Travel Guide

Maldives Travel Guide

Updated: 2023-11-09T22:25:55.364Z

The Maldives offers visitors a true island paradise. This idyllic island nation, nestled in the heart of the Indian Ocean, beckons you with irresistible charm and natural beauty.

With soft, white sand beaches set against gentle turquoise waters and swaying palm trees, the Maldives is a sanctuary of tranquillity unlike anywhere else on Earth.

In this ultimate travel guide we cover everything you need to know about visiting the Maldives:


Set in the heart of the Indian Ocean, the Maldives consists of 26 atolls, made up of over 1,000 coral islands scattered across some 90,000 square kilometres. These atolls, formed from coral reefs, stretch from 600km south of India and Sri Lanka towards the equator, painting a picturesque panorama of blues and greens.

Despite the vast area, land accounts for just under 300 square kilometres. The Maldives is more than 99% water and one the most geographically dispersed countries in the world. Each island, often surrounded by a turquoise lagoon, is typically no more than 1.8 meters above sea level.

The geography of the Maldives gives rise to a unique visitor experience: one island, one resort. This means that each resort occupies an entire distinct island – you never have to share the beach with guests from other hotels!

Climate & Weather

The Maldives enjoys a tropical monsoon climate. This can be broadly divided into two seasons: the dry season (Iruvai) associated with the northeast monsoon and the wet season (Hulhangu) with the southwest monsoon.

There is no concept of winter and summer in the Maldives.

  • Dry Season: From December to April, the Maldives sees clear blue skies, calm seas, and plenty of sunshine. This period is considered the peak season for tourism.
  • Wet Season: Occurring between May and November, this season brings in periodic rains and occasional thunderstorms. However, the showers are often short-lived and are interspersed with bright spells.

Whilst the Maldives is a year-round destination, the dry season is often preferred by sun-seekers aiming for perfect beach days. Those willing to encounter a few rain showers in exchange for fewer crowds and potentially better deals should consider the wet season.

No matter when you choose to visit, the Maldives offers consistently warm temperatures, ranging from 26°C (79°F) to 31°C (88°F), and inviting turquoise waters that maintain a steady 28°C (82°F) throughout the entire year, even 30m below the surface.

Getting to the Maldives

Travel to the Maldives is well established despite the remote location and spread-out nature.

International Arrivals

Malé International Airport (MLE), also known as Velana International, is your gateway to the Maldives. Nearly every international flight, be it from Europe, Asia, or the Middle East, lands here. This airport is located on the island of Hulhulé which is adjacent to the capital city Malé.

Whilst there are several other airports dotted around the Maldives they’re typically used for domestic transfers within the Maldives. International traffic to the smaller airports is almost exclusively light jets; commercial airlines all land at Malé.

The biggest carriers serving the Maldives are Emirates (via Dubai), Qatar (via Doha), and Etihad (via Abu Dhabi).

Airlines such as British Airways (London Heathrow), Singapore Airlines (Singapore Changi), Discover (Frankfurt), Turkish Airlines (Istanbul), and IndiGo (Mumbai) operate a limited number of direct flights to the Maldives. Further airlines operate direct flights on a seasonal basis.

How to get to your Resort

Once you land in the Maldives, you’ll need to take connecting transport to reach your resort or local island. There are three common ways for tourists to get around the Maldives.

  • Seaplanes: A uniquely Maldivian experience! Seaplanes operate during daylight hours and offer breath-taking, low-level aerial views of the atolls and lagoons.
  • Speedboats: Ideal for destinations closer to Malé, speedboats offer a swift and scenic transfer without the need to board a small plane.
  • Domestic Flights: For distant atolls, there are domestic flights that can whisk you away to regional airports scattered across the country, usually followed by a short boat ride.

If you're not sure which would be best for you, we've got a great comparison to help you decide between seaplane or speedboat.

Additionally, public ferries and dhonis also operate throughout the Maldives and present a good option for the budget traveller or those wishing to explore local islands.

