Maldives – 10 Things to Know Before You Go
I strongly believe that visiting the Maldives is high on everyone’s bucketlist and this is how it should be. I must start by saying I have always wanted to visit, but I thought I will do it later in life because it may be boring given the fact that the small islands don’t provide lots of things to do. Well, I could not have been more wrong!
Last winter, I have received a proposal from Ahmed, the representative of Kirulhiya Maldives Guest House to visit the beautiful local island of Omadhoo and experience a budget holiday in the Maldives. At first, this sounded strange because, let’s be honest, when you think about the Maldives, you don’t imagine it can also be visited on a budget.
Since we had to cancel our summer holiday plans in Aruba&Curacao on a short notice, we started thinking about reorganizing our adventure and we decided to accept the kind offer from Kirulhiya Maldives. This turned out to be one of the best decisions ever and our holiday was amazing!
We decided to stay 6 days on Omadhoo Island at Kirulhiya Maldives Guest House to experience the Maldives to the fullest and 2 days at a luxury resort because we had to cross off the bucketlist our dream to stay in an overwater villa.
Given the fact that we experienced both sides of the accommodation in the Maldives, I will now give you all the information required in order for you to plan the best holiday ever!
I will tell you all about our experience at Kirulhiya Maldives and the overwater villa that we chose, why you should visit this country on a budget by staying at a guest house, which are the main activities and the prices, but I will first start with 10 Things You Should Know Before You Go to the Maldives, which I consider really useful and I wish I knew before arriving there.
1. The Maldives is tropical country composed of 26 ring-shaped atolls, which are made up of more than 1,500 coral islands.
I know that sounds insane, but some of them are so small, you have to zoom Google maps to the maximum to even notice them. As a plus, as you can imagine, not all of them are natural.
The Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean, south of India and Sri Lanka and not all islands that compose the country are inhabited. In fact, only around 200 islands are inhabited by people and those can be divided in two: local and private islands. This classification is very important regarding accommodation conditions.
Till 2011-2012, if I recall correctly from what I learned in the Maldives, tourism could only be made in resorts on private islands. After that, they relaxed this restricting rule and guest houses started to appear on local islands too giving the Maldivians a chance to a better life by earning some money from tourism.
This also meant creating the opportunity to visit the Maldives on a fair price instead of needing to rob a bank to get there J
2. Weather conditions
I know everyone is interested in this matter, especially because the Maldives are known as one of the best honeymoon destinations across the world, but the rainy season starts when the European summer begins.
It is true that the high season in the Maldives is between December-March, with two transitioning months in November and April, also known for good weather conditions. The monsoon runs from May to October, peaking around June.
Obviously, the best months to visit are in the dry season, but you can imagine prices go crazy that time of the year due to high occupancy.
PS: Don’t get me wrong, prices in the Maldives are always high, especially if you compare with other countries in Asia.
Still, because we had to cancel our summer plans for Aruba & Curacao on a short notice, we decided to replace them with Sri Lanka and added one week in the Maldives due to short distance. We took the risk and we ended up being pretty happy with our choice.
Now before deciding to go for it, we did some research online, including reading opinions from past travelers and also discussed with the representative of Kirulhiya Maldives who kindly invited us to experience the Maldives on a budget at his guest house located on Omadhoo Island.
As a conclusion, I found out that even in the rainy season, there are rarely two days of rain in a row and, as a rule, you only have short tropical showers from time to time.
That being said, we bought the airplane tickets and here we were on our way to the Maldives at the end of July – the beginning of August.
I only have to say this: WE GOT THE PERFECT WEATHER in our holiday! We haven’t seen any drops of rain in one whole week there and, even more than that, the sun was present every single day. We only had two cloudy afternoons from eight of them. Lucky, right? Well, I cannot say everyone who decides to visit the Maldives at the end of July will be as lucky as we were, I just share with you our experience.
From what Ahmed, the representative of Kirulhiya Maldives Guest House, told me, before our arrival, they had a few cloudy days, but only with short summer rains from time to time.
Honestly, we were always pretty lucky with the weather in our holidays, except from Bali which we visited in the peak season and we still got at least 2 days of rain and many cloudy afternoons.
