Are you dreaming of a tropical getaway in the Maldives? With its crystal-clear waters, powdery white sand beaches, and pristine coral reefs – it is no wonder that this island nation has become one of the most popular travel destinations. But before you pack your bags for paradise, there are things to know before traveling to the Maldives.
From what to bring with you and how to get around, to things like local customs and hidden gems – this guide will provide readers with what you need to know about the Maldives before you find your way to these idyllic islands. So read on for some essential information that will help make your trip even more memorable!
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Table of Contents
The Maldives is bigger than you think
The Maldives is an archipelago of small islands, located in the Indian Ocean, south of India and Sri Lanka. Spanning across a wide area, the Maldives is made up of nearly 1,200 coral islands, atolls, and sandbanks – all separated by deep lagoons and scattered across 35,000 square miles. The islands are small though so don’t expect to get lost here.
There are 3 types of islands
The Maldives is made up of three different types of islands, each offering its own distinct features and experiences. These are local Islands, resort Islands, and uninhabited Islands.
Local Islands are inhabited by locals and are the most affordable accommodation options in the Maldives. These islands have a limited selection of restaurants and bars and lack resort-quality amenities. Read more about local islands in the Maldives in this detailed post.
Resort Islands are typically large islands that offer a range of accommodation benefits and activities like snorkeling, diving, water sports, and more. These resorts can be expensive but offer a great way to experience the beauty of the Maldives in luxury, all-inclusive packages, and amazing spa experiences.
Around 200 islands are inhabited, around 200 others are resorts (each resort has its own island), and the rest of them are uninhabited. Some of the uninhabited islands are really sandbanks, they don’t have any vegetation on them so it’s impossible to live there, but the others can be used for day trips for a real piece of heaven.
Visa requirements are very inclusive
Visiting the Maldives requires a valid passport (with at least 6 months of validity left) and an approved visa. Most people are eligible for a 30-day visa on arrival if they can show they have a ticket back and enough money for their whole stay. Covid-19 regulations have to be checked before planning your trip, as they might change more often than I can realistically update this post.
The language spoken is Dhivehi
The official language of the Maldives is Dhivehi, an Indo-Aryan language spoken by the majority of local inhabitants. It is closely related to Sinhala and has many similarities in terms of grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation.
Almost everyone speaks English though. As most people work in tourism, speaking English is a priority in schools. There are even resorts catered more towards Mandarin-speaking guests, others geared more towards German-speaking tourists, and so on. Look enough and you can probably find someone that speaks a language you know.
Getting here is not that easy
As it’s an archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean, getting into the Maldives can be done almost exclusively by flying into the Male airport. You can enter through other airports as well, but there are not that many options. You can find great connections from Western Europe, Middle Eastern countries, Singapore, and India.
Island hopping is a challenge
This is not impossible by no means, but it’s not as easy to do as in other countries. Transportation between islands cannot be done as easily as renting a boat, as the distance between islands is bigger than one might expect. Check out my very detailed guide on how to travel between islands in the Maldives and a proposed Maldives 10 days itinerary.
The best time to visit the Maldives
… is right now, as it is sadly disappearing due to climate change. Sea levels have been rising over the years, and the archipelago is slowly sinking. This has led to serious threats to both the environment and the inhabitants of the Maldives.
The islands are made up of coral reefs and sandbars, so they are at risk of erosion due to increased temperatures. The high levels of pollution in the ocean have also damaged the coral which used to provide protection from flooding and cyclones.
Due to these environmental issues, it is important that visitors take steps during their visit to help protect the islands. This could be anything from choosing a sustainable accommodation option to just taking care of the environment while here.
The best season to travel to the Maldives
Like most tropical islands around the Equator, the Maldives has only two seasons: the wet and the dry season. The dry season is between December and March, but it is known that November and April are still great months to visit. Prices for accommodation, plane tickets, and everything in between are higher during the high season, especially during the winter holidays and Valentine’s Day.
Visiting the Maldives in the low season can be a great way to experience the beauty of this paradise without breaking the bank. From May to November, temperatures are slightly lower and rain is more frequent, but there are still plenty of things to do and enjoy during these months. The ocean is just as beautiful as ever with crystal-clear waters perfect for snorkeling or diving, and this is the best time for surfing and whale watching.
