse to indulge in the amazing cuisine the region has to offer. From the fresh seafood, the variety of curries, the colorful salads, and the rich selection of desserts the Maldives has to offer, the food is definitely worth the experience.

Although the islands have a variety of international cuisines that you can try, I would recommend you try the traditional dishes, as they are the ones that the locals enjoy the most. All the local restaurants you come across will offer a variety of traditional dishes that are worth trying, so don’t forget to give the local cuisine the time and effort it deserves.

Bring electrolyte pills or powders

When traveling to this beautiful country, the water is often stripped from most of the minerals and nutrients that the body needs. The high humidity, the tropical temperatures, and the humid and salty air can affect the body more than expected. You won’t only lack the intake of minerals, but you’ll also sweat more, thus removing the ones you have in your body as well (but also toxins so I would call it a win).

It is important to bring electrolyte pills or powders and eat plenty of fruit while in the Maldives because the environment can cause the body to rapidly lose the minerals and nutrients that it needs. This is just a way to enhance your water intake, by the way, so use these helpers in addition to drinking lots of water, not instead of doing so.

Eating fruits rich in minerals and vitamins will help replenish what has been lost due to the environment and taking a hydrating supplement will ensure that your body gets all the energy it needs throughout your stay on the islands. Additionally, eating plenty of fruits will provide essential antioxidants that help protect cells from free radical damage, promoting healthier skin.

Have some cash with you as you’ll want to tip everyone

While enjoying this tropical paradise, you will find the locals to be extremely friendly and accommodating. Everyone you interact with will go the extra mile to make sure your stay is the most pleasant and the locals treat the visitors with the utmost respect.

For this reason, it’s important to have some cash with you as the locals will appreciate the tips. Tipping the staff of the resorts, restaurants, and other places where you are served is the best way to show your appreciation for the excellent customer service you receive. The custom of tipping is not as widespread in the Maldives as in many other places, but the locals will be more than grateful when you show your appreciation in the form of tips. You can read more about the tipping culture in the Maldives in this other post of mine.

Don’t dive and fly

Always remember to allow at least 24 hours between your last diving experience and your first flight. As you may know, if you’re PADI certified, you could suffer from decompression sickness if you don’t allow for at least a day before you fly after a dive, so don’t forget to do this if you don’t want to endanger yourself.

Mistakes to avoid in the Maldives – The takeaway

Visiting the Maldives can be the perfect escape for a tropical getaway and it’s important to ensure you protect yourself against the sun, respect the rules of the island, and take care of the environment. By following the simple tips mentioned in this blog post, your visit to the Maldives will be an unforgettable experience that you will always cherish.

With its stunning beaches, crystal clear water, and amazing food scene, there is something for everyone in this paradise on Earth! So make sure you know what mistakes to avoid in the Maldives.

Next steps: Download your Maldives packing list from the widget below, and read my other content about this awesome destination.

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5 thoughts on “Mistakes to avoid in the Maldives – 24 do’s and don’ts when traveling to the Maldives”

  1. Pingback: Bad Things About The Maldives - 34 surprising things no one tells you about
  2. Pingback: Alcohol in the Maldives: customs, rules, and availability of alcohol in the Maldives | Honest Travel Stories
  3. There are so many great tips and pieces of advice that we will definitely use when we hopefully visit the Maldives in the future!

  4. Great info. A few of these took me by surprise when we were in the Maldives so this is perfect for anyone planning a trip to that beautiful place.


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