3. Visa Regulations
Well, I will now give you the good news! To enter Maldives no pre-arrival visa is required for any nationality. A thirty day free visa is issued on arrival if you fulfill the following conditions:
– Passport valid for at least 6 months
– Valid ticket to continue to journey out of Maldives
– Enough funds to cover the expenses for duration of the stay in Maldives. (US$100 + $50 dollars per day) or a confirmation of reservation in a Tourist Resort or a Hotel
I have to say we just filled in the immigration form and that was it, we were not asked about the return flight or hotel confirmation or the amount of money we had on us. We just provided the name of the accommodation for our stay and he applied the stamp with a smile on his face plus he welcomed us in his beautiful country J
Attention though!! Any person arriving in Maldives maybe refused entry and this decision at the discretion of the Immigration officer.
You can find more information HERE.
4. Money, ATMs and tax
The Maldivian Rufiyaa is the currency of Maldives, but when you get there you will see everything is priced in US dollars and in Rufiyaa. Regarding which currency is better to have on you if you plan to visit the Maldives, I would say this depends on what you have in mind.
If you are staying on a local island, it is a good idea to have some chance in the local currency for buying small things such as juice, fruit, souvenirs etc. You can exchange money at the airport or in Male City. I recommend having cash on you because you cannot find ATMs on every local island and it is possible not to have the possibility of paying by card at the guest house either. It would be better to ask before arriving which are your payment options.
If you are only staying at a resort, US dollars will work just fine since all the prices will be displayed in this currency. Moreover, all resorts have the possibility of paying by card so you have nothing to worry about.
PS: Be aware that every price in the Maldives is subject to 12% tax and around 10 % service charge. This will be added to the final bill. Many tourists complain about no knowing this so be sure you ask before buying/ordering anything.
5. Islam is the state religion of Maldives
One important aspect that you should be aware of is that the population of the Maldives is 100% Muslim.
Moreover, Ahmed told us that this is mandatory if you want to be a citizen of the Maldives. As of 2008, the law stated that a non-Muslim may not be a citizen of the country. That doesn’t mean that you cannot buy and own properties there though.
What does this mean? Well, the first word you should think about is RESPECT! All travelers should respect their religion, traditions and rules. From my personal experience, I have to say Maldives is one of the strictest Muslim countries, but obviously you won’t feel that so much in a resort which is located on a private island. However, if you decide to stay in a guest house on a local island, you have to consider this aspect too and follow the rules. I have visited many Muslim countries before like Turkey, UAE, Malaysia, Morocco, Egypt etc, but I felt like the rules were pretty strict in Maldives, especially for the locals, but also for tourists, which was a surprise for me. I will continue by giving you examples of the rules that everyone should obey.
6. You cannot eat pork meat or pork products in the Maldives
The first rule I chose to talk about is a common one and found in all Muslim countries so it won’t come as a surprise. We already knew we were not going to eat this kind of meat and we were totally fine with this. You have so many other yummy choices like chicken or beef, but also fish and seafood, that we didn’t even realize this rule. And let’s not forget the yummy fruit!
7. Alcohol is illegal both for locals and visitors
Well, apparently I haven’t done my research properly before heading to the Maldives, because I had no idea alcohol is not permitted at all, not even if you buy it from duty free on you layover. As I said above, I have been to many other Muslim countries and I knew locals are not allowed to drink alcohol, but I didn’t encounter this issue of not being able to drink a glass of wine as a tourist. One of my best friends actually lives in the UAE and every time I visit her, I take a bottle of her favorite prosecco as a gift and I had no problems through customs.
Having this as a previous experience, we bought one bottle of champagne in Colombo Airport on our way to the Maldives and we had the surprise when we landed. Our hand luggage was checked after the immigration point and our bottle was seized and kept in the airport till our departure.
The funny thing was that we already had another bottle of champagne with us in the checked luggage and when we took our suitcases from the baggage claim area, we noticed a big red sign with “Go to customs control” glued on the suitcases. While we were heading to the control area, one employee of the airport showed us the green line to exit the airport and not the red one which meant baggage control.
We took his offer, of course, smiled and went outside proud to have kept the bottle for ourselves. We could have probably get arrested for doing this or, at least, deported, but we took the risk anyway.
When asked about this alcohol issue, Ahmed from Kirulhiya Maldives Guest House explained us how the rules actually work: alcohol is prohibited in the Maldives on the local islands, but you can find plenty of that in private resorts where they, obviously, sell it for extremely high prices. This is not fair from my point of view because it feels like cheating. You either prohibit it entirely or you don’t. It is not normal to transform it in a huge business and take advantage of it.