Visas & Entry Requirements

The Maldives is particularly open when it comes to welcoming tourists. All nationalities receive a 30-day free tourist visa upon arrival, provided you have a valid passport, a confirmed hotel reservation, and an onward or return ticket. While the process is typically hassle-free, it's always wise to check for any updated visa policies before travel.

The Maldives has no COVID restrictions or requirements for tourists.


The majority of tourists visiting the Maldives choose to stay at one of the 170+ island resorts, but they’re not the only option for travellers. Guesthouses and local hotels are gaining in popularity, and liveaboards offer a diver’s haven.

Resort Islands

The Maldives is renowned for its resort islands where each resort occupies a private island with a limited number of guests. This unique approach means that no matter which resort you go to you’ll enjoy a more exclusive and secluded experience than other destinations.

Resorts range from affordable and rustic through to opulent and luxurious with options to suit every taste and budget. The vast majority are family friendly these days with a handful of adult-only resorts.

Guesthouses & Hotels

Local islands have seen a surge in guesthouses over the past decade. They offer travellers an authentic Maldivian experience at a fraction of the price of luxury resorts. Moreover, staying on a local island lets you immerse in Maldivian culture and traditions.

While the Maldives is famed for its luxury, there are a number of budget-friendly hotels, particularly in Malé and the surrounding areas. These offer a more affordable way to experience the Maldives.

Note that staying at a guest house or hotel on a local island means fully embracing local culture and values – alcohol is prohibited outside of the resort islands and modest dress is expected.


Liveaboards are like small floating hotels that roam around the Maldives, allowing travellers to immerse themselves in the ocean's beauty.

They offer an unparalleled opportunity for diving enthusiasts to explore multiple dive sites without returning to land. With comfortable accommodations, expert dive guides, and all the necessary amenities, liveaboards are an attractive option for those looking to embrace the underwater world.

Attractions & Activities

The Maldives offers more than just clear waters and white sand beaches. It has activities for everyone, from adventure seekers to cultural enthusiasts or those wanting to relax. Whatever your interest, the Maldives has something to offer.

Water Sports

  • Snorkelling: With its vibrant marine life and clear waters, the Maldives is a snorkeler's paradise. Swim alongside manta rays, turtles, and more tropical fish than you can count. Many resorts offer equipment and guided tours.
  • Scuba Diving: Dive into the deep blue and explore the Maldives' hidden underwater world and diverse marine ecosystems. The Maldives boasts some of the world's best dive sites.
  • Surfing: Primarily during the wet season, there are regions of the Maldives which offer impressive waves for both beginners and seasoned surfers.
  • Fishing Trips: Participate in a sunset or night-time fishing trip, a traditional Maldivian activity. Some excursions even conclude with a BBQ grilling your very own catch of the day.
  • Over Water Sports: A wide range of activities are available at resorts from jet-skiing to paddleboarding, sailing and canoeing, to name just a few.


  • Island Hopping: Most resorts offer excursions to local islands, letting you interact with local communities, indulge in traditional cuisine, and experience Maldivian daily life.
  • Sunset Cruises: Another popular option offered across the Maldives – enjoy a lap or two around your island with a cocktail whilst watching the sun paint the sky in reds and pinks.
  • Wildlife Safaris: From dolphin safaris to swimming with turtles or manta rays, the Maldives is teaming with sea life, and some of the best spots are easily reached by a short boat ride.

Spa & Wellness Treatments

  • Relaxing Spas: The Maldives is famous for its spas set in paradise. Elevate your relaxation with a spa session with views over the azure waters.
  • Yoga Retreats: Several resorts offer yoga retreats, allowing you to rejuvenate your mind and body against the backdrop of the Indian Ocean.
  • Serene Beaches: Maldivian beaches are like nothing you’ve seen before – quiet, peaceful, with very few people around. Unwind and enjoy what feels like your personal beach.

