For a destination that is on the wishlist of almost every honeymooner and beach lover, there are several aspects one should consider while planning that long awaited vacation. There are a few things to know before your first trip to Maldives, so you can avoid any unpleasant surprises on your holiday.
To the first timer, Maldives is usually a list of clichés such as “expensive villas”, “overpriced food” and “for couples only”. However, all of these are myths. Here are some facts that contradict popular (and mostly uninformed) notions. We have included plenty of tips as well, so you can make the most of Maldives.
#1 Local islands in The Maldives are more affordable than luxurious private island vacations
It is the exorbitantly priced Maldives water villas that get most of the limelight. There is no doubt that the opulent interiors and exclusive experiences they offer are worth the extra bucks one spends on them. However, if you are travelling on a budget, you need not pay through the nose for a relaxing tropical holiday in The Maldives.
Instead of choosing a private island, go for one of the 200 public islands in The Maldives. There are so many inhabited islands that have improved their tourism infrastructure and become more welcoming to foreign visitors. Some of the top favourites are Malé, Hulhumalé, Maafushi, Himmafushi, Thoddoo, Huraa, Addu City, Gulhi, Fuvahmulah City, Villimalé, Vaadhoo Island, Fulidhoo, Dhiffushi, Thulusdhoo, Mathiveri, Ukulhas and Rasdhoo.
While you may not be able to luxuriate in Maldives water bungalows, you will have the option to stay at beach-facing hotels and friendly homestays on the local islands. Guest houses in The Maldives are mostly run by the locals who not only offer great service at low cost but also valuable insights on what to see, what to eat and how to explore the small island on foot, bikes or hired scooters.
It is also much cheaper to dine on the local islands as the cafés and restaurants offer both indigenous and international cuisines at reasonable rates. Alternatively, you can also have an authentic Maldivian meal at the home of a local Maldivian. Visiting during the Ramadan? Join in the lavish feast at a local Muslim’s house after when they break their fast in the evening.
#2 Opt for all-inclusive or full-board packages for private island resorts in The Maldives
When browsing through Maldives tour packages for luxury private island villas, read their offer carefully. If your package only includes breakfast and nothing else, you will be paying hefty sums for lunch and dinner, to the tune of USD 100 to USD 400 per person per meal!
It is foolhardy to assume that you will be able to eat a cheap snack for under USD 20 as most private island hotels only offer buffet. Therefore, it is best to buy Maldives vacation packages that at least include all the meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner). If you and your companions like to drink as well, go for the all-inclusive packages which throw in some alcohol from their on-site bars as well.
Another thing to note is that most resorts in The Maldives have their meal times structured in a way that you may not be able to fill up your tummy with a late brunch so as to skip lunch and have an early dinner. Breakfasts tend to start at 7:30 AM and end by 10 AM (too early to stuff for lunch), while lunch times are from 12:30 PM to 2 PM and dinner begins by 7:30 PM and lasts until 10 PM.
So, a half-board package will leave you either very hungry or see you paying an exorbitant sum for a meal purchased directly at the resort (as opposed to pre-booking it in a full-board package). Many tourists carry extra snacks with them to get through the long hours between breakfast and dinner if they are on a half-board package.
#3 Check whether airport transfers are included in the Maldives tour packages
It might seem like all you need for a fabulous tropical holiday is to book one of those private island hotels in The Maldives. But there are several other aspects that need to be budgeted for. If your package does not offer complimentary resort transfer from Malé Velana International Airport, you will have to shell out more money for that essential service.
The best all-inclusive islands in The Maldives always offer their own speedboats or seaplanes to help you comfortably arrive at their property. However, this service must be pre-booked. A last minute hustle will cost you anywhere between USD 100 (for shared speedboat services to the private isles nearest to Velana International Airport) and USD 900 (for private seaplane transfer to Maldives’ resorts on water that are located far away from Malé – the world’s smallest capital).
#4 Bring your own snorkel to make the most of the coral covered lagoons
For those wondering what to do in Maldives for honeymoon, snorkelling should be right at the top of your list! With endless turquoise waters teeming with multi-coloured fish and intriguing corals, it is possible to snorkel round-the-clock and for as long as you like in this country.
Snorkelling is one of the most popular water sport activities to do in Maldives. But if you are planning to rely on hired snorkels, flippers and other gear, be prepared to pay rental fees of upwards of USD 10 per person per day. Besides, you cannot be sure of the fit and comfort as only a handful of standard sizes are available with the resort’s diving club.
However, if you judiciously purchase a snorkel and an eye-mask or a full-face snorkelling mask beforehand, you can get great-quality products for as little as USD 10 in your own city. The best part is – you get to keep it with you forever! Also, you can be sure of the fit, choose your favourite colour and take it with you even when you are on Maldives’ island hopping tours.
#5 Do not carry anti-Islamic items in your baggage
Maldives’ history and culture is deeply influenced by Islam. Maldivians are mandatorily Muslim and are prohibited from following any other religion. Foreigners who wish to become a citizen of The Maldives will, by law, have to convert into a Muslim.
