Post Summary: The Ultimate Maldives Travel Guide
Planning a dream trip to the Maldives? Be sure to take note of these Maldives travel tips for your trip. The series of coral atolls spread across the Indian Ocean is an enticing getaway with white sands beaches, turquoise water, and tropical weather.
The water is home to an abundance of marine life so diverse and snorkelers can rejoice in close encounters with rays, sharks, whales, and a dizzying number of fishes. To make it only better some of the world’s most luxurious resorts in the world sit on top of these atolls with indulgent water villas and beach bungalows.
After a few weeks exploring the Maldives, we decided to sit down and share some of our travel tips and thoughts on visiting the famed Indian Ocean country.
Our Best Maldives Travel Tips!
The Maldives Are Not a Cheap Destination
The first thing I want to get out there, and you probably already know this, is that the Maldives is not a budget destination. That doesn’t mean that you can’t travel the Maldives affordably, but to live the life you’ve likely seen on Instagram and various advertisements it is going to cost some moo-moos.
If your goal is an overwater villa, an all-inclusive package, with a spa and dive excursions every day for you and your sweetheart you should budget accordingly. I would say upwards of at least $1000/day, and even double that for the brand name properties like Park Hyatt, The W, and The Four Seasons. Heck, you can even shell out $40,000 for your own private island if you are so inclined.
There are affordable resorts in the Maldives. We stayed at Cinnamon Ellaidhoo for a few days which market themselves as an affordable luxury beach resort. For about $300 a night you can get yourself a full board package in a beachfront room.
While the service in these places is great I would be hesitant to fly from North America or more far-flung destinations when there is likely a better place closer to home. People fly from these far-flung destinations for the over the top level of luxury and to throw some money in the wind (figuratively).
Besides resorts, you can also stay at guesthouses. In 2009, the Maldives government began to allow locals to run guesthouses on local islands. This has drawn in tourism and given relief to those on a budget and can accommodate budgets of $60-$70 a day or cheaper! Are you a backpacker? Fear not – you can stay at hostels on Male or Couchsurf!
Getting to The Maldives
There is really only one way to get to The Maldives and that is via Velana International Airport located on Hulhulé Island next to the capital island of Male. The airport has opened up many direct flights to the Maldives from around Asia and Europe.
We flew right from Colombo after one week in Sri Lanka which worked out well as they are only three hours apart via air. If you have a few extra days before your trip to the Maldives or after it may be worth your while to stop and see what Sri Lanka has to offer.
If you’re wondering how to get to the Maldives from the USA you’re going to have to do some playing around with flights. Flexibility is key as there are no direct flights. Some great layover cities are Istanbul, Colombo, and Hamad International Airport.
Room Types Vary
I guess this is when I should take a minute to mention that the Maldives isn’t just made up of Instagram worthy overwater bungalows. We found all the places we stayed in the Maldives had a variety of different room types at different price points. Overwater villas are the creme de la creme of rooms, and those with a pool or even a waterslide will fetch an even higher price.
The next step down is traditionally beach villas. We stayed in a few of these and enjoyed the rooms, the only difference was we had to walk thirty seconds from our bed to the beach and share our own little slice of sand (the horror!) with other hotel guests.
Some resorts have rooms that don’t have ocean views and those are typically the lowest priced rooms, but they still offer guests all the same facilities that the fancy villa guests have. Then there are even high-end luxury resorts that only have beach bungalows like the famous Sonneva Fushi.
Sunset vs Sunrise Rooms
When choosing a room type make note if you are getting a sunrise view room or sunset view and adjust to your preference. I mention this only because we are late risers and if you are in a sunrise room you may lose the sunshine on your back deck by midday.
For us, a sunset room is preferred because our loungers were in the sun from about noon onwards, which fit in better with our schedule. However, if you prefer sunrise with a cup of coffee you know which way to face.
Try Not to Hop Around
If there is one thing I want to stress in this Maldives travel guide is to hop around as little as possible if you are on a budget or are short on time.
If you have a week in the Maldives I would suggest picking one resort/guesthouse and staying there rather than resort hopping. We were in the Maldives for 15 days and stayed at five different resorts. So even though we got to see different areas and resorts, every three days we were moving and it was never a seamless transfer no matter how hard everyone tried to coordinate.
Unless you are in Male, every place that you will stay at in the Maldives will require either a speedboat or seaplane to access it. Some of our speedboat rides took 20 minutes while some took two hours and that was to and from one resort.
