Exploring the magical beauty of the Maldives is an unforgettable experience. With over 1,200 islands scattered across 26 atolls, you can easily get lost in its stunning white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. But how do you make your way around this paradise? Well, I wondered the same before I went there and used both a private ferry and a private speedboat to get to the islands. But hey, at least now I know and can help you as well.
How to travel between islands in the Maldives? From ferries to seaplanes and speedboats, there are many ways to travel between the different islands – each one offering unique experiences that will stay with you long after your trip ends. Read on for all you need to know about transportation in the Maldives!
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Table of Contents
A bit about the Maldives
The Maldives is made up of 26 atolls, which are giant coral formations that have fragmented into countless islands. Each atoll has a traditional Dhivehi name as well as a code name like Baa (which is just an abbreviation of the Dhivehi alphabet) and an easy name for tourists to remember.
The specificity of the country will, of course, affect the means of transportation available. As everything happens on the water, there are just a few options available for most situations. It’s not like you can just walk, you know?
Now let’s get business and find out how you can get around the Maldives.
Maldives transportation from the airport
Getting to the Maldives is pretty much done by air, as the area cannot be easily covered by boats. If you’re flying into the country, the main gateway to the island nation is Velana International Airport in Male. From here, you need to find a solution to get to your final accommodation, and this will depend greatly on where you’re staying. Check out each item below to see what would be your best option to travel between islands in the Maldives.
Getting around in the Maldives
If we don’t take into account how you get here (by plane, most probably, as most boats cannot get close enough) or how you can get around on islands where there’s road infrastructure, you have these options travel around in the Maldives.
- Internal flights
- Scheduled speedboat
- Private ferry
- Public ferry
Internal flights: For the more remote islands or atolls, internal flights are a great option. There is an extensive network of domestic airlines that make it easy to explore even the furthest corners of the country.
Seaplanes: If you’re looking for something a bit more luxurious and romantic, seaplanes are an amazing way to get from one island to another. They offer spectacular views of the islands as you fly by, and it’s a great way to enjoy your journey. Plus, they will take you straight to your resort so you can enjoy your vacation right away.
Scheduled speedboats: How about a fast and exciting ride? Scheduled speedboats are an excellent way to get from one island to another at a fairly reasonable price. The downside is that they can get a bit cramped, so it’s best to book your tickets well in advance. Read below how you can do this.
Private ferry: For bigger groups or those who want more privacy, private ferries are an excellent option. You can either rent the entire boat or just charter one for a few hours and enjoy being on the water with your own group of friends or family.
Public ferry: Finally, there is the public ferry system which offers a cheap and easy way to get around. The downside is that it can be slow and uncomfortable, but this also means you have plenty of time to appreciate your surroundings and mingle with the locals.
No matter how you’re traveling between islands in the Maldives, you’re sure to enjoy the experience. Whether it’s hopping on a seaplane for some aerial views or taking a leisurely ride on a public ferry to appreciate the beauty of this magical land, there are plenty of options available. So don’t wait any longer and start planning your visit!
And remember – with careful planning and a bit of research, you can make the most of your trip and experience the best that the Maldives has to offer, and maybe even come back home with both your kidneys.
Internal flights in the Maldives
There are just a few companies that run internal flights in the Maldives, namely Maldivian Airlines, Trans Maldivian Airways, FlyMe, and Manta Air. You can book your tickets using Skyscanner, or straight from each company’s website.
If you’re going to stay in a resort, they will most probably handle everything for you, and you’ll pay at departure. If you have booked your Maldives trip with a travel agency, you’ll just receive all the reservation details from them.
Airports in the Maldives
The main international airport in the Maldives is Velana International Airport (also known as Male International Airport). As mentioned before, it’s the main gateway to the country, and it’s most probably your airport of arrival and departure.
Other international airports are Gan Airport (GAN), Hanimaadhoo International Airport (HAQ), Maafaru International Airport (NMF), Maamigili International Airport (VAM), and Kadhdhoo International Airport (KDO). You can use these airports if coming from Sri Lanka or India.
As far as domestic airports go, they’re scattered all around the country so you can easily get to any part of it. Check out the list below and the very helpful map, to have an idea of how good the coverage is.
- Hoarafushi airport
- Huvarafushi airport
- Kulhudhuffushi airport
- Funadhoo airport
- Ifuru airport
- Madivaru airport
- Dharavandhoo airport
- Dhaalu airport
- Thimarafushi airport
- Kooddoo airport
- Kaadedhdhoo airport
- Maavarulu airport
- Fuvahmulah airport
Seaplane transfer in the Maldives
The most exciting way to get from one island to another in the Maldives is by seaplane! There are three main companies that offer this service: Trans Maldivian Airways, Maldivian Seaplane, and Manta Air, the latter being the newest company, flying since 2019.
These seaplanes leave from the TMA terminals at Velana International Airport and usually take around 20 to 45 minutes. The prices vary depending on the distance between islands, so make sure to check before booking your tickets. As a rough idea, the price is usually at least $200 per person per leg, and oftentimes it’s even higher than that.
Seaplane transfers are usually taken care of by the resort or the travel agency you booked your trip with, so you shouldn’t need to book them yourself. If you’re traveling DIY, you can book the flights yourself on their website, but please be aware that your inbound flight might be delayed and you’ll miss your booking, so plan for this as well.
Unfortunately, seaplanes cannot operate once the sun goes down, so if you arrive at the airport after sunset, it’s best to spend the night in Malé City, Hulhumalé, or a hotel in Hulhule. To avoid this, you can book a private transfer from your hotel, which is more expensive but much faster and more convenient. In any case, take this into account if you’re going to need late-night or early-morning transportation from Male.