Unique Dining Experiences

  • Underwater Restaurants: Dive into a dining experience like no other with Instagram-worthy venues offering gourmet meals surrounded by the marine world.
  • Beach Dining: Enjoy a romantic or family dinner set up right on the beach just for you, under a canopy of stars.

Cultural Experiences

  • Explore Malé: While many tourists bypass the capital, Malé offers a glimpse into the country's culture and history. Visit the Sultan Park, Malé Friday Mosque, and the bustling fish market.
  • Bodu Beru Performances: Witness this traditional Maldivian dance and drumming performance, which is an integral part of local celebrations.

Honeymoons and Weddings in the Maldives

The Maldives is a popular spot for romantic celebrations due to its scenic beauty and excellent hospitality. With its tranquil azure waters, romantic sunsets, and pristine beaches, it’s no wonder the Maldives is a top choice for couples.


Many resorts cater specifically to honeymooners, offering personalised services, and exclusive experiences like candlelit dinners on the beach. Several resorts offer tailored honeymoon packages that may include complimentary gifts, romantic bed decorations, spa treatments, and special dining experiences.

It’s recommended to travel within 6 months of getting married, as many resorts restrict honeymoon packages and benefits to recently married couples.

Weddings and Vow Renewals

It's crucial to note that while the Maldives offers breathtaking settings for weddings, these ceremonies are symbolic and not legally binding. Many couples opt to complete the legal formalities in their home country and then have a ceremonial wedding in the Maldives.

Whether you dream of a barefoot beach wedding, an under-the-sea ceremony, or a luxurious villa celebration, resorts offer customizable themes to make your day as unique as your love story. For couples looking to recommit and celebrate their journey together, many resorts offer vow renewal ceremonies. These can be intimate affairs or grand celebrations, depending on your preference.

Most resorts have dedicated wedding coordinators to handle every detail, from floral arrangements to traditional Maldivian drummers.

Local Culture & Etiquette

Maldivian society is deeply rooted in its traditions, customs, and Islamic heritage. As travellers, understanding and respecting these traditions ensures a harmonious visit.

Culture & Heritage

The Maldives has a rich tapestry of history that dates back over 2,500 years. Its geographical location made it a significant crossroads for sea traders, which has influenced its culture, politics, and economy. Whilst Buddhism was likely practiced by early settlers, Islam has been the dominant religion of the Maldives for nearly 1,000 years and deeply interwoven into the nation's cultural, social, and daily fabric.

Traditional crafts like lacquer work, mat weaving, and boat building (Dhoni) play a pivotal role in the Maldivian cultural landscape. They offer a glimpse into the nation's rich history and craftsmanship.

Dhivehi is the official language, with its unique script called Thaana. English, however, is widely spoken in the tourism sector.

Etiquette and Do’s & Don’ts

The Maldives is an Islamic nation and it is advised that tourists are aware of social norms before visiting.

There is a marked difference between local islands inhabited by Maldivians which observe strict rules and resort islands which are able to operate looser rules for guests.

When visiting local islands, and ideally when transiting Malé:

  • Dress Modestly: When visiting inhabited islands or Malé, modest dress is expected. This means clothing long enough to cover knees, tops that cover shoulders, and no exposed waist or back.
  • Swimwear: is restricted to designated tourist beaches when outside resorts.
  • Public Behaviour: Public displays of affection, like kissing or hugging, are frowned upon, especially on local islands. It's best to be discreet and respectful.
  • Alcohol: Consumption of alcohol is only permitted on resort islands and at sea, so you won’t be able to purchase alcoholic drinks on Malé, local islands, or in Maldivian airspace.
  • Religious Observances: The Maldives observes several Islamic holidays and festivals. During the month of Ramadan, eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours can be disrespectful on local islands.
  • Gift Giving: If invited to a local's home, it's a kind gesture to bring a small gift. Gifts from your home country or sweet treats are often appreciated.