Neither Ahmed, nor his brothers have ever tasted alcohol in their life and I totally respect their commitment and beliefs. Imagine that if a local person is caught selling it or drinking it, they will go to prison. That is how strict their legislation is.
8. You should always dress appropriately outside the resort islands
Being properly dressed in public places (meaning having clothes that cover your knees and shoulders) is another typical rule in a Muslim country, as you already know. This especially applies if you want to visit their cultural and religious sites such as mosques, but it is also a form of respect in general.
Where will you encounter this problem? For example, if you decide to take a Male Tour which is the capital city of the Maldives and possibly the place where you will board the speedboat to get to the guest house/hotel, if not directly from the airport.
Moreover, if you choose to stay on a local island, you have to know that there is a designated area for swimsuits called Bikini Beach and it is recommended to wear proper clothes on your way to the beach.
From my experience, on local islands, people are extremely kind and friendly, they smile at you when you meet on the island and even say hi to make you feel welcomed. I was so happy to see they are not mean because I had this experience before, especially with Muslim women.
I used to keep a big scarf with me while walking around the island and just covered myself in a sign of respect. I could see in their eyes that they appreciate our efforts which felt pretty good and rewarding. I totally get why they have those strict rules and why even tourists must obey them, especially on local islands where you will meet women and children so you should not interfere with their education and religion.
What I have to add in the end is that we felt safe anywhere in the Maldives, we walked even at night just with the light from our phone and had no problems at all.
9. Underwater life in the Maldives (Yes, there are sharks in the Maldives!)
I don’t know about you, but this question always popped in my mind when thinking about that amazing blue water from the Maldives. I have been to Zanzibar, Bali and Sri Lanka before which all have access to the Indian Ocean, but never worried about that like in the Maldives. Well, now I can say for a fact that there are a lot of sharks there! Like, a lot!
On our second day, we met with 5 baby sharks on a deserted island and you know that saying: where there are babies, there are mothers as well. I have to admit that I was terrified because I have always been so afraid of them. But the good news is there are no recorded shark attacks against humans in the Maldives for hundreds of years, so the locals just say they have friendly sharks there.
I don’t know what to say about how friendly they are, but it was hard for me to enter the water while we were there even though it was insanely inviting. In our last days there, I finally got used to the baby sharks and entered the water with them around. The most popular shark that I have seen there was the blacktip reef shark which is not considered dangerous to humans unless roused by food. Still, when we were in the middle of the ocean for snorkeling, I almost had a panic attack without reason, just by thinking about meeting with a hungry shark. My boyfriend just enjoyed the magical underwater life and had no problems at all.
The Maldives is also known for whale sharks which are considered not to pose any danger to humans despite their size. I am enchanted by how beautiful the underwater life is and I wish I was braver from this point of view. I even wanted to get over my fear and swim with these beautiful creatures, but we haven’t met any while we were there. Maybe next time!
Besides sharks, you get to see colorful fish (Yes, we did find Nemo and Dory many times, plus a large number of amazing species), bigger fish such as barracuda and tuna, many species of rays (we saw eagle rays and stingrays on a daily basis, but sadly no manta rays for us), starfish, sea urchins and many other.
PS: You don’t need to go in the middle of the ocean to see all the species above, we saw stingrays and baby sharks at every sunset because they come searching for food near the beach. While we stayed in the resort, we even had feeding hour both for sharks and rays.
10. Mosquito repellent is mandatory!
The good news is that, unless you are flying from tropical Africa, there are no required by law vaccinations for the Maldives for entry or exit. There is no yellow fever or malaria risk, but there have been some isolated cases of Dengue and Zika fever because the country is particularly attractive to mosquitoes. As a plus, they can become really aggressive and the bites are totally annoying so taking mosquito repellent with you is mandatory. We had our own repellent from Europe, but Ahmed took care of us and offered a local one which was way more effective. No more mosquitoes’ problems after applying it.
PS: Mosquitoes attack even in the middle of the day if you stay close to the vegetation.
! One extra tip: The Maldives is the drone paradise. No permit required for flying your drone there and the scenery is just perfect so be sure to buy that drone you have been dreaming about or, if you have one, work on those skills because you are going to need them!
That being said, I hope this information will help you when planning your amazing trip to the Maldives! I will be back soon with a new blog post regarding why you should choose to stay on a local island and experience the Maldives on a budget so be sure to stay tuned and subscribe to the blog to receive the article directly on your e-mail!
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