Plus, prices for accommodation and activities tend to be much cheaper than during peak season. With some careful planning and preparation, you can have an amazing time while taking advantage of all that this tropical paradise has to offer!
Some islands are partly reclaimed land from the sea
In an effort to keep the islands afloat and the population safe, reclaiming efforts are currently done to prevent the islands from disappearing. Some of the islands created like this are for practical purposes, like airport islands, but some are just resorts in great areas for snorkeling and diving.
Some islands have their own time
The resort islands of the Maldives have their own unique sense of time, which is often one or two hours ahead of the time in Male. This is meant to make things easier for travelers coming from European countries, as it helps with jet lag. Plus, this gives you more time in the day to explore and enjoy the many activities that these islands have to offer, as you’ll make better use of daylight hours.
The country is 100% Muslim
The Maldives is a 100% Muslim country, and as such, travelers should be especially mindful of Islamic etiquette, customs, and culture while visiting the islands. Visitors should dress conservatively, avoid public displays of affection, and respect local religious sites. Alcohol is not permitted on all local islands, but it is allowed in resort areas.
The currency is Maldivian Rufiyaa
The currency of the Maldives is called the Maldivian Rufiyaa, and it is made of plastic in order to prevent it from being damaged in the water. How cool is that, am I right? On local islands, you will need to pay with Rufiyaa for things like taxis and food, but USD is widely accepted anywhere.
On resort islands, you’ll pay only in USD, and you can pay either in cash or by card. Have new bills if paying in cash as older, more beat-up bills might not be accepted, as some banks tend to refuse to exchange them.
Tipping is not mandatory, but gladly appreciated
Tipping in the Maldives is not mandatory, as most resorts will already add a 10% service charge to your bill at the end of your stay. However, if you want to show your appreciation for great service during your stay, then of course tipping is always gladly appreciated. Just make sure to have smaller denominations of USD if you want to give out tips, as it might be hard to find a place to exchange into smaller bills. Check out here my detailed post regarding tipping in the Maldives.
It is known as a luxury destination (aka expensive)
The Maldives is known as a luxury destination, and as such, it can be quite expensive. However, with careful planning and budgeting, it is possible to have a great time without breaking the bank. There are plenty of things you can do for almost free, and there are even mid-range resorts and packages that offer great value for money. Just be sure to research things like transportation, food, and activities in advance so you know what to be ready for. Check out here my tips on spending less while traveling to the Maldives.
If you’re planning to splurge on an overwater villa, this is absolutely understandable. This is what the Maldives is known for. You can choose one of these affordable overwater bungalows even for just a few nights, to make your dream come true. Also, check out the budget tips eBook I have written as it might save you (quite) a few dollars while still getting to see your desired destination.
Want to travel more without increasing your budget? Check out my eBook on ways to travel on a low budget and make it happen!
The transfer to the resort island is expensive
The transfer to the resort island in the Maldives can be extremely expensive. Depending on the island and how far it is from Male, which is the capital, you could end up paying more for the round-trip transfer than for the international flight. This can be a major hole in your budget, so plan accordingly and check this out when booking your accommodation. Also, check out here my other mistakes to avoid while in the Maldives.
Changing resorts go through Male
Most travel guides don’t tell you that changing resorts in the Maldives can be a complicated undertaking and one that can significantly drive up your travel costs. To change resorts, you will have to go through Male and pay for both inbound and outbound trips, even if the resorts you are switching between are pretty close to each other. This can be a major hassle, and it can be even more expensive than the international flight that brought you here. If you need more information, read my post about traveling between islands in the Maldives.
The marine life is amazing
The crystal-clear turquoise waters and white sandy beaches of the Maldives offer some of the best marine life in the world. Snorkeling and diving are popular activities, but you can also just take a glass bottom boat out to enjoy the view of colorful fish and coral without getting wet.
The coral and underwater environment is becoming more and more fragile every year, as climate changes continue to harm the environment and the worldwide level of pollution increases.
