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Essential Travel Information for Visitors


» Reaching Maldives
» Entry and Custom Regulations
» Climate
» Language
» Currency
» Dress
» Transport
» Telecommunications
» Accommodations
» Food
» Shopping
 
 
Reaching Maldives |Back to top|

Once a country missed by many cartographers, the Maldives today is well known as a tropical dream destination. Hence, many of the major airlines fly to the Maldives, some even daily. In addition, many companies offer regular charter flights. More than 1/2 million tourists visited the Maldives in 2003 and most of them arrived by air. If you wish to have a good deal, it is best to check with a travel agent or an airline.

First Choice Airline at Male' Airport  Maldives
First Choice Airline at Male' Airport - Photo by © Niyaz

The Maldives is an island nation and there is no prospect of arriving here by land. However, if you have your own boat, the waters of Maldives are welcome for you. You may experience the bewitching sight on the horizon that has attracted many a visitor for hundreds of years. Similarly, you may be tempted by the comfort and the degree of local hospitality that so many shipwrecked sailors found attractive, hundreds of years ago. We hope that your arrival shall be more smooth with GPS and high-tech navigation instruments with you and the Maldives being marked on your map.

 

Entry & Customs Regulations |Back to top|

Visa is not a requirement for tourists. A 30-day visa is provided upon arrival. If a visitor intends to extend his/her stay, proper documentation should be obtained from the concerned government authorities. A valid passport is needed for arrival. An airport tax of US$ 10 is needed on departure. This tax will increase to US$ 12.00 from 1 October 2004. A passenger can use most popular international currencies to pay this tax.

Immigration for Tourist Arrivals at Male' Airport  Maldives
Immigration Desk at Male' Airport - Photo by © Niyaz

After immigration clearance, Customs will inspect your baggage. It is advisable for you to declare any audio-visual material with you. Maldivian law prohibits the import of alcoholic beverages, narcotics, pornographic materials, weapons, ammunition, explosives and idols of worship. It is also prohibited to export turtle shells, black coral and other protected species and products made out of such species.

If you have made reservations for your stay at a resort or a liveaboard, you may find the agents as you step out of the arrival terminal. If not, you might be able to locate them at the counters representing the travel agents. Independent travellers may also find assistance from the travel agents. There is also an information counter at the airport operated by Air Maldives Ltd.

 

Climate |Back to top|

The climate is influenced by the monsoon winds blowing across the Indian Ocean. The monsoon type brings two major climatic variations to the Maldives. The South-west monsoon extends from May to October and brings more rain accompanied by wind. The North-east monsoon extends from November to April and is drier and brings less wind. Being an equatorial country, the Maldives has abundant sunshine and an average temperature of 28 degrees Celsius. Convection air currents bring huge downpours occasionally. The relative humidity ranges from 73% to 85%.

Maldives has a tropical climate
Maldives has a tropical climate - Photo by © Muha

 

Language |Back to top|

Dhivehi, the unique language of the Maldives has traits of South Indian languages, Arabic and Persian. The language must have originated from the first settlers of the Maldives and evolved over time with the influence of different visitors who frequented the Maldives. The script thaana is written from right to the left. Even though Dhivehi is the official language, English is widely spoken and is used intensively in business and government sector. With its deep-rooted Islamic traditions, Arabic is also a familiar language to the majority while not many are fluent in it. Some Maldivians working in the tourism sector converse in other languages such as Italian, German and Japanese.

 

Currency |Back to top|

The Maldivian Rufiyaa is the official currency of the Maldives. The current exchange rate is US$1 = MRF 12.85 and €1 = MRF 15.00. One Rufiyaa could be divided into a hundred smaller units known as Laari, the local version of cents. The Rufiyaa comes in eight different denominations of Five Hundred, One Hundred, Fifty, Twenty, Ten, Five, Two and One. The denomination of One Rufiyaa comes in the forms of coins, while for Two Rufiyaa denominations both notes and coins are used and the rest comes in notes. The laari comes in denominations of fifty, twenty-five, ten, five, two and one.

