The Maldives is a South Asian island country, comprised of 1,192 coral islands, grouped in a double chain of 26 atolls, located in the Arabian Sea in the Indian Ocean. The archipelago is spread of a distance of roughly 90,000 square kilometres, making it one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries. The Maldives is the smallest Asian country by landmass, covering approximately 300 square kilometres, and it is situated south-west of India and Sri Lanka.
The 26 atolls of the Maldives are divided into 20 administrative atolls plus the capital, Malé city and each atoll is administered by an elected council. The Maldives is famous as a honeymoon destination, with its crystal clear seas and fantastic coral reefs making it ideal for diving and snorkelling.
Most visitors to the Maldives will require a visa, but these are issued for free on arrival and are valid for a maximum stay of 30 days. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Nepal citizens are issued with a 90-day stamp. Visitors who wish to stay longer will have to apply for an extension. Ensure you know the name of your hotel, resort or guest house and have a return ticket should you be faced with enquiries from immigration officials.
The Maldives enjoys a tropical climate that is generally humid and the temperatures rarely fall below 25ºC or go above 35ºC. From June to October the islands experience the south-west monsoon that brings intense, refreshing rains, while the milder north-east monsoon from November to April can bring shorter but sharp showers.
The official currency is the Rufiyaa (MVR), which is divided into 100 larees. Notes are available in denominations of 500, 100, 50, 20, 10, five and two rufiyaa, but the last two are not commonly used now. Coins can be found in denominations of two and one rufiyaa, and 50, 25 and 10 larees. Most resort will bill in dollars, and generally US dollars are accepted everywhere. Usually resorts will charge extras to your room and you will pay the balance on departure. Some European inclined resorts will use the Euro as their default currency. Resorts will usually accept cash and credit cards.
The Maldives is famous for its luxury hotels and resorts that are based on over 100 uninhabited islands, however there are now increasingly other options such as smaller hotels and guest houses that are suitable for budget travellers. There are also ‘liveaboard’ options, where guests stay aboard a yacht and can enjoy diving and other amenities from it.
Travellers should be aware that alcohol is illegal outside of resorts, in theory you should not even take a can of beer out on a boat trip. In the capital, some foreign residents are granted special permits that entitle them to a limited quantity per month, for personal consumption at home only.
The official language of the Maldives is Dhivehi, which is an Indo-Aryan language that has some similarities to Elu, an ancient Sinhalese language, but also borrows from Urdu, Hindi, Arabic and several other languages. English is also widely spoken, particularly at resorts and by government officials. English is also taught in schools, so English speakers should be able to communicate with the islanders with varying degrees of difficulty. As the Maldives is a popular destination for German and Italian tourists, many local resort workers can also speak fluent German and Italian, but this will largely vary depending on the resort you visit.
The ethnic identity of the Maldivian people is a blend of the cultures that reflects the earliest settlers on the island, reinforced by religion and language. The original settlers on the island were likely from southern India and Sri Lanka, therefore Maldivians are linguistically and ethnically related to the inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent and aree ethnically known as Dhivehis.
The official religion of the Maldives is Islam, and the law forbids the practice of any other religion by Maldivian citizens. The Constitution also prevents non-Muslims from voting, obtaining citizenship, or holding public office. The president is required by law to be a Sunni Muslim.
The public holidays of Maldives are:
1 Jan New Year's Day
1 May Labour Day
27 May First day of Ramazan
25 Jun Eid-ul Fithr
26 Jul Independence Day
31 Aug Hajj Day
1 Sep Eid-ul Al'haa
21 Sep Islamic New Year
3 Nov Victory Day
11 Nov Republic Day
12 Nov Republic Day Holiday
19 Nov National Day
1 Dec Prophet Muhammad's Birthday
20 Dec The Day Maldives Embraced Islam
The marine location of the Maldives ensures that almost every type of water sport is available from catamaran sailing and canoeing, to parasailing, surfing, diving, fishing, snorkelling and much more. Aside from the water sports, there is also a rich culture and heritage to explore in the villages of the archipelago also. There are numerous heritage sites to explore, including the ruins of the historic remains of Buddhist temples and statues, as well as the National Museum in Malé.
There is little in the way of organised entertainment in Malé as far as night-clubs or bars are concerned. However the ambience of the capital is unique and vibrant. Take an evening stroll through the centre of the city and you will find the streets alive with shoppers, music and noise. There are restaurants that offer Maldivian as well as European and Asian fare, as well as cinemas screening mainly Indian feature films.
Health and Safety
Always seek the advice of a doctor before travelling and although there are no mandatory vaccinations required, it is recommended that the following vaccinations are up to date: polio, tetanus, typhoid, meningitis and hepatitis A. Being a tropical destination, mosquitoes are omnipresent, therefore mosquito repellent is essential, especially as Dengue fever has been prevalent in the capital and isolated cases have been reported on resort islands also. Malaria is not considered a risk in the Maldives.
Tap water is considered safe for brushing teeth and making tea and coffee, as well as ice supplied in drinks in resorts. Divers and those snorkelling or swimming should beware of cuts and grazes from corals as these can sting and cause infections. Always ensure you wash any cuts and grazes thoroughly and use an antiseptic cream. When venturing into the sea you should also be aware of Anemones, Sea Urchins, Stonefish and Stingrays, as stings can be poisonous. Medical assistance should be sought in the event of being stung.
Accessing medical assistance as a tourist is not so easy, so it is advisable to bring any prescribed medications you need, including a copy of your prescription, plus basic first aid supplies as they can be expensive to procure in a resort. Some resort islands have a resident doctor but they are rarely able to offer more than enhanced first aid. Most atolls have a small hospital or medical centre and there are two hospitals on Malé.
Generally the Maldives is considered to be a safe holiday destination, but thefts do occur so you should take usual precautions. Violent crime is very rare, however violence and discrimination does sometimes occur against the LGBT community. Homosexuality is illegal in the Maldives and the general advice is for those who are LGBT not to travel to the Maldives. The phone numbers for the emergency services are as follow: Ambulance 102, Fire 118, and Police 119.
Services and Utilities
The country code to dial into the Maldives is 00960.
The electricity supply is 220V to 240V, 50Hz AC. The standard socket used is the UK-style three-pin, although there are some variations in use, like the European style 2 pin plug, so an international adaptor would be useful, but most resorts will supply adaptors.
Malé is considered the best island in the country for shopping with a wider variety of goods available here. In the main shopping area clustered around the top end of Chaandhanee Magu, there are local and imported handicrafts and souvenirs to be found as well as electronic items. The majority of souvenir shops are clustered in the main business area and are only a five minute walk from the jetty where most tourists enter Malé. Browsing is recommended before making a decision on final purchases to ensure you get the most competitive prices.