Maldives is everyone’s dream vacation, but like other countries in Asia there are do’s and don’ts you should know before you go. Here we’ve compiled the essential things you need to know before traveling to Maldives.
1. Visa requirements
No pre-visa arrival is required in Maldives. All nationalities get a 30-day free visa on arrival provided the following conditions:
- Passport is valid for 6 months
- Onwards ticket as proof of journey out of the country
- Confirmation of reservation in a resort or hotel and enough funds to cover your stay (around $150 per day)
I have a Philippine passport. My experience with immigration is smooth; I was asked for passport and nothing more.
2. What to bring in the country
Maldives is a Muslim country and as such there are certain items not allowed to be brought in. These include alcohol, narcotics, pornography and idols of worship. What you can do is declare these items in the airport authorities where they will be collected and given back to your on the day of your departure.
Maldives uses Maldivian rufiyaa (MVR), but dollars are accepted as legal tender as well.
- Rufiyaa is a non-convertible currency, which means it’s used only in Maldives and you can’t exchange for it outside the country.
- Bring USD and then change it to MVR via Bank of Maldives in Male Airport arrival hall or via the Currency Exchange counter at Newtown Inn in Hulhumale. It’s not advisable to exchange currency in Male due to long queues.
- Establishments accept both MVR and USD, but generally if you pay in dollars you will still receive rufiyaa in change. I suggest changing a small note (such as $50) when you arrive and paying the rest of your purchases in dollars.
- The banks in Male are very particular about the condition of bank notes so take care that your money is not folded, creased or damaged in any way. Otherwise, they will not be accepted.
- Keep the receipt of the exchange because you’ll need it to convert your remaining money back to a foreign currency. You can only do this after checking in to your return flight, via currency exchange in the departure hall.
- Taxes are usually not included in rates posted in establishments, particularly in restaurants. Tax is usually 7-15% of the actual price.
4. ATMs and Credit Cards
There are ATM services in Male International Airport and several major hubs such as Male, Hulhumale and Gan. Local islands such as Maafushi and Thulusdhoo also have ATMs.
There are no banks or ATMs in most private island resorts or other local islands, so make sure to bring cash.
All major credit and debit cards can be used in establishments. Take note that there may be a credit card payment fee added (up to 5%) on top of your bill.
5. Where to get tourist information
There is an information desk located at the arrival hall in the airport. For the rest of your concerns, including transfers, excursions and more, it’s best to coordinate with your accommodation for advice. Facebook groups and TripAdvisor also helps.
I planned my own route (Gulhi Island – Maafushi Island – Fulidhoo Island) and at the time of my visit there wasn’t any updated information online regarding transfers so I had to ask my booked accommodations for the schedules. It was a little worrisome but it worked out in the end.
6. Seasons and best time to visit
Maldives has a tropical climate with an average temperature of 30 C, so it can be visited all-year-round.
There are 2 seasons in Maldives. Dry seasons run from January to March and wet season runs from May to October. There may be heavy rain showers any time of the year but they tend to be short, so you don’t have to worry about them.
Peak season is from December to March, which also coincides with the dry season.
Some people attest that August to September is the best time go to because it’s just starting to get into high season, so you can enjoy cheap prices and great weather. I went here in June, and days were mostly cloudy with several hours of sunshine.
7. What to wear
As Maldives is a Muslim country, as a general rule wear conservative clothing in public. Wear cover-ups and sarongs on your way to the beach.
Also, it’s not allowed to wear bikinis in a public beach. However, today this isn’t really an issue since local islands have designated bikini beaches. You can also freely wear bikinis in picnic islands, sand banks, dive boats and private resorts. Accommodations may also have their own private beaches, gardens or sunbathing terraces.
8. Alcohol consumption
Alcohol is prohibited in inhabited local islands, including the capital Male. However, you can still consume alcohol in private resorts or safari or tour boats which may offer alcohol for tourists. Just don’t bring it back to your guesthouse.
9. Business hours
Establishments in Maldives follow a business week from Sunday to Thursday. Generally there are no operations on a Friday until after the Friday prayer in the afternoon.
There are no public ferries on a Friday except those operating in the capital area between Male, Hulhumale and Villingili. That saying, these ferries also take a break between 11:30AM and 1:30PM for the Friday prayer.
10. Budget travel to Maldives
It is possible to do a budget trip to Maldives. Here’s our post on Traveling to Maldives on a Budget.
Has our post on Things to Know Before Traveling to Maldives been helpful to you? If you have any questions or comments, let us know in the comment section below!
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Katherine Cortes is a 30-something freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).