Careful what you take as a souvenir
A very important thing to know before going to the Maldives is that taking sea shells, tortoise shells, or pieces of coral from the country is strictly forbidden. Not only is it prohibited, but you could also face a fine if caught taking wildlife pieces from the beach or sea. So be careful what you take as a souvenir and remember that taking things from the ocean is not only illegal but also very damaging to the environment. You can check out other mistakes to avoid in the Maldives here.
You can see bioluminescent plankton here
Seeing the bioluminescent plankton in the Maldives is a truly magical experience. The plankton is formed out of small, single-celled organisms that emit a bright blue-green light when disturbed. It’s best to plan for a nighttime stroll on the beach during a full moon and make sure to check the tides and go during high tide as this is when the plankton are most likely to be visible. If you’re lucky enough, the season is just right and the stars align, you can get the chance to experience this truly magical sight in the Maldives.
It offers a wide array of activities
The Maldives offers a wide array of activities and things to do for visitors of all ages. From snorkeling and diving in the crystal clear waters to exploring the local culture or simply lounging around on a beach, you can be sure that there is something for everyone here. Whether you’re looking for a romantic escape, an adventure-filled holiday, or just some relaxation and sunbathing; the Maldives has something for everyone, not just honeymooners.
Resorts are not all the same
The Maldives offers a wide variety of resort options to suit any holidaymaker’s needs. There are many things to consider when deciding where to stay, such as the proximity to the airport and the state of the house reef, hotel amenities, and of course price. Resorts closer to Male are easier to reach and cheaper, but they don’t offer the same untouched environment or marine life experience as those located a bit further away. So shop around before you decide, and you won’t regret your decision.
Packing for the Maldives is easy
To make the most of your time in the Maldives, it’s important to pack smart and light. Since islands are small and some things might be more expensive here than at home – things like mosquito repellent and reef-safe sunscreen should be high on your packing list. If you have a few bathing suits and a pair of flip-flops, you’re good to go. Check out my detailed packing list for the Maldives and download the PDF version below as well.
Drones are not allowed
The Maldives is one of the few places where drones are not allowed so that guests can enjoy the tranquility and privacy of the islands. Drone operators must obtain special permission from the resort employees beforehand, so I advise you to check before you book. You can, of course, fly your drone above sand banks, but resort islands are most probably off the table.
Bring your own fins
If the resort doesn’t offer you complimentary gear, bringing your own fins can help you spend less. You will use your snorkeling tube anyway as nobody wants to put their mouth on the same tube as someone else, am I right? So bring your fins as well if the hotel cannot offer you some, and spend that money on a nice massage. Trust me, you’ll love it!
FAQ about traveling to the Maldives
What do I need to know before going to the Maldives?
One of the most important things is that the Maldives is 100% a Muslim country so there are certain things you are not allowed to do, especially on local islands, like drinking alcohol and eating pork.
What happens if you take shells from the Maldives?
As it is illegal to take shells or coral pieces out of the Maldives, you will get them confiscated at the airport and there’s a big chance you’ll also get a fine for trying. You can, though, buy ready-made souvenirs that include shells.
Is traveling to the Maldives safe?
Even if they sometimes had some internal unrest, the Maldives was always a safe destination for tourists. Especially if going on a resort island and if you abide by local customs, you should feel extremely safe in the Maldives.
When should you not go to the Maldives?
When it comes to seasons, the low season in the Maldives is between May and October, but this can mean better prices. If you want to avoid high prices though, avoid the winter holiday season and Valentine’s day for a good chance.
How much money should I bring to the Maldives?
If you have your flights and accommodation paid for, get as much or little as you feel comfortable. You will pay everything by card anyway so it will only be a matter of keeping track of your expenses while there.
What are some travel hacks when traveling to the Maldives?
You should always compare both Agoda and Booking when choosing your accommodation, you should always take the meal plan into account as well and check the transfer prices when booking.
What is the best way to explore the Maldives?
The best idea is to see both a local island and a resort island. This way, you get to see the best of all worlds that the Maldives has to offer.
Things to know before traveling to the Maldives – The takeaway
I hope I have covered all the important Maldives travel tips in this travel guide. The country is an amazing paradise and it deserves to be seen at least once in a lifetime. Equipped with the knowledge of these essential things to know before traveling to the Maldives I trust that you’ll make great decisions when planning your trip.