The Maldives faces serious challenges related to environmental preservation. Travelers should be conscious about coral protection and never touch marine life. Follow the principles of leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but memories.

Understanding and respecting local customs and the environment not only enriches your travel experience but also fosters positive interactions with locals. Always keep an open mind and the Maldives will reward you with memories to cherish.


Whilst tips are not expected it’s a welcomed gesture where great service is delivered and can be an important income source for workers.

We generally recommend tipping a couple of dollars per guest for one-time services such as with drivers, boat crew and baggage handlers.
For on-going services such as those provided by waiters and waitresses and housekeeping many guests opt to tip once towards the end of their stay. Tips in the region of $10-20 per week are about right.

In any case, tips are at your discretion, particularly within resorts where a service charge of 10% will be added.

Maldivian Cuisine

The culinary landscape of the Maldives is a reflection of its rich cultural tapestry and abundant marine life. Infused with flavours from its neighbouring countries and centuries of history, Maldivian cuisine offers a delectable voyage for the palate.

Staples of Maldivian Cuisine

  • Fish: Tuna, in particular, is a mainstay in Maldivian dishes, be it in the form of curries, grilled preparations, or sun-dried.
  • Coconut: Used in various forms – grated, milked, or as oil – coconut adds a distinctive flavour and richness to many dishes.
  • Starches: Rice and roshi (a type of flatbread) often accompany main dishes. Tubers like taro and sweet potato also make frequent appearances.
  • Chilies: Don’t underestimate the local palate! The Giltheyo Mirus (scotch bonnet) is one of the most popular varieties grown throughout the Maldives.

Maldivian dishes tend to make up a small but important part of the cuisine available at resorts, which often feature food from around the world through themed restaurants or nights.

For those looking to delve deeper into Maldivian gastronomy, consider taking a cooking class or joining a local family for a meal. Many resorts and local islands offer such immersive experiences, allowing travellers to not just taste but also craft these culinary delights.

Practical Information for Travellers

Even when travelling to paradise it's always wise to be equipped with practical information to ensure a hassle-free journey. Here's what you need to know before setting foot on the Maldives' powder-soft shores.

Time Zone

The Maldives operates on Maldives Standard Time, which is 5 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+5). However, it's essential to note that some resorts set their own "island time" to optimise daylight for guests, usually an hour ahead or behind the official time.

The Maldives does not observe daylight saving time, ensuring consistent timings for sunset and sunrise throughout the year.


The official currency is the Maldivian Rufiyaa (MVR); however, the US Dollar is the standard within the tourism sector. Resorts operate on a USD basis. Some resorts will also allow you to settle your bill with other reserve currencies such as EUR and CHF.

Electricity & Sockets

Maldives uses British style three-pin plugs (Type G) at 230V / 50Hz. Resorts are often able to supply adapters but it’s worth coming prepared if needed.


Dhivehi is the official language, but English is widely spoken, especially in the tourism sector. English is the primary language in most resorts, and many resorts also have staff that speak other languages as such as German, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French, and many more.


Warm and temperate all year round. Seasons are dictated by the monsoons with dry season being December through to April and the wet season typically May to November.

Dry season is characterized by clear skies and glassy calm seas. It's the peak tourist season, so expect higher prices. Wet season sees more rain and occasional tropical storms. However, this is the best time for water sports enthusiasts and can be materially cheaper.


Most resorts offer Wi-Fi, and local SIM cards with data packages are available for purchase at the airport or in Malé. A digital sim is a great option for those with modern smartphones.

There is good mobile coverage across the Maldives, but be aware it is one of the most expensive places in the world to make or receive international calls.


No specific vaccinations are required for entry, but it's advisable to be up-to-date with routine vaccinations in any case. COVID vaccination is not required.


The Maldives is no exception in levying taxes on goods and services. The current rate of tax (GST) for the tourism sector is 16%. Resorts must also add an additional 10% service charge for tourism services, as required by Maldivian law, for the benefit of employees.