If you are transferring between two resorts you will always have to go back to the airport in Male and then transferred to your new resort, unless you have boatloads of money for a private executive seaplane. That’s dealing with two transfers every time you want to move resorts, which could take up to four hours or more.
Seaplanes are faster; however, the planes are far from luxurious and still took time. A seaplane transfer will take some time to get to Male, check your bags, wait for everyone else to board the seaplane, and ride to your resort. Not everyone on your plane will be going or coming from the same resort either so the seaplane may stop a few times before it’s your turn.
Seaplanes = Expensive
Most of the resorts we traveled to were accessible by speedboat, which is much cheaper than taking a seaplane. Trans Maldivan Airways has a monopoly over the whole seaplane business in the Maldives. You can’t book them directly, all transfers must be booked through your resort.
With a 50% resort mark up seaplanes cost around $500 per person round trip to any resort, which can break a budget for some who are unaware. BUT you do at least get the most amazing views so make sure you have your camera on you!
Seaplanes only operate during daylight hours so if your flight gets in late to the Maldives you may have to stay overnight in Male before setting out for your resort.
Check if Drones are Allowed
Planning on bringing a drone to the Maldives? The Maldives are incredible, especially from the air so it’s understandable that anyone with a drone will want to get it up in the air. However, many resorts have a no drone policy for the protection of their guests’ privacy and they take it seriously.
There are a lot of overwater villas with bright open windows in the Maldivian resorts. Privacy and seclusion are why many people choose to vacation in the Maldives so it’s understandable that they don’t want a drone hovering above their room while they are taking a bath or sitting on the toilet.
If you’re unsure about the policy it’s always a good idea to check first whether or not you can fly your drone.
Purchase a Sim Card at the Airport
If you want to stay connected while in the Maldives pick up a sim card when you land. We found that the WiFi in many of the resorts does not work well, but what do you expect on an atoll in the middle of the ocean? However, we found that we could pick up a 4G signal everywhere we went! Most of the resorts and local islands have a cell tower so you have a strong signal everywhere.
To the right, after you exit luggage carousel, you’ll find Dhiraagu and Ooredoo the two cell providers in the Maldives. They’ll be able to set you up with a sim card in five minutes. Prices for data are reasonable. We paid $30 for 17GB of data for two weeks.
Don’t Bring Any Alcohol into the Country
The Maldives is a predominately Muslim country and the only place you can consume alcohol is on the private resorts. Don’t buy any at customs before you arrive and don’t bring any bottles of wine or champagne with you. You’ll risk them being taken away or even fined by customs if you try to bring alcohol into the Maldives.
The best way to fix this problem? All inclusive packages or happy hour at your resort! We were pretty surprised to find that some of the resorts offer pretty good happy hours.
I have to mention in this in this Maldives travel guide. The currency in the Maldives is the Maldivian Rufiyaa, but you’ll find that USD is accepted almost everywhere and most prices are in USD unless you on the local islands. You can pay with credit card at any resort, but it doesn’t hurt to have cash on you for tips and other odds and ends.
If you are staying on local islands and in guesthouses I would highly recommend pulling out all the cash you think you will need before leaving Male. Finding an ATM can be few and far between in The Maldives and the only reliable place to do so will be in Male. I wouldn’t bank on many of the local islands accepting credit cards either.
The Maldives Are Open to Everyone
Everyone, no matter the nationality, is granted a no coast 30-day visa on arrival in The Maldives. Don’t overstay without a valid extension though – it’s a hefty fine!
Dhivehi is the official language spoken in all parts of the Maldives. You’ll find that English is prevalent around The Maldives especially in the resorts!
When is the Best Month to Visit Maldives?
The best time to travel to the Maldives is from November and April. The high season really picks up in December and is pretty crazy until about March. Monsoon season runs from May to October. The weather in the Maldives is pretty much perfect with average temperatures of 32° Celsius.
Not too humid and not cold. You’ll be comfortable wearing your swimsuit and cover-up around during the day and a dress or beach clothes at night. The Maldives may be a dream destination, but it does still see rain usually between May and June and September and October.
If you are a marine lover like us it might be worth it to you to bring fins. Would you believe we travel around the world with our fins, mask, and a snorkel? It’s true! We were a little surprised that despite already paying an arm and a leg in the Maldives the resorts will still charge you to rent snorkel equipment each day.
The cost may be as little as $5 a day, but having our own gear saves us the hassle of dealing with rentals, paying, and putting our mouths around used mouthpieces. I’ve been asked a few times for what I recommend and I personally have a mask that works great and fins that fit well in my suitcase.
