Maldivian hotels are rapidly evolving, but the Maldives will not be rushed and a genial, relaxed service is not always a rapid one. There is no advantage in deliberately causing people to lose face. Remember that this is not the West. Allow a little more time for checking out of hotels, ordering food, traveling, paying bills, enjoying yourself.... in fact, anything at all. Courtesy is always appreciated. If you match the Maldivians for their tolerance and patience then you are likelier to discover the beauty and harmony of the country. The Maldivian people are most welcoming. However, other than those working in the resorts and the airport, you probably won’t come across many unless you visit the capital, Malé, where one third of the country’s 300,000 population live, or one of the more remote inhabited islands away from the resorts. The Republic of Maldives is an Islamic state so outside the resort islands ensure you wear modest clothing. It should be noted that alcohol, drugs, pornography and idols of worship are not permitted. Alcohol, however, is served on the resort islands.
From the time you land at Malé airport, a connecting sea plane or speed boat and transfer to your resort island might take up to about an hour and a half. The Maldives is a nation of islands. Each resort is set on its own island and so is the airport. The airport is on Hulhule Island. Visitors to the Maldives are granted a 30-day visitor’s visa upon arrival. Items such as alcohol, drugs, pornography and idols of worship are strictly prohibited. There is a Tourism Ministry counter at the airport which is a good source of information for travellers. For your return journey, daytime flights from the Maldives airport are recommended. Evening flights can cause inconveniences since the airport transfers operate only by day requiring guests to leave their resorts many hours ahead of departure. Sea planes are grounded by 6.00 pm due to poor visibility at night and the risk of hitting coral reefs. If you have time on your hands, consider a half-day’s excursion in Malé and maybe even catch up on some duty free shopping at the airport.
Weekdays in the Maldives are from Sunday - Thursday and the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday. Government office hours are from 7. 30 – 2.30 pm Sunday -Thursday. The private sector functions from 9.00 – 5.00 pm on weekdays with most operating half day on Saturdays as well. Banks are open in Male from 8.00 – 1.30 pm Sunday – Thursday.
Beware of pointing your camera at anything that might be considered ‘strategic’, including the airport and anything military in Malé. Please do ask permission before taking photographs of people and respect their wishes if they refuse. Religious photographs may also cause offence. Do assess the situation and if in doubt, ask. We do not recommend paying for the right to take a photo, although you should be sensitive to the fact that a tip may sometimes be expected. If you take a photo including local people, especially children, do share the picture with them if you have a digital camera as this will often be greatly appreciated.
Maldives has a tropical climate which is warm and humid through out the year with very little change in temperature which is generally between 26-32C. The year is divided into two seasons based on the monsoons. The North East monsoon period lasts from December – April which is considered the tourist peak season when there is little rainfall, constant sunshine and calm seas. The South West monsoon is from May – November when there is more rainfall and rough seas. February – April is the hottest period with temperatures cooling off slightly in December.
Protect yourself from the sun with creams, hats and sunglasses; drink plenty of bottled water to avoid dehydration; and stay safe in the event of a thunderstorm. Beachwear including bikinis is considered acceptable while on the resort islands. Topless sunbathing is officially banned. Away from your resort island, especially in Malé and in other remote inhabited islands, be aware that dress standards are comparatively conservative and it is respectful to wear loose, long and lightweight clothing.
The international country code for The Maldives is +960. IDD facilities are available on all the resort islands. Mobile phones also work on all the resort islands and the main mobile network company is Wataniya. Most of the hotels also offer internet access, although connection speeds can be quite slow.
CUSTOMS AND CULTURAL DIFFERENCE:
Maldives is a very hospitable place to visit. Take care to avoid religious offence, however. In particular, respect the Islam faith. Before you arrive, you may wish to read about the religion and culture, learn about local rules and values, and even learn some of the language. Be sensitive to cultural difference. On the whole, remember that patience, friendliness and courtesy are virtues that will win you the respect and confidence of the Maldivian people. If you give the impression of being from a different country, the chances are that you might be stared at. This may seem over-familiar to some, but it is merely curiosity and there is no cause for offence.
DRUGS & ALCOHOL:
The Maldivian government has a strict anti-drugs policy. Alcohol is permitted only on the resort islands and not in Malé or the other inhabited islands.
The electricity system in the Maldives is 230-240 Volts-AC. Most sockets in Maldives are triple round-pin (accepting European-size double-pin plugs). British, Irish and Australasian plugs will need an adaptor, preferably universal. Plan for every eventuality and come equipped with an adaptor.
EMERGENCY TELELPHONE NUMBERS:
Ambulance: 102. Fire: 118. Police: 119
The island resorts have their own restaurants, bars, water sports facilities, health clubs and spas. Most of the hotels also organises traditional Maldivian folk music and dance. Visit Malé for more traditional entertainment, books, clothes and souvenir shops and authentic local cuisine.
Global warming and the increase in sea levels pose severe threats to this island nation where the highest point above sea levels is only about 2.4 metres. The threat of some of the low-lying islands getting completely submerged in decades to come is a deep concern. Currently, a strict National Environmental Action Plan is in force that protects the nation’s coral reefs, marine life, and its restricted land surfaces. Do your bit to help protect and sustain this tropical paradise.
- Endangered species and natural resources: Protecting the islands coral reefs is vital and coral mining is banned. Take special care when shopping that you are not encouraging the wasteful destruction of important natural resources as well as endangered species. Killing of endangered Marine Turtles is banned in the Maldives and visitors should avoid buying objects made from turtle shells. Avoid hard wood products likely to have been produced in an unsustainable manner, shells from beach traders or ancient artifacts.