Tip: Be aware that the majority of places list prices exclusive of GST, service charge and green tax. Always read the small print or ask for clarification to be sure of the true cost.

Some websites also follow this practice, appearing cheaper than competitors until the final checkout page.

Safety in the Maldives

The Maldives is generally regarded as a safe destination for tourists and is well regarded. This is particularly true of the resorts which each occupy their own exclusive island. Simple steps will ensure a smooth and relaxing holiday.

Political Environment

Whilst political demonstrations occasionally take place, they are typically isolated to the capital city of Malé. Travellers are advised to avoid large gatherings or demonstrations if visiting the capital and check their foreign office before travelling for up-to-date information.


Crime levels are very low in resorts and typically isolated to petty theft of unattended items. You should avoid leaving items unattended, remember to lock your room when away, make use of safes or safety deposit boxes, and be vigilant of your valuables if visiting local islands.

Sea Safety

The warm waters around the Maldives are particularly inviting but the ocean must be respected at all times. Tides and currents can pose a risk to swimmers.

We recommend speaking to the dive centre at your resort for advice specific to your island. They’ll be able to inform you of local conditions and best practices as well as the times and locations to hit the water. Safety and snorkelling equipment will also be available.

Personal Health

The Maldivian sun can be intense – even when cloudy. Always apply a high SPF, reef-safe sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and avoid direct sunlight during peak hours (from 10 am to 4 pm).

With the tropical climate, it's easy to get dehydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you're indulging in water activities.

Drinking Water

Fresh water is a scarce and valuable resource in the Maldives, and tap-water is generally non-potable. Always consume bottled water and drinks where possible, especially if visiting local islands. Boiled / treated water can be used if needed.

Marine Life

When in the water simply avoid touching any wildlife and maintain a safe distance. You could accidently injure yourself or stress the animal. Take care to stay away from stonefish and lionfish which both have venomous barbs.
If you follow the simple rule of looking without touching you are extremely unlikely to have any problems.

What About Sharks?

Despite popular culture, sharks in the Maldives are not a threat to people.
The huge whale shark is a filter feeder and smaller sharks such as reef sharks and nurse sharks are timid, preferring to swim away. Whilst wild animals can lash it out if they feel threatened or attacked you don’t need to be afraid of sharks in the Maldives.

Packing Essentials for the Maldives

Tip: Dress for your destination when travelling. Wearing light clothing and using a blanket on the plane will make your arrival in the Maldives much more comfortable.

Be aware that the baggage weight limit for seaplanes is typically lower than for international flights, especially if travelling business or first class. Try to pack light!


  • Beach Attire: Swimwear, sarongs, and light beach cover-ups are a must for those idyllic beach days. Consider a rash vest to effectively protect yourself from the intense sun.
  • Resort Wear: Typically, lightweight dresses, shorts, t-shirts, and sandals for lounging at the resort or dining out. Some resorts have more formal air-conditioned restaurants where smarter dress is expected.
  • Modest Clothing: If you plan to visit local islands or Malé, ensure you pack modest attire such as long skirts, trousers, and tops that cover the shoulders.
  • Footwear: Flip-flops for the beach, water shoes if you're exploring coral reefs, and a pair of comfortable sandals for the island. Some resorts also require trainers to use their gym.


  • Sunglasses: Naturally!
  • Power Adapter: The Maldives uses the British-style three-pin plug (Type G), so you may want to bring a travel adapter
  • Chargers: For all your important devices. Consider adding a portable charger for excursions and extended beach lounging.
  • Waterproof Bags: Useful for boat trips or water sports to keep your valuables dry and safe.
  • Waterproof Camera: To capture the underwater marvels during snorkelling or diving sessions.
  • Snorkelling / Diving Gear: If you prefer using your own. Many resorts and dive shops, however, provide equipment for rent or as part of a package.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Stay hydrated and minimize plastic waste.
    Health and Personal Care:
  • Reef-Safe Biodegradable Suncream: Essential for protecting both your skin and the delicate marine ecosystems.
  • Basic First Aid Kit: Include band-aids, antiseptics, pain relievers, and any personal medications. Most resorts have a medical centre or resident doctor in any case.
  • Insect Repellent: While resorts generally maintain a bug-free environment, it's handy when visiting local islands.
    Small denomination USD bills are useful for tipping and visiting local islands.

