5 Important Things to know before planning a Maldives Trip
Updated: Apr 16, 2020
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1. Don't stay in The Maldives for too long...or too short!
Too much of anything can ruin your experience. Unless you are planning on doing a combined trip with specific activities such as diving or deep sea fishing, Maldives is perfect for a short stay. Anything more than 1 week* could be too much unless you include several islands or 2 resorts. Also it is important that you remember that it takes almost half a day to travel to and from each island, resort or atoll, so make sure you take this into account when building your Maldives itinerary.
My recommendation depending on what kind of trip you are planning (and budget):
- 11 day itinerary including a local island or a resort (4 days) + a diving/snorkeling Liveaboard (7 days). You can also do it the other way around as there are some 4 night liveaboard options.
- 9 day itinerary including a local island and a resort (or 2 resorts if you want to skip the local island experience, which would be a pity!).
- 5 days extension from an Sri Lanka adventure. If you are traveling to Sri Lanka or a any other country close to The Maldives don't miss the opportunity to add some days to your adventure and get a taste of The Maldivian experience.
*Add 1 or 2 days for transfers to any of these itineraries.
2. Airport Transfers can be very expensive, CHECK before booking your accommodation
Once you land into Velana International Airport in Malé you will need to get a transfer to your island/resort. There are usually two common ways: speedboat or seaplane.
Most of the resorts are only accessible by seaplane and it has to be arranged with the resort. At the beginning of 2020 prices start at 480 USD per roundtrip/person. Some other resorts closer to Male airport can be reached with a private speedboat service which usually is cheaper than a flight. It is important to check with the hotel if you can book your own transfer as some make it compulsory to take their transfer. At the beginning of 2020 prices start at 160 USD per roundtrip/person.
If you are going to a local island near Male your journey will be definitely more affordable as there is a regular speedboat service that locals also use. The speedboat service can be arranged by the hotel but they will usually charge you the same as the company offering the service. The speedboat from Male to Ukulhas was 100 USD per roundtrip/person and there were two services a day (the same route also covers Rashdoo).
So remember, before booking any hotel with an amazing rate, make sure to add -at least- the transfer costs to compare all the options.
Pro-tip : If your flight arrives late evening or you fly out early morning, you might have need an overnight at Male. Check with your hotel.
Photos: Speedboat transfer arriving to the local island of Rashdoo. Seaplane taking off..
3. The unique condition of The Maldives: One island, one resort
Basically meaning that one hotel occupies the whole island. This can be amazing if you make the right choice and your resort matches your expectations, but it also means that you will be limited to the offering of the resort (and its prices) when it comes to restaurants/food, excursions, house reef, etc.
This point is to be considered when building your budget and planning the length of your stay. For instance if you aren't planning on getting the full board accommodation option check if the hotel offers a la carte menú or the price of the buffet.
If you spend part of your stay on a local island, you will have some local restaurants and shops, as well as other guest-houses that may offer a la carte options for non-residents. I definitely encourage you to try the different options. The prices are surprisingly cheap (meals around 25-40 USD/couple) and we found great tasting, quality food most of the time.
Photo: One island, one resort and a wonderful lagoon
4. Maldives hides its secrets in the blue: Explore it!
If you go to Maldives and you don't spend some time exploring its beautiful waters you will not experience the real Maldives. Laying down under a palm tree on white sand can be amazing, but some of your holiday neighbors include manta rays, dolphins, whale sharks, turtles, sharks and the most wonderful tropical fish. Are you really going to miss it?
Make sure you have some budget to plan some of these activities/tours with your hotel, resort or guesthouse. Also check how the duration of each tour and for how long you will be on the boat, it might take a couple of hours to arrive to a manta point or a special dive site. Lastly but very important: try to be always respectful with nature, don't chase or touch the wildlife and try to avoid tours that use feeding practices.
Watch now my Maldives diving IGTV video to see what I am talking about.
Pro-tip: if you love snorkelling and you don't want to depend on booking tours every day, remember that not all islands have a lagoon or a proper house reef, therefore you might want to do some research before booking your resort or island.
Photo: Scuba diving with Manta rays, Maldives
5. You can't walk around in a bikini or drink alcohol on a local island
Maldives is a muslim country and even though the same rules don't apply to the resorts, it is important to know what are the restrictions and to respect the traditions if you plan on visiting the local Islands.
In resorts and liveaboards alcohol is legal and there is no shortage of opportunities to drink at any time of day, although at significant cost unless you're on an all-inclusive package. However remember that is actually illegal to bring any form of alcohol into the Maldives. When you land, your baggage will go through a scanning system to make sure that you are not carrying any illegal goods.
On local islands the law forbids the consumption, selling or serving of any alcohol and they are very strict. On some of the local islands though, there are some floating bars, boats that take you for a sunset trip and serve alcoholic drinks. In any case, there are plenty of alternatives: mocktails, sodas, fruit juice, alcohol-free beer...and coconut water, my favorite!
When it comes to dress code make sure that you are dressed modestly – for women: usually try to cover your legs with a long summer dress, skirt or a sarong and avoid showing too much cleavage or your shoulders. Men: try to wear a t-shirt or shirt. While we saw many tourists walking around the island not respecting these rules (and we never saw any local complaining) I think it is important to be respectful with the local traditions, especially when Maldivian people are so kind and friendly.
Now, does it mean you cannot wear a bikini? No, most of the local islands have a bikini beach and usually most of the major hotels with beachfront access allow swimwear. In general my experience is that they are very reasonable with tourists and it only takes a slight effort to cover a little bit more when you go down to the village or a restaurant.
In any case, none of this applies to the island resorts and you are free to wear what you please as long as there is no local village on the island.
Photo: dress code example in a local island, Ukulhas
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