- Water conservation: Water is a precious resource and is much needed for personal use, industry, and farming. Please do avoid excessive use of water. A few options which will help to save water:
(i) Consider taking a shower rather than a bath
(ii) Take shorter showers
(iii) Ask for your towels to be folded rather than washed each day
(iv) Don’t leave the tap running when brushing teeth
- Electricity conservation: Power is a precious resource and the demand for electricity places an enormous strain on the economy. Try to conserve electricity where possible: make sure you turn off your lights, TV etc. when leaving your bedroom or bathroom. Try to limit your use of air-conditioning by cooling the room down before sleeping and then switching to an overhead fan.
- Waste pollution: Keep Maldives clean and be conscious of how you dispose of your waste especially plastic bottles and bags.
EXCESS BAGGAGE: Beware of breaking the 20kg baggage limit (plus one piece of hand luggage). Additional charges may be levied, or equipment left behind. Requests for a higher limit can be made on your behalf, but success is not guaranteed.
FOOD & DRINK: Maldivian cuisine is a spicy blend of Arabic, Indian, Sri Lanka and Oriental flavours with fish, mainly tuna, a favourite dish. Resorts on the Maldives usually have international cuisine and interpretations of local dishes as a part of their buffets. For those wishing to try authentic Maldivian cuisine, we recommend eating at a café in the capital, Malé. Here varieties of snacks or 'short-eats' are served. Lunch includes fish and curries served with roti - pancake style breads.
HEALTH: The largest government hospital, the Indira Gandhi Memorial, is located in Malé. The ADK hospital in Malé is the largest private health care facility. Most island resorts have their own in-house doctors and in event of serious illness, will provide further advice. You may wish to take some basic medicines from home. Among the items you might pack are: sun creams, insect repellent, sting relief cream, antiseptic cream, a lightweight hat and sunglasses. In case of diarrhoea, pack body-salt replenishment powder, such as Dioralyte, as well as Immodium or a similar product.
LANGUAGE & RELIGION: The Republic of Maldives is an Islamic state and every Maldivian is a Sunni Muslim. The national language is Dhivehi. English is also spoken widely by the Maldivians making it easier for visitors. Generally the staff in the island resorts speaks several other languages including French, German, Italian, and Japanese.
LOCAL TIME: GMT + 5 hours
LOCATION: The Maldives consists of 1,200 small islands which are grouped into 26 atolls and spread out over an area of about 90,000 sq km of which, only 1% is land surface and approximately 99% is the Indian Ocean waters. The Maldives is located south West of Sri Lanka on the Equator.
MONEY & CREDIT CARDS: The local currency is the Maldivian Rufiyaa (Rf) and the approximate exchange rate is:
- 1 US $ = 12.8 MRf
- 1 UK sterling pound = 21.0 MRf
It is best to cash your money on arrival at the airport bank. An ATM is available at the airport arrivals area as well and several more are located in Male. All major credit cards are accepted at the island resorts. Guard your money carefully and use hotel safes where possible.
The Republic of Maldives has a population of only about 300,000 and is one of the smallest nations in Asia. Approximately one third of the population lives on the capital island, Malé which is only a couple of kilometres wide. The others reside in Hithadhoo island in Addu Attol; Fuamulah and Kulhudhufushi islands in Haa Dhaalu Atoll; and a few are scattered in the rest of the 200 inhabited islands.
Use hotel security boxes for your money, travelers cheques, passport and other valuables. This service is normally free of charge. Do not carry unnecessarily large amounts of money on your person.
Generally a 10% service charge is added to your restaurant and hotel bills, but you may wish to give a small tip to a staff member who has been helpful to you. Please also consider tipping the boatman for good service when you are doing airport transfers or excursions as well as the porters at the airport. Tipping can be in US Dollars, Euros or local currency and can range from US $1 (MRf 10) to $2.
TRAVEL IN THE MALDIVES:
There are three modes of travel in the Maldives – sea plane, speed boat, and the traditional Dhoni. Sea plane is the fastest means of getting across to your resort or to the airport. There are two main companies that offer this service - Trans Maldivian Airways and Maldivian Air Taxi. Most hotels and resorts will have their own boats for excursions. The traditional Dhoni is also used for excursions and for transporting goods to and from the resorts. Always insist on safety during all your travels in the Maldives.
USEFUL WEBSITE LINKS:
VISAS & TRAVEL PERMITS:
- Embassy of the Republic of Maldives in USA, 800 Second Avenue, Suite 400E, New York, NY 10017. Telephone: +1 (212) 599 6195. Website: www.maldivesembassy.us
- High Commission of the Republic of Maldives in the UK and Northern Ireland, 22 Nottingham Place, London W1U 5NJ. Telephone: 0044 207 224 2135. Website: http://www.maldiveshighcommission.org
Prior visas are not required to enter the Republic of Maldives. All visitors are granted a 30-day visitor’s visa upon arrival which permits you to stay at any of the resort islands. In order to stay in one of the inhabited islands away from the resort islands, foreigners must have an Inter-Atoll Travel Permit issued by the Maldives Ministry of Home Affairs in Malé. This does not apply to those doing a day’s excursion to an inhabited island. In this case, you have to leave the island before sundown and return to your own resort. In order to obtain an Inter-Atoll Travel Permit, a local sponsor is required who will guarantee your accommodation on the specific inhabited island and take responsibility for you. Locals are prohibited from requesting payment for accommodation in the inhabited islands.