Prohibited Items

The Maldives is an Islamic nation and certain items are strictly prohibited. Some of these may not be obvious to travellers unfamiliar with local customs including:

  • Religious materials and idols: Anything contrary to Islam, including religious texts and symbols from other religions. In practice, tourists are generally able to travel with small personal effects such as a single cross on a necklace, but having a significant amount of material could be seen as trying to undermine Islam which carries serious penalties.
  • Alcohol and pork: Both are prohibited for import and consumption on local islands, but are available to tourists on resort islands.
  • Narcotics and illegal drugs: The Maldives has strict anti-drug laws. Possession of even personal quantities for medicinal purposes can lead to severe punishments in the Maldives. For legal prescription medication it is recommended to travel with your prescription or doctor’s letter. If in doubt check with the Maldivian authorities before travelling.
  • Materials harmful to the environment: Single-use plastic is frowned up and increasingly prohibited at resorts. Any chemicals or materials harmful to the environment may also be restricted at import.
  • Shells and sand: Taking shells or sand from the Maldives is strictly prohibited, including items sold to you by vendors. Such items will be confiscated at customs and may incur significant penalties.

When in doubt it’s best to leave items behind or check with the Maldivian authorities or embassy beforehand.

Drones are strictly prohibited at resorts without prior agreement from resort management on a case-by-case basis.

Travel Insurance

We strongly recommend taking travel insurance when visiting the Maldives. A good policy will cover disruptions beyond your control, any potential health issues, accidents, and emergency evacuations.

Given the island nation's geography and remote location, medical evacuations by air can be extremely expensive. The most serious incidents may even require transport to another country such as India.

For those interested in scuba diving – whilst many insurers cover recreational diving (to 30m in line with PADI) it’s worth confirming in advance and considering specialist diving travel insurance.

Some of the top resorts in the Maldives command significant price tags well above what standard travel insurance will cover. In these cases, we recommend high-value travel insurance.

Environment & Sustainability

The Maldives, with its fragile marine ecosystems and low-lying islands, is particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change and human interference. At the same time, the country is heavily dependent on tourism. It is critical that all visitors respect the environment and preserve it as best they can.

By following the principles of leaving only footprints and taking only memories you’ll help to preserve this unique and beautiful environment. Here are a few practical steps you can take:

  • Reef-Safe Suncream: Chemicals in many sunscreens can be harmful to corals. Always opt for biodegradable, reef-safe options.
  • Coral Care: Corals are living organisms which take decades to grow, so take great care not to touch them, stand on them or accidently kick them with fins.
  • Conserve Water: Fresh water is a valuable resource in the Maldives so please avoid waste.
  • Green Practices: Consider choosing resorts that implement sustainable practices like water conservation, waste management, and energy-efficient systems.
  • Conservation Initiatives: Some resorts have marine biology programs, coral planting, or turtle conservation initiatives. You can support and participate in these efforts.
  • Reduce Waste: Almost everything used at resorts has to be shipped in, and the waste has to be shipped out. Simple acts like avoiding disposable items and avoiding food waste can make a big difference.
  • Minimise Plastic: Whilst plastic is hard to avoid entirely, we can each strive to do our best to minimise plastic usage, particularly rejecting single-use plastics.

Sustainable travel in the Maldives isn't just about enjoying the archipelago's wonders; it's about ensuring that these wonders endure. Embracing these guidelines will ensure that your journey leaves a positive imprint on the islands and ensures they remain a paradise for years to come.

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