Encompassing over 1000 coral islands that form about 25 natural atolls, the Maldives is separated from the rest of the world by the seemingly endless Indian Ocean, offering visitors a secluded little pocket of paradise. These exquisite tropical islands are best known for their white powder sand beaches, glistening blue lagoons and extensive reefs which are home to a diverse range of colourful marine life. The nation’s bustling capital of Male features an array of charming shops and restaurants as well as a busy fish market and a must-see 17th-century mosque known as Hukuru Miskiy which was constructed out of intricately carved white coral. Visitors will find plenty of activities to keep them entertained including: scuba diving, snorkelling, water skiing, stand up paddle boarding, spa visits, and hopping from one idyllic little island to the next.
Banking and Currency
Maldivian Rufiya (MVR; symbol MRf) = 100 laari. Notes are in denominations of MRf 500, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of MRf 2 and 1, and 50, 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 laari.
Major currencies can be exchanged at banks, tourist resort islands, hotels and leading shops. Payments in hotels can be made in most hard currencies (particularly US Dollars) in cash, traveller's cheques or credit cards.
Banking hours are from Sunday-Thursday from 0730-1430.
Most major island resorts, local and souvenir shops will accept American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. Arrangements vary from island to island. There are ATMs widely available in Malé but it isadvisable to check with your bank at home to find out if your card is compatible with ATMs in the Maldives
Travellers cheques are generally accepted. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in US Dollars.
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Internal flights in the Maldives are operated by Maldivian (www.maldivian.aero), linking Malé with provincial centres Hanimaadhoo, Kaadedhdhoo, Kadhdhoo and Gan.
There are also two seaplane companies operating seaplane transfers from Malé airport to individual resorts. These are Trans Maldivian Airways (www.transmaldivian.com) and Maldivian Air Taxi (www.maldivianairtaxi.com). These services are also available for charter trips around the islands.
There are only roads in Malé and a couple of other islands where there are small tarmaced strips. Overland transport on resort islands is usually by golf buggy.
Travel on individual islands does not present any problem since few of them take longer than half an hour to cross on foot.
In Malé, it is possible to take taxis but in most other areas taxi services are limited or non-existent.
Visitors generally remain on their resort island for the duration of their stay, although island-hopping trips by dhoni charters are widely available. High-speed boats usually meet arrivals at the airport, supplied by the resort they are booked with, and boats are available for hire at the ferry counter near the jetty area. The speedboats connect the airport with North and South Malé Atolls.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
The water provided in the resort areas is generally safe to drink. In other areas, water of uncertain origin used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should first be boiled or otherwise sterilised. Food in upmarket hotels and resorts is usually risk free, although visitors should be cautious elsewhere.
Maldivian food is a fairly limited affair, consisting of fish, fruit and spicy curries. Your only chance to try ‘real’ Maldivian cuisine is in Malé, where cafés selling traditional snacks or ‘short eats’ (hedhikaa) are cheap and plentiful. Local specialities include: Seafood such as tuna, grouper, octopus, jobfish and swordfish; Kavaabu (deep-fried snacks made from rice, tuna, coconut, lentils and spices); and curries, usually made with chicken or beef. Curry leaves are added to a lot of Maldivian dishes.
On resort islands, there are normally between one and ten restaurants depending on the resort's size and level of luxury. Note that all restaurants on resort islands are run by the resort - there is no access to private enterprise. Cuisine is international, with all food other than seafood imported. All resorts have bars, where there is a good range of (usually pricey) alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks available. It’s not possible to drink alcohol in Malé or anywhere else outside resorts.All bars are situated on resort island (no alcohol is available on Malé, though it is available on the nearby Airport island). Locals do not drink at all.
Regional drinks include: Sai (tea; a Maldivian favourite) and raa (toddy tapped from palm trees, sometimes left to ferment and thus slightly alcoholic - the closest any Maldivian gets to alcohol).
In international style restaurants in Malé a 10-15% tip for good service is standard. In local cafés it is not expected. In resorts, a service charge of 10-15% is usually automatically included in meals and for drinks. Extra tipping is not expected, though cash tips (US$1 per bag) for porters is appreciated.
Climate and Weather
The Maldives climate provides warm, tropical weather all year round, even during the wet season the temperature averages around the high twenties and low thirties. The Hulhangu Monsoon season runs from May to November leading to significantly higher rainfall, particularly on the southern islands; this period can see strong winds and fierce storms as well as overcast skies. However, it is still likely visitors will experience long hours of bright sunshine amidst the short, sharp torrential downpours of the monsoon. The Iruvai dry season sees a reduction in humidity and rainfall starting in January and continuing until April. February and March provide the most sun for holidaymakers from Europe seeking refuge from colder climes back home.
The Maldives climate is constantly hot and humid wherever you are. The average temperature generally ranges between 25°C (77°F) and 31°C (88°F) during the day, falling to 23°C (73°F) at night. Humidity is generally high with the wet season experiencing humidity levels of above 80% on average and the dryer months still as high as 75%.
Due to the lower rainfall and reduced humidity, Maldives climate is best experienced during the dry season, particularly between February and April. Although there is greater chance of rain during the wet season, the temperature remains hot and there is a strong chance of extended periods of sunshine in between showers.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
Lightweight cottons and linens are recommended throughout the year. Light waterproofs are advised during the rainy season. Sunscreen, a sunhat, a bathing suit and sunglasses are essential.
The internet can be accessed from most areas of the Maldives. Malé, the capital, has a lack of internet cafés, but WiFi is available in many other cafés. Almost all resorts have internet connections via terminals for guest use or wireless, though these are rarely free.
Electricity and Plug Standards
For the most part, electrical sockets (outlets) in the Maldives are one of three types: the "Type C" European CEE 7/16 Europlug, the "Type G" British BS-1363 or the "Type D" Indian 5 amp BS-546. It's just anybody's guess as to which of the three types will be installed at any given specific location. it is advisable to contact your resort before leaving your home country to find out if your appliance plugs and voltage are compatible with the electrical outlets they provide. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all three types.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Republic of Maldives usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.