However, tourists do not have to follow their religion but just avoid speaking against Islam. Additionally, travellers are not allowed to bring in alcohol or pork products into this Muslim country. Public islands are very strict with their rules, banning the possession of Bibles or idols. Items belonging to other faiths are often confiscated if left in the open for others to see.
On the private islands, resorts cater to the drinking needs of their patrons, offering a variety of beers, wines and other spirits and hard drinks. Pork is still off the menu at the restaurants though.
#6 Pick your resort based on what you want to enjoy in The Maldives
This country offers a round-the-year summer surprise, with only a few months of monsoon that throw in the occasional shower. Maldives’ weather allows for a lot of daytime sightseeing and cosy nights of romantic dinners or movies under the stars.
When searching for Maldives beach villas, don’t put all your focus only on the resort layout, room décor or your budget. Give some thought to what you want to do in this island nation and go for resorts that cater to your taste and preference.
While some resorts are known for their coral-rich lagoons, some others are better for watching manta rays in Maldives. Many resorts offer special experiences such as floating cinemas and sandbank date nights, while a select few run luxury yacht tours for whale watching. Make your booking after understanding what you would like to do on this vacation and also where you will be able to do it.
#7 Pre-book activities which are not included in your package
There are two ways to make activity reservations in this archipelago. You can either book activities in Maldives separately with specific tour providers or check with your resort if they offer any of those. It is always wise to pre-book activities that your holiday package does not come bundled with, as spot-registrations are often more expensive. There are many activities and things to do in the Maldives to choose from.
You can also select from a number of Maldives day tours which include local island hops, dining with the locals, learning to cook Maldivian cuisine, walking tours of Malé and other inhabited isles, eco-tours to freshwater lakes and forests, among others.
Most luxe resorts have their own dive club, offering facilities for snorkelling, paddle-boating, kayaking, stand-up paddle-boating, windsurfing, waterskiing, diving, wakeboarding, kitesurfing, flyboarding, glass-bottom boat tours, mono skiing, banana rides, fun tubes and surfing. Sometimes, if you can negotiate well, you can have a couple of those activities for free with your stay.
Apart from water sports, you can also pre-book special surprises for your partner. Think of floating breakfasts in your private pool, cabana dinners, sandbank camping, room décor for honeymoon, anniversary or birthday and complimentary fruit, chocolate, cake and wine.
#8 What to pack for The Maldives
One must dress conservatively on the inhabited islands. Even at the public beaches, bikinis and topless bathing can attract punitive action, including fines and jail terms. The only concession is at designated ‘bikini beaches’ where bikinis can be worn, but going topless is prohibited.
If you happen to go on snorkelling or diving trips to the high seas on dhonis – traditional Maldivian wooden boats, you will be able to flaunt your bikini. However, once back on the local island, you must cover up so that your shoulders and knees are concealed. Even men must not walk about shirtless unless at the secluded bikini beaches.
The best attire for local islands consist of opaque sarongs (see-through clothing is not encouraged), light, cotton shirts, blouses or tops, dresses that fall below the knee, scarves, glares, flip-flops, sneakers, shorts that reach the knee, linen pants, long skirts, and lycra bodysuits with cover-ups (since clothes that reveal the shape of the body are not welcome).
Fortunately, the private islands are liberal and allow their guests to be arrayed in any way they like. Bikinis, monokinis, short skirts, dresses and shoulder-revealing clothing are no big deal there. Topless bathing is still prohibited though. Along with all the clothes and accessories, don’t forget to carry a sunblock cream with a minimum of SPF 50 as the sun is very strong here near the equator.
#9 Carry dollars for extra impromptu expenses
The official currency of Maldives is the Maldivian Rufiyaa, abbreviated as MVR. It is not possible to buy their banknotes from any other country in advance as it is not a reserve currency. Therefore, you must first convert your local currency into a reserve currency such as USD, GBP or EUR and change that again into MVR once you land at Maldives International Airport.
While you can easily use your credit card for any expenses at high-end resorts or local hotels, you will most certainly need cash if you plan to chill at the beachside cafés or buy some coconut water from a sandbank shack. If you run out of your Maldivian Rufiyaa, it is best to have some US dollars on you, as this is easily accepted everywhere.
Note that you may not be able to change big sums of money at other islands where there are no moneychangers. USD will only work for settling bills, and the change will always be tendered to you in MVR.
#10 Travel in the shoulder season for the best experiences at lower costs
The rates for Maldives water bungalows can seem prohibitive, especially to the traveller on a budget. However, if you travel in the shoulder season, from September to November and March to May, you will not only get deep discounts on room rates but also skip the chances of crowded resorts – common in the winter months of December and January, which is also the manta season.
While there are many more things to know before your first trip to Maldives, the information shouldn’t overwhelm you. When you book with Samudra Maldives, we take care of all your needs and wishes so you can have your dream holiday without breaking a sweat.