The US Dollar is the most popular foreign currency. However, other international currencies can also be exchanged at the banks and authorised moneychangers. The commonly used credit cards are MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Diners Club, JCB and Eurocard. Travellers cheques are accepted by most hotels, resorts and banks.

 

Dress |Back to top|

The Maldives is an Islamic country and nudity is strictly prohibited. Tourists are requested to wear clothes that cover thighs and upper body while visiting inhabited islands. Beachwear and swimsuits are allowed in the resort islands.

Light cotton dresses are recommended to suit the humidity and the equatorial temperatures.

 

Transport |Back to top|

The Maldives being an island nation, water transport is the most popular mode. Dhoani, the locally made wooden boats are primarily used for transport. Speedboats are also used to cater for the tourism industry. Speedboats can be hired as well.

Male' International Airport at the island of Hulhulé is the hub for international air traffic. From the airport, tourists are transferred to the resorts in dhoani, speedboats, helicopters and seaplanes. If a visitor arrives with a booking at a resort, the representatives of the travel agents or the resort will cater to the transport between the airport and the resort. The national airline Air Maldives, operates domestic flights to the other four regional airports in the Maldives.

A Sea Ferry Leaving Male' Maldives
A sea ferry leaving Male' - Photo by © Niyaz

Malé and some other islands offer taxi services. The taxis have a fixed fee and the normal fare for a taxi in Malé is MRF 15.00 per trip. Most islands are small enough for a brisk walk to cover the island.

 

Telecommunication |Back to top|

The telecommunications services are provided by Dhivehi Raajjeyge Gulhun Pvt. Ltd, or Dhiraagu, a joint-venture between the government of the Maldives and Cable & Wireless PLC of United Kingdom. International Direct Dialling, telephone, telex, telegram, facsimile and Internet services are available. A mobile phone network is accessible within Male' and atolls. Card phones are set up in most of the islands. In addition, Dhiraagu provides a paging service, maritime radio service and telephone and telex Immarset services to ships and oilrigs. Cyber Cafés are set up in Male' and in Addu Atoll.

 

Accommodation |Back to top|

In the Maldives, a visitor can find different types of accommodation to suit his or her needs. The resorts of the Maldives are located in self-contained islands and offer wide choice of rooms. Even though there is no official star rating given to the resorts, there are resorts providing facilities and services equivalent to levels ranging from two-star to five-star. There are 87 resorts for you to choose your dream island.

For a different experience, the Maldives offers the opportunity to spend your holidays in liveaboards. These vessels are specially designed to accommodate tourists on board and provide diving, cruising and other activities. The liveaboards vary in the size and facilities provided onboard. Some may have merely six beds while others can accommodate over hundred people. There are more than 100 vessels to choose from.

Most of the Tourists Stay at Resorts  Maldives Resort
Most of the Tourists Stay at Resorts - Photo by © Eagan

In the capital city of Malé, the only inhabited island permitted to accommodate tourists, there are hotels and guest houses catering to different tastes. Hotels provide bed and breakfast and usually have restaurants in which you can have your choice of delicacies. Other amenities of city hotels are also included. The guesthouses are more limited in the facilities provided. The facilities offered in the guesthouses also differ from place to place. Some provide only accommodation while few provide food. Some places have air conditioned rooms while others are fan cooled. It is wise to check the facilities of the place before checking in.

 

Food |Back to top|

The resorts offer diverse international cuisine including oriental, Middle Eastern, Indian and continental ones. Most resorts have more than one restaurant to cater the needs. For light snacks and refreshments the coffee shops in the resorts are ideal.

Generally the liveaboards feature set menus while some may have restaurants that offer ample choice.

