'Splendid isolation' would be the term to best describe the Maldives. The epitomy of a sea, sand and sun holiday, visitors lap up the tropical island paradise image. But it's best to be well informed of your destination before winging off into the unknown so have a read through our quick guide to the Maldives to make sure you know exactly what is waiting for you in this lovely part of the world.
When to Go to Maldives
Anyone in search of sunshine - and that includes 99.9% of visitors to the Maldives - is in luck. However, there are times of year that are sunnier than others.
High season runs from December to April, neatly capturing the Christmas and New Year markets. Expect resort rates to rise accordingly. Rain and cloudy skies are more likely between May and November. However, August often sees higher prices as Italians flock here during their traditional vacation month.
For divers, visibility is better on the western side of an atoll from May to November, and on the eastern side for the remaining five months. And the surf's up between March and October.
Year-round, the thermometer hovers at about 30°C.
- Voltage is 230 Volts, AC is 50 Hz and the outlets are the large version of the British three-pin BS-546 plugs.
Island Aviation Services operates domestic flights between Malé and the islands of Kaadedhdhoo, Kadhdhoo, Gan and Hanimaadhoo. A number of companies (notably Maldivian Air Taxi and Trans Maldivian Airways) operate seaplanes and/or helicopter services around the Maldives to reach those destinations not covered by Island Aviation Services.
To explore closer to home, walking is often best as most islands can be crossed on foot in half an hour. Malé is the exception, with taxis readily available, and bicycles are a good option on Addu Atoll, where several islands are linked by a causeway.
There are regular flights between the Maldives and Colombo (Sri Lanka), Thrivandrum (Southwest India), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), as well as numerous charter flights from many major Asian and European cities.
The international airport is on Hulule Island, two kilometres from the capital, Malé. Scheduled boat transfers (journey time 15 minutes) run between the airport and Malé.
With its picture-postcard backdrops, it should come as no surprise that the Maldives is a popular stopover for many cruise ships, despite the fact that cruising permits are expensive.
Holidays and Festivals
- January 1 New Year's Day
- January* Islamic New Year
- March* Mawlid al-Nabi (Birth of the Prophet)
- April* The Day the Maldives Embraced Islam
- April 27 National Day
- July 26-27 Independence Day
- September* Ramadan begins
- October* Eid al-Fitr (Ramadan ends)
- November 3 Victory Day
- November 11 Republic Day
- December* Hajj Day
- December* Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
*Dates of these Muslim festivals vary from year to year as they depend on various phases of the moon.
Maldivians are very proud of their country and deck homes and streets with red-and-green national flags on almost every holiday. Festivals are definitely for the whole family and men, women and children share in the food preparation, decoration and - a vital component of every Maldivian festival - the parade.
Celebrations are a blend of traditional and modern elements, so Bandiya Jehun (the traditional beating of metallic water pots to the tune of an accompanying song) or the reciting of Raivaru, a form of poetry sung in a slow, even tune, may easily be followed by a modern jazz number.
During the lunar month of Ramadan that precedes Eid al-Fitr, Muslims fast during the day and feast at night, so normal business patterns may be interrupted. Many restaurants are closed during the day.
Some disruption may continue into Eid al-Fitr itself, although this is generally unlikely to affect life on the resort islands. Eid al-Fitr may last anything from two to ten days, depending on the region.
Important Facts (visas, voltage) and Phone Numbers
A passport and return ticket are the only items really required to qualify for entry into the Maldives. A no-cost 30-day visa is issued on arrival. This can be extended up to 90 days when backed by proof of sufficient funds for that heavenly resort stay, or by a letter from a sponsor.
Alcohol may not be imported, and is not found anywhere outside the resorts. Naturally, drugs, pornography and similar items are strictly prohibited.
The export of tortoises and turtles, products made of turtle shells or black coral in whole form is prohibited.
The International Code is 960. There are no area codes in the Maldives.
- Police: 119
- Fire: 118
- Ambulance: 102
- ADK Hospital 313553
- Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital 336658
Not a problem, as local charter boats known as dhonis (traditional all-purpose vessels powered by a diesel engine) can be hired with ease from the ferry counter at each resort and can take visitors to island communities close to resort islands.
To travel to the outer islands which are beyond the tourist zone, an Inter-Atoll Travel Permit is required; permits can only be issued to those visitors who are sponsored by a resident of the island they wish to visit.
The Maldivian currency is the Rufiya, which is divided into 100 Larees. The Rufiya is pegged at 12.8 to the US dollar.
There are no restrictions on changing any currency into Rufiya but Rufiya may be spent only in Malé, where traders are perfectly happy in any case to accept US dollars.
Hotel and travel expenses are billed in US dollars. This is the preferred currency for the resorts although they also accept credit cards and cash or travellers cheques in all major currencies - but not Rufiya.
ATMs are still relatively rare in the Maldives and there are none outside Malé. The best place to look for them is outside the major banks on Boduthakurufaanu Magu. Cash advances on credit cards can also be obtained over the counter at Male airport.
Transfers to Resorts
It's straight from the plane onto the boat (or seaplane/helicopter) for most passengers; dhonis from most of the island resorts meet each arriving plane to take guests to their hotel and handle all onward transport arrangements, provided that an advance hotel booking has been made.
If it has not, head for the ferry counter near the jetty area at the airport where speedboats are available for hire to take visitors to Ari Atoll and other outlying islands.