The cheapest I saw sunscreen going for in the Maldives was $30 a bottle. In one of our rooms, it was even on offer for $60 – for a travel-sized Sunbum set! I’m not joking! Do not forget your sunscreen in your luggage. I promise you will be paying a hefty price for it in the Maldives.
Please consider spending a few extra dollars for reef safe sunscreen. The typical sunscreens like Coppertone, N0 Ad, and Banana Boat have many chemicals in them that will run off your body while swimming damaging the precious coral and marine life. We have this reef safe sunscreen for our ocean adventures.
Get Used to Resort Pricing
If you’re staying at a resort in The Maldives you may as well prepare for and get used to ridiculous resort pricing. The resorts in the Maldives operate like…well… resorts. Except on a whole other price level I have ever seen before.
Food, alcohol, spa treatments, excursions, kayak rentals, and transfer prices may burn a hole in your eyes. Even water is not free at many of the Maldivian resorts, and tap water is not drinkable.
Taxes and Service Charges
On top of all that you may be charged for your time in the Maldives. The other things that you will inevitably have to look for on your bills are the taxes and service charges. The Maldives charge a whole lotta extra charges for taxes, and you should expect all your extra food and drinks, and excursions to have an extra 23% tacked on unless otherwise noted that it is included. That’s 10% for a service charge and 13% for taxes.
Every resort also has a mandatory Green Tax of $6 per guest every night. Many hotels bill this into their room rate already, but don’t be surprised if it is on your bill at the end. It’s not much to the resort goers, but backpackers on local islands should take note.
Bikinis are Not Allowed Everywhere
You’re in a Muslim country so practice modesty while there. Bikinis and skin tight clothing should only be worn on resort islands, while conservative clothing should be worn on the local islands. If you are staying on local islands there are some “bikini beaches” that are meant for tourists.
Get There Now!
And by now I mean like like yesterday, or last year, or five years ago. In 2011, less than one million tourists visited the Maldives in comparison 2018 saw around 1.5 million tourists, and these numbers are expected to rise. Years ago I would see photos of the Maldives and think they must be some secluded destination in the world that are hard to reach.
Reality set in at just about every fully booked resort we visited and a congested airport. Seriously, the Maldives are hot right now and everyone wants to go. We chatted with several locals, and saw the construction of numerous new hotels and resorts, including a giant Hard Rock Hotel (WHY!?), in Male. Tourism here seems like a ticking time bomb and it may be only a matter of time until it’s too much. Also the Maldives are literally sinking, here’s a great article on their future.
Where to Stay in the Maldives?
Cinnamon Ellaidhoo is a great property for those that want to do the Maldivian resort thing while still staying on budget. We were at Ellaidhoo for three nights and enjoyed our time here. The house reef is amazing and every time we went out to snorkel we discovered some new, bright fish. It’s also very far away from Male and the hustle and bustle of the countries capital.
We had a fantastic time at Kurumba Maldives. This resort is only a five-minute speedboat ride away from the Male Airport. Meaning you could arrive in the Maldives and be at your resort a few minutes later it saves on additional airfare and time. It’s also the first resort ever in the Maldives, but it’s elegantly maintained and they have a great dive shop.
Velassaru was our favorite resort in the Maldives. They have located just a 20-minute speedboat ride away from the capital so it’s a quick transfer in and out. The food here is to die for and the overwater bungalows are bigger than New York City apartment. You won’t regret a stay here!
Here’s a review of all the places we stayed in The Maldives!
What to Pack for the Maldives?
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem in Maldives so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps here is perfectly safe to drink. We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well.
However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
Want to fit in in on the beach? Get yourself some Rainbow brand sandals, seriously everyone around you will be wearing them – and for a good reason. They are uber comfortable once you break them in and last forever!
Skin cancer is for real! Don’t forget your SPF when traveling around the Maldives. We recommend ordering some online before leaving the house as you will need it underneath the sun in the summer.
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
Remember that Maldives uses the Type D and G adaptor. Make sure you find a good universal adapter like the one I have to keep you charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land.
Travel in the Maldives
- Best Time to Visit Maldives (2020) • Month By Month Breakdown
- 20 Maldives Travel Tips To Know Before You Go
- Maafushivaru Maldives Review • Finding Peace on the Ari Atoll
- Kurumba Maldives Review • Relax at the First Resort in the Maldives
- Velassaru Maldives Review • Our Favorite Luxury Resort in the Maldives
- Kuramathi Maldives Review • Enjoying One of Best Dives Spots in the World
- What to Wear in the Maldives • The Ultimate Maldives Packing List