The hotels and restaurants in Malé serve the customers with western and eastern specialities. Few of the guesthouses offer food. The cafés in Malé (locally known as hotaa) is an ideal place to experience local tastes. Maldivian food is spicy but milder than the food found in some neighbouring countries. Sweet, sour, hot and spicy food is found. Hedhikaa is the short eats popular in many cafés. Hot and spicy savouries are made of smoked fish, grated coconut, lime juice, onion and chilli. They include bajiyaa (pastry stuffed with fish), kulhi boakibaa (fishcake), keemia (fish rolls) and gulha (fishballs) and masroshi (small pancake stuffed with fish). The sweet items are made from flour, sugar, and essence. They include foniboakiba (cake made of flour), githeyo boakiba (made of flour, onions, and butter), and huni hakuru folhi (made of grated coconut, sugar and flour). A cup of black tea (kalhu sai) is the usual option to wash down the short eats.

Chewing Nuts & Leaves, Maldives Tradition
Chewing Nuts & Leaves, Maldives Tradition - Photo by © Niyaz

The local cafés and restaurants are usually open till 1.00 A.M. The opening hours in the morning differ with some cafés opening at even 5.00 A.M.

A traditional meal consists of rice and garudhiya (fish soup), with fish, chilli, lemon and onion. Curries are also used instead of garudhiya. Fish paste known as rihaakuru is also a fine side dish. Alternately, roshi (chapati) and mas huni (made of grated coconut, fish, lemon and onions) are a popular dish. Fried yams are also widely eaten. Sweet dishes include custard, bodibaiy (rice mixed with sugar) and fruits such as bananas, mangoes and papayas. Watermelons are a favourite during the fasting month of Ramazan.

Traditional dishes can still be found in the local islands during Eid, Maloodh, and other festivals and occasions such as christening of a child, marking the anniversary of a death. The traditional dishes are now less common in the Maldives as western items like bread, sandwiches, margarine, jam, noodles and pasta are introduced. Most of the resorts have special nights called Maldivian Night serving traditional local foods.

Alcoholic beverages and pork are prohibited by Law and only found in tourist resorts and liveaboards for tourist consumption.

 

Shopping |Back to top|

Malé is the commercial hub of the Maldives in addition to being the capital city. Varieties of consumer goods are imported to Maldives and are sold in Malé. Electronic items, beauty products, perfumes, chocolates and cosmetics are available from shops in different parts of Malé. Garments are mainly found in shops in Majeedhee Magu and Chandhanee Magu, two well-known streets of Malé. Garments are mainly imported from Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Dubai. The shopping area of Chandhanee Magu is known as Singapore Baazaar, named after the shops that used to be there, with products imported from Singapore in 1960s and 1970s. Today, the area is flooded with souvenir shops. Nevertheless, one can still find varieties of other products in this area.

Locally made craft is a must have souvenir - Maldives
Locally made craft is a must have souvenir - Photo by © Eagan

Most of the souvenir shops are located in the area of Chandhanee Magu, Orchid Magu, Fareedhee Magu and Faamudheyri Magu. The shops offer diverse items, both imported and locally produced. Lacquer works, locally woven mats from dried coconut leaves and reeds, wooden fishes, T-shirts, sarongs, caps, scarves, bracelets, rings, necklaces, shells, models of local vessels (dhoani) made out of wood and oyster shells, postcards, books on Maldives, and maps are some of the items available. Not all these items are produced in Maldives. Some of them are imported from Dubai, India and Indonesia.

It is better to visit some shops and compare the prices before purchasing anything. You may find a lot of people trying to persuade you to visit a certain shop and it is in your best interest that you should be independent in your decisions.

The duty free shops in Malé International Airport offers you a variety of commodities including from electronic items, liqueur, chocolates, jewellery, souvenirs, stationary, perfumes, and toys.

In each resort, you will find a shop catering for in-house guests. Items like cosmetics sun protection and tanning products, sarongs, shorts, swim wear are found.

In many local islands in the tourism zone, souvenir shops have flourished. They also provide diverse range of souvenirs for the tourists who might visit the islands on excursions. Himmafushi, Maafushi, Huuraa, and Guraidhoo of Malé Atoll are famous for its souvenir shops. Rasdhoo, Mahibadhoo and Dhagethi in Ari Atoll are also well known.

The shops in the Maldives open at different times in the morning but usually before 9.00 A.M. The shops closes for prayer times for an interval of 15 minutes. The latest time for the shops to close business is 11.00 P.M.


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