Why Go To Maldives
You’ve seen photos of the Maldives before. Picture-perfect private villas suspended over striking blue waters, alabaster white sand beaches, and spectacular sunsets dipping into the horizon. The scenic beauty of the Maldives is something to behold, something you can’t quite understand until you’re there in person.
The island nation of the Maldives is popular with honeymooners looking for seclusion and adventurers looking to explore the depths of the sea on a scuba diving and snorkeling excursion. Travelers seeking relaxation can unwind at one of the island spas and all visitors should certainly spend a day exploring the Maldivian capital of Malé. The hotels in this region are also spectacular, ranging from underwater hotels to overwater bungalows to incredibly beautiful resorts. However, getting to and staying in this tropical paradise requires patience (there are no direct flights from the United States) and plentiful cash. Located between the Arabian and Laccadive seas, roughly 500 miles southwest of Sri Lanka, the Maldives is about as isolated as you can get – and that’s just another one of its many allures.
Best Months to Visit
The best time to visit the Maldives is from November to April. The island nation is warm and sunny year-round but consists of a dry season and a wet, rainy season. There are pros and cons to visiting in each season. Travelers will experience the best weather in the Maldives between November and April, thanks to little precipitation and warm temperatures. Unfortunately, this is also the busiest time of year and, as such, the room rates at resorts are expensive. However, since each resort inhabits its own island, you won’t have to contend with throngs of crowds like you might during the high season in another destination.
May to October is considered the rainy season, with the islands seeing between 5 and 10 inches of precipitation monthly and often strong winds. Visitors will likely find better deals for this time of year (though, the term “deal” is relative, since the Maldives is a pricey location year-round). This time of year is popular with surfers, though, because the area sees bigger waves and better swells for surfing during these months.
Culture & Customs
The Maldives has been an Islamic nation since the 12th century. With this rich heritage, you’ll find religious traditions entrenched in the culture. Mosques dot the capital of Malé, and you’ll see some men and women dressed in very conservative attire. Should you wish to visit a mosque, you too should dress accordingly; however, be aware that some mosques are closed to non-Muslims. You’ll also notice people praying in public at certain times throughout the day. Be respectful by lowering your voice and not walking in front of those who are praying. Most of these visible cultural and religious traditions have been extracted from the resorts. However, particularly during Ramadan, expect to witness some Islamic customs, such as local restaurants closing for the daytime when the population will be fasting.
Public displays of affection, such as kissing or hand-holding, are illegal. Alcohol is illegal, too, though it is available and can be consumed on resort islands. Homosexuality is also illegal in this island nation. Men and women should be dressed conservatively when traveling to and from the airport, and throughout Male’ and Hulhumale’.
With dozens of resort islands, the Maldives relies on tourism as its dominant industry that draws on a large portion of the workforce. The other major industry is fishing, and this island nation exports its sea catches to countries across the world. The Maldivian currency is the rufiyaa and $1 equals about 15 rufiyaas. However, the exchange rate can fluctuate so be sure to check it before you travel.
The official language of the Maldives is Dhivehi though many Maldivians speak and understand English, especially those working at high-end resorts.
What to Eat
Cuisine in the Maldives relies heavily on the region’s available ingredients, which means seafood, coconut and starches feature prominently in many dishes. Tuna, wahoo and mahi mahi are a few of the fish you can expect to find on menus in the Maldives. Other popular dishes in the Maldives include samosas (pastries stuffed with savory filling like spiced potatoes and vegetables), curries and spicy fried fish.
Keep in mind, because the Maldives is an Islamic nation, the population does not drink alcohol. However, you will be able to enjoy alcoholic beverages at most resorts.
If you’re staying at a high-end resort, you will likely have more variety in terms of food, with dining options ranging from Italian and Spanish to Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine. Several hotels offer buffet lunches and dinners. At some properties, you can opt for an all-inclusive rate that covers meals and drinks. Regardless of whether you choose all-inclusive or a la carte, dining in the Maldives is very expensive. And if you’re looking for a truly unique experience, consider booking a table at an underwater restaurant. Some options include: the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant in the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Resort, 5.8 Undersea Restaurant at Hurawalhi Maldives and Subsix at Niyama Private Islands Maldives.
Getting Around Maldives
The best way to get around the Maldives is to walk. The capital city of Malé is about 2.2 square miles, and whichever resort you pick will be walkable as well. Island-hopping at your own leisure really isn’t the best option since the ferry network is not very extensive. That said, if you are traveling by yacht, you’ll be able to navigate these waters. Once you arrive at Velana International Airport (MLE) on the island of Hulhule’, you’ll most likely be escorted by a representative from your resort to the island where you are staying. You will have to take a ferry, a seaplane, a speedboat or some combination of the three to reach your final destination. This final jaunt is sometimes included in the cost of your hotel stay.
Once you’re on your island of choice, walking is the most convenient option. All of the resort islands, as well as Malé, are easily manageable on foot.
For the rich and famous, this is one of the best ways to travel. Yachts glide through this archipelago and provide the best access to remote islands and isolated reefs. Many resorts have their own docks for the convenience of seafaring travelers. You can charter a yacht once you get here or you could simply bring your own. Keep in mind, licensed tour operators can bring you to islands that may usually off-limits to tourists.
If you are trying to get somewhere in a hurry, take a seaplane. Your resort may use one to transport you to and from the airport. On these brief jaunts, you’ll enjoy a scenic bird’s-eye view of the reefs and islands. For an island hop by air, compare the rates of Trans Maldivian Airways and Atoll Transfer.
The local ferry network is very limited and while schedules are published, ferries are often late and sometimes may not even show. Since this mode of transit is pretty unreliable, it is not recommended.
Speedboat transfers have become increasingly popular in the Maldives. Some resorts will arrange for speedboat transfer and in some cases you may book speedboat transportation independently. Prices vary by resort and distance.
You’ll also spot some taxis in Malé, and these can be useful if you have luggage or get caught in a thunderstorm. You can either hail a taxi or call for one. A trip usually costs around 20 rufiyaas (about $1.30) with a 10 rufiyaa (about 65 cents) fee for bags.
Entry & Exit Requirements
The Maldives requires that international visitors have a passport that’s valid for six months from the expected departure date, in addition to proof of sufficient funds and an onward travel plan. You will automatically be granted a 30-day visa, which can be extended to 90 days if requested. Vaccinations for hepatitis A and typhoid are recommended prior to arrival. For more information, check out the U.S. State Department’s website.
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