Scheduled speed boats
For those who are looking for a more affordable way to travel between islands, there are scheduled speed boats operated by several companies in the Maldives. Atoll Transfer and ICom Tours, offer transfers from Velana International Airport to various resorts and islands around the country.
They also provide day trips to nearby islands for people staying on local islands but wanting to taste a bit of the luxury from nearby resorts. ICom Tours has a wide list of day trips you can try, all of them having a starting point in Maafushi.
Again, if you’re going to a resort island, this will be taken care of for you. If you’re booking everything yourself, you can easily book the transfers online from their website or buy them at the ticket desks at the airport, if you’re brave enough. The prices vary depending on the destination, so make sure to check before you buy. A rough estimation of the cost is between $50 and $150 per person per leg, so a bit cheaper than a seaplane, but still not an amount to ignore.
If you need to get anywhere, anytime, charter speed boats are the way to go. They are much faster than public ferries and they’ll leave when they’re full. This is how you will need to get around if visiting any resort islands.
Charter speedboats come in all shapes and sizes depending on the quality of the resort you stay in. The more luxurious resorts can have large enclosed motor cruisers with drinks and food, while the lesser resorts may have open-sided boats.
The booking is handled by the resort, as it’s basically the resort’s boat you’re getting on. You cannot book this yourself so communicate efficiently with them before you arrive (you have to tell them your scheduled flight number and planned date and time of arrival).
As an alternative to speedboats, there are private ferries that run from Malé to Maafushi and other nearby islands. This is a great option if you want to save some money and don’t mind a slower journey. The ferries usually leave once they are full, so you may need to wait a while before they depart.
Getting information on these ferries is a challenge as they are run by and for locals, and hence their little need to put any information on the internet. The best way to find out more about them is to ask locals at the jetty directly – they will be able to tell you when they depart and how many people they can take.
The booking process is not easy either. The only website I could find where there’s an available ferry schedule is this one, but even they say they cannot know for sure what is going to happen as they all depend on the weather and various other factors. This means of transportation is perfect for laid-back travelers that don’t care that much about being on time or have a busy schedule.
Finally, there are public ferries operated by the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC). These are ideal for those on a budget, as they tend to be cheaper than speed boats, the price being about $1-$5 per way. However, these services can be very slow, so it is best to check the schedule before you commit. Getting to the further atolls and islands can take up to a day, as they also stop at various places along the way, so be prepared to enjoy a long ride.
Public ferries only run 3-6 times weekly, with no service on Friday. This means that if you are trying to travel over the weekend (Saturday and Sunday), you may need to look for other transport options as the public ferries will not run. You can find here the most up-to-date ferry schedule.
Since these ferries are extremely irregular and the information available online is not very up-to-date (they are aimed at local transportation so even if there is information online, it’s not in English), using them for island-hopping can be a challenge, but not at all impossible. The major difficulty is to move from one atoll to the other by ferry, as the ones that spread across multiple atolls are few and far between.
If you’re planning to use public ferries to do island hopping in the Maldives, start by booking your guesthouses (even with free cancelation, if it suits you best). Then, ask the owners how can you get there, and they will tell you all the options. The next step then is to connect the dots by discussing with all the guesthouse hosts that will gladly help you.
Some resorts even allow you to get there by public transportation (sort of). You can, for example, reach Olhuveli Resort from the airport by public ferry until Maafushi ($2 per person) and then get a speedboat transfer with ICom. You will save some money like this, and maybe get to know a bit of the local culture as well.
FAQ about traveling between islands in the Maldives
How do you get to The Maldives?
Most people reach this tropical paradise by transcontinental flight to the Velana International Airport. Some smaller airlines also use one of the other 5 international airports located all around the archipelago, but these are mostly coming in from Sri Lanka or India.
How many airports are in The Maldives?
There are 6 International airports in the Maldives, and the most important one is known as Male Airport. The islands also have 13 domestic airports where both normal planes and seaplane land and depart.
How much does it cost to travel between islands in the Maldives?
This will depend greatly on the means of transportation available. If you’re using a seaplane transfer, this can cost even more than $500 per person. A private speedboat can cost anything between $50 and $150, and a local ferry ticket is usually around $1-$3 per way. Of course, not all options will be available between every two islands, so keep this in mind when planning your trip.
Can we do island hopping in the Maldives?
Definitely, with proper planning. While it is not as easy as in other countries, island hopping in the Maldives can be done, especially between inhabited islands. If you want to reach resort islands as well, you’ll have to book one of the pricier options though, so keep this in mind when budget planning.
Can you travel between resorts in the Maldives?
Unfortunately, no. Most resorts will only provide you with transportation to and from Male. So if you want to change resorts, you’ll have to use Male as your hub, even if the two resort islands are close to each other. The only other hub that you might make it work with is Maafushi, a local island that’s been intensively visited by tourists lately.
How to travel between islands in the Maldives – The takeaway
Navigating the Maldives can be tricky, but with a bit of research and planning it is possible to find ways to island hop without breaking your budget. From using private ferries operated by locals, to public ferries run by MTCC, or speedboats from resorts – there are plenty of options available depending on what you need.
With this guide in mind and some help from local guesthouse owners, you should have no problem getting around the islands at an affordable price. I hope that now you know how to travel between islands in the Maldives and that it doesn’t feel complicated anymore. Just remember that each option has its advantages and disadvantages so make sure you choose one that best suits your needs!